What a year 2017 has been: for California’s cannabis community, for the United States as a whole, and for our law office here in Sebastopol.
October 2017 brought the most destructive wildfires that California has ever seen to our backyard. In our home of Sonoma County alone, over 6000 structures burned (including over 5000 homes) and more than 20 lives were lost. Our hearts go out to everyone who was impacted, and who continues to be affected by this disaster.
On the national front, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has threatened the cannabis industry and attempted to equate the dangers of cannabis use with the dangers of opioid use. However, he has not yet rescinded the Cole Memo which provides federal guidance to cannabis operators in states where it is legal. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a budget rider that prevents the DEA from using funds from the federal budget to prosecute individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, was extended again until January 19.
At the state level, 2017 was full of rapid and significant changes. The year started off with two separate sets of laws governing cannabis in California: the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which was adopted by the state legislature in 2015, and the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which was adopted by the voters in 2016 as Proposition 64. Halfway through the year, the legislature combined the two sets of laws into one, now known as the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), and some additional cleanup changes followed. After much anticipation, emergency regulations for both medicinal and adult-use activities were released in November pursuant to MAUCRSA. The state agencies involved in issuing licenses – the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Public Health – have begun to issue temporary licenses to operators who have already obtained a local permit or other local authorization.
As of January 1, 2018, it is unlawful to conduct commercial cannabis business without a state license, and criminal penalties apply as well. State-level cannabis taxes also go into effect on January 1. Adults over the age of 21 can legally grow up to 6 cannabis plants per residence, for their own personal use, and can store what they grow at their home without needing a state license. Qualified patients and caregivers may also still cultivate for medical purposes.
Here at the Law Offices of Omar Figueroa, there were some big changes this year, too. We brought on two new staff members, Associate Attorney Stacy Hostetter and Office Assistant Naria Dangers. We transitioned from providing mostly cannabis-related criminal defense services to primarily providing cannabis-related transactional services, including entity structuring, licensing assistance and regulatory compliance. And we launched our new website (check it out!).
As we enter this new era of regulation together, it’s important to remember that this industry grew out of a movement, and our work as a movement is not finished. It’s up to us to ensure that people who were harmed most by cannabis prohibition have an opportunity to participate in this space, and to honor the activists who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to making sure that patients have safe access to natural medicine. We all have the power to shape the future of this industry, whether it’s by lobbying the state, running for local office, or making your voice heard in some other way. Our law office is here to help the cannabis community through this next phase, and we wish you health and happiness in the new year!
Omar, Barbara, Lauren, Stacy & Naria