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It's High Time 

A common sense framework for regulating medical marijuana

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More marijuana is grown in Northern California counties than anywhere else in the nation. Since voters of California passed Proposition 215 in 1996, medical-marijuana cultivation and consumption have exploded, both in California and around the country.

Aside from local zoning regulations, this legal, multibillion dollar industry is completely unregulated. And unfortunately, the North Coast has seen first-hand the environmental devastation that illegal, rogue grows have had on our communities, rivers and forests.

That's why I have introduced SB 643, the Medical Marijuana Public Safety and Environmental Protection Act. With multiple propositions coming forward attempting to legalize recreational use, we need to work together to create a statewide regulatory framework, now. After nearly 20 years without any industry oversight, it's time for comprehensive medical-marijuana legislation. Senate Bill 643 outlines regulation for medical marijuana, including environmental protection and water regulations, licensing, public health related to edibles and product testing, law enforcement, taxing, transporting, zoning, local control and resale.

Illegal diversions from trespass grows and rogue operators are sucking Northern California rivers dry, and threatening rural communities and endangered species. The impact of the state's four-year drought, along with countless diversions, dried up the Eel and Mattole rivers for the first time in memory.

Many of the medical-marijuana growers on the North Coast are running small family-farm operations. Senate Bill 643 would also provide a legal framework for those farmers to comply with state and local regulations and ensure that corporate farm operations don't take over if legalization of recreational marijuana is ultimately approved by California voters.

Senate Bill 643 creates a statewide comprehensive regulatory program for medical marijuana that's 20 years overdue. I would be grateful to work with you to preserve local control and to protect our communities, our environment and patients.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, represents the 2nd Senate District, which includes Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin counties.

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