April 15, 2019 5:16 am

California Senate OKs bill extending cannabis cultivation permits

Thousands of legal cannabis cultivators statewide, including nearly 100 in Sonoma County, would get some enforcement relief from a bill by state Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblyman Jim Wood that won strong bipartisan approval Thursday in the Senate.

The bill, supported by more than 200 organizations including the Mendocino and Humboldt county boards of supervisors, passed on a 32-4 vote and now goes before the Assembly.

McGuire, a Healdsburg Democrat, said the measure would enable state officials to extend nearly 7,000 temporary cannabis growing licenses through mid-September. The bill, SB 67, is intended to prevent what he called “good actors” from reverting to the underground industry that existed before voters made recreational marijuana legal in 2016.

The temporary licenses, which the state stopped issuing on Dec. 31, will all expire by July, at which point there would be no authorized cannabis market “and a crisis will take hold,” McGuire said.

In March, more than 1,000 temporary licenses issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture expired and another 4,000 will, by law, expire this month, he said.

Many of the temporary permit holders are small family pot farms that have existed for generations on the North Coast and will, without an extension, “drop into the black market literally overnight,” McGuire said. “Nobody wants that.”

Growers in Sonoma County hold 98 temporary licenses and some have already expired, said Tim Ricard, the county’s cannabis program manager.

Technically, growers with expired licenses cannot continue to raise marijuana or sell it into the regulated marketplace, but county officials have decided not to shut down operators who have applied for an annual or provisional state license and are in compliance with local regulations, Ricard said.

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