Marijuana bill heads to full state Senate after Health Committee vote; would remove March 1 deadline if passed by governor | TheUnion.com

Marijuana bill heads to full state Senate after Health Committee vote; would remove March 1 deadline if passed by governor

The state Senate Health Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would give local governments more time to implement marijuana laws, sending the measure to the full Senate.

The state Senate could vote as early as Monday on AB 21, which would remove a March 1 deadline that has caused many cities and counties to quickly pass local land-use ordinances regarding marijuana. The bill would proceed from there to the state Assembly and then the governor's desk, if approved by both chambers.

"My colleagues and I want to provide cities and counties sufficient time," Assemblyman Jim Wood said of his bill.

The uncertain status of AB 21 was one reason Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal recommended passage of an urgency ordinance prohibiting outdoor grows and restricting indoor grows to 12 plants. The Board of Supervisors last week approved the immediate ban and a June 7 vote on the issue.

Current law states local governments must pass their own marijuana regulations by March 1. If they don't, the state would step in with its own rules.

Wood told the Health Committee he'd reached a compromise with the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance and other stakeholders about the bill's language. If enacted, the deadline would be removed and local governments would retain their land-use powers.

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According to Nevada City attorney Heather Burke, that means qualified patients and caregivers would need no state or local medical marijuana permits. However, the local outdoor ban and indoor plant limitation would remain in place.

State Sen. Jim Nielsen told Wood he'd abstain from the vote, as he could never approve marijuana.

"I just cannot accept legitimizing marijuana, period," Nielsen said. "There is far too much abuse, misuse of medical marijuana."

Several people, including representatives of the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance and California Growers Association, expressed support for the bill.

The Health Committee passed the bill seven to zero, with one abstention.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.