Community members urge Berkeley City Council to move quickly on cannabis regulation

Aren Saunders-Gonzales/Staff

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A team of city staff members gathered input from the Berkeley City Council and community on next steps in developing local regulations for marijuana use during a special meeting Tuesday.

According to the team, those who hope to grow, distribute or sell cannabis will need licenses from both the state of California and the city of Berkeley. Over the next several months, the team will be using input from council members, community members and the city’s Cannabis Commission to create a framework for marijuana use in Berkeley, including the city’s licensing process and local regulations regarding the sale and consumption of cannabis.

The team plans to submit a finalized framework for City Council’s approval in spring 2018.

Adult marijuana use — consumption without a prescription — was approved by California voters in 2016, and the state integrated medicinal and adult use regulations into one framework this summer. The state will begin issuing licenses for cannabis businesses in January 2018.

Those who wish to open such businesses in Berkeley, however, will have to wait until the local framework is approved in the spring.

The team posed several issues for council members to reflect on regarding the framework, including local taxation, the protection of minors and the state licenses that will be permitted in Berkeley. Elizabeth Greene, secretary of the Cannabis Commission and a senior planner on the team, emphasized that they hope to keep the framework as simple as possible.

“The more restrictions and complexity we bring in, the less equitable (the framework) is,” Cannabis Commission Chair David Lampach said in the meeting.

Fifteen community members spoke during public comment, most emphasizing the importance of moving forward quickly with licensing — some warning of a potential black market.

While several council members agreed, others worried about rushing the framework approval.

“It’s a mistake for us to look for simplicity for simplicity’s sake,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

Contact Olivia Nouriani at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @olivianouriani.