With California set to become the nation’s largest cannabis economy with its decision to unite the medical cannabis industry and an increasing demand for recreational, or “adult-use” sale, San Marino Police Chief John Incontro told The Tribune some of the biggest issues come January 1 will be edible consumption and lack of regulation.
Since Governor Jerry Brown’s signage in July of Senate Bill 94, known as the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, or MAUCRSA, local jurisdictions have been scrambling to adopt ordinances specific to commercial cannabis activity.
San Marino’s ordinance recently adopted in early November includes specifications to allow up to six plants to be grown in a secure fully enclosed structure, whether it be the indoors of a private residence or in an accessory dwelling structure on the grounds of the residence. The ordinance includes setback and fencing requirements, not applied to cultivation occurring in garages. It also must not be accessible to those under 21 years of age, and “cultivation areas shall be secured by lock and key or other security device which prevents unauthorized entry.”
City residents planning to prepare their homes for the cultivation of cannabis, including modifications, rewiring and repairs will also need to get an applicable building, mechanical or electrical permit from the City of San Marino’s building division, according to the adopted ordinance.
The ordinance will begin taking effect Dec. 8, thirty days from the final passage last month.
“Here in San Marino, residents will be allowed to grow up to six plants in a home, no matter if it’s a [home with multiple people over the age of 21],” he said. “There won’t be any sales or distribution allowed, and the plants will need to be in a protected area, and out of view.”
Incontro said his concerns lie with the increasing popularity of “edibles”—ingestible products that contain THC, the compound in cannabis that produces a “high” in the user—there will be increased risk for children and others unknowingly consuming cannabis.
“Say someone puts a marijuana cookie in a plastic bag, there’s no markings or distinguishing factors that let someone know it contains cannabis,” he said. “It could be brought to school and it also relates to the problem of driving under the influence. There’s no way to know how much THC is in there.”
Another challenge is that law enforcement agencies don’t yet have a standardized test for detecting THC levels, and currently can only detect if someone has taken the drug within a period of up to 30 days. It presents a challenge of determining if someone is high at the moment they come into contact with law enforcement, or if they’d taken the drug hours, days or weeks earlier.
Incontro cited recent reports from the states of Colorado and Washington that examined an increase in traffic accidents and deaths involving drivers who had detectable levels of THC in their system. The Denver Post’s Aug. 25 story stated the uptick “coincide[d] with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014.”
The report emphasized that authorities say the incidents can’t “definitively be linked to legalized pot.”
The SMPD Chief said another issue is lack of regulation and consistency of potency among shops that will carry cannabis—though Incontro pointed out there are no smoke shops or liquor stores in San Marino, and the product will not be sold or distributed in the city.
“There’s no regulation between shops in terms of how potent the cannabis can be, someone can eat a brownie from one shop and someone else can eat one from another shop and one person be below the legal limit and the other be way over,” he said. “Every person has a different tolerance too.”
The chief’s concerns echo that of Dr. Cyrus Rangan, the director of the Bureau of Toxicology and Environmental Assessment at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Rangan who also serves as the assistant medical director of the California Poison Control System and as a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles spoke to parents last Friday during a Partnership for Awareness event at Huntington Middle School discussing drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Rangan also identified edibles and the lack of set regulations and scientific testing done on the substance as concerning.