Hand-selected group to advise county supervisors on cannabis

Marijuana. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Community leaders, industry representatives and policy and health experts met Thursday for the first Los Angeles County Advisory Working Group on Cannabis Regulation.

Held under the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the group will meet a total of eight times this summer to discuss safety precautions and regulations for recreational marijuana in the county.

At the conclusion of the series of meetings, the group will provide recommendations to guide the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in decision making.

Joe Nicchitta, Countywide Coordinator for the OCM, said the group aims to localize the future of legal cannabis to Los Angeles County, which will look different from other counties or states.

“I was so impressed with the group’s thoughtfulness and participation,” Nicchitta said about the first meeting.

The members agreed upon 14 total objectives for the group. All recommendations made will have to align with the objectives and must be met by consensus, according to Nicchitta.

“They will have to show how their recommendations meet each objective and do not defeat another objective,” he said.

It was important for the group to be diverse in backgrounds and experience and not to be too “industry-heavy,” the coordinator said.

Meetings will be held through August 31 and the group will meet to discuss a different topic each time.

Discussions will include cannabis youth access and exposure; public health and safety and personal cultivation; retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and businesses; compliance and taxation; licensing, equity and economic development; and consideration and approval of their recommendation.

Each supervisorial district has at least one member to represent them in the work group, as well as eight other at-large professionals from across the county, including college professors, city council members and drug industry experts.

Wayne Sugita, Retired Interim Director of the Division of Substance Abuse, Prevention and Control with the Department of Public Health serves as the fifth supervisorial district representative, where Santa Clarita is located.

“Sugita had quite a bit of insight into how the county approaches substance abuse prevention and that is going to be key,” Fifth District Planning and Public Works Deputy Chris Perry said.

By the second meeting, the county plans to have secured a second representative for the fifth district. Perry said the district is possibly looking for someone with a public safety background to step into the role.

According to Perry, the district will be unique in its approach to marijuana because it is home to the largest unincorporated area in the county.

“The county is taking a serious look at cannabis by putting together a group of experts,” Perry said.

Additionally, the OCM is holding 18 community listening sessions, which are workshop-style events that are open to the public and will be held in different cities throughout the county.

“We want to get a sense of where everyone is at,” Nicchitta said.

The calendar for these sessions will be finalized within the next few days, according to the county.

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