County officials to talk decriminalization of marijuana

Medical marijuana. Katharine Lotze/Signal

County supervisors are expected to consider a proposal by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis about recommendations for marijuana-related decriminalization, and create a countywide plan on cannabis re-sentencing and reclassification.

The move comes as county officials grapple with the legalization of marijuana due to voters’ approval of Proposition 64 in November 2016.

“Since its passage in November 2016, an under-realized aspect of Proposition 64 has been the reclassification (relief for those with prior convictions) and re-sentencing (relief for those currently serving a sentence or who are on probation) of minor cannabis convictions. For youth with a cannabis offense, this also includes the destruction of court records. It is estimated that about 1 million people in California, and potentially hundreds of thousands of county residents, may qualify for relief,” Solis and Ridley-Thomas wrote.

The criminalization of marijuana possession has created economic and social inequality, Ridley-Thomas and Solis said.

“The war on drugs and the over-criminalization of cannabis possession and use have created intergenerational harms to communities throughout the country, including in Los Angeles County. Disproportionate enforcement impacts African-American and Latino communities in particular, resulting in higher rates of arrest, and more severe charges and sentences, which in turn compounds barriers to employment, housing, financial assistance, and deepening social, communal and economic disparities,” the supervisors wrote.

The supervisors said other states have not used data tracking after legalizing marijuana, which has resulted in racial disparities. As an example, the supervisors said three times as many African-Americans were arrested in Colorado compared to Caucasians.

A spokesman for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents Santa Clarita, said Thursday she will welcome public comment, but she was not supportive of Proposition 64.

“Supervisor Barger believes cannabis is a gateway drug to more dangerous drugs and substances,” spokesman Tony Bell said.

In December, the county launched, a website that includes information from the Los Angeles County Office of Cannabis Management about proposed policies for unincorporated areas, frequently asked questions, public listening sessions, advisory group recommendations, resources for parents and teens, and rules for consumers, personal cultivation and cannabis businesses.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted in November to lengthen a moratorium on commercial cannabis businesses. Councilman Cameron Smyth said last month he is working with a medical marijuana co-op owner to address medical marijuana.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, the agency that regulates taxation of marijuana, announced the cultivation tax rates for cannabis: $1.29 per ounce of fresh cannabis plant, $2.75 per dry-weight ounce of cannabis leaves and $9.25 per dry-weight ounce of cannabis flowers. The administration, which said the taxation was established as part of voter-approved Proposition 64, also said cannabis plants must be weighed within two hours after harvesting.

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