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Police chiefs “adamantly oppose” Placer medical marijuana moves

Auburn public safety director warns county would breach federal law
By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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Placer County’s look into the pros and cons of whether to regulate sales and cultivation of medical marijuana is getting pushback from civic law-enforcement leaders.

The chiefs of Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln and Auburn police departments went on record this week in strong opposition to any county move to regulate – and possibly charge fees or taxes – medical cannabis.

The county is in the process of developing options for what could be a comprehensive regulatory framework. A public outreach program started earlier this year will reach Auburn City Council chambers on Monday, with a presentation from county representatives scheduled during a session that starts at 6 p.m. at 1225 Lincoln Way.

Auburn Public Safety Director John Ruffcorn, the city’s top law enforcement official, delivered a stinging rebuke in advance of Monday’s meeting to any county move to regulate medpot sales or grows.

“The four police chiefs within Placer County are adamantly opposed to the county venturing into the marijuana industry in any manner,” Ruffcorn said. “This is not about arrest and incarceration. It is about environmental issues, social issues and quality-of life-issues.”

The county is approaching regulation with an eye on the November 2016 ballot. Polling suggests 55 percent support for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana. The county could move out in front of state law with its own regulations to clarify land use policies and enforcement issues. A staff report estimates that regardless of whether commercial production is allowed, anticipated costs range between $1 million and $2 million.

Supervisors’ reaction to Ruffcorn’s statement and cost estimates were mixed. Granite Bay-area Supervisor Kirk Uhler expressed opposition to the county effort. Supervisors were asked for early guidance on the county’s 2016-17 budget, including the development of fees or local taxes to offset costs to enforce and regulate.

“Medical marijuana – I’m not fine with that,” Uhler said. “You could strike those in my opinion.”

Roseville Supervisor Jack Duran said the regulation issue is a difficult one but – while not referring to the stance of the four chiefs – it was important to separate enforcement and policy.

“I appreciate anyone’s comments with regards to how things are done but I am very adamant about keeping that distinction between enforcement and policy,” Duran said. “They’re two different worlds.”

Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents Auburn and eastern Placer County, said she expects any county regulation costs to be recovered.

“I think that the cost-recovery piece is absolutely critical,” Montgomery said. “Unless we can recover our costs on this, it’s something that I’m very skeptical about moving forward on at all.”

Supervisor Jim Holmes, who represents North Auburn, said that while he’s still undecided, he’s also pessimistic about costs the county would have to bear to regulate medical marijuana grows and sales.

“I don’t think any revenue that we seek from the marijuana ordinance would sustain the enforcement part of that,” Holmes said.

Citing the fact that marijuana is illegal federally, Ruffcorn asked supervisors to nip the medpot regulatory initiative in the bud.

“We as local and county government bodies would never change or decrease the standards of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Federal Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act or workplace discrimination,” Ruffcorn said. “So why are we choosing to violate this federal law?”

Ruffcorn’s criticism also was directed at a cartoon presentation on the Placer website that provides a county summary of issues both for and against bringing in regulation.

“Making a cartoon to try to gain support for the violation of federal law is fundamentally wrong,” Ruffcorn said.