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Cannabis Reg. Update: California's Penalties For Illegal Weed Farms, Water Theft & Pollution, Green Dragon Workers Unionize And More

Maryland House Work Group On Cannabis Legalization To Hold First Meeting

Benzinga · 06/10/2022 12:58

Maryland House Work Group On Cannabis Legalization To Hold First Meeting

Maryland House work group on cannabis legalization should hold its first meeting in this legislative session on June 14, Judiciary Chairman Luke Clippinger announced Friday at the Maryland State Bar Association’s legal summit, reported The Daily Record.

This came as surprise to Maryland’s Senate's biggest marijuana legalization advocate, Sen. Brian Feldman, as he was expecting more collaboration between the two chambers, which should discuss many important issues ahead of a November referendum on legalization that is expected to pass. This April,  Maryland's House of Delegates gave the green light to two bills in February that would allow state voters to decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use for adults over 21.

 “I’m a little disappointed to hear that the House is now moving forward yet again with their own House work group,” Feldman said. “I would have thought it might make some sense to get together, House and Senate, during the interim.”

This lack of collaboration among regulators could lead to postponing Maryland’s recreational cannabis industry, as businesses would need precise guidelines and regulations on licensing, taxation and many other subjects.

Earlier this year, lawmakers managed to pass House Bill 837 which sets basic rules for the adult-use program concerning issues such as penalties and expungement and would allow the purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis for adults. The measure also would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces.

Clippinger further noted that the House will discuss cannabis legalization with the Senate, but the workgroup should make sure that delegates are well informed on the topic and look at other states' mistakes and achievements with implementing recreational marijuana.

 “As we deal with this really complicated issue, it’s important for members to get that detailed knowledge,” he said. “You can’t have the inevitable disagreements between the House and Senate until you have people that are well-informed (on the issue).”

California County Supports Bill Raising Penalties Against Illegal Cannabis Farms For Water Theft And Pollution

One of the counties in California most affected by illegal marijuana growth, San Bernadino, is sponsoring legislation, authored by State Senator Anna Caballero (D-Merced) to better regulate the problem, reported California Globe.

The bill, SB 1426, aims to establish fines and possible jail time for digging a well without legal permissions or tapping into a water conveyance. The bill also addresses the damages done by fertilizers and pest control chemicals, like carbofuran.

 “Illegal cannabis farming is killing wildlife and wreaking environmental damage across the state,” Caballero said in a San Bernardino press release. “This bill will help stop the pollution of our groundwater supply and the theft of water, which are all the more important during an ongoing multi-year drought.”

San Bernardino County is also backing a similar bill by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and sponsored by Los Angeles County, AB 2421. This bill increases penalties to $25,000 for harming wildlife, or polluting waters, specifically mentioning illegal marijuana grows among the main target of these fines.

The news of San Bernardino’s support of the bill, comes on the heels of the Sheriff’s Office of the Siskiyou County in the northernmost part of California, calling for a state of emergency over illegal cannabis grows. In May, Sheriff Jerimiah LaRue posted on Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page the following message along with the video showing one of many illegal marijuana farms and the associated troubles. 

“The purpose of this video is to be transparent about what the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office encounters on a regular basis while performing search warrant operations at illegal cannabis grows within the County,” the post reads. 

Illegal cannabis cultivation is among the main concerns of law enforcement in California, especially in times of one of the worst droughts. Marijuana plants often demand up to six gallons a day per plant, but with California’s warm climate the amount of water needed can be higher.

Integral Ecology Research Center (IERC) designed a program to collect data and mitigate the damage from illegal grows across the state. IERC co-founder and wildlife ecologist Greta Wengert said in an interview with NPR that the indiscriminate use of rodenticides and pesticides is booming. Her research revealed contamination in the entire wildlife food web, including distant forests.

Green Dragon Cannabis Workers Unionize, Citing Low Pay And Safety Problems  

Green Dragon marijuana workers have unionized on Thursday, reported Denverite. Jimena Petersen, an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, confirmed successful voting on unionizing decision.

 “We had the ballot today, and we got 14 yeses and 11 nos,” she said. “So we won the election.”

Why they unionized

Employers noted they are asking for better treatment from the company that has stored across Colorado and Florida. According to workers, the company has already fired some staff members for organizing union-related meetings.

They were holding meetings to address poor treatment, such as poor wages and inadequate ventilation.

 “I can’t breathe,” grow-house worker Jared Handran said. “All day, I have to wear a dust mask. And even with a dust mask, I go home and hack up mucus. It’s horrible. Like, some days, I can’t even breathe when I come home.”

What now?

Members of the union have plans to set up a committee to push for better conditions such as higher pay, better job stability, respect and safety measures.  

Photo: Courtesy of Joel Muniz on Unsplash