This month, I want to discuss the topic of running for city council in cities that prohibit cannabis commercial business. More and more people are complaining passionately to me about their local city ordinances that prohibit their cannabis businesses, especially in light of the new regulations that are likely to be signed into law in California. These regulations set forth a system for commercial cannabis activity which includes 17 different kinds of state licenses.
In order to obtain a business license from the state, one must be in compliance with local laws. These regulations seem like precursors to recreational marijuana being legalized in California in 2016, which many believe will be the case. Recently, I’ve been approached by California business owners, currently in other industries, who desire to adjust their business plans to integrate cannabis. This industry is said to have a market value of more than $4 billion.
There are business people who plan on operating or are already operating their companies in a particular city, but the city does not have cannabis-friendly ordinances permitting them to apply for a business license. Some city or county governments are hamstringing the effort of potential business owners. What should a business owner do? Here’s an idea: Run for office. If your local government representatives are operating in a mode that is on the other side of history, then it may be time to replace them with someone else — you. Individuals who care about what is going on in their cities, and wish to see their local area take advantage of cannabis-related opportunities, may want to consider gathering some like-minded people to discuss an election campaign based on the rules and regulations of their city or county. Different counties and localities may set their own unique requirements. For example, it is important to figure out how often elections are held and the rules related to running for office.
I have attended plenty of city council meetings where marijuana business owners come to the microphone to ask permission to conduct business, only to be summarily dismissed by council members who are not representative of their interests.
Here are three reasons why a business person might want to step up to the plate and run for office. First, most Californians support adult-use cannabis, because safe and successful programs are clearly possible, as evidenced by Colorado and other cities in California, that run successful business models. Next, many California businesses are thinking about adjusting their business plan to get a piece of the action and need representation. Finally, California voters enacted the Compassionate Use Act 19 years ago and patients are still largely treated like second-class citizens, where local governments will not pay them the respect of making safe, local medical marijuana available to them. These patients need a strong representative voice in local government.
This industry needs representative leadership. Be that leader. And if you cannot be that leader, find that leader, help get them elected and let’s make progress.
Michele Brooke is an attorney in California who practices civil litigation and civil cannabis law (www.brookelawgroup). She is a member of Americans For Safe Access, NORML and the American Herbal Products Association.