The infighting between state, county, and city officials in California continues over legalized cannabis.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion on March 20 to update County regulations to address vaping as “threats to public health.” County lawmakers updated the legal definition of smoking to include cannabis and electronic cigarettes.
The new codes apply to the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County encompassing ¾ of the county land with about 1 million residents. Smoking will be prohibited at hospitals, libraries, museums, bus stops, outdoor dining establishments, beaches, parks, and other locations.
The ordinance will apply to county-owned facilities including its 5,000 buildings. The new codes require a 50-foot buffer to allow for smoking near windows and doors. Smoking is prohibited in county parking lots.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths and nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease among U.S. nonsmokers each year,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health. “These changes will help save lives.”
Under current law covering Santa Monica, vaping is considered the same as smoking cigarettes. Vaping and smoking are banned on the Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade, public beaches, government buildings, public parks, all outdoor dining areas, and waiting areas for bus stops and ATMs.
“Rules regarding cigarettes and cigarette-like products have not been significantly updated in a very long time. No doubt future entrepreneurs will invent new ways to smoke, and, rather than specifically update our ordinances each time, we have written this ordinance so that the rules protecting public health should not need updating again,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose 3rd District includes Santa Monica.
The Sausalito city council has blocked all cannabis businesses, even though 77 percent of the voters supported ending prohibition for cannabis.
According to a statewide investigation last year by the Southern California News Group and Digital First newspapers, there are 540 cities and counties in California, 30 percent (162) permits medical cannabis businesses. Only 89 cities and six counties allow sales for recreational cannabis use. At present, 144 cities out of 482 cities and 18 counties out of 58 counties allow any sales of cannabis. Iipay Nation, a sovereign nation in Santa Ysabel has repurposed a casino as its cannabis dispensary. While cannabis remains banned in the county where the Iipay Nation is located, US officials have no authority over tribal lands.
Josh Drayton, Communications and Outreach Director for the California Cannabis Industry Association, told the Santa Monica Mirror, that he is worried that the new regulations present barriers for the lawful consumption of cannabis by Los Angeles County residents.
According to Drayton, it the responsibility of jurisdictions to communicate to constituents about where they can and cannot consume cannabis.
“There needs to be a conversation of what enforcement is going to look like,” Drayton said. “There are a lot of restrictions…we need to be coming up with solutions.”
In November 2016, Proposition 64 was approved by 57 percent of state voters making it legal for people to carry up to one ounce of cannabis, grow it at home, and consume for medicinal purposes or recreationally. However, California law also gives cities and counties a strong say in how the new law is implemented within its jurisdictions.