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Calif. Lawmakers Lift Cities’ Pot Law Deadline

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - California Gov. Jerry Brown approved emergency legislation Wednesday eliminating an inadvertent March 1 deadline for cities to pass medical marijuana cultivation laws or cede control to the state.

Lawmakers fast-tracked Assembly Bill 21 after pressure from cities claiming they didn't have enough time to create comprehensive pot-growing rules. Authority over medical marijuana ordinances would have been ceded to the state if cities didn't pass laws by the March 1 deadline.

Rather than hand authority over to state regulators, in recent weeks cities have banned growing or rushed rules in order to meet the encroaching deadline.

This past October, California lawmakers passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation Act and created licensing and distribution laws for commercial growers that take effect in 2018. The act tasks the new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation with issuing growing licenses and overseeing the industry.

The act's authors said the March 1 deadline was mistakenly left in the final bill and that they immediately moved to push back the deadline. AB 21 cleared the Assembly unanimously and the Senate by a 35-3 margin.

Assemblyman and bill author Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, said removing the deadline allows city leaders to continue brainstorming "solid policies that make sense for their communities."

Several cities threw up bans to get something on the books, with the intention of revisiting the issue and coming up with better plans after the deadline.

"Now that we have given local officials the time to take a thoughtful approach to regulating medical marijuana, I hope they will maximize that time by engaging with the public and having thorough discussions," Wood said in a statement.

In related news, Brown on Thursday appointed Lori Ajax as chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, a division within the state's consumer affairs department.

Ajax, 50, has been deputy chief director at the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control since 2014 after having served in numerous roles in that department.

A Republican from the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks, Ajax is also a member of the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association. The position requires confirmation by the state Senate.

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