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California Lawmakers Reach Deal to Regulate Medical MJ

Lawmakers say they have reached a deal with California Gov. Jerry Brown that would bring some order to the state’s chaotic medical marijuana system.

California Woman Holding Medical Marijuana CardNew cannabis regulations were set to pass the state Legislature in September, and Brown, a Democrat, was expected to sign the law. It would create a new set of statewide regulations for the medical cannabis industry, which is currently loosely regulated.

Californians approved medical weed in 1996, becoming the first state to do so. But the early laws that enacted the program didn’t create many statewide rules, leaving regulation mostly to local governments.

A varied patchwork of regulation

That has led to a serious problem for medical marijuana advocates and patients: California is now a patchwork of city, town, and county rules, all of them different. Some cities enforce no regulations while others ban cannabis dispensaries entirely.

Lawmakers have worked for years to create tougher state-level regulations. They have repeatedly been stymied by law enforcement groups and other conservatives who view regulation as legitimizing an illegitimate medication.

The law in the legislature in September would create a state office charged with licensing and monitoring medical dispensaries. Local governments would still be allowed to require licenses of their own, but lawmakers dropped a proposal to raise $60 million in revenue through an excise tax on medicinal weed.

“This package is the end product of countless hours meeting with stakeholders and extensive negotiations with the governor’s office,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Democrat.

Legislation would establish regulatory framework

Medical Marijuana SymbolThe legislation, which took the form of separate bills in the state Senate and Assembly, would create a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR) within the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The BMMR would oversee multiple agencies involved in licensing and regulation of medical pot.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a Democrat and an author of one of the bills, said the BMMR would turn to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Health for expertise.

The bills were “the result of an unprecedented stakeholder process in which my colleagues and I brought everyone to the table, from medical marijuana businesses to law enforcement and patient advocates, to create a comprehensive regulatory framework for the state’s billion-dollar medical marijuana industry,” Bonta said.

The law would allow Los Angeles to continue to enforce its own dispensary rules, approved by voters in 2013. Those rules strictly limit the number of shops allowed in the city and prevent new stores from opening.

Marijuana advocates praised the bills but said they would read the legislation before supporting it.

“We are very excited that the Legislature made it a main priority this year to get it done,” said Nate Bradley, founder of the California Cannabis Industry Association.

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