A rigid attempt to regulate medical marijuana in California cleared an important Senate panel in April.
The bill, backed by law enforcement groups and opposed by the state’s largest medical group, would license dispensaries and impose tight new restrictions on doctors who recommend cannabis to patients. It would also make it easier for local governments to ban pot shops.
The legislation passed the Senate Business, Professional and Economic Development Committee April 21. It now moves on to a full vote in the Senate.
Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat, authored the bill. He said he wants to prevent practices like one in Sacramento where patients were given MMJ cards after a brief interview on Skype, with no physical exam.
“The implementation of medical marijuana laws has been marked by conflicting authorities, regulatory uncertainty, intermittent federal enforcement action and many, many lawsuits,” Correa said.
The California Police Chiefs Association and the League of California Cities sponsored Correa’s proposal. It also has the backing of several police officers associations.
“It is not medicine for doctors to show up at concerts to give recommendation cards to anyone willing to spend the cash,” said Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher W. Boyd, president of the chief’s association.
Law enforcement support for the bill marks a major departure from past policy. Traditionally, police opposed any regulation of medical marijuana on the grounds it would legitimize MMJ, which law enforcement groups viewed as an illegal scam despite voter approval.
But with an eye on changing realities – and an eye, perhaps, on the coming likelihood of full legalization – the state’s largest police organizations finally got behind a set of stringent regulations.
Californians voted to adopt medical pot in 1996, the first state to do so. Dispensaries were never explicitly sanctioned (or banned), but they began to spring up over the next few years and soon proliferated across the state.
The lack of any regulatory scheme, and the ease with which recreational users could obtain medical weed, encouraged years of federal crackdowns. Activists on both sides of the issue, police and pot proponents, called for new regulations, but all attempts were stymied by law enforcement.
Correa’s bill has drawn opposition from doctors and marijuana advocates. The California Medical Association complained the legislation interferes with the practice of medicine. The group said a requirement that doctors recommend the type and strength of marijuana could make it easier for the federal government to prosecute them.
NORML had similar objections, saying the bill interferes “in medical practices.” Dale Gieringer, director of the group’s California branch, said it’s unreasonable to insist that patients between the ages of 18 and 20 obtain recommendations from pediatricians.