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Legislative Session Ends with Loss, Win

California residents got a mixed bag out of their Legislature this year when it comes to medical marijuana law, according to NORML, the pot-reform group.

There were two major cannabis bills up for consideration in this year’s session, and both were scrapped before they reached the floors of the state House and Senate. One would have been harmful to many pot patients, according to NORML, while the other would have been helpful.

The first bill, which NORML supported, would have created a stronger legal framework for marijuana in California. It would have codified the state Attorney General’s medical weed guidelines, which currently lack the force of law, and allowed the state to enforce tighter regulations on the often-chaotic dispensary market.

Many anti-cannabis groups complain the rules are too loose, that people without legitimate illnesses are able to buy easily and that retail pot shops increase crime. Yet these are the same people who stood in the way of this proposal, sponsored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg.

Most of the opposition came from law enforcement groups, especially lobbyists for the California Narcotics Officers’ Association. Supporters of the proposal said their opponents blocked it because they fear any regulation will give medical marijuana legitimacy – and they don’t believe it’s medicine, no matter what state law says.

“The California Narcotic Officers’ Association opposes this bill stating there is a reason that over 200 cities have taken action to impose outright bans on marijuana dispensaries – they create significant public safety and quality of life problems in communities,” the group said in a statement against the bill.

The bill was withdrawn shortly before the end of the 2013 session, as was another that would have hurt many medical smokers. This bill would have outlawed e-cigarettes wherever tobacco is banned. NORML opposed it.

The problem for medical marijuana patients is that the bill would have applied to vaporizers as well. Many patients use vaporizers – they’re healthier than smoking, they help patients who are sensitive to inhaling smoke, and they produce no toxic byproduct.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers work in a similar manner. An internal heat source (a battery, for instance) generates vapor from liquid nicotine, in the case of e-cigarettes, or dry marijuana, in the case of vaporizers. That vapor is inhaled and exhaled.Inside an Ecigarette

The proposed law would have prevented medical marijuana patients from using their vaporizers in any area where tobacco use is banned. California’s 1995 statewide smoking ban contains a number of exceptions that might allow patients to use in their homes or medical facilities. But many cities in the state have enacted much more stringent anti-smoking rules.

The City of Belmont, for example, bars smoking in apartments and condominiums, as well as public places. Calabasas is believed to have the tightest smoking regulations in the United States, with a total ban on smoking in all public places, indoor and outdoor. And Marin County prohibits smoking in all condos and apartments, though landlords can opt out and rent out 20 percent of their units to smokers.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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