A proposed law that would place new regulations on California’s medical marijuana industry cleared a key hurdle in the state legislature in April.
The state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee approved the bill April 22. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a Democrat from San Francisco, introduced it. It’s one of two such proposals under consideration in the legislature. The other recently won approval from a committee in the state Senate.
“The current state of chaos around medical marijuana has got to come to an end,” Ammiano said.
Among other concerns, his bill would address problems with dispensaries, would impose new restrictions on doctors, and would put regulation of the industry under the control of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Supporters of the Senate bill criticized the plan to use Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate MMJ.
“There is no little irony in the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control as the administering agency for the medical marijuana trade,” the California Narcotic Officers’ Association said in a press release. “We know of no law where an agency charged with regulating recreational substances such as alcohol is also given portfolio over matters alleged to be medical.”
The association, which adamantly opposes medical marijuana, takes the official position that cannabis has absolutely no medical benefits for anyone and that the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 was an act of electoral fraud that has no legal force whatsoever.
That was the law by which voters adopted MMJ in California. They were the first in the nation to do so, setting the stage for 18 years of gradual but progressive marijuana reform across the country.
But the Compassionate Use Act was vague and broad, and it imposed no regulations on medical weed. Patients were allowed to possess and grow pot with a doctor’s recommendation, and that was about it. The legislature enacted some rules and created a patient registry in 2003, but this law too was limited.
Soon, unlicensed MMJ dispensaries began popping up across the state by the hundreds and then by the thousands. With no state law to regulate them, local governments were left the task.
Hundreds of communities have banned pot shops entirely, while some have gone even further and prohibited cultivation as well. Other municipalities are enforcing regulations to limit the number and location of the shops. And still others rely solely on the skeletal state laws.
If Ammiano’s bill passes, it would provide order to the chaos. It would also give the state, the industry, and patients protection from the federal government. The Obama administration announced last year that it won’t interfere with states that legalize medical or recreational pot as long as they enforce certain federal priorities – such as preventing interstate trafficking.
Law enforcement and municipal groups support the other bill, in the Senate. It’s much more stringent and it codifies the right of local governments to ban dispensaries. It would use the state health department to regulate MMJ.
Marijuana advocates, on the other hand, are generally behind Ammiano’s proposal.