Proposed Bill would Regulate California Medical Marijuana Industry

Proposed Bill would Regulate California Medical Marijuana Industry

"This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe," says bill's sponsor

SACRAMENTO, CA — A San Francisco Democrat has once again introduced legislation that would impose state control over California’s medical marijuana industry, which has been largely unregulated since Proposition 215 passed in 1996.

Assembly Bill 473, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would create a  new agency within the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate the growth, supply and sale of medical cannabis, replacing standards that now vary wildly from one city and county to another.

Although a majority of the hundreds of thousands of legal medical marijuana patients in California rely on dispensaries, the state has so far left regulation up to its localities.

The result is a situation where what is tolerated on one side of a suburban highway may be prosecuted on the other side.

There are currently more than 50 local ordinances, urban and rural, regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, which has led to a patchwork of local laws that serve some patient populations, but not others, forcing many people to travel long distances or use the black market to obtain a strain of medical marijuana that works for them.

This patchwork system has also caused confusion for public officials, and created more work for law enforcement.

The proposed bill hopes to change that by creating the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement (DMCRE), which would be a part of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The DMCRE  would be empowered to establish statewide standards for the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products, as well as a statewide licensing fee structure.

The bill also requires the DMCRE to develop uniform policies statewide for the taxation of the medical marijuana industry, establish a licence structure and uniform identification card program.

The DMCRE would be required to work in conjunction with state law enforcement agencies to enforce medical marijuana regulations to ensure compliance with the law.

“California has been in chaos for way too long,” says Ammiano. “Cities have been looking for state guidance, dispensaries feel at the mercy of changing rules and patients who need medical cannabis are uncertain about how their legitimate medical needs will be filled.”

“This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe. We will get it into the right hands and keep it out of the wrong hands.”

Ammiano similar bill last year, Assembly Bill 2312, but it called for establishing an entirely new agency that critics said would have created a cluster of legal, fiscal and jurisdictional troubles.

The bill barely passed in the House, but stalled in the state Senate.  The bill had support from medical marijuana patients, dispensaries, and advocates.

Since 2011, when federal prosecutors in the state announced their crackdown on the unregulated medical marijuana industry, the DEA has raided numerous dispensaries and other medical marijuana-related businesses, including Oaksterdam University.

In the past two years, hundreds of California dispensaries have shuttered their doors, in part because of the fear of federal prosecution and in part because of local moves against them.