Medical Marijuana Advocates Organize to Regulate Sales and Production

March 15, 2012 - A comprehensive bill to regulate sales and production of medical marijuana, AB 2312, has been introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF). The bill is based on a proposed ballot initiative, the Medical Marijuana Regulation Control and Taxation Act, developed by a coalition of advocates including ASA, the UFCW, California NORML, the California Cannabis Association, the Emerald Growers Association, and others.

The MMRCTA initiative, which got off to a late start, was dropped for lack of adequate time and funding. Instead, sponsors have decided to pursue a legislative campaign in support of AB 2312 or a similar bill. The campaign is motivated by concerns that California’s existing laws on medical marijuana distribution are vague and ambiguous, and fail to make it clear if and when commercial sales, production, delivery, edibles, and testing are legal.

Proposition 215 legalized possession and cultivation by individuals, but did not establish a legal distribution system. Instead, it encouraged the state and federal governments “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need.” This the government has conspicuously failed to do.

“The time is long overdue to fulfill Prop. 215’s mandate,” says Dale Gieringer, one of the co-authors of Prop 215, “The vagueness of California’s current laws is being cynically used by federal authorities to justify their ongoing crackdown on medical cannabis.”

Like the initiative, AB 2312 would establish a state board under the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate medical marijuana. Persons seeking to engage in the sales, production, or processing of medical marijuana for commercial purposes would be required to register with the board. Local laws and prohibitions on dispensaries would be pre-empted, except for reasonable zoning requirements, and every county and city would be required to accommodate at least one dispensary per 50,000 residents, unless local voters specifically opt out. The board would be given broad authority to enact regulations for all facilities engaged in the medical marijuana business. Individual patients and caregivers growing at home would be exempt. Unlike the proposed MMRCTA initiative, which would have been funded by a supplementary 2.5% state sales tax on medical marijuana, AB 2312 doesn’t assess a state tax, but authorizes local governments to do so.

Another MMRCTA provision, which was strongly advocated by California NORML but dropped from AB 2312, would have reduced felony penalties for cultivation, sales, transportation, etc. to alternative misdemeanors. Last session, the legislature soundly rejected a bill by Ammiano to reduce felony cultivation penalties, making it politically unattractive to re-introduce this year.
California NORML supports AB 2312, while being concerned about the danger of hostile amendments from the legislature, whose mood has not been friendly to marijuana.
Sponsors have organized a PAC, medicalmarijuana.org>Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana, to support their campaign for state regulation.

This article is from the California NORML Spring 2012 Newsletter. Join Today to Get Your Copy!