CA Senate Health Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill (SB 1262-Correa)

SACRAMENTO, April 30. The California Senate Health Committee approved Sen. Correa's medical marijuana regulation bill SB 1262 by a vote of 6-0 after the author amended it to satisfy the objections of opponents, including medical marijuana advocates, the California Medical Association, and county governments.

In particular, the bill was amended to drop provisions restricting the practice of cannabis medicine, which had been strongly opposed by the CMA and MMJ advocates, including Cal NORML. Among them were provisions codifying the practice of cannabis medicine, requiring doctors to specify what kind of marijuana to recommend, requiring pediatricians to make recommendations for minors, and banning the use of butane hash oil. Cal NORML joined other opponents in dropping its opposition to the bill in response to the amendments.

The revised bill calls on the California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to develop and adopt medical guidelines for the appropriate use and administration of marijuana.

Another important sticking point in the bil, which was removed at the request of county governments, was a provision making county health departments responsible for enforcing the measure.

Sen. Correa agreed to work with the committee to iron out other problems with the bill. In particular, the Committee questioned whether regulation should be in the hands of the Department of Public Health, which had declared that it was not prepared to take on the task of regulating the drug. The Assembly is currently considering a different medical marijuana bill, AB 1894 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, which would put regulation in the hands of the Alcoholic Beverages Commission instead.

By the end of the hearing, all parties withdrew their opposition to SB 1262, prompting Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer to declare that the bill was "on the right track." Advocates are hoping that legislative leaders and the Governor's office will work out a consensus bill that is backed by all parties. The Correa Bill is sponsored by the California Police Chiefs and California League of Cities, which had heretofore opposed medical marijuana legislation, while Ammiano's bill is based on a proposal first developed by MMJ proponents. With yesterday's amendments to the Correa bill, the major differences between the two bills involve administrative details and determining the appropriate authority for regulation. Local governments, led by the League of Cities, have been pressing for maximum local authority to regulate or ban local facilities, in accordance with the Supreme Court's Riverside decision. Both bills have provisions explicitly recognizing this authority.

Medical marijuana advocates, including Cal NORML, believe state regulations are essential in order to provide clear legal protection to dispensaries, growers, sellers, transporters and processors of medical marijuana, who are not explicitly protected under current state law, and to protect them from federal raids under the Department of Justice's new policy of respecting state marijuana laws only where there are "strong and effective" state regulations.

Dale Gieringer, Director, Cal NORML

Watch hearing online (Starts at about 2:00).

Also see: Medical Marijuana Regulation Bills Advance in CA Legislature

Ammiano Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Reintroduced in California