Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Passes Senate Committee; Assembly Bill Up Tomorrow

April 21, 2014 - SB 1262 (Correa), a bill introduced by the California Police Chiefs Association and the California League of Cites, passed the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee today in Sacramento and will next be heard in the Senate Health Committee.

In introducing the bill, Correa said the primary concern was public safety, followed by protecting local control of medical marijuana, and setting uniform health and safety standards. He said his bill sought to bring clarity to a situation clouded by regulatory uncertainty, intermittent federal action, and numerous lawsuits.

Saying that he had incorporated suggested amendments from the CMA, ASA and the California Medical Board, Correa said under the bill doctors must have a bonefide relationship with their patients, and local jurisdictions will maintain the right to ban dispensaries.

Christopher Boyd, chief of police of Citrus Heights and the president of the California Police Chiefs Assn. spoke next, saying the bill was the result of a national survey of physicians, patient advocates, dispensary operators and others, searching for best practices. Californians did not vote for doctors who handed out medical recommendations at rock shows, by Skype, or brought in by Venice Beach wranglers, he said. "I have no desire to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship," Boyd said. "I just think there should be one."

Boyd spoke of "iron-clad" protection for local control and bringing medical marijuana under the 2008 Sherman Act, to ensure safety against "carcinogenic" pesticides.

Thomas Minehan, DO, an emergency room doctor from Arrowhead, spoke next about his 11-year-old daughter Mallory who was having 12 seizures daily until she tried cannabis oil. "I got my daughter back," Minehan said, adding he gets high CBD oil for his daughter in the mail, and it is often mislabeled regarding dosage and content.

Doug Tucker, an MD specializing in addiction, psychology and forensic medicine, said the bill had "good sense guidelines" with a "good faith prior exam" and records obtained and maintained. He noted that CBD was neuroprotective and anti-seizure, while THC was helpful for patients with nausea and AIDS. He worried about the "mentally ill and marginally functional" and said the bill called for board-certified pediatricians to approve any recommendation for those under 21. With this bill, MMJ "actually becomes medical marijuana instead of something else."

The League of Cities, several police officers' representatives, and Ron Allen of the Faith-Based Coalition, all voiced their support of the bill, as did John Lovell, identifying himself as representing the California Association of Coe Enforcement Officers and Project SAM. Lovell, who also represents the California Police Chiefs and the CNOA, said SB1262 is the only marijuana bill nationwide that SAM supports.

ASA's Don Duncan rose next to withdraw his opposition to the bill as amended. Eduardo Martinez from the CMA was not satisfied with the amendments, however, while calling it a "vast improvement" over an earlier version. He objected to the bill's interference in the practice of medicine, provisions which were "generally not available due to marijuana's Schedule 1 designation" and said it "makes statements of scientific fact that are untrue."

Paul Smith of the Rural County Representatives of California said the bill's "intent is noble, but it's not cooked yet and needs work." Saying most of the medical marijuana produced in Califorina is grown in rural counties, he called for strengthened land-use protections and minimal local regulatory demands vs. statewide regulation. Missing is "who can grow and sell" in the collective model, he said, as well as corresponding state statutes on pesticides and herbicides.

Jolena Voorhis from the Urban Counties Caucus echoed Smith's remarks, calling the mandates on counties in the bill "far reaching" and a "piecemeal approach" that involved several different departments (e.g. Agriculture) but failed to grasp the complexities involved. Karen Keene of the State Assn of Counties said she was not opposed, but had sent a letter to the committee. Judith Reigel, representing county health directors, voiced her opposition to the bill, unless amended.

Lanette Davies of Crusaders for Patients Rights asked for four amendments to the bill: 1. cities and counties who out-out of dispensaries must take a vote of the people; 2. an allowance for small patient growers to share their excess with collectives; 3. dispensaries may have a lobby where family members can enter; 4. legal protection for pain patients who use medical marijuana and prescription medication.

Nate Bradley of the CCIA said he was "barely opposed" to the bill. The LEAP member said he was happy "my brothers" were working on the bill, but disliked the patchwork of county regulations that was likely to ensue from it, bringing up the ID card program as an example of the difficulty of local control.

Bob Bowerman of Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto NORML, who recently set himself up to debate John Lovell on a shock-talk station in the Central Valley, withdrew his opposition to the bill, saying now that law enforcement was willing to sit and talk about the issue he saw "the light at the end of the tunnel." Sac NORML has not coordinated with California NORML on this state bill; their purview is city and county politics.

Dale Gieringer of California NORML said it was good to see the state coming around to regulating medical marijuana, but agreed with the CMA's objections to interfering with medical practice. He specifically noted that the ages of 18-21 were rather old to be seeing a pediatrician, and that there were no studies supporting the requirement to recommend only CBD to minors. By contrast, studies from the California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research in San Diego has found beneficial effects for THC. Still, Gieringer called the bill "greatly improved" from earlier versions.

Committee chairman Ted Lieu asked Gieringer if he would withdraw his opposition and go neutral on the bill if those two provisions were changed. Gieringer responded that he would. Correa said he would change the provision requiring a pediatrician's approval for 18-21 year olds, and work on the strain issue. Lovell then claimed THC could have the downside of inducing seizures.

Committee member Ellen Corbett, the Senate Majority Leader, voiced her support for the bill while echoing some of the concerns of CalNORML and others. Senator Ed Hernandez, who chairs the Health Committee, asked whether or not the Public Health Department had been consulted about their oversight role granted by the bill, and was told they had not. Hernandez said he would be sure to address this topic in the Health Committee hearing after his "courtesy vote" sent it through.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's medical marijuana regulation bill, AB1894, will be heard tomorrow morning in the Assembly Public Health Committee, which Ammiano chairs. That bill would put oversight with the ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Control) board, an agency which has expressed a willingness to take on the issue.

Coincidentally, Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan of Citrus Heights is introducing two ordinances tomorrow in Sacramento County, one to ban outdoor medical marijuana cultivation and the other to ban indoor.

Also see: Can Sacramento break medpot deadlock? San Diego Union Tribune, April 20, 2014

State Senate panel advances medical marijuana regulation LA Times April 21, 2014