California Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Regulation Bills

UPDATE: SB 643 passes CA Assembly by vote of 54-11 after 15 mins. debate (mostly on the 600-sq. ft. buffer, which locals can override.)

If signed by the Governor, the act would give the Department of Consumer Affairs the sole authority to create, issue, renew, discipline, suspend, or revoke licenses for the transportation and storage, (unrelated to manufacturing) of medical marijuana, and would authorize the department to collect fees for its regulatory activities and impose specified duties on this department in this regard. The Governor would appoint, subject to confirmation by the Senate, a chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation under DCA. The Department of Food and Agriculture would administer the cultivation, including a "trace and trace" program including transportation; and the State Department of Public Health would administer the manufacturing and testing of medical cannabis.

The bill provides exemptions for a patient who cultivates, possesses, stores, manufactures, or transports cannabis for their own personal use, or for a primary caregiver acting in accordance with CA H&SC 11362.765. It defines a tiered licensing system for outdoor, indoor and mixed-lighting cultivation, such as “specialty” licenses for farmers using 5,000 square feet of total canopy size on one premises, or up to 50 mature plants on noncontiguous plots; “small” licenses for cultivation between 5,001 and 10,000 square feet, and regular licenses for 10,001 to 22,000 square feet of total canopy. It also allows for nursery licenses.

The bill would make it unlawful for medical marijuana to be marketed, labeled, or sold as grown in a California county when the medical marijuana was not grown in that county. The bureau may establish appellations of origin for marijuana grown in California, and by 2020 the Dept. of Food and Agriculture is to establish organic farming standards. Pesticide regulations are also to be developed by Food and Ag.

Licensees will be subject to criminal background checks, and will be required to obtain a license or permit from the local jurisdiction in which they propose to operate.

SB 643 also has language instructing the Medical Board of CA to prioritize investigating “repeated acts of clearly excessive recommending of cannabis to patients for medical purposes” or recommending without “an appropriate prior examination and a medical reason for the recommendation.” It adds requirements on advertising by physicians, and also directs the Medical Board to work with Center for Medical Cannabis Research on “developing and adopting medical guidelines for the appropriate administration and use of medical cannabis.”

UPDATE - AB 243 and AB 266 pass in Senate. Read more.

AB 266, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, would repeal the provisions exempting cannabis collectives from state law upon the issuance of licenses under the new law, and would instead provide that actions of licensees with the relevant local permits are not offenses subject to arrest, prosecution, or other sanction under state law.

As well as the cultivator categories in SB 643, it would license Manufacturers, Testing Labs, Dispensaries, Distributors, and Transporters. It allows the Bureau to convene an advisory committee the member of which may include, but are not limited to, representatives of the medical marijuana industry, representatives of medical marijuana cultivators, appropriate local and state agencies, appropriate local and state law enforcement, physicians, environmental and public health experts, and medical marijuana patient advocates.

The bill would make a person engaging in commercial cannabis activity without a license subject to civil penalties of up to twice the amount of the license fee for each violation, and the court may order the destruction of medical cannabis associated with that violation. Each day of operation would constitute a separate violation.

As well as the same cultivation licensing in the other bills, AB 243 allows the Director of Finance to provide an initial operating loan from the General Fund to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund that does not exceed ten million dollars. It has the most comprehensive language on water regulations to be promulgated by Fish and Wildlife, and exempts from mandatory licensing a qualified patient cultivating in an area not exceeding 100 square feet or a primary caregiver cultivating in an area not exceeding 500 square feet for no more than five specified qualified patients.

SACRAMENTO September 11 - California lawmakers said late Thursday that they have reached a deal on legislation to regulate and license medical marijuana.

The regulatory framework to corral the billion-dollar medical cannabis industry will be contained in three bills that have received the blessings of the two chambers and Gov. Jerry Brown, said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, one of the authors of the measures.

AB266 is dependent on SB 643 and AB 243 passing.

Read more