From the March Edition of Cal NORML Reports. Join today to support Cal NORML’s efforts in Sacramento and receive our newsletter.
SACRAMENTO – Regulation of medical marijuana tops this year’s legislative agenda for Cal NORML, as two different bills to regulate the industry have been introduced to the legislature.
Patient and industry advocates, including Cal NORML, believe state regulation is urgently needed for California to avoid federal raids, since Department of Justice guidelines call for state licensing.
Advocates have been backing AB 604 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), which would legalize and regulate commerical dispensaries, growers, transporters and manufacturers through the Alcoholic Beverages Commission. AB 604 was introduced to the State Senate at the end of the session in 2013, but postponed for committee hearings later this spring.
A second regulation bill—SB 1262 by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana)—has been introduced by law enforcement, led by John Lovell, lobbyist for the California Police Chiefs and California Narcotics Officers Association, along with the League of California Cities. SB 1262 would regulate not only the industry, but also physicians, in provisions strongly opposed by patient advocates.
Among other restrictions, SB 1262 would require recommendations to be issued only by primary care physicians or upon their referral, a step that would drastically reduce availability of recommendations to the many patients who either lack primary care physicians or whose physicians are ignorant or hostile to medical cannabis.
The bill also requires physicians to address strains and dosages of marijuana, restricts recommendations for minors to non-smoked, high-CBD varieties, and audits physicians who make 100 recommendations or more. California NORML attorneys argue that these restrictions are probably in violation of Prop. 215, as interpreted in the Supreme Court’s Kelly decision.
Aside from the physician regulations, advocates are surprisingly comfortable with the industry regulations in SB 1262, which resemble those in AB 604. One significant difference is that the Correa bill makes the Department of Health, not ABC, responsible for oversight of the industry, a position favored by many patient advocates, though not by the state agencies involved, of which only the ABC has expressed support for taking on the task.
Both the Correa and Ammiano bills re-affirm the right of local governments to ban dispensaries, as established in the State Supreme Court’s Riverside decision. Both would also replace the current vaguely defined system of locally regulated “collectives” or cooperatives under SB 420 with mandatory state registration or licensing.
SB 1262 marks a remarkable turn-around for law enforcement, which had led the opposition to previous bills to legalize the industry, including AB 604. In a letter on SB 1262, the California Police Chiefs and the League of California Cities announced they had re-evaluated their long-standing opposition in light of growing support in the state legislature, the Department of Justice memorandum allowing for state regulation of marijuana, and growing public support for legalization.
California NORML welcomed the change of heart by law enforcement. “While we strongly oppose SB 1262’s provisions restricting physician recommendations, we regard the remaining portions of the bill as a constructive, practical step towards legal regulation, in accordance with Prop. 215’s mandate for a system of “safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need,” declared Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer.
Another zero-tolerance DUI bill and a dispensary citing bill have also been introduced this session in Sacramento.
Also see: State Senator Lou Correa Authors First Marijuana Bill Backed by Cops OC Weekly, 2/25/2014
CALIFORNIA CITIES, POLICE CHIEFS SUPPORT POT REGULATION FOR FIRST TIME
Sacramento Bee, 3/3/2014
Law Would Ban Potent Marijuana ‘Concentrates’ in California LA Weekly, 3/11/2014
New Rules for Medical Pot LA Times, 3/12/2014
In a Radical Shift, California Police Chiefs Push for Regulation of Medical Marijuana Mother Jones, 3/13/2014
Artwork: Steve Caprio Designs