The near-certainty that California voters will be asked to legalize recreational marijuana next year, and will vote yes to do so, has put pressure on lawmakers in recent months to rein in the booming medical marijuana trade — a job they have largely deferred in the nearly two decades since the state became the first in the U.S. to authorize marijuana use for health purposes, bolstering 22 other states and the Distinct of Columbia to do the same.
This past Friday California lawmakers voted on a proposal to create the first regulatory framework for the state’s thriving, but self-determining industry after lawmakers reached an 11th-hour compromise on a trio of marijuana bills.
The authors of the legislation that stalled in the Senate and Assembly in the closing days of the legislative session announced over the weekend a deal on a package that would set up a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation to oversee every aspect of the industry, from pot farms and medical clinics to product safety labs and retail distribution, essentially acting as a consumer oversight committee.
“These regulations are long overdue, and I’m thrilled that we were able to work together to find common ground on historic medical marijuana regulations for our state,” Senator Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, whose 370-mile long district encompasses Northern California’s prime pot-growing regions, said in a statement announcing the compromise.
Here are a few other measures the regulations will cover:
- The bills maintain the rights of cities and counties to ban medical marijuana businesses and the ability of individuals with doctor’s recommendations to use medical marijuana to grow limited amounts themselves, essentially meaning they could still arrest an individual or deny a business a license.
- Marijuana will be classified as an agricultural product subject to pesticide and water use restrictions, thereby addressing the environmental damage done by clandestine grow operations.
“AB 266 is the result of an unprecedented stakeholder process in which my colleagues and I brought everyone to the table, from medical marijuana businesses to law enforcement and patient advocates, to create a comprehensive regulatory framework for the state’s billion dollar medical marijuana industry,” explained lead author Assembly member Rob Bonta.
All three bills — McGuire’s SB643, AB266 by Bonta, D-Oakland, and AB246 by Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg — must pass for any of them to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Two bills, AB266 and SB643 are what eventually came after Friday’s late afternoon wrangling. A fully condensed version, AB266, eventually hobbled together for public consumption that calls for a massive overhaul of the medical marijuana industry to make it fully functional and subject to stringent regulation. The days of rampant self-governance among dispensaries, and vague and often contradictory language from lawmakers, have finally come to an end.
Although the governor has expressed skepticism over the wisdom of legalizing recreational marijuana use, his office is involved in crafting a compromise he would be willing to sign since late August, mostly in part to fervent public support for its legalization.
For a more detailed look at the the historic measure AB266 check out this article from David Downs.