California Assembly Passes Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill [FEATURE]

A bill that would for the first time bring statewide regulation to California's chaotic medical marijuana industry passed the Assembly Thursday. The legislation, Assembly Bill 2312, barely passed on a 41-29 vote, with 41 votes being the minimum required to move the legislation to the Senate before a Friday deadline.

It must still be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown before it becomes law.

Pushed by patients, dispensaries, and advocates organized into the broad-based coalition Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM) and sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill would create a nine-member commission to come up with regulations to govern medical marijuana enterprises. Under California's current medical marijuana laws, there is no statewide regulation, leaving a patchwork quilt of often conflicting local approaches to the issue.

The result has been uneven implementation of the law, with some areas flooded with unregulated dispensaries, while others ban their operation, leaving patients to grow their own or seek it out on the black market. The lack of state regulation has also left an opening for recalcitrant prosecutors and law enforcement officials to criminally prosecute dispensary operators and growers under differing interpretations of the state's laws. And it has left an opening for federal prosecutor and the DEA to swoop in, claiming the unregulated dispensaries are little more than "pot shops."

In the wake of the lack of clarity at the state level, counties and municipalities across the state have considered or enacted their own regulatory schemes or outright bans. The result is a situation where what is tolerated on one side of a suburban highway may be prosecuted on the other side.

In a sop to medical marijuana opponents, Ammiano accepted an amendment that would allow localities to continue to ban dispensaries. The bill originally would have required that local governments allow at least one dispensary for every 50,000 residents unless voters in a local initiative decided otherwise. Now, city or county elected officials could make that decision. That means even with statewide regulations, the patchwork quilt effect could remain.

But the language was necessary to win enough votes among Democrats to get the bill passed. No Republicans voted for it.

"The people of California, the attorney general and even law enforcement and patients, all want a clear set of rules to regulate an industry that has been in existence since 1996," Ammiano said, noting broad support for medical marijuana in the state. "Cartels and other organized crime thrive in unregulated markets. Today's vote was significant because it represents a considerable shift that the legislature is now willing to take responsibility for the effective regulation of medical cannabis in California. With the continuing federal crackdown, we simply cannot afford to continue keeping our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is fine."

Since last fall, when federal prosecutors in the state announced their crackdown, the DEA has raided numerous dispensaries and other medical marijuana-related businesses, including Oaksterdam University. In the past year, hundreds of dispensaries have shuttered their doors, in part because of the fear of federal prosecution and in part because of local moves against them.

Hostility to medical marijuana was evident in the Assembly debate before the bill passed, with some members continuing to deny that it has any medical utility.

Medical marijuana is "a phrase that is meaningless," said Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), a doctor and surgeon. The discussion about it is really a debate over "whether people should be able to legally get high," she said.

Assemblyman Dan Wagner (R-Irvine) complained about the make-up of the bill's Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement, which would include two patients, an industry representative, and a doctor familiar with medical marijuana among its nine representatives.

"Something smells when you stack the deck like that, and we know what that smell is," he said.

But Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) said it was time to get real. "What it does is begin the process of regulation of something that is happening anyway," she said.

"Some people want to preserve the chaos and confusion to say that medical marijuana has failed or is a sham," Ammiano said during the debate in response to Republican critics.

The bill was modeled after an initiative crafted by CRMM last winter after the federal crackdown began. The group, which includes the core of the team behind 2010's Proposition 19 effort, briefly tried to get the measure on the ballot this year before shifting gears to work with Ammiano in trying to get it passed through the legislature after realizing it did not have sufficient funding for a costly signature-gathering effort.

CRMM pronounced itself pleased with the bill's progress so far.

"More than 15 years after Californians passed Proposition 215, patients are still in need of a commonsense approach to the production and distribution of medical marijuana," said Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, one of the member organizations of CRMM. "We applaud the Assembly for taking leadership on statewide regulations and we hope the state Senate also does the right thing by addressing medical marijuana as a public health issue."

Now, it's on to the Senate. California could still end up with a state-regulated medical marijuana industry this year.

Sacramento, CA
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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just pathetic, Linda Halderman, just pathetic

Cannabis has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, and it will be used as one long after we're gone, it wouldn't be surprising if you need some before you're done. You're in the hip pocket of big pharma. And cannabis is way safer than alcohol as a recreational drug, so get your goddamn fist out of my face, Ms. Fascist. Liberty and justice for all, have you ever heard of those words? They are absolutely incompatible with the current status of cannabis vs killer alcohol.

 You're a doctor, start acting like a doctor, not a reefer madness crazed thug!

15+ years

Dan Wagner is something else . He talks about a " stacked deck " .  For years and years , republicans in congress have stacked the deck against Cannabis legalization . They hold congressional hearings by bringing in only law enforcement and ONDCP clowns . Those that benefit from prohibition . Repubs. operate on ideology instead of facts to start with . Thank GOD for Colorado . California is no longer the leader it used to be . Thanks to its repub. voters . 40 years of federal drug war has corrupted the government at all levels nationwide . It`s hard to give up that $$$ gravy train . A government mafia has been built around it . I love watching Cannabis prohibitionists pitch a fit at the sight of that " Big Green Tsunami " that they see coming towards them . These are the days my friend .

Unfortunately,

there are just as many prohibitionists on the democrat side of the aisle as on the GOP side.  It does no good in the effort to end the war on drugs to be partisan and only blame just one side of the political coin (the side opposite from you) when both sides are fully engaged in this unconstitutional atrocity.  In doing that, you end only addressing half the problem (something of which NORML and other so-called "reform orgs" are oh so guilty by completely ignoring/excusing the democrat prohibitionists and totally ignoring the alliances that could be made with Republican reformers).

On a side note, someone needs to make a list of all the members of congress who are prohibitionist regardless of party affiliation, so the reformers in each prohibitionist's districts can target them for replacement with someone favorable to reform.  Once that task is accomplished then we need to focus on the ones who go along with the prohibitionists instead of calling them out on their bullshit the same way.  People in each of the States need to do the same thing with their State legislatures and Governor and AG.  In the meantime, the only candidate running for president who opposes the entire war on drugs because he sees it as absolutely unconstitutional (which it is) and who WILL end it (unlike Obama who reneged on his promise of leaving State legal growers, sellers and users alone and relying on science for his drug policies; and unlike Romney, who will maintain the currently policies; and unlike Johnson who would only alter the policies on cannabis without addressing the other drugs on which the government makes war) is Ron Paul.  If you are not helping get Ron Paul the GOP nomination and the presidency, you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Huh?

I'm disabled and use MMJ for various conditions so I'm with you in principle. However, blaming only the republicans in CA for the state of MJ is misguided. The democrats have enjoyed a clear majority in CA for a long time and the current state of affairs developed under their watch. None of them have wanted anything to do with MMJ from the start, and why should they when the majority of CA voters (democrats) give them a free pass on the issue by blaming republicans who have little power in CA. This us vs. them  crap needs to stop. ALL politicians should be held accountable for their promises and actions. The democrats in CA have failed the voters as much as the republicans.  At least you know what you'll get with republicans on MMJ. With many democrats it's been promises around election time that never materialize.

What really is a shame is

What really is a shame is where individuals like Ammiano cannot make reference to  Assemblywoman Linda Halderman  or others concerning those individuals campaign donations and or affiliations(AMA, drug companies, lobby orgs ect).. without the unintended consequences of *issen off said individuals and their constituents to the point they take reprisals for being exposed as having positions that are not policy(MMJ) oriented.

The positions some of these 'Anti' policy objectors come from purely monetary and political(One in the same?) guidance, rather than moral or realistic policy directing.

But this has always been the way of politics... 'don't embarrass me,I won't come after you',. Unfortunately till one has the power, one must fear the power of politicians. Thus we have not cowards in the proponents but cowards in the 'Anti" position as that power is based mostly on the knowledge someone above/more powerful than they, are backing them(Antis). A bully fears little when in a gang situation(Federal Backup).

Without additional cowards such as Eric Holder and Obama backing these Antis, all those less than accurate comments from antis slowly go away(..'just want to get high').

As a matter of States rights and individuals rights versus a centralized Federal Govt. mandates and this MMJ situation, we do have another level being brought to bear. Since the situation will not go away, and it is becoming obvious that 'users' cannot be threatened out of the behavior, the only recourse is to maintain the propaganda and extend the argument from and for the Status quo Antis - Alcohol, Pharmacy, DEA employment, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, ADM, Weyerhaeuser, Carbon Cars, Bondsmen, State Prosecutors, for profit Prisons, Wall Street and the myriad of financially involved Antis, lobbying for the current Status Quo.

Quite literally, when taking into account stocks, bonds and derivatives of these 'Antis', we are talking about disrupting well past a trillion dollars of equity positions. It is not a matter of destroying those equity positions... it is simply the idea those positions could be affected/disrupted.

An amazing situation. Here exists a condition (MJ prohibition on a grand scale), that should have never occurred. But like allowing Credit default swaps to rationalized FASB accounting to increase the money supply, MJ prohibition must continue... and feeds on itself, allowing less reliable and more harmful products to dominate the market.

The fight continues.

What really is a shame is

What really is a shame is where individuals like Ammiano cannot make reference to  Assemblywoman Linda Halderman  or others concerning those individuals campaign donations and or affiliations(AMA, drug companies, lobby orgs ect).. without the unintended consequences of *issen off said individuals and their constituents to the point they take reprisals for being exposed as having positions that are not policy(MMJ) oriented.

The positions some of these 'Anti' policy objectors come from purely monetary and political(One in the same?) guidance, rather than moral or realistic policy directing.

But this has always been the way of politics... 'don't embarrass me,I won't come after you',. Unfortunately till one has the power, one must fear the power of politicians. Thus we have not cowards in the proponents but cowards in the 'Anti" position as that power is based mostly on the knowledge someone above/more powerful than they, are backing them(Antis). A bully fears little when in a gang situation(Federal Backup).

Without additional cowards such as Eric Holder and Obama backing these Antis, all those less than accurate comments from antis slowly go away(..'just want to get high').

As a matter of States rights and individuals rights versus a centralized Federal Govt. mandates and this MMJ situation, we do have another level being brought to bear. Since the situation will not go away, and it is becoming obvious that 'users' cannot be threatened out of the behavior, the only recourse is to maintain the propaganda and extend the argument from and for the Status quo Antis - Alcohol, Pharmacy, DEA employment, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, ADM, Weyerhaeuser, Carbon Cars, Bondsmen, State Prosecutors, for profit Prisons, Wall Street and the myriad of financially involved Antis, lobbying for the current Status Quo.

Quite literally, when taking into account stocks, bonds and derivatives of these 'Antis', we are talking about disrupting well past a trillion dollars of equity positions. It is not a matter of destroying those equity positions... it is simply the idea those positions could be affected/disrupted.

An amazing situation. Here exists a condition (MJ prohibition on a grand scale), that should have never occurred. But like allowing Credit default swaps to rationalized FASB accounting to increase the money supply, MJ prohibition must continue... and feeds on itself, allowing less reliable and more harmful products to dominate the market.

The fight continues. 

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