by David Downs
Californians have gone seventeen years without a statewide system to regulate the medical marijuana — something they voted for under Proposition 215 in 1996. Somehow, the sky has not fallen. But the make-it-up-as-you-go era may be coming to an end, as yesterday, Representative Tom Ammiano issued a press release stating that he has put forth AB 473 — a bill to regulate California medical marijuana through the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Almost one million Californians are thought to have a doctor's recommendation for the pain, anxiety, insomnia, and nausea drug. Several hundred stores across the state sell it, and the industry generates about $1.3 billion in revenue, according to estimates. But critics allege recommendations are too easy to get, sales of the drug in stores are illegal, and medical pot is being trafficked out of state.
Ammiano's bill includes no specifics at this point, but in a statement, his office said the bill would establish a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement within the ABC “responsible for monitoring supply and sales of medical cannabis." Ammiano promises “rigorous enforcement and clear guidelines” through AB 473 that would clean up the medical marijuana supply “so that vulnerable medical patients are not exposed to toxic substances used by some unauthorized growers”. The bill “would also work to eliminate criminal involvement in the industry.”
And medical marijuana's proud enemies, the California Narcotic Officers Association, are against it, telling the San Francisco Chronicle AB 473 just proves medical marijuana is a joke. (The CNOA has publicly stated California voters are wrong, and the ancient herbal remedy is not a medicine.)
Plenty of medical marijuana supporters aren't thrilled with AB 473, either, bemoaning the expansion of inept government, as well as the use of the heavy-handed ABC. Activists believe the medicinal plant should be treated like other medicinal plants Valerian root or St. John's Wort, not like neurotoxic alcohol.
Lots of legislative fireworks are sure to come. What's your take? Does California medical marijuana need regulation? Or do the feds need to simply bug off?