by David Downs
A bill to better protect medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives passed the California Senate yesterday, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office reports.
According to the bill's analysis, SB 439 clarifies that a cooperative, collective or other business entity that operates within the Attorney General's "Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use" will not be subject to prosecution for marijuana possession or commerce, as specified.
The bill stems from the fact that law enforcement in medical marijuana-unfriendly counties have been arresting medical pot growers, and raiding collectives and dispensaries, arguing that all collective sales are illegal. SB 439 makes it abundantly clear that collective sales as well as storefronts are legal.
“The California Compassionate Use Act allowing marijuana to be used medicinally was established when state voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. The proposition, however, did not address sales or compensation. Subsequent legislation through Senate Bill 420 in 2003 was an attempt to clarify the law by recognizing the right to collectively or cooperatively cultivate cannabis for medical purposes, but did not address distribution systems such as store fronts,” Steinberg's office states.
“The State Health and Safety code also does not allow 'any individual or group to cultivate or distribute marijuana for profit,' an issue not addressed in SB 420. This ambiguity, as well as conflicts with federal law which categorizes marijuana as a drug that’s illegal for any purpose, has led to arrests, prosecutions and closure of dispensaries across California.
“SB 439 would amend the Health and Safety Code to clarify the legality of medical marijuana collectives, dispensaries and other business entities. It would establish their right to receive reasonable compensation, including employee salaries and benefits, so long as they comply with the 2008 Attorney General guidelines for 'The Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use.' The bill will now move to the Assembly for consideration.”
In opposition: California's narcotics officers — who stand to lose billions of dollars if the war on pot ends — contends the bill is tantamount to legalizing for-profit sales of medical marijuana. “The broad reference in Senate Bill 439 to 'any statutory business entity' carries with it the implication that medical marijuana may be cultivated and distributed for profit."
What's wrong with making a profit? California isn't Communist Cuba.