by David Downs
A bill to regulate California's estimated $1.3 billion medical marijuana industry is scheduled to get its first hearing in an Assembly committee Tuesday. San Francisco Rep. Tom Ammiano's AB 473 would make everyone in the commercial medical marijuana supply chain register with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The ABC would fill in most of the blanks later. It looks a lot like Colorado's medical marijuana rulemaking process.
Here's the bill's summary:
“This bill would create the Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The bill would grant the division all power necessary to, among other things, establish statewide standards for the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution, and sales of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products and a statewide fee scale in relation to these activities.
The bill would require the division to assist in the development of uniform policies for the taxation of medical marijuana businesses and establish a mandatory commercial registration program, as specified, which would include an identification card program.
The bill would require the division to assess penalties for violation of these provisions, ... [and] work in conjunction with law enforcement entities throughout the state to implement and enforce the rules and regulations regarding medical marijuana and to take appropriate action against businesses and individuals who fail to comply with the law.”
It's not clear if cities will be able to ban dispensaries. The bill states "Nothing in this chapter shall prevent a city, county, or city and county from enforcing a zoning ordinance or law of general application." The bill also doesn't say a thing about profit.
Activists are also questioning the tapping of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for the regulation job.
Oakland lawyer and noted medical marijuana figure Robert Raich writes, “All medical cannabis supporters should unite in advocating that authority for the regulation of medical cannabis be vested within almost any agency EXCEPT the ABC.”
In the Bay Area alone, the ABC has waged a war on limoncello, and threatened to close rock institution Bottom of the Hill for not serving enough nachos. (I even did a 2010 thing on their b.s. for San Francisco Magazine, as has the SF Weekly, and Bay Guardian.)
Some patients' rights activists like L.A.'s Patient Advocacy Network and S.F.'s Axis of Love are asking their followers to kill the bill — and these people would presumably enjoy safe, tested regulated medical marijuana.
“Umbrella-ing medical cannabis under the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control blurs the distinction between medical cannabis collectives and adult recreational use and sends a confusing message to Californians. The California Department of Public Health is the more appropriate body for medical cannabis,” P.A.N. writes.
Just to give you a taste of how fractious California has become, in Los Angeles — the largest medical marijuana city in the world, a microcosm of the state in many ways — there are three separate medical pot regulation initiatives before the voters in May. Three. And none of them might pass. And voter turnout will appalling. (L.A.'s primary saw 21 percent turnout.)
Further interfering with Rep. Ammiano's idea are a few things:
- the cop lobby maintains cannabis is not medicine;
- the California Supreme Court will soon rule on the legality of a city's right to ban medical marijuana dispensaries;
- California voters are at 54-43 percent on just straight legalizing marijuana, according to a recent Field Poll, and a well-funded initiative to legalize over-the-counter sales of pot is under way for the Nov. 2016 vote.
Still, the Marijuana Policy Project - the group that legalized pot in Colorado in 2012 - is asking members to contact the Assembly and get representatives to support the bill. "It's important that committe members know their constituents support reasonable regulations to help ensure safety and prevent diversion," MPP writes.