California Lawmakers Reach Agreement to Regulate Medical Cannabis

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Lawmakers Find Compromise Of Medical Cannabis Legislation

As announced late Thursday night, California lawmakers have officially reached a deal on legislation to license and regulate medical cannabis. In total, the entirety of the regulatory framework will be encapsulated in three bills, all of which have received the blessing from California Governor Jerry Brown. With the expected passing of an adult-use cannabis initiative in 2016, legislators undoubtedly felt pressure to figure out the necessary regulatory systems that come with medical side of the industry.

The compromise reached on legislation seems to represent a forward thinking government body in the state of California, although many might argue that the time for this appropriate action was long ago, when Prop 215 was first passed. Be that as it may, a ‘better late than never’ approach still puts this potential legislation at the pen of CA Governor Jerry Brown, and it got there through the efforts of elected officials, not an activist sponsored ballot initiative. California led the way 20 years ago, becoming the first state to pass legalized medical cannabis legislation through successful activism and ballot writing. This time, government officials look to set the pace, being one of the first state governments to enact functional, meaningful and considerate medical cannabis policy.

One of the measures would require state and local licenses for medical cannabis businesses. The ‘AND’ is perhaps the most important word in that sentence. Requiring two licenses will force businesses to conform to two separate application processes and likely double the cost.

In addition, this measure would satisfy those who have been clamoring for the government to establish a regulatory agency devoted entirely to cannabis, rather than adding it to something like the ATF (Alcohol Tobacco Firearms) or ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control). This new agency would be led by a state appointed director and act under the title of Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. They would be responsible for working directly with the California California Department of Health and Department of Food and Agriculture, while overseeing the licensing and regulation efforts.

Since Prop. 215 passed almost 20 years ago, there have been very few rules and regulations. We’re making up for 20 years of inaction. It’s essentially a blank slate. – Senator Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg

The ballot will allow for local cities and counties to suggest taxes for sales, cultivation and retail. Also, they can choose to designate a certain portion of those taxes to cover regulation costs. *It should be noted here that one of the apparent problems with the Prop 215 passing, 20 years ago, was that it left each county to determine their own enforcement of state cannabis policy. This led to inconsistency across the board as it pertains to consumer access and social tolerance. Using that as an example, leaving the decision of taxation to individual cities and counties instead of creating a unified, state-wide policy seems like a repeat of bad history. However, that remains to be seen.

Another part of the bill trio, Senate Bill 643, will allow for the tracking and tracing of all medical cannabis, including a provision that will make cannabis a agricultural product. The overall goal for this part of the bill is to force cultivators to follow the same regulatory standards as mainstream farmers, as it pertains to water use, pesticides, etc. This same part of the proposal would call for mandatory testing on all cannabis products, including edibles, concentrates, oils and so on.

“By the legislature acting though this deliberative process, putting this framework together, the issues this bill addresses will not be superseded by a ballot initiative. We will not let someone freelance in a state of nearly 40 million people these kinds of important public safety and public health policies. That is a colossal benefit. And it actually is historic.” – Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova

According to the Sacramento Bee, the potential deal was pushed forward after some proponents of the legislation claimed lawmakers were simply squabbling over who would get credit for the bill.

Legislators now face a midnight Friday deadline and will quickly amend the Senate bill with the new language before heading to the Assembly floor for a vote before returning to the Senate. The Assembly bills will be amended in the Senate Rules Committee before going to the Senate and Assembly.

What do you think about this new deal? How do you think it will impact adult-use legislation in 2016? Join the conversation and comment below!

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