Capitol Alert

Cop-backed California medical marijuana bill stalls

Regulating California’s medical marijuana industry will likely have to wait another year.

A key committee Thursday blocked Senate Bill 1262, the latest legislative attempt to impose a regulatory framework on growers and dispensaries in the first state to allow medical cannabis. Earlier this year, another bill seeking to do so faltered on the Assembly floor.

Prospects seemed brighter for the measure by state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, because it enjoyed the support of various law enforcement groups and from the League of California Cities. Past efforts to regulate pot have foundered in part because they lacked support from law enforcement groups and spurred reservations about overriding the will of cities and counties.

But the Assembly Appropriations Committee held SB 1262 on Thursday. With the deadline to pass bills from fiscal committees a day away, the bill’s hopes of advancing this year are slim.

“What happened today was the folks that want to preserve the wild, wild west – meaning those that want it to be totally unregulated, want it to operate without any regulation or oversight – won the day,” Correa said. “Over 20 years, we’ve sat on our hands and we’ve done nothing to regulate this exploding medicine in the state of California.”

The bill would have created a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, housed in California’s Department of Consumer Affairs, that could craft a licensing system and set standards for cultivating, transporting and providing medical pot. Previous bills had envisioned a state-level cannabis regulatory entity within the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

In addition to allowing the licensing of dispensaries, the bill would have authorized local governments to tax medical marijuana and to preserve their own, separate marijuana regulations. It would have imposed tighter restrictions on physicians who prescribe pot.

While groups like the California Police Chiefs Association supported the bill, medical marijuana stalwarts like the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Drug Policy Alliance raised a series of objections. They disagreed with provisions discouraging people with prior felonies from obtaining licenses and with having the Department of Consumer Affairs manage the program.

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