The tea leaves are as big as palm fronds as the governor is likely to sign the three bills that make up the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
Almost 20 years after the voters passed an initiative allowing for medical marijuana, the governor’s staff teamed with stakeholders to put together a governing structure for the cultivation, processing, transporting and selling of medical marijuana.
There are reasons for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bills, not the least being that the Legislature has moved legislation acknowledging that medical marijuana is part of our social landscape, and internecine battles between governmental entities over enforcement need to stop.
There are also reasons not to sign the bills. We can begin with the admission of the authors that cleanup legislation will be necessary to iron out the problems in bills that are heavily prescriptive and distinguish winners and losers. There is also the suggestion that the bills needed to be sent quickly to the governor because the coalition supporting the proposed marijuana act represent a fragile alliance that might burn out in the sunlight.
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The governor does not need to rush on legislation that was not seen in public until the afternoon it was passed and will not be implemented until 2018. In fact, the reasons not to sign the bills are real – including problems with who will qualify for licensure (a twisted logic that is too limiting, according to the NAACP, and we agree) and the fact that the voice of agriculture is silent on a crop that could someday be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The business plans allowed are also inhibited for reasons that deserve a robust discussion in a public forum.
The governor can send the bills back to the Legislature, where a special session on health care is still open. The marijuana question is one that will impact Californians in myriad ways – workplace, taxes, neighborhood businesses that draw a certain clientele – and, if signed, will be as much a part of the governor’s legacy as his Jesuitical commitment.
The way we handle medical marijuana is going to have an extraordinary impact on the manner with which we enforce the recreational use that will be on the ballot in 2016, prior to the enforcement of these bills. The resolution on weed, medical or otherwise, needs to be tightly rolled or we will have more smoke than clarity.
Rusty Areias and Terence McHale represent Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland.