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Lawmaker introduces last-minute push for medical pot regulations

September 09, 2013|By Melanie Mason
  • A one-ounce bag of medicinal marijuana is displayed at the Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley in 2010. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) announced Friday a last-minute push for regulations on the state's medical marijuana industry.
A one-ounce bag of medicinal marijuana is displayed at the Berkeley Patients… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

SACRAMENTO -- With just a week left in session, the Legislature has added a new thorny issue to its to-do list: regulating the state's medical marijuana industry.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is reviving a proposal that would establish uniform rules and oversight over California's medical marijuana dispensaries. The rules would be enforced by a new division in the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control department.

His proposal failed to pass the Assembly in May, but Ammiano thinks the time is right for a second attempt. He introduced his bill, AB 604, last Friday, using the "gut and amend" process to dump the proposal into an existing measure, which now awaits action on the Senate floor.

"I'm not saying anything's a slam dunk but this is as good a time as any," Ammiano said in an interview.

Without regulation, Ammiano said, "we're encouraging chaos and bad actors who will take advantage of not having regulations to impugn what I think is a legitimate expression of the voters: Proposition 215." 

That law, which was passed in 1996, legalized medical marijuana in the state. There is no statewide law regulating the commerce of medical marijuana, resulting in a patchwork of rules by city and county governments.

Some California cities, inlcuding Richmond, have passed outright bans on dispensaries, a practice that the state Supreme Court upheld in May. Ammiano's proposal would not prevent cities from enacting bans, but the hope is that clearer state regulations would ease local governments' concerns.

Ammiano said California's need for uniform medical marijuana rules was underscored last month when the federal Department of Justice announced it would not intervene in states where marijuana was sold commercially, so long as those states had strong regulation.

"Frankly, the sooner, the better," Ammiano said. "I'm mostly interested in patients' rights here. Time's a-wasting."


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Twitter: @melmason

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