California Lawmakers Cultivate Two Medical Marijuana Bills: A.B. 473 and S.B. 439

 The California Police Chiefs Association will lobby against both bills, said Kim Raney

Of course they will…it’s a matter of job security.

California lawmakers, the perpetual butt of countless national marijuana jokes. Have finally seen fit to author and propose a set of bills seeking to provide guidance and parameters for the constantly attacked, and much-maligned medical marijuana providers.

While many of the state legislators disagree over the direction to take California, with regards to marijuana legalization. Californians have spoken out in poll after poll. Demonstrating their overwhelming support for storefront collectives in their communities and the patients who frequent them.

As the state’s political left and right, haggle over perceived partisan ‘high ground’ – entrenched marijuana opponents have promised to oppose any bill which might seek to create any new protections or regulations for medicinal marijuana cultivators or their caregivers within California.

The more ambitious of the two bills, from San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday. Ammiano’s bill would establish Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The new bureaucracy would have power to set standards for growing, transporting and selling medical marijuana. Providers would be able to register with the state and marijuana products would be required to meet labeling and quality standards.

The bill, A.B. 473, can now be considered by the entire Assembly.

“I think we’re turning a corner on marijuana regulation,” Ammiano said in a statement Friday.

The second bill, from Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg, would give marijuana collectives that operate according to the state Attorney General’s guidelines immunity from prosecution for selling or possessing marijuana. The bill would also allow dispensary operators and employees to receive “reasonable compensation,” but would not overturn local governments’ power to ban dispensaries.

Steinberg’s bill, S.B. 439, passed a Senate floor vote on Monday over opposition from the chamber’s Republican minority. A hearing date has yet be scheduled in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, which Ammiano chairs.

The California Police Chiefs Association will lobby against both bills as they continue to move through the Legislature, said Kim Raney, the group’s president.

Raney, chief of the Covina Police Department since 2001, said he and other chiefs are concerned by the lack of clarity between the state law and the federal prohibition of marijuana, as well as the ease of which some people can obtain medical marijuana recommendations without necessarily having serious medical conditions.

“If you’re going to have serious conversation about marijuana, in a medical forum, it needs to be done through a legitimate medical process,” Raney said.

As opposed to Alcoholic Beverage Control, Raney said medical marijuana policies could be better overseen by the state’s medical or pharmacy boards, which respectively bear the responsibilities to license and regulate physicians and pharmacists who practice in California.

Americans for Safe Access, which lobbies in support of medical marijuana, is supporting both bills. The group would also prefer that Alcoholic Beverage Control would not be the agency placed in charge of medical marijuana regulation, although its reasons are different from those of police chiefs.

Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access, said Alcoholic Beverage Control is perceived as an enforcement-focused agency. He suggested the state departments of Public Health or Consumer Affairs as superior options.

“We don’t want to see it regulated like alcohol, or tobacco, because there are issues like patient rights,” he said.

Although Duncan acknowledged he was unsure if the Legislature would accept such a major amendment to Ammiano’s bill, he said he is optimistic both bills will become law.

California’s medical marijuana laws have beset law enforcement and patient advocates alike with several uncertainties since voters approved Proposition. 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act in 1996.

That law exempted medical marijuana patients and their doctors from punishment, and campaign supporters advocated for medicinal marijuana use as a way to relieve the sufferings of patients suffering from diseases like cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.

The 2004 Medical Marijuana Program made it possible for patients to obtain identification cards and collectively grow marijuana with other patients and caregivers for medical purposes.

But state laws, however, did not provide a crystal clear definition of what a proper medical marijuana collective would be. Confusion over the law allowed numerous storefront dispensaries to establish themselves over the past few years and even operate openly in cities where their existence is illegal under local ordinances. Source:

With ambiguity, incompetents and overreach being the political grease that keeps our prison system and pharmaceutical companies well primed with prisoners and patients, is this any wonder? Any perceived “confusion” was seemingly intentional. Remember – corporate profits before human compassion.

Marijuana.com

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