One of the reasons federal officials give for cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers in California, besides possession and sale of the drug being a federal crime, is the state’s disjointed and chaotic local governance of the estimated $1.8 billion industry.
Lawmakers in Sacramento did not help the situation when for the third year in a row they killed an attempt to establish statewide regulations for growing and selling medicinal pot. Senate Bill 1262, which would have established a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs, died Thursday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee after what Capitol Weekly called “intense negotiations.”
The legislation, passed unanimously by the Senate in May, would have created a licensing and regulatory framework much like the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It might have included: restrictions on the number of licensed growers; annual audits of licensees, authorization for counties to tax cultivation and sale with voter approval, pot transportation requirements, limits on which doctors can prescribe the drug, and establishment of a fee-based fund to pay for enforcement and administration.
Around 200 cities and counties have banned the sale of medical marijuana and others have placed restrictions on the growers and sellers. Their restrictions would have been honored by the state law.
Co-author Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) dropped his reluctant support of the bill after negotiations failed to address his concerns. “The final form of SB 1262 included provisions that would have gutted the industry in some parts of California,” he said in a statement. “That was a kind of poison pill and the police chiefs who sponsored the Senate bill wouldn’t budge on that.”
Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), the bill’s sponsor, said the changes were legitimate and those who opposed it wanted “absolutely no regulation.” Correa’s bill had the support of law enforcement agencies.
Ammiano had introduced a rival bill, AB 1894, but threw his tentative support to Correa’s bill after it died when 22 Assembly lawmakers abstained from voting in May.
SB 1262’s supporters hoped that a show of discipline by the state over what has turned into a wild proliferation of pot dispensaries in some areas would help deter the ongoing crackdown by U.S. Attorneys. Preliminary estimates indicated the law would have cost $20 million to administer and generate $400 million in annual tax revenue.
California voters legalized marijuana in 1996 for medical use and authorized dispensaries in 2004. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical uses An initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, as Colorado and Washington state have done, is expected to be on the ballot in 2016. The Weed Blog predicts that 16 states, including California, will legalize pot outright within two years.