Thursday, September 10, 2015

California Lawmakers Regulate Medical Cannabis - Historic Deal Announced

By David Downs
Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 10:02 PM

 With the threat of a 2016 adult-use legalization initiative looming, California lawmakers announced a historic deal to regulate the world’s oldest and largest commercial medical marijuana economy. "This is huge," said Nate Bradley, at the California Cannabis Industry Association. "We are very excited the state legislature made it a priority."

On Thursday at 9 p.m., an agreement was reached to sign amended versions of Assembly Bill 266, and Senate Bill 643. Both bills are expected to be amended Friday and passed by each house and then signed by the governor. The sweeping body of law calls for a fully functional, albeit highly regulated medical cannabis system, with licensing for all stages of production, distribution, and sales, and unprecedented new patient protections, such as  testing for purity and potency.



click to enlarge bonta_release.jpg


Californians will get "organic"-labeled cannabis and trademarked appellations. The passage of medical cannabis regulations in California promises to further ignite an already booming, multibillion-dollar industry.

"Everyone is one the same page," said Bradley. "We have yet to review the language itself. ... "If this works out, California will finally come into compliance with federal guidelines.”

The advent of clear, black and white lines for legal behavior, and the ability to take profits and plow them into growth or political advocacy has already transformed the cannabis industry in Colorado, and California is eight times as populous.

California is the birthplace of modern marijuana in America, and its elite artisans and entrepreneurs will now have a chance for the first time in their lives to hold a California state license to cultivate and sell the crop. The California seal on medical cannabis bestows unprecedented credibility on pot as a medicine, and its practitioners as equal citizens under the eyes of the law.

The transition promises to be bumpy — but Californians only stand to benefit from an official recognition of what the people voted for a generation ago in 1996.

The state is long-overdue for basic medical cannabis regulations, which have been held up over ideological struggles over marijuana as a medicine. That struggle is fading.


click to enlarge DAVID DOWNS
  • David Downs

Roughly one out of twenty California adults (1.4 million people) are estimated to have used cannabis medicinally for a “serious” condition, and 92 percent of them are estimated to believe it worked on their condition.

Yet the botanical had gone unregulated at the state level. Patients have lacked assurances of product potency or purity.

Cities lack the acumen to regulate medical farms or stores, so they often default to banning them — radically limiting access to those who often need it the most. Unregulated outlets continue to meet demand, and generate neighborhood complaints in the process.

Cops openly gripe about the ease of obtaining a doctor’s recommendation, as well as interstate traffickers operating under the guise of Proposition 215.

Where city and counties have regulated on their own, canna-businesses confront banking access problem, taxation issues, and the interdiction of their couriers.

The legal brinksmaship caps four years of efforts by lawmakers, such as Bay Area legislators Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno, working to pass comprehensive regulations. Last year, both Senator Lou Correa and Ammiano put forth contrasting regulatory bills written by cops and industry.

This year, lawmakers Bonta, Ken Cooley, andReggie Jones-Sawyer all worked on regulations, as well as Mike McGuire and Jim Wood. AB 266 and and SB 643 both earned support and opposition and went through multiple revisions.

"AB 266 is the result of an unprecedented stakeholder process in which my colleagues and I brought everyone to the table," stated Bonta in a release. The offices spent "thousands of hours holding stakeholder meetings" to refine the bill.

As both neared the legislative finish line, and deadlines loomed, the Governor’s Office weighed in with its own amendments.

The Governor’s Office sought to save money, and simplify the plan while mirroring the prior efforts. It set off a historic, week-long series of behind the scenes meetings among the most powerful lawmakers in California. The text of the Governor’s Office was being tweaked far faster than lobbyists, let alone the state records system, could track. Activists howled they were being cut out.

“This is a special situation. This is sort of history in the making,” said one lobbyist.

By Wednesday, midday — the Governor’s Office and the leadership of both the Senate and Assembly were convening to decide who gets credit.

The final amended language was expected to come out sometime Friday, as late as midnight — the end of session, with passage through the Senate and Assembly being a forgone conclusion.

Insiders say the potential for Californians to legalize cannabis in 2016 forced lawmakers to act. This year was potentially the last time for the state’s power-holders to have a say in shaping a newly legal multi-billion industry — what that legal industry looked like, who was in charge — before initiative-writers drafted and filed language.

If the elite didn’t, they could be completely cut out of the process. It became time to do a deal or get left in the dust.

More on this as we get it.

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