Will recreational marijuana ever become legal in California? Quite possibly, and the state’s lawmakers are already preparing for it.
The California legislature is now working on a pair of bills slated to become the first statewide regulations for medical marijuana growers, product manufacturers, and distributors. Even though medical marijuana was legalized as early as 1996, the specifics on how weed can be produced and sold legally were left hazy. Now, advocates are already working to have marijuana legalized for recreational use by November 2016.
“There is real potential a legalization initiative will set the tone for regulation and taxation, and if the Legislature wants to be involved, now is the time,” said Natasha Minsker, director of ACLU of California.
Just last month, the state Assembly approved a comprehensive licensing and oversight scheme. Both the California Police Chiefs Association and California Cannabis Industry Association endorsed the creation of the Governor’s Office of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
The bill, created by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, involves several state agencies and requires them to create and enforce a regulatory framework come 2018. For instance, the California Highway Patrol is tasked to create a measure to determine when someone is too high to drive, while the Department of Public Health should develop rules for testing weed products and determine the eligibility of the people licensed to grow, process, transport, or distribute medical marijuana. Even the labor rights and training standards for industry workers will also be tackled.
For Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejerano, this bill has been long overdue. He said, “We are aware there will be an initiative on the ballot and if it is approved, we will have a good foundation, something to prevent some of the issues we have had with medical marijuana.”
But it’s not easy to get past the stigma. Senator Mike McGuire has blamed the legislators’ delayed action to skepticism over marijuana’s medicinal value, industry doubts, and law enforcement resistance.
“California’s approach to medical marijuana regulation has been impotent,” he said. “When you allow an industry to go unregulated for as long as we have with cannabis, we are going to pay the price.”
As a result, McGuire put matters into his own hands and introduced his own medical marijuana bill. SB643 aims to provide licenses to medical marijuana businesses and develop regulations on their operations. However, it also gives power to the California Medical Board to investigate doctors who prescribe medical marijuana even in the absence of a legitimate medical reason.
“We are inundated with the impacts of this multibillion dollar industry and we cannot sacrifice our communities, the environment, and patient safety any longer,” said McGuire.
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