California AB 473 Advanced By Public Safety Committee

A bill that would create a new agency to oversee medical cannabis regulation under the umbrella of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has cleared its first hurdle.
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Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that Assembly Bill 473 was passed by the Public Safety Committee with a vote of 5-to-2. Now, the bill has been forwarded to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it is awaiting a hearing.

The medical marijuana industry has remained largely unregulated in California since the passage of Proposition 215 back in 1996. Local governments have been left to their own devices to determine the best course of regulatory action. That has resulted in a spotty patchwork of marijuana laws that lack uniformity.

So essentially, what is fully acceptable in the eyes of the law in one city may be a prosecutable offense in another.

AB 473, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) aims to change that. Ammiano has been quoted as saying the situation has been chaotic for everyone. Counties and cities don’t know what their responsibilities are. Police don’t know what enforcement actions they should take. And the actions of the federal government are confusing – with the president and Department of Justice saying something one day, and acting completely differently another.

As it stands right now, there are more than 50 local ordinances that somehow regulate medical marijuana clinics. That means some patients are served, and others aren’t. Some are forced to travel exceedingly long distances in order to maintain their supply. A few end up turning to black market providers out of necessity.

Cities and counties need and want guidance, Ammiano says. Patients deserve some certainty about how their medical needs are going to be met.

AB 473 would establish the creation of the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement. The primary focus would be develop consistent policies throughout the state with regard to growth, supply and sale.

The agency would also partner with state-level law enforcement officials to ensure that dispensaries are meeting legal requirements.

The ultimate goal is to make sure marijuana is safe, accessible and beneficial to patients as well as local and state governments and communities.

A similar bill had been introduced last year by Ammiano that would have established a new independent regulatory agency. However, Assembly Bill 2312 had a fair amount of critics who were worried that the action would have created confusing jurisdictional issues for local, state and federal officials. In the end, the measure made it through the House with support from dispensaries, patients and other advocates, but sputtered out in the Senate.

Ammiano said this measure already has more support than the last bill because it doesn’t require the creation of an entirely new agency and the defined processes are more streamlined.

Just in the past several years, hundreds of California dispensaries have been forced to close their doors amid a federal crackdown on the medical marijuana industry.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
California Medical Marijuana Industry Regulation Bill Advances, April 25, 2013, By Thomas H. Clarke, The Daily Chronic
More Blog Entries:
Obama Drug Budget: Slight Increase in Treatment, Decrease in Enforcement, April 12, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog