California Marijuana Regulation Bill Fails to Gain Traction

Once again, California state legislators have failed their constituents with the death of Assembly Bill 604, which would have reformed Proposition 215 – the landmark measure that made California the first state to allow legalized medicinal marijuana.
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But being first comes with its perils. There were many gaps in the regulatory process that we couldn’t have foreseen. Our California marijuana lawyers have been on the front lines of those battles, fighting back as federal regulators exploited those regulatory loopholes, taking malicious action against dispensary owners, growers, landlords and even patients.

Knowing what we now know, AB 604, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, was a chance to fix some of those problems. It would have eliminated a number of ambiguities in the law and helped to offer clear regulatory standards for the commercial production and distribution of of medical marijuana, which would be overseen by the state’s Alcohol Beverages Commission.

It would have brought us closer in line with the spirit of the law, which advocated the “safe and affordable” access to the drug.

Perhaps most critically, it would have helped to insulate those in the industry from being subjected to further federal raids because it would have aligned state standards with those recently announced by the U.S. Justice Department, which said it would not pursue such action in states where regulation of the drug was both strong and effective.

States like Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine and others that have legalized the drug have been spared the kind of attention that California has received from federal prosecutors, and the reason comes down to regulation. Legislators there availed themselves of the opportunity to learn from California’s trial and error. In doing so, they were able to establish a strong regulatory system that allowed them to avoid the government’s gaze.

AB 604 was not have imposed any additional taxes. It wasn’t about altering the rights afforded under Proposition 215, as patients and caregivers would have remained free to grow marijuana in their own home for the approved medical usage therein.

What it would have done was required collectives and dispensaries that were participants in the commercial production and sale of the drug to register with the state commission. Security and environmental safeguards would be clearly spelled out. Certain testing and labeling standards would have been clearly outlined and strictly enforced, as would local land use compliance laws.

The bill was strongly supported by marijuana advocates who wanted the drug to be both safe and accessible. Dispensaries and growers aren’t criminals. They are providing a valuable service. Many view it as a calling, which is why they take the risk. They support reforms that keep shady operators out of business. AB 604 would have helped to do that.

However, the reason it failed had a lot do with the strong opposition voiced by the California Narcotics Officers Association. This group has an obvious interest in keeping the drug illegal. They want to retain the ability to arrest and imprison dispensaries and growers.

Now, it seems like it will be at least another year before we can once again make an attempt to pass proper regulation.

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 will not tighten medical marijuana laws this year – AB 604 killed by cops, Sept. 13, 2013, By David Downs, Smell the Truth
More Blog Entries:
California Marijuana Lawyers: Don’t Rely on Assumptions, Sept. 3, 2013, California Marijuana Lawyer Blog