In 1996, California led the way in medical marijuana legalization. This was a very big step, and it was done at a time when the federal government and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had every intention of arresting and prosecuting even the sickest of medical marijuana patients for doing something that was legal under California state law.
Not only were DEA agents going after patients and dispensary owners, the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and other federal banking oversight agencies were going after any banks that allowed medical cannabis dispensary owners to hold accounts at their respective banks, since they considered all this money proceeds from an illegal enterprise. The IRS was also going after people for claiming, or not claiming, what they considered illegal income on tax documents.
However, when the State of California legalized medical marijuana, they did not take any steps to regulate it, as our Orange County medical marijuana attorneys can explain. Instead, the state legislature made it a matter for each county and city to regulate as they saw fit. In some places, it would be legal to cultivate medical marijuana as a business. In other areas, people could only participate in cultivation cooperatives. In other areas, it was left completely illegal to produce or sell medical marijuana or operate a dispensary. While it remained legal to use medical marijuana with a recommendation letter from a doctor, it was difficult for many sick patients to get the medicine if it was not available locally.
With this in mind, there has been a concerted effort in the past few years to implement statewide regulations for medical marijuana for the first time in state history. Many have come to the see the problems with a lack of state regulations for medical marijuana operations. Some of the problems have to do with the fact that, in a state plagued by ongoing droughts, creating a need for limits on water use, cultivation of marijuana should not be an exception to the various agricultural regulations in our state.
Others see the need to make sure patients can get the medicine they need without having to experience a great hardship to do so. According to a recent article from the Los Angeles Times, we may be close to finally having statewide regulations for medical marijuana cultivation and distribution.
There are essentially two different proposals concerning medical marijuana regulation that have managed to gain traction in the state legislature. Senate bill SB 643 aims to create a single office to oversee medical marijuana on a state level. This new office called Office of Medical Marijuana Regulations would establish a series of laws for the medical cannabis industry and be responsible for issuing licenses to grow, transport, and sell medical cannabis.
Another bill, Assembly bill AB 266, would opt not to create a new government office but rather empower already existing offices to regulate the medical cannabis industry. These offices already specialize in taxation, medical products and devices, and agricultural. Regardless of which proposal eventually succeeds, it seems we are moving closer to state regulation of medical cannabis.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.