California To Finally Regulate Medical Marijuana Industry, For Better Or Worse

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Late yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation into law that will result in California's medical marijuana industry being regulated at the state level for the first time since California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. It's a bittersweet victory. On one hand, California's industry has needed statewide regulations for a very, very long time. On the other hand, the regulations that were passed were not exactly what activists and industry members wanted. But, for better or worse, the laws are on the books now, and implementation will now move forward. I received quite a few e-mails about reactions this, so I'll put them below. Feel free to put your thoughts and opinions in the comments section:

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Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Historic Legislation Creating a Statewide Regulatory Framework for California Medical Marijuana Businesses

Under the new laws, businesses will be licensed to produce, test, and distribute medical marijuana, and a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation will be established to develop and enforce uniform state regulations

Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills into law Friday that establish a statewide regulatory framework for California businesses that produce and distribute medical marijuana in the state. AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643 create standards for licensing businesses as well as testing, packaging, labeling, and tracking marijuana products, among other things.

The bills establish a new agency within the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will oversee the system and work with other agencies that will be involved in licensing key areas of activity, such as cultivation and testing. The bureau will develop detailed rules by January 2017, and businesses will begin to apply for state licenses in January 2018, at which point the current system of collectives and cooperatives will be phased out. Medical marijuana businesses will need to obtain local approval to continue operating.

In 1996, California became the first state to adopt a law that allows seriously ill patients to legally access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The law did not include a regulatory structure, resulting in a patchwork system in which some communities allowed medical marijuana providers to operate under local regulations while others opted to prohibit such operations entirely.

Statement from Lauren Vazquez, Oakland-based deputy director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project:

"We applaud Gov. Brown and the legislature for adopting a much-needed regulatory framework for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in California. This is an important and long-awaited step forward not only for medical marijuana patients and providers, but also for the state as a whole. Nearly 20 years ago, California paved the way for patients' rights to access medical marijuana. Finally, it is following in the footsteps of states around the country that have proven that regulating marijuana works.

"These regulations will ensure patients have legal, safe, and consistent access to medical marijuana. New guidelines for testing and labeling products will ensure patients know what they are getting and that it meets appropriate standards for quality.

"We hope localities that have banned medical marijuana establishments will rethink their policies now that these establishments have clear and uniform rules to follow. Seriously ill patients in many of these areas are being forced to travel many miles to legally obtain medical marijuana. Communities should be working to make life easier for their most vulnerable citizens, not placing additional burdens on them."

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The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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UFCW PRAISES GOVERNOR BROWN'S LEADERSHIP ON GROUNDBREAKING MEDICAL CANNABIS REGULATIONS

Historic cooperation between Legislature, Administration, law enforcement, local government and labor protects consumers and sets stage for new era for industry.

Jim Araby, Executive Director of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council, has issued the following statement on Governor Jerry Brown's signing of three bills to regulate the cultivation, sale and distribution of medical cannabis in California.

"Today, the Wild West era of medical cannabis came to an end, and a new era of responsible regulation has begun. Voters are poised to decide on legalizing recreational cannabis in 2016, so it was vitally important that California establish a regulatory framework first.

"The Governor's leadership provided a catalyst that helped move these much-needed bills across the finish line. Many different groups with diverse interests came together for the common good, and the Administration played a key role."

The three bills Gov. Brown signed today were:

  • AB 243 (Wood): Establishes a regulatory program for the cultivation of medical cannabis.
  • AB 266 (Bonta): Establishes a comprehensive licensing framework for cultivation, transportation, storage and sale.
  • SB 643 (McGuire): Codifies authority of agencies overseeing medical cannabis, lays out expectations for medical practitioners, and calls on cannabis businesses of more than 20 employees sign a labor peace agreement.

"Consumers deserve to know they are getting safe products, and will receive the products they pay for. Workers who can speak up with confidence provide a much-needed line of defense to protect consumers. With these bills signed, UFCW will be assessing how the proposed 2016 cannabis ballot measures have the potential to move the industry forward in an open, transparent way."

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New Medical Marijuana Laws to Tackle Drugged Driving (DUID)

Today, Governor Brown signed a historic package of laws which will provide statewide rules regulating medical marijuana. As former CHP officer and joint author of the package, Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) was focused addressing the proliferation of drugged driving (DUID) which has increased dramatically in states with legalized recreational marijuana.

The new laws commission research by the University of California, San Diego which will lay the groundwork for new marijuana-specific field sobriety tests and other tools to detect high drivers.

"California has not had a statewide strategy for curbing drugged driving (DUID). Today that begins to change as the University of California will begin critical research on marijuana-impaired driving which will lead to better roadside tools for law enforcement," said Lackey. "A recent report on Colorado showed nearly 1 out of 5 car crash deaths in 2014 were marijuana-related. With legalization initiatives looming, it's vital we prepare for how to keep our roads safe for all Californians. I am thankful Governor Brown worked with us to address this public safety hazard head on."

Lack of comprehensive research on marijuana-impaired driving has slowed law enforcement's ability to crack down on stoned drivers. The research initiated by the passage of AB 266 will be later used to develop best practices for officers in the field.

A report released in August by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area examined Colorado's experience after legalizing recreational marijuana. Some conclusions found about marijuana-impaired driving were:

  • Following legalization, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 32 percent in one year
  • Marijuana-related traffic deaths made up approximately 20 percent of all traffic deaths in 2014. In 2009, they made up 10 percent of all traffic deaths.

Numerous initiatives have already been filed in California to present voters with the option of legalizing recreational marijuana next year, so it is vital the state prepares to deal with increasing numbers of drugged drivers.

Last week, the Governors Highway Safety Association called for national action on DUID as statistics show incidents of drug-impaired driving are approaching the frequency of drunk driving.

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Lackey represents the 36th Assembly District, which contains portions of Kern, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, including the cities of Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Quartz Hill, Acton, Littlerock, Pearblossom, Mojave, Rosamond, California City, Phelan and Piñon Hills.

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