Medical marijuana regulatory bills pass!


Last update: September 28, 2015

In the closing hours of the 2015 session, lawmakers passed a series of bills designed to regulate the largest medical marijuana program in the nation. Patient and industry representatives, lawmakers, and representatives from law enforcement, local government, and the governor’s office came together in an historic effort to agree on legislation that would provide both rules and protections for an industry that is nearly 20 years old.

The bills have now been transmitted to Gov. Jerry Brown, who is widely expected to sign AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643 — which together form the new regulatory framework. For an overview of the proposed new laws, see our summary available here. Also this year, the legislature and governor approved a bill, spearheaded by Americans for Safe Access, to stop discrimination against medical marijuana patients awaiting organ transplants.

The medical marijuana regulatory bills were considered against the backdrop of a planned November 2016 voter initiative that would legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in California. Several organizations, including MPP, are working to pass a measure similar to the one approved by voters in Colorado in 2012. If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for our email alerts to stay current on latest events!

The current legal status of marijuana in California


Under California law, possessing up to an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. While this is a more reasonable approach than many states take, California is still punishing tens of thousands of responsible adults for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol and tobacco. A 2015 PPIC poll found that 55% of Californians believe marijuana should be legalized.

One of the most tragic failures in the war on marijuana is how hard it impacts racial minorities. The ACLU’s 2013 report entitled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White” shows that where blacks represent 6.7% of the population in California, they account for 16.3% of the arrests (or citations) for marijuana, while rates of usage are virtually the same between black and white populations.

It is true that California’s marijuana laws are not as draconian as some other states, but the state is still wasting precious resources on citing, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenders, while ensuring the profits of marijuana sales go to criminals instead of responsible businesses and supporting the state budget. And despite its reputation as being easy-going with respect to marijuana possession and use, California arrested or cited over 21,000 people in 2012 for marijuana-related offenses. Let your legislators know it’s time they stand up for taking a more humane and fiscally sound approach to marijuana policy.