Last Update: September 15, 2014
Medical marijuana regulatory bill dead — for now
Sen. Lou Correa’s medical marijuana regulatory bill, SB 1262, backed by the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association, did not advance out of committee in the Assembly and is now dead. The bill was revised many times, and while it was significantly improved during the course of the session, the legislation would have been harmful to patients and businesses that serve them in a number of ways. MPP and many other groups believe clear legal protections and regulations are long overdue in California and expect the legislature to continue debating a regulatory measure next year.
Although California became the first medical marijuana state back in 1996, it has lagged far behind other states by failing to set up a statewide system of regulation for medical marijuana businesses. There is much to consider in crafting such a system, which requires a concerted effort on the part of many – not the least of which is the agency that would oversee the program. Unfortunately, indications were that the agency named in SB 1262 was not interested or capable of managing the complicated task, and many, including MPP, believe its lack of participation was the primary reason the bill did not move forward. In the meantime, several cities are going through the process of fine-tuning, or in some instances completely transforming, their current regulatory systems for local businesses.
While the state and local communities deliberate medical cannabis regulations, a majority of California voters now also support legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use. MPP and our allies intend to put forth a voter initiative in November 2016 that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over and establish a system that would tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol.
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The current legal status of marijuana in California
Under California law, possession of 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 December 2013 Field 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 for marijuana, while rates of usage are virtually the same between black and white populations.
While California’s marijuana laws are not as draconian as some other states, 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 the state’s coffers. And despite its reputation as being easy-going with respect to marijuana possession and use, California arrested over 21,000 people in 2012 for marijuana-related offenses. Let your lawmakers know it’s time California ended its marijuana prohibition!