Medical marijuana regulatory bills continue

 

Last update: July 27, 2015

The California Legislature’s 2015-2016 session is well underway, and it is again looking at crafting regulations for the medical marijuana industry. So far, two such bills have been introduced, and they cover many of the same provisions included in similar attempts in 2014.

AB 266, sponsored by Assembly Member Rob Bonta and others, represents a comprehensive approach which creates a new state agency and a broad range of business licenses in addition to many other provisions. The other bill, introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire, SB 643, is a somewhat more abbreviated approach. Both bills establish regulatory systems similar to those in many other medical marijuana states. While both bills continue to be under consideration this session, it is not clear how far either will get.

These regulatory bills are now being 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.

 

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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 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 (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.