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Medical Cannabis Law Still Alive

A comprehensive system for regulating the production, distribution, sale and taxation of medical marijuana in California could pass the State Assembly this week.

AB 1894, written by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF), was voted out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee Friday, clearing the way for votes by the full Assembly this week.

The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Control Act would create a cannabis regulation and enforcement division within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The department would have the power to register cultivators as well as oversee the manufacture, testing, transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of medical cannabis within the state.

A forum on upcoming medical marijuana regulation legislation will be held Monday, June 2 at 2 p.m. at the Laytonville Grange. San Francisco attorney Matt Kumin and community organizer Terrance Alan, co-directors of a lobbying group called California Cannabis Voice, will lead the discussion.

Another medical cannabis regulation bill, SB 1262, sponsored by State Senator Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), is also making its way through the Legislature. Both the California League of Cities, which helped cities ban dispensaries, as well as a statewide law enforcement group that has never before supported cannabis legalization, have endorsed Correa’s bill.

SB 1262, would place the State Department of Public Health in charge of licensing all dispensaries and grow operations. Both would be subject to inspections by county health departments.

“We support the Ammiano Bill,” Terrance Alan wrote in an e-mail Sunday. “We recommend voters in Mendocino County and beyond e-mail, call or fax their assemblyperson a letter of support with ‘Support AB 1984’ in the subject field and a short note on why they believe medical cannabis regulations are critical. Talk about your experience with the lack of regulations and ask for their ‘yes’ vote when the bill comes to the Assembly floor.”

Ammiano’s bill goes to the full assembly for two votes this week and then on to the Senate. AB 1894 could end the “chaos” of conflicting state, county and city laws currently on the books, according to Ammiano.

“The fact that this bill continues to move ahead with just technical and clarifying amendments shows that we are very close to reaching the sweet spot for medical cannabis regulation,” Ammiano said Friday.

“I am optimistic that we can continue to work with all parties to finally create regulation that will satisfy all needs – from federal law enforcement down to the very sick patients who depend on the health benefits only marijuana can provide.”

Even if California adopts new medical cannabis regulations, state law would still be in conflict with federal law, which classifies marijuana as a Class 1 narcotic. Possession of one seed of cannabis can be prosecuted as a felony.

Although California was the nation’s first state to legalize medical cannabis with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the state Legislature has never implemented a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.

The result is a confusing and often conflicting web of laws and law enforcement procedures that can vary by county and city.

If some version of AB 1894 were to pass in the Senate, the legislation would land on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The governor could veto the bill if there is not a veto-proof majority or decline to sign it, in which case it would become law by default. As recently as March of this year Brown said in an NBC “Meet the Press” Interview that widespread legalization of marijuana could make too many “potheads.”

[Jane Futcher is the author of Women Gone Wild, a memoir about moving to Mendocino County.]

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