Weed gets boozy

May 01, 2013

Ngaio Bealum, Sacramento News & Review

I heard that California medical cannabis is going to be regulated by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Is this true?

—Teetotaler Terry

It could happen. Assembly Bill 473, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, would indeed place medical marijuana under the purview of the ABC. The bill has gained traction, passing through the Committee on Public Safety, and could soon become law.

In some ways, this move makes sense. ABC has vast experience in regulating and licensing the distribution of mind-altering substances. I think the general idea is that once statewide regulations are in place, it would be relatively simple to implement a system for recreational cannabis use as well.

The problem is that many activists think that medical marijuana and alcohol shouldn’t be under the same umbrella. They may have a point: The booze industry was one of the main opponents of Proposition 19 back in 2010. Studies have shown that in states where medical cannabis is allowed, not only do people drink less, they also use fewer pharmaceutical drugs. The conflict of interest that may be created is a bit of a sticking point. Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access, told me that ASA would “begrudgingly offer their support,” but they hoped for something a little better to come along. California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has reserved a spot to introduce a bill, but no one knows if he will or not.

Are California’s U.S. attorneys done clamping down on pot in the state?

—Canna-Chris

“Clamping down” may be a strong way to put it, but they haven’t really let up. Just last week, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents in San Diego raided the last “legal” club left in that city, One on One Patients Association medical-cannabis dispensary, taking all of its computers, pot and money. The timing of the raid has been called into question by cannabis activists, because the night before the raid Kenneth Cole, the president of the One on One collective and a cannabis patient himself (he uses it for terminal bone cancer), had testified in front of the San Diego City Council in favor of a new ordinance spearheaded by Mayor Bob Filner.

The city council voted against the new ordinance, opting instead to revisit an ordinance it passed in 2011. That one was rescinded after medical-cannabis activists circulated a petition and collected enough signatures to force the city to either revoke or hold a special citywide election. Why the San Diego City Council would want to restart an ordinance that has already been defeated is anyone’s guess.

In Oakland, the Harborside Health Center case is still a-brewing. It beat its landlord’s eviction attempt, but it’s still fighting a $2.5 million federal tax bill.

It’s not like we are at a standoff—more like a standstill. Everyone is waiting to see what the feds are gonna do about Washington and Colorado. In the meantime, more and more states, such as Maine and Oregon, are introducing legislation to legalize recreational-cannabis use.



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