California Assembly Passes Statewide Medical Marijuana Dispensary Regulations

Sacramento, CA -- In a 41-28 vote, the California State Assembly passed a bill today that would regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana for qualified patients. Responding to calls from local officials, the State Supreme Court, and Attorney General Kamala Harris, the state legislature took a significant step today toward clarifying the often-confusing terrain of medical marijuana distribution in California. AB 2312, the Medical Marijuana Regulate, Control and Tax Act, was introduced earlier this year by Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and others.

"More than 15 years after Californians passed Proposition 215, patients are still in need of a commonsense approach to the production and distribution of medical marijuana," said Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, one of the members of a broad-based coalition calling itself Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM). "We applaud the Assembly for taking leadership on statewide regulations and we hope the State Senate also does the right thing by addressing medical marijuana as a public health issue."

Although a majority of the hundreds of thousands of legal medical marijuana patients in California rely on dispensaries, the state has so far left regulation up to its localities. There are currently more than 50 local ordinances, urban and rural, regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, which has led to a patchwork of local laws that serve some patient populations, but not others, forcing many people to travel long distances or use the illicit market to obtain a medication that works for them. This patchwork system has also caused confusion for public officials, and created more work for law enforcement.

To better address these issues, CRMM, a statewide coalition of policy reform advocates, medical marijuana businesses, and labor was recently formed. The coalition worked long and hard to develop a comprehensive legislative solution, and earlier this year worked with Assembly member Ammiano to introduce AB 2312. The bill was also introduced in response to calls by the California Supreme Court and the State Attorney General’s office for a sensible approach to medical marijuana that takes into account the needs of patients, local officials, law enforcement, and the public alike.

The public has also shown strong support for the regulation, control, and taxation of medical marijuana. A poll conducted by EMC Research shows that 77% of Californians support the a solution like AB 2312. The nine-member appointed board created by the bill will be charged with developing, implementing, and enforcing statewide regulations, which is already codified and underway in several other states with medical marijuana laws. And although regulations will be set at the state level, AB 2312 still preserves municipal control over zoning. Significant revenue is expected from the implementation of this legislation, which can help reduce some of the current financial strain in California.

The CRMM held a Unity Conference in Sacramento in May to create the groundswell of support and momentum needed to pass AB 2312. More than 300 patients and policy advocates stormed the Capitol, meeting with each member of the state legislature and urging them to pass the bill. AB 2312 will now proceed to the State Senate, where it must pass out of committee by July 6th and must come to a Senate floor vote by August 31st.

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