Historic California medical cannabis regulations advance

By David Downs San Francisco Gate 

California lawmakers have reached a historic compromise on regulating the world’s largest medical pot economy — paving the way for recreational legalization in 2016.

Yesterday, a sweeping bill to regulate California medical marijuana passed the California Assembly with a resounding, bipartisan 60-8 vote.

Assembly Bill 266 was crafted by police, merged with an industry-backed bill, and ultimately earned bipartisan support of lawmakers and the endorsement of the Emerald Grower’s Association, Americans for Safe Access and other industry groups.

According to an Assembly analysis, AB 266 spreads regulatory authority around the capitol, establishing a licensing and regulatory framework for medical cannabis under a new “Office of Marijuana Regulation” within the Office of the Governor, with a new Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation within the State Board of Equalization, a Division of Medical Cannabis Manufacturing and Testing within the California Department of Public Health, and a Division of Medical Cannabis Cultivation within the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Each would set forth the duties of the respective regulatory authorities.

AB 266 is joint authored by Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), and Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles).

It’s a historic breakthrough, 19 years after Californians legalized medical cannabis and called for statewide rules on its growth and sales.

“Today demonstrates how far the Legislature has come on the issue of medical cannabis; AB 266 truly represents an innovative, thoughtful, and much-needed approach to protect our patients and local businesses by creating a robust regulatory framework for this field,” stated Assemblymember Bonta.

Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer, stated, “In 1996, California became the first state in the nation to allow the use of medical cannabis after voters approved Proposition 215.  This unprecedented collaborative effort will finally, after 19 years, regulate the medical marijuana industry.  AB 266 creates a regulatory system that respects the interests of local government while still providing a consistent statewide structure.”

The bill now heads to the Senate.