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David Downs, East Bay Express
'Who would be in charge?' 'How much would it cost?'
These are two basic questions to answer before you open up a lemonade stand let alone spearhead a landmark bill to regulate California's $1.8 billion legal medical pot industry. But with just one month left to do the deal, politicians in Sacramento really haven't gotten past these two basic steps.
As we write today in the print edition of the Express, the proposed medical marijuana regulations being debated in Sacramento have just thirty days left to pass the Assembly or it's game over for 2014. That's not much time. Especially considering it's not clear who would be in charge or how much regulations would cost, among other issues.
Southern California Senator Lou Correa first proposed that the state's Department of Public Health be in charge. Then he shifted to the state's Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
But as Chris Roberts reports for the SF Weekly today, Gov. Brown seemingly does not want the Department of Consumer Affairs in charge. He wants the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to patrol dispensaries like they do bars.
Problem is, California's Police Chiefs Association — who is the main backer of SB 1262 — doesn't want the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in charge, insiders say. The chiefs reportedly view ABC control as legitimizing recreational marijuana — like alcohol.
Ellen Komp, a leader of California NORML who sat in private stakeholder meetings this July, told me this week the DCA has not shown up to a single stakeholder meeting, calling into question the viability of Correa's plan.
No Sacramento bureaucracy does anything without Jerry's approval, sources working the bill say. So if DCA isn't showing up, it's because they don't have JB's say-so.
"ABC is allowed to show up to meetings, and no one else — that's one of the weird 'non-signal' signals Jerry sends," a Sacramento-level staffer said last week of working with Brown, whom he likened to an all-knowing and all-powerful but ultimately intangible wizard.
As for how much it costs, no one knows the number, said Americans for Safe Access California coordinator Don Duncan. Appropriations Committee estimates for the cost of a "Bureau of Medical Marijuana" will be guesses at best, he said.
'Who is in charge?' 'How much it will cost?' They seem like two things that should've been nailed down at the start of the legislative session, not the end. Duncan agrees, but he said that's not how Sacramento works.
Or in this case — doesn't work.