California lawmakers announced late Thursday that they have reached an agreement on medical marijuana regulations. This is an exciting development for Medical Marijuana Inc. as a company that operates out of California, especially given that medical marijuana in California is a billion-dollar industry.
The regulatory framework, intended to corral the billion-dollar medical marijuana industry, features three separate bills, AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, each of which have received the preliminary blessing of Gov. Jerry Brown. If passed, the measure will provide much-needed statewide regulatory consistency that will make it easier for marijuana growers and retailers to do business and thus offer better access to medical cannabis patients.
The agreed-upon measure involves the establishment of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR), a new state office that, with the assistance of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Public Health, would oversee the licensing for medical marijuana dispensaries. Growers of marijuana throughout California would also face regulations enforced by the state office, which would fall within the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs and be led by a director confirmed by the state Senate. The bills preserve the rights of cities and counties to ban medical marijuana businesses and allow those with doctor’s recommendations to grow limited amounts of marijuana themselves. The measure will also allow cities and counties to establish cultivation and retail taxes in addition to sales taxes.
The bills, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, and Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, have been linked, which means they all must pass for any to pass. After the authors had been stalled in the Senate and Assembly in the closing days of the legislative session with their separate bills, they decided to amend the bills into one.
“By the legislature acting through this deliberative process, putting this framework together, the issues this bill addresses will not be superseded by a ballot initiative,” Assemblyman Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said in an interview. “We will not let someone freelance in a state of nearly 40 million people these kinds of important public safety and public health policies. That is a colossal benefit. And it actually is historic.”
According to a January 2015 report by The ArcView Group, legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States and California has the largest legal cannabis market in the country, accounting for 49% of sales, at $1.3 billion.
Medical marijuana was legalized in 1996 after California voters passed Prop. 215. Over the two decades, however, the industry has been primarily regulated by individual cities and counties and the rules varied between jurisdictions. This new legislation would enact a clear set of regulations, establishing the standards on how dispensaries and growers must operate throughout the state.
“These regulations are long overdue,” Sen. McGuire said in a statement. “And I’m thrilled that we were able to work together to find common ground on historic medical marijuana regulations for our state.”
“Medical marijuana patients in California will be now fully protected,” Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Angeles, said in an announcement provided by Sen. McGuire’s office. “This important bicameral legislation will provide much-needed structure to a multi-billion industry.”
Medical Marijuana Inc. is excited for what this progress will bring for medical marijuana patients, as well as businesses, in the nation’s largest MMJ economy.