It has been almost 20 years since California became the first state in the country to legalize a medical marijuana program, providing a market that, for the most part, has been considered even less restrictive than some of the nation’s recreational venues. However, that is all about to change in the next few years. Governor Jerry Brown recently put his signature on a series of bills, which eliminates Babylonia from the current model by designating a new regulatory system intended to improve the overall quality of the marketplace.
The signing of this legislation comes as state lawmakers begin to take into consideration the very real possibility that voters will pass an initiative in 2016 that will legalize a full-scale recreational pot market. Several groups have already started collecting signatures to get their respective proposals on the ballot, and it was announced last week that ReformCA, the group most financially capable of ending prohibition across the state, is simply waiting on approval from the attorney general’s office before moving ahead with phase two of their campaign.
It is for this reason that the governor’s office got together with State Legislature earlier this year to hash out a plan to put a leash around the neck of state’s nearly two-decade-old medical marijuana market. Yet, as you can imagine, this was not a simple task because everyone from law enforcement to union leader had suggestions and concerns that they wanted to kick around on the negotiation table.
“This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system,” Governor Brown said in a statement. “This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice.”
While the concept of regulating the state’s cannabis industry has officially become law, officials have until January 2017 to get the finally rules in place. Businesses should be permitted to apply for licenses sometime around January 2018.
At the heart of the new law comes the creation of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation; an agency that will work with other state groups to control the entirety of the marketplace. This will include, but not be limited to the distribution of licenses, product testing, and advertising. Local governments will also get involved to determine which businesses will get to continue operating in the new environment and who they will shut down.
Some believe the new law signifies the end of the Wild West of Weed, opening the gates to a more common sense approach to operating a legal cannabis trade. Others are concerned the state’s progression may disqualify them altogether. Yet, nothing about the law appears to have much of an impact on the patients – it just provides a framework that will tighten up the business landscape to ensure dispensaries are providing patients with quality marijuana products.
“These regulations will ensure patients have legal, safe, and consistent access to medical marijuana,” Lauren Vazquez, Deputy Director of Communications with the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “New guidelines for testing and labeling products will ensure patients know what they are getting and that it meets appropriate standards for quality.”
Unfortunately, part of the new law is intended to make it more difficult for people without legitimate medical conditions to obtain an identification card allowing them to participate in the program. However, this will only become a major concern if California does not successfully pass an initiative next year to legalize a statewide recreational market.
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