The new bipartisan bill, Assembly Bill 266, which passed through the Assembly with a landslide vote of 62-8, would create a new branch in the Office of the Governor known as the Office of Marijuana Regulation. This will work to help regulate the state’s medical marijuana system by creating a licensing and regulatory framework. Marijuana for medical use has been legal in California since it was approved by voters in 1996, but has since received no form of regulation by the state government, making it difficult to determine what rights patients have in regards to obtaining and using their prescribed marijuana.
Originally two separate bills, Assembly Bill 34 and the original drafting of Assembly Bill 266 were both supported by those with very different views on how the medical cannabis industry should be regulated. With AB34 supported by the California Police Chiefs Association and AB266 supported by the League of California Cities, the two sides seemed to be stuck in a stalemate. But after a number of discussions between the two parties, the bills were merged to include a compromise for both parties and language from both bills.
The bill will additionally create new departments in a number of state departments that will work with the Governor’s office to run the new regulatory system. To name a few, the new Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation will be added to the State Board of Equalization; the Division of Medical Cannabis Manufacturing and Testing will be added to the California Department of Public Health and the Division of Medical Cannabis Cultivation will be added to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Each of these new departments will play a vital role in regulating the new system, dividing the work so that each is overseen to the best of the state government’s ability.
AB266 was co-authored by Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) and Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles).
“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 after the vote passed early this month.
The bill received an unprecedented amount of support from both sides of the state Assembly, as well as support from organizations like the League of California Cites, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Police Chief Association and the Emerald Growers Association, a group that works on behalf of small cannabis farms that operate out of Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
League of California Cities Executive Director Chris McKenzie remarked on the League’s continued engagement in this important policy.
“While this bill remains a work in progress, we will continue to monitor it closely to ensure that it continues to protect local governments’ ability to fully regulate medical cannabis businesses within their borders,” he said. “We are encouraged by the bill’s requirement of local permitting as well as state licensing in order for these businesses to operate within the law. The League will continue to work with the authors, our partners, the California Police Chiefs Association, as well as other stakeholders to improve this measure as it goes forward.”
The bill still needs to pass through the Senate and receive a signature from Governor Jerry Brown to be passed into law.
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