Pubdate: Wed, 18 Apr 2012
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Peter Hecht


An Assembly committee Tuesday passed a bill to create state oversight 
for pot businesses, as its chairman implored the Legislature to act 
to stave off federal raids on medical marijuana providers.

"The worst public policy choice for California is to sit idly by, 
doing nothing, and let this failed war on medical cannabis continue 
unchecked," said San Francisco Democrat Tom Ammiano as his Public 
Safety Committee voted 4-2 along party lines to create a state bureau 
to police the California medical cannabis industry.

Despite clearing his committee, Ammiano's Assembly Bill 2312 faces 
long odds of reaching the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown because of strong 
opposition from police.

John Lovell, a lobbyist for California narcotics officers and police 
chiefs, blasted the bill as failing to come close to stricter rules 
passed in Colorado. "This is not regulation," Lovell said. "This is 
open-ended permissiveness."

AB 2312 would charge fees to dispensaries and other medical cannabis 
businesses to create a policing agency  the Bureau of Medical 
Marijuana Enforcement  in the state Department of Consumer Affairs. 
The board would approve licenses for businesses selling, growing or 
transporting marijuana for use by people with physicians' recommendations.

The Ammiano bill doesn't include many of the rules in place in 
Colorado, such as requiring every pot industry worker to be state 
licensed, mandating video surveillance of marijuana stores and 
requiring state pre-approval of transportation of medical cannabis.

While some Colorado dispensaries have been targeted for operating 
near schools, that state hasn't been hit with a broad federal 
crackdown against cannabis outlets that's unfolding in California.

The Ammiano bill would require cities and counties to allow at least 
one marijuana dispensary for every 50,000 residents  unless local 
voters approve a ban or tighter restrictions. It would leave it up to 
a nine-member state board to set rules for the industry.

Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access, said 
the bill is a key step for allowing people permitted to use medical 
marijuana under California's 1996 Compassionate Use Act to obtain it 
at regulated dispensaries in their communities.

"There is strong support by voters in the state of California to 
finish this compassionate endeavor," Duncan said. "Confusion has led 
to bans and moratoriums against dispensaries, and that's bad for patients."

But Cory Salzillo, director of legislation for the California 
District Attorneys Association, said the bill would require local 
governments to "comply with activity that is still illegal under federal law."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom