Pubdate: Mon, 16 Sep 2013
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2013 SF Newspaper Company LLC
Author: Chris Roberts


Medical marijuana businesses obeying California law will continue to 
face U.S. Justice Department pressure after a last-minute effort to 
regulate the cannabis industry at the state level died last week.

A bill authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would 
have created a new wing of the California Department of Alcoholic 
Beverage Control to license and oversee the medical marijuana 
industry, which nets more than $1.3 billion in annual revenue.

Earlier Ammiano efforts to pass statewide regulations - California 
law gives regulatory responsibility to cities and counties, some of 
which have permitted medical marijuana businesses while others have 
banned them - failed in May and in 2012. But a last-minute push 
materialized following an Aug. 29 memo from U.S. Attorney General 
Eric Holder's top lieutenant.

States with a "strong regulatory framework" at the state level would 
be less likely to encounter opposition from federal law enforcement 
agencies, according to Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole, who 
also signaled that the Justice Department would not sue to overturn 
marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado.

Federal pressure has led to the closure of more than a dozen Bay Area 
medical marijuana dispensaries and hundreds more across the state 
since 2011, including nine with city permits in San Francisco. 
Federal officials also have sued to seize the properties where 
licensed dispensaries operate in Oakland, Berkeley and San 
Francisco's Mission district.

"The current unregulated situation can't continue and the U.S. 
Department of Justice memo makes it clear we need to have a plan for 
California," Ammiano said in a statement Friday, before adding that 
he will try again in the next legislative session in 2014. "Although 
this is already the strongest and most effective legislation 
California has seen, it can still be honed and I will keep working."

The last-minute push required a parliamentarian trick called "gut and 
amend" that swapped language from a cannabis regulation bill that 
died in May into an unrelated bill that needed to pass both the 
Assembly and the Senate by the end of last week.

The move was opposed by law enforcement lobbies such as the 
California Narcotic Officers' Association, along with groups 
representing health care professionals.

Key opposition also came from the League of California Cities and Los 
Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose city approved tight restrictions 
on marijuana businesses in May.

Ammiano's bill "wouldn't have regulated anything," said John Lovell, 
a Sacramento-based lobbyist for law enforcement interests.

Police wanted tighter restrictions on doctors who write medical 
marijuana recommendations, which was not addressed in AB 604 or in a 
separate failed bill authored by state Senate President Pro Tem 
Darrell Steinberg.

Instead, Ammiano's legislation "would have allowed big marijuana 
retailers to get wealth," Lovell said. "The bills you get with 
gut-and-amend are big-money bills." Unique medical marijuana 
dispensary approved in downtown San Francisco

An unorthodox medical marijuana dispensary - one that would provide 
"nonpsychoactive" cannabis products, such as creams and oils instead 
of buds - is set to open in San Francisco's downtown.

CBD Wellness Solutions received approval from The City's Planning 
Commission on Thursday to open at 212 California St. after the 
current tenant, a bank, vacates the property.

The dispensary will focus on marijuana high in CBD, or cannabidiol. 
Unlike better-known tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, this component of 
marijuana is not psychoactive, according to Brendan Hallinan, an 
attorney for the club.

CBD Wellness Solutions received approval despite opposition from 
restaurants such as Tadich Grill, which is on the same block along 
with Michael Mina and other prominent eateries.

City planners voted 6-1 to approve the dispensary despite the fact 
that they are waiting on the Board of Supervisors to revisit zoning 
rules around clubs. About 90 percent of The City is off-limits to 
medical marijuana. When the board will take up the issue is unclear.

There are currently 26 active medical marijuana storefronts in San 
Francisco, according to the Department of Public Health, which issues permits.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom