Pubdate: Wed, 12 Mar 2014
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2014 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Lisa Leff, Associated Press
Page: B1


Bill Would Set Rules for Industry That Generates Billions

SAN FRANCISCO - Law and order may soon be coming to the Wild West of

A California lawmaker has introduced legislation to regulate the
state's freewheeling medical marijuana industry - the farmers that
grow the drug, the hundreds of storefront shops that sell it and the
doctors who write recommendations allowing people to use it.

The state in 1996 was the first to authorize marijuana use for health
purposes - there are now 20.

But to this day no one knows how many dispensaries and patients
California has or what conditions pot is being used to treat because
the loosely worded law did not give government agencies a role in
tracking the information.

The bill introduced by state Sen. Lou Correa, D- Santa Ana, marks a
milestone not only because it would provide significant state
oversight of the multi-billion dollar industry for the first time but
because it is likely to get serious consideration in Sacramento after
years of inaction.

SB1262 is the brainchild of the California Police Chiefs Association
and the League of California Cities, two politically influential
groups that have stood in the way of previous efforts to legitimize
pot growers and dispensaries by subjecting them to state control and

"This legislation seems counterintuitive, but we polled our membership
and over 90 percent of the chiefs felt that, regardless of how you
felt about the marijuana issue itself, there needed to be a
responsible public safety approach to this," said Covina police Chief
Kim Raney, president of the chiefs association.

Medical marijuana advocates, who have lobbied unsuccessfully for a
statewide regulatory system they hoped would make the industry less
susceptible to federal raids and arrests, is taking a wait- and-see
approach on Correa's legislation.

They prefer a bill held over from last year, cosponsored by
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano ( D- San Francisco) and Sens. Darryl Steinberg
( D- Sacramento) and Mark Leno ( D- San Francisco), that calls for
regulating and taxing medical marijuana like alcohol and places fewer
restrictions on doctors than Correa's measure does.

However, advocates are prepared to hammer out a compromise, said Lynne
Lyman, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

"We are very encouraged by law enforcement coming to the table with
their proposals, and we think we can all work together and come up
with some model legislation in the state, finally, 18 years later,"
Lyman said.

The police chiefs and cities are getting on the regulatory bandwagon
now because they worry that if they don't champion a plan of their
own, marijuana advocates will succeed in getting the Legislature to
pass one that aggravates the ongoing concerns of law enforcement and
local governments instead of addressing them.

Last year, the groups beat back three bills that would have required
pot shops to be licensed by the state but that the league feared would
make it harder for cities and counties to ban or regulate them.

Public support for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, as
voters in Colorado and Washington have done, is growing and the White
House has softened its stance on the issue.

"We were very concerned about the legislation last year," League of
California Cities lobbyist Tim Cromartie said. "We thought it was
unwise to purely play defense. We thought we needed to play offense."

The bill co-sponsored by the league and the police chiefs'
association would require the California Department of Public Health
to license dispensaries and cultivation sites but only if they first
had secured operating permits from local jurisdictions.

The department also would develop "quality assurance" procedures for
testing marijuana for bacteria, mold and nonorganic pesticides, which
growers would be prohibited from using.

The legislation also imposes new requirements on doctors. If passed,
it would allow medical marijuana recommendations to be given only by
either a patient's primary care doctor or a licensed specialist to
whom the doctor has referred the patient. The doctor must have
completed a certification course that covers substance abuse training.

The issuing doctor also would have to instruct the patient on dosage,
whether the marijuana should be smoked, eaten or applied externally
and even what strain to use.

Certified doctors also would have to keep detailed records and report
how many recommendations they give and why to the California Medical
Board, which would audit those who issue more than 100 in a year.

The mandates represent a departure from the status quo. Doctors
currently can recommend marijuana to treat any ailment they choose and
do not have to report to the state any information about their
patients or the number of recommendations they issue and for what.

California Medical Association spokeswoman Molly Weedn said the
organization has not had a chance to review Correa's bill but would
probably take a position on it in coming months.

Don Duncan, co-founder and California director of Americans for Safe
Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, says the new requirements
for doctors "go overboard," but at this stage he is trying to persuade
Correa to amend the bill instead of working to defeat it.
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