Pubdate: Tue, 25 Aug 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press
Author: Lisa Leff, Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO (AP)  The likelihood California voters will be asked to 
legalize recreational marijuana next year is prompting lawmakers to 
make a serious run at reining in the state's vast medical marijuana 
industry  a job they have deferred for nearly two decades.

A pair of bills pending in the California Legislature would create 
the first statewide regulations for medical marijuana growers, 
manufacturers of pot-infused products, and distributors such as 
storefront dispensaries and delivery services.

California authorized marijuana use for health purposes with a 1996 
ballot measure that allows doctors to recommend the drug for any 
ailment, deliberately leaving the specifics for how it should be 
produced and sold for another day.

With advocates now working to qualify recreational-use initiatives 
for the November 2016 ballot, that day finally may have arrived.

The state Assembly last month approved a comprehensive licensing and 
oversight scheme on a bipartisan 62-8 vote. A compromise measure to 
create the Governor's Office of Medical Cannabis Regulation, AB 266, 
is endorsed by both the California Cannabis Industry Association and 
the California Police Chiefs Association.

"The legalization discussion has definitely changed the tone of the 
conversation," said Natasha Minsker, who directs the ACLU of 
California's advocacy office in Sacramento. "There is real potential 
a legalization initiative will set the tone for regulation and 
taxation, and if the Legislature wants to be involved, now is the time."

The eleventh-hour effort offers a preview of issues that are likely 
to surface during a legalization campaign, from concerns over water 
use and drugged driving to questions around consumer protections and 
who will be allowed to apply for business licenses.

The bill by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, requires numerous state 
agencies to flesh out and enforce a regulatory framework by 2018.

The California Highway Patrol would develop a way to determine when 
someone is too high to drive, while the Department of Public Health 
would come up with rules for testing pot products for potency and 
toxic chemicals and set limits on when individuals with felony 
convictions or newly arrived in California would be eligible for a 
license to grow, process, transport or sell medical marijuana.

The bill also would create training standards and labor rights for 
industry workers - a nod to unions - and preserve the right of local 
governments to ban cannabis businesses, which is key to maintaining 
support from the League of California Cities and police chiefs.

"This is something that is greatly needed and long overdue," said 
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, the police association's 
president. "We are aware there will be an initiative on the ballot 
and if it is approved, we will have a good foundation, something to 
prevent some of the issues we have had with medical marijuana."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom