Pubdate: Tue, 25 Aug 2015
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Associated Press
Author: Lisa Leff, The Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO - The likelihood that 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, AB266, 
is endorsed by 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 11th-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.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated whether he would sign the medical 
marijuana legislation if it reaches his desk.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom