Pubdate: Sat, 10 Oct 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Patrick McGreevy
Note: McGreevy writes for the California News Group, publisher of the 
Union-Tribune and the L.A. Times.


Regulations Come Ahead of Likely Legalization Ballot Measure in '16

Nearly two decades after Californians legalized marijuana for medical 
use and a year before they may approve it for recreational purposes, 
Gov. Jerry Brown has imposed statewide rules on the growth, transport 
and sale of the drug.

Signing a trio of related bills Friday, the governor created a 
regulatory system for medical cannabis that could be adapted for 
widespread use if voters make it legal by passing a 2016 ballot initiative.

Marijuana advocates have proposed at least five measures for the 
ballot, and several groups are working to find one they believe will 
most appeal to voters.

The governor worked out the new regulations with lawmakers after 
several years of failed attempts by the Legislature to adopt rules 
that address conflicting concerns of law enforcement and the 
billion-dollar marijuana industry.

"This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical 
marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," Brown wrote in 
his signing message. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our 
federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls 
not only on paper, but in practice."

He noted that some of the standards, including the licensing system, 
don't take effect until Jan. 1, 2018. But, he said, "state agencies 
will begin working immediately with experts and stakeholders on 
crafting clear guidelines, so local government, law enforcement, 
businesses, patients and health providers can prepare and adapt to 
the new regulated system."

An estimated 1,250 medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in 
the state, with sales of about $1.3 billion, according to industry groups.

"Gov. Brown and his colleagues in the Legislature have just given the 
green light to let California's cannabis industry become the 
thriving, taxpaying, job-creating industry it was always destined to 
become," said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California 
Cannabis Industry Assn., which welcomed regulation.

The new laws create a state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation to 
issue and revoke licenses for the cultivation, storage and sale of 
cannabis and collect fees to pay for the agency's work.

Cities and counties will also have the power to issue and revoke 
local permits, adopt tougher restrictions on dispensary operations 
and ask voters to approve taxes on marijuana growers and dispensaries 
to pay for local public safety expenses.

The new state bureau, to operate within the administration's 
Department of Consumer Affairs, will convene an advisory committee to 
develop standards and regulation aimed at protecting patients.

Some $10 million has been set aside to fund implementation of the new 
laws for the first year. But the hiring of staff, development of new 
regulations and issuing of licenses will probably take longer, 
according to Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the Department of 
Consumer Affairs.

The state departments of Public Health and Food and Agriculture will 
enforce rules on the quality of marijuana and growing practices.

The new laws designate marijuana as an agricultural product, subject 
to the same regulations on insecticide and water use as other crops. 
That will address the negative environmental impact of illegal 
growing operations, said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, 
author of one of the bills.

Brown said he was directing his Natural Resources Agency to identify 
projects to begin restoration of land damaged by marijuana growing.

He hailed California's "new path for responsible marijuana 
cultivation" but added, "The damage to our ecosystem is occurring today."

California voters legalized medical cannabis in 1996 when they passed 
the Compassionate Use Act. A proliferation of pot shops has since 
been regulated by a patchwork of city and county ordinances that ban 
them from some areas and allow a significant number in others.

In other action Friday, the governor:

Signed off on a plan to extend California's health care program for 
the poor to cover immigrant children from low-income families, 
regardless of their legal status.

Vetoed legislation that would have positioned California to be the 
first state on the U.S. border with Mexico to issue driver's licenses 
that can be used to prove citizenship when entering the country.

Approved a measure that requires crisis pregnancy centers to offer 
information about affordable contraception, abortion and prenatal 
care. Those that are unlicensed also must inform clients of their status.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom