Gun control and medical marijuana license bills shelved for the year

California lawmakers cite cost in shelving bills involving pot shop licenses and gun control

Bills requiring state licenses for medical marijuana shops, speeding confiscation of guns from criminals and requiring campaign mailers to be posted on a state website were among the dozens of measures shelved for the year Thursday by a state Assembly panel.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee acted on 153 bills, sending some 110 on for further action, but putting holds on measures that would have cost the state several million dollars it could not afford, said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), the panel’s chairman.

“We have done our best to cut that down quite a bit,” Gatto said of the cost. “Not every idea can be funded by the taxpayer.”

The proposal to require medical marijuana dispensaries and growers to get state licenses and abide by new regulations was shelved for the year amid opposition from the industry and questions about how to pay for a new state agency to oversee it.

The measure by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) would have created a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the state Department of Consumer Affairs to issue licenses for fees of up to $8,000 each, which the industry said was too costly.

Legislative analysts said it was unclear whether fees would be enough to cover the $20-million cost of setting up the new bureau.

Correa introduced the bill because he felt the passage of the medical marijuana ballot measure in 1996 has been followed by “conflicting authorities, regulatory uncertainty,  intermittent federal enforcement action and a series of lawsuits.”

But, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer had asked that his city be exempted from the bill because he thought its requirements were incompatible with regulations of pot shops approved by the city’s voters last year in Proposition D.

“The author should be commended for his efforts, but at this late date, the committee did not have bill language that was finished, or that had addressed the concerns of local law enforcement and prosecutors,” Gatto said.

Correa said it would have been “inappropriate” to exclude the state’s largest city from the state regulations. He noted the California Police Chiefs Assn. supported his SB 1262.

“We’re very disappointed and quite surprised,” Correa said of his bill’s demise. “Those folks in  California who want to preserve the wild west, which means no regulation whatsoever of medical marijuana, those are the people who won today.”

Dale Gieringer, director of the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, opposed the potentially high license fee for the 250 dispensaries in operation and the cap on the number of cannibis growers to be licensed.

The group also opposed strict security requirements for transporting medical marijuana and a provision denying licenses to anyone with a past felony conviction for drug trafficking, unless they get a certificate of rehabilitation.

“It is quite difficult and costly for prior offenders to obtain a certificate of rehabilitation,” Gieringer wrote to lawmakers. “The effect of this is therefore to disqualify a great number of highly qualified individuals from the cannabis industry.”

The Assembly panel also shelved SB 580 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), which would have provided $5 million to local law enforcement agencies to take guns away from people disqualified from owning them because of criminal convictions or serious mental illness.

Jackson introduced the measure, which also would have provided $10 million to update a gun owner database, in response to the Isla Vista massacre that resulted in the death of six UC Santa Barbara students.

The committee also killed a proposal by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) to require campaign mailers and TV ads to be posted on a state website so voters could see what candidates are saying. State officials said it would have cost $2.7 million to upgrade state databases to accommodate the program and $500,000 annually to maintain them.

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