PolitiCal

California lawmakers reach agreement on regulating medical marijuana

Lawmakers who have been negotiating a plan to regulate medical marijuana in California said late Thursday that they have reached an agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown on legislation to be acted on by Friday's deadline.

The proposal would create a new state office that, along with cities, would issue licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries. Marijuana growers also would face regulations enforced by the state. Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said the compromise drops a proposed excise tax that would have brought in $60 million for policing and environmental protection.

“This package is the end product of countless hours meeting with stakeholders and extensive negotiations with the governor’s office,” Wood said.

The regulations of the billion-dollar industry will be divided between a couple of bills in the Senate and Assembly.

They will create a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR) within the state Department of Consumer Affairs that would oversee a multiagency licensing and regulatory effort. It would rely on expertise from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Public Health, according to Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), an author of one of the bills.

The proposal “is the result of an unprecedented stakeholder process in which my colleagues and I brought everyone to the table, from medical marijuana businesses to law enforcement and patient advocates, to create a comprehensive regulatory framework for the state’s billion-dollar medical marijuana industry,” Bonta said.

California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996, but it has largely been regulated by cities and counties, with rules varying between jurisdictions.

Details of the new state regulations were still emerging, but legislative officials said the bills include a carve-out for Los Angeles so it can continue to enforce regulations approved by voters in the city.

The proposal was welcomed by Nate Bradley, founder of the California Cannabis Industry Assn., although he said he wanted to see details of the bills before deciding if he can support the whole package.

“We are very excited that the Legislature made it a main priority this year to get it done,” Bradley said.

Bradley said one issue of concern for him and separately for former Assembly Speaker turned lobbyist Willie Brown has been that the state not disqualify convicted felons from running pot shops, given that it could hurt low income residents who could not afford attorneys to beat charges.

Brown has served as a lobbyist for Oakland's Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary.

[Updated at 9:30 am to include comments from the industry group]

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