State Senate panel advances medical marijuana regulations

In this Feb. 1, 2011 photo, Harborside Health Center employee Gerard Barber stands behind medical marijuana clone plants at Harborside Health Center in Oakland. A California lawmaker has introduced legislation to regulate the state's free-wheeling medical marijuana industry.
(Jeff Chiu / AP)

SACRAMENTO -- Medical marijuana dispensaries in California would have to get state Public Health Department licenses, and doctors who recommend pot would face new standards for examining patients under legislation supported Monday by a state Senate panel.

The measure, supported by members of the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, also clarifies the authority of cities and counties to prohibit pot shops within their borders.

Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) said his bill is aimed at practices such as one in the Sacramento area where patients have been issued medical marijuana cards after a few minutes talking to a doctor via Skype and with no physical exam.

“The implementation of medical marijuana laws has been marked by conflicting authorities, regulatory uncertainty, intermittent federal enforcement action and many, many lawsuits,” Correa told the panel.


California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Correa’s bill would require dispensaries and cultivation sites to be licensed by the state Department of Public Health. His bill would require that physicians who recommend marijuana for patients first conduct an “appropriate examination” and periodically review the treatment’s efficacy, discuss side effects with patients and maintain records. For patients under age 21, a pediatrician would have to make the recommendation and the delivery method would be non-smoking.

The bill is sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Assn. and League of California Cities and supported by officers associations from Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana. “It is not medicine for doctors to show up at concerts to give recommendation cards to anyone willing to spend the cash,” said Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher W. Boyd, president of the chief’s association.

The California Medical Assn. opposed the bill unless amended to remove provisions it feels interferes with the practice of medicine. The group opposed a requirement that doctors recommend the type and strength of marijuana used, which could subject physicians to federal enforcement action.

Changes were also requested by Dale Gieringer, director of the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who objected to the bill “interfering in medical practices” and said it is unreasonable to require pediatricians be involved when the patients are age 18 to 20.


Jerry Brown ready to commit to a rainy-day fund

California may go forward without a financial reserve

Jerry Brown is said to support ballot measure for rainy-day fund