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California bill to block home delivery of cannabis sidelined for year

California bill to block home delivery of cannabis sidelined for year
Different types of marijuana sit on display at Harborside marijuana dispensary in Oakland. A bill that would have allowed cities to block home deliveries stalled this week. (Mathew Sumner / Associated Press)

A state bill that would have allowed cities to prohibit home deliveries of marijuana has been sidelined for the year amid concerns that doing so would further hamper California’s lagging market for cannabis.

The action comes just days after 24 cities including Beverly Hills, Riverside and Covina filed a lawsuit against the state, asking the courts to invalidate a California regulation put in place earlier this year that allows home deliveries statewide, including in cities that bar pot shops.

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Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) will decide later whether to revive his proposal next year, he said Wednesday, a day after the Assembly Business and Professions Committee deadlocked on the bill with a 7-7 vote and it failed to pass.

“I actually think they are wrong on the policy,” Cooley said of colleagues who voted against his bill or abstained.

Industry officials and some legislators said the measure would limit access to marijuana for consumers, including those who have medical marijuana prescriptions for illnesses.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) was among those who voted against the bill, noting that few cities, including his hometown, allow retail sales.

“But all around us are these deserts of people who can’t get access,” McCarty said. “For people who are driving … 50, 60, 100 miles to go from their residence to Sacramento [to buy cannabis], it just doesn’t seem fair.”

Cooley sought to win over skeptics on the bill by including enforcement grants for cities that allow retail stores.

He said voters were told local control would be preserved when they approved Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot measure that allowed state licensing of cannabis farms and stores.

“Proponents said it would protect local authority,” Cooley told the committee. “I’m still a proponent of local control. It reflects an interest in quality of life locally.”

The bill was also supported by the League of California Cities, said lobbyist Charles Harvey.

Harvey said the decision by the Bureau of Cannabis Control to allow home deliveries in every city will hinder law enforcement and allow the illicit pot market to thrive.

“The regulation at issue effectively stripped local decision-making away from local jurisdictions and serves as a clear overreach by the BCC,” he told the committee.

A report by the committee staff cited the cities’ pending lawsuit as one reason lawmakers should refrain from acting on the legislation, saying it may be premature to approve a bill “until a resolution has occurred in that litigation.”

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A hearing date has not yet been set on the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would require cities to license pot shops if more than 50% of the city's voters approved Proposition 64. The city would have to issue licenses equal to 25% of the alcohol sales licenses in the city.

Cities that object to the minimum number of licenses would have to submit an alternative to the city’s voters.

The bill, according to Ting’s office,” aims to expand access to cannabis for people in need, increase state/local revenues for public services, and ensure a regulated cannabis market can succeed."

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