Since voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) in 1996 to give patients access to medical marijuana, confusion has ensued, leaving patients dissatisfied, public safety at risk, and local authority to regulate dispensaries subject to frequent challenge.
This measure, co-sponsored by the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association, and supported by Americans for Safe Access, passed out of the Senate last week by a vote of 31-0. This measure now stands as the sole remaining bill addressing medical marijuana, after AB 1894 (Ammiano), opposed by the League and the California Police Chiefs, failed passage on the Assembly Floor last Thursday.
SB 1262’s broad support by local government and law enforcement as well as patient advocates reflects the growing belief that SB 1262’s regulatory framework offers the most sensible approach to medical marijuana. This legislation creates an enforcement mechanism in which local governments take the leading role in regulating dispensaries. This system would not only preserve the state’s General Fund resources, it would also provide a robust enforcement system based on a coordinated effort of state and local authorities and minimize the potential for future federal intervention.
Under SB 1262, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) will license dispensaries and may have a role in crafting implementing regulations. DCA currently oversees the California Board of Pharmacy and performs other health and safety-related functions. Local code enforcement officers, or another appropriate locally designated entity, would be responsible for the day-to-day regulation of dispensaries to ensure that they adhere to applicable health and safety standards. This work would be funded through local fees levied against the dispensaries, allowing local agencies to fully recoup their costs. The California Department of Justice would provide supplemental enforcement and background checks for licensee applicants.
Local control is strengthened by Sen. Correa’s bill. All state licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries would be dependent on local permitting approval and other regulations. Local jurisdictions with existing bans would remain undisturbed under SB 1262, and locals would retain the authority enact such bans.
While SB 1262 has many necessary elements, there is more work to be done. The bill is now in its second house, and there are still two months in the legislative session with provisions to be negotiated among stakeholders, including identifying how to increase safeguards in the system of medical marijuana recommendations.
The League of California Cities will continue to work with Sen. Correa in the effort to develop a responsible, cost-effective and long overdue regulatory scheme for medical marijuana that supports patients’ access, strengthens local control and protects the public.