The bill is largely based on last year’s SB 1262 by former Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and enjoys bipartisan support, as it has Assembly Member Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) as co-author. AB 266 embodies three fundamental priorities: advancing local control; protecting public safety; and protecting public health by creating uniform health and safety standards to ensure the safe, lawful distribution of medical marijuana in those cities and counties in which it is authorized.
Co-sponsored by the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association, the measure contains provisions that establish a duel licensing process under which the state would issue a conditional license only; an apprenticeship program for dispensary and other workers; phased-in implementation; and funding for environmental mitigation at cultivation sites. AB 266 is not an effort to legalize marijuana. Rather it is an attempt to establish a rational structure governing medical marijuana production and distribution that is consistent with the needs of cities and law enforcement, prior to the appearance of a 2016 ballot initiative geared toward legalization. This bill will not alter patients’ existing rights to access medical marijuana or cultivate plants for medicinal purposes under Prop. 215.
Voters approved Prop. 215 in 1996 to give Californians access to marijuana for medical purposes. In 2003, Gov. Gray Davis signed SB 420 into law, allowing patients and primary care givers to cultivate marijuana for personal medical use. SB 420 also established a voluntary medical marijuana card program in the Department of Public Health. However, regulatory chaos has ensued because Prop. 215 did not include an implementation framework clearly delineating state and local authority, or an acknowledgment of the authority to create or enforce locally-driven policies. Finally, it did not ensure public safety by providing clear guidelines for medical marijuana regulations.
In sponsoring this legislation, the League and the Police Chiefs Association are continuing the effort begun in 2014 to craft a regulatory framework for medical marijuana that will protect the interests of cities and law enforcement, while ensuring patient access and safety. Much of the marijuana legislation of recent years has been geared toward state pre-emption of local ordinances, or has otherwise sought to limit local government authority. Last year, both organizations recognized the need to be proactive and in helping craft marijuana policy and took the unprecedented step of sponsoring their own bill, SB 1262, after years of opposing such legislation.
AB 266’s provisions contain a dual licensing scheme that retains local governments’ current authority over suspension and revocation, a labor peace agreement that ensures business operations are not disrupted by work stoppages or strikes, uniform health and safety standards (including testing) and security standards for dispensaries and transport. The bill will feature staggered implementation dates with the measure going into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, while giving dispensaries an additional year to obtain marijuana only from licensed cultivation sites via licensed transporters. Finally, the measure would earmark a revenue stream from the state’s conditional license fee for cultivation with a portion going to a special fund for environmental enforcement.
The League will continue to update members with information on AB 266 as it moves through the legislative process. Resources, news articles and other materials will be continually updated on the League’s medical marijuana
hot issue webpage.