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Update on Medical Cannabis Legislation as AB 34 Merges into AB 266

June 12, 2015
Last week the League-sponsored medical cannabis bill AB 266 (Cooley) merged with AB 34 (Bonta and Jones-Sawyer).
The merger occurred as a result of conversations between Assembly Members Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles). The negotiations began at the urging of the Assembly Democratic leadership, which had signaled that only one bill would reach the Assembly Floor. On June 4, the full Assembly approved the measure on a bipartisan vote of 62-8, sending AB 266 (Bonta, Cooley, Jones-Sawyer) to the Senate.

During the merger negotiations, Assembly Member Cooley held firm on protecting local control. The new version of AB 266 retains the key local control protections initially contained in the original. While there are still improvements to be made to the bill, both the League and the California Police Chiefs Association now support AB 266. 
The bill would create a new entity, the Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation within Gov. Jerry Brown's office, with overall executive authority over cannabis regulation. Neither the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control nor the Department of Consumer Affairs will have regulatory responsibilities, although both will be consulted in crafting the state portion of the enforcement framework. Local governments will have primary enforcement responsibilities, with the Department of Justice identified as the state entity specifically tasked with broad enforcement responsibilities, on an as needed basis. 
Among the local control protections that remain intact in the new version of the bill are the following:
  • Both a state license and a local permit will be required to legally operate a cannabis business in California.
  • Revocation of either the state license, or a local license, shall by operation of law terminate the ability of a cannabis business to operate in California. 
  • Evidence of compliance with applicable local ordinances will be a requirement of state licensure.
  • The state license must be revoked if locals advise a state agency that a licensee is in violation of local requirements.
  • Delivery services may only operate if they are specifically authorized by local ordinance.
  • Primarily local enforcement, with a provision for the state to step in only if necessary. 
The League will continue to work closely with the California Police Chiefs Association and Assembly Members Cooley, Bonta and Jones-Sawyer to ensure that local control and public safety concerns continue to be addressed as the bill moves forward.  
Other Medical Cannabis Legislation Moving Through Legislature
Two other bills dealing with medical cannabis have also crossed houses. The League has a WATCH position on both, but that may change as it continues to track their progress.
SB 643 (McGuire) Medical Marijuana
The full Senate approved this measure on June 4 and it is now in the Assembly. SB 643 is heavily based on an earlier version of AB 266 and the League has been working with Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) to get the bill into the shape that will justify League support. June 3 amendments added some but not all local control protections requested by the League. These amendments also would designate a new lead agency, the Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Business, Consumer Affairs, and Housing Agency.
AB 243 (Wood) Medical Marijuana Cultivation
This measure seeks to facilitate seed-to-sale tracking of all marijuana legally cultivated in California, and to make diversion and black-market traffic of this product more difficult than it is currently. It requires local governments or a designated state agency to establish a program for the identification of individual permitted medical marijuana plants at cultivation sites. It also authorizes local governments to designate local law enforcement as the entity to issue a unique identifier for each plant, including but not limited to a zip tie. The League has been in contact with the author to ensure that local control is not adversely affected as this measure for cultivation regulation progresses.

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