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Medical Cannabis Bill Passes Assembly with Historic Consensus

On Thursday, June 4, the California State Assembly took historic action in passing AB 266, medical cannabis legislation, on a bipartisan vote of 60-8, with at least 17 Republican members in support.

June 5, 2015
On Thursday, June 4, the California State Assembly took historic action in passing AB 266, medical cannabis legislation, on a bipartisan vote of 60-8, with at least 17 Republican members in support.
The measure provides long overdue statewide regulation of medical cannabis that protects local control and public safety, and advances patient protection with maximum potency and health and safety standards.
Jointly authored by Assembly Members Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) and Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), AB 266 is supported by the League of California Cities, the California Police Chiefs Association, two groups that have traditionally opposed most attempts at any cannabis regulation, including medical cannabis. It is also supported by United Food and Commercial Workers, a major labor union.
The measure is the result of a collaborative effort between authors of competing bills that have now merged into a single vehicle. Originally AB 34 (Bonta and Jones-Sawyer) and AB 266 (Cooley) were separate bills. Recent discussions between the authors, strongly urged by Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Jimmy Gomez, resulted in one bill containing components of both measures. The authors of AB 266 represent diverse parts of the state (Oakland/Alameda), Rancho Cordova, and Los Angeles), each with their own perspectives and priorities related to medical cannabis policy.
League of California Cities Executive Director Chris McKenzie remarked on the League’s continued engagement in this important policy. “While this bill remains a work in progress, we will continue to monitor it closely to ensure that it continues to protect local governments’ ability to fully regulate medical cannabis businesses within their borders. We are encouraged by the bill’s requirement of local permitting as well as state licensing in order for these businesses to operate within the law. The League will continue to work with the authors, our partners, the California Police Chiefs Association, as well as other stakeholders to improve this measure as it goes forward.”
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, agrees that the bill is an important step forward. “We are pleased the bill has cleared the Assembly and we look forward to working on finalizing language that addresses stakeholder concerns.” 
Assembly Member Bonta commended how legislators and stakeholders worked together. "I am proud to work with my colleagues and stakeholders of all perspectives on this unprecedented effort. I am confident that our collaborative efforts on AB 266 will successfully ensure that we establish necessary standards and protections for patients, the environment, and the public related to the medical cannabis industry."
Assembly Member Cooley also stressed the ways in which this legislation reflects the various priorities of medical cannabis regulation. “I am very pleased that the Assembly voted AB 266 out today with bipartisan support. Throughout this process, my colleagues and I have worked to find consensus on issues of local control, public safety, and appropriate regulation of the medical cannabis industry. Today’s vote recognized that hard work and sends a strong message that California is trying to solve problems in a collaborative, effective, and accountable manner.”
Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer noted the work of the stakeholders as the bill moves forward. “We are very glad that law enforcement and local governments are supporting our efforts.  They are an essential partner in regulating the medical cannabis industry. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all the stakeholders to ensure that AB 266 creates a regulatory system that respects the interests of local government while still providing a consistent statewide structure.”
Assembly Member Tom Lackey of Palmdale, a former California Highway Patrol officer who was an original co-author of AB 266, made it clear that he remains its staunch advocate. Lackey urged his colleagues to support the measure, arguing that “this bill actually tightens medical marijuana standards” and that it “gives us more ability to control an industry that’s out of control.”
Next Steps
The League will issue a summary of the bill’s provisions in the near future and notify member cities when AB 266 is schedule for its first hearing in the Senate.

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