New state level regulations establish a marijuana division of the Alcoholic Beverage Control
By Steve Elliott
The president of the California Senate and Chair of Assembly Public Safety on Monday introduced bills to crack down on illegal cultivation and distribution under the guise of medical marijuana, and to create one of the most comprehensive regulatory structures in the country to allow bona fide patients to access medical marijuana, from state registered growers, transporters and dispensaries, and to reduce diversion to non-medical users.
SB 69 by Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and AB 604 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, is, in part, response to the recent announcement by the Federal Department of Justice that the federal government would be disinclined to target marijuana cultivators and providers that are operating pursuant to state laws, as long as comprehensive regulation prevents problems, including diversion of marijuana to the illegal market.
While some within the medical marijuana community question the wisdom of turning an herbal medicine over to the state agency responsible for controlling alcoholic beverages, Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), thinks it's a good idea.
“This is a much needed move toward comprehensive regulation,” Todd said. “California medical marijuana providers have been targeted by the Federal government.
By Steve Elliott
California lawmakers on Friday killed a bill which would have created a state agency to tax and regulate the state's medical marijuana industry.
Assembly Bill 473 would have established a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement under the authority of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to set guidelines for the cultivation, sale and taxation of medicinal cannabis, reports The Sacramento Bee. Dispensaries would have been required to register with the agency.
"The answer to many of the problems that many of our communities are having with medical marijuana is this bill, because without this regulation the bad actors will proliferate and the violence will proliferate," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill's author.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) pointed out that lawmakers were not being asked to vote on the merits of medical marijuana, nothing that Proposition 215 is already law. Regardless of where legislators stand on the wisdom of that law, Skinner said, it has been applied in an uneven fashion. Some cities have no safe access for patients, while others have hundreds of dispensaries.
"It is necessary for us to have any kind of common-sense ability to deal with dispensaries in all our communities up and down the state," Skinner said.
By Steve Elliott
The citizens of Los Angeles on Tuesday voted to regulate medical marijuana by passing Proposition D, one of three medical marijuana regulation measures on the ballot. The Proposition received 62.57 percent of the vote.
Proposition D caps the number of collectives at those who opened prior to 2007, about 130, raises the gross receipts tax from $50 to $60 per $1000 of gross receipts, and establishes the distances they must keep from schools, parks, one another and residential neighborhoods. It also requires that collectives be closed between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m., prohibits the consumption of marijuana on the premises and requires background checks on managers.
Unfortunately, the Proposition also does not allow for a new collective to receive a permit if one of the pre-2007 collectives closes.
Proposition D was supported by several members of the City Council, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Association (GLACA), the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), both Los Angeles mayoral candidates and the current city attorney and his challenger. Under the Proposition, organizations consisting of four or more people who cultivate, process, distribute or give away medical marijuana must obtain a license from the city.
By Steve Elliott
A bill to regulate California's medical marijuana industry by turning it over to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control cleared a hurdle on Tuesday when the Assembly's Public Safety Committee voted to move it forward.
AB 473, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would require all cannabis-related businesses to follow rules created by Alcohol Beverage Control, reports Carly Schwartz at The Huffington Post.
Ammiano said medical marijuana in California is in a state of "chaos."
"It's never been regulated by the state as any other business," he said. "Cities and counties don't know what to do or what they can do. Police are unsure how to respond, and the federal actions are confusing."
Since California voters made the Golden State the first in the country to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996, the industry has exploded, generating more than $100 million in taxes annually. But the Obama Administration in late 2011 launched an aggressive crackdown on dispensaries, forcing hundreds of them to close and leaving thousands of workers unemployed.
According to former Ammiano spokesman Quentin Mecke, U.S. Attorneys "are using a lack of statewide regulation as justification."
By Sam Pearson, State Hornet
When a student was caught smoking marijuana in the Tahoe National Forest, he might once have faced charges despite having a medical marijuana card. Instead, in this particular case, prosecutors dropped the charges because of recent changes in drug policy, said Roseville-based defense attorney Toni Carbone.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Oct. 20 the federal government would stop prosecuting medical marijuana users in states that had passed medical marijuana laws, such as California and 12 other states, including Nevada and Oregon.
Carbone has already seen the effects of this change. Her client received no penalty even though park rangers ticketed him for having 1.2 grams of marijuana on federal land, where state medical marijuana laws do not apply.
California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, creating a program that allowed people to obtain doctors' recommendations to use marijuana and obtain it from dispensaries throughout the state.
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana in California and held a hearing Oct. 28 at the state Capitol as part of the Public Safety Committee, which he chairs. It was the first-ever legislative hearing held on marijuana legalization.
By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO – A bill to tax and regulate marijuana in California like alcohol would generate nearly $1.4 billion in revenue for the cash-strapped state, according to an official analysis released Wednesday by tax officials.
The State Board of Equalization report estimates marijuana retail sales would bring $990 million from a $50-per-ounce fee and $392 million in sales taxes.
The bill introduced by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano in February would allow adults 21 and older to legally possess, grow and sell marijuana.
Ammiano has promoted the bill as a way to help bridge the state's $26.3 billion budget shortfall.
"It defies reason to propose closing parks and eliminating vital services for the poor while this potential revenue is available," Ammiano said in a statement.
The way the bill is written, the state could not begin collecting taxes until the federal government legalizes marijuana. A spokesman says Ammiano plans to amend the bill to remove that provision.
The legislation requires all revenue generated by the $50-per-ounce fee to be used for drug education and rehabilitation programs. The state's 9 percent sales tax would be applied to retail sales, while the fee would likely be charged at the wholesale level and built into the retail price.
By Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Speaking at a landmark press conference today, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced comprehensive legislation to tax and regulate the commercial production and sale of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol.
“With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense. This legislation would generate much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes”, Assemblyman Ammiano said. “California has the opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana.”
The proposal is the first marijuana legalization bill ever introduced in California.
“It’s time for California taxpayers to stop wasting money trying to enforce marijuana prohibition, and to realize the tax benefits from a legal, regulated market instead,” said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a sponsor of the bill.