A bill designed specifically to help clear the confusion surrounding California’s medical-marijuana laws passed an important hurdle in Sacramento last week. Though perhaps too late for the many Santa Barbara–area dispensaries that have been shuttered since the most recent wave of raids by local and federal authorities, Assembly Bill 2312, which was written earlier this year by San Francisco’s Tom Ammiano as a way of better protecting the state’s much maligned medical-marijuana industry from critics who say it is out of control and from federal officials who want it shut down, passed the Assembly floor on May 31 via a 41-29 vote, with Santa Barbara’s Das Williams voting in favor of the measure.
Coming some 16 years after voters first approved medical marijuana in California, the bill would create an overarching state commission consisting of nine members — ranging from doctors and private citizens to law enforcement and medical-marijuana union reps — charged specifically with developing and enforcing universal regulations for how medical-marijuana dispensaries and growers operate. As currently written, the bill would, among other things, create the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement (BMME), require all dispensaries to be approved and registered by the state in addition to conforming with any local government approval process, limit local taxes on medical-marijuana sales to a maximum of 5 percent (half of this number will go to the state to fund the BMME), and require municipalities to permit at least one dispensary per 50,000 residents. (Cities and counties would still be able to ban clubs, but the process would be subject to its own new set of stringent rules.)
Heralded as a major victory by medical-marijuana advocates throughout the state, the bill now moves on to the State Senate, where it will first be vetted at various committee levels before an up-or-down vote no later than the end of July.