Medical Marijuana Regulatory Bills Advance in California

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The California Senate and Assembly have passed separate bills that would establish rules on the medical marijuana industry, reviving hope that the state will find a way to push through MMJ regulations this year.

One of the primary differences between the measures involves who will oversee the industry.

The state Senate voted 26-13 in favor of a bill to create a licensing and regulatory framework for every stage of marijuana production and distribution. It would be overseen by a new agency called the Office of Medical Marijuana Regulation that would fall under the Business, Consumer Services Housing Agency.

The state Assembly passed a separate measure by a vote of 62-8 that would spread control and oversight of the industry among several agencies including the governor’s office, the State Board of Equalization, the California Department of Public Health and the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

It’s backed by the League of California Cities, the California Police Chiefs Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The California Cannabis Industry Association didn’t support the bill, but said it would lobby to garner votes.

The Senate bill now moves to the Assembly, while the Assembly bill now moves to the Senate.

While some sort of regulatory framework is needed to provide regulations and oversight in the nation’s largest medical cannabis market, lawmakers haven’t been kind to MMJ regulatory measures in the past.

Last year, the Assembly rejected a bill that would have created an agency within the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate the medical marijuana industry. A competing measure backed by police was passed by the Senate but eventually failed to garner enough votes to get through the full Assembly.