California is finally starting to get serious about setting up statewide regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries.
It’s about time.
The California State Assembly’s public safety committee has passed a bill that would pave the way for the creation of a medical marijuana enforcement division that would license cannabis businesses and provide some much-needed industry oversight.
It represents the first step in a long process, and the bill still faces many hurdles and opposition from various sides, including law enforcement officials.
But many MMJ observers feel it’s a move in the right direction. While the bill would make it much harder to open and operate a marijuana dispensary or cultivation site in California, it would also bring legitimacy to the industry and, ideally, create a buffer between MMJ businesses and the federal government.
The Obama administration has focused its cannabis crackdown in California because of the Wild West nature of medical marijuana in the state. In some cities like Los Angeles it’s relatively easy to open a cannabis store, and there’s a proliferation of dispensaries selling out the back door.
With that as the backdrop, the federal government has raided dozens of dispensaries in California over the past year and forced dozens more to close.
Although California paved the way for the MMJ industry – allowing cannabis dispensaries to open up long before other states – its lack of oversight has tarnished the image of medical marijuana in general.
Tom Ammiano, the lawmaker behind the regulation bill, stressed that California must act quickly to clean up the industry and prevent more raids.
“The worst public policy choice for California is to sit idly by, doing nothing, and let this failed war on medical cannabis continue unchecked,” Ammiano told the public safety committee ahead of the vote on the bill, according to the Sacramento Bee.
While cannabis businesses typically oppose regulation, in this case the industry is in favor of it, largely because it could help ease pressure from the federal government.
But many lawmakers and law enforcement groups are against the bill, saying that it is not strict enough. They want a regulatory framework similar to the one in Colorado, which has rules governing everything from security to marijuana transportation.
Expect the debate in California to become more heated as the bill works its way through the legislative process. While the current bill is not perfect, it represents the best hope for the medical marijuana community in California at this time.