Could Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Help California’s Scramble to Enact AB 604?

By Anne Holland

Just 15 days ago, when US Senator Leahy announced today’s US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing ‘Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws’, no one could have predicted what the fall-out would be.  However, when the Justice Department announced their intended position a few days later, what could have been another sleep-making committee meeting turned into a media frenzy, and influenced legislative agenda in multiple states.  The next few days’ fall-out could wind up making a tremendous difference for cannabis businesses, in particular for those in California.

As the actors fired their PR salvos on the national stage — including Leahy with a pro-state-laws interview in The Atlantic and Kevin Sabet with an anti-cannabis opinion column in the Christian Science Monitor — California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-SF) rushed an amended version of his ‘Medical Cannabis Regulation and Control Act’ (AB 604) back into the Assembly voting schedule.  His goal: to get California to enact cannabis business regulations that would meet the Federal Justice Department’s guidelines of the types of businesses they would (probably) not attack.

California’s legislative season ends this Friday the 13th, and the next session doesn’t start until January 6, 2014.  There are literally hundreds of bills under consideration, ranging from foster care to port development. Does AB 604 stand a chance? MMJ evangelists are pulling out all the stops with online petitions and articles featuring the phone numbers of relevant legislators.

AB 604 does not have a specific vote time scheduled as of this writing.  However, that could change, possibly based on how today’s US Judiciary Hearing goes.

If AB 604 does pass, the bill could have an affect for businesses nationally, in particular on the East Coast which has looked at California as the state NOT to emulate.  In fact, some have suggested that East Coast state’s MMJ laws, most allowing only a small number of tightly regulated dispensaries, were created largely based on the fear of a California-type situation.   If California can regulate its industry, and perhaps more to the point, police its MMJ businesses to be sure the regulations mean something, MMJ businesses across the rest of the country will benefit.

CSPAN-2 is carrying a live video feed of Leahy’s meeting here starting at 2:30pm ET.  MMJ Business Daily will post a wrap-up report for you tomorrow.  In the meantime, you can see the amended version of AB 604 here.

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