California Assembly Bill 2312 passed with the minimum amount of votes (41) on Thursday, and if approved by the state Senate and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, the new law would change the face of the medicinal cannabis industry in the Golden State.
AB2312 creates the Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement, which requires all state medical pot dispensaries, cultivators, mobile delivery services and medical marijuiana product manufacturers (such as cannabis-based baked goods) to register with the nine-member oversight committee. The bill also authorizes cities and counties to establish only one dispensary per 50,000 residents (that is, if the city/county hasn't already banned dispensaries outright).
This legislation is the baby of long-time champion of medical marijuana, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). Ammiano crafted the bill based on a previously proposed (and since abandoned) ballot initiative that would have been placed before the voters in November, intended to counteract the federal government's position that medical marijuana is being used as a front for trafficking black-market recreational pot.
“Today's vote was significant because it represents a considerable shift that the Legislature is now willing to take responsibility for the effective regulation of medical cannabis in California,” Ammiano told the Associated Press. “With the continuing federal crackdown, we simply cannot afford to continue keeping our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is fine.”
Ammiano’s bill has met with opposition both among his political colleagues and fellow cannabis activists. Don Wagner (R-Irvine) decried that the proposed oversight committee would be biased in favor of medical marijuana because it’s to consist of a medical cannabis doctor, two pot patients and a medical marijuana industry rep. Wagner’s cynicism bled through his attempt at humor when telling the AP: “Something smells when you stack the deck like that, and we know what that smell is.”
That AB2312 barely passed is the result of many in the Assembly doubting the efficacy and reality of medical marijuana. Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) may be a doctor and a surgeon, but she obviously hasn't investigated any of the thousands of cannabis studies and reports when she declared medical marijuana to be a “phrase that's meaningless.”
As expected, there has also been opposition and a backlash to AB2312 from medical marijuana advocates, dispensary operators, and cultivating caregivers because they hold the opinion further regulation and restriction will continue to limit access to medicine for patients and render it more difficult for dispensaries to operate.
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