The California Legislature is considering multiple – and conflicting – plans to impose the first major statewide restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers.
The debate over the billion-dollar industry now regulated largely by local government and has pitted cities and law enforcement agencies against marijuana growers and sellers.
The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that the move toward state control comes as various proposals are being floated for the ballot next year to legalize recreational use of marijuana. With legalized use being considered in 2016, “we need to have a strong regulatory structure in place before then,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, told the newspaper.
California was the first state in 1996 to legalize the sale of marijuana for medical use. More than 1,000 dispensaries operate in California.
State efforts to regulate the industry have stumbled, in part because the U.S. government has maintained that sales of marijuana violate federal law, and cities and counties have been left with a hodgepodge of regulations.
Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have legalized recreational pot use to varying degrees. Meanwhile, independent voter surveys in California have found that legalized recreational use is growing in acceptance.
In much of the state, a lack of regulation has resulted in a “Wild West,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, who has proposed that the state and cities license dispensaries.
Among the provisions being considered in Sacramento, marijuana growers would be licensed and regulated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, while sales and storage would be licensed by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Manufacturing and testing of marijuana products, including edibles, would be handled by the state Department of Public Health.
Another proposal would create a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation to issue conditional licenses to marijuana businesses. Cities and counties would issue final operational licenses and enforce regulations.
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