Wednesday, April 22, 2015

McGuire Proposes Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Bill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 10:22 AM

Mike McGuire
  • Mike McGuire
Pot’s on a lot of minds in Sacramento these days. Our own state senator, Mike McGuire, announced on 4/20 that his proposed medical marijuana bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Business and Professions Committee.

The bill would create a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation under the state’s consumer affairs department, which would “license and regulate dispensaries, cultivation sites, transportation systems and manufacturers of all marijuana products,” according to a Press Democrat article. (It’s worth a read and you can find it here.) 

“The state would have jurisdiction over how doctors advertise medical marijuana recommendation services and quality assurance testing for edibles and other products,” the article continues. “Fees and penalties collected through the license program would go into a Medical Marijuana Regulation Fund that would support the program and its enforcement.”

The bill has some ambitious goals — banning residential grows and requiring certified organic standards by 2022 — but it has support from a couple of notable marijuana advocates. Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the Emerald Growers Association, and Dale Gieringer, director of the California branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, both told the Press Democrat they support the medical regulations, though they will likely suggest some amendments to the bill as its written.

The bill joins North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood’s proposed law that would bring marijuana under the purview of water agencies, as well as a “flurry” of medical marijuana bills surfacing in the capital.

Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom hosted the first of a series of hearings aimed at creating regulations for statewide legalization in 2016. The forum, held at UCLA, heard concerns from marijuana advocates and law enforcement officials, including former District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who was there to tell the Gav about environmental problems associated with cultivation, according to the Los Angeles Times

“We need to see this problem as an opportunity to develop a regulatory scheme,” Gallegos was quoted as saying.

The 4/20 announcement from McGuire’s office:

More than 60 percent of the marijuana grown in the nation comes from counties along California’s North Coast.

As the North Coast’s State Senator, Mike McGuire has introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation to oversee the industry including environmental protection and water regulations, law enforcement, licensing, public health related to edibles and product testing, marketing, taxing, transporting, zoning, local control and re-sale. This bill is only focused on Medical Marijuana, not on taking a stand related to recreational use.

Senator McGuire’s legislation, SB 643 – the Medical Marijuana Public Safety and Environmental Protection Act – cleared its first hurdle on April 20 when it received approval from the Senate Business and Professions Committee.

“Since the voters of California passed Prop 215 in 1996, medical marijuana cultivation and consumption has exploded, both in California and around the country. Aside from local zoning regulations, this legal, multi-billion dollar industry is completely unregulated. With multiple propositions coming forward attempting to legalize recreational use, we need to work to create a regulatory framework now,” Senator McGuire said. “And the current drought has only made the urgency of this legislation more necessary.”

Without regulation, the North Coast is seeing entire rivers and streams run dry and watersheds polluted with sediment and poisons. Rogue operators have cut down thousands of acres of trees illegally without regard for the environment, neighboring landowners, downstream farms, or endangered species, and have dumped tens of thousands of pounds of illegal pesticides, rodenticides and fertilizers into rural communities. Illegal diversions are sucking water from rivers and streams, and the added impact of the state’s fourth drought year means rivers and streams are running dry.

“We are all well aware of all the regulations, permits, certificates and other processes that farmers and ranchers have to go through when growing wine grapes, row crops, grapes, raising cattle and sheep. But, right now there is NO regulation or permits for marijuana farmers, and that isn’t fair to anyone and Northern California communities and our pristine environment are paying the ultimate price,” McGuire said. “Of particular concern is the devastation of our watersheds, forest lands and the growing ‘edibles’ market that is estimated to take up to 30 percent of the current medical marijuana market.”

On the North Coast, many of the medical marijuana growers are running small family farm operations. SB 643 would provide a legal framework for those farmers who want to comply with state and local regulations.

SB 643 would create a statewide comprehensive regulatory program for medical marijuana, preserving local control of licenses and applications, and protecting the environment from illegal trespass grows that dump pesticides and illegally divert millions of gallons of water from rivers and streams. After approval by the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development, SB 643 will be heard by a second Senate Committee next week before going to the Senate floor.

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Grant Scott-Goforth

Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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