Thursday, September 10, 2015

UPDATE: Medical Marijuana Bills Pass

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 10:05 PM

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The state Assembly and Senate approved a trio of medical marijuana regulations just before deadline Friday. The bills were the subject of some last minute tweaking, and reports of stubbornness regarding authorship began to leak out of the capitol in the days before consensus was reached (read more about that below).

The bills will go before Gov. Jerry Brown for final approval. He is expected to sign them, as reports have indicated that his office contributed quite a bit of the final language of the bills. The Journal will have more about the details of the new regulations, once this reporter gets a chance to read the bills.


State legislators have until midnight tomorrow to vote on landmark medical marijuana legislation after local representatives reached a consensus with the governor's office tonight.

Emails from North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire's offices announced an accord between the bills that will fold the marijuana cultivation regulations from Wood’s Assembly Bill 243 into North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire’s bill. (Read the press release below.)

The apparent resolution came on the eve of the Legislature’s deadline to pass three linked bills.

The Sacramento Bee reported late in the day that former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and California NAACP President Alice Huffman were doing last minute lobbying on the bills, particularly on its potential prohibition for felons in the marijuana industry.

Earlier in the day, a cadre of interest groups, including the League of California Cities, police chiefs organizations and the Western United Food and Commercial Workers, wrote to the legislature urging quick action on the bills, saying laws were necessary for a market that was about to explode.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the holdup was a dispute over who would claim credit for the bill. Until a couple weeks ago, three separate bills were poised to be introduced to the Legislature, one each from Wood and McGuire, and another from Bay Area Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

With a committee deadline approaching, the three linked their bills — meaning all must pass for one to pass — and gutted them, replacing the laws with “language of intent,” to be hammered out in the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

At that point, representatives from McGuire and Wood’s office told the Journal that staff from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office was advising the drafting process to make sure that the bills would be acceptable to the governor, who has final approval should they pass the senate and assembly by the looming deadline of midnight Friday.

The largest difference in the bills was conflicting administration — each had a different idea for what government entity would be in charge of enforcing new laws.

The SF Weekly reports that Brown wants to see a "Bureau of Medical Marijuana Governance" acting under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The report says that Brown has been quietly shaping marijuana policy since his stint as Oakland’s mayor, and gave a lot of input as to the shape of the proposed bills.

The paper also reported that Bonta and McGuire’s bills were identical earlier this week, but also confirmed that disputes over authorship were holding up the process. “According to multiple sources in Sacramento, the two lawmakers are squabbling over which bill gets to include more of Brown's language they get to include in their respective bills — essentially fighting over who gets to have the credit for someone else's work.”

From Wood’s office:

Cannabis Package to Move Forward

Today the Assembly and Senate have agreed to move forward on a package that would create a framework for the medical cannabis industry in California.

Assemblyman Wood said, “This package is the end product of countless hours meeting with stakeholders and extensive negotiations with the Governor’s office. I am thrilled that AB 243, which overcame resistance to its groundbreaking definition of cannabis as an agricultural product, and which focuses specifically on the needs of the north coast, will serve as the foundation of the cultivation language in this year’s cannabis package.”

The package will put most of the cultivation language of AB 243 into SB 643 (McGuire) ensuring that the original language will be used to create the proposed regulations for the cultivation of medical cannabis in California. However the proposed excise tax that would have created $60 million for environmental cleanup and public safety has been dropped from the package.

“We desperately need the resources to manage this industry that has boomed on the north coast and to protect our rivers and forests. I am disappointed we were not able to reach an agreement that included those resources this year. I think good progress has been made and I have educated a number of my colleagues which is a great place to be as I plan to pursue the tax next year,” said Wood.

The Assembly and Senate have until midnight on Friday to pass the three bills AB 266 (Bonta), AB 243(Wood) and SB 643(McGuire) that make up this year’s cannabis package and send them to the Governor’s office for approval.

From McGuire's office:

Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), the author of SB 643 – The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act – announced that an agreement has been reached on historic medical marijuana legislation between Governor Brown’s office, the State Senate and State Assembly.

“After two decades of no regulation, I am pleased to report an agreement has been reached on one of the most comprehensive medical marijuana bills in the nation,” Senator McGuire said.

Moving forward as a package are three historic marijuana bills, headlined by Senator McGuire’s SB 643 – legislation that has been two decades in the making and is sprinting toward the finish line. The regulatory framework gained the support of key stakeholders including representatives of public safety organizations, local elected officials and community leaders, medical marijuana growers, environmentalists, labor unions and many others. The Senate and Assembly leadership as well as Governor Brown’s office reached agreement this afternoon on language for the medical marijuana regulatory framework legislation.

“These regulations are long overdue and I’m thrilled that we were able to work together to find common ground on these historic medical marijuana regulations for our state,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “While the bills still need formal approval by the legislature before going to the Governor, we are now closer than ever to securing a regulatory framework for this booming medical marijuana industry.”

SB 643 will be formally amended with the new language in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and will then head to the Assembly floor for a vote and then back to the Senate for concurrence before Friday’s legislative deadline. The Assembly bills will be amended in the Senate Rules Committee before heading to the Senate floor for a vote and then back to the Assembly for concurrence. All three bills are incumbent on the approval and passage of the others before they can head to the Governor’s desk.

“The time is now. Our environment and our communities have been paying the price for the state’s lack of action over the past 20 years and this package of legislation will advance sweeping regulations and desperately needed resources that are necessary to address the impacts of this multi-billion dollar industry.”

“Medical marijuana patients in California will be now fully protected,” Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Angeles) said. “This important bicameral legislation will provide much-needed structure to a multi-billion industry,” he added.

Under the package of legislation, every aspect of the commercial medical marijuana industry would be regulated and subject to licensure – both by the state and local authorities. The bills create a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation under the Department of Consumer Affairs led by a Director who will be confirmed by the Senate. Cities and counties will be eligible for grants from the Marijuana Production and Environmental Mitigation Fund. These monies can be used for local law enforcement activities and environmental cleanup.

Key to SB 643 are provisions that will track and trace all marijuana products, and a provision that will once and for all make medical marijuana officially an agricultural product in California. Cultivators will have to abide by the same rules and regulations as all other agriculture, including water use, water discharge, pesticide and insecticide use and more. SB 643 also includes robust provisions governing indoor and outdoor cultivation standards for small, medium and large growers to ensure that best practices related to land conversion, grading and electricity usage are instituted. The bill makes sure that the environment is cared for and that the products are safe, while also mandating strict standards for transportation to ensure that no marijuana is diverted out of state for illegal use.

Senator McGuire represents the North Coast of California, where the majority of marijuana is grown in the nation.

“The impacts have been horrendous and the drought has had a devastating effect, especially on the North Coast. Entire rivers are running dry as rogue marijuana grows have expanded, diverting millions of gallons of water illegally, and as the fourth year of this historic drought sets in,” McGuire said.

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About The Author

Grant Scott-Goforth

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

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