U.S. states are increasingly moving to remove curbs
on marijuana following landmark voter initiatives in Colorado and
Washington state in 2012 that legalized the drug for recreational
purposes. Many more states allow medicinal pot.
But the drug remains illegal under federal law, leaving states that
have opted for medicinal legalization struggling to control a
thriving trade in medical cannabis.
"The current state of chaos around medical marijuana has got to come
to an end," said state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco
If passed, his proposal could "set a template" to regulate
recreational use of marijuana by adults, Ammiano said, a move he has
The bill marks Ammiano's second run at regulating medical marijuana
in California, where concern has grown over the lack of rules for
the hundreds of street-corner pot dispensaries and delivery services
that have sprung up since medical marijuana was legalized 15 years
Besides the pot shops that authorities struggle to regulate, other
problems include inappropriate prescribing by unethical doctors, and
a violent, "wild West" culture of illegal cannabis farms in the
state's forests, Ammiano said.
His bill would make it illegal for doctors to recommend medical
marijuana for patients they have not examined, and bar prescriptions
by doctors with a financial interest in a pot dispensary.
It would also let the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
enforce laws regulating marijuana and develop plans to tax it beyond
the sales tax now levied, while ensuring it is grown and processed
safely and in ways safe for the environment.
Supporters, including the city of Oakland, said the bill would bring
order and clarity to the market.
But a law enforcement group criticized Ammiano's plan to regulate
medical cannabis through Alcoholic Beverage Control.
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"There is no little irony in the department of Alcoholic Beverage
Control as the administering agency for the medical marijuana
trade," the California Narcotic Officers' Association, which opposes
legalization, wrote in its testimony.
"We know of no other area of law where an agency charged with
regulating recreational substances such as alcohol is also given
portfolio over matters alleged to be medical."
California voters rejected a ballot initiative to legalize
marijuana for recreational use in 2010, but a poll last fall by the
Public Policy Institute of California showed an increase in support,
with 60 percent of likely voters favoring legalization.
Ammiano's plan, which passed the assembly Public Safety committee on
Tuesday, is one of two marijuana regulation proposals making their
way through the legislature.
The senate version, which would regulate the drug via the state
health department instead of the Alcoholic Beverage Control
department, has won support from some law enforcement agencies,
signaling to many that industry regulations may be coming soon,
after years of inaction.
"I feel a lot of momentum behind these two bills," said Don Duncan,
California director for the medical marijuana advocacy group
Americans for Safe Access.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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