Lawmakers Urge Gov. Brown to Sign Pot Bills

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A bipartisan front of California legislators urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign their bills regulating the medical marijuana industry at a news conference on Thursday.
     The bills are AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643, known together as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
     Should Brown sign them, the bills would provide a licensing structure for the industry, establish security, worker and safety standards and protect patients and their access – all under a hybrid of state and local control.
     The licensing process would be overseen by a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which would work with the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Public Health.
     California was the first state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana when Proposition 215 passed in 1996. But since then, the state has been the “Wild West of cannabis,” with regulatory deficiencies including inadequate testing standards, environmental neglect and inappropriate water diversion, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, said.
     The regulations “will solve many of the problems we see throughout the state,” Bonta, the bills’ lead author, said. He added that if signed, the laws “will touch all aspects” of the medical marijuana industry.
     Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said that the authors of all three bills were newly elected legislators under restructured term limits.
     “A new crop of legislators took on a long festering problem,” Cooley said.
     Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, who helped draft a portion of the bill that provides for drugged-driving identification and prevention, cited his 28 years of his experience with the California Highway Patrol as his motivation for regulating the medical marijuana industry.
     “Republicans have been nervous to work on this issue,” Lackey said, adding that after having seen years of “tragedies” involving people driving under the influence of medical marijuana he said he knew he needed to take legislative action.
     Data is being collected, he said, in order to create science-based sobriety tests to determine and gauge driving impairment.
     “People expect government to provide the protection that all of us deserve,” Lackey said.
     Nate Bradley, the executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, said that the legislation is “a needed first step to help California’s cannabis industry to come out of the shadows and into the light.”
     He also said the bills will help put the state into compliance with U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, which should reduce federal prosecution of distributors like Oakland’s Harborside Health Clinic.
     Roma Aloise, the vice president at-large of the Teamsters Union, said the bills will also protect the rights of workers in the medical marijuana industry by providing them with safety regulations, “decent benefits” and “decent pay and representation.”
     As to the legislation’s funding, Bonta said the regulation is “designed to pay for itself” as it will mostly be funded by licensing fees. He said other funding will come from the collection of penalties and fines.
     And since the Brown administration was “highly involved in shaping the bill,” Bonta said, “we take that as a very good sign.”
     “Now is the time for California to once again lead the nation,” he said.

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