California’s medical marijuana industry would be overseen by a Sacramento-level bureaucracy under a reform bill introduced Tuesday by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Similar to how Alcoholic Beverage Control regulates California bars and liquor stores, the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation would establish statewide standards and applicable fees for how medical cannabis is grown, transported, sold and taxed. The division would be under ABC’s control.
“This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe,” Ammiano said in a statement. “We will get it into the right hands and keep it out of the wrong hands.”
Exactly what some of these standards are has yet to be determined. The bill, AB 473, is likely to be amended before it is put up to a vote in the Legislature.
Reformers seeking to solidify medical marijuana as a legitimate industry were cautiously optimistic.
“Having a division that’s part of a state agency promulgate and enforce uniform regulation is a good idea,” said union organizer Dan Rush, a spokesman for reform group Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana.
It’s not known how many dispensaries operate in California, but a 2009 estimate from the state Board of Equalization, which collects sales taxes, said medical cannabis generates as much as $1.3 billion in sales and $105 million in tax revenue annually.
Californians with a doctor’s recommendation have been allowed to possess small amounts of marijuana since 1996. Yet a hodgepodge of often inconsistent state and local rules make it unclear how patients are supposed to grow and access legal medical marijuana, Ammiano said.
It is likely that if passed, Ammiano said, California’s statewide regulations will resemble those in Colorado, which monitors marijuana from seed to sale.
Ammiano — who made reform of marijuana policy one of his signature issues upon arriving at the state Legislature in 2009 — introduced a similar reform bill last year that died in committee.