A measure to regulate California’s chaotic medical marijuana industry has passed a key legislative hurdle, in a move that could lay the groundwork to tax and control recreational use of the drug.
US states are increasingly moving to remove curbs on marijuana following land-mark voter initiatives in Colorado and Washington state in 2012 that legalised the drug for recreational purposes.
But the drug remains illegal under federal law, leaving states opting for medicinal legalisation 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 Democrat.
The current state of chaos around medical marijuana has got to come to an end
If passed, his proposal could ‘set a template’ to regulate recreational use of marijuana by adults.
The Bill marks his 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 legalised.
Besides the pot shops, 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. But a law enforcement group criticised Ammiano’s plan to regulate medical cannabis through Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“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 wrote.
“We know of no law where an agency charged with regulating recreational substances such as alcohol is also given portfolio over matters alleged to be medical.”
Ammiano’s plan is one of two regulation proposals making their way through the legislature.
The Senate version, which would regulate the drug via the state health department, has won support from some law enforcement agencies.