California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, designed to finally regulate the state’s cannabis industry, went into affect Jan. 1, but it also provides a loophole for cities to opt out of legalization.
If individual cities don’t establish their own marijuana laws by March 1, the state becomes the sole cannabis authority and that has prompted many panicked towns to ban the drug entirely.
In an effort to slow the rush of cities and counties banning marijuana cultivation, California lawmakers passed AB21 this week to delete the approaching deadline, which they say was a mistake. The bill now moves to the governor for approval.
Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for a medical marijuana investment company, told the San Francisco Chronicle the panicked reaction from California cities hasn’t allowed stakeholders the opportunity to give their input on the decision.
“Now that cities are no longer under the gun, I am hopeful that cities will adopt a more thoughtful approach.”
The new bill, AB21, has broad support from marijuana advocates, business groups, and law enforcement.
Many local governments across the state have panicked at the prospect of losing control over the marijuana regulation process and hastily enacted their own bans this month before the deadline passes next month.
More than 160 cities and counties in California have already enacted or introduced legislation to ban marijuana cultivation within their borders, according to Marijuana Business Daily.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is calling it “banapalooza” and state lawmakers, including Assemblyman Jim Wood say they hope the governor’s signature on the new bill will stop the prohibition frenzy, according to the Sun.
“It is crucially important the deadline is repealed as soon as possible. I am confident we will get this done soon.”
Some of the bans apply only to commercial cultivation, but many cities have chosen to prohibit personal marijuana gardens as well even going so far as to stop the cultivation of a single plant.
California lawmakers hope the cities and counties that have enacted the bans will revisit the issue again after the governor signs the new bill.
Decades ago, in 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, but the industry has been largely unregulated until last year when three bills, known collectively as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act were passed.
The act established the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation and made it responsible for issuing permits, classified marijuana as an agricultural product, established the collection of fees and regulates the use of chemicals in the growing process.
Many Californian’s see the act as paving the way for full marijuana legalization in the state.
In the meantime, many of the provisions of the historic California medical marijuana law are currently being created. Hearings on the new state rules began Jan. 19, and are expected to continue for the next two years.
At least six bills up for debate right now seek to change the rules, pitting marijuana advocates, business groups, local governments, and law enforcement against each other.
The fight centers on the way things are versus the way they will be; existing business are trying to shoulder aside newcomers, as union spokesman Aaron Flynn told the East Bay Express.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
[AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File]