Being the first state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana twenty years ago, California has been a focal point in the marijuana movement sweeping across the nation. Twenty years ago we had no idea how to regulate marijuana and a lot has changed in the technology and processes used by the 22 other states to legalize medicinal marijuana.
With a recreational initiative in the works, one of the things that may have held California voters back from allowing legalization could have been the extremely loose restrictions around the medicinal market. This lead lawmakers to finally pass statewide regulations that would hopefully bring order to the industry.
Unfortunately, one piece of the legislature passed in 2015 was not meant to be in the final draft. That provision was that all cities and counties would have to set their own regulations by March 1st of this year – or else step aside and let the state take over.
“My concern with the March 1 deadline was that these bans were happening without input from communities and stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, who authored AB21 and parts of last year’s medical marijuana laws, which are supposed to provide more structure for the state’s loosely regulated, billion-dollar industry.
Now, no local government is going to want the state to come in and regulate something that they have had control over for the past two decades, so in response quite a few cities utilized cultivation bans. The idea behind this was that a temporary ban while drafting regulations would be safer than missing the deadline.
This state-wide panic lead lawmakers to make their mistake right – so they worked to issue an emergency bill that would void the March 1st deadline set in the previous regulations. Monday the Senate passed the bill 35-3 and Thursday the Assembly passed it unanimously 65-0. All that is left is for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it into law as expected.
Due to the emergency status of bill AB21 would put the law into effect as soon as it is signed by Brown. This will hopefully lead the cities who have taken the extreme measure of banning cultivation to protect their rights to lift the bans. There will no longer be a designated deadline for cities and counties to have determined laws regarding medical marijuana licenses and cultivation.
“You can agree Sacramento is going to regulate this, but if every city says, ‘No, no, no — we’re not going to do this,’ it’s kind of a meaningless law,” Herzberg said. “Now that cities are no longer under the gun, I am hopeful that cities will adopt a more thoughtful approach.”
Hopefully, this emergency bill will be signed right away and the cities who passed bans will be ready to lift them as a result. I’m happy to see that when California lawmakers realized they had made a mistake leaving the March 1st deadline in the 2015 legislature that they did everything they could to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.