Almost two decades ago California was the first state to legalize marijuana on a medicinal level. Since then there have been 22 other states as well as D.C. that followed that path – the big difference being that each of the other 22 states and D.C. put forth regulations before allowing the industry to grow.
For the first time since 1996 California’s government decided to take the time to work out specific details pertaining to their legal cannabis industry. The main reasoning for this is most likely the impending legalization of recreational marijuana after the 2016 elections.
Last week, after many long hours California finally came to a compromise – unfortunately it is not a compromise that everyone is happy with.
The legislature that was implemented last week by California is known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. This new law changes a lot of how California’s medical marijuana industry runs – and not all for the better it seems.
Dispensaries will now be required to have a license provided by the state’s new department known as Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. Cultivators will also be overseen by this new department.
Aside from that, the state is being sued by the American Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA) due to the fact that the Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act goes against California’s constitution.
According to Steve Kubby (Executive Director of AMMA) “Our medical cannabis rights, protected for nearly 20 years by Prop. 215, have been hijacked and Prop. 215 is under attack like never before. The new law is an unacceptable and illegal infringement on our rights under Prop. 215,”
They listed four different areas of proposition 215 that are being threatened with these new regulatory laws – and they are things patients are worried about and have a right to worry about.
As a part of this new act patients personal gardens are now limited to 100 square feet – this may not seem like a big deal, but for anyone cultivating these plants has put years of effort into their gardens and no doubt would be upset to be told it needed taken down.
By limiting the space containing the garden the law is also effectively limiting the number of plants that can be grown at a time. This could be a major inconvenience for a number of patients.
Surprisingly, the law also states that it is now a crime to share a joint from your personal garden with anyone. I’m having a hard time figure out why California government decided on this one – after all, what does it hurt to share? Sharing is caring people, remember?! (Also, I’m not sure if it is specifically written as “joint” in the legislature – if it is, I see a big loop hole here!)
Another downside for patients is that they must now visit their regular doctor for recommendations. The problem with this being that most regular physicians do not have experience with medical cannabis therefore cannot make a proper professional opinion on the matter.
It almost seems like a way to put the medical marijuana doctors out of business and limit the number of people who can have access to the plant… I could be way off here, but I’m not seeing many other reasons for this part of their “Regulation and Safety Act”. After all, isn’t it safer to have a doctor experienced with the medication, rather than one who knows nothing or very little about it?
The last thing that Kubby points out is a large concern for patients in California is that this new Act allows individual cities or counties to ban cultivation, storage, manufacture or transport of the plant. This is almost completely reversing their original law in one simple statement.
Even though it’s unlikely, this means that if the cities decided to they could basically make medical marijuana illegal once again just by banning these four things within city/county lines.
The entire act doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense and if this is the best they could come up with we better hope the recreational marijuana ballot measure has very specific legislature behind it. Otherwise the state could step in and turn things in another direction like they have here.
Only time will tell how things will go for AMMA and their lawsuit, but one thing is certain – the rights of medical marijuana patients in California has changed dramatically in a matter of days. While Cali certainly needs to have some sort of industry regulations in place, I’m not sure they got it right on the first go-around.