In the confusion that has come to characterize California’s medical marijuana program, any form of legislation that attempts to regulate the industry is seen by many as a means to bring some order to the chaos. One democratic assembly member in particular, Tom Ammiano from San Francisco, has expressed optimism about the latest of several measures that he has proposed in order to tighten up the multibillion-dollar legal marijuana industry in California.
All of Ammiano’s previous bills had been met by considerable opposition from legalization critics who argued that these proposed laws failed to address key issues surrounding the marijuana industry. Among these supposed issues are the effects that the cultivation of marijuana would have on the environment and the capability of local governments to implement marijuana taxation. With the approval of AB 1894, Ammiano claims these issues have finally been addressed.
Although California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana with the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, the state government has yet to implement standardized regulations for governing the marijuana industry. Much of the responsibility for implementing the somewhat vague marijuana laws has instead been left to the local municipalities, each of which have implemented varying degrees of control over the local marijuana industry.
The haphazard implementation – or non-implementation, as the case may be – of marijuana law has resulted in significant consequences for California. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, states that have neglected to implement standardized regulation of their local cannabis industries are subject to frequent–and severe–federal crackdowns.
In contrast, states that have implemented strict marijuana regulations have remained relatively free of federal action. In Colorado for example, federal authorities have done little to interfere with the local marijuana industry, even though the state had voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults. The state has also experienced much fewer raids from the DEA. This seems to suggest that states that implement clearly-defined regulations for their respective marijuana industries will be subject to much less intervention from the federal government.
The bill proposed by Ammiano effectively created a division solely for the marijuana industry, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. This division is intended to regulate all entities involved in the marijuana industry in California, from growers to dispensary owners. Ammiano’s proposal also aimed to raise tax revenues for the state, with local municipalities given the right to collect additional taxes. Unlike other previously proposed laws however, AB 1894 does not restrict the activities of physicians who prescribe marijuana to their patients.
With the passage of AB 1894, many believe that California is one step closer to full legalization. Although previous proposals to regulate the marijuana industry did little to bring the state closer toward legalization, this latest legal development may just do the trick. If Tom Ammiano and other pro-marijuana legislators have their way, California may soon join Colorado and Washington State in being among the first to have a fully legal marijuana industry.