There are now rumblings in Sacramento about how the state might start regulating the largely unregulated medical marijuana industry, and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has an idea: Let the ABC do it.
The state's Alcohol and Beverage Control agency isn't exactly equipped to start regulating the rather chaotic, and increasingly huge, medical cannabis industry statewide a spokesman for the agency has already declined to comment and said they don't yet have a position on Ammiano's proposal but Ammiano's pushing forward with his bill, AB 473, nevertheless.
Quite ambitiously, Ammiano's proposal would call on the ABC to police "the entire supply chain ... [and] work to eliminate criminal involvement in the industry," as well as "provide a comprehensive state regulatory structure for medical cannabis cultivation, processing, testing, and distribution." That's quite a lot to ask of an agency with just a few employees in each local jurisdiction, which mostly relies on local police for help, and which already has its hands full doing ridiculous things like dinging bars for making their own infused vodka.
"California has been in chaos for way too long. Cities have been looking for state guidance, dispensaries feel at the mercy of changing rules and patients who need medical cannabis are uncertain about how their legitimate medical needs will be filled. This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe. We will get it into the right hands and keep it out of the wrong hands."
There is, of course, a vast illegal marijuana industry outside of the realm of medical marijuana, but that won't be confused with the merely chaotic legal end of the industry. Ammiano has enlisted a consultant, Matt Cook, who helped establish a similar regulatory mechanism in Colorado that's been functioning for three years. Cook says, "With this kind of mechanism, you can ensure that only those who are authorized through state law are able to get [cannabis]." We're not so sure about that.
Sources in the industry say that Ammiano is only trying to get ahead of the game with this proposal, because a parallel effort that's happening in the State Senate via Mark Leno, possibly with the aid of Willie Brown and not involving the ABC. That is, as of now, unconfirmed, but we've reached out to Leno's office for comment.
Update: Mark Leno has replied with this statement: "As an ardent advocate for safe and affordable access for medical cannabis patients, I look forward to working with key stakeholders this year on legislation that could bring more stability for dispensaries and patients statewide. I applaud Assemblymember Ammiano for bringing forward a thoughtful proposal and am happy to work with him and others throughout the legislative process."