A Blue Ribbon Commission with a mission to create a policy framework for the eventual (inevitable) legalization of marijuana in California has just released a new "Pathways Report." The report gets specific for the first time about how the state should regulate marijuana production, marketing, and sales when the drug becomes legal, laying out concerns that have arisen in other states and that are unique to California, the nation's most populous and arguably most diverse state. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom helped lead the effort, and he tells the LA Times that the process of creating this latest report has made him "more cautious as a parent, [and] more cautious as a policymaker" when it comes to marijuana, adding, "We don’t want this to be the next Gold Rush."
Newsom was part of a three-person steering committee leading the commission's efforts, which included expert panel discussions throughout the state. Other steering committee members were Stanford Professor Keith Humphreys, and ACLU of Northern California Executive Director Abdi Soltani.
The report attempts to broadly approach topics of public safety, public health, children's safety, environmental protection, taxation, medical access, consumer protection, and market access for the state as a whole.
Interestingly, and as has been hinted at before, the likely model for regulating the legal industry itself will be via alcohol controls and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano recommended two years ago that the California Alcohol and Beverage Control agency (ABC) take responsibility for marijuana regulation.
The new report suggests the beer industry, and the way California regulates breweries, is a good licensing model for legal pot, and one that "recognizes both function and size, with
production caps for smaller entities, strict rules for retail sales, and a separate and distinct function for distributors."
Furthermore, there will be challenges with road safety we still lack an effective roadside test for marijuana intoxication, and marijuana breathalyzer technology, if it's even possible, remains in its infancy. But the report discusses how law enforcement is already familiar with various types of driving under the influence of various drugs, and has procedures for pulling over and questioning drivers.
The legalization process, of course, will be incredibly complicated for California assuming that a legalization measure passes in 2016, and likely will raise a lot more issues and questions to resolve than have come up already in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado given how much bigger and diverse racially, ethnically, and economically California is. Another big concern: Pot growers and distributors using the new legal market as a cover for illegal activity, especially selling over state lines, which will be a central concern for federal authorities.
Says Newsom, "We’re not arguing for a free market. We’re arguing for a very regulated market that has real oversight, that is flexible."