Governor Jerry Brown signed three bills on Friday that mark the state's first move towards regulating the medical marijuana industry.
In signing AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643, the governor marked the establishing of "a long-overdue comprehensive regulatory framework for the production, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana," Brown said in his statement on what is being called Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
"This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," said Brown. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice." Although Prop. 215, which voters passed in 1996, legalized cannabis for patients in the state, federal laws do not recognize medical marijuana laws in individual states. Next year's state ballot will also likely see at least one measure to legalize recreational use.
Although bills are thought of as imperfect, the pot industry seems to be in agreement that state regulation is a step towards legitimization. "This is going to allow the industry to come out of the shadows and into the light," said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, according to SFGate.
The laws will create a regulatory structure for the industry, including taxing and licensing, and are scheduled to go into effect in 2018.
AB243 allows the nine regional water quality boards to environmentally regulate pot cultivation in the state. "Unregulated marijuana cultivation poses one of the greatest threats to fish and wildlife in our state," the governor wrote in a separate statement on the bill. "AB 243 sets California on a new path for responsible marijuana cultivation," and he added that the Natural Resources Agency is already laying the groundwork for ecosystem restoration.
AB266 establishes the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will oversee licensing for growers, sellers, and manufacturers. SB643 establishes further regulations and also will crack down on clinics that prescribed pot to patients without a valid need.