The Marijuana Forecast: What California Has In Store For OC

Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the historic Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) that created guidelines to regulate the growing and selling of cannabis in California. But the signing of the MMRSA sent numerous OC city officials into a frenzy, as the legislation included Assembly Bill 21 (AB-21), a March 1st deadline that gave cities and counties the option to regulate or prohibit marijuana activity within their jurisdictions.

If city ordinances weren’t put into affect by the first of March, officials feared, the state’s marijuana laws would be the governing set of marijuana rules, regardless of prior regulations. As a result, many (most) local governments scrambled to shut down and ban storefronts and delivery services, ultimately making OC a marijuana ghost town. (Well, almost.)

As of Last Wednesday, however, AB-21 was officially amended. According to the California Legislative Information, the revised bill “deletes the provision that grants the [state] the sole licensing authority…[and] does not limit or prevent a city and/or county from exercising its police power authority under a specified provision of the California Constitution.”  In other words, the dreaded March first deadline is no longer in affect, meaning weed ordinances in OC will still be governed by city officials, rather than the state. 

Another portion of the MMRSA set for some serious revisions is AB-1575. This bill revises a total of 21 regulations, making it the measure that needs the most attention and why it’s still under intense analyzation. One of the requirements AB-1575 is trying to make an essential part of business is laboratory testing on marijuana. The unamended version of the act states that testing can happen while the marijuana is at the flower stage of the growing process, which is before it’s ready for consumption. According to the California Legislative Information, the revised bill will instead “require that the testing happen when the marijuana is in its final form…the form in which patients will consume.” It must then be approved by the accrediting body, or state.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the idea behind marijuana testing is to maintain consistency in the assessment of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC— the psychoactive component of weed) Cannabidiol (CBD— the non-psychoactive compound of pot that is said to have significant medical benefits) and Cannabinol (CBN—the component of marijuana that helps you sleep) for proper labeling; as well as to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides, and understand what molds and contaminants marijuana is susceptible to.  The testing benefits cannabis consumers by allowing for a better understanding, and thus relationship with marijuana and its products. 

Another interesting modification of AB-1575 that could affect University California students (we’re looking at you UC Irvine!) if amended as planned, is the creation of a California Marijuana Research Program. According to the bill, the purpose of the program is to “develop and conduct studies intended to ascertain the general medical safety and efficacy of marijuana.”

The restructuring of this portion of the bill will state that with the issuance of a MMJ research permit it’s “not a violation of state law or any local ordinance or regulation for a…research institution engaged in the research of medical marijuana, its products, or devices used for the medical use of marijuana to possess, transport, purchase, or otherwise obtain small amounts of medical marijuana [in order] to conduct research on medical marijuana.” By amending this bill, it creates the potential for new jobs and fields of study for college students, ultimately allowing for a better relationship to develop with marijuana, as well.

The last major marijuana legislation appeal that’s worth mentioning is actually not to the MMRSA. Instead it’s to SB-987 of the Marijuana Value Tax Act, which was introduced February 10, 2016 and was assigned to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee this last Wednesday. Although it’s still in the process of being worked out, it will directly affect all cannabis patients, as it enforces a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana that will be imposed on all purchasers at the retail level. If passed, the new tax will be in addition to the standard state sales tax, as well as any local tax already applied to medicinal marijuana. According to NORML, “SB 987 imposes an unnecessary and unfair burden on medical cannabis patients… There should be no taxation without legalization.”

Both NORML and the ASA are actively opposing the bill. “At this time when providers already face burdensome new costs under the MMRSA, it is unwise and unfair to impose any new state tax on medical marijuana,” says Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML. “It is unjust in principle.” 

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