Medical Marijuana

By Jessica Calefati
Posted: 10/09/2015 – 03:19:56 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO — Nearly two decades after Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a package of bills into law that will regulate the industry for the first time.

Members of Brown’s administration worked with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session to craft the rules, so his endorsement of the three measures — Senate Bill 643 and Assembly Bills 243 and 266 — was widely anticipated.

Starting in 2018, medical cannabis dispensaries will need to obtain licenses from a new state agency called the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, a division of the state Department of Consumer Affairs.

The legislation also aims to track the cultivation and distribution of marijuana sold in those shops, rooting out farmers whose plants harm the environment and doctors who stand to gain financially by over-prescribing the drug.

Calling the regulations “long overdue,” Brown wrote in a signing message that he will instruct state agencies to begin crafting guidelines on the new rules for local governments, law enforcement, businesses, patients and health providers right away.

“This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system,” Brown said. “This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper but in practice.”

California was the first state in the nation to permit medical marijuana, but the Compassionate Use Act voters approved in 1996 offered little guidance about how sick patients should obtain prescriptions and what the state should do to keep the drug off the streets.

This void led to an explosion of medical marijuana collectives that lack uniform health and safety standards and a patchwork of local rules and ordinances that will remain in effect once the new statewide regulations take effect.

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