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California Cities Given Leeway to Crafting Medical Marijuana Laws

New legislation that would create California’s first comprehensive attempt to regulate the medical marijuana industry would give California cities considerable leeway to regulate the sales and cultivation of marijuana.

Local governments could even enact outright bans on dispensaries and cultivation sites.  “I’m appalled to hear the word ‘ban’ all over again,” medical marijuana supporter Larry King said. King was a member of the Long Beach’s medical marijuana committee.

Lawyers in Long Beach had roughly one week to examine a trio of bills that passed before the state’s Sept. 11 deadline on new laws ran out.

“The MMRSA (Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act) makes clear that local public entities retain their current right to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and related medical marijuana activities within their respective jurisdictions,” Long Beach assistant city attorney Michael Mais wrote in an analysis released Friday afternoon.

“The MMRSA also makes clear that cities are fully empowered to adopt regulatory ordinances related to medical marijuana.”

Long Beach officials have spent much of the past year attempting to write a medical marijuana law for the city. Dispensaries are generally banned within city limits.

The term Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act refers to three bills — A.B. 243A.B. 266 and S.B. 643 — drafted through what’s known in government lingo as the “gut and amend” process. That means lawmakers substantially rewrote existing bills at a late point in the legislative calendar.

Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign the bills, but was involved in the negotiations to write the legislation.

Key provisions of the bills include the establishment of a statewide Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation and a licensing system for people involved in the medical marijuana industry. The legislation also calls for state officials to draft regulations on such matters as the lab testing of cannabis products and use of pesticides by marijuana cultivators.

The city attorney’s office analysis notes the new legislation would regulate testing at the state, instead of the local level, but would otherwise allow cities like Long Beach to establish zoning rules in which many proposed restrictions would be allowed.

The analysis also holds that cities would have power to levy marijuana-related taxes under the new bills.

In April 2014, 74 percent of Long Beach voters passed Measure A, which would allow City Hall to tax dispensaries. First, however, the city would actually have to allow dispensaries to collect any such taxes.

 

 

 

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