According to the Marijuana Policy Project, federal law enforcement efforts have been more prevalent in California than in any other part of the country. That is why they were hopeful that a bill introduced by State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano calling for state-level standards for medical marijuana facilities would satisfy and win over the die-hards while also giving clear protections for both patients and doctors. However, it was not to be; AB 1894 was defeated this week.
Some had reservations with the bill because it would have placed oversight for medical marijuana under the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Others prefer more local control with oversight by the Department of Health. There is a California bill still pending that does just that—SB 1262, introduced by State Senator Lou Correa and supported by ASA (Americans for Safe Access). Although more likely to pass with the sponsorship of the California Police Chiefs Association, it still allows local cities and counties to approve or disapprove dispensaries and puts tighter restrictions on doctors. The bill also has the added concern of a full handbag of laws varying from city to city.
However, the appearance of both pieces of legislation show that we have turned the corner. It is no longer “Should we have medical marijuana?” It is “How are we going to regulate it?” Attendees at city council meetings know full well how fearful council members are about being the first on their block to vote for it. Perhaps they would be less reluctant if they had the backing of a police-backed bill.
It is unbelievable that marijuana prohibition has been going on since 1937. But wait! There is a ray of hope. The United States House of Representatives just voted to restrict any DEA funds from being used to target medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal. Even better, the aye vote was 219 to 189. If it continues on to become law, that will offer the breathing room California and its local governments need to finally start to shed the stigma of acknowledging the benefits of that ole “demon weed.”