If you are anticipating the outcome of Proposition 64 on the state’s marijuana rules, then we have news for you: Gov. Jerry Brown wants to resolve the legal conflict between recreational and medical cannabis in California, and he wants it sorted out before year-end. His office released a 92-page document recently, which suggests regulatory fixes for both industry segments.
In this document, the governor lays out several proposals on everything, from how to distribute cannabis across the state to how many marijuana licenses businesses may have. Included in Brown’s budget for the year, these proposals must first pass through Legislature before Brown’s final approval can make them law.
What does this mean for recreational and medical cannabis in California?
Ordinary citizens are breathing a collective sigh of relief and enjoying an early celebration. If Brown’s proposals become effective, people will have the ability to trade competitively. The governor is siding with recreational marijuana rules approved by voters instead of medical cannabis laws crafted by legislators. In his attempt to reconcile the two industries, Brown is recognizing the will of the people.
What is the conflict about?
In 2015, Brown signed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act into law. It consisted of three bills mandating comprehensive, anti-competitive regulations on medical weed. Prior to this, Californians using marijuana medicinally had a lot more freedom of choice after voting for Proposition 215 back in 1996. This Act changed all that.
Under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, all marijuana businesses had to get licenses. Furthermore, every bud grown needed to pass stringent tests. It also regulated the use of pesticides, and it demanded that the laws needed to force compliance of these regulations be in place by January 1, 2018. Naturally, these rules made it easier for companies to start taking over industry.
In fact, the creation of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation was a direct result of those bills. It led to California’s first “pot czar.” It gave Lori Ajax, former regulator of the alcohol industry, full authority to supervise the drafting of specific industry regulations, tasking one person with the job of finding ways to force compliance on an entire state of concerned and oft unwilling people.
What role does Proposition 64 play?
Then, Californians decided to legalize recreational marijuana. They voted for Proposition 64 in 2016. Under this, the state had until January 1, 2018 to formulate regulations for recreational use, as well, toughening Ajax’s job even further. Proposition 64 mimics the state’s medical marijuana rules, so there are already similarities between the systems. However, there are noticeable differences too.
The battle over these distinctions has been raging with fervor ever since. Longtime cannabis growers are at loggerheads with big unions. Wealthy entrepreneurs are fighting with small business owners for control of the industry. Without political and financial backing, the market was becoming hostile to the very people who fought so hard for legalization.
What new marijuana rules is Gov. Jerry Brown proposing?
Brown’s trailer bill proposal suggests limiting how many larger farms will be able to operate, strengthening environmental protections, clarifying recreational and medical marijuana delivery services in California, and enabling vertical integration of the two industry segments. The proposal still requires some clarification and improvement, along with many future changes to current marijuana rules:
California’s medical marijuana laws limit how many medium-sized farms may operate within the state. This is not the case with Proposition 64, which has no restrictions on the number of medium to large farms allowed. Brown recommends sticking with medical cannabis policy on this, stating that it will help prevent illegal cultivation and out-of-state distribution.
In the medical cannabis industry, one person can have two differing licenses. For example, they can have one license to grow and another to sell. Under Proposition 64, there are no restrictions on licensing. Big businesses can get as many licenses as they need to control all aspects of production. Here, Brown favors Proposition. 64. Restrictions stifle business and provisions already exist to prevent monopolies.
Under medical marijuana rules, growers and manufacturers may not sell to retailers. They must have an independent distributor to get their products to patients, similar to alcohol laws. Proposition 64 allows cultivators to deliver products personally, as they have always done. Proposition 64 wins this one, as it enables market entry for businesses, encourages compliance with state law, and promotes innovation.
Medical Marijuana Card Limits
The legality of medical patients to use cannabis depends on whether or not they have Medical Marijuana Cards. Brown proposes getting rid of this requirement. Instead of state-issued I.D. cards, he suggests counties issue them. Furthermore, he gives patients a choice: They can purchase directly from dispensaries or order a medical marijuana delivery service in California with a doctor’s letter or a card.
While Brown’s budget proposal goes through the legislative process of approval, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation continues drafting bills to regulate both segments of the industry. Fortunately, Brown’s proposal provides them with new direction. We can expect to see a draft of updated medical cannabis rules later this month. Regulations for recreational marijuana are only due this fall.