folder Filed in Policy
Medical Marijuana Regulatory and Safety Act
Peter Cervieri
Moderator: Nate Bradley, California Cannabis Industry Association
Speakers: Assembly Members Reggie Jones Sawyer, Sr, Ken Cooley and Jim Wood

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), a package of laws that — at long last — attempt to get a handle on how the state’s biggest cash crop is grown, processed, and sold.

According to Chris Roberts of SF Weekly,

Every step of the supply chain will, by 2018, be overseen by a new Sacramento office called the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. Run by a “weed czar” appointed by the governor, the BMMR will issue state licenses to commercial cannabis businesses, which will also need to be licensed and approved by local authorities at the city or county level.

The rules were a long time coming, arriving almost 20 years after voters legalized medical marijuana with Prop. 215 in 1996, and 12 years after the Legislature last acted on the issue with 2003’s SB 420. It will be some time yet before real change is felt, as existing businesses have until 2018 to secure state licenses — but what can industry insiders and consumers expect?

Jessica Calefati of the Bay Area News Group provides a summary of the three bills that were signed into legislation,

AB 266, known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, establishes the state medical marijuana bureau and gives it sole authority to issue, suspend or revoke licenses for the transportation, distribution and sale of the drug.

Rules for cultivating medical cannabis are spelled out in AB 243, authored by Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg. It requires marijuana farmers to obtain licenses through the state Department of Food and Agriculture, and gives the state the power to fine any grower that harms a river, stream or lake.

Finally, SB 643, authored by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, requires the Medical Board of California to investigate doctors who recommend the drug excessively and makes it a misdemeanor for doctors to prescribe the drug when they have a financial stake in a licensed medical marijuana facility.

The bills were a long time coming. In the above video, three of the principal architects talk about how the sausage was made.

The process was collaborative, and bipartisan. There was, for example, a 62 – 8 vote in favor of AB 266, which implies that many republicans voted for the bill as well. Given the many stakeholders who will be affected, from patients, to growers, dispensaries and business people, the authors acknowledge that not everyone will be happy from the start. But they want to remind people that this legislation creates a beachhead for progress on cannabis issues, towards legitimacy. And there will be much fine tuning in the months ahead, as well as more bills and clean up legislation in the future.

The Assembly members predict, for example, banking regulations to be prioritized in the near future.

Their goal was to build momentum through incremental progress, rather than trying to include everything that was on their (and stakeholders) wish list and risk potentially losing everything and having to start over again.

The governor asked that some of the specificity within the original drafts of the bills be removed to allow for greater interpretation by the regulators. Pushing the specifics to the regulators allows for quicker tweaks based on practical application of the bills. Had the bills been overly specific, it would be much more difficult to update specific language because any changes would have to go through the same legislative process.

I spoke to Assembly member Jim Wood on the day the Governor signed the bills into law. He provided some bullet points for each bill.

AB243 (Jim Wood, whose district includes Humboldt County)

  • Funding for new Cannabis Bureau within Department of Consumer Affairs for startup costs ($10 million loan from general fund, which includes money that will go straight to district for clean-up)
  • Authority for all licensing entities to assess fees to cover licensing and administrative costs
  • Creation of Fines and Penalties Account: Money collected from fines and penalties assessed on non-compliant actors would be used to pay for environmental clean-up and used to pay for local and state law enforcement
  • Create regulatory scheme for cannabis growers to be licensed under the Department of Food and Agriculture (mirrored with SB643)
  • Cannabis will now be designated as an Agricultural product under the Department of Food and Agriculture, which requires cannabis growers to follow all agricultural laws that other agricultural products must adhere to (specific to AB243)
  • Requirement for cannabis cultivation to follow all existing environmental laws
  • Creation of Statewide Unique Identification program for cannabis
  • Establishment of Watershed Enforcement Team (WET) program in statute, which makes Fish and Wildlife & State Water Board pilot program a permanent and statewide program. The WET pilot program was established through the budget action two years ago to combat illicit cannabis growers (big win for district)
  • Requirement for Regional Water Boards to establish waste water discharge permits (or something similar) specific to cannabis cultivation
  • Expanded fee authority to Department of Fish and Wildlife to assess necessary fees to better fund enforcement efforts.

AB266 (Bonta, Cooley, RJS, Lackey)

  • Defines all Definitions
  • Establishes new Cannabis Bureau within Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Local Control and Enforcement
  • (State) Licensing Requirements
    • Directs Department of Consumer Affairs to promulgate regulations
  • Regulation of Medical Cannabis (Cross licensure / vertical integration)
  • Regulates Licensed Distributors, Dispensaries, Transporters (only defines transporters), and Deliveries
  • Regulates Licensed Manufacturers and Laboratories (Department of Public Health creating regulations, including for edibles)
  • New Bureau w ithin DCA will look at “drugged driving” and establish parameters for (cannabis) DUI driving
  • Cooperative Model – eliminates this model

SB643 (McGuire)

  • Medical Board Regulations
    • New parameters for physicians recommending cannabis
  • Authorizes CA Department of Food and Agriculture to create regulations for medical cannabis
  • Licensed Cultivation Sites (mirrored with AB243)
  • Suitability for a licensee (requirements that an applicant has to adhere to in order to obtain a state license)
  • Uses AB243’s establishment of unique identifiers to implement track and trace program within Food and Agriculture
  • Regulates Licensed Transporters
  • County Tax Authority (clarifies that Counties can impose taxes on cannabis)
  • Defines / Regulates a Cannabis Employee and establishes an Apprenticeship program