California legislators failed to pass a bill regulating the state’s medical marijuana industry last week, leaving things the limbo they’ve pretty much been in since then 1990s with no state oversight into the industry.
The General Assembly had debated a bill introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano from San Francisco that would have given state the ability to regulate the industry through the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The bill failed on a 35-37 vote, with a handful of central- and southern-California Democrats voting no on the bill and killing it, mostly due to details in the bill that they argue need to be discussed more. Several activists point out that southern California cities like L.A. are the ones who are basically begging for state regulations in the first place.
The bill had already gained the support in the Senate, where its companion bill was approved May 21. Ammiano’s bill would have offered protections to anyone facing state criminal charges so long as they were legally operating a dispensary and following state laws.
Ammiano says he was disappointed at the bill’s failure, and urged lawmakers to continue work towards a solution.
“I believe that a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement will help cities see they can authorize dispensaries,” Ammiano said in a statement. “Not only will the division’s oversight ensure there is no increase in crime, more cities will begin to recognize the economic benefits that others have already seen.”
As it stands now, cities and municipalities are left to manage the hundreds of dispensaries in the state, with some outright banning the shops while others have written comprehensive rules for dispensaries and cooperatives. As Toke of the Town reporter Jack Daniel pointed out in March, that has left a lot of room for gray areas in the law to be exploited and for federal agents to intervene.
The California Narcotics Officers’ Association and the California Police Chiefs Association both opposed the bills, saying that they would only expand the federally illegal marijuana trade in California.
Not everyone opposed to the bill was against medical marijuana, though. Some argued that a division that controls alcohol has no business controlling a natural, safe herb according to the Huffington Post.
The bill was the last chance for the 2013 regular session, which ends tomorrow.