Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Changes Keep Coming for Medical Marijuana in California

Updated 2/4/16:  Governor Brown has signed AB-21 into law.  It takes effect immediately.

Change is the only constant when it comes to medical marijuana in California. I've previous written about the Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act, which will completely upend the way we regulate medical weed here in the Golden State.  Those posts are available here and here.

It seems that our legislature loves to keep us on our toes, though.  Amendments to the proposed rules are coming faster than anyone can keep track.  Before we've had a chance to wrap our head around the latest package of new regulations, the State Assembly calls an audible and changes the play at the line of scrimmage.  "Omaha! Omaha!"

The latest game-changer is AB-21.  That bill has been approved by the Assembly and the State Senate.  Now it awaits the governor's signature.

Under the MMRSA as originally written, local cities and counties would be allowed to create their own land use regulations regarding cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana IF (and only if) they had comprehensive regulatory schemes in place before March 1, 2016. If the local municipality had no land use regulations for medical marijuana by that date, then the state would be responsible for determining how and where dispensaries could operate.

Many cities were eager to maintain local control over medical marijuana, so they scrambled to impose blanket bans on any marijuana-related activities.  Most observers (including myself) expected cities to reexamine their bans some time after March 1. We understood that they didn't intend to permanently prohibit medical marijuana, but they were forced to adopt sweeping bans as "place holders", to preserve local zoning authority.  This rush to ban marijuana-related activity was an unintended consequence of our great experiment to better regulate medical cannabis.

AB-21 is the legislature's latest attempt to save the MMRSA before it even takes effect.  If signed by Governor Brown, AB-21 will delete the March 1 deadline for cities to adopt land use rules for medical marijuana.  Municipalities will instead by allowed to adopt their own zoning rules at any time.  By deleting that deadline from the MMRSA, AB-21 will remove the urgency that cities had been facing to adopt harsh, "emergency" anti-pot laws.

In the time it's taken me to write this, the legislature has probably passed another set of confusing amendments to the Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act. Stay tuned to see how this all plays out.

If you or a loved one has questions about starting a medical marijuana dispensary in Southern California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 505-2468. Ask for John. Thanks for reading.

Santa Ana Marijuana Lawyer