State legislators announced late last night that they had reached a preliminary agreement on a medical marijuana regulation bill that would establish a framework of guidelines for the industry to operate in California. Senate Bill 643, authored by Senator Mike McGuire of the state’s northern coast district, along with two other State Assembly bills, will have until midnight Friday to be passed before the current senate session expires.
Deemed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, SB 643 was hailed by McGuire as a historic agreement reached by both legislatures and Governor Jerry Brown’s office, which worked jointly on the package of bills that, if passed, will represent “the most comprehensive medical marijuana bills in the nation” according to McGuire.
McGuire, who represents Humboldt County, which has long been known as a mecca of illegal marijuana grow operations in the state, has been behind medical marijuana legislation for nearly two decades. He said that despite still needing approval, the bill is sprinting toward the midnight deadline.
“These regulations are long overdue and I’m thrilled that we were able to work together to find common ground on these historic medical marijuana regulations for our state,” McGuire said in a statement. “While the bills still need formal approval by the legislature before going to the Governor, we are now closer than ever to securing a regulatory framework for this booming medical marijuana industry.”
Just last week, the Long Beach City Council opted to abstain from acting on recommendations made by its medical marijuana task force formed earlier this year. The recommendations would help guide the council on the direction the city would take on the future of the industry in the city. Mayor Robert Garcia pointed to the fast tracking of bills at the state level as reason for pause, noting that the council would wait to see what guidelines the state would pass before possibly amending and adopting them as law.
The council is set to revisit the issue at its September 22 meeting.
The package of bills seeks to regulate every component of the industry, subjecting it to licensing from both state and local governments. It would also establish a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation under the Department of Consumer Affairs, the director of which will be confirmed by the senate. Grants from a mitigation fund to help cities and counties with law enforcement and environmental clean up expenses will also be available.
The impact of the illegal grow operations on the environment was the focus of McGuire’s legislation as he aimed to curtail the effects of pollution from pesticides and fertilizers being dumped in local streams as well as large-scale growers consuming large quantities of water to irrigate their crops.
“The impacts are horrendous and the drought has had an exacerbating effect, especially on the North Coast. Entire rivers are running dry as marijuana grows expand and the fourth year of this historic drought sets in,” McGuire said.
His portion of the bill package focuses on environmental protection and water regulations as well as law enforcement, licensing and public health issues related to edibles among other regulations.
The three bills are scheduled to be amended in the opposite house from which they originated, with new language to be added before potential votes today. Both SB 6433 and the two assembly bills must be passed before they can head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
The governor will have until October 11 to sign the package of bills into law and has the option of chaptering the bills—not formally approving but not vetoing them—in which case they would become law in 30 days.