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Friday, September 25, 2015

The New and Emerging Legal Framework for the Regulation of Medical and Recreational Marijuana in the State of California

At the end of the 2015 session, in fact in its final hours, California legislators passed a number of bills to clarify the terms of the nearly twenty year old Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, and regulate medical marijuana in the State. AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643 are on their way to Governor Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign them. The new regulatory framework has real problems and reasonable critics, but it represents an advance -- and is all the more significant in light of the proposed ballot initiatives to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana use by adults, more or less like alcohol has been since the end of its Prohibition, as well as to provide protections against discrimination for those who enjoy the therapeutic and recreational uses of marijuana.

Coinciding with the passage of the new regulatory framework, California's Attorney General Kamala Harris has prepared the following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure, Initiative 15-0039
The clarity and forcefulness of the wording seem to me strongly to suggest support of such an initiative at this time. The language -- and some further analysis -- is available at the California MCLR (The Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act) 2016 website:

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Legalizes marijuana under state law. Creates commission to regulate and license marijuana industry. Applies general retail sales taxes to marijuana, unless medical or dietary exemptions apply. Permits excise taxes on certain marijuana sales, up to 15% of retail price, and storage, up to 10% of wholesale price. Prohibits discrimination based on marijuana use. Bars marijuana testing for job applicants and employees, or penalizing employees for off-duty use, unless they are in safety-sensitive occupations. Permits local regulation of marijuana businesses, including ban or cap with voter approval. Exempts medical marijuana collectives from licensing and local zoning. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Net additional state and local tax revenues of potentially up to several hundred million dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, most of which would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as education, public safety, and drug abuse education and treatment.

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