Tulare County Supervisors oppose state bill to regulate medical marijuana

September 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new state bill could be passed into law allowing the creation of a state agency to regulate medical marijuana.

The new law would mean collectives would have to register with the new state agency as a medical marijuana distributor, and local and state entities would gain tax revenues from their profits.

The last-minute amendment to assembly bill 604, now known as SB 611, came as surprise to local officials.

"That they would gut and amend a bill that was supposed to be of something completely off topic and make it about marijuana," Tulare County Supervisors Chairman Pete Vander Poel said.

Vander Poel and his fellow supervisors all oppose the new law, which they say would not only make it easier for people to have access to marijuana, but reduce their local control.

Tulare county has passed numerous ordinances, amendments and policies to help law enforcement and code enforcement stop the illegal use of medical marijuana and reduce crime related to illegal grows.

"It would completely mean that all that we have done up until now would be for naught," Vander Poel said.

State legislators who helped author the bill declined to comment, but the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the legislation, says the bill specifically states that it would not take away local control.

"If a locality wants to ban completely any medical marijuana activity it can do that. It can regulate it any way it sees fit," Tamar Todd, with Drug Policy Alliance said.

Todd says that the law would provide more state regulation, which many have asked for. The new bill would create a state agency under the alcohol and beverage control-- that collectives would have to register with. Also state and local municipalities would be able to garner taxes from the medical marijuana "distributors."

"It gets rid of the hodge podgy around the state because of a number of statewide collaborative and collectives, and it establishes a statewide system of controlled production and distribution of marijuana," Todd said.

Still, many in Tulare County are wary that this new bill would make it easier for those trying to smoke pot, and harder for the local people trying to control it.

"It basically opens up the doors, it broadens the definition," Vander Poel said.

The bill also promises stricter regulations by doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients, plus a system for law enforcement to track violators of the law. The bill still has to go before one more committee and then it will be voted on by the assembly.


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