California Legislature Passes 3 New Medical Marijuana Bills (UPDATED)

UPDATE: On October 9, Governor Jerry Brown signed all three bills into law.

Major medical marijuana legislation, Assembly Bills 266 and 243, as well as Senate Bill 643, all passed both the Senate and Assembly before midnight last Friday, September 11, 2015. All three would substantially amend the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (CUA), a voter initiative measure (Proposition 215) enacted in 1996, which authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But because these bills, which will shortly be on the governor’s desk, repeal and amend the CUA, the American Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA) this week alleged that the bills violate the California constitution and announced that the AMMA will file a lawsuit to enjoin the violation of Proposition 215 by the California Legislature and Governor Brown.

Assembly Bill 266 (if signed by the governor) would enact the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) for the licensure and regulation of medical marijuana and would establish within the Department of Consumer Affairs the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR). This bill would also require the Board of Equalization to adopt a system for reporting the movement of commercial cannabis and cannabis products. Under Proposition 215, persons with identification cards, who associate within California collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, are not ordinarily subject to specified state criminal sanctions. Assembly Bill 266 would change that structure by requiring these persons to be individually licensed and subject to local permitting ordinances.

Assembly Bill 243 would require various state agencies to take action to mitigate impacts that marijuana cultivation has on the environment. By requiring cities, counties, and their local law enforcement agencies to coordinate with state agencies to enforce laws addressing such impacts, and by including medical marijuana within the Sherman Act, the bill would also impose a state-mandated local program.

The primary thrust of Senate Bill 643 would be to establish standards for a physician and surgeon prescribing medical cannabis and to authorize the Medical Board of California to investigate and prosecute physicians and surgeons who have repeatedly recommended excessive cannabis to patients for medical purposes without a good faith examination. The bill would require the BMMR to require license applicants to furnish a full set of fingerprints for the purposes of conducting criminal history record checks. The bill would prohibit a physician and surgeon who recommends cannabis to a patient for a medical purpose from accepting, soliciting, or offering any form of remuneration from a facility licensed under the MMRSA.

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