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What’s In California’s New Medical Marijuana Regulations?

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California lawmakers on Friday finally approved legislation to regulate the state’s medical cannabis industry, 19 years after the Golden State became the first in the nation to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

In the days leading up to Friday’s midnight deadline for the 2015 legislative session, word spread that top lawmakers from both chambers and the governor’s office had reached a deal on a package of bills, but the actual language of the proposals was kept under wraps until the very last minute.

Now that the bills have been released, approved and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature, we can report the details. Here’s what the legislation will do once it is enacted:

* Creates a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation under the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs, which will regulate the industry and issue transportation and distribution licenses.

* Mandates testing and labeling of medical cannabis products for potency, molds and pesticides, which will be regulated by the California Department of Public Health.

* Gives the California Department of Food and Agriculture authority to regulate marijuana cultivation, including enforcing rules governing water usage and pesticides.

* Requires dispensaries to have both state and local licenses, meaning that cities that wish to ban storefronts can continue to do so.

* Restricts the ability of people with past felony convictions to get marijuana business licenses.

* Allows marijuana businesses to operate as for-profit entities instead of nonprofits, which was previously mandated under guidelines from the state attorney generals’ office.

And more. For full details, read the bills themselves here: AB 243, AB 266, AB 643.

While some advocates raised concerns with certain provisions of the legislation, the move by the state to finally bestow official legality through regulation and licensing was welcomed by many.

“I think it’s fair to say most players in the cannabis industry understand the need for regulation and are glad California has started the process,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “That said, we believe parts of the bills need fixing. We are planning on follow up legislation and using the rulemaking process to address these issues. But the majority of our members agree: even overly strict regulation is better than no regulation at all.”

Tim Schick, executive director of the Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the state, added, “The establishment of this comprehensive regulatory framework will benefit the patients, the environment, the economy, and all Californians for years to come. We are committed to advocating for the interests of our members as we continue to be actively engaged in the rulemaking process.”

The licensing rules are not expected to fully take effect until 2018. In the meantime, marijuana law reform advocates are gearing up to campaign for an initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use that is expected to appear on next November’s ballot.

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