SACRAMENTO, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A California assemblyman says he wants to propose a bill creating a state oversight program regulating all aspects of the medical marijuana industry.
Democrat Tom Ammiano of San Francisco said he intends to offer an "omnibus cannabis bill" regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and all aspects of delivering the product to legal medicinal users.
Under current California law, the dispensaries must run as non-profit "collectives" of registered medical marijuana patients who reimburse the establishments for their cost of supplying pot.
But as The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday, California's medical marijuana industry provides the state's lagging economy with about $1.3 billion in transactions, paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, rent and overhead costs.
Ammiano said because attitudes toward the medical marijuana industry vary in California from city to city, the Legislature needs to clarify the rules. The dispensaries are welcomed in some places and raided in others.
"You can't just go in with guns and arrest people," said Lauren Vasquez, Silicon Valley director for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group.
"In the context of suspicion by law enforcement, I think we need a cohesive response," Ammiano said.
Sacramento attorney George Mull, who represents medical marijuana dispensaries in several California cities, argues the state should sanction a for-profit medical marijuana industry, saying that model could drive prices down and end confusion that triggers police raids.
But Cindy Besemer, chief deputy district attorney in Sacramento County, said a for-profit distribution program is unlikely to be embraced by law enforcement.
"I certainly would say we don't believe in retail sales," she said. "That's drug dealing. I don't care how it comes down to it. That's what it is."
Feb. 13, 2011
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