The California State Democratic Party has adopted marijuana legalization into their official party platform. On a unanimous vote, the state Democrats “support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom noted how California led the way on medical marijuana in 1996, but has fallen behind Washington and Colorado on marijuana legalization. “This is not a debate about stoners,” said Newsom. “You can be pro-regulation without being an advocate for drug use.” The United Food & Commercial Workers, which represents over 1,000 medical marijuana workers, lobbied the Democrats for the inclusion. UFCW’s Executive Director for the Western States Council explained, “This industry is here,” so it is now time to “legalize it and regulate it.” While the Marijuana Control Regulation & Legalization Act technically has until next month to submit signatures for the ballot, it looks like legalization will not be voted on by Californians until 2016 at the earliest.
Washington State’s Senate has passed a bill to reconcile medical marijuana with the state’s new recreational marijuana system. SB5887 will re-define medical possession limits from 24 ounces of usable marijuana to 21 grams of concentrate, 3 ounces of usable marijuana, 3 pounds of medibles, and 6.75 quarts of tincture; however, a doctor may recommend greater limits if a patient requires. Patients will be allowed to cultivate 3 mature and 3 immature plants, but again, a doctor can recommend an amount up to 15 plants. Collective gardens would be downsized from 10 patients and 45 plants to 4 patients and their combined limit. For the first time, a mandatory patient registry will be established to protect patients from arrest. The registry contains the tightest privacy controls of any medical marijuana state. Patients would still be allowed to shop the current loophole dispensaries until September of 2015 and will be exempt from all retail taxes (but still will face the grower and processor taxes included in the price).
Fearing the growing popularity of legalization, police groups in California have finally proposed legislation to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. Sen. Lou Correa has introduced SB1262, supported by the California Police Chiefs Association and the League of California Cities, two groups that have previously opposed any efforts to regulate medical marijuana. “[O]ver 90 percent of the chiefs felt that, regardless of how you felt about the marijuana issue itself, there needed to be a responsible public safety approach to this,” said the president of the chiefs association, Covina Police Chief Kim Raney. Now the groups fear if they don’t advance a proposal more to their liking, advocates will succeed in passing something they don’t like. “We thought it was unwise to purely play defense,” said League of California Cities lobbyist Tim Cromartie, “We thought we needed to play offense.” SB1262 would require dispensaries to have local licenses and create stricter controls on how doctors can recommend medical marijuana.
Testing of medical marijuana infused edibles in Colorado by the Denver Post has revealed wildly inaccurate and variable dosages of product. Steep Hill Halent, a state-licensed lab, found products listed at 100mg of THC per serving to have levels as high as 160mg and as low as 17mg for the majority of products tested. One manufacturer, Dr. J’s, was found to have next to no THC in their products, with readings of 0.2mg, 0.3mg, 0.5mg, and 5mg on four different products. A spokesman suggested it may have been “a bad batch” but with the two less-than-half-mg products purchased two months, 40 miles, and 282 batches apart from each other, that seems unlikely. Numerous dispensaries have dropped Dr. J’s products, including BotanaCare, which fielded over 450 complaints about lack of effect, and the Marijuana Enforcement Division is investigating.
Medical marijuana enrollment in Colorado has become stagnant since legalization of recreational marijuana. The state data shows 111,030 medical marijuana patients registered as of January 2013. In November of 2012, there were 106,763 “red card” holders. Since 2009, the lowest number of patients was just under 6,000 and the greatest just over 128,000. Enrollment increased 950% in 2009, 124% in 2010, and 28% in 2012, while growth in 2013 was just over 2%. Mason Tvert, the campaign manager of Colorado’s legalization, doesn’t believe Amendment 64 has impacted patient registrations, saying, “I don’t think there is any data available right now that could accurately demonstrate the direction in which things are going to happen.”