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California lawmakers OK plan to shift pot shop regulation to state

April 17, 2012 |  1:26 pm

A proposal by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that could make it easier to open medical marijuana shops in California was approved by the Assembly's Public Safety Committee A proposal that could make it easier to open medical marijuana shops in California was approved Tuesday by the Assembly's Public Safety Committee despite objections from cities and law enforcement agencies that it unreasonably ties their hands.

The measure by committee Chairman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would shift the regulation of the industry from local governments, some of which have banned the dispensaries, to a new state Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement that would adopt rules and set fees for medical pot cultivation and sales.

The measure would require that no fewer than one pot dispensary be allowed per 50,000 residents. Ammiano said statewide rules are needed because dispensaries have been harassed by law enforcement in some areas even though they were legalized by California voters more than 15 years ago.

"The worst public policy choice for California is to sit idly by doing nothing and let this failed war on medical cannabis continue unchecked," he said before the committee vote. "The point of regulation is to bring these activities above board to guarantee safe and effective access, with clear rules for those involved in the industry."

The panel voted 4-2, with Republican members opposed, to approve AB 2312, which now goes to another committee before it can reach the Assembly floor. The League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Assn. opposed the bill in part because of concern that it takes control over the clinics away from cities and counties.

"It forecloses the ability of local government to take control over their own destiny," said John Lovell, government relations manager for the police chiefs' group.

Assemblyman Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) voted against the measure, saying it puts local law enforcement at odds with federal law, which still prohibits the sale of marijuana. "This is still an illegal activity," he said.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times

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