February 12, 2016
by Susan Soares
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act enacted in 2015 created a regulatory framework for the licensing and enforcement of the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, and distribution of medical marijuana in California.
The Budget includes $5.4 million Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund in 201516 to fund initial regulatory activities. In addition, the Budget includes $12.8 million General Fund, $10.6 million Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund, $1.2 million other special funds, and 126 positions to implement the regulation of medical marijuana in California.
Specific proposals include:
• Department of Consumer Affairs—$1.6 million in 201516 and $3.8 million from the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund and 25 positions in 201617 to create the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Bureau will regulate the transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana within the state and will also be responsible for licensing, investigation, enforcement, and coordination with local governments.
• Department of Public Health—$457,000 in 201516 and $3.4 million from the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund and 14 positions in 201617 to the Department of Public Health for the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana product manufacturers and testing laboratories.
• Department of Food and Agriculture—$3.3 million in 201516 and $3.4 million from the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act Fund and 18 positions in 201617 to the Department of Food and Agriculture to provide Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program administrative oversight, promulgate regulations, issue medical marijuana cultivation licenses, and perform an Environmental Impact Report. In addition, the Department of Food and Agriculture will be responsible, with assistance from the Board of Equalization, to establish a “seed to sale” program to report the movement of medical marijuana products throughout the distribution chain using unique identifiers.
• Department of Pesticide Regulation—$700,000 Pesticide Regulation Fund and 3 positions in 201617 to the Department of Pesticide Regulation to develop guidelines for the use of pesticides in the cultivation of medical marijuana.
• Department of Fish and Wildlife—$7.6 million General Fund and 31 positions in 201617 for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to expand and make permanent the statewide multiagency task force established in 2014 to address environmental impacts of medical marijuana cultivation and work with the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) and Department of Food and Agriculture to regulate water diversions. More to them than enforcement
State Water Resources Control Board—$5.7 million ($5.2 million General Fund and $472,000 Waste Discharge Permit Fund) and 35 positions in 201617 for the Water Boards to develop and implement a regulatory program to address the environmental impacts of medical cannabis cultivation. This program will protect instream flows for fish from water diversions related to marijuana cultivation.
Who is really paying for these taxes that will fund these agencies?
According to a new release by BOE member Fiona Ma in Sept. 2015: “In 2014, California collected $44 million in sales taxes from only 25% of the Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) who have active operations in the state.” That means 75% of dispensaries in California are not finding ways in this all cash business to follow regulations or they are operating Wild West style and need to be reigned in. The governor’s budget needs to reflect the need for taxation and regulation in order to pay for education, enforcement and research.
What are the next steps?
Now that MMRSA has passed there will be stake holder meetings in the Assembly and the Senate regarding the drafting of the administrative code. For every page of MMRSA they are going to have to draft up approximately 5 pages of administrative regulations. We’re looking at several years to get through the process of completing the regulations.
It’s interesting to note that the BOE has been on the forefront with leadership in efforts to tax and regulate particularly Fiona Ma who has advocated for banking reform but yet is left out of this new budget for Medical Marijuana Regulations. I applaud Ma and her team with their cutting edge approaches because they are just as important as the environmental agencies that received an unbalance share of the governor’s budget.
Check out State Officials Disagree On Who Will Track Medical Marijuana Plants
Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.