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PD Editorial: Finally, some rules for state’s marijuana trade

It took nearly 19 years, but California lawmakers finally acknowledged the obvious: the Wild, Wild West of medical marijuana needs to be tamed.|

It took nearly 19 years, but California lawmakers finally acknowledged the obvious: the Wild, Wild West of medical marijuana needs to be tamed.

On the final day of this year’s regular session, legislators adopted a comprehensive “seed to sale” regulatory and licensing system that should clear a lot of smoke for sick people who rely on marijuana, legitimate suppliers, law enforcement agencies and communities across the state.

Key provisions of the three-bill package include:

Establishing a state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will license growers, distributors and retailers. Local licenses also will required.

Marijuana will be tested for potency, mold and pesticides by the state Department of Public Health. The department also will regulate testing and labeling of edible marijuana products.

The state Food and Agriculture and Pesticide Regulation departments will be responsible for adopting standards for cultivation and ensuring the licensed growers comply with laws governing grading, water usage, agricultural discharge and other farming issues as well as laws protecting waterways and endangered species.

Revenue from fees and fines would help fund environmental mitigation and law enforcement efforts targeting illegal growing operations.

Cities and counties retain the authority to further restrict, and even prohibit, cultivation and sales of marijuana. Local jurisdictions also can impose taxes on marijuana.

Taken together, this package gives legal cover to users and suppliers and offers a measure of clarity for law enforcement, though state and federal law will still conflict. It also gives some hope for protecting public and private land from reckless growers.

This approach will disappoint those who want to undo Proposition 215 and return to the days when marijuana was strictly a black market product.

But that’s no more likely to happen than the price of gasoline dropping to 50 cents a gallon or Willie Mays returning to centerfield for the Giants. Indeed, it’s increasingly likely that California voters will be asked next year to legalize marijuana for recreational use, as Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia already have.

A regulatory framework for medical marijuana is years overdue, but putting one in place now leaves California better prepared for the Mendocino Gold Rush that surely will follow if voters decree that marijuana is more than just medicine.

The authors of the regulatory bills include state Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblyman Jim Wood, both Healdsburg Democrats whose districts are home to much of California’s marijuana-growing industry.

It’s an impressive achievement for two freshmen legislators, and they’re getting plenty of praise as is Gov. Jerry Brown, who helped broker the deal.

But this regulatory package, as impressive as it is, is also another unfortunate example of last-minute legislation, crafted behind closed doors and jammed through before the public could study the details. So if unintended consequences surface, the architects will deserve a share of the criticism just as they deserve the credit for - finally - bringing some supervision to California’s marijuana industry.

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