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PD Editorial: Making sense of state's law on medical pot

  • (LISA BENSON / Washington Post Writers Group)

A healthy dose of public relations often accompanies public policy discussions, and debates about medicinal marijuana are no exception.

The pharmacy patrons who the Rite Aids and CVSes of the world call “customers” are regularly referred to as “patients” at marijuana dispensaries. And many of these patients dutifully call the pot they purchase “my medicine.”

What with all this healing talk, we figured California's marijuana purveyors would clamor for oversight from the state Department of Public Health.

We figured wrong.

Dispensaries are instead rallying behind legislation that would establish oversight of medical marijuana by the state agency that regulates bars and liquor stores.

Would that make Old Grand Dad medicine?

The folks at the health department certainly would beg to differ.

It's been almost two decades since California voters approved the medicinal use of marijuana, yet such basic matters as oversight aren't resolved.

Proposition 215, the 1996 marijuana initiative, was notoriously vague, and supporters have squabbled with law enforcement, local government and state officials over its scope and its meaning ever since.

All the stakeholders finally appear to agree that state legislation is needed to clear the haze. They just can't settle on the same bill.

One side are the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association, which opposed past efforts to write state rules because they would officially sanction the marijuana industry that's emerged since Proposition 215.

Having apparently accepted that Proposition 215 isn't going away, they are supporting SB 1262, which would license growers and dispensaries through the health department. The bill also would require the department to establish quality assurance standards and prohibit the use of nonorganic pesticides at marijuana cultivation sites.

On the other side are dispensaries and other advocates who prefer AB 604 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. His bill would set up similar licensing and testing schemes, but it does so through the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

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