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Ruling gives new drive to medical marijuana bill

A Bay Area lawmaker says today’s California Supreme Court decision that local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensaries is all the more reason to support his bill to create statewide regulation under the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

AB 473, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was passed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee two weeks ago on a 5-2 vote, and now is pending before the Appropriations Committee. Here’s what Ammiano said today:

Tom Ammiano“As I understand it, the court ruling says Riverside County can, under current state law, prohibit dispensaries. However, it allows a big hole for the legislature to drive through. The court wrote: ‘Of course, nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach. In the meantime, however, we must conclude that Riverside‘s ordinances are not preempted by state law.’

“To me, that sounds like a call for the Legislature to act. I hope to move toward that different approach so we can ensure that patients have access to medical cannabis wherever they live.

“That’s what the voters of California wanted when they passed the Compassionate Use Act.

“In the meantime, my AB 473 can be a kind of friendly persuasion. It provides a way to make localities more open to allowing dispensaries. State regulation should reassure them (and the federal government) that dispensaries can operate safely, legally without threats to the communities where they are located.

“In fact, I think they will see that dispensaries often stabilize and contribute to their communities because of greater attention to security and increased tax revenues.”

Drug-reform groups are on aboard, given today’s court ruling.

“It is time for the state legislature to enact state-wide medical marijuana oversight and regulation that both protects patient access and eases the burden on localities to deal with this issue on their own,” Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a news release. “Localities will stop enacting bans once the state has stepped up and assumed its responsibility to regulate.”

Don Duncan, California policy director of Americans for Safe Access, said “the ball is in the legislature’s court to establish statewide regulations that both meet the needs of patients and keep communities safe.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • JohnW

    Right, Riverside County should be required to have the same weed store on every street mess that San Francisco has. Complete with unethical doctors issuing “medical” marijuana cards to 19 year old males who just happen to have a need to replenish their medicine cabinets at eight o’clock Saturday night on their way to a party.

    And people wonder why Obama’s Justice department didn’t honor his promise not to mess with California over the medical marijuana law. At least Colorado was honest about it and passed a recreational marijuana law.

  • Elwood

    Tommy is the cutest Assemblyman!

    Maybe not the smartest, but definitely the cutest!

  • Elwood

    Isn’t it nice that nobody smokes that **** to get high anymore?

    It’s all medicine now. And so many doctors are willing to prescribe it for an array of diseases.