A Bad Year for Marijuana in California

By Dirk Hanson 06/13/11

California is losing its luster as lawmakers kill off cannabis legislation.

No breaks for growers this session.
Photo via theganjablog

No, the crop’s going to be fine—it’s just that a number of legislative efforts to clear up the, er, haze surrounding the state of the state, medical marijuana-wise, were killed in their cradles as the California legislature closed the gate on bills that hadn’t advanced to the other legislative chamber. Various reform measures are dead at least until January, while some unfriendly pieces of legislation are still alive. Here’s the scorecard from Phillip Smith at the Drug War Chronicle:

Senate Bill 129: Designed to protect the employment rights of workers using medical marijuana, the bill stalled after emerging from the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is exactly like the bill Governor Schwarzenegger terminated in 2008.  NORML’s California office says support has eroded among moderate Dems.

Senate Bill 626: This one never got out of committee. It would have established an official state commission to sort out the grey-market distribution end of the medical marijuana business.

Assembly Bill 1017: “Groundbreaking legislation giving judges and prosecutors the option of trying cultivation offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies,” says the Drug War Chronicle. NORML was outraged about this defeat: "The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding," said California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, according to Smith's article. "With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for nonviolent drug offenses.” Status: Down but not out.

Senate Bill 676: The big victory—restricting hemp cultivation to the Central Valley in order not to cross-pollinate Northern California’s cash kush crop.

Just as depressing were the two bills that DID survive. Assembly Bill 1300 would institutionalize the mayhem by “allowing localities the option of regulating collectives,” and is on its way to the Senate. And Senate Bill 847, the real pig in the sty, would require medical pot dispensaries to be at least 600 feet from any residential area as a default zoning restriction—a bald attempt to begin the process of zoning the medical marijuana industry out of business.

And to think it all started in a little green coastal county called Humboldt….

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]