California Medical Marijuana
California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act
On January 1, 2016, three bills that comprise the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) went into effect. Assembly Bill 266, Assembly Bill 243, and Senate Bill 643 overhauled the state’s previous medical marijuana system, replacing it with a regulatory plan that implemented everything from distinct license requirements to new restrictions on physicians recommending medical marijuana to patients. These new MMRSA laws must be observed by all cannabis businesses, personal growers, caregivers, patients, and physicians in the state.
THE BIG PICTURE
California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act creates the overarching structure of the new medical cannabis regulatory system. It requires licensure and regulation of medical marijuana under California law. Furthermore, it created the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR) – a subset of the Department of Consumer Affairs – which develops, implements, enforces, and oversees all aspects of the MMRSA requirements. Currently, Republican Lori Ajax will head the BMMR, provided that she is confirmed by the state Senate.
The Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Food and Agriculture, the State Department of Public Health, and the Board of Equalization also control some aspects of the medical cannabis industry. For example, the Board of Equalization is required to adopt a system for tracking and reporting movement of commercial cannabis and cannabis products. The degree to which cannabis businesses interact with these agencies depends largely on their roles in the industry and the type of cannabis products the business creates.
In terms of revenue, the MMRSA created the Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act fund, which will house all licensing fees collected from the state’s cannabis businesses. Fines and penalties for violating the new state laws, however, are deposited into a separate Medical Cannabis Fines and Penalties Account, also created by the MMSRA.
Under the new laws, no person may engage in commercial cannabis activity without first getting a license from the state and the city and/or county of business, and a licensee must adhere to specific regulations in order to establish and continuously operate a medical marijuana facility of any sort. In addition, local jurisdictions have the power to assess fees and taxes on cannabis industry facilities, and they may also adopt ordinances establishing additional standards, requirements, and regulations above and beyond the MMRSA laws.