California: Attorney General Asks State’s Lawmakers To Clarify Issues Concerning Dispensing Of Medical Cannabis

Sacramento, CA: California Attorney General Kamala Harris is requesting lawmakers to "clarify" the state’s guidelines regarding the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.

In a December 21, 2011 letter from Harris to Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and Senate President Pro-Tempore Darrell Steinberg, the Attorney General states, "[S]tate law … needs to be reformed, simplified, and improved to better explain to patients and law enforcement alike how, when, and where individuals may cultivate and obtain physician-recommended marijuana."

Specifically, Harris is asking lawmakers to "articulate the scope" of patients’ rights to cultivate cannabis in a "collective" manner. Harris further requests that legislators provide regulations regarding the operation of cannabis dispensaries, stating, "Here the legislature could weigh in with rules about hours, locations, audits, security, employee background checks, zoning, compensation …. (and) what it means for a collective or a cooperative to operate as a ‘non-profit.’" The Attorney General also requests that lawmakers address issues regarding the production and distribution of cannabis-infused food products, which she states are not specifically regulated under existing state law.

Harris’ letter follows a statewide crackdown of California medical cannabis producers and providers by the United States Justice Department.

Neither the language of Proposition 215, enacted by voters in 1996, nor the Medical Marijuana Program Act, enacted by the legislature in 2003, explicitly addresses the act of cannabis distribution by third-party dispensaries. In 2008, then-Attorney General (now California Governor) Jerry Brown issued guidelines stating that such facilities should operate on a non-profit basis, "acquire marijuana only from their constituent members," and "may not distribute medical marijuana to any person who is not a member in good standing of the organization."

Harris’ letter references the 2008 guidelines, but states "[T]he facts today are far more complicated" than they were then and acknowledges that "non-binding guidelines will not solve (California’s) problems."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit California NORML at: