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Citrus Heights council backs AB 266 marijuana regulation bill

Cannabis, marijuana plant
Cannabis plant leaf, stock photo. Citrus Heights Sentinel

Updated April 20, 5:41 p.m.–
Taking a recommendation from the City police chief, Citrus Heights council members unanimously passed a resolution last week in support of a California medical marijuana regulation bill.

The bill, AB 266, is locally authored by Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) and enjoys support from the California Police Chiefs Association (Cal Chiefs) and the League of California Cities. If passed, the legislation would add health and safety standards for medical marijuana, provide for easier monitoring of cannabis supplies in the state, and allow counties to tax cultivation and distribution.

Contrasted with other medical pot bills proposed this year, AB 266 highlights local control and would preserve the discretionary power of cities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, while granting the state authority to collect fees and issue conditional licenses through the creation of a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.

Citrus Heights currently bans dispensaries and outdoor growing of cannabis, while regulating indoor growing for medical purposes — and such a policy could continue under the proposed legislation. A California Supreme Court ruling two years ago found that a 1996 voter-passed initiative known as Proposition 215 protected legal possession of medical marijuana, but did not require cities to allow dispensaries.

The text of Prop 215 states an intent “to ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes,” as long as the use is “recommended by a physician.” It also expresses an intent “to encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd, who also served as president of Cal Chiefs last year, told the council he believes the “vast majority” of marijuana consumers under Prop 215 “are not sick,” and that AB 266 provides a much-needed plan to effectively implement “what voters actually intended.”

[Also see: Boyd recalls challenge, ‘honor’ of leading Cal Police Chiefs Assoc.]

Assemblyman Cooley was present as council members voted 5-0 to endorse the bill he authored. He told the council his bill was “a balancing act” which would protect the right of patients to access medical marijuana under Prop 215, while also “protecting the rights of communities” to regulate the controversial drug.

Several marijuana advocacy groups supported a similar bill in the senate last year known as SB 1262, authored by since termed-out Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).

The California Cannabis Industry Association views Cooley’s bill as “largely based” on Correa’s bill, which the group called “a sensible system of statewide regulation” on its website. Though expressing some concern about aspects like the authority of cities to control licensing, the group called SB 1262 “a necessary step towards [a] safe, legal, predictable business climate” for the cannabis industry.

The marijuana advocacy group does not list a current position on AB 266, and no contact phone number is provided on the Association’s website. A request for comment by email was not returned.

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Although several residents addressed other topics during public comment at the council meeting, no statements from the public were made regarding medical marijuana or AB 266.

Cooley’s bill is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on April 21.

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