California moves to unite conflicting marijuana laws
California law enforcement officials objected Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed streamlining of the state's marijuana regulations, saying his plan could endanger public safety.
Brown's administration released documents late Tuesday outlining proposed changes to the state's new recreational marijuana law,along with its long standing law on medical marijuana.
But the California Police Chiefs Association representing all of the state's municipal police forces said the governor's proposal could turn traditionally small marijuana businesses into much larger ones controlling the entire supply chain from growing operations to retail sales.
The proposed legislation to allow single businesses to hold multiple licenses to grow, distribute, manufacture and sell retail marijuana would be an opening for criminals to consolidate the booming industry, said association Ken Corney.
"The proposal favors big marijuana grows over the welfare of our communities," Corney said.
The state's two laws took different approaches in many areas - including whether one entity could hold multiple licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell in retail stores. The governor is seeking to "harmonize" those regulations. The proposal needs legislative approval.
Medical marijuana providers are currently prohibited from holding both licenses but Brown proposes to lift that restriction after it becomes legal to sell recreational marijuana in California on Jan. 1.
The head of California's newly established marijuana agency defended the governor's proposal.
"This proposed legislation helps build an effective statewide regulatory system for cannabis to achieve our goals of protecting public safety with clear and consistent rules that are not overly burdensome," said Lori Ajax, head of the Bureau of Cannabis Medical Regulation.
She added: "It harmonizes the many elements of the two main statutes governing medicinal and adult-use cannabis, while preserving the integrity and separation of those industries."
The police chiefs and other law enforcement agencies supported legislative passage of medical marijuana rules last year but opposed Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana after voters approved it in November.
The administration of Brown, a Democrat, has stressed that one regulatory framework is needed to avoid duplicating costs and confusing businesses in a marijuana economy expected to grow to $7 billion in annual sales annually after recreational sales become legal in California next year.
Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Association, also said his organization has concerns with the elimination of the multiple licenses prohibition.
"It could lead to mega-manufactures and mega-chain stores," Allen said.
The governor's plan would also temporarily ban a single business from owning more than three retail stores and having a farm larger than four acres (1.6 hectares), which Allen said may help to keep out big corporations.
Representatives of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, comprised of Southern California marijuana businesses, said they're still reviewing the plan.
"This takes us another step closer to a uniform industry and puts this state in a position to set the national standard," Avis Bulbulyan, president of the group, said in an email.
California joined a growing number of states in legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults.
The regulations and rules governing the emerging legal market will cover issues ranging from where and how plants can be grown to guidelines on tracking marijuana plants from the fields to retail stores.
People 21 and over are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow six marijuana plants at home.
Those changes must be approved by the state Legislature.
Earlier this year, Brown proposed spending more than $50 million to establish programs to collect taxes and issue licenses while hiring dozens of workers to regulate the industry.