How Will The San Gabriel Valley Respond to the New Medical Marijuana Regulations Signed Into Law By Governor Brown on October 9, 2015?

Monday, October 12, 2015 | 9:48 am

In 1996, California voters voted in favor of enacting the Compassionate Use Act (CUA). The CUA provides a defense to criminal charges for medical marijuana patients who have obtained a recommendation from their physicians to use marijuana (also known as “cannabis”) medically.

In the San Gabriel Valley, there are thousands of medical marijuana patients who use cannabis for a wide variety of conditions, such as: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fibromyalgia, inflammation / arthritis, chronic insomnia, migraine headaches, to seek relief from cancer treatments, to improve the quality of life of persons suffering with Alzheimer disease (and a variety of other disorders). The San Gabriel Valley as a whole has not shown much compassion when it comes to permitting legal sale of safely tested medical marijuana. As a result, the San Gabriel Valley has fallen prey to untested marijuana that is distributed to patients throughout its cities via unregulated mobile cannabis dispensaries.

In fact, every city in the San Gabriel Valley has vast amounts of marijuana being delivered to patients every day. In addition, much of the cannabis is grown unregulated in local warehouses, basements, and garages. This should be alarming to every resident in the San Gabriel Valley.

But let’s not forget, mobile dispensaries exist because of the demand for medical marijuana. It is simple economics — supply and demand. Though there is this demand by patients, most city governments in the Valley have opted to allow this demand to be met by illegal suppliers. To clarify, when I say “illegal,” I simply refer to the fact that local ordinances do not permit the legal establishment of these businesses, so by definition they operate “illegally.” Most of these illegal business owners would jump at the chance to operate legally, to be compliant with local ordinances, to pay taxes, and to become a regular business like any other, providing a valuable service to the community. Safe access to tested and regulated cannabis is a matter of public safety and a valuable community service.

On Friday, October 9, 2015, as I sat as a faculty member speaking in a continuing legal education seminar titled “Medical and Recreational Marijuana in Southern California,” it was announced that Governor Brown signed into law the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA). MMRSA creates a variety of safeguards within the cannabis business sector through a robust regulatory scheme. The laws protect a local municipality’s right to govern as they see fit as related to permitting, or not permitting, commercial cannabis businesses. For those permissive and progressive governments that do, the municipality must give affirmative permission to a commercial cannabis business to operate by, for example, issuing a permit or license. Only those businesses having a permit or license may apply for a state-issued license to the CA Department of Consumer Affairs, that is establishing a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. The state will issue 17 different categories of commercial cannabis business licenses. MMRSA also appears to envision the passage of recreational marijuana laws in California in 2016. In addition, it creates a new “for profit” business sector that likely will create thousands of new jobs. The law will be applicable as of January 1, 2016. Those businesses that have received local permits or licenses to do business in their respective municipalities by January 1, 2016, will have a priority in applying for a State issued license.

In November 2016, the state will vote on the question of legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use. As cannabis is already used recreationally and responsibly by millions of Californian’s, it makes sense to create a regulated commercial business sector that provides access to quality products and services.

In the San Gabriel Valley, it is unclear whether safe products and services will be available by January 1, 2016. As a marijuana law attorney, I know first-hand that there are numerous would-be commercial cannabis business entrepreneurs who are concerned they will not be able to take advantage of priority applications with the State. Many wonder why. Could this be because of the artificial stigma on marijuana in the Valley? It begs the question: Why, if the demand is so high (evident by the sheer number of illegal businesses), community leaders are afraid to regulate? One would think they would be concerned about the safety of their constituents. Citizens of the San Gabriel Valley need to have this conversation. Most would agree that cancer victims, Alzheimer patients, PTSD, and stroke victims, people who suffer from chronic insomnia, migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis are not undesirable members of our society. Yet these are people who are being discriminated against. Most would agree providing safe local access to tested marijuana products is responsible — and it is compassionate to make sure there is a regulated local resource for persons like these. It also makes sense that we know who these business owners are. If they are operating in a clandestine manner to meet demand, SGV governments will never have control.

Recently, a local city official informed me that their city would not permit a legal dispensary, despite the fact they knew there were medical-marijuana patients in their city and they are aware of illegal delivery services operating within city borders. The reason for prohibition as stated was because of fear of the federal government — where marijuana is still considered an illegal Schedule I drug. One has to wonder whether Governor Brown, in enacting such a robust system of regulation of this Schedule 1 drug, is personally losing sleep over federal prohibition or prosecution. After all, it was the federal government that asked the Governor to enact these regulations.

The Brooke Law Group is located at 225 S. Lake Ave. Ste. 300, Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 375-6702 or visit




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