Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Reform Cause for Optimism in Capitol

Assemblyman Tom Lackey
California State Assembly, 36th District

For all of the talk of partisan gridlock in Washington and the shortcomings of America’s political system, people would do well to take notice of what is happening here in California on an issue you would hardly expect bipartisan agreement.

Governor Brown recently signed a package of bills which will provide a statewide framework for medical marijuana—something that has been lacking since 1996 when voters first approved it.

I was proud to be part of this effort—not because I support marijuana use but instead because it was an opportunity for lawmakers to come together and work pragmatically toward a solution.

Lack of clear rules on medical marijuana has plagued law enforcement, local governments and the environment ever since the passage of Proposition 215. The absence of clear rules meant everyone operated in a legal gray area with very little oversight. Some cities and counties attempted to step into the gap, but expensive litigation and uncertainty remained.

Recognizing that medical marijuana is the law of the land, I was proud to work Assemblymembers Bonta, Cooley, Jones-Sawyer and Wood on a bipartisan effort to fix this problem. BOE Member George Runner leadership was also instrumental in bringing in Republican support.

It should not come as a surprise that the best laws are forged from a diverse group which is true of the legislators that worked on this effort. Representing districts from all corners of the state and coming from very different backgrounds, we were able to find common ground and put together something that works for law enforcement, local governments, labor and the industry.

While there had been previous efforts to tackle medical marijuana, I believe we were ultimately successful because of the broad coalition that came together.

The new laws will bring the industry out of the shadows and establish statewide health and safety standards for all products. Marijuana plants will now be tracked electronically from seed to sale, preventing diversions to the black market. Local governments can ban all medical marijuana business operations from their jurisdictions. More resources will be put in place to go after illegal growing operations.

Most importantly to me as a former 28-year CHP officer, thanks to the new laws California will finally begin to develop a statewide strategy for dealing with marijuana-impaired drivers. A recent report out of Colorado showed marijuana-related traffic fatalities increased by a third after legalizing recreational use. A similar report from Governors Traffic Safety Association highlighted that drugged driving is increasing nationwide and is nearing the frequency of drunk driving. It is encouraging that California is taking its first steps to deal with this problem.

While medical marijuana is probably the last thing you would expect to inspire bipartisan cooperation, I believe it exemplifies how lawmakers can provide solutions to complex problems. I hope it’s something that continues to happen in Sacramento.

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