California lawmakers said "no" to the Attorney General of the United States, and "yes" to the unregulated gray area that's plagued medical marijuana when the Legislature today killed a last-minute bill to enact strong statewide regulations on the drug.
The effort failed once before in the spring, when Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) didn't corral enough votes for his plan to put the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in charge of California's medical cannabis industry. Unlike everything else in regulation and tax-happy California, there's no statewide oversight for weed in Sacramento.
A last-ditch effort inspired by federal Attorney General Eric Holder -- whose Justice Department signaled that it wouldn't meddle with state-legal weed as long as the states took control -- began last week with a parliamentarian trick to get the legislation in ahead of today's deadline.
But the law enforcement lobby in Sacramento won out. So it's wait until next year -- and pray the feds leave us alone in the meantime.
Ammiano's office hasn't responded to requests for comment, and the official information page on the Legislature hasn't been updated with exactly how marijuana reform died this time. OC Weekly's Nick Schou appeared to be first on the news with the scoop that Ammiano's AB 604 -- a rehash of an earlier bill introduced unsuccessfully for two years running now -- is dead.
Despite clear instructions from the feds to get something done, a few things seemed to be working against Ammiano. For one, there's not a lot of love for the "gut and amend" tactic used -- a bill on eyewitness protection became an already failed weed bill.
Second, the law enforcement lobby in Sacramento has been working overtime the past three weeks on killing weed regulations of all kinds: a bill by Senate Pres Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that would have codified rules on marijuana dispensaries was also shot down by the combined power of the Narcotics Officers Association and organizations representing police chiefs and district attorneys.
Local governments also got in the game. The League of California Cities said "no," as did Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. That proved too much for a last-minute trick that nonetheless appears long overdue.
The problem is that in the meantime, federal interference -- such as the pressure that's closed eight dispensaries in San Francisco and hundreds more statewide -- will continue.
"This was a rush job," admitted Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of NORML. "But the point is, the Legislature failed again to pass a bill for what's really essential: that California pass a regulation system."