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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lawmaker Tried To Regulate Marijuana Industry, But Never Visited A Dispensary

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 11:21 AM

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California does not take the cannabis industry seriously. Weed is a billion-dollar game in this state at least, according to a many estimates, and a multibillion-dollar game if you include the black market and "economic activity" (the fuzzy metric that business lobbies use to pimp America's Cups or Super Bowls).

Yet after 17 years and counting, this booming market is still largely unregulated. Multiple attempts to reign it in have failed in Sacramento — and it's easy to see why. We have Gov. Jerry Brown complaining about "potheads," and hundreds of cities and counties across the state banning regulated weed stores, a move that only helps criminals.

And the lawmaker who came closest to getting regulations passed did so without ever visiting a licensed dispensary. Former state Sen. Lou Correa, who last year carried legislation written by the state's powerful police lobby, made his first visit to a dispensary just this month, he told us this week.

Correa, who was termed out of the Senate last year and lost a bid to represent his native Orange County on its Board of Supervisors last month, was at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on Monday. We weren't sure why he was there — and we're not sure he knew, either. "I'm here as a concerned citizen, I guess you could say," he said. "I'm trying to learn a little bit more about this issue."

That's a bit troubling. Correa made marijuana history last year. His regulatory bill in the Senate marked the first time the California law enforcement lobby was interested in regulating rather than banning legal marijuana. This was a remarkable first step at the time, even though it ultimately resulted in nothing. 

That would have been the time to learn about the industry — before or maybe even while trying to regulate things. But no. Decked out in a Police Officers' Association guayabera for San Francisco's brief period of summery weather, Correa breezily told us that he took his first tour of a dispensary "just last week."

"I'd never taken a tour before," he said. "I'm an individual who'd not been around this industry... it was an eye-opener.

And the biggest eye-opener were the customers," he said. "Baby boomers. Middle class. Anglos. Retired people."

Perhaps Correa was expecting more of a crowd that listens to Cypress Hill's B-Real (they  just received the first dispensary permit in Correa's native Santa Ana, which was news we had to break to him). 

The implication is stunning. How do you understand an issue without ever experiencing it firsthand? How can regulations hope to be relevant without a basic knowledge base? That a top California lawmaker tried to make a law without understanding who the law would impact is troubling... but perhaps not surprising in a day and age when members of Congress freely admit they don't read the laws they're passing.

Correa's bill has been reintroduced in the state Assembly by Ken Cooley of Rancho Cordova. The nearest dispensary to the Sacramento suburb appears to be House of Organics in east Sacramento. We can only hope he stops in the next time he's headed to the Capitol.
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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