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If Marijuana is Legalized, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Could be Charged with Regulation

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There's a little talked-about aspect of Proposition 19, the November ballot measure that would legalize and tax marijuana in California. You can find it near the bottom of the initiative language (.pdf) talking about allowing the state legislature to amend the prop -- that is, if approved by voters -- to regulate it statewide, but only if the intent is to "further the purposes of the Act."

That's something that opponents who claim the bill is poorly written because there would be a patchwork of laws across the state, perhaps creating wildly different experiences when you cross local government borders, have been silent on.

In anticipation Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, who has authored marijuana legislation in the past, this week introduced new legislation to make sure the state regulates marijuana, thus garnering state tax revenues -- current language only allows for taxes imposed by local jurisdictions -- and avoiding a drastic patchwork effect across California.

As ABX6-9 is written now -- of course, things could change as its debated by legislators -- the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would "provide for regulation... of the possession, cultivation, and other conduct relating to marijuana and its derivatives, not including medical marijuana, by persons 21 years of age and older, for specified purposes," according to the Legislative Counsel's Digest.

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The will would also "set up a wholesale and retail marijuana sales regulation program to be administered and enforced by the department, to commence after regulations concerning the program have been issued by the department. The bill would ban local and state assistance in enforcing inconsistent federal and other laws relating to marijuana. The bill would provide for penalties for violations of its provisions regarding new marijuana laws and regulations, as specified."

This certainly could resolve one of opponent California Beer & Beverage Distributors' concerns about Prop 19. That organization said the state's alcohol regulation has been working successfully for 75 years.

Same goes for a group of medical marijuana backers who opposed Prop 19 this week were also worried that it would inadvertently make it difficult for medical marijuana patients. The bill would specifically exclude medical marijuana from fees and regulations.

"No initiative is perfect and the devil is in the details," said Ammiano in a statement. "My bill gives the legislature the ability to fine tune how California will regulate cannabis to ensure that it is done in an effective, systematic way.”

A spokesperson for the Assemblymember told LAist over the phone that the bill will help avoid what happened with Prop 215, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996. It wasn't perfect, but it took years before SB420 to clarify aspects of it.

The legislative session has already ended, so Ammiano's bill would have be heard when and if the legislature is convened to eventually pass the budget, which still has not happened.

Get nerdy: What the heck does ABX6-9 mean? It's the 9th Assembly Bill (AB) introduced into the next anticipated extraordinary session (X), which would be the sixth (remember, the legislative session has already ended, therefore a special "extraordinary" one must be called).