State legislation could impose stricter medical marijuana distribution standards

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With the passage of three bills last week in the California State Legislature, Berkeley medical marijuana distributors could encounter stricter regulations regarding licensing and quality standards — and, for the first time, profits — as early as 2018.

Assembly Bills 266 and 243 and Senate Bill 643 would require distributors to test their products’ potency and purity levels and to obtain licenses from the state and local governments. The bills would also allow dispensaries, which are currently required to function as nonprofits, to earn profits legally for the first time. The staff of Assemblymember Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale — who co-authored AB 266 — expects that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the bill, according to his capitol director, Tim Townsend.

Berkeley Patients Group, California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensary, celebrated the passage of the bills through the Legislature as a historic step forward for the medical cannabis industry. Though the organization plans to remain a nonprofit, BPG still supports the bills’ many regulations, according to Sabrina Fendrick, the group’s government affairs director.

“It’ll maintain a standard of quality making sure that patients have access to the most effective medicine,” said Victor Pinho, BPG’s marketing and communications director.

BPG officials advised representatives about the language and concepts of the bill as a way to ensure that policies remain flexible for distributors and patients, according to Fendrick.

In light of the new regulations, however, some local distributors said they are worried that they may not have the resources to meet the more stringent quality standards or to compete with new for-profit businesses, said Carl Bolster, president of the local Green Team Cannabis Collective.

“It’s inevitable that big corporations will try and get in on this and, to some degree, will have success,” Bolster said. “But in California, the medical marijuana community is so strong and cares so much about quality that I don’t see it pushing someone like us out of business.”

Contact Jessica Lynn at [email protected].