Cannabis Delivery Bill Clears Legislative Hurdle. Local Government Advocates Call It an Intrusion.

California voters legalized recreational marijuana a year and a half ago and, for the past several months, commercial enterprises have been allowed to flourish up and down the state. But today 75% of California residents still lack access to legal cannabis in their communities, according to some estimates. Just 1 in 7 cities have approved recreational marijuana -- a power expressly granted to them under the language of Proposition 64.

Now, a bill proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) could change that by allowing legal cannabis delivery services into so-called “cannabis deserts” where retail and/or medical sales have been banned. The legislation “would prohibit a local government from adopting or enforcing any ordinance that would prohibit a licensee from delivering cannabis within or outside of the jurisdictional boundaries of the local jurisdiction,” according to the text.

Cannabis advocates are hailing the bill as a much needed fix for California’s “patchwork” of marijuana laws, while local governments say it flagrantly usurps a right enshrined in California’s adult use marijuana legislation.

Testifying to the committee, Lara said his legislation respects local governments’ right to decide whether to regulate cannabis businesses locally and grant licenses or ban them. However, he argued, cities and counties cannot restrict cannabis couriers from access to public roads and driving into their communities “to ensure that patients and consumers can have cannabis products safely delivered to their place of residence.”

Senate Bill 1302 passed out of the Senate Government and Finance Committee on May 2 much to the chagrin of local government advocates. The California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities, and the California Police Chiefs Association have all registered opposition to the bill.

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