Assemblymember Rob Bonta

ASSEMBLY | 18TH DISTRICT | A bill co-authored by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta and two other Southern California Democrats that would offer the state a mechanism for overseeing its notoriously under-regulated medical cannabis industry passed the Assembly Thursday with clear bipartisan support, 60-8.

Assembly Bill 266 creates an Office of Marijuana Regulation under the purview of the governor and enacts a licensing structure for medical cannabis dispensaries to conduct business. Local governments would also be allowed to continue their own current oversight and licensing in their jurisdiction, according to the legislation.

Since voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow the sale of cannabis through dispensaries to patients with a physician’s approval, the burgeoning industry has seen little local and state oversight. Authors of the bill say other states have exceeded California’s efforts to provide medical cannabis to needy patients. In recent years, several states have gone a step further and legalized cannabis altogether.

All three of the legislation’s author represent areas with strong presences of medical cannabis dispensaries. Bonta in Oakland and Assemblymembers Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Ken Cooley in Southern California

The authors called Thursday’s vote “historic” for its wide-ranging support on an issue that has in the past polarized Sacramento.

When one Republican lawmaker Thursday disagreed with the bill’s ability to limit children from getting access to cannabis-infused snacks, according to the Associated Press, Assemblymember Jim Cooper, said of the industry, “It’s the wild, Wild West.”

Bonta responded, AP reported: “There was a reference to the wild West, and that is what this bill is trying to move away from.”

The bill heads to the State Senate for consideration starting later this month.