Update * Bills aimed at regulating California’s marijuana industry 

Two bills aimed at regulating California’s marijuana industry cleared key hurdles in the state Legislature on Wednesday after one North Coast lawmaker hauled a live plant into the Capitol to illustrate the value of the lucrative crop. State Sen. Mike McGuire’s Medical Marijuana Public Safety and Environmental Protection Act, SB 643, advanced from the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on Tuesday and heads to the Health Committee next week. The bill would establish a broad regulatory structure for California’s medical marijuana industry, which has been plagued by ineffective and confusing rules despite being legal at the state level since 1996. With this bill, the Healdsburg Democrat set out to create a framework for governing the medical cannabis industry, from establishing tax structures and quality controls to licensing dispensaries and cultivation sites. A Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation established within the existing Department of Consumer Affairs would oversee the industry.

The bill passed on the Senate floor in June.

The Assembly Health Committee is chaired by Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, who co-authored a competing bill taking a different approach to regulating medical marijuana in the state.

AB 266 would spread the responsibility for licensing different aspects of medical marijuana across several state agencies, including the Board of Equalization and the departments of Public Health and Food and Agriculture. Local governments would oversee growing and selling marijuana. The Senate Health Committee is considering the bill.

McGuire’s bill complements proposed legislation from another North Coast lawmaker, Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, that is focused on regulating the impact of marijuana cultivation on water resources. His measure, AB 243, the Marijuana Watershed Protection Act, would bring pot under the regulatory control of water agencies. Wood noted that a single marijuana plant is worth between $2,500 and $4,000.

He brought a live marijuana plant with him to the hearing in Sacramento, saying it would help other lawmakers “understand the size and value of medical marijuana farms.” The bill passed the Senate Governance and Finance committee 5-0. It heads to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee next week.  If passed, the bill would place a $50 fee on each legal plant. Proceeds from the fee would go to environmental mitigation and restoration efforts, as well as enhanced law enforcement efforts to ensure legitimate cultivation.