San Francisco passed new rules last week regulating the sale and distribution of medicinal marijuana in baked goods and other edible items, taking one step closer to making pot a mainstream product in the Golden State.
The new regulations, announced by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, require all baked goods that include marijuana to be individually wrapped with labels that list the exact amount of the drug in the product. Goods cannot resemble any kind of candy that may attract children, and no one under legal age may be present during the baking or manufacturing process. Dispensaries that offer hot and cold products on the same property, like brownies and milkshakes, must receive a special permit from the Public Health Department.
While the marijuana trade makes its way from black markets to government-regulated ones, San Francisco is taking the first of many steps toward imposing regulations and taxes on marijuana. It’s a move in the right direction, marijuana activists say.
“For the most part the regulations seem pretty common sense,” said Mike Meno, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We don’t want this to be uncontrolled and unregulated. That’s what we’ve had for 70-plus years.”
California’s marijuana industry has boomed over the past few years in response to the state’s lax stance on medicinal drug products, with vendors opening up shop in cities across the state. California voters will decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and allow local governments to set their own regulations, setting the stage for potentially hundreds of new rules in the coming years.
“This is all a natural process towards the mainstreaming of cannabis,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “With legalization clearly comes regulation.”
As long as marijuana products remain illegal, St. Pierre says, the government can do nothing to ensure the safety and quality of the product and they certainly cannot tax it. With a state budget deficit in the tens of billions, activists say that taxation of the product could help close the gap on the budget shortfall.
NORML launched an ad campaign in 2009 calling for the taxation and regulation of the drug, and many groups have outlined a number of ways the government can ensure safe production and distribution. Groups that advocate for new regulations have called for restrictions on driving after using marijuana, education programs that inform the public on safe use, and of course, strict laws against sales to children.
“Overall its just another example of the direction that medical marijuana and the marijuana industry as a whole is heading in, and that’s sensible regulation,” Meno said.
Polling data on the state proposition show that it remains unclear whether marijuana legalization advocates will get their wish in November. Although public opinion has shifted over the years, polls show that California voters are currently split on the issue. Nonetheless, advocates for reform remain steadfast.
“For so many years marijuana has been uncontrolled and unregulated and prohibition has been a disaster. All we’ve been asking for are the same types of treatment that are applied to so many other products in this country,” Meno said. “This is about the mainstreaming of marijuana.”
Photos From: OSM Photographer Russell Gallagher