Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

February 22, 2011
Ammiano bill seeks to keep marijuana cultivators out of prison

ha_john_a_perez2922.JPGAssemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation to keep Californians convicted of illegal marijuana cultivation out of state prison.

Ammiano's Assembly Bill 1017 seeks to set a maximum sentence of one year in county jail for people convicted of illegal cultivation. Current California law treats illegal pot growing as a felony allowing up to three years in state prison, with stiffer sentences if the cultivation is connected to illegal sales or trafficking.

The bill by the San Francisco Democrat is also intended to make it easier for authorities to charge non-medical pot cultivators with a misdemeanor instead of a felony, said Ammiano's spokesman Quintin Mecke. "It will make everything a wobbler," he said.

Mecke said Ammiano is considering revising the bill language to consider reduced penalties for marijuana sales and transportation.

Meanwhile, Ammiano has promised to introduce what he calls an "omnibus cannabis bill" to regulate California's medical marijuana industry from seeds to sales.

Medical marijuana interests are working with him to craft language to clarify financial rules for medical marijuana dispensaries that must operate as non-profits under state law.

Though some activists have discussed whether California should consider rules similar to Colorado - which allows dispensaries to operate for profit - the Ammiano bill will retain the non-profit requirement, advocates say. The non-profit requirement is backed by the California Cannabis Association, a group representing numerous medical marijuana providers.

Ammiano has said broad legislation is needed to clarify the operating rules for medical marijuana outlets after a series of police raids investigating alleged illegal profiteering at dispensaries.

Pictured: Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is plotting an active legislative session for marijuana bills.Sacramento Bee file/Hector Amezcua

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