It’s 2012 and once again marijuana is jockeying with other subjects for political attention. Four possible initiatives to legalize marijuana are already hustling to be on California’s ballot this fall. But there is another possible initiative about cannabis that has strong backing.  The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Tax Act (MMRCTA), however, is not about legalizing marijuana for everyone.  It’s about regulating medical marijuana. That alone should make it more palatable than the other four initiatives to those growers and businesspeople around here that fear legalization might negatively affect the local economy.

One of the main ideas behind the proposal is that firming up California’s rules on medical marijuana might temper the recent crackdown by the federal government. Colorado, they believe, with its standardization of regulation across the state has avoided most of the problems that California has had.  Each city and county in the golden state has its own rules which can run counter to each other.

The Emerald Growers Association (a cooperative organization between Mendo Grown and the Humboldt Grower’s Association (HGA))is part of a coalition behind the initiative that includes Americans for Safe Access, National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is a powerful organization that recently began organizing cannabis workers.

According to Alison Sterling Nichols, now Executive Director at Emerald Growers Association but formerly just with HGA, “When I went to Colorado, I saw how Colorado laws forced industry indoors. I knew people working on this initiative were adopting Colorado language. We [HGA] met with them.  We were concerned that outdoor would get legislated out of the process.  We wanted to be sure full light spectrum outdoor medical cannabis was available to patients.”

Nichols explains that growers need to understand the initiative is only for those that want to engage.  “This is voluntary.  Growers don’t have to participate if they don’t want to but patients need the [outdoor] option.  The Feds went into Colorado differently then into California.  The actions…were less aggressive.”  She hopes that if California has a clear structure, then federal agencies will be less likely to step in.

The proposed initiative already has relatively strong backing with nearly 60% showing approval in a poll conducted a week ago. It would form a 21 person bureau which, according to StoptheDrugWar.Org,

.. would include a mix of patients, patient advocates, industry representatives, union representatives, law enforcement, and other stakeholders appointed by the governor or lieutenant governor.

The BMME would be funded by a 2.5% tax on the sale of medical marijuana. Surplus tax revenues would fund emergency medical services, low-income assistance and health services, scientific and educational grant programs, and research into environmentally-sound cultivation practices.

The initiative would require state registration after July 1, 2013 for anyone cultivating, processing, manufacturing, transporting, distributing, or selling medical marijuana for use by others. Patients and caregivers who are growing at home for themselves would be exempt.