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California’s New Medical Marijuana Regulations Could Exclude Pot Felons

The newfound regulations attached to California’s nearly two-decade-old medical marijuana industry could keep former victims of the drug war from being allowed to contribute to productive society.

A recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle indicates there are now concerns that as the state moves toward legitimizing what is the oldest cannabis industry in the nation, it will prevent those working-class entrepreneurs convicted of drug-related crimes from participating in the state’s billion-dollar medical marijuana trade.

Although groups like the NAACP are concerned that the racial disparity that has become commonplace with respect to drug arrests could stop a significant number of African American and Latino citizens from getting involved in the medical marijuana industry, the truth is drug offenders of every race stand to be dealt a harsh blow once the new law is passed.

The inevitability of the state’s medical marijuana regulations would not only have an impact on newcomers, but there is also a possibility that growers and dispensary owners that have been operating inside the marketplace for years will be shut out.

Unfortunately, the overtones of the legislation, which is expected to be signed into law very soon by Governor Jerry Brown, does not provide a definitive answer to the possibility of drug offenders being cast out over felonious indiscretions acquired during a time of total prohibition. But it has certainly set the stage for those people to be removed from the industry altogether.

The bill suggests that the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which is to be assembled by the authority of the governor, “may deny the application for licensure or renewal of a state license if” the party applying has ever received a “felony conviction for the illegal possession for sale, manufacture, transportation, or cultivation of a controlled substance.”

Not only does the language of this bill present the possibility of drug offenders being kept out of the medical marijuana market, it also poses problems for those already operating respectable businesses. Some industry leaders are worried that the new regulations will ensure that growers and sellers branded with drug convictions will continue to operate in the shadows of legitimate commerce.

“If we don’t create opportunity for them in the legal cannabis industry, they will continue to participate in the illicit cannabis industry,” Steve DeAngelo, owner of Harborside Health Center, told the Chronicle.

Statistics show that 70 percent of the adults arrested in California for a marijuana-related offense ended in a conviction. What’s more is that over the past decade, the state has racked up nearly 200,000 felony marijuana arrests. According to the new rules, all of these people could be prevented from entering the industry, which certainly includes a number of established business owners.

There is speculation that lawmakers will attempt to fix the issue threatening to keep felony drug offenders from operating in California’s medical marijuana sector during next year’s legislative session.

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