A state law proposed this week would protect marijuana dispensaries “already operating legally under city or county laws” from local cops while creating a statewide police and regulatory agency that would oversee the pot shops.

The legislation by California state Sen. Tom Ammiano mirrors a failed attempt to put a similar law before voters last year. We noted at the time that the cannabis-friendly ballot initiative sought to “create a new statewide police department strictly to keep an eye on pot shops:”

The motives and some of the people involved, including Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access, are the same.

This time, however, proponents of the legislation note that Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole last month said the federal government would back off on prosecuting small-time medical marijuana cases if states like California implement “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana.”

See also: Marijuana: Obama Administration Backs Off on Pot Enforcement (Again).

The language of the proposal, AB 604, says California would have …

… the exclusive right and power to regulate and register persons for the cultivation, manufacture, testing, transportation, storage, distribution, sale, purchase, and possession of medical cannabis.

The agency created would work under the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which has sworn peace officers who check on bars. AB 604's language says:

The bill would provide that the director and persons employed by the department to administer and enforce its provisions are peace officers.

A summary says the medical marijuana agency would …

… develop, implement, and enforce regulations for commercial medical marijuana activity throughout the state, including production, processing, distribution, transportation, and testing. The bill would also grandfather in the medical marijuana businesses already operating legally under city or county laws. Qualified patients and their primary caregivers would be exempt from registering if the law passes, and it would not deprive them of existing rights.

Don Duncan, a longtime advocate for pot shops in L.A., says:

It's time for state legislators to roll up their sleeves and finish the job of implementing California's medical marijuana law.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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