California police, cities plan to fight statewide pot deliveries

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A growing dispute over where legal marijuana can be delivered in California is unsettling the nation’s largest pot market.

Police chiefs on Friday lined up against a proposed state rule that critics say would allow unchecked home marijuana deliveries anywhere in California — even in communities that have banned cannabis sales.

The California Police Chiefs Association, League of California Cities and United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council have set up a website that depicts wide-eyed children gesturing toward a pot delivery van outside a school. They are asking opponents to sign an online petition.

“Regulated marijuana dispensaries have tough security, checks for identity and legal age and strictly licensed workers. If marijuana can be delivered anywhere with virtually no regulation, California will lose these safeguards,” council executive director James Araby said in a statement.

The proposal has become a major issue as the state considers a series of changes to rules governing the legal marketplace that launched in January. The dispute could end up in court.

There are striking different versions of what the proposal would mean.

Because vast stretches of the state have prohibited local cannabis sales, supporters say it would allow legal deliveries by licensed companies into those so-called pot deserts.

They argue that sick and frail people in those areas who depend on marijuana to relieve pain or anxiety cannot make a lengthy drive to make a purchase, so they are being shut out of the legal market.

On the other side, police chiefs and other critics say it would create an unruly gray market of largely hidden pot transactions, opening the way for criminal activity.

At issue is apparently conflicting fine print in the maze of laws and regulations involving marijuana.

Proposition 64, the law approved by voters in 2016 that opened the way for legal pot sales for adults, says local governments can ban nonmedical pot businesses.

But state regulators point to the business and professions code, which says local governments “shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads” by a licensed operator.

The state Bureau of Cannabis Control, which oversees the market, has said the proposed rule is merely clarifying what has always been the case: A licensed pot delivery can be made to “any jurisdiction within the state.”

A proposal in the Legislature intended to clarify that a licensed business can deliver cannabis anywhere in California stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, online directories like Weedmaps advertise delivery services — some legal, some not.

In general, California treats pot like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to 1 ounce of the drug and grow six plants at home.

California’s legal market has gotten off to a bumpy start. Illicit sales are still thriving, a shaky supply chain has customers looking at barren shelves in some shops and there have been complaints about testing and hefty taxes.