Medical pot activists plan State Capitol blitz
May 15, 2012
Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune
Advocates are descending upon Sacramento Saturday through Monday for a "unity conference" and lobbying blitz on behalf of creating a new state regulatory system for medical marijuana.
The conference this weekend -- organized by Americans for Safe Access, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5, California NORML, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, and the Emerald Growers Association, and hosted by the Sacramento Central Labor Council -- will see medical marijuana experts helping participants better understand how to influence policy in California's current political and legal landscape.
"Californians are eager to fully implement the state's medical marijuana law and push back against federal interference," ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer said in a news release. "We're simply giving them the tools to more effectively lobby their local, state and federal governments in order to achieve that aim."
They'll put their new knowledge to work starting Monday, lobbying every Assembly and state Senate office to support AB 2312 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. This "Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act" would create a nine-member Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement within the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate the industry and would authorize local governments to levy transaction and use taxes of up to 2.5 percent on marijuana sales.
Among AB 2312's opponents is the California District Attorneys Association, which says that although the bill lets local governments opt out, it would let this new state board govern the zoning of medical marijuana facilities in the absence of a local ordinance -- essentially mandating city and county complicity with something that's still illegal under federal law. "As such, we cannot abide this usurpation of local sovereignty by the state," the association said in an Assembly Appropriations Committee staff analysis.
The League of California Cities agreed, calling the bill "premature. It could further confuse the issues at hand rather than resolve them, while creating significant new costs for local jurisdictions."
But Ammiano contends his bill would finally clear up much of the ambiguity left by Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, by having growers, processors, manufacturers, testing and labeling providers, transporters, retailers and delivery services all registered with and regulated by the state "creating a network of accountability and transparency that does not exist today.
"Providers who are engaged in above-board operations will have nothing to fear as this will allow law enforcement to effectively utilize their limited resources by focusing their efforts on the remaining bad actors," Ammiano said in the bill analysis.
Ammiano has prepared a video address for the conference, as have Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and Sam Farr, D-Carmel. Conference sponsors include the Drug Policy Alliance and several medical marijuana providers, including Abatin in Sacramento, Harborside Health Center in Oakland and the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center.