Pages tagged "legilsation"


Grassroots action stopped a 10% excise tax on legal medicine

Medical cannabis patients scored a huge victory in California last week, when the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee rejected SB 987. That bill by Assembly Member Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) would have imposed a statewide excise tax of 10% on medical cannabis. The tax would have been in addition to existing sales tax, any new or existing taxes imposed by cities and counties, and any other taxes adopted by the state legislature.

 

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opposed SB 987 because it would have placed an unfair burden on legal medical cannabis patients. Thousands of ASA members sent emails, signed petitions, and made phone calls opposing the bill in response to our action alerts. Hundreds visited legislative offices in person to oppose the bill as part of our California Citizen Lobby Day in March. Those efforts paid off last Monday, when the committee voted 4 to 5 to kill SB 987.

 

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Join hundreds of advocates supporting the CARERS Act in DC today by calling Congress

Hundreds of medical cannabis patients, researchers, advocates and other stakeholders are visiting lawmakers in Washington, DC, this morning to support the first comprehensive bipartisan federal medical cannabis reform bill ever introduced in the US Congress.

Participants in ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference are on Capitol Hill to support the CARERS Act right now. Can you make three phone calls to help get that bill passed this year?

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act is the most comprehensive piece of federal medical cannabis legislation that has ever been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. This bipartisan legislation would remedy the state/federal conflict over medical cannabis laws.

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Let’s talk tonight

I am having another live Google Hangout tonight to talk about medical cannabis bills and what is coming up next year. Join me at 7:00 PM tonight, July 24, at this web address:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/c2k8gkm2n5mhnl1ha1s7oomd374

We will be talking about bills that deal with regulating doctors and commercial medical cannabis activity (SB 1262), the return of wrongfully-confiscated property (SB 1193), and equal access to health care for legal medical cannabis patients. A Google Hangout is an interactive event you can join from your computer or mobile device.

We need to talk tonight, because I need to see you in Sacramento in eleven days. Medical cannabis patients, cultivators, providers, and others are coming to Sacramento for ASA’s CA Citizen Lobby Day on Monday, August 4, to talk about bills that will affect our community for years to come. We expect important committee votes on medical cannabis bills within a few days of the lobby day – maybe that same week. We need to make a strong showing to amplify the voices of advocates at a strategic time in the legislative process.

Register today for the CA Citizen Lobby Day in Sacramento on Monday, August 4, and I will make an appointment for you to meet with your representatives in the state Assembly and Senate.

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AB 473 falls short in California Assembly

Tom Ammiano

The California Assembly rejected AB 473 on Friday. The 35-37 vote means the effort by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) to regulate commercial medical cannabis activity in the state will not move on to the Senate. Friday was the last day for bills to be approved in their house of origin, but even after two votes in as many days, the controversial bill did not garner the forty one votes needed for approval. AB 473 would have created a new Division in the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to write and enforce statewide regulations.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our coalition partners at Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM) strongly support the goal of better and more equitably regulating commercial medical cannabis activity in California. Although medical cannabis has been legal in the state for seventeen years, the legislature has never adopted a comprehensive plan to implement Proposition 215 or regulate cultivation, transportation, and distribution of medicine. Patients, cultivators, industry workers, and other stakeholders need sensible regulations to help overcome public ambivalence, perceptions of abuse, and wildly inconsistent enforcement practices in communities across the state.



AB 473 might have been an important step towards a better-regulated medical cannabis system in California, but there were some big problems with the bill. The medical cannabis community was reluctant to embrace ABC as a regulatory body for medical cannabis. ASA steadfastly argued for regulatory oversight in another part of the Department of Consumer Affairs or the Department of Health. We worried that ABC, which is charged with reigning in vice, would be poorly motivated to facilitate access to medicine.

ASA also took issue with an eleventh-hour amendment in the Appropriations Committee that made local zoning approval a prerequisite for the state registration required under the bill. More than two-hundred cities and counties already have bans on medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives. Others have bans or severe limitations on cultivating medicine. A recent California Supreme Court Decision, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, authorizes local bans, and many of our constituents were looking for legislation that corrected or mitigated the court’s unfortunate ruling. This amendment did the opposite.

One lesson from AB 473 is that lawmakers need to hear from supporters in their community if we expect them to make difficult decisions and stand up for medical cannabis. AB 473 lost because Democrats in Southern and Central California failed to support the bill. Fourteen Democrats from these more conservative parts of the state joined five Northern California Democrats in voting no on the bill. Another seven Democrats cast no vote at all, which is functionally vote against the bill (forty-one votes are needed for approval). The bill only needed six of those twenty six votes to pass. Could patients and advocates have swayed six of these twenty six Democrats to vote yes, if the Assemblymembers knew there was support for an affirmative vote at home? Absolutely.

Another lesson from AB 473 is that lawmakers need to listen to their constituents when they have concerns about legislation. The community’s uncertainty about the net benefit of AB 473 was clear. The Author and Democratic leadership must realize that our community expects to be heard alongside the army of lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants that have flocked to this issue in the last two years. Medical cannabis may be a nascent industry, but it is still fundamentally a patients’ movement. Patients must be at the table when bills and amendments are being vetted.

Perhaps the most important lesson from the demise of AB 473 is the need for pragmatism from all of the stakeholders. This bill was imperfect, but the process of implementing medical cannabis law and regulating commercial activity must move forward for everyone’s benefit. We are not going to get everything we want in a medical cannabis bill right now, and we will not be able to stop every proposal or amendment with which we disagree. Compromise is part of the political process. It would be a shame to miss another opportunity to move the ball down the court for patients, cultivators, and industry workers because we do not agree on all of the details.

We are going to have another chance to do something about medical cannabis in Sacramento this year. SB 439 by Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Mark Leno (D-SF) was approved by the Senate on May 20. That bill will clarify the scope of protection offered by the state’s medical cannabis laws and codifies guidelines published by the Attorney General in 2008. SB 439 will formally recognize the right of patients’ cooperatives and collectives to maintain storefront facilities (dispensaries) to provide medicine for members, expands protections to employees of patients’ associations, and recognizes that members buy their medicine from the associations. Substantial amendments – good and bad – are likely as the bill moves through the Assembly.

Let’s learn our lessons from AB 473 and do a better job of shaping and adopting SB 439. Speak up to your lawmakers about this bill, insist that everyone is included in the debate, and be reasonable about compromises that may be necessary to get where we need to go.