Taking your seat at the table in California - August 12

June 22, 2013 | Don Duncan

There is an important conversation about medical cannabis happening in Sacramento right now. That conversation will affect how medical cannabis patients get their medicine, who regulates the field, whether or not every community will have safe and dignified access, and more. Will you have a seat at the table? Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our coalition partners at Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM) want to make sure you do. Join us in Sacramento for an important citizen lobby day at the state Capitol on Monday, August 12, to be heard.

Our previous lobby days have been effective in moving the ball down the field for sensible statewide medical cannabis regulation, but there is still a lot of work to be done to pass a bill this year. The next lobby day comes at a crucial juncture in the legislative process and at a time when grassroots support for moving forward is badly needed. We need to make a strong showing on August 12, so that lawmakers know that voters in their legislative districts support regulation. Otherwise, they will only be hearing from lobbyists representing divergent views on medical cannabis – law enforcement, local government, industry interests, and others. Patients and their advocates need to be part of that conversation, or our interests may be crowded out!

Lawmakers need to hear from you face-to-face. When you register for the California Summer Lobby Day on August 12, ASA will make an appointment for you to meet your state Assemblymember and Senator or his or her staff that afternoon. There are 120 legislative offices to visit. If we are in most or all of those offices on August 12, the impact will be significant. Help us make it happen.

The timing is for the lobby day is strategic. Before a bill can be approved by the full Assembly or Senate, it must be approved by one or more policy committees. Many bills fail because they do not clear this initial hurdle. By this point in the year, bills have already been approved by the house in which they originated. Now they are being debated in policy committees of the opposite chamber. That means bills already approved by the Senate are in Assembly committees right now, and bills approved by the Assembly are in Senate committees. When the legislature reconvenes form their summer break on August 12, it will be crunch time for getting bills out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.

We want medical cannabis legislation to be a priority at that strategic moment in the process. There is no better way to put an issue on the front burner than to pack the capitol with well-trained and effective citizen lobbyists. We have seen this work before. Our first lobby day in 2012 fundamentally changed the conversation about medical cannabis in the Capitol. If we make a strong showing on Monday, August 12, it will work again. Register now to help make it happen.

The most significant piece of legislation on the table right now is SB 439 by President Pro-Tem Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Leno (D-SF). SB 439 clarifies the scope of protections 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, an interpretation supported by ASA since lawmakers adopted the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420) in 2003. The bill also expands protections to employees of patients’ associations and recognizes that members buy their medicine from the associations.

SB 283, a bill by Senator Hancock (D-Berkeley) would allow Californians convicted of certain drug-related offenses in state or federal court to receive public assistance, a benefit they are currently denied. This includes people convicted of medical cannabis-related offenses. Other legislation affects foster parents and credentialed teachers who legally use medical cannabis (AB 787 and AB 375, respectively).

What happens to these bills matters for patients. There will be both good and bad amendments and last-minute developments before the final votes. Lawmakers need to hear from you. You can ask them to support ASA and CRMM’s Principles of Sensible Medical Cannabis Regulation right now. We delivered copies of the community-based principles, which are a blueprint for state regulation, to legislative offices during our lobby day in May. But it is very important that lawmakers and staff see you and hundreds of other patients and advocates in person in Sacramento at this strategic point in the legislative process.

Register right now online or download a mail-in registration form before August 2. The cost is just $25. ASA will make appointments for you, brief and train you to be an effective advocate, and provide you with professional lobby-day materials to take with you. Make your travel plans early for the best price. Don’t overlook discount options, like Megabus and Amtrak.

You can still help if you cannot make it to Sacramento on August. Download the registration form to help sponsor others to attend, or make a donation to help ASA spread the word and pay for this event.


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