ASA Citizen Lobby Day Makes a Difference

ASA’s fourth citizen lobby day in California was a big success. Approximately 150 patients and other stakeholders attended, and they visited more than fifty legislative offices – plus a lot of impromptu visits initiated by attendees themselves. Participants asked lawmakers to support ASA’s proposed Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act and SB 1193 (Evans), the return of property bill. They also expressed a variety of opinions on the controversial SB 1262 (Correa/Ammiano).

After the lobby day, a standing-room only crowd gathered to watch Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, and me present term-limited Assembly Member Tom Ammiano with a certificate of appreciation for his years of work on behalf of medical cannabis patients. Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Senator Mark Leno, and staff members from several legislative offices joined us for the reception.

We spent a long time talking about SB 1262 at the lobby day. There is a lot of concern, indecision, and support for the bill among our base. Of the twenty five attendees who returned our survey on lobby day, eight supported SB 1262, six opposed it, and ten were undecided (one did not answer the question). Most had helpful input and suggestions. I will be interested in seeing how those numbers change as others return their surveys or complete them online. ASA is using our support for SB 1262 to leverage important changes for patients and other stakeholders. That strategy has paid off. See my previous blog entitled “So, What’s the Deal with SB 1262?” for more about that.

ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer and I had a chance to talk with Senator Correa’s staff on Monday about three of our primary concerns about SB 1262, and we left feeling confident that there is still a chance to improve this bill and get something beneficial for patients and other stakeholders passed this year. First, the Senator’s staff, who consented to me sharing this information, said they support an amendment to Section 18108 that would remove the restrictions on the type and number of licenses that applicants could apply for, and instead authorize the Bureau to develop, as part of their regulatory process, any restrictions it may deem appropriate. This means that cooperatives and collectives that already cultivate, process, and provide medicine will be able to apply for provisional licenses to continue operating. That is a very important part of ensuring an adequate supply of legal medicine for patients.

Second, staff agreed to support amendments to Section 18107 to clarify the requirements related to which medical cannabis cultivators will be eligible for a provisional license under the bill.  Provisional licenses are important, because we need to be sure there is an adequate supply of legal medical cannabis for legitimate patients between the effective date of the bill (January, 1, 2015) and the deadline to start  issuing  permanent licenses (July 1, 2016). The proposed amendments would allow cultivators to submit documentation establishing their legal status under local law, as opposed to requiring advance approval from city or county officials. This would accommodate cultivators who are not specifically banned by local regulations, but who are also not explicitly authorized.

Third, staff agreed to keep working on provisions in Section 18110 that bar applicants with felony convictions for certain offense from holding a license. Law enforcement lobbyists sponsoring SB 1262 are committed to these restrictions. ASA and staff are still pushing for exceptions or limitations on the exclusion for those convicted of medical cannabis-related felonies, especially those that are years old. Time is short to make this change, and there is still no consensus among stakeholders. This issue may say unresolved until the very last minute.  

I know some of you have concerns about this bill. ASA strongly supports regulation because our research and experience show that regulations preserve access for patients, while reducing crime and complaints in neighborhoods. See “Regulations Are Good for Patients” and “SB 1262 and California Patients” for more on the benefits of regulation. We have helped make significant changes to this bill from the beginning, and we are going to keep fighting for patients and other stakeholders until the bill is as good as it can be.

SB 1262 will be in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, hopefully with our amendments. Stay tuned and keep speaking up – no matter where you stand on SB 1262.

I want to say a special thank you to the volunteers who helped pull off the lobby day this year, and to our sponsors: The Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, Organicann, Peace in Medicine, SPARC, Buds & Roses, and the Emerald Growers Association.