New medical cannabis bills in California

Friday, February 21, was the deadline to introduce new bills for the 2014 legislative session in California. There are three bills that will be a priority for medical cannabis cultivators, patients, industry workers, and other stakeholders this year. Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization, has been talking with lawmakers, staff, and influential organizations in Sacramento about new legislation since last year. Now that the playing field is clear, we are ready to put our grassroots power to work.

Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) introduced SB 1262 on Friday afternoon, just before the deadline for new bills this year. The bill, which is sponsored by the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association, seeks to regulate medical cannabis cultivators, dispensaries, and doctors. The bill places regulatory control of medical cannabis under the Department of Health – something ASA prefers. Most of the language related to the commercial cultivation and provision of medical cannabis is reasonable, but doctors who recommend medical cannabis will balk at the heavy restrictions the bill imposes on them. This bill promises to be one of the most talked about of the legislative session.

Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is pushing forward with AB 604, a bill introduced last year that would create a new division in the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to write and implement regulations for commercial medical cannabis activity. The bill was not adopted last year, but Assembly Member Ammiano is determined to adopt the measure in his final year in the state legislature.

On another front, Assembly Member Connie Conway (R-Visalia) has introduced AB 1588, which if adopted, will increase the distance between patients’ cooperatives and collectives and schools from 600 to 1,000 feet. The bill will also add a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $10,000 for violations. The bill would bring California law into compliance with federal sentencing standards, but offers nothing beneficial to medical cannabis providers in the state. In fact, the bill could impose hardship on legally-permitted facilities and new facilities looking for locations in cities and counties statewide.

Look for more information about these bills and what you can do to help shape them on the ASA Blog, in the California Weekly Roundup email every Monday, and other communication from ASA. We are going to need a skilled cadre of grassroots activists in every legislative district in the state to be sure that legal medical cannabis patients have a seat at the table as these bills (and possibly others) evolve this year. Keep an eye on your inbox and get ready to make a difference!