SB 1262 Goes to the Suspense File with an Uncertain Fate

Member Mike GattoUPDATE 08/14/2014 - The Assembly Appropriations Committee held SB 1262 in committee today, so it will not pass this year.

The California Assembly Appropriations Committee placed SB 1262 into the suspense file this morning. The suspense file is where the committee sends any bill with an annual cost of more than $150,000. Suspense file bills are considered at one hearing when the committee has a better sense of available revenue. The deadline for bills in the suspense file to be approved by the committee is August 15, but the last scheduled meeting of the Appropriations Committee is tomorrow.

Pictured: Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank)

SB 1262 may be approved by the committee tomorrow. If so, it will go to the full Assembly for a vote. However, SB 1262 may not make it out of suspense this year for any number of reasons. If that happens, we will have to go back to the drawing board for statewide medical cannabis regulations in January. Both co-authors, Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), are term-limited. Neither will serve in the legislature next year, so someone else will have to author a regulatory bill in 2015.

One reason the bill may die in suspense this year is its purported price tag. The committee staff report estimates the annual costs for SB 1262 to be $20 million, with uncertain revenue generated. That number is surprising, because a majority of the provisions in the bill were adapted from AB 1894. The staff report for AB 1894, which was defeated in the Assembly in May, estimated costs at just $15 million. It is unlikely that lawmakers will have a chance to dig into this discrepancy in the last few hours before the suspense file vote.

SB 1262 is a controversial bill. Americans for Safe Access, the California Cannabis Industries Association, the Small Farmers Association, and other advocates support the bill. Other stakeholders in our community are unsure or opposed. If it is adopted, SB 1262 will regulate doctors who recommend medical cannabis and those who commercially cultivate, process, test, and provide it in California. Research conducted by ASA and our experience of almost twelve years of regulation at the city and county level show that regulations preserve safe, legal, and dignified access to medicine for patients; while reducing crime and complaints in neighborhoods.

Read more about the benefits of regulation, how SB 1262 affects patients, ASA’s strategy for and success in improving the bill, and import last-minute amendments we helped to secure in previous blogs.

The debate about SB 1262 and medical cannabis regulations has come a long way in the last year. We secured substantial and important amendments to improve the bill. The California Polices Chiefs Association and the League of California Cities dropped their traditional opposition to medical cannabis regulations this year and sponsored SB 1262. That is a major milestone for our issue. The Chiefs, League, and other new players may be back at the table next year if the bill dies tomorrow. Not everyone at the table will share our beliefs and priorities. That means patients and industry will have to be pragmatic about what we can accomplish. Passing legislation always involves compromise. We won’t get the exact bill we want this year or next, but we can move the ball down the court if we are reasonable and strategic.

Look for news about the outcome of the committee suspense vote on FaceBook and Twitter tomorrow, or in next week’s CA Weekly Roundup.