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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  • Which bills passed and failed in 2015

    The California Legislature adjourned n September, following a session that included more than a dozen bills concerning medical cannabis. Patients, providers, and other stakeholders scored some big victories in Sacramento this year, and now we have important work to do. ASA is committed to working hard to build on the momentum of the legislative session. We are going to be aggressively defending new rights won this year, helping write new regulations for commercial medical cannabis activity, acting as a watchdog on implementation, and more. We are going to need your help and support to get it done.

    ASA has been working on California legislation since 2003, and we have had a full-time legislative office in Sacramento for more than three years. Our exclusive focus on medical cannabis and pragmatic approach to legislation has helped us to be effective advocates and to get results. This year ASA passed important bills, secured beneficial amendments, and helped stop and mitigate bad proposals. We also brought the voices of hundreds of patients and others directly to lawmakers with our annual citizen lobby day. The thousands of patients who have taken part in ASA’s annual lobby days over the years have  helped to fundamentally change the way elected officials see the issue of medical cannabis in California.

    Watch a Google+ Hangout from Tuesday, September 15, at 8:00 PM to hear more about this year’s progress and what comes next. Use these links to watch the broadcast:

    Google+:

    https://plus.google.com/events/cto7pnggrcrkurc7c8vu37vika8

    YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxOAV5XBf-s

    Organ Transplants

    We are most proud of the adoption of AB 258 (Levine), the ASA-sponsored Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act. This bill will prevent anyone from being denied an organ transplant based only on legal medical cannabis use. The adoption of this bill makes California the seventh state to protect patients in jeopardy of being denied a potentially life-saving transplant. The widespread policy of denying organ transplants to legal patients has already caused preventable deaths. We know this bill will prevent new tragedies.

    Unfortunately, old stigma and outdated policies remain. It is not enough to pass a law like this. Now we have to be sure it is implemented statewide. ASA will be reaching out to health care providers and patients to educate them about medical cannabis use and the new law this Fall. We will also be monitoring cases of non-compliance, advocating for victims of discrimination, and helping patients fight back.

    Commercial Medical Cannabis Regulations

    After trying for three years, the legislature adopted three bills to regulate commercial medical cannabis activity tonight. AB 243 (Wood), AB 266 (Bonta), and SB 643 (McGuire) will delegate regulation of commercial medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution to various state agencies and will license medical cannabis businesses at the state level for the first time. Movement on these bills accelerated following an 11th hour deal that involved stakeholders and the Governor’s office.

    ASA has worked diligently on these bills to be sure that they are as beneficial as possible for patients and providers. Most importantly, we insisted that individual patients and caregivers be completely exempt from licensing and regulation. We won that battle. Patients and caregivers still have the right to cultivate and use their medicine, without jumping through any new hurdles!

    ASA lobbied hard to have regulatory oversight of medical cannabis removed from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, because we did not want to see medicine regulated like a vice. As a result of our efforts,the bills create the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation in the Department of Consumer Affairs to oversee the licensing and regulation of commercial medical cannabis activity. The Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Public Health will also play an active role. ASA also scored a big victory in having a statewide excise tax on virtually all cannabis cultivation in the state removed.

    Look for more specific information about the final content on the bills on Monday. The last proposed version of each bill was posted on ASA’s California Campaign for Safe Access email discussion list last night.

    Regulatory bills are complicated and often controversial. Lawmakers, law enforcement, local government, industry and patients all made compromises this year. It is important that we accomplished this now. Our research and experience show that regulations preserve access for patients, while reducing crime and complaints. Statewide licensing and regulation will also ensure higher quality standards and increased product safety, protect industry workers from prosecution, and help eliminate public ambivalence that has prevented some cities and counties from regulating medical cannabis since 1996.  These bills will also give clarity to those who are writing an anticipated voter initiative to legalize adult use of cannabis in November of 2016.

    Not everyone in the field of medical cannabis will be willing or able to comply with regulations; and there is a chance that regulations will increase costs in the short term. However, the emerging medical cannabis industry in California has learned to be flexible and resilient during the ups and downs of the last eighteen years. We are  confident that California is ready for regulations and thebenefits they bring to patients.

    Manufacturing Concentrated Cannabis

    ASA helped stop SB 305 (Bates), a bill that would have authorized longer sentences for people who manufacture concentrated cannabis in a structure where a child under 16 years old is present. ASA appreciates the need for safety, but a penalty-based approach to regulation is ineffective. The manufacturing of concentrated cannabis using volatile solvents, like butane, is best regulated by the state agencies charged with developing and implementing commercial medical cannabis rules. Increasing penalties is unlikely to deter those engaged in risky behavior. In fact, it is unlikely that those people making concentrates will even know about the enhanced sentences before they are charged with a crime.

    Other Legislative News 

    • The legislature adopted AB 849 (Bonilla), which makes it a crime to cause an explosion that damages property or forest lands while manufacturing concentrated cannabis. ASA took no position on this bill, but calls on regulators to include science-based guidelines for manufacturing concentrated cannabis in state guidelines.
    • ASA supports AJR 25, a resolution calling on the US Congress to pass legislation that would allow cannabis and medical cannabis businesses access to commercial banking services. The legislature will vote on this resolution next year.
    • The legislature adopted SB 165 (Monning), which increases civil penalties for cultivating  cannabis (medical or otherwise) on public and private land. ASA opposed this bill.
    • The legislature adopted SB 212 (Mendoza), which allows for additional penalties for manufacturing concentrated cannabis within 200 feet of an occupied structure. ASA opposed the bill.
    • ASA supported SB 443 (Mitchell), a bill that would have protected patients and others from California’s unjust civil asset forfeiture laws. Unfortunately, the bill was defeated.

    On the Horizon

    ASA has big plans for next year. We want to expand protection from discrimination for legal patients to include employment, housing, parental rights, and access to prescription drugs. We may also need to revisit the new commercial regulations to correct shortcomings and deal with unintended consequences. ASA will also be monitoring the voter initiative process to help ensure that an anticipated vote on legalizing cannabis for adult use in November of 2016 works for patients andresponsible adults. 

    This work matters, and your participation and support make it possible. Keep responding to our action alerts, attending lobby days, and pushing for local ordinances that allow cultivation and safe access to medicine. And if you haven’t done so already, join the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients advocacy team so that we have the resources we need to keep making a difference in California and nationwide.

    Join ASA’s California Campaign for Safe Access email discussion list to talk with other advocates about local and state medical cannabis issues.

  • 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.