Pages tagged "SB 439"
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 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.
Sen. Darrell Steinberg
The California Senate approved SB 439 on Monday. The bill, which is co-authored by Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) 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 Americans for Safe Access (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.
ASA supports SB 439 because uncertainty about the scope of California’s medical cannabis laws has led to differing interpretations and inconsistency in law enforcement around the state. Some cities and counties regulate and tax storefront facilities, while others ban them outright or turn a blind eye to their operation. Lobbyists for law enforcement are promoting a narrow interpretation of the law, which leaves patients in some jurisdictions without safe, legal, and dignified access to medicine. Patients and lawmakers need more clarity about what is legal in California, and SB 439 is an important step in that direction.
At a hearing before the Senate Public Safety Committee, President Pro-Tem Steinberg told his colleagues that SB 439 was a starting point. We can expect substantial amendments as the bill moves through one of more committees in the Assembly and on to a final vote on the Assembly floor before September 13. Differences between the Senate and Assembly versions will be resolved in a concurrence committee made up of members of each house. The Governor will have thirty days to sign or veto the bill.
Advocates must be vigilant and practical in the effort to complete this bill. There are many voices in Sacramento this year trying to influence the outcome. Lobbyists for law enforcement, local government, community groups, and others will be pushing for changes we don’t like. We have to push back and ask for what we want with a unified voice. ASA will be calling on members and friends to be a part of that conversation for the rest of the legislative season. Be sure you are a part of that process by making your voice heard. Sign up for our mailing list to stay informed and find out how you can participate online and face-to-face with lawmakers.
ASA and our coalition allies at Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM) have developed the Principles of Sensible Medical Cannabis Regulation to help lawmakers understand what we want to see in state regulations. We developed these principles after a year of conversations that started at the California Unity Conference in 2012 and are still ongoing. Constituents took these principles with them to visit dozens of legislative offices at our California Medical Cannabis Policy Summit and Lobby Day May 5-6. If you agree that principles like these make sense, please join ASA and CRMM in asking lawmakers to support them.
This is going to be a big year for medical cannabis in California. The legislature is determined to do something about the issue, so let’s work together to be sure they do the right thing!