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Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our allies have been fighting for medical cannabis regulations to protect safe access to medicine and patients’ rights since 2002, and we are going to keep fighting that important battle despite a setback today. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) has withdrawn AB2312, a bill that would have created a state board to regulate medical cannabis cultivation and provision. That means AB 2312 will not proceed to a vote by the full Senate this year.
We have come a long way towards passing this bill, and our growing coalition of allies is poised to move forward at the ballot box or in the legislature next year. Polls show that 77% of Californians support regulation and control of medical cannabis, and AB 2312 had some influential support. UFCW National Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division, UFCW Western States Council, UFCW Local 5, the AFL-CIO, and the California Medical Association all supported the bill.
Research conducted by ASA and sixteen years of experience show that sensible regulations for medical cannabis preserve community-based access for patients, while reducing crime and complaints around cooperatives and collectives. Although more than fifty localities in California have adopted such regulations, a lack of state leadership has stymied further implementation of the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420) in communities statewide. Uncertainty led to calls from the courts, the California Attorney General, and local lawmakers for leadership and clarity. AB 2312 would have helped answer those calls by securing safe, well-regulated access all over California.
We made it further this year than anyone thought we would. No one expected this bill to be approved by two committees and the full Assembly. The credit for that goes, in large part, to more than 300 ASA members and allies who visited every legislative office in the Capitol on May 21st, as part of the biggest medical cannabis lobby day in California history. Those citizen advocates were talking with lawmakers and staff just days before crucial votes on AB 2312, and their voices made all the difference.
Many good bills take more than a year to pass. We can definitely use a few extra months to improve this bill for next year. We need to be sure that taxation, if necessary, is limited; and we have to make it difficult (or impossible) for cities and counties to ban patients’ associations outright. We also have a lot of work to do to build support among legislators and constituents. And given that many people fear statewide regulation, we can use this extra time to keep talking about the benefits and drawbacks of a state model, in hopes of broadening the reform coalition. We must also decide whether the voter initiative process is a sound strategy in California, and if We can we agree on the content and raise the money we need to get on the ballot in 2013 or 2014.
I want all of you to be a part of that ongoing conversation about what comes next in California. Please sign up for ASA’s announcement lists, participate in our Discussion Forums, and follow our blog.
I want to say a very special thank you to our allies at Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana – United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5, California NORML, Emerald Growers Association, and the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. You guys did a great job! I also want to say a special thank you to Assemblymember Tom Amnmiano and his staff for their hard work and patience. And most of all, thank you to the thousands of ASA members and friends who wrote letters, sent emails, signed petitions, visited lawmakers, and donated generously to this effort. That is what it takes to get this work done!