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Medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders in California scored victories and suffered defeats in the state legislature today. The Appropriations Committees in the Assembly and Senate decided the fate of hundreds of bills today in their biannual “suspense hearings” – including important bills related to medical cannabis licensing, taxation, and patients’ rights.
The committee votes come just four days after more than one hundred and fifty medical cannabis patients and caregivers gathered in Sacramento to talk face-to-face with lawmakers and staff about medical cannabis bills. Participants in the California Citizen Lobby Day took more than 200 meetings with lawmakers and staff – including members who cast votes in today’s suspense hearings.
The fiscal committees hold suspense hearings twice during each annual legislative session to decide whether or not bills that have a financial impact of $150,000 or more will proceed to a vote on the floor. Bills sent to the floor for a vote have a chance of moving forward towards adoption. Bills held in committee are dead for the year.
The Assembly committee moved a clean up bill for the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) and a “cottage cultivator” license bill forward. The committee also defeated a bill that would have victimized legal patients who drive vehicles in the state. Unfortunately, both committees advanced taxation bills that may place an unreasonable burden on patients.
- AB 1575 (Bonta) – The committee approved this clean up bill for the MMRSA, which makes beneficial changes to the landmark licensing and regulation law. ASA supports this bill as a necessary step towards improving the MMRSA.
- AB 2243 (Wood) – The committee approved this bill, which imposes a tax on the distribution of medical cannabis. The bill taxes licensed medical cannabis distributors at $9.25 per ounce of dried cannabis flowers, $2.75 per ounce of cannabis leaves, and $1.75 per plant cutting. ASA opposes this tax measure as premature. No state medical cannabis distributor licenses have been issued, and we do not have a clear idea of what the total cumulative tax and fee burden on the emerging industry will be.
- AB 2516 (Wood) – The committee approved this bill, which will create a new “cottage cultivator” license for smaller-scale cultivators. ASA supports this bill because it will expand legal cultivation of medical cannabis in the state.
- AB 2740 (Low) – The committee rejected this bill, which would have made it a crime for legal medical cannabis patients to drive with even a tiny amount of THC in their blood. ASA opposed this bill because the per se limits for impairment are arbitrary and unscientific.
- SB 987 (McGuire) – The committee approved this bill, which will impose an additional 15% excise tax on medical cannabis statewide. The tax is on top of sales tax, local tax, and any other tax imposed by state or local lawmakers. ASA opposes this bill, because it is an unfair burden on legal patients.
We still have a lot of work to do on medical cannabis legislation in California this year. We need to stop those taxes!
We also have a lot of work to do following up with lawmakers about our proposed bill for 2017 to end pervasive discrimination against patients in employment, housing, parental rights, and access to health care. We already have some promising leads based on lobby day appointments!
Thanks to everyone who signed came to lobby day or signed petitions on Monday. Our grassroots campaign is making a difference!