Legislature Kills Major Marijuana Bills
Keeps Door Open for Minor Ones
Legal Cannabis Remains Hard and Expensive to Get But You Can Still Get Fired
Most marijuana bills are going into the legislature dustbin – at least the ones that would have some real world major effect and not just nibble at the edges.
I am specifically referring to the employment bill, the bill to lower taxes, the bill to prevent police from cooperating with the feds and the bill to allow delivery services everywhere. All have been shelved and will not be coming to a vote anytime soon.
AB 2069 is being held in the Assembly Appropriations committee so it will not be voted on in 2018. The bill, which would have only protected medical marijuana patients from being fired on Monday for smoking marijuana on Saturday, would have overturned Ross v Raging Wire, a California Supreme Court ruling that Prop 215 does not protect employment rights.
Hopes were high when AB 2069 passed the Assembly Labor Committee on April 25.
The bill was sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and CalNORML including a very impressive list of supporters from AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) to the Hispanic and Black chambers of commerce.
Also in support was a poll taken way back in 2013 when marijuana was still legal only for medical marijuana patients. Conducted by the Huffington Post and You Gov, the poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans agreed that it would “be unacceptable for a company to fire an employee for off-the-clock marijuana use in states where using marijuana is legal.”
Even with this impressive list of sponsors/supporters and polls showing support for workplace protection for marijuana consumers and even though the bill had been amended multiple times to make it more amenable to business interests including allowing employers to fire marijuana using employees if the business had a federal contract mandating a drug-free workplace, the bill could not make it out of the Appropriations Committee.
Pressure applied upon the Committee by a consortium of powerful opponents including police, the State Building and Trades Council and state and local Chambers of Commerce sealed its fate no matter how impressive were its list of sponsors and supporters as well as the opinion of the people who elected them.
AB3157, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Lackey and Democratic Assemblymen Bonta, Cooley, Jones-Sawyer, and Wood would have lowered the state excise tax from 15% to 11% and eliminate the $9.25/oz. cultivation tax for three years. It was introduced principally to reduce the incentive of people to secure marijuana from the black market.
The bill was opposed by a consortium of Democrats, unions and the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the major advocates for Prop. 64 stating it was too soon to slash taxes without further evidence they were driving people to the black market. What drivel – it’s never too soon to reduce taxes on a product as important for the health of our communities as marijuana and DPA should be ashamed of their stance on this issue.
Marijuana cultivators and retail distributors fought the good fight sensibly pointing out that inordinately high taxes drives many marijuana consumers to the underground market where they can save significant amounts of money. Their successful search for cheaper marijuana may very well be the reason state excise and cultivation taxes have fallen far below projections for the first three months of the year. Expectations are for about $175 million to flow into state coffers by the end of June, but a paltry $34 million came in between January and March causing much concern and consternation amongst state officials.
The failure of AB 3157 to get out of committee means that taxes will remain excessively high - a gift to the illegal market courtesy of the California State legislature.
AB 1578, the “ganja sanctuary bill” which would have prevented state and local police from cooperating with federal police in arresting legal marijuana cultivators never even received any consideration. The bill had passed the Assembly in 2017 but stalled in the State Senate over fears that the immigration sanctuary bill, SB 54 which prevents local and state police from cooperating with ICE in the apprehension of undocumented immigrants, was enough sanctuary legislation for one year.
Confusion on the federal level between Pres. Trump telling U.S. Senator Gardner (R-CO) that states that have legalized marijuana will be left alone and AG Jeffrey Sessions rescinding the Cole Memo freeing U.S. Prosecutors to go after marijuana providers may have contributed to the bill’s inability to get any traction this year. Time will tell if it is necessary to re-introduce AB 1578 in 2019.
Senate BIll 1302, introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would permit operators licensed by the state and a local jurisdiction to deliver marijuana anywhere in California, even in those localities that ban all marijuana businesses.
If the bill had passed it would have been a major game-changer, but with around 2/3rd of California municipalities banning any and all forms of marijuana businesses, it just wasn’t going to happen. State legislators were not going to piss off their locally elected city councils and county boards so that their mainly silent marijuana-consumring constituents can access marijuana legally and locally. This reluctance along with powerful forces opposing the bill - police, the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties - all but guaranteed its failure. It came as no surprise that they were joined by marijuana retail businesses that did not want the competition from out-of-area marijuana businesses distributing in their neck of the woods.
We can point our collective fingers at all these nefarious characters and associations for the failure of these sensible and reasonable pieces of legislation, but ultimately our fingers must point back at us as we failed miserably in using our strength in numbers and public support to force our elected legislators to support these bills and get them passed into law.
All failures are not necessarily a bad thing as one bill that failed was a good thing. SB 1273, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), was a putative piece of legislation that would have suspended the drivers' licenses of drivers under the age of 21 who were found to have any amount of THC in their systems. Fortunately this bill did not make it out of committee.
There are number of lesser bills that appear to be passing in either the assembly or the senate and will now be considered by the other legislative body. These are:
SB 829 to license and protect compassion programs that give away cannabis to needy patients, many of them terminally ill;
SB 930 to create charter banks for cannabis businesses;
SB 1294 to create a state cannabis equity program;
SB 1127 to allow pediatric cannabis patients to take their medication at school;
AB 1793 to automatically expunge or re-sentence past marijuana convictions;
AB 2215 to allow veterinarians to talk about medical cannabis with their patient's owners;
AB 2641 to allow the Bureau of Cannabis Control to grant temporary licenses for special events in jurisdictions where the events have been approved;
AB 2721 to allow a laboratory to test homegrown cannabis.
Yes there is some good, but the above bills still need to make it out of their legislative body and then signed by the governor. Holding one's breath could be dangerous to your health. Taken as a whole, this has been a disappointing legislative session. Realistically it should have been expected.
One needs to understand that Prop. 64 was written so it would pass - it never was intended to be a dream initiative. However it contained the seed of a dream initiative with the unusual section that allows it to be amended.
The drafters of Prop. 64 had some Pollyanna delusion that consumers and businesses with billions at stake and the health and welfare of their communities uppermost in mind would get their act together and develop trade and consumer associations. They would start hiring lobbyists and do the things that normal businesses and billion dollar interest groups do to influence legislators and advance legislation favorable to their concerns and desires.
In the 20 years that ensued during the time Prop. 215 was the only legal way to obtain cannabis, medical marijuana patients and medical marijuana dispensaries did essentially nothing to protect access. Patients did smoke marijuana and providers did count their dollars, but that is essentially all they did. This year’s disappointing legislative session and the lack of an effective response to make Prop. 64 better makes it seem like déjà vu all over again.
It’s all about politics and who has the most influence over state legislators. In this case police, reefer-madness-infected elected officials and businesses won over consumers, marijuana organizations, marijuana businesses, most unions, legal associations, community groups and the voters of California who had overwhelmingly approved Prop. 64 in 2016 and expected a reasonable and rational production and distribution system to be put in place.
Many of these bills and some new ones will re-appear in 2019. If we are to have a more successful 2019 legislative session, marijuana consumers and businesses will have to realize that what we have in the United States is the best government money can buy and they better start pooling their resources and buy some.
BRINGING MARIJUANA TO HEMET and SKULLDUGGERY IMPERILS RIVERSIDE CO. MARIJUANA ORDINANCE at MAPP Meeting on Wednesday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Moreno Valley.
Nestled near Diamond Lake in Riverside County is the somewhat sleepy, somewhat bustling town of Hemet. With a population of 85,000, 1 in 4 residents live below the poverty level, 5.5% are unemployed and city government faces a looming three million dollar shortfall in revenue for its 2017-2018 budget.
Hemet would seem to be the ideal city to receive an infusion of cannabis dollars, but with all five city council member being Republican and two having past associations with law enforcement, Hemet has never been a friendly town for folks wanting to access marijuana. The city had enacted a two-year moratorium on marijuana businesses in 2009 followed by a total ban in 2011.
Even with a ban in place, Hemet was not a marijuana desert with a varying number of illegal storefront and delivery distributors operating. Weedmaps currently lists five operating dispensaries in Hemet. The City does work to close them down but like almost everywhere else when a dispensary gets a threatening notice to close, they wait until just before court appearance time and then move a few blocks down the street and reopen.
Hemet resident Marie McDonald wants Hemet to get out of this “whack-a-mole game” and allow for legal, licensed and regulated marijuana businesses from cultivation and manufacturing facilities to retail distribution outlets.
Marie is a long-time Hemet community activist serving on the HOA Board of Hemet West. She was an active proponent of measure E, the sales tax for police and fire services and measure U, a one percent sales tax increase and is currently Vice-chair of the Hemet Measure U Oversight Committee. Regularly attending and participating in Hemet City Council meetings, Marie is well-known and well-versed in Hemet political circles.
Involved with the Democratic Party, Marie was President of the Hemet-San Jacinto Democratic Club and is currently the appointed representative of U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz on the Riverside County Democratic Central Committee.
Marie has approached us to help coordinate an organizing drive to get the Hemet City Council to develop an ordinance permitting marijuana businesses and to have it placed on the ballot in November 2018.
Like other cities, Hemet would benefit significantly from a legal and regulated market for marijuana. Marie wants to work with us to provide the Hemet City Council and the residents of Hemet with the information needed to make an informed decision and to organize public presentations at not just the City Council but to civic and community groups.
If you live in Hemet, this is an opportunity to utilize your position as a resident. It cannot be underestimated how important and critical your participation is.
How we proceed in Hemet can help build a Post 64 pathway for getting other cities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to enact ordinances for allowing marijuana businesses. As in past efforts to assure access, everyone’s help is needed, so no matter where you live, your support is needed so please join us at the Wed. June 7 MAPP meeting in Moreno Valley and meet Marie and begin the process of bringing legal marijuana to Hemet.
At this meeting I had planned to make a presentation on my participation in ASA’s National Unity Conference and in ASA’s/CaNORML’s Citizen Lobby Day in Sacramento. Unfortunately while traveling to Washington DC to attend the National Unity Conference, I visited with my cousin in Illinois and while on a hike I fell down a waterfall. Falling fifteen feet into a boulder strewn pool, I could have been killed, but I am lucky to have survived with only a severely damaged left leg.
I will recover, but my movements are restricted with a leg brace making it impossible to drive and participate in other activities. However, I will make it to this important meeting on Wed. June 7 and look forward to working with you and Marie McDonald in bring marijuana access to Hemet.
Although I will not be discussing what I learned in DC and Sacramento, I will be making a presentation on what is happening in Riverside Co. regarding allowing marijuana businesses. To be blunt, I am afraid the county is going down a dead-end street that will result in the continued ban on marijuana businesses in Riverside County rather than the enactment of an ordinance allowing for the implementation of the commercial provisions of Prop. 64.
The entire issue is being swept-under-the rug by the BOS and ignored by the media. This needs to change and to change soon. My presentation on what is happening, why it is happening and what to do about it will give you an insider look at the debacle that is taking place right under our noses.
The Wed. June 7 MAPP meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and is held at the Greenview Medical Clinic, 22275 Alessandro Blvd., 92553. As always, a delicious assortment of cookies and fresh milk will be served plus bring a guest and each of you will receive a free pocket pipe.
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