BIG STEP 1 - IT WILL PROTECT YOUR JOB - EVENTUALLY
Assembly Bill 2188, which bars employers from testing hair, blood, urine or other bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites, was signed by Governor Newsom on September 18. But don't go celebrating just yet as there are some caveats that have not been widely reported. Number one is the law doesn't go into effect until Jan. 1, 2024 meaning you can still be tested and fired for OVER ONE MORE YEAR! Number 2 is that although it will protect employees from discrimination in hiring, firing or setting conditions of employment based on cannabis use off the job and away from the work place, it specifically exempts employees in the building and construction trades or positions requiring a federal background investigation or clearance. That's a lot of jobs that off-duty cannabis use can impact so we still have a ways to go.
What was so absurd is that it took California so long to pass this legislation. Six other states have already enacted employment non-discrimination legislation so California was certainly behind the 8-ball on this one. it was not for lack of trying. In 2008, the California legislature passed cannabis legislation protecting employees from termination for off-duty use of medicinal cannabis but it was vetoed by then Governor Schwarzenegger who wrote that "Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters in 1996." This was utter nonsense as the intent of Prop. 215 was to treat marijuana like any other legal pharmaceutical drug.
Although legislation to protect cannabis consumers from discrimination on the job was introduced in almost every succeeding legislative session, opposition from businesses, chambers of commerce, police and building trade unions and employers along with fears of pissing off the feds, stymied the bills from getting anywhere. Pressure to pass this legislation had been building for several years coming from a wide variety of constituencies including the California Democratic Party which passed a resolution in 2019 introduced by the Brownie Mary Democrats.calling on Democratic legislators to pass a bill protecting workers from employment termination for off-duty cannabis use. Needless to say, the bone tossed to the Building and Trade associations helped subdue their very considerable and vocal opposition.
The cannabis employment non-discrimination bill was among a series of cannabis-related bills passed by the 2022 legislature that expanded the legal market, addressed harms from past cannabis bans and furthers the implementation of Prop. 64. To see all the bills passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, CLICK HERE.
BIG STEP 2 - FREE AT LAST
Whether it is crass scrambling to get young people out to vote or its truly an epiphany of rationality and justice, President Biden's executive orders to remove the albatross of felony possession convictions from around the neck of federal marijuana prisoners is a most welcome and long, long overdue action. Even though there is no one in federal prison for possessing cannabis, the 6,500 people who were convicted of possession of marijuana under federal law between 1992 and 2001 will have their records expunged and will no longer be considered felons ending their inability to get jobs, ineligibility for a host of government programs, disqualification for many state licenses and I guess should give them grounds to claim the right and begin the process allowing them to obtain guns of all types just like any other red-blooded gun-obsessed American.
In his message announcing these changes Biden recognized that "Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit." He specifically noted that "while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates. Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs,"
Biden also requested that the Dept. of Health and Human Services reconsider marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act. Of course I would advise against holding one's breath on that one as it probably will require an act of Congress to do that. What is so sad is that the President shouldn't have to ask for it be done - it should have already happened two years ago when the Democrats took control of Congress. It just shows how dysfunctional they have been these last two years.
Ending cannabis prohibition should have been easy considering they hold a majority in both branches of Congress. Granted the majority they hold is about as slim a majority as possible, but they could have ended federal cannabis prohibition as there are enough Republicans who support it that a truly bipartisan coalition could have been put together to get it done. But they didn't
Even though Biden's move is certainly a big step in the right direction, the federal government can still prosecute residents of any state for possessing, using or selling marijuana, Anyone who ever doubted the importance of ending cannabis prohibition on the state level can see the effect of states legalizing cannabis under state law. Since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis in 2012, the number of cannabis arrests by the feds has plummeted from almost 7,000 in 2012 to less then 1,000 in 2021 making federal marijuana arrests less then 6% of people charged for violating federal drug laws. Now that is progress and is especially felt by the 6,500 people convicted for possessing cannabis under federal laws who will be pardoned.
"Way to go Joe."
Small Step 3 - Foot In The Door
I am running for the Board of Directors of the San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District. Now this might not seem to have anything to do with cannabis, but since it involves me of course it does, but before I get to that, let me tell you about this elected office.
There are 85 health care districts in California. Located mainly in rural areas, their primary directive in most instances is the support and operation of a community-based hospital, such as the San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning near where I live. In addition, health care districts are supposed to be grant-making organizations that support and implement a wide range of other community-based health and wellness facilities and activities.
I am the only person running for this position who is a Registered Nurse and has had actual hands-on experience working in both hospital and community health care positions. RNs are trained to take a holistic view of our patients’ healthcare needs. They are the backbone of not just the hospital, but all of our communities’ healthcare services. An RN will provide that needed holistic view and if elected to the SGMHD I will provide that viewpoint and work to see it implemented.
This is where my knowledge of cannabis and medicine comes in. As I am sure all you know, cannabis provides significant health benefits. These health benefits do not end at the side of a hospital bed, but actually increase. Pain, insomnia and anxiety are symptoms exhibited by many hospital patients and cannabis is one of the most effective, if not the most effective, treatment for these hospital associated ailments. If a patient's doctor believes cannabis will benefit the patient's health and help get them out of the hospital, then the patient should have access to medicinal cannabis in the hospital.
Since almost all hospitals receive significant amounts of money from the feds, Medicare being just one of them, they are not allowed to have cannabis provided to their patients due to federal law. However, there have been multiple bills introduced in Congress that would remove cannabis from the Schedule of Controlled Substances, thereby ending federal cannabis prohibition which means doctors and hospitals could provide cannabis to their patients without breaking federal law and jeopardizing the vast sums of money they get from the feds.
Once federal cannabis prohibition ends, then cannabis advocates would need to pressure hospitals to allow cannabis to be provided to their patients as it is very unlikely hospitals would do this on their own volition. That is where I would come in. As a member of the Board of Directors of the San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District, I could put forward the proposition that cannabis be allowed in the hospital. I don’t think it would really cause that much of an uproar – in fact I think it would be accepted, but somebody has to raise the issue first. I, as an RN taking that special holistic perspective so characteristic of nurses, would be the best and most likely the only person on the Board of Directors to make it happen.
Not wanting to be on a fool’s errand, I recognize that the chances of the feds ending cannabis prohibition are slim to non-existent. All the pundits are predicting that Republicans are likely to regain control of the House and if they do, we can kiss ending federal cannabis prohibition off as, although some Republicans support it, the majority do not.
However, if by some minor miracle, Democrats retain control of the House or by a major miracle, the majority of Republicans have an epiphany and support ending federal cannabis prohibition, then I will be in position to make it happen that cannabis will be available in our local hospital. Don’t worry, I am not going to endanger my health by holding my breath waiting for that to happen, but I will be prepared if it does.
Now for the pitch that you knew was coming. Running for political office costs money and I could use a little help in the regard. $$$ are needed for printing flyers, election cards, yard and roadside signs plus advertising in a local community newspaper. My election budget approaches about a thousand dollars and if you would like to throw a few bucks my way to help with winning the election, I would surely appreciate it.
If you can help financially please make a check out to Lanny Swerdlow, RN and send it to PO Box 918, Cabazon CA 92230.
If I win, you will all be invited to my in-person and virtual victory party where cannabis consumption will be allowed and encouraged.