A roundup of marijuana bills now making the rounds at California's state Capitol
From a vaping ban to good-ol' regulation efforts, a roundup of possible new California pot laws
The people of California have convened a historic legislative session this year. According to some lobbyists, never has there been this level of lawmaker interest in medical cannabis. The deadline to introduce new bills passed on February 27, and there are at least 13 bills in the state Assembly and Senate directly dealing with the popular botanical. Additionally, about 50 bills could have some obscure bearing on the industry.
“It’s a hot, very hot topic this year in the state Capitol. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s among the top five items to be worked on this year,” says Nate Bradley for the California Cannabis Industry Association.
Let’s have a rundown:
California is at a historic crossroads with regard to its nearly 20-year-old, largely laissez faire medical-cannabis program. “The situation in California is inherently unstable,” said Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann to a San Francisco gathering in February. At least five bills seeking to regulate California’s billion-dollar medical-cannabis market get a crucial first hearing and analysis this month.
On the table is Assembly Bill 26—a pro-industry bill. This bill would regulate cannabis like alcohol, vesting authority with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-South Los Angeles, resurrected San Francisco lawmaker Tom Ammiano’s failed 2014 language.
Assembly Bill 266 is the more “pro-cop” bill. It’s allegedly tougher than A.B. 26 and is backed by the California Police Chiefs and League of Cities. It’s also considered unworkable by the Emerald Grower’s Association. Local Assemblyman Ken Cooley, who’s backing the bill, is from Rancho Cordova, which banned medical cannabis cultivation. Experts say A.B. 266 is likely to change significantly, or merge with another bill.
Assemblyman Jim Wood has a viable, incremental effort to require indoor and outdoor medical cannabis cultivation to follow local environmental law with Assembly Bill 243. The regulations are part of a broad effort to allow the state water board to permit legal cannabis farms.
And there’s Senate Bill 643—even more incremental and viable. North Coast state Senator Mike McGuire’s bill calls for basic studies on the best way to levy taxes and lays the groundwork for regulation.
Vapor is also under fire at the Capitol this session. Senate Bill 140 would target cannabis vaporizer users in multifamily apartment complexes, who could be legally evicted under new laws meant to attack the rise of e-cigarettes. Sen. Mark Leno’s bill changes the definition of “tobacco products” to include “an electronic device that delivers nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling from the device.” The bill has a lot of momentum, and medical-cannabis advocates hope they can win a carve-out for medical-pot vaping.
There’s a bevy of new patients’ rights bills, including Assembly Bill 258, which prevents hospitals from denying organ transplants solely for medical-cannabis use. And Assembly Bill 821, which would give terminally ill patients a sales tax exemption certificate they could use to obtain medical cannabis, sales tax-free.
And, of course, there is a smorgasbord of proposed laws that would punish cannabis users.
Senate Bill 305 would enhance prison sentences for the manufacture of concentrated cannabis using flammable solvents such as butane inside a home.
Growers would face new civil penalties for illegal dumping of cultivation waste, hazardous materials, illegal timber harvesting and water-use violations on public and private land, under another bill introduced, Senate Bill 165.
“You should care about this,” says Don Duncan with Americans for Safe Access, “because what the Legislature does is going to have an immediate impact on patients. It’s really important to try and shape this process before these bills are adopted, not after.”