Get rid of ‘weed deserts’

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Hey can I get an update on any new cannabis laws being considered in California?

—Lee Gleagle

Yes, you can! There are a few interesting things going on right now.

One of the most intriguing bills on the docket right now is Assembly Bill 1356, which would go a long way toward getting rid of all the “weed deserts” in California. According to the text of the bill: “if more than 50% of the electorate of a local jurisdiction voted in favor of AUMA [Proposition 64],[this bill] would require a local jurisdiction to issue a minimum number of local licenses authorizing adult-use or medicinal retail cannabis commercial activity within that jurisdiction.”

In other words, all these holdout cities and counties ignoring the will of the voters would have to allow cannabis clubs to exist in their jurisdictions. Looking at you, San Joaquin County. And Sacramento County, but not the city—the city is doing great! If this bill passes, cities and counties would have to allow at least one canna-business for every four liquor stores.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat and author of the bill, posted this statement to his website: “Californians voted for Prop. 64 to replace the illicit market with a legal system that would grant Californians safe access to cannabis products, while also creating good jobs and significant tax revenue. However, these goals can only be fully realized if enough licenses are granted to meet existing demand. This bill will ensure the legal market can succeed.”

I agree with Ting. Why should folks in Butte County have to drive all the way to Sacramento just to get legal pot? If the goal is to reduce the black market and to increase the tax base, this bill is a great idea. AB 1356 is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on April 23. Please contact your state legislators and let them know you support this bill.

There are a few other good bills winding their way through committee. AB 1465 would allow retail sales at cannabis lounges. Senate Bill 475 would allow cannabis businesses to hand out samples. SB 627 would allow veterinarians to recommend cannabis for pets.

These are all good ideas. Everyone should talk to their elected reps about cannabis all the time. Kidding, but not really. If you want to stay up to date and track the progress of these and other bills, check out this website:

I am not sure if any of the bills currently on the docket will pass, but I will say that it is good to see the Legislature working to improve the legal cannabis industry. It wasn’t that long ago that they were trying to put us all in jail.