New laws put unnecessary leashes on cannabis

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

What’s up with the California Legislature and comprehensive statewide medical-cannabis regulation? Anything happening?

—Jim Quisitive

Nothing on the Assembly Bill 266 front (I think the Legislature is on summer recess, so debate should resume when they get back), but Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed two new bills and I am not a fan of either. Senate Bill 212, introduced by Senator Tony Mendoza, adds “proximity to schools and residences” as an “aggravating factor” during sentencing for people found guilty of manufacturing BHO or hash oil. You do realize that it is already illegal to make cannabis concentrates using chemicals (butane, CO2, propane, whatever) in the state of California, yes? It’s part of the law against making meth.

Anyway, if you are caught, you get three, five or seven years in jail plus a fine of up to $50,000, depending on the aggravating factors. So all you folks making butane hash in the backyard of your apartment complex need to cut that shit out immediately. In an interesting twist, this same law uses 200 feet as the limit for adding an aggravating factor to a meth-manufacturing conviction, so as long as you are caught making BHO and not meth, some of you may catch a break. This part of the bill doesn’t bother me at all because I think people who make hash using chemical solvents should do so in an industrial area using the proper safety equipment. I do have a quibble with Section E of this bill, however—“Except as otherwise provided by law, every person who offers to perform an act which is punishable under subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for three, four, or five years.” If I am reading it right (see the whole thing for yourself on this photostatic copy:, offering to make hash oil is now punishable by three to five years in jail. You can go to jail just for offering? What if you had no intention of making hash oil but said you would just to be polite? This is a bad law.

SB 165, introduced by Senator Bill Monning, imposes a whole new set of fines for people growing cannabis on public and private lands. You can now be fined for growing medical cannabis on private property even if you have the landlord’s permission. This is ridiculous. I get wanting to discourage people from having gigantic 40,000-plant grows, but this law won’t do anything but cause headaches and backlogs when everyone goes to court to fight their gigantic fines. The same thing is already happening in Fresno (, and there’s no need for this sort of overreach to go statewide. It’s a shame that California, once the leader in cannabis-law reform, can’t get it together enough to have effective and proper cannabis regulation. I hope we do better in 2016.