MEDICAL MARIJUANA REGULATION BILLS ARE WORKS IN PROGRESS

March 1, 2015 – This year’s legislative agenda includes several bills to regulate commercial medical marijuana cultivation and sales in California. None of them have been finalized yet, and all could be substantially changed by gutting and amending.

AB 26 by Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D – S. LA) and AB 34 by Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) are spot bills to comprehensively regulate the industry. Details have yet to be announced as the sponsors consult with stakeholders and advocates. Cal NORML and other MJ advocates are hopeful they can work with Bonta and Jones-Sawyer to negotiate an acceptable and workable bill.

AB 266 by Asm. Ken Cooley is an alternative industry regulation bill sponsored by the Cal League of Cities and Cal Police Chiefs. Cal NORML and other MJ advocates have announced their opposition to the initial draft of the bill, which contains a number of objectionable provisions that were included in last year’s bill by the same sponsors, SB 1262 (Correa). See CalNORML’s letter in opposition to AB266.

Two other spot bills are addressed to cultivation-related issues.

SB 643 by Sen. Mike McGuire (D-N. Coast) would clarify MMJ industry regulations and authorize a state study on how best to collect taxes. The bill is basically similar to the various Assembly regulation bills, but with a few twists of its own. Like the rest of them, it has some major problems which make it unacceptable in current form, but which could be remedied with amendments. SB 643 passed in committee.

AB 243 by Asm. Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) seeks to apply environmental and water control standards to medical cultivation. The Assembly Agriculture Committee approved AB 243 on 4/15. The bill was supported by a broad coalition of environmental and governmental interests, as well as by a large and enthusiastic contingent of growers led by the Emerald Growers Alliance.
Cal NORML joined ASA and Crusaders for Patients Rights in opposing the bill unless amended to delete a requirement that individual patients get permits to grow. Cal NORML attorneys regard this measure to be an unconstitutional limitation on Prop 215 patients’ rights. Asm. Wood said that he was open to further amendments, but failed to provide assurances on this crucial issue. Assembly members Quirk and Eggman joined in voicing concern over the patient permit requirement, but supported the bill. Newly amended language makes exemptions for personal-sized gardens supplying up to five patients.

E-CIG BILL WOULD BAN VAPORIZING IN NON- SMOKING AREAS
Cal NORML is opposing a proposed e-cigarette bill, SB 140 by Sen. Leno (D-SF), on the grounds that it would wrongly classify medical cannabis vaporizers as “tobacco products” and ban their use everywhere tobacco smoking is prohibited. Cal NORML has sponsored studies showing that vaporizers are an effective harm reduction technology, which substantially eliminate the health hazards of smoking. Cal NORML supports the right of patients to vaporize their medicine at their residences and in other designated indoor venues where smoking isn’t permitted. See CalNORML’s revised letter in opposition to SB140. Passed in the Senate Health Committee; will go on to Appropriations. Read amended SB 140

MMJ ORGAN TRANSPLANT BILL
Patient advocates are strongly supporting a bill by Asm. Marc Levine (D- San Rafael), AB 258, which would end organ transplant denials for medical marijuana patients. Cal NORML has heard from too many Prop 215 patients who have been denied organ transplants on the indefensible grounds that they use medical marijuana. Read Cal NORML’s letter in support of AB258. Passed the Assembly Health Committee and is headed to Assembly floor. Take action on this bill.

UBER DRIVERS TARGETED FOR DRUG TESTING
Asm. Adrin Nazarian (D-No. Hollywood/Sherman Oaks) has introduced a bill (AB 24) which would require Uber drivers to submit to random drug testing. It also bans drivers with prior felonies for drug or other offenses in the past 7 years. The bill would subject drivers to a mandatory drug testing program under PUC Code Section 1032.1, which applies to workers under federal interstate transportation regulations.

Cal NORML strongly objects to random drug tests for drivers as an unwarranted violation of personal privacy on the grounds that they have no relation to driver safety. Drug urine tests are unusually sensitive to marijuana, traces of which can be detected weeks after last use, long after any effects have faded. Repeated scientific studies, including a recent new report by the U.S. DOT – NHTSA, have failed to find a reliable connection between the presence of marijuana and driving impairment. Not a single FDA study has ever shown that drug testing is effective in improving highway safety.

The effect of AB 24 will be to unfairly disallow Uber drivers from using marijuana for medicine, even while allowing abuse of many other, more dangerous drugs that aren’t tested for, such as synthetic marijuana, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, etc. The only beneficiaries of the bill will be the parasites of the drug testing industry, who have made millions in profits from forcing their unproven, ineffective technology on American workers.

OTHER BILLS
A few other miscellaneous bills would impact marijuana policy.
SB 305 by Sen. Patricia Bates (R-San Juan Capistrano) would enhance prison sentences for persons manufacturing concentrated cannabis in the presence of children. Read CalNORML’s letter in opposition to SB305 Passed in Senate Public Safety Committee (4/14). A new amendment defines “concentrated cannabis” as “cannabis that is chemically extracted through use of a volatile solvent.”

SB 303 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Imperial) would authorize law enforcement to destroy seized marijuana plants that are in excess of two pounds, instead of ten pounds as presently. Passed in Senate Public Safety Committee (4/14). New amendments allow amounts over two pounds if authorized by local ordinances. AB 303 was signed by the Governor.

AB 730 (Quirk) would redefine transportation of controlled substances as transportation for sale. Read Cal NORML’s letter in support of AB 730.. This bill passed the Assembly Public Safety committee and carried on the Assembly floor.

• Asm. Mike Gipson (D-Compton) is sponsoring a bill (AB 821) that would exempt terminally ill medical marijuana patients from sales tax. Patients would apply for an MMJ exemption certificate from the Board of Equalization.

SB 165 (Monning) would establish new civil penalties for violations of environmental regulations in connection with marijuana trespass grows on public or private lands. SB 165 passed the Senate Public Safety committee and has been referred to Appropriations. See video archive. Read amended SB 165

AB1351 (Eggman) would change terms for pretrial diversion involving marijuana charges.

SB-564 (Canella) would add a $35 fine for certain vehicle code violations near schools, including driving while possessing marijuana.

Marijuana is also mentioned in the House and Senate budget bills, which fund the medical marijuana ID card program as well as allocate funds for clean up of marijuana cultivation sites.

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