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California lawmakers consider a ‘bumper crop’ of cannabis-related bills this month

A bumper crop refers to a particularly productive harvest yielded for a particular crop. The people of
California have convened a historic legislative session this year. Never, in
lobby

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bumper crop refers to a particularly productive harvest yielded for a particular crop.

The people of
California have convened a historic legislative session this year. Never, in
lobbyists’ memory, has there been this level of lawmaker interest in medical
cannabis. The deadline to introduce new bills passed February 27 with at least
13 bills in the state assembly and senate directly dealing with the popular
botanical. 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,” said
Nate Bradley for the California Cannabis Industry Association.

REGULATIONS

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,” Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann
told 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 in April.

AB-26—the
more pro-industry bill. Regulates cannabis like alcohol, vesting authority with
the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). Los Angeles Representative
Reggie Jones-Sawyer resurrected San Francisco Representative Tom Ammiano’s
failed 2014 language.

AB-266—the
more pro-cop bill. Tougher than AB-26 and backed by the California Police
Chiefs and League of Cities. Opposed as unworkable by the Emerald Grower’s
Association. Bill sponsor and Sacramento Rep. Ken Cooley is a former councilman
from Rancho Cordova, which banned medical cannabis cultivation. AB-266 is
likely to change significantly, or merge with another bill.

AB-243—Representative
Jim Wood has a viable, incremental effort to require indoor and
outdoor medical cannabis cultivation to
follow
local environmental law. The regulations are part of a broad effort to allow
the state Water Board to permit legal cannabis farms.

SB-643—even
more incremental and viable. North Coast Senator Mike McGuire’s SB-643 calls
for basic studies on the best way to levy taxes and lays the groundwork for
regulation.

VAPERS UNDER FIRE

SB-140—cannabis
vap
orizer users in
multi-family apartment complexes could be legally evicted under new laws meant
to attack the rise of e-cigarettes. Senator Mark Leno’s SB-140 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
unscientific, reactionary bill has a lot of momentum, and medical cannabis
advocates hope they can win a carve-out for medical vaping.
 

NEW PATIENTS RIGHTS

AB-258— Representative
Mark Levines bill prevents
hospitals from denying organ transplants solely for medical cannabis use.

AB-821— Representative
Mike Gipson wants to give terminally ill patients a sales tax exemption
certificate they could use to obtain medical cannabis, sales tax-free.

NEW PUNISHMENTS

SB-305—Concentrating
cannabis using a flammable solvent inside a home is dangerous, idiotic and
unethical. Representative Pat Bates wants to send a message by enhancing prison
sentences for adults who hurt others—especially children—while cooking BHO in
their homes.

SB-165—Growers
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 Representative Bill Monning’s bill.

Folks who
care must call their representative and urge them to support or oppose specific
bills that affect them and succinctly explain why. “You should care about
this,” said 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.”

“People don’t
realize how powerful a simple phone call is,” said Bradley. Emerald Grower’s
Association executive director Hezekiah Allen said now is not the time to
disengage. “2015 is a
big year and we’re going to need everybody working together to make sure that we
get
something that
takes a step forward and we don’t slip backward.”

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