Political Push

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You
hear this phrase often enough from both cannabis consumers and everyday
Californians: “Isn’t it legal already?” Sadly, California’s laws have not
caught up with our public opinion. Although we all benefit from a vibrant and
innovative cannabis market here in California, until we pass either (good) statewide
regulations for medical cannabis or full, adult use legalization in 2016 – this
could all vanish in a flash.

Prior
to starting with the California Cannabis Industry Association in January 2013, my
background in political consulting had me campaigning around the state and
living in Sacramento for several years. During the last two legislative
sessions, as CCIA has been working on cannabis policy reform, my political
contacts don’t ask me “Isn’t it legal already?” but a flip question “Why are
you bugging me about this (when it’s just going to be legal in a few years
anyway?)”

It
makes perfect sense, from the perspective of an elected official or a Capitol
staffer. They’ve got hundreds of bills to juggle in their heads and they
frankly don’t see any upside in voting for cannabis policy reform. Whether they
fear a stern letter from a local police chief or being attacked during their
next election by a local sheriff association’s Political Action Committee, or
they just disagree on a cultural or moral grounds with cannabis, the default
position is to avoid this subject with a laughing remark that “It’ll just be
legal in 2016 anyway.”

While
we will push to legalize in 2016, and we will almost certainly win, that
doesn’t mean that it’s a legitimate excuse for legislators not doing the jobs
that they signed up for. Even without much written in law, our medical cannabis
industry here in California is mature and robust, serving as an engine for
jobs, commerce, culture and medicine. That is something worth fighting for, and
worth fighting for our industry’s recognition in Sacramento as a special
interest and an equal player, alongside the dentists, the firefighters, craft
brewers, and so forth. We’ve developed industry best practices, testing
protocols, and contributed to our communities – it’s time to have this professionalism
and self-regulation recognized as well.

We
are moving inexorably towards 2016 and again the timidity and indecision of our
state legislators to pass legislation has prevented California from moving past
a largely self-regulated cannabis industry. Good operators will go above and
beyond to lab test their medicine, to invest in safe and attractive
dispensaries, to properly label infused products, and to safely manufacture
cannabis extracts. Until we have a truly regulated medical cannabis industry, the
“bad actors” who neither voluntarily adopt industry best practices
nor are subject to state-level standards will be able to thrive. That is not in
the interest of California’s public safety, patients, nor our Californian
cannabis industry.

While
we’ve embedded ourselves into the Capitol community, the sheer size of
California has required us to simultaneously promote a professional cannabis
industry at the local level. We see slow movement in major cities like San
Diego and Long Beach and worrying steps backwards in San Jose. Thankfully,
voters this November in La Mesa, Encinitas, Santa Ana, Blythe, and Shasta Lake
City will have dispensary ordinances on the ballot, and we will also see
cultivation ordinances on the ballots in Lake, Butte, Nevada, and Shasta
counties. (Expect more on these measures in the months ahead.) This November
and beyond, the cannabis industry will finally play a permanent role in local
elections and in statewide politics – staying in the shadows simply isn’t an
option any more, as our industry begins to recognize itself and speak up for
itself.

Sean joined the California Cannabis Industry Association as
Deputy Director in January of 2013, after working in several capacities for
candidates, revenue measures, and issue-advocacy campaigns throughout
California. Sean serves as the
Principal Officer for the Cannabis Action PACs and serves on the Board of the
Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. He lives in Oakland and works out of
Sacramento, commuter trains, rental cars, and airport terminals around
California. Contact Sean via email at
sean@cacannabisindustry.org

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