California Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Last Policy Committee

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California Senate Bill 1262 that would regulate the cannabis industry has passed its last policy committee and will next be heard by the Committee on Appropriations in August, according to a California Cannabis Voice Educational Foundation lobbyist. Input from the public, the medical marijuana industry and patient advocacy groups is sorely needed.

The fox will be guarding the hen house if SB 1262 passes.

State legislation seeking to create a uniform licensing framework for the cultivation, processing, and distribution of medical marijuana in California passed through the Assembly Committee on Public Safety Wednesday, according to a lobbyist for California Cannabis Voice Educational Foundation.

Senate Bill 1262 (Correa, D-Santa Ana) received bipartisan support and was strongly supported by law enforcement and city government advocates. Patient advocates for the cannabis industry, however, strongly opposed the measure, citing restricted patient access, zoning problems, and onerous requirements, said Matt Gray, lobbyist for California Cannabis Voice Educational Foundation. Next week, the bill heads to the Committee on Appropriations but may not be heard until August.

“This legislation is an abomination which will obstruct legitimate patient access to medical marijuana,” Gray said. “It talks about the importance of providing patient access, but then creates a blackout for entire regions of California with arbitrary prohibitions.”

Critics to the measure point to a provision in the bill that gives police chiefs and sheriffs the final say over the decisions of city council members and county supervisors, Gray said. If SB 1262 passes, police chiefs and sheriffs from any jurisdiction would merely have to assert their belief of a potential problem for the licensing bureau to deny any application.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215 to provide access to medical marijuana for all seriously ill patients. According to Gray, “Law enforcement has for decades opposed medical marijuana and continued to harass patients. The fox will be guarding the hen house if SB 1262 passes.”

A parent who spoke in opposition to SB 1262 today had his testimony restricted to one minute. Doctors had given the man’s young son just one week to live. Through the use of a non-psychoactive extract of marijuana called Cannabidiol (CBD), his son’s condition and quality of life improved dramatically.

“I was frantic -- traditional medicines were failing, and my son was dying,” he said. “[My son] was suffering from 500 micro-seizures per day, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. Doctors had already prescribed him over 25,000 pills. But the day I gave him Cannabidiol, was the first time in his life he went an entire day without any seizures and we were able to take [him] off of nearly two dozen prescriptions.” The father also testified he currently must travel 7 hours to access the nearest CBD extract.

California's Legislature is unwilling to provide for state licensing of non-psychoactive cannabis, even as other states like Georgia have done so, said Matt Kumin, director of California Cannabis Voice.

According to the amended bill's language, it will also establish the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation in the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will be administered by an executive officer that must be a civil servant appointed by the governor. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who is soon to be termed out of office, spearheaded the bureau's creation, Gray said.

Last minute changes to the legislation were hatched behind closed doors, kept secret until the night before the hearing, and not shared with stakeholders who represent patients and the rest of the cannabis industry, Gray said. Public testimony in the hearing was also restricted.

“After 22 years of working in the Capitol building, I've seen some doozies,” said Gray. “But the way this bill has been pushed through without a thoughtful discussion of the substantial amendments, and the limited opportunity for public review and feedback really undermines the concept of transparent representative government.”

About California Cannabis Voice Educational Foundation:
California Cannabis Voice Educational Foundation is a non-partisan coordinated partnership which dedicated to educating stakeholders throughout the cannabis industry, stabilizing resources for medicinal cannabis patients, and supporting fair and reasonable licensing and regulations at the state level. Sign up for the newsletter to stay informed on SB 1262.

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Allison Edrington
since: 04/2014
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California Cannabis Voice
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