by Jason Burruel, Legislative Director
As we begin assessing our 2-year bills, we must make room for over a thousand new pieces of legislation that will come during the next two months. With 2014 being an election year, we must be very diligent and thorough in analysis and review of all legislation. Appropriation of funds and legal trickery are at an all-time high during an election year.
We cannot look into the 2014 session without first looking back at the three marijuana bills that were proposed during the 2013 session. The authors of these bills were smart enough to hold their bills either in a committee or on the floor in order for the bills to begin their legislative process immediately upon the call of the 2014 session. We begin with AB 473, authored by Assemblymember Ammiano. If he decides to continue pushing AB 473 through the legislature, it will be the third consecutive year that he has run the identical piece of legislation. This bill would create the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). This legislation would grant ABC all power necessary to establish statewide standards for the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution, and sales of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products and a statewide fee scale in relation to these activities. AB 473 would require the Division to assist in the development of uniform policies for the taxation of the medical cannabis businesses and establish a licensing structure which would include an identification card program.
AB 604 also authored by Assemblymember Ammiano, was assisted by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg. AB 604 acknowledges that local governments have the ability to adopt local ordinances that ban or regulate the location, operation or establishment of a cannabis dispensary while defining what constitutes a dispensary. But a new narrower definition of dispensary is, “a Dispensary” means a mandatory commercial registrant that dispenses cannabis or medical cannabis products through a retail storefront.” Thus, cities may not ban the sale of marijuana at cultivation sites, warehouses, storage facilities or processing plants. AB 604 also places the medical marijuana trafficking under the control of the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). We believe that it is unfair and unrealistic to expect that the ABC, the agency charged with controlling liquor stores and out of control bars, to stay current with marijuana trafficking. This is political, and it is not responsible public safety. Additionally, AB 604 states one may not be certified as a mandatory commercial registrant if they have been convicted within the past five years of a violent felony, a serious felony, a felony involving fraud or deceit or any other felony that, in the opinion of the ABC, would “impair the applicant’s ability to appropriately operate as a mandatory commercial registrant.” With that being said, when a felon is paroled out of prison (at least five years removed from felony conviction) they can immediately being working in the medical marijuana industry.
The third bill is SB 439, authored by Senator Steinberg. SB 439 provides that a cooperative, collective or other business entity that operated within the Attorney General’s “Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use” would not be subject to prosecution for marijuana possession or commerce. SB 439 would have permitted “collectives or cooperatives” and permitted them to be “organized as any statutory business entity allowed under California law” which engages in cultivation or distribution of medical marijuana. To be specific, this bill would exempt marijuana collectives and cooperatives from various forms of criminal prosecution under the California Health & Safety Code, and block local nuisance abatement actions under Health & Safety Code Section 11362.83.
Next week we will delve further into our 2-year bills while updating you on any new legislation that is submitted.
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