Cali's 2018 Legislative Sesh Ends with 27 Cannabis Bills Decided On

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Sunday, September 30th was the deadline for California Governor Jerry Brown to either sign into law or veto any bills that made it to his desk during this year’s legislative session.

Overall, state lawmakers sent 27 pieces of cannabis-related legislation to the governor in 2018, and all but 8 of them got his stamp of approval… for better or for worse.

We’ve had our eye on Jerry Brown for quite some time, and we will be happy to see him go once term limits shove him out the door. His outspoken discrimination against not just cannabis, but against those who legally use it in his state, is well documented. But it never ceases to amaze us when we see him rule on the topic, as logic seems to always take a backseat in his decision making process.

Proposition 64 is a severely, perhaps fatally, flawed patchwork of rules and statutes that has tried and failed to regulate the “legal” adult use of cannabis in the world’s 5th largest economy. The only hope for such a situation is to repair the law by way of state-level amendments, or Assembly and Senate Bills.

Unfortunately, these bills are written, pondered, and decided on by elected officials, not by the voters themselves. Luckily, California is represented by some very progressive and cannabis-friendly politicians who made an effort to put right what Prop 64 put wrong.

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Fueled by the tireless work over at CANORML, here is our quick recap of all marijuana related legislation that made it to the governor and how it all fared against his weed-hating veto pen.

First we will start with the good, then we’ll look at the bad, then we will wrap it up with the forgotten.

LEGISLATION PASSED

AB 1793 – Perhaps one of the most exciting bills to come out of Sacramento this year, AB 1793 requires the California Department of Justice to review all state criminal records to identify all cases eligible for potential expungement when retroactively held up against the state’s new cannabis laws. This landmark legislation will make the process of clearing one’s record and name after a cannabis conviction much easier. State prosecutors will be given a list of all possible sentence reductions or total expungements and will have until July 2020 to challenge any on the list. Thousands of Cali residents will find it easier to start a small business, obtain credit, find housing and employment, and just avoid the unfair and negative stigma associated with a past cannabis conviction.

SB 1409 – Though not quite as exciting as the bill above, this legislation will do away with some restrictions on commercial hemp cultivators and will delete the requirement that hemp be grown only for fiber or oil, likely opening the door for CBD production.  The state will also implement a new industrial hemp pilot program via the Department of Food & Agriculture.

AB 2215 – This bill will allow veterinarians to discuss cannabis use by pets with the pets’ owners. The Veterinary Medical Board has until July 1, 2020 to produce guidelines for discussion about pet’s pot use. The bill also contains language about the consequences of any veterinary professional who uses their role in any sort of conflict of interest. Hopefully this will keep conversations honest in both directions.

SB 1429 – This bill is the very definition of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. As Cali struggles to mesh state law with local jurisdictions, the licensing process to participate in the legal cannabis market moves at a snail’s pace. Many otherwise legit companies are operating under temporary 6 month licenses while battling with conservative local city councils and lawmakers to be approved for a full license. Those temp licenses expire no later than March of 2019, so this bill will allow the state to keep granting them, but now in 12 month increments. In case you thought they were going to have this problem solved anytime soon, they clearly don’t have much faith.

AB 2402 – This bill will prevent state-licensed cannabis sellers from selling or sharing their customers’ personal information without their consent. It also prohibits dispensaries from discriminating against a customer who chooses not to give them that consent.

SB 1294 – This much needed legislation allows the social equity programs proposed by cities like Oakland and Los Angeles to proceed as planned, and promises to enact such a program statewide. These programs are put in place to provide opportunities to those most hurt by cannabis prohibition and generational poverty to get their foot in the door of the legal cannabis industry. Legislation like this is crucial. As our nation continues to reap the harvest of cannabis reform, it is only right that the system itself be forced to repair some of the damage it did before the plant went mainstream.

AB 2899 – Basically says that if your license is suspended, you must suspend all advertising.

AB 2721 – Will allow state certified cannabis testing labs to analyze and provide official results for homegrown weed.

AB 873 – This is important to know for all cannabis cultivators. Now, employees of the California Dept. of Food & Agriculture whose primary duty is investigating commercial cannabis activity have the power to make arrests.

AB 3112 – This new bill will outlaw the sale of ANY quantity any non-odorized butane after July 1st 2019. The bill exempts lighters and small butane refills for lighters but is clearly aimed at the grey and black market production of butane-extracted hash, wax, and concentrates. Sounds like the government is going to start adding their own terps to some of your favorite BHO.

SB 311 – Basically just clarification to the mess that we know as Prop 64. This bill allows state licensed distributors to move products back and forth to each other to open up the currently log-jammed supply chain in the legal cannabis market.

AB 3261 – More clarifications that will not impact the average Cali cannabis user. Defines the term “microbusiness”, clarifies fingerprint requirements, and recognizes the name change of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

AB 2020 – This important piece of legislation will restructure the rules concerning where public cannabis consumption events - like the High Times Cannabis Cup and Chalice - can be held. Previously, Prop64 dictated that these events must be held on remote county fairgrounds. The new law still leaves the majority of the decision making power in the hands of local municipalities but it should create opportunities for small and midsize businesses to reach their customers directly via the farmer's market type atmospheres found at many of these events.

AB 2255 – This makes it illegal for cannabis distributors to be carrying more weed in transport than what is listed on the driver’s manifest. This really didn’t make it into the original law?

AB 2799 – Requires all new licensees to put at least one supervisor and one employee through OSHA-regulated safety training within one year of licensure. This gives a whole new meaning to “safety meetings”!

AB 2914 – This law raised a lot of eyebrows and dropped a lot of stock portfolios by outlawing any infusion of cannabinoids into an alcoholic beverage. For some of the largest beer brewers on the planet eyeing the massive opportunity in the Cali cannabis market, the passage of this bill was surely a buzzkill.

LEGISLATION VETOED

SB 829 – Ahhh now there’s the Jerry Brown we all know. This bill would have made it legal to gift cannabis to those in need. Compassion programs like this exists up and down the state of California providing a truly compassionate service to military veterans, medical patients, and others who just need a hand. The Gov says that these programs are in direct conflict with the language of Prop 64. The truth is, you can’t tax compassion so the government ain’t interested.

SB 1127 – This bill would have allowed parents of kids who use cannabis medicinally to deliver that medication to the school campus to be administered by a school nurse. This sort of treatment is most commonly reserved for kids who suffer from epilepsy, but still want to and are able to attend traditional schools. Big, bad Jerry Brown says the language was too broad. Apparently he thought some evil parents would use it as a loophole to deliver dabs to their kid at recess. Shame on you, sir.

AB 1863 – This bill would have allowed legal, licensed cannabis businesses to deduct standard business expenses like every other business in every other industry is allowed to. The federal and state level tax burden is unsustainable for any small to midsized cannabis company even after hammering their own customers with sky high prices. Again, if the government can’t stick their hands in your pockets, they’ll pull your pants down.

AB 2980 – This bill looked to allow common spaces to be shared between a licensed entity and a non-licensed entity. Nope, squashed.

AB 2058 – In a move that would have made way too much sense, this bill would have forced the state to gather evidence of alleged “cannabis-related” DUIs separately from alcohol or other drug-related DUIs. As legalization spreads nationwide beware of the push back from the prohibitionists about the alleged dangers of “stoned driving”. Parsed and honest statistics will be our best ammunition in that battle to come, and they don’t want us to have it.

SB 1451 – Looked to add more penalties to any licensee who participates in the sale of any cannabis product to a minor. Rightfully found redundant and vetoed.

AB 1996 – This bill would have tasked the California Cannabis Research Program with growing its own marijuana crop for research purposes. The bill, had it passed, would have also authorized controlled clinical trials to focus on examining testing methods for detecting harmful contaminants in cannabis, including mold and bacteria. Considering the fact that a significant amount of legal products are currently failing these tests, you’d think that more research would be a good thing. Gov. Brown said it conflicts with Prop 64.

AB 3069 – This bill would allow to cannabis educational seminars and events to be hosted by industry officials and attended by political figures. The governor vetoed the bill, again citing redundancy, saying that there is nothing written into law that would prevent such an event from happening.

LEGISLATION LEFT BEHIND

As busy as California lawmakers were in 2018 when it comes to cannabis, quite a few much needed proposals either ran out of time or failed to garner enough support to advance in this year’s sesh.

AB 3157 looked to drop the 15% excise tax that is currently being paid on all legal cannabis products down to 11%. Considering that cannabis tax revenues are what so many politicians are hanging their hats on these days, it’s sad but no surprise that they didn’t vote to cut their own income.

SB 930 looked to skirt the federal ban on cannabis banking by creating a state-level financial system for the growing legal weed market. All we are asking for is basic banking rights and services. This is long overdue and is just as much to blame as the black market for the stagnant start to the Prop 64 era in Cali.

AB 2069 was aimed at protecting your employment rights as a cannabis user. Specifically, it read, “when used to treat a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition, the medical use of cannabis by a qualified patient or person with an identification card is subject to reasonable accommodation.” Certainly sounds…reasonable. Not to your elected officials it didn’t.

There were others, like these, that failed to advance through the sausage making that is American politics. To be clear, that does not mean that these “forgotten” bills are dead. Most will be revisited when lawmakers reconvene in 2019.

Of course, there will likely be a whole new list of Prop 64 headaches to address by then as well and we will be there covering it all, every painstakingly slow step of the way, until we all have the cannabis laws that we deserve.

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Cover photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dahlstroms/