News

Major pot bills up for final approval in California

October 11, 2017
Rich Pedroncelli
Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, right, with Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SOURCE: Rich Pedroncelli

A slew of cannabis-related bills are coming down to the wire in the world’s largest pot market — California — and a number of them have the potential to radically define the look of legal cannabis in the state.

Friday is the deadline for California legislators in fiscal committees to meet and send bills to either the Senate or Assembly floor, and Sept. 8 is the last day to amend those bill on the Senate or Assembly floor. September 15th is the last day for either house to pass a bill before interim recess begins.

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, there were 59 bills in this legislative session that included the word ‘marijuana’. Most died in committee, about a dozen are alive before deadline, and two are already on the Governor’s desk. Some laws make tweaks and clarifications to state cannabis rules, but some have major symbolic or actual effects.

As commercial cannabis legalization is set to begin Jan. 1, 2018, we’re in a crucial moment for the nascent legal industry. Here’s the hottest bills.

SANCTUARY STATEHOOD

AB-1578 Cannabis programs: cooperation with federal authorities.

The most hot bill up for debate before Friday’s deadline is a "sanctuary state" measure, AB 1578, which would stop state and local police from helping federal agents raid lawful state businesses.

President Trump's win has cannabis activists deeply worried. "I wasn't too excited about the [bill] at first," said Nate Bradley, former legislative advocate for the California Cannabis Industry Association and now a consultant with Platinum Advisors. "But then Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions descended into office, and I got behind it."

Still, Bradley noted several law-enforcement groups oppose the bill because they fear "the feds are going to come after them -- and they've got a point."

The bill is opposed by the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs Association, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the League of California Cities, and various individual cops and prosecutors around the state.

It's not clear what President Trump or Attorney General Sessions might have in mind for enforcement of federal pot laws in states where cannabis is legal. Federal officials could raid dispensaries and farms and arrest state regulators. The proposed legislation cannot block federal enforcement, but would prevent local authorities from helping.

oaksterdam raid
Noah Berger
U.S. marshals stand at the entrance of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, April 2, 2012.

Like the CCIA, the California Growers Association hesitated before endorsing the bill. Hezekiah Allen, the CGA's executive director, has qualms.

"It's a great idea," he said in an interview last month. "I love the spirit of it, but I worry it will create a situation where the federal government will decide to crack down."

The bill passed the Assembly in June by a narrow margin, and its fate in the Senate is highly uncertain. Republicans generally oppose it. During the floor debate in June, Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher of Yuba City declared it to be "bad policy." Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach said in media reports that the bill was "insanity" and "a complete violation of federal law." He decried the "hubris" of the Assembly's Democrats in sponsoring the bill.

AB 1578 is in the Assembly appropriations committee's "suspense file" — where related bills are parked until a final vote — and will be passed or held this week.

DESCHEDULE IT

Senate Joint Resolution 5
Largely symbolic, but, “this measure would request that the Congress of the United States pass a law to reschedule marijuana or cannabis and its derivatives from a Schedule I drug to an alternative schedule and that the President of the United States sign such legislation,” according to the bill’s author. SJR-5 is on its third reading in the Assembly.

MERCH KILLER

SB-162 Cannabis: marketing

The Legislature is finishing up debating a bill that would ban cannabis companies from selling or giving away branded merchandise, a highly controversial measure sponsored by Sen. Ben Allen, Democrat of Santa Monica. SB 162 is in the Assembly’s Appropriations committee’s “suspense file” and due for a vote by Friday.

Medical cannabis and merchandise being sold at The Green Cross in San Francisco in 2017. San Francisco will miss the January 1 starting date for recreational sales.
Peter DaSilva
Green Cross cannabis dispensary merchandise, t-shirts that display the Green Cross logo, may too be illegal to sell if a state bill is passed banning pot shops from selling t-shirts and other merchandise with their store name on it -- in order to protect children from cannabis marketing, in San Francisco, California, USA 22 Jul 2017.

POT TRADEMARKS

AB-64 Cannabis: licensure and regulation

This multi-pronged bill contains several key provision: allowing state cannabis trademarks; and allowing collectives to operate for-profit. AB 64 is in the Senate Appropriations suspense file with a vote scheduled by Friday.

NO WEED GUMMI BEARS

AB-350 Cannabis edibles: appealing to children.

“This bill would prohibit a cannabis product from being made in the shape of a person, animal, insect,” the bill states. Bradley says the proposed rules on edibles this year amount to "a ton of overregulation" and that the proposed advertising restrictions are "just insane" -- particularly the proposal to ban branded merchandise. AB 350 is on third reading in the Senate

STATE-RUN EDIBLE PACKAGING

AB-175 Cannabis marketing: packaging and labeling.

Edibles makers would have to pay a fee and submit packaging to state bureaucrats before they could sell a new product under this proposed law. AB 175 also in the Senate Appropriations suspense file.

ATTORNEY GREEN-LIGHT

AB-1159 Cannabis: legal services.
This bill would clarify that attorneys can work with cannabis clients and doing so “is not contrary to an express policy or provision of law or to good morals, and is not against public policy.” AB 1159 is in the Senate for a third reading

UNIVERSITY POT FARMING

AB-1002 Center for Cannabis Research.

"This bill would rename the program the Center for Cannabis Research and would expand the purview of the program to include the study of naturally occurring constituents of cannabis and synthetic compounds that have effects similar to naturally occurring cannabinoids. The bill would authorize the program to cultivate cannabis to be used exclusively for research purposes and to contract with a private entity to provide expertise in cultivating medical cannabis. The bill would also authorize the controlled clinical trials to focus on examining testing methods for detecting harmful contaminants in marijuana,cannabis, including mold and bacteria," the bill states. AB 1002 is in the Senate Appropriations Committee's suspense file.

THE FUNDING BILL

AB-128 Budget Act of 2017.
Authorizes a $100 million loan to the Cannabis Control Fund as part of the state's budget.


ALREADY ON THE GOVERNOR'S DESK

Two bills have already been passed and now sit on the Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

NO RIDING DIRTY

SB-65 Vehicles.
“This bill would instead make drinking an alcoholic beverage or smoking or ingesting marijuana or any marijuana product while driving, or while riding as a passenger in, a motor vehicle being driven upon a highway or upon specified lands punishable as an infraction,” the bill sates.

NO COPYCAT EDIBLES

SB-663 Packages and labels of cannabis or cannabis products: children.

“This bill would specify that a package or label of cannabis or cannabis products is deemed to be attractive to children if the package or label has specific characteristics, including, among others, displaying a name resembling the name of any candy, snack food, baked good, or beverage commercially sold without cannabis,” the bill states.

Rich Pedroncelli
Laura Duffy, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, displays photos of marijuana cotton candy found for sale at a medical marijuana dispensary in her district, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Oct. 7, 2011.