California Legislature debates medical marijuana policy
The California Legislature is back to work, and lawmakers have begun another year of debate about regulating medical marijuana in California.
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano is sponsoring legislation – AB 473 – that would provide a regulatory structure governing the state’s medical marijuana program. Asm. Ammiano’s legislation would create the Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. This new division would establish statewide standards for the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution, and sales of medical marijuana and medical marijuana products.
While the Assembly debates the creation of a new division to regulate the medical marijuana program, Asm. Ammiano’s Senate colleagues are discussing a bill that would make it clear that state law allows collectives and cooperatives to sell medical marijuana to qualified patients. SB 439 – sponsored by Senate President Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Mark Leno – would require collectives and cooperatives to be in compliance with the 2008 attorney general guidelines to prevent diversion of medical marijuana. The bill is a placeholder bill that will be amended to have more details.
While Asm. Ammiano, Sen. Leno, and Senate President Steinberg champion improving life for medical marijuana patients, their colleague Sen. Lou Correa is taking the opposite approach. Sen. Correa has introduced legislation – SB 289 – that would make it unlawful for anyone to drive if their blood "contains any detectable amount” of marijuana or other controlled substances (unless they are prescribed). Marijuana’s best known component —THC — can be detected in some regular users’ blood for days after the use, and its metabolites can sometimes be detected weeks after last use rendering their presence useless to determine if an individual was driving while impaired. Email your senator and ask him or her to oppose this legislation.
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Feds' aggressive targeting of medical marijuana providers in California
In October of 2011, the four United States attorneys representing California held a press conference announcing a new aggressive approach to targeting medical marijuana providers in California. The U.S. attorneys outlined plans to target providers and/or landlords that varied based on which of the four regions the provider was in.
Since the announcement, numerous medical marijuana providers and their landlords have been threatened with property seizure and criminal prosecution by agents of the Justice Department, including Harborside Health Center, which has been a model for responsible and safe access for years. In addition, raids have occurred across California, with the most high-profile being the raid by the DEA and IRS on Oaksterdam University and other properties belonging to long-time marijuana activist, Richard Lee. This continued assault on medical marijuana providers is especially disturbing considering President Obama’s previous position: In 2009, based on an earlier campaign pledge, his Justice Department issued a memo declaring that individuals acting in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state medical marijuana laws should not be targeted.
If you live in California, please email your assemblymember, state senator, Governor Jerry Brown, and Attorney General Kamala Harris, asking that they publicly denounce federal interference with the California medical marijuana program. And regardless of where you live, please call the White House and respectfully ask that they allow states to implement and regulate medical marijuana programs. For more information on how you can help advocate against these developments, please see MPP's "What You Can Do to Oppose the Federal Crackdown on Medical Marijuana" handout.
California's medical marijuana ID card program
Visit our FAQ page to learn more about California's medical marijuana ID card program. Sutter and Colusa counties are still not issuing state ID cards. If you live in one of these rogue counties, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help bring this important program to your area.
The current legal status of marijuana in California
Despite the fact that California's medical marijuana laws and laws for simple possession are among the most progressive in the country, responsible adults are still being arrested or cited at an alarming rate for possession of a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol and tobacco.
Proposition 19, a ballot measure that sought to end the draconian policy of arresting and prosecuting adults who choose to use a substance proven safer than alcohol by removing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses and allowing localities to tax and regulate its cultivation and distribution, was narrowly defeated in 2010, 46% - 54%. Although the measure lost, at the time it was the highest percentage a marijuana legalization measure has ever gotten on the ballot. Also in 2010, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill downgrading the classification for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction — the penalty remains a $100 fine.
While California’s marijuana laws are not as draconian as some other states, the state is still wasting precious resources on citing, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenders, while ensuring the profits of marijuana sales go to criminals instead of responsible businesses and the state’s coffers. Let your lawmakers know it’s time California end their marijuana prohibition!