Last Update: July 21, 2014
For regulatory bill, two steps forward, one step back
Sen. Lou Correa’s regulatory bill, SB 1262, continued to advance through the Assembly when the Committee on Public Safety passed the bill on a vote of 6-1 late in June. The bill will next be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in mid-August. Should it pass Appropriations, the bill will have a short deadline before the clock runs out — requiring a vote on the Assembly floor, followed by a concurrence vote in the Senate.
Sen. Correa’s bill would establish a regulatory framework for businesses similar to the majority of medical cannabis states. The bill has been revised many times since its introduction in February, and for the most part those changes have been positive. What was once an unworkable, harmful bill is now much more practical, but it has been flawed since the beginning. Most recently, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano contributed many big improvements, but the bill took a step back when it was amended due to intense lobbying efforts by the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association. Changes were introduced that increased licensing fees, banned collectives from accepting medical marijuana donations from members, and law enforcement was granted sweeping authority to deny business licenses under vague circumstances. For a detailed look at MPP’s position on the bill, click here.
These and other troubling provisions are now the subject of intense negotiations, and it is too early to know if they will remain in the bill. If you haven’t done so already, please ask your Assembly member to help improve the bill before it is heard by the Appropriations Committee. And you can sign up for MPP’s free email alerts on California to receive updates on marijuana policy reform efforts in the state.
The current legal status of marijuana in California
Under California law, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. While this is a more reasonable approach than many states take, California is still punishing tens of thousands of responsible adults for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol. A December 2013 Field Poll found that 55% of Californians believe marijuana should be legalized.
One of the most tragic failures in the war on marijuana is how hard it impacts racial minorities. The ACLU’s 2013 report entitled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White” shows that where blacks represent 6.7% of the population in California, they account for 16.3% of the arrests for marijuana, while rates of usage are virtually the same between black and white populations.
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. And despite its reputation as being easy-going with respect to marijuana possession and use, California arrested over 21,000 people in 2012 for marijuana-related offenses. Let your lawmakers know it’s time California ended its marijuana prohibition!