Citizen lobbying made a difference in Sacramento again this year. Four days after ASA’s fifth annual California Citizen Lobby Day brought more than 150 patients and caregivers to the state capitol, the Appropriations Committees in the Assembly and Senate decided important bills related to medical cannabis licensing, taxation, and patients’ rights.
The Assembly committee moved forward AB 1575, a clean-up bill for the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), and AB 2516, a “cottage cultivator” license bill that would allow smaller-scale cultivators to operate under the MMRSA. Both bills have now passed the Assembly and been sent to the Senate.
The Assembly committee killed AB 2740, a bill ASA opposed that would have made it a crime for legal medical cannabis patients to drive with even a tiny amount of THC in their blood.
Despite ASA opposition, both committees advanced taxation bills that may place an unreasonable burden on patients. The Assembly will consider AB 2243, which would tax licensed medical cannabis distributors at $9.25 per ounce of dried cannabis flowers, $2.75 per ounce of cannabis leaves, and $1.75 per plant cutting. The Senate will consider SB 987, which would impose an additional 15% excise tax on medical cannabis statewide. ASA opposes both bills.
In more than 200 face-to-face meetings, the citizen lobbyists also spoke with lawmakers about ASA’s proposed bill for 2017 to end pervasive discrimination against patients in employment, housing, parental rights, and access to health care.
Before those meetings, participants received a special briefing from Lori Ajax, the director of the new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, and the bureau’s Senior Policy Advisor, An-Chi Tsou.
The fiscal committees’ actions were part of suspense hearings held twice during each annual legislative session to decide whether or not bills that have a financial impact of $150,000 or more will proceed to a vote on the floor. Bills held in committee are dead for the year.
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