Cal NORML's Activities in 2015 and Plans for 2016

December 2015 - This has been a watershed year for marijuana reform in California. The state legislature (finally) approved a bill to legally license commercial sales and production of medical marijuana. The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act takes effect on January 1, 2016, but won't have any appreciable impact on users until after licensing regulations are finalized in a year or two, at which point unlicensed patient collectives will no longer be allowed for more than 5 patients.

2016 LEGALIZATION INITIATIVE
Meanwhile, plans are afoot for a legalization initiative in November 2016. The most likely candidate to make the ballot is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), a 62-page initiative sponsored by entrepreneur Sean Parker and other wealthy proponents. Although Cal NORML favored a different, more-consumer friendly initiative sponsored by the ReformCA.com coalition, that campaign has been suspended for lack of funding. Happily, AUMA adopted a few measures from ReformCA.com, such as affording child custody protection to medical users and increasing the legal venues for on-site consumption. The resulting initiative would legalize possession of one ounce of marijuana for adults over 21; allow users to grow up to six plants at home; de-felonize penalties for lesser offenses; and tax and license adult-use sales after regulations take effect sometime in the next couple of years. See a summary of AUMA.

THE ROAD AHEAD
While Californians will hopefully vote to legalize adult use next November, much will remain to be done. Marijuana will still be a federally illegal controlled substance; local governments will still be able to ban access, delivery and cultivation by medical patients; users can still be denied access to employment, housing, medical care, and other civil rights, and drug testing abuse remains widespread. Cal NORML intends to continue to fight for consumers' rights on these and other fronts as we move forward beyond 2016.

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ACTIVITIES in 2015
MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGISLATION: Cal NORML tracked at least 20 bills in the state legislature this year. Among them were three, AB 266, SB 643, and AB 243, which became MMRSA (the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act) regulating commercial medical marijuana in California, on which we successfully lobbied for amendments protecting consumers and small-scale growers.

We also supported AB 258, to protect the rights of medical marijuana patients in need of organ transplants, which Governor Brown signed into law.

DRUG TESTING: Cal NORML disseminates accurate, up-to-date information explaining why chemical tests cannot detect marijuana impairment. This year, we worked with the SF taxi drivers to oppose a mandatory drug testing program for taxi drivers, successfully persuading the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to write in an exemption for medical marijuana users.

Meanwhile, the legislature rejected AB 1356 (Lackey), which would have allowed law enforcement to use oral swab tests to test for marijuana DUIs. The inaccuracy of the swabs was amusingly demonstrated by a sober volunteer patient who took the test and flunked.

CULTIVATION BANS. California NORML worked with numerous local activists in opposition to local cultivation bans. Cal NORML filed a lawsuit against a total ban on cultivation in Clearlake; the ban was repealed by the City Council after citizens gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.

VETERANS. After months of effort from California NORML, affiliated groups and Congressional offices, Veterans Administration policy was revised to allow the use of medical marijuana with opioid prescriptions at all VA facilities in the Southern California region, in keeping with federal policy. Unfortunately we’re still receiving scattered complaints from vets in California, as well as weekly complaints from patients in the Kaiser Healthcare system who are being denied pain medications because they are using medical marijuana.

VAPORIZATION: We lobbied against a misguided e-cigarette regulation bill in Sacramento (SB 140) as well as various local ordinances that would have banned use of cannabis vaporizers in non-smoking areas. Cal NORML is proud to have sponsored studies proving that vaporization effectively protects users from harmful smoke toxins. In a few localities, we won concessions to protect medical marijuana vapers; the battle over state legislation will continue next year.

DEBUNKING WATER USAGE ESTIMATES: This summer, numerous hyperbolic news reports painted marijuana cultivation as a major culprit in California’s drought. Cal NORML issued a report thoroughly debunking the notion that marijuana was a significant factor in California's water shortage, as explained in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee.

In May, Cal NORML deputy director Ellen Komp received the Pauline Sabin award from National NORML, on the same day that Sen. Dianne Feinstein cast her only vote in favor of medical marijuana (supporting access for veterans). Ellen also published a book this year, Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

PREPARING FOR 2016: Much of our time this year was taken up with the ReformCA.com coalition initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use aiming for the November 2016 ballot. We traveled the state and held a series of workshops with stakeholders to gather input on language. Although ReformCA unfortunately failed to raise enough money to make the ballot, some of our proposals were adopted in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) funded by internet billionaire Sean Parker. Since AUMA is by no means a 100% complete legalization measure, Cal NORML will be busy working to educate consumers on their rights and lobbying to fix kinks in the process. Read Cal NORML’s analysis of AUMA.

We expect 2016 will be another busy year, with local implementation of the state MMRSA act already at the forefront and much to be ironed out, including potential “clean up” bills.

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS!
DONATE, JOIN CAL NORML OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP ONLINE AT OUR CAL NORML STORE.

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