AB 374(Haney) would authorize local governments to let licensed cannabis consumption lounges and retailers prepare and sell fresh food and beverages, as well as sell tickets for concerts and other events.
This bill would help bolster the overtaxed and regulated cannabis industry in California, and allow consumers who often lack places where they can consume safe and friendly spaces to do so. It is heading for a floor vote in the CA State Senate sometime in August.
There has been some opposition to AB 374 from anti-smoking groups that conflate the dangers of tobacco smoke with that of cannabis. Cal NORML issued a release, Blowing Smoke About Cannabis Consumption Lounges, discussing the safety and need for consumption spaces in California.
The state legislature has begun its summer recess until mid August. Most of the bills we are tracking will have hearings in Appropriations committees, starting on 8/14, and a few will go straight to floor votes. The legislature has until 9/14 to pass bills, after which the Governor will have until 10/14 to sign or veto them.
SB 512 (Bradford), to end double taxation on cannabis by include state and local excise taxes when calculating sales tax, was held in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation committee and will likely not advance in its current form this year.
Committee chair Jacqui Irwin, who sponsored a bill in 2021 to ban cannabis billboards and whose bill this year, AB 1207 to restrict cannabis packaging and flavorings, is opposed by some cannabis industry groups, commented at the hearing that it’s too soon to evaluate the results of AB 195 (2022), which eliminated the cannabis cultivation tax and shifted the responsibility for paying state excise tax from the distributor to the retailer, while making the changes SB 512 sought to correct.
Cal NORML supporters have sent in nearly 900 letters in support of the bill and our director Dale Gieringer spoke up in its favor at the hearing. We will continue to advocate for cannabis tax reform in California. Stay tuned.
Passing on to Appropriations committees are these bills:
In order to support the legal cannabis industry and in the interest of public safety, Cal NORML is not opposed to enforcement against the type of large, unlicensed cannabis operators that are often also guilty of human rights and environmental laws. However, we are watchdogging these proposed enforcement bills to ensure that they are not applied against small personal or medical grows. It is generally better to lower barriers to licensure and lessen taxes and regulation rather than spend endless dollars in enforcement, which has never worked well in all the decades of cannabis prohibition.
Cal NORML with the help of our board member, attorney Lauren Mendelsohn, scored a victory by managing to insert language protecting medical gardens into AB 1684 (Mainschein), which expands local governments’ ability to immediately fine for cannabis cultivation to other cannabis activities. After meeting with the author’s office and committee staff, both H&SC 11362.5 (the Compassionate Use Act) and B&PC 26033 (protecting 5-patient gardens) were explicitly excluded from the bill, along with other protections in the language. It now goes to the Senate floor (sometime in August).
Another enforcement bill, SB 753 (Caballero), which would have felonized cannabis gardens as small as 50 plants with attendant water violations, was greatly amended after Cal NORML, DPA, and other groups opposed it. ACLU brought in Hmong farmers from Siskiyou County to testify about the discrimination and heavy-handed enforcement they have seen over water rights, even though it had removed its opposition due to the amendments. We also got amendments to SB 756 (Laird) clarifying that a physical method of delivery must be used for water violations around cannabis cultivation.
SB 820 (Alvarado-Gil), is now a two-year bill after Cal NORML objected to bringing back forfeiture against unlicensed cannabis cultivators. The bill was amended in committee, at our suggestion, to increase the plant count from 50 to 1000 plants before taking any action. Cal NORML legal director, attorney Bill Panzer, attended Cal NORML’s Lobby Day and met with the author’s staff, explaining the multiple problems with the bill, before the author decided to delay further hearings.