Cal NORML keeps our members informed of cannabis news at the federal, state, and local levels through our newsletter, website, and weekly email alerts, as well as public outreach tables at events. Through NORML’s networks we generate thousands of constituent letters in favor of progressive bills, and against ones that take away our rights.
Cal NORML watchdogged another 60 cannabis-related bills in Sacramento in 2019. We testified in hearings, met with lawmakers, and organized a citizen’s lobby day in May, bringing citizen lobbyists from across the state to meet with their legislative offices.
In a victory for cannabis advocates, Governor Newsom signed SB 34 (Wiener) this year, to exempt compassion programs that give away cannabis to needy patients from taxation. Newsom also signed SB 223 (Hill) to allow parents to bring cannabis medicines to their children at school (if their school districts approve). Gov. Brown vetoed similar bills last year.
Another bill Cal NORML lobbied for, AB1261 (Jones-Sawyer), to eliminate the state narcotics registry for drug offenders, was signed. Under past law, certain convicted drug offenders were required to register with their sheriff for five years after their release.
Other bills we lobbied for did not pass. There is more work to be done!
On the federal level, we’re progressing as never before on descheduling, expungement, and access to banking. Cal NORML attended NORML’s Lobby Day in September and regularly lobbies key members of the California Congressional delegation, sending out alerts to our members about upcoming votes.
In September, the House overwhelmingly passed the SAFE Banking Act, which would end federal rules that prevent banks from offering financial services to state-legal cannabusinesses. The bill was approved by a bipartisan vote of 321-103.
In an unprecedented blow against federal prohibition, the House Judiciary Committee approved a comprehensive bill to legalize marijuana in November. The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, from Rep. Barbara Lee, which would deschedule and legalize cannabis nationally, was approved by a vote of 24-10.
In the two days leading up to the vote, nearly 60,000 people sent messages to their lawmakers in support of the MORE Act through the NORML legislative action center.
EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS FOR CALIFORNIANS
In November, Cal NORML deputy director Ellen Komp testified at a hearing on employment rights for cannabis users that was held in the Senate Labor committee after we approached the committee asking for the hearing. Look for at least one Cal NORML-sponsored employment rights bill to be introduced in 2020. We are working both for protections for patients and for eliminating inappropriate tests for inactive metabolites (e.g. urine and hair testing) for all marijuana users.
WEBSITE REDESIGN AND BUSINESS OUTREACH
In April, Cal NORML unveiled its redesigned website canorml.org. We attended the NCIA convention in Long Beach to reach out to cannabis businesses about our new services. Look for our table at the ICBC in SF in February 2020 to learn more about our business memberships.
Cal NORML held two well-attended legal seminars in 2019 for attorneys and others, covering civil and criminal aspects of emerging California laws. Our legal committee of attorneys defending all aspects of cannabis law remains one of our organization’s strengths.
In August, the news hit that people were becoming ill, and sometimes dying, due to vaporing cannabis or nicotine. Cal NORML investigated and put out health warnings to our members, particularly against using unlicensed cannabis vapes. We have stayed on top of the story, separating the hype from the facts, and keeping our members informed.
In October, Cal NORML testified at a hearing on vaping in Sacramento, arguing against bans on vaping that would only send users to an unsafe black market. We’re consulting with activists in cities and counties where vape bans are being proposed. (If your city or county is considering a vape ban, write here.)
Throughout the year Cal NORML has participated in a CHP Task Force on drugged driving, serving on the research and best practices subcommittees. We have been active every year since the 1980s in fighting for your driving rights, using the latest scientific studies. The next CHP subcommittee meeting will be held on January 7, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the California Highway Patrol Headquarters, 601 N 7th St., Sacramento.
Cal NORML has consistently lobbied for lower taxes on cannabis, particularly for patients. Cal NORML denounced the announcement that the state plans to increase taxes on cannabis next year (absent a legislative change). Ellen Komp was quoted in the press on the long-awaited report from the state Legislative Analyst Office that recommends shifting to a potency-based tax (or raising the current 15% state excise tax). We expect at least one taxation bill to be introduced in the state legislature next year and will be prioritizing passing a bill that will provide tax relief to Californians and boost legal businesses.
CAL NORML IN THE NEWS
Cal NORML has been your advocate in the press for reasonable, science-based cannabis policy again this year. Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer helped unpack a recent report on teen vaping, and deputy director Ellen Komp criticized a study that claimed pot-smoking parents were more abusive to their children.
Dale was quoted in Vice and elsewhere on the connection between California’s high taxes and the cases of lung disease from untested products being sold outside the regulated system, and in Leafly on the connection with Vitamin E acetate oil. “The illegal market is competitive because legal marijuana is so expensive to produce under Prop. 64,” he told the LA Times in August.
Ellen was quoted on the “cannabis deserts” where cannabis remains unlicensed throughout the state, and the overreach of local governments attempting to ban deliveries made into their jurisdictions, as well as the “sticker shock” from new taxes that sent cannabis consumers back to the black market.
PLANS FOR 2020
In 2020, along with Employment Rights and Pain Patients Rights, Cal NORML will advocate for lower taxes and better regulations at the state and local levels, and support opening up access to safe, tested cannabis products in more cities and counties across the state, including consumption rooms and events where Californians can legally consume cannabis.
Please support Cal NORML with a 2020 membership! Members receive our print newsletter, with news and analysis not seen online, and get discounts on events throughout the year.
Save the Date for the Cal NORML/ASA Lobby Day on May 4, 2020.