California’s 2021 Legislative Session: Employment Rights, Hospice Care, Pets’ Rights, and More

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UPDATE 5/4/2021 – Asm. Quirk’s bill AB 1302 allowing for restricted cannabis billboard ads advanced out of committee last week, while a competing bill from Asm. Jacqui Irwin to effectively ban them did not advance, despite opponents false claims that marijuana use is up significantly among teens following legalization. 

SB 59, to extend provisional licenses for cannabis businesses, is heading for a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, May 10. This bill is critical to the fledgling cannabis industry: as of March 2021, 83% of the legal cannabis industry was operating under provisional licenses. Bottlenecks at local levels are holding up permanent licensing; meanwhile provisionals are set to expire and must be extended. Please write to your State Senator and Ask Them to Support SB 59. 

4/12/2021: Senator Skinner’s bill to open up local access to cannabis businesses passed the Sen. Governance committee, with tax provisions omitted. Other cannabis industry bills are scheduled for a 4/20 (no kidding) hearing​ in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, including Asm. Quirk’s better billboard bill AB 1302, for which Cal NORML wrote a letter of support.

Cal NORML is tracking over 30 bills that address cannabis this legislative session.

Asm. Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) stepped up to introduce a Cal NORML-sponsored employment discrimination bill, AB 1256, with language that will be amended after further discussion with stakeholders. Our intent is to end employment discrimination based on testing for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in urine, hair or bodily fluids for both recreational and medical cannabis users, while allowing employers to maintain a safe workplace by disallowing cannabis use or intoxication on the job. Nevada and New Jersey have similar laws as do New York City, Washington DC, Atlanta, Rochester NY and Richmond, VA. In addition, 20 states protect medical marijuana users’ employment rights.

Read More about Cal NORML’s Employment Rights Campaign.

Cal NORML has begun a campaign to ask that Gov. Newsom sign SB-311  “Ryan’s Law,” a bill that would require hospitals to allow terminal patients to use cannabis, under certain restrictions. The same bill was “reluctantly” vetoed by Newsom last year, citing concerns hospitals had about federal funding. Write To The Governor and Ask Him to Sign SB-311.

Asm. Kalra (D-San Jose) has introduced AB-384, which would allow veterinarians to recommend cannabis for pets. Cal NORML supports this bill, along with SB-73 (Wiener), which would extend eligibility for probation to certain drug crimes, including some cannabis crimes. A bill by Asm. Wood (D-North Coast), AB 527  would mirror potential FDA rescheduling of cannabinoids in CA law, in the way that AB 710 did for cannabidiol did in 2018.

On the business side, Asm. Irwin (D-Santa Barbara) has introduced AB-273  which would ban billboard ads for cannabis businesses on California’s many state highways. Cal NORML opposes the bill because it treats cannabis unfairly and makes it more difficult for consumers to find retailers. Asm. Quirk has introduced AB 1302, also to address outdoor advertising, which Cal NORML supports. AB1034 (Bloom) would allow for food preparation in cannabis consumption lounges.

Cal NORML also supports SB-59 (Caballero), a critically important bill to extend provisional licenses for cannabis businesses. A promising bill from Senator Skinner, SB-398, would simplify the process for local governments to approve cannabis businesses by letting them leave regulation up to the state. And SB 544 from Sen. Laird would require the BCC to establish specific testing standards for all compounds and contaminants contained in cannabis products, something for which Cal NORML has been advocating.

Asm. Aguiar-Curry has re-introduced her bill (AB-45) allowing for hemp-derived CBD products to be included in foods, beverages, and cosmetics, and a companion bill by Sen. Allen (SB-235). Both bills contain a ban on hemp cigarettes; Cal NORML sees no reason to ban hemp cigarettes. Tell us your thoughts.

Other bills, some of them “spot” bills without full language, address cannabis delivery services, taxes, penalties for unlicensed activity, cannabis testing, hemp cultivation, equity, and the consolidation of California’s cannabis regulators. We will keep our members and supporters informed of upcoming hearings and votes on these bills. Join Cal NORML’s email alert list for legislative updates.

PLEASE HELP CAL NORML IN OUR WORK PROTECTING YOUR RIGHTS IN THE 2021 CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE SESSION. Make a sustaining donation, or join with a personal or business membership today. 

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