|As 2012 began, no less than five different marijuana law reform measures were aiming for the November 2012 ballot. The plethora of proposals was due in part to the success of CalNORML’s “Next Steps” conference in early 2011. CalNORML was called on to navigate the public through the proposals. However, the funding ultimately went to Washington, Oregon and Colorado, states where initiative campaigns are much less costly than in California.
Things were busy in the legislature too, as SB129 (Leno), a bill to grant employment rights to medical marijuana users, and AB1017 (Ammiano) would reduce penalties on marijuana cultivation, made their way through committees. CalNORML put out alerts to all our lists, lobbied lawmakers, and testified at hearings.
The Federal raids on medical marijuana collectives began early, with January raids in Costa Mesa and San Diego. “The Obama administration has now closed more dispensaries than all its predecessors put together,” CaNORML stated, directing citizens to complain to the White House Hotline and the Dept of Justice.
At the end of January, after a months-long collaborative effort, a comprehensive initiative to revamp California’s medical marijuana laws was filed for the 2012 ballot: the Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act. The measure was ultimately introduced in the legislature as AB2312 (Ammiano).
Bolstered by a poll showing voters favored both SB129 and AB1017, CaNORML continued to press for passage of both bills. CalNORML launched a letter-writing and call-in campaign in support of SB129 to the key Senators in California. CalNORML deputy director Ellen Komp had an oped published on the bill in the several newspapers. However, business interests derailed the bill and it was not brought to a floor vote.
In February, Cal NORML sent a report to Congress, calling the Dept of Justice’s attack on medical marijuana providers in California arbitrary, inconsistent, disrespectful of state and local laws, and destructive of efforts to regulate medical marijuana. CalNORML director Dale Gieringer met with public officials in Washington DC.
In March, a bill that would establish a zero-tolerance DUI standard for marijuana was introduced in the California legislature. The bill, AB 2552 by Norma Torres (D-Pomona), would have made any driver found with non-zero levels of cannabinoids in blood or urine presumptively guilty of DUI.
CalNORML made defeating this bill a top legislative priority. Both CalNORML director Dale Gieringer and national NORML deputy director Paul Armentano testified on the science proving the bill unnecessary and discriminatory. A NORML alert directed supporters to send thousands of emails to their legislators to stop the bill.
Nora Campos (D-San Jose) filed AB 2465, a bill to require that all medical marijuana patients in California register with the state. Cal NORML strongly opposed the bill, and testified against it in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Another bill we tracked was AB2365 (Nestande), which as introduced would have required courts to consider medical marijuana in child custody cases. CalNORML objected, as did other groups, and the bill was amended to remove medical marijuana from its language.
California NORML joined with other groups to plan a rally in protest of the Department of Justice’s attack on medical marijuana at S.F. City Hall on April 3. On the day before the rally, April 2, the DOJ raided Oaksterdam University, leading to another impromptu protest.
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CalNORML used its new twitter feed @CaliforniaNORML to tweet stories and photos throughout the day. Citizen journalist Jose Gutierrez was arrested during the raid and made to stand trial. The San Francisco rally was a huge success, in part perhaps due to the federal actions of the previous day.
The following week, Norma Torres’ zero-tolerance DUID bill AB 2552 was amended so as to no longer apply specifically to marijuana, but to any non-medical use of controlled substances. Unsatisfied with the changes, CalNORML again contacted the committee in continued opposition to the bill and its amendments.
Finally, on April 20(!), California NORML reported that Assemblywoman Torres amended the DUI bill to drop objectionable new criminal penalties for driving with residues of marijuana or illicit drugs. Instead, the new bill will allow the state to finally collect statistics on the number of arrests for alcohol, drugs, and drugs+alcohol.
That day, CaNORML staged a protest at the Obama Campaign Headquarters there, in opposition to the raid at Oaksterdam.
At months’ end, CalNORML challenged a bad court ruling in a medical marijuana case in Los Angeles, disallowing sales by a collective because it did not qualify as a primary caregiver.
In May, a new zero-tolerance DUI bill was introduced in the California legislature by veteran drug warriors state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Sam Blakeslee (R – SLO). The bill, SB 50, would have made it a crime for a person to have a controlled substance in his or her blood while driving a vehicle. Once again, CalNORML sprang into action to defeat the bill. “SB 50 is essentially another make-crime bill for the state’s bloated prison-law enforcement establishment,” said Gieringer.
Tom Ammiano’s bill to establish a state medical marijuana regulation system passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee and headed for a floor vote. CAL NORML urged Californians to call on their Assembly members to support AB 2312 and attended a Unity conference and lobbying day when every legislator’s office was visited.
AB2312 passed to Assembly (much to everyone’s surprise!) but was amended radically in the Senate. Hearings on the measure are still expected. We also supported Leno’s SB1182, which would have legalized medical marijuana sales.
In June, patient advocates won an important victory in Butte County, where voters rejected Measure A, which would have sharply restricted patients’ right to cultivate on their own property. Medical cannabis supporters, including CalNORML, had sponsored a referendum to repeal the measure.
CalNORML issued the strongest statement of any group when Eric Holder testified that his agency was only going after medical cannabis dispensaries and growers that are going “beyond what states had authorized.” CalNORML’s headline was, “US Attorney General Lies to House Judiciary Committee about Medical Marijuana Crackdown,” pointing out that in fact, the DOJ has targeted some of the most well respected and law-abiding facilities in California. Our June newsletter detailed the bizarre reasons why some San Francisco collectives were being closed.
Our phone lines heated up at the end of June with reports that the Lake county sheriff’s department was destroying medical marijuana gardens, following the defeat of a ballot measure to regulate gardens in Lake. CalNORML spoke to public officials, locals and lawyers about a pending ordinance in the county, and attended a meeting in Lake, which turned into an impromptu rally. Ultimately, the new ordinance was challenged in court and has been stayed.
In July, it was protest time once more, as Obama visited Oakland just after the DOJ moved to close down Harborside Health Center there. CalNORML helped plan the march and press conference. “This raid belies the administration’s pretense to be targeting only dispensaries that are in violation of California law,” said Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer.
The next day, at a pretrial detention hearing, federal magistrate Donna Ryu ordered medical cannabis activist Jose Gutierrez to find another legal drug than Marinol to treat his chronic back pain during his trial. CalNORML was able to find a lab that could run a test distinguishing between Marinol and marijuana, so that Gutierrez could continue taking his prescription.
CalNORML continues to spread the word and organize response to the continued federal actions in California, like when in September, the federal-led raid on marijuana growers in a Santa Rosa neighborhood that was described by eyewitnesses as a full-scale paramilitary assault. Or when, in contrasting moves, the city of Oakland sued the federal government to stop its forfeiture actions against city-regulated dispensaries, while Long Beach joined the feds to arrest 40 dispensary workers.
In October, a letter was sent to SF US Attorney Melinda Haag outlining CalNORML’s objections to her policy of usurping local regulation of collectives.
GreenAid and CalNORML convened a committee to address issues of child custody and marijuana. We had a strong response from attorneys across the state, and the committee is investigating CPS policy and cases statewide.
In November, oral arguments were held in CalNORML’s challenge to Tehama county’s restrictive medical marijuana cultivation ordinance. We continue to consult with residents of California’s 58 counties and 400-some cities about pending ordinances and cases regarding cultivation rights and others.
As the year ends, CalNORML remains busy dealing with calls from parents who have child custody issues, Mendocino residents concerned about a subpoena from the federal government demanding records from the 9.3.1 registration program, and much more, as well as planning our January conference, “Cannabis in California: Ending the 100 Year War.” There we will mark the 100th anniversary of cannabis prohibition in California and map a way towards the end of that failed and unjust policy.
Please support CalNORML’s efforts in 2013. We are only as strong as our membership. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.