Friday, June 22, 2018

Moving Forward – Medical Cannabis In California Since Legalization

Since the passage, implementation, and constant addition of new provisions to Prop. 64, Patient Advocacy Network has been observing how the roll out of the new laws is affecting safe and affordable access to medical cannabis by California’s most vulnerable patients.

Medical Marijuana Deserts
One of the biggest issues is what is known as medical marijuana deserts.  These are the areas of the state where there are many concentrated local bans and therefore, patients must travel quite a way to access medical cannabis.  Low-income and disabled patients already have a hard time accessing transportation; California’s gas prices don’t help.  Helping patients overcome this obstacle is a large priority for PAN.

Compassionate Care, Collectives & Cooperatives
California SB 829 is a bill to create a Compassionate Care License that would be issued to M-license holders to allow the businesses to provide medical cannabis to qualified patients at no cost.  The businesses would not be subject to cultivation or excise taxes for donating products down the chain that ultimately ends up with the patient as no cost.  

There are patients that simply cannot afford the medicine they need for their condition, whether that is the disabled veteran on a fixed income that needs a couple joints a week, or a working class patient with cancer that needs to eat at least a gram of hash as day for a few months.  There are providers and producers that remain committed to this charitable effort to help people be well who cannot afford the only remedy that works for them. 

Patient Advocates are pleased to see that the California legislature is taking this on sooner than later which is important as there is one huge glaring omission that we can fix before the end of the session.  The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) will end collectives and cooperatives by declaring that on January 9, 2019, that Section 11362.775 of the Health and Safety Code will no longer be in effect. 

Compassionate Care licensing, and the collective and cooperative business model work very well together for the purpose of providing cannabis for free to vulnerable patients.  When done correctly, it is already a tax-exempt project for authentic compassion services. This business model is not for everyone.  Many medical cannabis businesses are glad to move away from the closed loop, not-for-profit structure.  However, there are several entities that would like to operate solely as a Compassionate entity and the state of California should absolutely allow it. 

SB 829’s author Senator Scott Wiener said in a statement that, “Applying taxes to compassionate care will shut down collectives, and I can’t imagine that was the intent of voters.” Well, the BCC is shutting down collectives anyway and Wiener clearly believes that this is not the intent of the voters. It is going to be up to us to remind the bill’s authors and the legislature that collectives and cooperatives must be maintained and can be protected them under this bill.

Take Action
You are urged to contact the bill’s authors and let them know that you support Compassionate Care and retaining the collective and cooperative model for authentic low-income patient providers.  

Senator Scott Wiener
(916) 651-4011

Assemblymember Jim Wood
(916) 319-2002

SB 829 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation on June 25, 2018.   You can FAX your comments to (916) 319-2198 for the entire committee.  Make sure your letter states SUPPORT SB 829 WITH AMENDMENTS or OPPOSE SB 829 WITH AMENDMENTS near the top so the committee knows your position.  The suggested amendments would be to include collectives and cooperatives in the bill for those businesses that want to operate this way and that this business model works well with the Compassionate Care license.

If you want to know more about this committee or reach out to them – maybe one is your representative,  you can find them here:

For updates follow Patient Advocacy Network on twitter  @PAN4Compassion
or sign up for email updates at


Dear, Senator Scott Weiner –

I write you as a medical cannabis patient advocate for over two decades.  My biggest concern with the implementation of the new cannabis business regulations thus far has been the lack of opportunity for truly compassionate providers in the industry.  These medical cannabis providers give away some to all of their products to some of California’s most vulnerable patients, but these compassionate providers can’t afford to participate under the regulations.  These businesses should not be erased.

You were recently quoted as stating that taxing compassionate care will shut down collectives and this was not the intent of the voters.  The Bureau of Cannabis Control announced it will end collectives and cooperatives, declaring that on January 9, 2019, that Section 11362.775 of the Health and Safety Code will no longer be in effect.   The amendment SB 829 needs is to preserve collectives and cooperatives. Compassion Care, and collectives and cooperatives go together.  

A for-profit M and A retail license holder may offer 5 - 10% of its product to indigent patients and have no desire to be a collective or cooperative, but should have the Compassionate Care exemption for the products donated to patients. However, California has a history of authentic collectives and cooperatives that give away ALL medical cannabis to qualified patient members.  

The feedback I’ve received is that most in the industry want not-for-profit collectives and cooperatives to be preserved, especially as an option for entities that give away most to all of their products and want to operate as a not-for-profit.  Some of these groups are working with hospice programs, veterans and other vulnerable patients. The groups that formed in the Bay area by 1993, specifically to give away cannabis and food primarily to AIDS and cancer patients, are what prompted the Compassionate Use Act and the medical marijuana movement as a whole.  Not-for-profit, compassionate work is the foundation of California’s medical cannabis law and history.

I ask you for your consideration in working with your colleagues to preserve collectives and cooperatives as a medical cannabis business license option, especially for operations, vertically integrated or not, that operate as a not-for-profit and/or give away most or all of its product.  I thank you taking on this important issue and for your time and consideration.  


Degé Coutee
President, Executive & Program Director
Patient Advocacy Network

(323) 334-5282
P.O. Box 93845, Los Angeles, CA 90093


PAN is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization

cc: Assemblymember Jim Wood,  Senator Jeff Stone,  Senator Scott Wilk,  Assemblymember Ken Wilk,   M. David Ruff - Chief Consultant, Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation

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