Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Federal Interference In State Medical Marijuana Ends… But Only For Those That Can Comply

Medical marijuana dispensary operators in California, especially those still battling the federal government, are rejoicing over a recent federal court ruling.  United States District Judge Charles R. Breyer ordered a federal injunction against one of the state’s oldest dispensaries be lifted, ruling the recently enacted Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prohibits the federal government from prosecuting dispensaries that are following state law.  However, just a few weeks ago, following state law in California meant interpreting the AG Guidelines as protocols for medical marijuana dispensary operations as the state had no definitive or legal regulations.  That has changed.

Then Attorney General Jerry Brown penned the guidelines in 2008, which dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives took as the only guidance from the state at the time, and while many cities still did not have local regulations in place.  These guidelines, while not law, stated that storefront dispensaries may be in less legal jeopardy if they operated as not for profit, received all cultivated cannabis from legally qualified patients and caregivers and the business operated as a closed-loop by and for patients. 

Come now the end of the 2015 California legislative session where the current Governor Jerry Brown has signed a set of regulatory bills (AB 266, AB 243 and SB 643) that have completely turned his guidelines upside down:  no requirement to be not for profit, no requirement to be a patient or caregiver in order to cultivate or manufacture, no requirement to be a patient or caregiver to dispense...  So, getting in compliance with state law is going to be a fete for those that built their operating procedures around the AG Guidelines.  These guidelines did not spell out how to be legal but how medical marijuana operations might be lawful. 

In order to be considered for a state dispensary permit, the operation has to have local approval.  One of the many ways in which collectives and cooperatives interpreted the guidelines was to cut out the storefront and operate as a patient-direct garden.  Those that were willing to talk about their operations to local officials were told, “if you’re not running a storefront business, then you are not required to get a permit.”  Patient-direct collectives and cooperatives became the invisible method for fulfilling Prop. 215, but now that statewide regulations are in place, these operations are in jeopardy, as no local permit exists for them. 

Likewise, the new medical marijuana laws have torn apart the closed loop by not allowing vertical integration. Collectives and cooperative that felt forced to keep close tabs on the cultivation and manufacture of their medical cannabis products will be limited on what other permits for which they can apply – forcing them to let go of some of their operations.  Dispensaries are not even allowed to go pick up their products under the new rules, but are forced to hire a licensed third party transporter.  So, again, getting in compliance with the new state laws is going to be a task for many and possibly financially devastating, but you better do it because this compliance is now the only thing standing between you and the feds – who are still wringing their hands for the opportunity to make an example of someone.

Related links:
Medical Marijuana Ruling Highlights Federal, State Discord


Gov. Brown signs bill to regulate medical marijuana industry


Patient Advocacy Network has provided compliance trainings, workshops and consultations for nearly 10 years and to well over a thousand dispensaries in California.  Contact PAN at (323) 334-5282 if you have any questions about compliance with local or state regulations.  We want to help as many Compassionate providers as possible continue to serve patients and thrive. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

California Medical Marijuana Bills Await Governor's Signature, Industry Considers Next Steps

Willie Brown watches Gov. Jerry Brown sign a bill in 2011.

The 2015 California legislative session ended with three medical marijuana regulatory bills being passed through both houses in the last 6 hours of the session.  New statewide medical cannabis rules are expected to be signed by the Governor anytime.  These rules establish licensing guidelines for all commercial medical cannabis activities including cultivation and manufacture of concentrates. 

These rules are not without flaws or criticism.  The amended bills were kept under tight wrap until just before they were voted upon near midnight on the final day of the session.  The senate and assembly suspended the rules that allow for public input ensuring no one could provide feedback in the 11th hour.  There is also still legal debate on just how much these bills tread on Proposition 215, the 1996 voter-approved initiative known as the Compassionate Use Act. 

However, the rules are better than expected given previous versions and the direction other states have taken.  For example, New York does not allow flowers and Washington does not allow patients to grow their own, issues perpetuating a black or gray market in those states. 

Previous versions of California’s bills put medical marijuana under the purview of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, a move harshly criticized by patients.  Consumer Affairs, Agriculture and Public Health are the departments that oversee commercial cannabis operations in California, which is far more appropriate.

PAN has received many calls from patients and providers wanting to learn how to comply with the new rules or how their businesses may be affected.  Here are some things to consider:

Getting a state license is contingent upon local approval.  In order to apply for state licensing, a cannabis business must have local approval.  Bans are still a huge issue.  Medical cannabis operations in communities with a ban are not allowed to apply for a state license and are in jeopardy of legal action. 

Everything you knew about the AG Guidelines is wrong.  The news bills have dismantled the AG Guidelines and parts of SB 420 by allowing commercial retail of medical marijuana and phasing out closed-loop, not-for-profit collectives and cooperatives.   

There are also many compliance dates in the bills.  The rules seem to acknowledge that not all aspects of the law can be fully functioning or implemented all at once.  Compliance will fold in as licenses become available through the newly formed Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, such as for independent laboratory testing. (For example, the rules seem to recognize cannabis can’t be tested per the law until these approved testing sites exist.)

Patients can still grow their own; 100 sq. ft of total grow space.  Caregivers can grow for up to 5 other patients, 100 sq. ft of grow space for each patient.  No licensing is required as long as all activity is non-commercial.

The California legislature acknowledges these rules are not complete and have stated they will start working on amendments January 2016.  Likewise, voter initiatives to end bans, protect medical, as well as legalize cannabis for adult use are in motion.  While a set of rules will be on the books soon, those rules will probably change sooner than later.

There are numerous other functions of these laws to consider.  Any one with questions or concerns can contact PAN directly.

AB 266 text

AB 243 text

SB 643 text

Additionally, proponents of the statewide voter initiatives are making final amendments.  The drafting of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2016, has always been an open-source process.  All are welcome to participate.  You are encouraged to review the most recent draft of the initiative and provide any feedback.  The initiative will be filed for a final title and summary in two weeks. 

MCLR text

Feedback on MCLR can be sent to:

or feel free to contact PAN with any questions.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Governor Brown, Don’t Let This Go Down

As we start this post, just after midnight, with less that 24 hours before the 2015 California legislative session ends, the state has not yet posted updated versions of the three medical marijuana regulatory bills: AB 243, AB 266 and SB 643.   In the finals days of the session, referred to as ‘Floor Session Only,’ the legislature gutted all three of these bills and re-referred them back to committee, naked.  

The other factor at play is that the Senate and Assembly have suspended some key rules.  One set of rules that is suspended allows the legislature to amend bills without posting the bill or allowing public input/comment.  The other set of suspended rules allows the legislature to call committees and hear bills despite this period being the ‘floor session only,” without public knowledge or input on the committee level.   This is what we are referring to when we state that the process has moved behind closed doors.

In the last couple hours the media has begun to post that a deal has been struck and the bills will be voted on today.  However, no one has yet to see them and it is anticipated they look very different that they did before they were gutted.   The Governor and the California Legislature have bypassed the democratic process while claiming to the media that the process has been transparent and everyone is at the table.  Not true!

Take Action!

1.) **Contact Governor Brown.
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerrybrown
Twitter:  @JerryBrownGov

Let him know: Governor Brown, Don’t Let This Go Down
No 11th hour, backdoor deals.  The public has the right to know what’s in these bills AND be allowed to provide input, feedback, comments.  Don’t thwart the democratic process! 

2.) ** Contact the bills’ authors with the same message.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta
Phone: (916) 319-2018
Fax: (916) 319-2118
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Assemblymember-Rob-Bonta-160502927367568/timeline/
Twitter: @RobBonta

Senator Mike McGuire
Phone: (916) 651-4002
Fax: (916) 651-4902
Email: senator.mcguire@sen.ca.gov (despite this being his listed email, messages are bouncing - try this - http://sd02.senate.ca.gov/contact/email)
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SupervisorMikeMcGuire

3.) **  Also send a copy of what you forward to the Governor and the authors, to YOUR California Representatives.
You have one assembly member and one state senator.  Most of their contact information is on their individual websites. 

4.) ** Forward this information to everyone and post to all your social media all day today.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ― Margaret Mead

Concerns with previous versions of these bills:
*  Excessive taxes and fees - these regulations are to support the Compassionate Use Act not be a revenue stream for the state.  The CUA requires that medical cannabis be affordable. Some recent proposals would make medical cannabis so expensive the most vulnerable patients in the state would no longer be able to afford it - the people for whom Prop. 215 was originally intended. (The state will make money from legalization!)  But please, not off of the patients.

* Arbitrary dates that put one group of dispensaries in a different category that other just based on when they opened.  Many communities are still grappling with regulations and patients who have been working with their cities to operate legitimately should not be held to a different standard.

*  Special exemptions from accountability or transparency - previous versions of these bills would've allowed certain players to not have to acquire state certification and hence be exempt from any of those fees or accountability, clearly violating equal protection.

* Over-restrictive permitting - I have seen many regulatory attempts that are so cumbersome and expensive that it constitutes a de facto ban or supports a monopoly.

* No new criminal penalties!


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

It's Complicated

Bill info at:  https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB243

Bill info at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB266

Bill info at:  https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB643

The current status of the California state legislature's medical marijuana bills is complicated.  The 2015 session is ending in a few days and the legislature doesn't seem any closer to crafting a workable set of guidelines for authentic medical cannabis providers.

Just days ago Governor Brown weighed in on language and now all of that language is gone.  All of it.  PAN watched as each bill was updated with the entirety of each bill redlined.  The only language left is the intent of the original motion.  (The links with each image above will take you to the complete file on that bill.)

Also complicated is each bill now mentions the other..."This measure shall become operative only if.." the other bills become operative.  Click on the Today's Law As Amended tabs to see how the legislature has made this very confusing.

We are unsure if these bills have become placeholders for the next session or if amended language will fill these empty bills in the 11th hour before a final vote this session.  The Legislature has suspended the rules that require them to give notice to or take comment from the public - Joint Rule 62(a).  Providing any input at this point is almost impossible.

In years past when the legislature has done this, it has meant the death of that bill.  However, in years past the bills were not completely gutted prior to a full vote, nor did they have the Governor's attention while still on the floor.  We do not understand this strategy but we intent to ask many questions in the next few hours to find out.

While PAN supports equitable guidelines and regulations for medical cannabis operations, these bills  are egregious (favoring collectives with high-paid lobbyists) and expensive (lots of new fees and taxes), hence violating Prop. 215.  The Legislature is treating medical cannabis like adult social marijuana, effectively taking the Compassion out of the Compassionate Use Act and making it the Use Act For Cash.

PAN isn't going to stand for that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

California Senate Committee Hears AB 266 & AB 243

California Senate Room

Video - California Senate Hearing on AB 266

Video - California Senate Committee Hearing on AB 243

The California Senate Appropriations Committee heard two medical cannabis bills yesterday: AB 266 and AB 243.  Both have been moved to the suspense file meaning either or both will be voted on by the full Senate, or die in the file.

AB 266 is over-burdensome, pay-to-play regulation that supports coercive monopolies and bans.  Nowhere in the bill is a seat on the task force for a patient representative, only bureaucrats and lobbyists.  AB 266 is disguised to look like reasonable regulation but in reality dismantles Prop. 215. 

AB 243 creates a new tax on medical cannabis cultivation and states,  “the bill would impose a tax in an unspecified amount on marijuana flowers, marijuana leaves, and immature marijuana plants.”  It is a new tax on medical cannabis growers that will be passed on to the patient.  We already know that unreasonable taxation on medical cannabis only pushes patients to the black or gray market.

SB 643 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee but is not yet on the agenda.

Unfortunately, Sacramento gets is wrong again.  Instead of protecting patients, the California legislature continues to support industry lobbyists, bans, restrictions, and more taxation.  It is anticipated that AB 266 will be gutted and merged with SB 643 and/or AB 243.  However, these are the bills to watch as the 2015 legislative session will close on September 11, 2015.

To let your Senator or Assemblymember know where you stand, find your representative here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov

Contact information for the full California Senate: http://senate.ca.gov/senators
Contact information for the full California Assembly: http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers


Tuesday, July 07, 2015

“Up In Smoke Lounge”

Patient Advocacy Network invites you to our new ‘Up In Smoke Lounge’ for upcoming events and entertainment.  This private, exclusive, comfortable, high-tech studio seats 50 – 70 people and is patient-friendly.  Tickets for all upcoming events are available through PAN only. 

Our first event is Saturday, August 1st and features legendary guitarist Mitch Perry and the Sunset Strip All-Stars.  Tickets range from $45 - $75, tables are also available.  Event sponsors have access to balcony seating. 

All funds raised support PAN’s programs and services.  Event sponsors receive a tax-deductible receipt. 

Call (323) 334-5282 for tickets and information.

Guitarist Mitch Perry

WHO:  Patient Advocacy Network – CannabisSavesLives.org

WHAT:  World-class rock show featuring all-star jam band with rock legends Mitch Perry, Rowan Robertson, Randy Scoles, Dan McNay and Lenny Roberto.  

WHEN: Saturday, August 1, 2015 – 8 p.m. - Midnight

WHERE:  Exclusive, private studio in North Hollywood – Tickets holders will be given the address.

WHY:  Have fun, and raise awareness and funds to Legalize Cannabis in California in 2016. Tickets are $45 - $75 and available by calling (323) 334-5282.  Only 50 seats available – reserve your seat now.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

POW Update - Spring 2015


Letter Writing To Political Prisoners Of Conscience & Compassion
Make sure you include the prisoner ID# on the envelope or post card and include a return address.
This list is not comprehensive. If you know someone serving federal time for his/her involvement with medical cannabis, please contact PatientAdvocates@Riseup.net.

Please write to:

David Chavez Jr. 63519-097                  (12/15)
FPC Yankton
Federal Prison Camp
P.O. Box 700
Yankton, SD 57078

David Chavez Sr. 63518-097                  (11/19)
FCI Mendota
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 9
Mendota, CA 93640

Dustin “DC” Costa 62406-097   (9/18)
USP Florence Admax
U.S. Penitentiary
P.O. Box 8500
Florence, CO 81226

Tim Dellas 93161-011     (11/15)
Federal Prison Camp
P.O. Box 6000
Sheridan, OR 97378
Marion P. Fry 15840-097       (9/15)
FCI Dublin
Federal Correctional Institution
5701 8th St. - Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Charles Edward Lepp 90157-011      (1/18)
USP Florence ADMAX
U.S. Penitentiary
P.O. Box 8500
Florence, CO  81226

Larry Kristich 13094-180         (7/15)
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 3000
Anthony, TX 88021

Richard Ruiz Montes 63130-097       (9/25)
Federal Correctional Institution
3600 Guard Road
Lompoc, CA 93436

Aaron Sandusky  63038-112          (5/21)
FCI Big Spring
Federal Correctional Institution
1900 Simler Ave.
Big Spring, TX  79720

Luke Scarmazzo 63131-097        (5/27)
FCI Mendota
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 9
Mendota, CA  93640

Dale C. Schafer 15839-097       (9/15)
CI Taft
Correctional Institution
P.O. Boc 7001
Taft, CA 93268


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Press Release - Marijuana Legalization Effort in California Moves Forward for 2016

Marijuana Legalization Effort in California Moves Forward for 2016

Advocates Build Consensus on Initiative Language, Open Call for Proponents

San Jose, CA (March 11, 2015) Efforts to legalize marijuana in California in 2016 are gaining momentum. Americans For Policy Reform (AFPR), the group behind the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014 (MCLR), is announcing the opening of the MCLR 2016 language for input from the community. The initiative will establish clear guidelines for Medical Marijuana and Adult-use Marijuana in addition to allowing for the production of industrial hemp in the state. 
“We have heard a resounding cry from leaders in the cannabis community saying they want MCLR in 2016,” stated John Lee, Director of AFPR. “We feel obligated to help.” 
In 2013, MCLR was developed as the first “open-source” or “crowd-sourced” method for advocates and experts everywhere to contribute directly to the language of California’s marijuana legalization law. It received an impressive fiscal analysis from the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), in addition to a highly favorable Title & Summary from California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“MCLR 2016 is now open for community input. We want to ensure everyone has another opportunity to address any concerns and contribute to the initiative,” said Mr. Lee. “We also encourage all serious supporters interested in signing on as a Proponent to contact us immediately.”

What MCLR Would Achieve
According to Attorney General Kamala Harris, MCLR would, “reduce costs potentially exceeding one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) annually to state and local governments,” related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system and incarcerating marijuana offenders. Harris also reported MCLR would add “a few hundred million dollars annually” from additional tax revenues. 

How To Get Involved
The initiative language can be reviewed and ideas can be submitted at www.bit.ly/mclr2016. Hundreds of advocates, legal experts and concerned citizens have contributed to the draft so far. Anyone with questions or wishing to sign on as a Proponent can reach John Lee at John@AFPR.us