2015 left us with one piece of good news. A federal spending bill, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prohibits
federal authorities from using its funds to prosecute medical marijuana
dispensaries compiling with state/local rules. In a recent court ruling, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer
decided in favor of the dispensary, which allows the Marin Alliance for Medical
Marijuana to reopen. If upheld on
appeal, other dispensaries currently under federal prosecution may see similar
Soon after this court decision headlines
over-stated that marijuana prohibition had ended and the ‘war is over.’ The war is not over and while federal
interference is blocked for now the battles are here at home. In the final hours of the 2015 legislative session the
California legislature passed the state’s first set of medical marijuana
regulations known as MMRSA, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety
These three bills: AB 266, AB 243, and SB 643, by
authors Bonta, Wood, and McGuire, respectively, along with other co-authors,
create the bureaucracy for licensing and enforcement, strict environmental
compliance, and multiple business licensing categories for the medical cannabis
industry. The issue of fees
and taxation was left out of the bills intentionally due to the lack of time
and votes. ‘Clean-up’ legislation
is already underway, and the first of such bills already sits on the Governor’s
desk to deal with the first of many arbitrary dates in MMRSA.
This date, March 1, 2016, has spread fear and
consternation among local legislatures across the state resulting in dozens of
new bans on medical marijuana activities.
The wording of the state law indicated that local municipalities lacking
any rules for medical marijuana cultivation by or before March 1, 2016, would
default to the state’s rules. The
bill’s author told reporters the wording was a ‘mistake,’ presumably one of
many mistakes in MMRSA to be cleaned up this session.
MMRSA by design pulls the rug out from under many
authentic medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives in California, which
is ironic because the driving force behind MMRSA, Governor Jerry Brown, was
also the author of the AG Guidelines of 2008. The AG Guidelines put into question the legality and
compliance of storefront medical marijuana dispensaries and emphasized that a completely
closed-loop, patient-to-patient, garden-to-distribution, non-profit business
model as a way to possibly prevent diversion.
All of this is turned on its head under
MMRSA. Under MMRSA the closed-loop
is no longer allowed and dispensaries will have to be hands-off of some
operations of the business and rely on a third party with the appropriate
permits. Producers, manufactures,
transporters and other personnel are no longer required to be legally qualified
patients or caregivers. Businesses
no longer have to be non-profit.
All of which appears to be fine for new applicants but MMRSA established
another arbitrary date, July 1, 2015.
Any medical marijuana business operating prior to this date with local
approval may seek grandfathering status with the state that allows the business
to continue to operate as is until 2026.
Consider upon release of the AG Guidelines,
businesses wanting to operate in the spirit of the law created agreements and
by laws to demonstrate a closed-loop, membership-based, not-for-profit
organization of qualified patients and caregivers. Some organizations chose to operate garden-direct and bypassed
keeping a storefront dispensary altogether. As a result there are a significant number of
authentic medical marijuana producers and providers that have operated for
years in the spirit of Prop. 215, the AG Guidelines, paid taxes, maintained
good standing with the state, but never gained local approval because such a
permit did not exist or was not required for non-storefront related activities.
While the veil of the necessary environmental
protections in MMRSA keeps it looking shiny, there are many problematic provisions
that could thin out the number of compassionate medical marijuana businesses in
favor of a pocket of industry players with high-paid lobbyists in Sacramento
seeking to drive the entire direction of California’s cannabis industry. However, MMRSA is currently being
challenged in court for violating Proposition 215, and there’s the effort to
legalize cannabis in California in 2016.
PAN has always argued that the only way to legally
broaden the Compassionate Use Act is through the voter initiative process. PAN is supporting MCLR, the Marijuana
Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2016.
PAN’s board members provided input and language to
the initiative that protects low-income patient access and compassionate services. Importantly, MCLR is the only
initiative that provides communities with the tools to overturn the bans and
start to undo the mess already being created by MMRSA. Taxation, fees and the approval process
under MCLR are fair and reasonable for all cannabis businesses, large and small,
for profit or not. Personal
cultivation is lawful and there’s no jail time for pot. Medical cannabis is protected,
adult use is legalized, and industrial hemp agriculture is implemented under
MCLR with reasonable regulations and safeguards. MCLR is comprehensive and smart, and drafted as an
open-source process with the input of over 1,200 people, most of which are
patient advocates, industry experts, lawyers, political consultants and
concerned citizens. Several
attorneys, specializing in various aspects of the law, have provided valuable
input prior to the final filing with the Secretary of State. I encourage you to read the initiative
and get involved.
Read the California Attorney General’s Title and
Summary of MCLR here:
There are many initiatives filed to ‘legalize’ marijuana
in California in 2016. Therefore,
it’s vital that you stay informed. The battle to protect California’s unique cannabis
heritage will be on the ballot this year. I urge you to not be fooled by the power of persuasion
that really big money buys. The
initiative touted by the media, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) backed by
Napster and Facebook billionaire Sean Parker, is the adult legalization
companion piece to MMRSA and written by Sacramento and law enforcement. AUMA is a ballot initiative disguised
as a voter initiative and backed by very large donors to ensure its place on
the November ballot.
California has a great history of grassroots
efforts and activism, and right now it’s the only action that will protect the
cannabis industry from misguided bills, local bans, and a possible
mega-corporation take-over. Please
contact PAN for more information, to become a donor, or to volunteer.
We need to gather 500,000 raw signatures to
qualify MCLR for the ballot. PAN
has already coordinated a supremely qualified professional team to execute the
signature gathering effort for MCLR.
The only thing we need is your financial support to hit the
streets. Contributions pay for
petition printing and signature gathering. Please don’t let the AUMA be the only initiative to
make the ballot. MCLR will force
the debate on important issues like bans and jail time and give voters a
PAN is uniquely positioned as a non-profit to take
advantage of little known code that allows 501(c)(3) organizations to contribute
to a political campaign. This type
of fundraising effort is most effective when the organization takes in many
smaller contributions. Donations
are still 100% tax-deductible and election authorities do not require your
personal information. Large
contributions can still be handled through our PAC.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any
questions. I look forward to
making this happen with you.
President, Executive & Program Director
Patient Advocacy Network