Tuesday, October 02, 2018

California Governor Jerry Brown Issues Blow To Medical Cannabis Patients, Compassion

Protections for medical cannabis patients are eroding quickly in the state of California.  Two important medical cannabis bills that passed the legislature were not signed by Governor Jerry Brown this week, SB 829 and SB 1127, leaving what many think is a huge stain on Brown’s political legacy.

On September 11, 2015, the legislature passed MMRSA – Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.  This set of rules was a clear violation of Proposition 215 as it made huge, sweeping amendments to a voter initiative.  In an act of diabolical genius immediately after MMRSA passed, AUMA – the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – was filed and signature gathering began soon thereafter quashing any effort to sue the State over MMRSA as any judge assigned to the case would suggest waiting until the outcome the election before moving forward with the case.  AUMA neatly umbrella’ed MMRSA making it part of their voter initiative and effectively compromising Prop. 215 – The Compassionate Use Act.  

Despite the diligent, articulate and informed arguments by patient advocates statewide that AUMA – Prop. 64 – greatly jeopardized The Compassionate Use Act, paid proponents of Prop. 64 worked to discredit and undermine decades of hard work by advocates to protect patients’ safe, affordable access to medical cannabis.  AUMA passed. The taxes and fees have skyrocketed.  Patients have stopped visiting licensed retail cannabis shops for unregulated sources.  Now a blow by the Governor to declare that Compassionate Care and allowing children access to their medicine at school are illegal.

As of January 1, 2018, giving cannabis away at no cost to vulnerable patients – the spirit of The Compassionate Use Act – became illegal.  SB 829 would have created a license for this activity to encourage the re-establishment of compassion programs allowing low-income patients and our veterans to have more livable lives.  SB 1127 would’ve allowed children with serious illnesses to have their medical cannabis available at school in case of an emergency. Many of these children suffer from Dravet Syndrome – a severe form of epilepsy that produces violent and debilitating seizures, often several times a day.  Medical cannabis alleviates the duration, frequency and severity of these seizures allowing children to have more livable lives.  Governor Brown is not concerned about the lives of Californians especially of they are poor, ill or use medical cannabis.

So, what are the options for medical cannabis patients, providers and their advocates? Taking the next several legislative sessions to make endless amendments to every part of these flawed laws is one burdensome option.  A legal challenge to Prop. 64, as it pertains to the claim that it doesn’t affect Prop. 215, is another option but not a long-term solution.  It appears more and more that the only way to protect patients and Prop. 215 is through the voter initiative process and specifically a constitutional amendment.  

However, statewide voter initiative campaigns are arduous and expensive.  Is there enough frustration to motivate a campaign?  Are there enough people willing to make a small donation to fund a campaign?  Patient Advocacy Network would like to hear your thoughts.