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.Lobby Day

Cannabis advocates take their grievances to the California legislature 

With California’s legal-weed industry in a perpetual state of crisis, much of it due to government policy, industry representatives and policy advocates are mounting a lobbying effort in Sacramento meant to take on a wide range of problems, from high taxes to onerous regulations, and to register opposition to proposed laws that they say will only make things worse for both pot businesses and consumers.

On May 8, California NORML and Americans for Safe Access, a Washington, DC lobby group focused on medical marijuana, will hold a Lobby Day, where they will press state legislators on a host of specific bills before the legislature.

One perhaps good sign for the weed business is that nearly all the bills under consideration are aimed at reform, and very few are meant to further restrict the industry. The only restrictive bill NORML cites in its announcement of Lobby Day is a particularly idiotic one. 

Sponsored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (Encino), AB 1207 would prohibit cannabis products, packaging and advertisements that are “attractive to children.” For example, the coloring of edibles would be banned. That’s right, coloring. The bill would also, among other things, restrict descriptions of flavors to tiny (eight-point) type on labels.

Pot manufacturers surely need to be more careful about making their products look like regular candy, and perhaps some kind of further regulation is needed for this. Some kids end up munching on edibles by accident and wind up stoned and are sometimes hospitalized (most of the blame should be directed at adults who aren’t careful enough about keeping their weed away from tots). Even worse are the illicit marketers who straight-up mimic real candy brands, putting kids in danger and also violating the trademarks of food companies. 

But the answer can’t be to make legit pot merchants sell colorless edibles in dull packaging. The bill would also force companies to separate every product by dose, which would preclude, for example, the sale of candy bars or beverages that contain several doses each.

Among the bills aimed at reform, Senate Bill 512 is of particular interest. It would lower the tax burden on cannabis companies by removing the requirement that they include the pot taxes they collect as part of their “gross receipts.” Currently, businesses must include the state’s excise tax and any city or county weed taxes they collect as gross receipts, which of course makes no sense. As NORML put it, this amounts to “double taxation”: taxing money already collected as taxes. The bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Steven Bradford (Gardena).

Other bills up for discussion on Lobby Day include SB 302, which would require healthcare facilities to allow the on-site use of medical pot by all patients (currently, only terminal patients are allowed to consume weed in hospitals and other facilities). The bill would exclude inhalants.

AB 374 and SB 285 would allow food and beverages to be sold in pot lounges. SB 285 would also allow pot lounges to present entertainers and host events.

SB 51 would give a leg up to equity owners by extending their provisional licenses for up to five years, and enable the issuance of provisional licenses for equity owners indefinitely. Licensing red tape has been a particular burden for equity owners in California. Another couple of bills (AB 1917 and SB 508) would ease regulations that have caused delays in licensing by making it easier to transition from temporary to permanent licenses.

AB 1094 would prohibit drug and alcohol testing of pregnant or perinatal women by medical or social workers without informed consent.

According to NORML, previous Lobby Days have borne fruit. It says reforms like strengthening employment rights for cannabis consumers, medical rights patients and tax reforms such as the elimination of the state cultivation tax all got huge boosts from the event in past years. All Californians are invited to take part. 

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