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Senate Health Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Clean-up Bill

January 22, 2016
Wednesday marked the next stage in the progress of AB 21 (Wood), the medical marijuana clean-up legislation that would eliminate the March 1, 2016 cultivation deadline, when the Senate Health Committee passed it on a 7-0 vote.
The League appreciates all the letters cities have sent to legislators on this important issue.

Six committee members joined Committee Chair Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa), who supported the bill as proposed to be amended, with amendments negotiated by the League and ACLU, with the California State Association of Counties, California Police Chiefs Association and Drug Policy Alliance also on board.
The Senate Committee’s action on Jan. 20 follows the Senate Governance and Finance Committee last week, which also approved Assembly Member Jim Wood’s (D-Healdsburg) legislation. The League is cautiously optimistic that the March 1 deadline that will pre-empt local governments on cultivation ordinances and is on its way to being lifted.  
The bill currently has no opposition. Senate Health Committee Member Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), who opposed all three bills in the regulatory package last year, abstained from voting. He voiced his philosophical objection to a regulatory structure that he said he believes is still far too loose. Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) was absent from Wednesday’s hearing.
SB 435, which was also amended with the League-ACLU compromise language, but did not contain the removal of the March 1 deadline, was set to be heard in the Assembly Health Committee as a fail-safe. That hearing, however, was cancelled when it became clear that the Senate Health Committee passed AB 21.
The language being struck from AB 21 (bottom of page 5) would have shut down some of the litigation against cities regarding medical marijuana regulation. However, ACLU and the Senate were determined to strike the key final sentence from a Health and Safety Code statute in its entirety, which might have been harmful to cities in that it would have allowed advocates to argue that the Legislature did not intend for local governments to regulate patient and primary caregiver activity.
The amendments taken in the Senate Health Committee reflecting the League-ACLU deal instead remove reference to explicit local authority to regulate and ban and alter the key sentence so that it is now simply a recitation of existing constitutional police power.  While the League conceded a clear-cut advantage in future litigation against cities that the Legislature found unpalatable, it did not affirmatively give up any actual land use authority — such as losing the ability to regulate indoor cultivation by patients/primary caregivers, which ACLU initially sought. The language added to AB 21 guarantees that California cities will continue to face litigation in court brought by ACLU and others — but with no clear tactical advantage for either side.
Next Steps
AB 21 will next go to the Senate Floor for a full vote and may be eligible for a vote as early as Monday, Jan. 25. It will then go to the Assembly for consideration.

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