Happy Flag Day greetings from Sacramento!
One of the sixteen trailer bills on the agenda of yesterday’s Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee meeting was AB 110, Cannabis Regulation. Being a detailed reader from my C.P.A. practice days, I can spot typos rather quickly. In fact, it’s a curse. While reading the Committee Report, I found a fun one. I even looked it up just to see if I had not learned the plural of the word cannabis. Well, in the day of spell check, this one slipped by (since the word was spelled correctly) and I brought it up in a fun manner. AP reporter Jonathan Cooper tweeted it out, stating I had found an "epic typo" (see https://twitter.com/SenatorMoorlach/status/874759729259532288).
The Chair, Sen. Holly Mitchell, tried to calm things down, but it didn’t help much (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huHMAAmEXUI&t=1s). I used it as a teaching moment about the problem with the speed of which we receive trailer bills. Even the consultants who prepare the briefings are not catching simple typos, which challenges our confidence in the budget process as these trailer bills are often slapped together at the last moment not looking like the issues we debated in previous budget hearings. The moment was also caught by Leafly in the first piece below.
While I was tied up in Committee, the OC Register called. I could not return the call, as I was debating cannabis regulation and a blatant abuse of the recall law that will be retroactive should the Governor sign AB 112, as he is expected to do. The nonsense that gets shoved through using trailer bills just makes me sick to my stomach. Especially the unconstitutional power plays. But, I digress.
More than 60 percent of OC voters do so by mail. Reducing the number of actual voting locations makes great fiscal sense. Unfortunately, the trend is not being observed and the Board of Supervisors did not catch the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ vision yesterday.
I voted for the bill that allowed for Neal Kelley to make his presentation and I believe it reduces fraud. I applaud him for his acknowledging the facts of the trend in how constituents vote and managing accordingly. Some visionaries suffer the fate of being a little early. Although I could not return the call, I do get a mention as the closer of the second piece below.
California Lawmakers Rush to Set Cannabis Regulations
As the launch of California’s adult-use cannabis market looms—sales are set to begin Jan. 2, 2018—lawmakers are scrambling to put in place rules to regulate the industry and ensure it functions smoothly.
On Tuesday afternoon, a California Senate committee took the latest step toward that goal, voting 16–1 in support of Assembly Bill 110. It’s an enormous bill of provisions to govern the state’s medical and adult-use programs, covering everything from environmental and licensing matters to the exemption of cannabutter from the Milk and Milk Products Act of 1947.
While the measure earned broad bipartisan praise from members of the Senate Budget Committee, even some supporters questioned the quickness with which the changes are being pushed through the Legislature. Pointing out a typo where “cannabis” had been misspelled “cannibals,” Sen. John Moorlach said at the hearing that the error “indicates the pace” at which the bill is progressing.
“We are moving awfully fast,” he said.
But as committee chair Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) pointed out, the alacrity of the bill—and its wide-ranging nature—are the product of nearing deadline.
“We go live on Jan. 2, 2018, regardless,” agreed Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) at Tuesday’s hearing. “We are building the airplane as we’re flying it. And we are going to make some mistakes.”
The bill has earned the support of many cannabis industry associations, labor unions, and even the California Police Chiefs Association, which has only recently come to support legal cannabis.
The full text of AB 110 is available online. If you plan on reading it all, though, clear your schedule. The state Legislative Counsel’s “digest” version of the bill is itself more than 6,000 words. The full text is nearly 10 times that.
We at Leafly digested the AB 110 a bit further. Here some key takeaways:
Merging Medical and Adult-Use Systems
Perhaps the biggest change that AB 110 would make is to eliminate California’s medical marijuana law, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). It’s part of a plan to merge the state’s medical and adult-use programs into one, which would be overseen by the Bureau of Cannabis Control. While separate rules and regulations would still apply for medical and adult-use cannabis, both would be regulated under a new law, the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA, for those of you who like acronyms).
To that end, AB 110 would iron out some differences in license types between the state’s current medical and adult-use laws. With some exceptions, it would also “generally impose the same requirements on both commercial medicinal and commercial adult-use cannabis activity,” a fix aimed at regulatory efficiency.
Testing laboratories would be able to test both medical and adult-use cannabis under AB 110, but it’s less clear how it would affect dispensaries. A Los Angeles Times report on Monday noted that recent changes to the bill “would allow pot shops to sell both medical and recreational weed”—but on Tuesday, observers quickly pointed out that it still includes language requiring “separate and distinct” premises for businesses that hold multiple licenses.
Lab Testing Cannabis
Beginning next year, California will for the first time require that cannabis be tested for pesticides, mold, mildew, and other contaminants. We knew that part already, but AB 110 begins to flesh out how the system will work.
To ensure consumers know what they’re getting, the bill explicitly prohibits the use of banned pesticides and creates a state program to certify organic cannabis products. It also sets up protocols designed to ensure products are tested fairly and accurately.
Under AB 110, cannabis distributors would store cannabis on their premises. From there, testing lab employees would be required to obtain samples and transport those samples back to the lab. The bill would also create a quality assurance monitor, who would be employed or contracted by the Bureau of Cannabis Regulation.
Even after testing begins, some untested products would still be able to be sold under the bill. Those products would need to be labeled as “untested,” and sales would only be allowed for a period determined by the bureau. It’s a move designed to prevent delays or interruptions in product availability, which has occurred in some other states after imposing new testing standards.
Many estimates peg cannabis as California’s top cash crop. But historically that yield has come with environmental consequences, including clear-cutting forests and polluting surface and groundwater. Provisions in AB 110 aim to minimize those impacts.
Under the bill, all cultivators would be required to identify the source of water they use. And if the state Department of Food and Agriculture determines there to be adverse impacts related to cultivation, it would have the authority to limit the issuance of unique identifying tags, which are required for all legally grown plants.
The measure would also make it a felony to grow or process cannabis “where that activity results in a violation of specified laws relating to the unlawful taking of fish and wildlife.”
The bill would also:
- Require infused edibles to carry a universal symbol to ensure easy identification
- Require that cannabis and cannabis products be placed in an opaque package before leaving a retailer’s premises
- Establish that an open package of cannabis in a vehicle qualifies as an “open container” infraction
- Allow for special events and public consumption permits, issued at the discretion of the bureau
- Redefine “volatile solvent” under the law to mean “a solvent that is or produces a flammable gas or vapor that, when present in the air in sufficient quantities, will create explosive or ignitable mixtures.” (California law makes it a crime to manufacture cannabis concentrates using volatile chemicals without a state license, but some had questioned whether carbon dioxide (CO2) fell under that definition.)
- Require cannabis ads on the internet include the licensee’s license number
- Remove a provision that currently limits the issuance of state cannabis licenses to California residents only
- Require retailers to notify officials within 24 hours of a security breach
- Require that public safety—as opposed to patient or economic interests—be the first priority in regulatory decisions
- Define information on a doctor’s recommendation as medical information under the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, which applies to state agencies
- Authorize three or more “natural persons” with Type 1 or 2 licenses—which are granted to small-scale growers—to form a cooperative to cultivate, sell, and market cannabis products
Orange County supervisors reject new, cost-saving voting system
Orange County supervisors rejected a sweeping overhaul of the county’s voting system on Tuesday, June 13, despite a report from Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley saying more than $10 million would be saved in replacing antiquated voting machines.
Kelley’s proposal called for sending every county voter a mail ballot and replacing the approximately 1,000 precinct polls with 150 “vote centers.” The vote centers would open for 10 days before the election for those wanting to vote in person and those wanting to drop off ballots rather than mail them.
With people increasingly voting by mail – 61 percent of county voters are permanent vote-by-mail voters – the approach proposed by Kelley is growing in popularity. Colorado and Washington have adopted similar systems, and Sacramento County recently approved the change. Twelve other California counties are expected to consider the move within the next year.
But with a host of new election laws taking effect statewide, some Republican leaders say they’re worried about increased voter fraud and want to put the brakes on additional changes for the time being.
County supervisors, all Republicans, unanimously denied Kelley’s request without discussion.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who made the motion to reject the proposal, later explained his reservations. “The key to me is to see how the other mandated systems work and then decide how to move forward,” he said, echoing sentiments expressed earlier this month by county GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker.
“I have real concerns about voter fraud,” Spitzer said.
There are two big state-mandated changes for 2018. For the first time, citizens will be able to register to vote on Election Day and there will no longer be restrictions on who can gather and deliver mail ballots. In the past, only relatives could drop off someone else’s mail ballot in person.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he was “surprised … shocked and deeply disappointed” by Orange County’s decision.
“Supervisor Spitzer sounds like (President) Donald Trump in citing voter fraud,” said Padilla, a Democrat. “Study after study, report after report, investigation after investigation show there’s virtually no voter fraud. He ought to be ashamed. This model for holding elections has been proven to work. Turnout goes up and cost goes down.”
Kelley has said the vote-center approach would provide greater safeguards against fraud. A key reason is each center would have a real-time, statewide voter database that would show if a prospective voter has registered or voted elsewhere. Voters registering or casting a ballot for the first time in the state are required to show identification, although others are not.
Buying such equipment for 1,000 precincts polls is probably not cost effective, Kelley has said.
Under the vote-center system, county voters could have cast a live ballot – or dropped off their mail ballot – at any of the county’s vote centers or at one of 93 secure drop boxes that would open a month before Election Day.
Kelley’s report to supervisors says the current system, put in place in 2003, had a 10-year life expectancy. Hardware is “increasingly failing,” the report says, needing more maintenance and software is outdated. Additionally, some replacement parts are no longer available.
Supervisors directed Kelley to return with a proposal to replace machines for the current 1,000 polling places. That could cost as much as $40 million, while new equipment for the vote-center approach would have topped out at $14 million, according to Kelley’s report.
Spitzer didn’t rule out supporting the vote-center model once mandated changes have been put in place and their consequences known. He said he’s not sure there’s a need to replace the aging machines in time for the 2018 elections.
“I’m not convinced we can’t continue to use our existing system,” he said.
Kelley’s offered only a brief comment after supervisors’ vote: “I respect the board’s decision and we’re prepared to move forward as directed.”
Kelley, former head of both the state and national elections officials organizations, has been widely acknowledged for the innovations and efficiencies he’s introduced to his office. He also helped draft the language of the state law allowing counties to establish vote centers.
Many Republicans believe same-day voting and the change in who can collect mail ballots will benefit Democratic turnout. Newport Beach’s Mike Schroeder, a former state GOP chairman, is among them, but he has said the vote-center approach could benefit the GOP because Republican voters are more likely to cast mail ballots than Democrats, and the center would increase mail voting.
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, has also expressed support for Kelley’s proposal.
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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