This is the text of a letter delivered by FCA members to state Sen. Lou Correa, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano and other lawmakers at ASA’s Lobby Day in Sacramento:
Following a survey of its members, the Fresno Cannabis Association wishes to express its opposition to Senate Bill 1262. The greatest concern of FCA members was the bill’s complete failure to address the dispensary and cultivation bans in Fresno and the Central Valley, much less do anything to stop them.
As currently amended, SB 1262 would endorse and institutionalize a chaotic and ever-changing patchwork of “wet” and “dry” local jurisdictions, leaving Prop. 215 patients in Fresno and much of the Central Valley with no safe access to cannabis gardens or distribution centers. If the goal is to create state regulations that will actually be enforced statewide, SB 1262 falls well short of that goal.
The situation in Fresno County is instructive. County supervisors opposed the creation of a state ID card program as authorized under Senate Bill 420, relenting only after litigation was filed. In 2010, they enacted bans on cannabis dispensaries and outdoor cultivation, both adopted with little notice under the guise of so-called “urgency” legislation. At the urging of Sheriff Margaret Mims, the board adopted regulations for collective cultivation sites that amounted to a de facto ban, then repealed them this year in favor of a ban on all types of cannabis gardens, which is now being challenged in court.
The wisdom of developing state-level regulations that can and will be ignored in vast geographical areas of the state is rightfully subject to question. By its terms, Proposition 215 was enacted, in part, “To encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.” (emphasis added). Yet Senate Bill 1262 would allow cities and counties to effectively “opt out” of any and all state regulations that are developed by the new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.
Beyond the issue of state pre-emption, the FCA is very concerned about the proposed physician regulations in Senate Bill 1262. The Fresno area is chronically underserved by medical professionals, and many Fresno-area residents lack attending or primary-care physicians. FCA sees no compelling reason to crack down on “pot docs” or to create new crimes when existing regulations are sufficient. The Medical Board of California already has all the enforcement tools it needs to take action against doctors where warranted. FCA members are worried that SB 1262, as currently amended, will greatly reduce the number of physicians who are willing and able to issue cannabis recommendations.
To be clear, FCA does not oppose the development of state-level regulations that promote and protect small-scale personal cultivation by qualified Prop. 215 patients. We further believe that state-level regulations should apply to collective growers, processors and distributors of medical cannabis, not just because it’s good public policy but also to reduce and prevent enforcement actions by the federal government against state-compliant cannabis providers. We have no reason to believe that the U.S. Attorneys Offices in California will look any more kindly on businesses operating under a mix of state and local regulations under SB 1262 than they have on businesses compliant with SB 420. Rather, we believe that pre-emptive state regulations are urgently needed to forestall federal interference.
Lest we be accused of being bearers of bad news only, FCA wishes to express its support for certain elements of Senate Bill 1262:
- Establishment of a regulatory agency under the Department of Consumer Affairs, but only if it has full authority to enact rules that will be applied statewide, notwithstanding local laws.
- Establishment of cannabis testing and quality-assurance protocols.
- Establishment of regulations to ensure conformance with standards analogous to state environmental, agricultural, consumer protection and food and product safety requirements.
The unbridled authority to enact local cannabis regulations has led to the opposite of what Senate Bill 420 intended when it was enacted 10 years ago, namely, the consistent application of state law among cities and counties. Rather than correct that shortcoming, SB 1262 would allow hundreds of cities and counties to continue to ban all forms of cannabis businesses and cultivation for the foreseeable future. We respectfully ask the author(s) of Senate Bill 1262 to add pre-emptive language that would demonstrate to the courts that the state has now fully occupied the field of cannabis regulation. Absent such amendment, we must oppose SB 1262, as it is likely to do more harm than good.
Michael Green, president
Shannon Luce, vice president
Fresno Cannabis Association