Good morning, California.
“And yet three years after the campaign, and a quarter of the way through California’s second year of commercial retail sales, accusations that Prop. 64 would put big business first feel all too prophetic.”—Leafly’s Chris Roberts, ahead of the 4/20‘s festivities, but focusing on an effort set for Sunday intended to push for further cannabis reforms.
Challenging local control of cannabis
A billboard advertising a marijuana-delivery business
Backers of the 2016 initiative that legalized commercial marijuana sales promised voters that cities and counties would be able to regulate weed sales in their jurisdictions.
Now, legislation facing its first hearing on Tuesday would hedge on that promise.
San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting is carrying legislation that would require cities or counties that voted in favor of the legalization initiative, Proposition 64, to grant one license for a retail cannabis outlet for every four retail liquor licenses in that jurisdiction.
Ting: “With over 57 percent of the voters passing prop 64, we still have 77 percent of cities not offering to approve licenses for legal cannabis permits.”
At a recent press conference convened by Ting, speakers representing United Domestic Workers, an arm of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, and a veteran lent their support, citing marijuana’s medicinal properties.
Veteran Aaron Augustus: “There are 22 veterans committing suicide every day. Medical cannabis could have saved their lives.”
The bill applies to recreational marijuana outlets.
- The League of California Cities called the legislation “heavy-handed,” arguing:
“In essence, attempting to require cities to establish a 1 to 4 ratio of local retail cannabis licenses to liquor licenses removes the ability for locals to decide what is appropriate for their communities.”
Recent history: California’s 2016 voter handbook, which went to all registered voters, stated: “Under the measure, cities and counties could regulate nonmedical marijuana businesses. … Cities and counties could also completely ban marijuana-related businesses.”
Cannabis and end-of-life care
Emergency room physicians are concerned about a medical marijuana bill.
At the urging of parents of a man who died of cancer, legislators have given initial approval of a bill that would require hospitals and other health care facilities to grant terminally ill patients access to cannabis.
The California Hospital Association raised alarms about the bill by Sen. Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat.
- Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, hospitals that permit medical marijuana use could risk losing federal accreditation.
- Emergency room physicians raise concerns that their ability to provide care could be hindered by patient marijuana use.
Jim Bartell, a San Diego consultant, told the Senate Health Committee about his son, Ryan, who died of cancer last year. For some of his final days, he was so sedated on a traditional pain medication that he could not communicate.
The family ultimately was able to get him access to marijuana, in the form of creams, spray and suppositories, and he remained awake.
Reading from a letter by his wife, Elaine, Jim Bartell said: “Watching Ryan’s brave but brief battle with cancer was unbearable. Getting to be with him when he wasn’t under the influence of heavy pain meds were the only positive moments for him, his wife, son, family and friends.”
The Senate Health Committee approved the bill unanimously, with support from Republicans and Democrats.
Dusting off education bills
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is among those introducing education bills.
Hoping they’ll have better luck with Gov. Gavin Newsom, a father of four, legislators have dusted off several education-related bills that stalled or were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.
At the top of the list: Sen. Anthony Portantino of La Cañada Flintridge is re-upping his bill that would let middle and high school kids sleep in a little longer by pushing back the start time for public school.
- Brown, who vetoed Portantino’s bill, doesn’t have kids and thus didn’t experience the familial strife caused waking a teenager in time for school.
- The new governor-dad is only part of the impetus for offering new school-related bills. Democrats expanded their control of the Legislature, and candidates backed by public school unions made gains.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, reintroduced legislation to prohibit low-income schools from hiring teachers through programs such as Teach For America. The bill cleared its first committee earlier this month. It fizzled without a hearing last year.
Teachers struggle with housing costs
California housing costs are factoring into teacher strikes for more pay.
California’s high cost of housing falls especially hard on teachers, particularly those who are new to the profession, EdSource’s Diana Lambert and Daniel J. Willis report.
Among their findings:
- First-year teachers did not earn enough to rent an affordable one-bedroom apartment in nearly 40 percent of the 680 school districts that reported salary data to the state.
- The highest-paid teachers could not afford to rent a three-bedroom house or apartment in more than a quarter of school districts.
Lambert and Willis report: “The high cost of housing in California has pushed many teachers, as well as residents in other professions, out of state in search of less-expensive housing …
“Between 2013 and 2017 the Census Bureau estimates that 40,000 teachers left the state, although it is not clear that they left because of housing costs. That was an increase of 22 percent over the previous five-year period.”
Which helps explains why teachers in Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento have gone on strike this year.
Trump’s Becerra problem
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
As President Trump contends with fallout from the Mueller report, he also must contend with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
CALmatters’ Ben Christopher takes a new look at how Becerra has turned the state Department of Justice into the center of the national resistance to Trump policies on everything from immigration and abortion to auto emissions.
- Becerra has sued Trump or joined other state attorneys general in their suits 47 times.
- By comparison, Texas’ attorneys general sued the Obama administration 48 times.
- Becerra’s total reaches 49, if you count the times that California has requested a court to enforce a prior victory against Trump or instances in which the state is defending Obama-era laws, including perhaps his most significant.
Becerra is defending the Affordable Care Act against a suit by his Texas counterpart that could result in the entire law being declared unconstitutional. Trump recently announced he won’t defend the law.
- Marquette University political scientist Paul Nolette said states have filed 71 lawsuits against the Trump administration in just two years, 10 more than were filed against Obama’s policies during his eight years in office.
Nolette: State attorneys general used to “see themselves as legal representatives of their own states. Now it’s far more about taking actions consistent with their party and what their policy priorities are.”
Money matters: Suits are a dandy fundraising tool. Becerra regularly blasts emails asking for money after he files suits.
Take a number: $1.07 million
A cannabis farm
Five big players in the cannabis business donated $1.07 million to elect candidates in the 2017-18 campaign cycle, campaign finance reports show.
- The five include the company that owns the Weedmaps app, Medmen, Cannabis Industry Association, Terra Tech and the delivery service Eaze. Many others gave smaller sums. Venture capitalists involved in seeding the industry gave more.
For a deeper look at the influence of cannabis money in Sacramento, read Laurel Rosenhall’s piece in CALmatters.
Commentary at CALmatters
Alex Berenson, author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence”: Backers of cannabis legalization–and their supporters in the media–have successfully cast marijuana legalization as a racial and social justice issue, although almost no one is in prison for cannabis possession. And they have vastly oversold the potential medical benefits of the drug, while understating its risks.
Paul Armentano, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws: Because marijuana use may pose potential hazards to both the individual consumer and to public safety, advocacy groups such as mine, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, believe that lawmakers should regulate it accordingly.
Rex Hime, California Business Properties Association: Raising property taxes on businesses means they will pass on the costs to every Californian by increasing prices on just about everything we buy and use, from diapers and day care to gasoline and groceries. That’s the last thing hardworking families need.
See you Monday.