March 20, 2017

Putting Pressure on the Feds

The California Legislature has not been shy about preparing to do battle with the federal government on several issues; health care, climate change, and immigration are just some of the hot topics that the state’s leadership is willing to fight for against the Trump administration to protect policies that have impacted its residents. Part of its preparation has been the recent hiring of Covington & Burling, a prominent law firm that employs former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. But legislators are now showing that they are also willing to go up against the federal government on the issue of cannabis. Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) has introduced AB 1578, a bill that prohibits state and local government from assisting federal agents in investigations against legal commercial cannabis activity – either recreational or medical – unless they have a court order that is signed by a judge. The bill has a long way to go in the legislative process but is already supported by democratic leaders in both houses. This is the clearest indication from California thus far that there are leaders willing to fight on behalf of its cannabis industry. Interested in supporting the bill? Contact Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer’s office. In addition, as part of a bipartisan effort, Senators have introduced SJR-5, a resolution that requests that Congress pass a law to reschedule “marijuana or cannabis and its derivatives to an alternative schedule.” Their goal is to allow for legal research and commerce, including access to traditional banks and financial institutions. Although some believe simply rescheduling isn’t moving the needle far enough, and it would still take an act of Congress enact the request (undoubtedly an uphill battle), this is a huge step in the right direction for our leaders and shows serious interest in important subjects such as research and banking: two things the industry desperately needs in California. The bill has yet to pass through both houses of the California Legislature, but we can anticipate strong support from both sides of the aisle on this issue. If you’re interested in showing support, concerns, or getting more information, email Senators StoneWiener, and Moorlach’s offices.

Leadership Changeup at the Department of Consumer Affairs

The new month also brought administrative changes for the state’s cannabis regulatory agencies. Awet Kidane, well-respected and accomplished for his work in the Legislature and at the agency level, has retired from his position as Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to pursue new consulting opportunities in the private sector. His successor is Dean Grafilo, former chief-of-staff to Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who authored one of the critical bills that created the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Grafilo will now be responsible for overseeing and managing DCA’s 40+ boards and bureaus, including the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR). How will this affect the upcoming regulations? While there will certainly be a transition period, it shouldn’t be too rocky. Grafilo is not a rookie to cannabis policy due to his experience in the Bonta office. In addition, Kidane helped ensure his staff are highly skilled and familiar with the subject, and there are no new changes to the staff at BMCR. Of course, ideally, the leadership change won’t lead to any delay to the release of the regulations. I’m hopeful it will be a smooth shift given the circumstances.