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SB 1186 Aims to End California’s Local Control Bans on Legal Cannabis… Sort Of

Beard Bros Media - Local Control SB 1186In 2016, voters in California passed Proposition 64, creating a taxed and regulated adult-use recreational cannabis marketplace and establishing protections for cultivation, possession, and sales that fell within its strict guidelines.

In the rush to catch up to states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington which already had adult-use cannabis markets in operation, the authors and supporters of Prop 64 overlooked some of the foundational aspects of cannabis reform.

The powers that be definitely underestimated the devastating impact that so-called “local control” would have on the newly formed Cali rec weed market.

In the wake of Prop 64 passing, roughly 75% of California’s 482 municipalities enacted either partial or complete bans on all commercial cannabis operations within their jurisdiction.

These were not all just dirt road towns and counties establishing these bans. Large Cali population centers like Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Riverside, and others refused to allow anything cannabis-related, from commercial cultivation to retail dispensaries.

The irony, of course, is that the “traditional” or unregulated street market doesn’t give a shit about bans. They have always been banned, now the penalties for getting caught are just less severe than ever (as they ought to be…it’s a fuckin’ plant).

Today, dozens of cities and counties have reluctantly come around to cannabis and the number of munis with weed bans is *just* 62%. What a joke.

Another key aspect of cannabis culture that Cali’s “legalization” left out is the important role that medical cannabis has played in earning cannabis the widespread support it has today, not only in California but nationwide and around the world as well.

Tens of thousands of intrepid activists, consumers, cultivators, and craftspeople thrived in California under Prop 215 (passed in 1996) and SB 420 (passed in 2004) in what was the world’s first (sort of) legal medical cannabis market.

The revelation that cannabis was truly medicinal, was truly safe, and was truly (sort of) legal spread like shipped packs of mids out of Cali to all corners of the country, providing the blueprint for reform that today sees only three states – Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas – with complete bans on all forms of medical or recreational cannabis.

Prop 64 did not kill Prop 215 – it was already dead.

[RELATED READING: As the Sun Sets on MMJ in the Wild West, the Villain May Not Be Who You Thought]

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Prop 64 does carve out some specific benefits, protections, and regulations for consumers who elect to register in the state’s medical cannabis program, but that program is nearly devoid of compassion from the top, down, with no real incentives for the state’s top growers, extractors, or retailers to focus on that niche of the market. So it has become an afterthought, except in the minds of those who could and should be able to really benefit from a properly regulated and supported medical cannabis marketplace.

One protection left out of Prop 64 was a carve-out exemption to the “local control” rule for cannabis operators who would serve the medical market. This has left tens if not hundreds of thousands of legit medical cannabis patients in California with no safe access to ANY legal cannabis – medically discounted or not.

One state lawmaker is championing a new bill that he hopes will help to rectify this abandonment of medical marijuana, but does it… can it… go far enough?

How California’s SB 1186 Hopes to Weaken ‘Local Control’ Cannabis Bans

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California State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has authored and hyped Senate Bill 1186 which he believes to be a crucial first step in returning “local control” back to local voters rather than crusty old city councilmembers.

SB 1186, which just this week passed the Assembly Business and Professions Committee by a vote of 13-2 and now heads to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, would restore voter-mandated access to medicinal cannabis across the state by requiring cities and counties to allow patients access to purchase legal medicinal cannabis… even if rec weed remains unfairly banned… and only by delivery. You can read the full text of the bill HERE

Well, shit… I guess we will set the bar low for the first attempt.

Astute readers may remember that back in 2018, as “local control” was on the verge of smothering Cali’s cannabis market in the crib, the Bureau of Cannabis Control (now the Department of Cannabis Control) issued a muddy statement trying to clarify the legality of cannabis delivery. That dictum seemed to authorize retail licensees to deliver into “any jurisdiction in the state,” subject to specific requirements.

This was, of course, met with a slew of lawsuits from those crusty city councilmembers who collectively whined that their “local control” “rights” shall not be infringed upon and yada yada yada.

Subsequent court decisions seemed to side with the BCC/DCC, apparently opening every inch of the state for legal weed deliveries, but prohibitionists continue to make that very discreet,  personal, and safe transaction way harder than it needs to be.

For example, for cannabis consumers who reside in one of these banned municipalities, legal cannabis delivery services will often insist that the order is paid for upfront. This ensures that no financial transaction occurs in the banned region – it already technically took place at the delivery service’s headquarters where they ran the payment, and that is always located in a canna-friendly city.

Some of this might sound trivial, but again, the thriving street dealers don’t give a shit about bans and will gladly deliver untaxed and untested cannabis directly to a person’s door. And they are.

SB 1186 has earned the support of the California Cannabis Industry Association, California NORML, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Rallying support for the low-hanging legislation, Sen. Weiner said in a released statement, “Nearly two-thirds of California cities ban the sale of medical cannabis. This means that some of our most vulnerable Californians – seniors and people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses – are not able to access legal, tested medical cannabis where they live. Cannabis is a critically important and even life-saving medicine. For the cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy or the senior living with chronic pain, this ban on medical cannabis can be catastrophic. SB 1186 restores medical cannabis access across the state to help people get the medicine they need.”

If SB 1186 Passes, What Comes Next?

Lawsuits.

Somewhere between 99% and 420% of those crusty old city councilmembers who hate rec weed see no distinction when it comes to medical cannabis and you can bet that they will gladly spend taxpayer dollars to fight against a windfall in new tax revenue, based solely on their Reefer Madness level of understanding of the plant.

Furthermore, similar legislation drafted in the future cannot simply copy/paste the word “recreational” over the word “medical”. Local control rests at the rotting core of Prop 64 and nothing short of starting over from scratch will force municipalities to follow the will of their own voters.

As cliche as it may sound, if SB 1186 can provide safe access to even one of California’s forgotten medical cannabis patients, then the Sacramento sausage-making will be worth it (Weiner pun, high five!). But, no, this is not the answer, this is not the solution. This is barely a step in the right direction.

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