This Republican’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Aims To Build Bipartisan Support for Repealing Federal Prohibition

When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) unveiled a “discussion draft” of a marijuana legalization bill last July, he said he wanted to start a conversation that would eventually produce legislation resolving the longstanding conflict between the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and state laws that allow medical or recreational use of cannabis. But his 163-page Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was full of unnecessarily contentious provisions that seemed likely to alienate potential Republican allies. A bill unveiled today by Rep. Nancy Mace (R–S.C.) tries to address that problem by outlining a simpler and less burdensome approach that entails less federal involvement, lower taxes, and greater deference to state policy choices.

Mace’s bill, the States Reform Act, has five initial co-sponsors: Reps. Tom McClintock (R–Calif.), Peter Meijer (R–Mich.), Don Young (R–Alaska), Kenneth Buck (R–Colo.), and Brian Mast (R–Fla.). It is endorsed by Americans for Prosperity, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, and the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce.

Mace says the bill is designed to accommodate state marijuana policies, which range from complete prohibition to general legalization for adult use. “Every state is different,” Mace says in a press release, noting that her own state, South Carolina, has gone no further than allowing medical use of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid CBD, while “California and others” allow commercial production and distribution of marijuana for recreational use. “Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality.”

Thirty-six states have legalized marijuana for medical use, while 18 states, accounting for more than two-fifths of the U.S. population, also allow recreational use. The latest Gallup poll found that 68 percent of American adults favor legalization, which matches last year’s record level of support. “Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward,” Mace says. “This bill does that.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, director of drug policy at Reason Foundation (which publishes this website), provided model language for the bill and technical feedback on Mace’s drafts. He hopes the States Reform Act will prove more appealing to Republicans than Schumer’s bill, which so far has not attracted any GOP support, and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which the Democrat-controlled House approved last December with support from just a handful of Republicans. “The States Reform Act is a relatively simple bill that gets to the heart of what most people can agree on when it comes to legalizing cannabis at the federal level,” Lawrence says.

At 131 pages, Mace’s bill is just 20 percent shorter than Schumer’s, and it includes several similar provisions. Both bills would remove cannabis from the CSA’s schedules of controlled substances, and both would establish a nationwide minimum purchase age of 21. Both would require automatic expungement of federal criminal records related to nonviolent marijuana offenses, bar the Small Business Administration (SBA) from discriminating against state-licensed cannabusinesses, and allow Veterans Health Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana. Both would leave states free to ban marijuana but would bar interference with shipments between jurisdictions where cannabis is legal.

One big difference is the level of federal taxation. Schumer’s bill would impose a federal excise tax on marijuana starting at 10 percent and rising to 25 percent by the fifth year, which would be in addition to frequently hefty state and local taxes. The tax would be based on either the wholesale price per ounce or, for “any THC-measurable cannabis product,” the price per gram of THC. Mace’s bill, by contrast, would impose a straightforward 3 percent excise tax, which would remain at that level for at least 10 years.

According to Mace’s summary of the bill, the 10-year moratorium on raising the excise tax is meant to “ensure competitive footing in the market.” In other words, a relatively low tax rate will help legal marijuana businesses compete with black-market dealers, who do not collect taxes.

Schumer’s bill would use revenue from the marijuana tax to create three new grant programs aimed at helping “economically disadvantaged individuals” and “individuals adversely affected by the War on Drugs.” Mace’s bill would create a Law Enforcement Retraining and Successful Second Chances Fund, which would funnel marijuana tax money to three existing programs: the Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Grant Program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, and the Community-Oriented Policing Services Program. Some of the money also would be assigned to “veterans’ mental health,” “state opioid epidemic responses,” “preventing underage use of cannabis,” and the SBA “for supporting newly licensed small [marijuana] businesses through its various programs.”

Under Schumer’s bill, state-licensed marijuana businesses, which already are regulated by state and local governments, would also be supervised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Mace’s bill likewise imagines roles for all of those agencies, but it says the FDA “shall have the same authorities with respect to cannabis products that it has with respect to alcohol,” such as label regulation for certain beverages, “and no more.”

According to the summary, that provision “ensures that cannabis products in interstate commerce will be treated like alcohol and that the regulatory issues harming the industrial hemp-derived CBD industry will not be repeated in the cannabis space.” The bill also “grandfathers ‘designated state medical cannabis products,'” including “those produced consistent with state law,” to ensure “continued access” for patients. The FDA “may still prescribe serving sizes, certify designated state medical cannabis products as a ministerial duty, and authorize new drugs or approved new uses of drug applications to create new pharmaceutical grade products, but may not prohibit the use of cannabis or its derivates in non-drug applications, such as in designated state medical cannabis products, dietary supplements, foods, beverages, non-drug topical solutions, or cosmetics.”

Continuing the analogy to alcohol, the TTB “will be the primary regulator of cannabis products in interstate commerce,” while the ATF “will serve as the primary law enforcement agency supporting the TTB’s work, exactly as it does in the alcohol space.” The Department of Agriculture would regulate cannabis crops in the same way it regulates raw materials for alcoholic beverages, such as grain and hops. The bill “applies to cannabis the same recordkeeping, liability, reporting, packaging, and labeling requirement[s]” that apply to the alcohol industry under the Internal Revenue Code. The bill would prohibit cannabis advertising that is false, misleading, or aimed at minors.

Mace is playing up the aspects of the States Reform Act that should appeal to her fellow Republicans without alienating Democrats. A poster she used at today’s press conference says the bill, in addition to descheduling marijuana and regulating it “like alcohol,” imposes a low excise tax, “protects kids,” “protects veterans,” “protects each state’s unique laws & reforms,” and implements “safe criminal justice reform.”

Mace’s bill summary elaborates on that last point, noting that the States Reform Act “provides opportunities for reentry for non-violent, non-DUI cannabis offenders who had no relation to a foreign drug cartel and pose no further threat to society, consistent with the policies of the Department of Justice under President Trump for clemency for non-violent cannabis offenders.” Mace also could have noted that Trump supported drug sentencing reform and, unlike his successor, said he favored reconciling state and federal marijuana laws.

“The States Reform Act completely removes federal prohibition and allows states to compete and decide how they wish to treat cannabis,” Lawrence notes. “It removes federal tax penalties against marijuana companies and opens up banking. It recognizes that legal markets must compete with black markets on price and therefore charges only a 3 percent excise tax, along with licensing fees not to exceed $10,000. Finally, it extends these changes back in time by expunging the records of those who have been arrested for nonviolent federal cannabis crimes.”

Rather than “going too far in any direction by including elements that splinter the realm of agreement,” Lawrence says, “the beauty of the States Reform Act is that it’s both simple and reasonably comprehensive. Enacting major social change requires broad, bipartisan agreement, and the States Reform Act checks that box.”

This article was originally published by Reason.com

They can’t vote, but undocumented immigrants are California’s newest political force


As reported by the Orange County Register:

They live in the country illegally. They pepper their rallies with the chant “undocumented and unafraid.” And they cannot vote.

Still, some politicians have heard their voices.

In California, undocumented immigrants have political clout.

“Today, we remind the rest of the nation that California is different,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, in an April news conference to promote 10 bills he and others believe will help people in the country illegally.

The proposals ranged from a $1 billion plan to extend state-subsidized health care to the undocumented, to the establishment of a new state office that would make it easier for some immigrant crime victims to avoid deportation.

Click here to read the full article

CalChamber Unveils List of 2015 “Job Creator” Bills


Since 2008, CalChamber has been identifying bills that will improve the state’s job climate and stimulate our economy.  We put them on our annual “Job Creator” list hoping to put a spotlight on proposals that will encourage investment in our economy.

Last week, we released the 2015 “Job Creator” list.  This year’s list includes 11 bills that will improve our legal climate, lower costs for employers, spur tourism, and create construction jobs. The list follows recommendations made in our annual business issues guide, called “Foundation for a Better California.”

Each year we hope to have as many job creator bills on our list as we do on our job killer list.  Let’s hope our policy makers make that possible in the years to come! 

The list of 2015 job creator bills includes the following proposals:

Creates Construction Jobs

AB 35 (Chiu; D-San Francisco) Creates Affordable Housing Opportunities. Expands the existing low-income housing tax credit program, making the state better able to leverage an estimated $200 million more in Federal Tax Credits.

AB 323 (Olsen; R-Modesto) Expedites and Reduces Cost for Roadway Repair and Maintenance Projects. Streamlines infrastructure development by extending indefinitely the current CEQA exemption for certain roadway repair and maintenance projects.

AB 641 (Mayes; R-Yucca Valley) Expedites and Reduces Cost for Housing Projects. Streamlines and reduces regulatory burdens for the approval and construction of housing developments by providing an expedited review process under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Improved Legal Climate

AB 52 (Gray; D-Merced) Disability Access Litigation Reform.  Seeks to improve access for disabled customers and limit frivolous litigation against businesses for construction-related accessibility claims by providing an opportunity for the businesses to timely resolve any potential violations.

AB 54 (Olsen; R-Modesto) Disability Access Litigation Reform. Seeks to improve access for disabled patrons without harming businesses through frivolous lawsuits by providing businesses with a 60-day right to correct the violation for a claim based upon a constructed related accessibility standard that was changed or modified in the prior three years.

AB 588 (Grove; R-Bakersfield) Reduces Frivolous Litigation. Seeks to limit frivolous litigation under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act, by allowing an employer a 33 day right to cure technical violations on an itemized wage statement that did not cause any injury to the employee.

AB 1252 (Jones; R-Santee) Protects Businesses from Proposition 65 Lawsuits. Provides needed relief to small businesses by prohibiting a person from bringing a Proposition 65 lawsuit against a business employing fewer than 25 employees. Failed passage in the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, 04/14/15. Reconsideration Granted

AB 1470 (Alejo; D-Salinas) Reduction of Costly Employment Class Action Litigation. Limits frivolous class action litigation against employers in California who are creating high paying jobs by creating a rebuttable presumption that employees earning at least $100,000 and performing non-manual labor and at least one exempt duty are exempt from overtime requirements.

SB 67 (Galgiani; D-Stockton) Disability Access Litigation Reform. Seeks to limit frivolous litigation against small businesses and those that have sought to comply, by limiting remedies to injunctive relief and expanding the current period to correct any violation from 60 to 120 days.

Tourism

SB 249 (Hueso; D-Logan Heights) Enhanced Driver’s License. Encourages international trade and tourism by authorizing the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue enhanced driver licenses to U.S. citizens to expedite legal traffic at the border.

Workplace Improvements/Training

AB 1038 (Jones; R-Santee) Flexible Workweek. Provides employers with the opportunity to accommodate employees’ needs as well as business demands by allowing employees to request a voluntary, flexible workweek agreement that can be repealed by the employee at any time with proper notice. Failed passage in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, 04/22/15. Reconsideration Granted.

Cumulative Job Creator Signatures

2014: 14 job creator bills identified, 5 sent to Governor, signs 5

2013: 16 job creator bills identified, 2 sent to Governor, signs 2

2012: 34 job creator bills identified, 9 sent to Governor, signs 9

2011: 5 job creator bills identified, 0 sent to Governor

2010: 16 job creator bills identified, 4 sent to Governor, signs 4

2009: 18 job creator bills identified, 2 sent to Governor, signs 2

2008: 3 job creator bills identified, 2 sent to Governor, signs 2

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Denise Davis is vice president, media relations and external affairs at Cal Chamber

Should citizens be allowed to videotape police in action?


Faced with mounting criticism over civil liberties abuses, lawmakers in Sacramento greenlit a so-called clarification of Californians’ right to videotape and photograph police officers on the job.

Senate Bill 411, introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, protects the practice so long as active bystanders are “not interfering with official duties,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

videotaping policeAccording to the bill’s language, “the fact that a person takes a photograph or makes an audio or video recording of an executive officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, is not, in and of itself, a violation[.]”

What’s more, Lara’s bill set out that photographing or videotaping police in that matter would not “constitute reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person.”

Setting a trend

Passing 31-3 in the state Senate, SB411 headed to the Assembly, setting up California to become a possible trendsetter in the way citizen monitoring of police could be treated. Currently, no national consensus has formed around the issue, leaving legislative momentum up for grabs at the state level.

Although settled constitutional law has recognized both a right to videotape and a right to prevent interference with policing, widespread departures from that standard have prompted state lawmakers to intervene. In Colorado, for instance, a recent bill “proposed making it a crime for police to stop citizens from filming,” as the Daily Beast observed.

But, across the country, pieces of legislation have run into trouble regardless of which side of the debate they favor. In Connecticut, for instance, a bill permitting “lawsuits against police officers who interfere with those photographing or videotaping them during the performance of their duties was blocked Monday by Republicans in the judiciary committee,”according to the Hartford Courant.

In Texas, meanwhile, a police-friendly “cop-watcher” bill drew fire from legal observers, journalists, gun owners and others:

Dallas-area House representative Jason Villalba introduced HB 2918, which would make it a misdemeanor to photograph police within 25 feet — raising serious concerns that the bill, if passed, would violate the First Amendment and prevent individuals from holding police accountable. For Texans legally carrying a firearm, the buffer zone required would be 100 feet under Villalba’s proposal.

Halting progress

As Calwatchdog.com previously reported, Sacramento has labored to keep up with changing technology, police tactics and public opinion. In January, several Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation around the use of on-cop bodycams. By videotaping situations police entered into, the logic ran, misconduct would decrease at the same time that police gained clear evidence of proper conduct that could help prevent lawsuits or help resolve them to the departments’ benefit.

police-body-cameraAttorney General Kamala Harris, for her part, has long considered police abuses to be an important part of her political and legal agenda — a stance that could gain prominence as her bid to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer draws more potent challengers.

Despite widespread support for bodycams among Democrats, along with many libertarians and some Republicans, the policy has attracted its share of problems. In Los Angeles, where Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti blazed a path toward standardizing the equipment, concern has persisted over the use of cloud storage, as Southern California Public Radio reported:

“Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will present this month his proposed city budget for the coming year. It’s expected to include money for body cameras for all Los Angeles Police Department officers. But some security analysts argue the LAPD’s plan to store body camera video in the cloud could make the images more vulnerable to attack than if the department placed them on its local servers.”

As yet, the question of cloud storage for recordings of police has not yet threatened to stall the progress of SB411  in Sacramento.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com