by David Downs
It's bill-dropping season in the nation's capitals.
In California: 1) Senator Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) drops the "Medical Cannabis Licensing Act", which would "require a producer, distributor, or seller to be licensed by the State Department of Public Health to engage in the production, distribution, or sale of medical marijuana, and would require the license to be renewed every 12 months." (via CaNORML)
2) The same day, Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) drops a tax bill that would create the "Cannabis Certification and Regulation Act of 2011" and provide for the certification by the State Board of Equalization of growers, wholesalers, retailers, and transporters of cannabis or cannabis products that are engaged in business in California." (via CaNORML)
3) Lastly, Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) have introduced a bill, AB 1017, which would change the penalty for marijuana cultivators from a mandatory felony to an alternate felony or misdemeanor. "It makes no sense that unlawful possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is an infraction, that possession of more than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor, that possession of methamphetamines may be charged as a misdemeanor, but that growing any amount of marijuana must be charged as a straight felony punishable by prison," Eyster said.
Historically, such bills rarely pass. In January, State Senator Mark Leno called the climate for drug law reform "tough" and said legislators "are afraid of their own shadows".
And for good reason. Steph Sherer, head of medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access said less than 50 percent of California representatives are on the side of medical pot users — despite majority voter support. Medical cannabis supporters don't tend to call or write their congresspeople, donate to campaigns or vote compared to police, jail, and mandatory rehab unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Christian right.
"It's a huge challenge. If they are not hearing from you, they have no cause to support you," she said.