california bear blogging for sonoma dispensary

We sent the following to each city council member last night:

Dear City Council Members and Staff,

Sean Kiernan is the executive director of the veteran’s advocacy group Weed for Warriors and the California Cannabis Reform Project. His October 27 editorial in the Sacramento Bee outlines why it’s so important for veterans to have access to medical cannabis. The same holds true for anyone who depends on cannabis for relief from medical disabilities. We’ve bulleted the key takeaways and provided the entire text below them.

•    local licensing control prevents progress toward making the legal cannabis industry equitable, accessible, and safe for our communities.

•    “local control” and limited licensing hinders access to safe and tested cannabis for consumers and patients, including military veterans. Some must drive hours to find a legal dispensary in California.

•    lack of licensed legal retailers. Approximately 70% of California’s cities and counties have banned legal cannabis businesses, once again leaving the illicit market to fill the unmet demand.

•    while 80% of voters thought Prop. 64 would enable legal access to local cannabis in their cities, groups like the League of California Cities, Rural County Representatives of California and the California State Association of Counties have worked to prevent it.

•    Access to cannabis can mean the difference between life or death.

•    Even when legal licenses are awarded, local control works with existing cannabis businesses to stymie progress toward a safe and equitable market

•    More licenses mean safer communities, more taxpaying jobs, more revenue for the public good, better-regulated access, and better health outcomes for vets and civilian medical patients

Sincerely,

Gil Latimer
Josette Brose-Eichar
David Eichar
Van Solkov
Richard Silver
Perri Ellis Paniagua

“Even when legal licenses are awarded, local control works with existing cannabis businesses to stymie progress toward a safe and equitable market by limiting licensing, particularly for members of marginalized communities.”

Editorial:

California’s cannabis landscape consists of two groups: one that enjoys the benefits of a legally safe market, and another that makes up what the state’s Cannabis Advisory Committee warned is the “80% of the cannabis market in California (that) remains illicit.” The first group consists of those with lots of money. The second is the majority, a disenfranchised coalition made up of the working poor and middle class.

California’s cannabis economy mirrors a larger problem: Government is working against the broader community’s interests in favor of those who are able to buy political access. Countless headlines about political corruption within the local cannabis licensing system highlight troubling levels of graft and corruption.

The result is “regulatory capture”: a government agency acting in the interests of those it’s charged with regulating at the expense of the public good.

It’s time to call out obstacles like the local licensing control that prevents progress toward making the legal cannabis industry equitable, accessible and safe for our communities.

One organization obstructing progress is the United Cannabis Business Association, which has perfected the art of regulatory capture. This group of oligopolists benefits from the legal market they dominate while fueling California’s growing illicit market by preventing enough legal access to meet demand.

The association doesn’t speak for the majority; it speaks for the wealthy. Based in Los Angeles but operating statewide, it defines itself as the “leading voice” for legal cannabis in California. They are actually the leading voice for keeping the legal cannabis industry in the hands of the fortunate few.

The association’s support for local control and limited licensing hinders access to safe and tested cannabis for consumers and patients, including military veterans. Some must drive hours to find a legal dispensary in California.

While the business association is crafting bad public policy that restricts access to and profit from the legal cannabis industry, groups like Weed for Warriors are providing veterans with access to legal cannabis. Weed for Warriors played an integral part in the 2019 passage of Senate Bill 34, which eliminated taxes on donations of medical cannabis to patients. Without it, veterans and most patients can’t afford legal cannabis.

Another major roadblock is the lack of licensed legal retailers. Approximately 70% of California’s cities and counties have banned legal cannabis businesses, once again leaving the illicit market to fill the unmet demand.

Most politicians in Sacramento depend on endorsements from the “three horsemen” of local control: the League of California Cities, Rural County Representatives of California and the California State Association of Counties. These not-in-my-backyard groups pushed Proposition 64 to allow local jurisdictions to opt out of providing cannabis access. So while 80% of voters thought Prop. 64 would enable legal access to local cannabis in their cities, these groups have worked to prevent it.

Access to cannabis can mean the difference between life or death. A recent UC Davis study found that counties with a greater number of cannabis dispensaries experience reduced numbers of opioid-related deaths relative to those without.

That’s good news for veterans, but only if politicians listen to science and not those trumping good public policy for personal benefit.

Even when legal licenses are awarded, local control works with existing cannabis businesses to stymie progress toward a safe and equitable market by limiting licensing, particularly for members of marginalized communities.

More licenses means safer communities, more taxpaying jobs, more revenue for public good, better regulated access and better health outcomes for vets.  Cities and counties are finally beginning to welcome the legal cannabis market, but it’s clear the system controlled by local licensing and the oligopolists at the United Cannabis Business Association needs an overhaul.

Sean Kiernan is the executive director of veterans advocacy group Weed for Warriors and the California Cannabis Reform Project.