Pubdate: Sun, 20 Oct 2019
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2019 Los Angeles Times
Author: Patrick McCreevy


SACRAMENTO - Gov. Gavin Newsom led the campaign to legalize marijuana in 
California three years ago but has since angered some in the industry by 
refusing to allow pot in hospitals and outlawing its use on tour buses and 
in limousines.

Newsom took the action on tour buses and hospitals as he signed
several other bills in the last few weeks that will ease pot
restrictions, including measures waiving taxes on cannabis provided
for free by charities to people with serious health problems and
allowing parents to provide medical marijuana products such as oils,
creams and pills to their sick children on K-12 school campuses.

This was Newsom's first chance to act on cannabis laws since he led
the 2016 campaign for Proposition 64, which legalized the growing and sale 
of marijuana for recreational use. By the Oct. 13 deadline for acting on 
bills for the year, Newsom used his pen to sign or veto more than a dozen 
pieces of marijuana-related legislation.

"The 2019 legislative session has been a mixed bag for the cannabis
industry, but with priority bills signed by the governor in the final 
hours, the industry is optimistic about future partnership with the 
administration," said Lindsay Robinson, executive director of the 
California Cannabis Industry Assn.

Newsom's approval of the bill prohibiting the smoking or ingestion of 
cannabis in buses, taxis and limousines was supported by law
enforcement groups including the California Narcotic Officers' Assn., 
which argued that the smoke from passengers could affect bus and limo 
drivers who then would endanger people on California's roads.

"The problem was the driver was put in a position where he or she
could be impaired by people using cannabis, and that creates a serious 
safety issue," said John Lovell, legislative counsel for the narcotic 
officers group.

However, the measure was blasted by members of the burgeoning
marijuana tourism industry, including Bryan Spatz, chief executive of 
Loopr, which offers cannabis tours in California and Colorado.

"Shutting down the industry entirely, instead of working towards a
reasonable compromise that had already been laid out, is a slap in the 
face to the small-business people who have invested their livelihoods in 
this industry," Spatz said.

Legislators say the ban will give the California Highway Patrol and
other traffic safety experts time to develop standards for separating the 
driver's compartment, including its air circulation system, from the back 
of tour buses.

"We are already in L.A. operating, but because of this measure we are 
considering all options, including pulling up stakes and moving out of 
California until a reasonable compromise can be reached," Spatz said.

Other cannabis supporters were disappointed Newsom vetoed a bill that 
would have allowed dying patients to use smokeless forms of medical 
marijuana in hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities and hospices.

Ken Sobel, an attorney for the Cannabis Nurses Network, sent a letter to 
the governor criticizing his rejection of the bill. "Your veto simply 
rewards big pharma and the medical industrial complex allowing them to use 
opioids as the sole source of pain relief for dying mothers and fathers, 
sisters and brothers," Sobel wrote.

The governor said in his veto message that he was acting
"begrudgingly" in keeping the measure from becoming law, citing the
conflict with federal law, under which marijuana remains an illegal
drug. He said it could jeopardize federal reimbursement to hospitals
for healthcare costs.

"Patients who are hospitalized and facing the end of their days should be 
provided with relief, compassion and dignity," Newsom wrote. "It is 
inconceivable that the federal government continues to regard cannabis as 
having no medicinal value."

But, he added, "this bill would create significant conflicts between
federal and state law that cannot be taken lightly."

Jim Bartel, who campaigned for the law after his son died of
pancreatic cancer, disputed the governor's concerns, saying the bill
was written to allow hospitals to opt out if a federal regulatory
agency forbids cannabis use.

Sobel said it is unlikely the federal government would seek to
withhold reimbursements and noted California has challenged federal
policy in the past with so-called sanctuary cities and setting its own 
vehicle efficiency standards.

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), the bill's author, noted that
similar laws have been adopted in New York, Connecticut and Maine. "I 
don't see why we can't achieve the same in California," Hueso said in 
response to the veto.

Newsom signed a bill setting steeper fines for licensed and unlicensed pot 
firms that violate state law, which was a significant act, according to 
Javier Montes, vice president of the United Cannabis Business Assn. The 
group has complained that illicit sellers were not facing stiff enough 

Jeannette Zanipatin, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance,
said the most significant new law signed by Newsom will waive fees for 
cannabis firms formed by people from disadvantaged communities that have 
been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

"We really wanted to emphasize the need to ensure that communities
that were overpoliced, folks with prior convictions, are able to take part 
in this industry," Zanipatin said.

As for Newsom's balking at other expansions of cannabis use, Zanipatin 
said, more work needs to be done on scientific research and public 
education to build support for some policies. "He's sort of taking a 
somewhat cautious approach, but in a good way," she said.

Lawmakers shelved a bill for the year that would have allowed the
state to license banks to handle money from marijuana businesses after the 
governor's office raised concerns about how it would work and the author 
decided to provide more time to work on answers, one official said.

Those surprised by Newsom's level of caution on some pot bills include 
Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes 

"For someone that we might have expected to earn an F on marijuana
policy, this gives him a D," Sabet said. "I think when it came to such 
extreme issues as marijuana in hospitals and tour buses, he knew there 
would be local pushback."
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