Week in Review: Cannabis Industry Extinction Events, Lead Contamination, Equity Programs and USDA Hemp Regulation Feedback Session

cannabis cultivation
Photo Credit: NomadiCam – http://www.nomadicam.com

Here’s a quick rundown of state, local and federal actions that we’re following this week.

Cannabis Extinction Events

Is California’s cannabis industry in danger of not one, but two “extinction events” in 2019? – Two weeks ago, the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development heard a bill that would extend temporary cannabis licenses in California until December 31, 2019. Supporters of the bill argued that if Senate Bill 67 is not passed, thousands of cultivators, manufacturers, distributors and retailers will go out of business in the coming months. The bill passed the committee on a unanimous 8-0 vote and is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In addition to the expiration of thousands of temporary cannabis licenses, testing of disposable e-cigarette devices, known as “vaporizer cartridges” or “vape carts” have revealed dangerous amounts of lead contamination. This has level of contamination has caused California regulators to reject a higher number of vape cartridges and has left many manufacturers scrambling to find compliant devices.

Equity Programs

On Monday, members of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) unveiled a model ordinance package to be used by local and state governments that are seeking to create cannabis equity programs. With cities across the country exploring the creation of an equity program in their own jurisdictions, this ordinance can serve as a resource to help maximize the ability for communities of color that were disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition to benefit from the new industry as owners, investors, managers and employees.

On the equity front, the San Diego city council member Chris Ward announced that he plans to propose an equity program later this spring. Ward made the announcement as the council considers loosening city regulations and expanding the number of dispensaries within city limits. If San Diego creates an equity program, they will the 5th city in the state to do so – following Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco.

Local Public Interest Banks

California legislators introduce a bill that would allow local governments to create a public bank – Assembly Members Miguel Santiago and David Chiu recently announced a bill that would allow local governments to charter their own public banks. In introducing Assembly Bill 857, the authors of the bill hope that a local public interest bank would better serve the interest of low- and moderate-income households. Last year, former State Treasurer John Chiang floated the idea of creating a state-owned bank to provide basic banking services to the cannabis industry. Under AB 857, could local governments serve the cannabis industry? Would a local jurisdiction that offered banking services attract more economic activity if they offered these services?

USDA Seeks Comment on Hemp Regulations

On Wednesday, March 13, the United States Department of Agriculture hold a stakeholder meeting to receive comments and feedback on the regulations of domestic hemp production. To register for the online webinar, click this link.

If you have any questions regarding the topics discussed above, please contact Ashley Martinez at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com

Cannabis Related Issues to Be Considered by the California State Legislature in 2019

Capitol Pic

The first major deadline of the 2019 California legislative session has passed and almost 2,600 bills were introduced in the Legislature. While many of these bills are in “spot bill” form (bills containing intent language to serve as placeholders), advocates and stakeholders should have a fairly clear sense on the issues that the legislature will confront in 2019. Here’s a quick summary of some of the cannabis-related bills that were introduced by the February 22 deadline.

Proposal to Temporarily Reduce Cannabis Taxes

The push to temporarily lower the cannabis tax rate is back for the 2019 legislative year. Last year, the bill was held in the Appropriations Committee over concerns that the proposed reduction was premature. Now that adult-use has been legal for over a year, proponents are hoping that the legislature will be open to helping small and medium cannabis businesses compete against the illicit market.

AB 286 (Bonta) Taxation: cannabis – This bill would eliminate California’s cannabis cultivation tax and reduce the excise tax from 15% to 11% through 2022. The measure is a reintroduction of a similar bill from last year, AB 3157, which would have also temporarily reduced California’s cannabis tax rate. Click here to read my brief summary of AB 3157 from 2018.

Banking and Financial Services Proposals

One of the more important pieces of legislation reintroduced this year is SB 51 (Hertzberg) which would create a state-chartered banking system for banks to offer basic services to the cannabis industry. Unlike the state-owned bank proposal considered in the State Treasure’s Cannabis Banking Working Group paper released in November 2017, Senator Hertzberg’s proposal is seen by some in the industry as a potentially workable fix in lieu of a federal solution.

SB 51 (Hertzberg) Financial institutions: cannabis – This bill establishes a state-chartered banking system to allow financial institutions to offer basic banking services to businesses in the cannabis industry. This bill is a reintroduction of SB 931 (Hertzberg) from 2018 that did not make it through the legislative process.

AB 717 (Nazarian) Public contracts: armored courier services – This bill would require state agencies to use armored car services to pickup, count, and transport to a bank or financial institution the cash remits of any state-imposed taxes and fees that are administered by that state agency. The bill also allow the state agency to charge cannabis businesses for the service.

AB 1525 (Jones-Sawyer) Cannabis: financial institutions – This bill would allow basic financial services transactions such as deposits, credits, fund transfers, etc., to be legal under California law. This bill appears to be another attempt, short of creating a statewide banking system to allow cannabis businesses to access banking and financial services.

Cannabis Equity Programs

SB 595 (Bradford) Cannabis: local equity programs – This bill is a placeholder to provide financial support to local cannabis equity applicants and licensees. Last year, Governor Brown signed SB 1294 and the legislature approved $10 million to support equity programs across California. This bill appears to build on that progress.

SB 658 (Bradford) The California Cannabis Equity Act – This bill is another placeholder bill to provide support and funding to local jurisdictions with established cannabis equity programs.

Cannabinoids and Hemp Related Products

AB 228 (Aguiar-Curry) Food, beverage, and cosmetic adulterants: industrial hemp products – This bill would narrow California regulators’ ability to penalize companies for selling Hemp CBD beverages or foods on the grounds that they are “adulterated” under California law.

Labor and Employment

AB 882 (McCarty) Termination of employment: drug testing: medication-assisted treatment – This bill would prohibit an employer from terminating an employee if the sole reason for termination is that the employee tested positive on a drug test for a drug that is being used as a medication-assisted treatment under the care of a physician or pursuant to a licensed narcotics treatment program. This bill is similar, but much broader than a bill last year, AB 2069 (Bonta) which would have provided reasonable accomodations for employees that use medical cannabis.

AB 1291 (Jones-Sawyer) Adult-use cannabis and medicinal cannabis: license application: labor peace agreements – This bill requires a licensed cannabis business to enter into a labor peace agreement within 60 days of employing 20 workers or more. If the business does not employ 20 or more employees, then they must provide a notarized statement saying they will enter into a labor peace agreement within 60 days of employing 20 people or more.

Substance Use and Youth Programs

AB 1031 (Nazarian) Youth Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Program Act of 2019 – This bill requires the state, in partnership with counties to establish community-based nonresidential and residential treatment and recovery programs to intervene and treat the problems of alcohol and drug use among youth under 21 years of age.

AB 1085 (McCarty) After school programs: substance use prevention: funding: cannabis revenue – This bill includes additional educational activities that promote healthy choices and behaviors in order to prevent and reduce substance use and improve school retention and performance to before and after school programs. The bill also encourages schools to develop programs that are designed to educate about and prevent substance use disorders or to prevent harm from substance abuse.

AB 1098 (O’Donnell) Substance use disorders: youth programs – This bill would set forth procedures for the implementation and administration of substance use youth programs funded by Proposition 64.

Track and Trace

AB 1288 (Cooley) Cannabis: track and trace – This bill would require the information captured by the track and trace program to additionally include the date of retail sale to a customer and whether the sale is on the retail premises or by delivery.

Additional Cannabis Proposals for 2019

SB 67 (McGuire) Cannabis: temporary and provisional licenses – This bill would extend temporary licenses through December 31, 2019, and extend provisional licenses through July 1, 2020. Under current law, the issuance of temporary licenses expired January 1, 2019, and provisional licenses are valid until January 1, 2020. This bill seeks to extend both time periods.

SB 185 (McGuire) Cannabis: marketing – This bill would allow cannabis trademarks, organic certifications, and appelation designations, among other provisions for cannabis related products.

SB 283 (Bates) and AB 551 (Brough) Fatal vehicular accidents: chemical test results – Currently law requires the cornor to perform alcohol and chemical tests in vehicle accidents that result in fatalities. These two bills extend this requirement to medical examiners, and makes other requirements.

SB 305 (Hueso) Access to Cannabis in Healthcare Facilities Act – This bill, the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law,  requires a healthcare facility to allow a patient who is receiving palliative care to use medical cannabis within the healthcare facility.

AB 420 (Lackey) The California Cannabis Research Program – This bill would allow the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to cultivate cannabis for its use in research and to include the study of naturally occurring constituents of cannabis and synthetic compounds, including the examination of the effects of cannabis, cannabinoids, and related constituents, and other behavioral health outcomes.

SB 475 (Skinner) Cannabis: trade samples: cultivation tax: exemption – This bill would allow a licensee to designate a cannabis product as a trade sample and would exempt these samples from cultivation and sales taxes.

SB 527 (Caballero) Local government: Williamson Act: cultivation of cannabis – This bill includes the cultivation of cannabis under the Williamson Act Program.

SB 581 (Caballero) Cannabis: licensing: public records – This bill would require the state’s licensing authorities to publish online information related to disciplinary actions taken against a cannabis business in another state or jursidiction.

SB 625 (Hill) Party buses: cannabis – This bill would allow the ingestion of cannabis products by a passenger in bus, taxicab, or limousine only if there are no passengers under 21 years of age present and the driver is sealed off from the passenger compartment.

SB 627 (Galgiani) Medicinal cannabis and medicinal cannabis products: veterinary medicine – This bill would allow a veterinarian to discuss the use of, and issue a recommendation for the use of, medicinal cannabis or medicinal cannabis products on an animal patient for any condition for which cannabis or cannabis products provide relief.

AB 404 (Stone) Commercial cannabis activity: testing laboratories – This bill would allow a testing laboratory to amend a certificate of analysis to correct minor errors, with such parameters defined by the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

AB 953 (Ting) Cannabis: state and local taxes: payment by digital asset – This bill allows local and state governments to accept fee and tax payments by stablecoins which are a type of cryptocurrency that can be pegged to a currency.

AB 1296 (Gonzalez) Tax Recovery in the Underground Economy Criminal Enforcement Program – This bill creates a multi-state agency enforcement team to go after businesses that operate illegally and that do not pay taxes. Similar versions of this bill have been introduced in the legislature, but this team appears to be more comprehensive and includes a representative from the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

AB 1420 (Obernolte) Cannabis: licensing fees – This bill would set cannabis application and licensing fees that are consistent with the fee schedule adopted by state regulations as of January 1, 2019.

AB 1530 (Cooley) Unauthorized cannabis activity reduction grants: local jurisdiction restrictions on cannabis delivery – This bill creates a grant program administered by the state to provide grants to local jurisdictions to create and expand enforcement programs against illegal cannabis activity. The bill also creates a funding source for educational programs to help the public determine the difference between legal and illegal cannabis activity.

AB 1710 (Wood) Cannabis – This bill states the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to create more accessible pathways for compliance with cannabis laws by small-scaled cannabis businesses.

Reintroduced Bills

SB 34 (Wiener) Cannabis: donations – This bill would exempt qualifying compassion care programs from the cultivation and excise tax enacted by Proposition 64. This bill is nearly identical to SB 829 (Wiener) from last year that was vetoed by Governor Brown.

SB 223 (Hill) Pupil health: administration of medicinal cannabis: schoolsites – This bill would enable K-12 school districts and county boards of education to choose whether to allow a student’s parent or guardian to administer medical cannabis to the child on campus under strict conditions. This bill is almost identical to SB 1127 (Hill) from last year that was vetoed by Governor Brown.

AB 37 (Jones-Sawyer) Personal income taxes: deductions: business expenses: commercial cannabis activity – This bill would allow businesses to deduct cannabis-related businesses expenses on their state income tax form. This bill is similar to AB 1863 (Jones-Sawyer) from 2018.

AB 141 (Cooper D) Cannabis: informational, educational, or training events – This bill would allow licensed retailers, cultivators, and manufacturers to participate in educational or informational events held for state and local government officials and their employees without having to obtain a temporary cannabis event license. This bill is similar to AB 3069 (Cooper) that was vetoed by Governor Brown.

AB 858 (Levine) Cannabis: cultivation – This bill creates an Emerald Triangle Sun-Grown Cannabis Commission for the purpose of conducting research, examining the impact of local and state regulations on the cannabis products industries, and tracking market price information to prevent unfair trade practices. This bill was introduced last year as AB 2810 and covered all of California. The bill died in its second policy committee as it was double-referred.

In addition to the bills discussed above, there are several “spot bills” that were introduced as placeholders for the time being. These bills could later be amended to include substantive language on issues related to cannabis. We will continue to monitor these proposals as the legislative session moves forward.

If you have any questions related to any of these proposals, contact Ashley Martinez at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com to discuss.

Bill to Reduce California Cannabis Taxes Reintroduced in State Legislature


Last week, Assembly Bill 286 was introduced by Assembly Member Rob Bonta which would eliminate California’s cannabis cultivation tax and reduce the excise tax from 15% to 11% through 2022. The measure is a reintroduction of a similar bill from last year, AB 3157, which would have also temporarily reduced California’s cannabis tax rate.

Supporters of the temporary tax reduction argue that California’s high tax rate on cannabis makes it almost impossible for legal operators to compete against illicit operations. Opponents of the reduction say that it is premature and that the real problem lies at the local level where more than half of the state’s local jurisdictions have refused to allow cannabis business activity. In addition, education and mental health groups believe that the tax reduction will delay and/or reduce much need funding to support youth drug prevention and equity programs in communities that were impacted the most by the war on drugs. Discussions on funding these vital programs will heat up in May after the Department of Finance has a clearer picture of tax revenues generated from cannabis.

In a committee hearing on AB 3157 last year, committee members expressed concern over the state’s ability to repay the outstanding loan of $135 million that was provided to state agencies to fund enforcement and oversight. In Governor Newsom’s first budget released in January, more than $200 million was allocated to cannabis enforcement and oversight. How much of that is a General Fund loan that will need to be repaid and how much pressure this creates to maintain the current tax rate is to be seen. Stay tuned.

If you have questions about the budget process or AB 286, please contact me at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s First Budget Estimates $514 Million in Cannabis Tax Revenue and Includes Millions in Enforcement

On Thursday, Gavin Newsom released his first budget as California’s Governor. The budget – totaled at $209 billion including special funds – estimates California’s cannabis excise tax will generate $514 million in revenues for 2019-20. This estimate is significantly lower than the $630 million anticipated in last year’s budget.

Governor Newsom’s budget includes $200 million for statewide enforcement, licensing and oversight over the industry. During the Q&A session, the Governor said that this budget allocation would support expedited licensing to ensure businesses are able to enter the legal market in a timely manner. In addition, the Governor stated that his Administration would be very engaged in cannabis-related policy, including policies that impact licensing at the local level.

The budget also includes $2.9 million in additional funds for California’s tax collection agency to increase tax compliance within the cannabis industry. This should come as welcomed news for licensed businesses that are struggling to compete against non-licensed and compliant entities.

Although the budget anticipates nearly half a billion in revenues, funding for Proposition 64 related programs is put on hold until the May Revise. The budget also acknowledges that the outstanding loan made by the state to establish California’s enforcement and oversight capabilities would be paid first in addition to funding the various programs required by the proposition.

In the coming weeks, the Legislature will review the Governor’s budget in greater detail.

The release of the Governor’s budget sets in motion the Legislature’s detailed review over the coming months. If you have questions related to the 2019-20 budget, or want to learn more about California’s budget process, please contact ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

What Is The Economic and Social Impact of the Federal Ban on Cannabis? Congressional Democrats Release Short Report Describing the Barriers and Opportunities


This week, the Democrat staff of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee issued a short report highlighting the economic benefits of the national cannabis economy.

The report highlights what many in the industry and public already know – support for the legalization of adult-use is at an all-time high across the country. While over 30 states have moved towards some form of legal use, the federal ban continues to present significant barriers to the industry’s growth. Some interesting points made in the report include:

  • 66% of Americans support legalization of adult-use, up from just 12% in 1969.
  • Industry sales totaled  more than $8 billion in 2017
  • Sales industry wide are estimated to reach $11 billion in 2019, and $23 billion by 2022
  • There were over 9,000 active cannabis business licenses in 2017, with the industry employing more than 120,000 people

With the positive economic and job growth created by the industry, significant barriers created by the federal ban exist. I would add here that in California, the ability of local jurisdictions to prohibit cannabis business activity is an additional barrier. Among the many challenges created by the federal ban, the report highlights the following:

  • A lack of basic financial services available to cannabis business creates security issues, as well as general barriers to paying for basic business expenses, i.e. employee salaries, rent, etc
  • The federal ban has created an unfair advantage for non-cannabis/illicit businesses over legal ones. Section 280E prohibits cannabis business from deducting ordinary business expenses, creating an estimated tax rate of 40% – 70%; more than twice the average non-cannabis business tax
  • The ban also creates a barrier to acquiring financial capital to start or grow a cannabis-based business
  • Finally, the ban continues to restrict patient access to medicine that has proven to effective in treating a variety of ailments and illnesses

The report goes on to discuss the social impacts of cannabis that is well worth reading, and ends on this note:

“The growth of the cannabis economy presents opportunities for greater job creation, more tax revenue, and better patient care. But current conflicts between state and federal law threaten to impede social and economic growth. Going forward, lawmakers and regulators should prioritize solutions that promote greater research into the health effects of cannabis and reduce regulations that restrict the industry’s ability to conduct business.”

What are your thoughts on the report?

Do you have questions related to economic impact of the cannabis industry? Do you want to know how to share this information in an effective way before legislators and decision-makers? Contact Ashley at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com to discuss.

How to Write an Effective Letter to Your Representative


Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with businesses, individuals, and organizations that are interested in engaging in the legislative and rulemaking process in 2019. Writing a letter to your representative is an easy and effective ways to communicate your support or concerns on a specific budget item, piece of legislation, or on a proposed rule. Here are some tips that can help you write a constructive letter to your elected official.

Step One: Research the Bill or Budget Proposal

When you have identified a budget item, bill or rule that may potential impact your business, the first step before writing a letter is to conduct preliminary research. In California, information related to the state’s budget can be located on the State’s Department of Finance (DOF) website. This site contains valuable information, including the budget change proposal (BCP) from which the budget item originated, and a summary and detailed overview of the proposal.

In addition to the DOF, each house of the California State Legislature has their own budget committee that is divided into several subcommittees. These subcommittees will review each item from the Governor’s budget in depth and their analysis can serve as another source of helpful information.

Background information related to all legislation introduced in California can be found by searching the California Legislative Information website. To locate a bill, type in the bill number or the bill author’s name, if you know it, in the “Quick Bill Search” box and click search. This will bring up the bill language, current status, history, analysis, and vote records, if any.

Helpful Hint: A bill in most cases never remains the same throughout the legislative process. When researching a bill, check for amendments. You might be find that the bill you are about to write a letter on has been significantly changed or no longer active!

Step Two: Find Your Legislator

Once you have background information on the bill or budget item, the next step is to look up your legislator and their contact information. California’s Secretary of State provides information on its website on how to find your federal and state representatives. Local elected officials can be found by visiting your local county registrar’s website.

Insider Tip: Legislators and their staff receive hundreds if not thousands of requests, phone calls and emails a day. Most offices prefer to receive letters by email or fax. Before you send your letter, call ahead and ask what method the office prefers to receive position letters. Remember: be courteous to the person that answers the phone; not only is it the right thing to do, but the person on the other line is most likely an intern or legislative aide that is still learning the process too!

Step Three: Write the Letter

Now that you have researched the bill and have your legislator’s information, it is time to write the letter. Below are tips on how to write an effective letter through the various stages of the legislative process.

Newly Introduced Bill

A letter on newly introduced bills is used to share your opinion and/or concerns with your legislator regarding a bill before it has been assigned to a policy committee. As a reminder, a good understanding of what the bill does (review the bill text and any supporting documents, i.e. fact sheets, informational hearing agendas, etc.) is important at this stage. Writing a letter early in the process is important because it helps the legislator identify early support/opposition, and may identify concerns the Assembly Member or Senator may not have considered.

Important Tips When Writing Your Letter

  • Properly address the letter to your legislator.
  • Clearly state your position, and the bill number.
  • Use your own words to state your position and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Be professional and courteous. This is a formal letter to an elected official.
  • End the letter with a statement on how you would like your representative to respond, and request a follow up.

Policy and Fiscal Committee Letters

Committee letters are extremely important in the legislative process. You can find out which committee the bill will be heard in by searching for the bill on the California Legislative Information website and viewing the status of the bill. Under status, locate “Committee Location” to find which committee the bill has been assigned.

Make sure the Chair and all of the committee members receive a copy of your letter, as well as the lead committee consultant on the issue.

Important Tips

  • Properly address the letter to the Committee Chair.
  • Clearly state your position, the bill number and author of the bill.
  • Use your own words to state your opinion and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Ask the committee chair to support or oppose the bill.

 Floor Alert

Floor letters can reinforce your support or opposition on a bill when it is scheduled to be heard by the entire Assembly or Senate on Floor. By now, the bill has made its way through at least one policy committee and if the bill appropriates funds, the Appropriations Committee. At this stage, it may be helpful to review committee votes and mention whether the bill passed the committee with unanimous, bipartisan, or very little support. To review vote ballots, find the bill on California Legislative Information website and select the “Votes” link for the appropriate committee.

Important Tips

  • Address the letter to entire membership of the House.
  • Clearly state your position, the bill number and author of the bill.
  • Use your own words to state your opinion and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Highlight committee votes (bipartisan, unanimous or little support)
  • Ask the legislators to support or oppose the bill.

Letter to the Governor

If a bill you support made it all the way to the Governor’s desk: congratulations!  If you did not support it, do not fret: the process is not over, yet. Even if a bill had unanimous support through the legislative process, the Governor may have a different viewpoint. Letters urging the Governor sign  or veto legislation are as equally important as your first letter.

Important Tips

  • Address the letter to the Governor.
  • Clearly state your position, the bill number and author of the bill.
  • Use your own words to state your opinion and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Highlight committee/floor votes (bipartisan, unanimous or little support)
  • Ask the Governor to sign or veto the bill.
Ready to Write Your Letter?

If you would like more information or help writing your letter? please contact me at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

7 Simple Ways to Improve Your Public Testimony Before Boards, Commissions, and the Legislature


With legislative bodies across the country preparing to convene for the upcoming 2019 legislative session, now is the time to prepare to engage in that process. One way to engage in this process is by providing comment or testimony at a public hearing. This method of engagement is one of the most simple and effective ways to communicate your position on an issue that affects your business, community, family, or industry.

However, many people have a fear of speaking in public or lack the basic skills to deliver an effective message. Below are 7 tips to help immediately improve your public testimony skills that you can use before elective officials and rulemakers.

1. Prepare an outline, not a script. If there is one way to ensure your elected officials’ eyes glaze over during your public comment, its to read your talking points or testimony word-for-word. Instead of writing a script, outline the all of the points that you like to cover and then simplify that list to the top 2-3 strongest points. Use these points as the basis for your testimony.

2. Practice. The process of speaking in public is terrifying for most. In fact, the fear of public speaking ranks higher than death for some people! Testifying in front of a panel elected officials can be absolutely terrifying, and practicing ahead of time can go a long way towards reducing this anxiety and fear. An important tip to remember when practicing is to limit your testimony to approximately two minutes or less. In special circumstances, legislative committees will allow for longer public comment, but this is usually an exception, not the rule. Using your outline, practice refining your public comment out loud and in front of the mirror, if possible.

3. Don’t practice too much. While practice can help polish your testimony, over-preparing can also have a negative impact on the delivery of your speech. The most common drawback to over-preparing is that the delivery of the comment starts to sound robotic. The goal is to practice, not memorize your lines or outline.

4. Identify Yourself. It’s the day of the hearing and you have your outline ready and have spent time practicing your testimony. This may sound silly, but in the heat of the moment it is easy to forget to identify yourself, the organization you represent (if any) and your position, if relevant, at the start of your testimony. I’ve seen it happen multiple times where the person forgets to identify themselves, makes their speech, and leaves the podium without any information as to who they are. Remember to identify yourself first.

5. Keep it Short and Sweet. Although this was covered above, it bears repeating that the average time for most public testimony is 2 minutes or less. On occasion, a board or committee will invite you to participate on a panel and in these instances, they may ask you to provide comments and be available for a period longer than 2 minutes. If you do not receive that invitation, keep it short and sweet.

6. Observe and Listen. Before and after your testimony, observe and listen to others testimony and the comments and questions from the committee members. It’s polite and can also be instructive on how and what the decision-makers are thinking about that particular issue. Actively listen by taking notes.

7. Relax and Enjoy. The opportunity to participate in the policy and rulemaking process is one that many people for a variety of reasons will never experience. Enjoy the opportunity to participate, and if you’re like 98% of people that fear public speaking, after you finish your testimony, give yourself a pat on the back. You overcame your fears and you did it.

If you have questions about the public comment process before public agencies, boards, commissions, and the legislature, please contact ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

Cannabis Related Bills Introduced on the First Day of California’s 2019-20 Legislative Session

pac-bac-475743-unsplashEarlier this week, members of the California State Legislature traveled to the Capitol to be sworn-in and start the 2019-20 legislative session. On day one, over 200 bills were introduced including at least three involving cannabis.

AB 3 (Cooper), was introduced on the first day in “spot bill” form. A spot bill is a vehicle that could be amended at a later date with substantive language. At this point, the bill references its intent to make changes to the law regarding cannabis sales to minors. Again, this bill will most likely be amended and could address a different topic within the same code later in the legislative session.

AB 34 (Wiener), is a reintroduction of last year’s bill, SB 829 by the same author which would exempt qualifying compassion care programs from the cultivation and excise tax enacted by Proposition 64. SB 829 was vetoed by Governor Brown and in his veto message he made clear his belief that providing free cannabis undermined the intent of voters, i.e. voters supported legalizing cannabis in exchange for tax revenues to support local and state programs. Proponents of this bill are hoping that Governor-elect Gavin Newsom will view the issue differently than his predecessor.

SB 51 (Hertzberg), is another reintroduction from last year’s session. SB 931, would have established a state-chartered banking system to allow financial institutions to offer basic banking services to businesses in the cannabis industry. The bill was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, however, the lack of movement on the federal level to open up financial services to the industry, a state solution has placed California in a position to take action on its own.

For more information about these bills or to receive updates on legislation as it is introduced, contact me at ashley@ampublicaffairs.

Public Policies for Advocates and Stakeholders to Consider in 2019

Note: This article originally appeared on the site Kannovate – an informational guide to help Activist and citizens keep a pulse on the Cannabis Enlightenments movement throughout the US. To read the full article, please visit Kannovate by clicking here.

Last week, Canada became the second country, after Uruguay, to legalize recreational cannabis. In one week, voters in four states—Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah—will decide whether or not to legalize some form of marijuana use. Across the United States, there are currently 30 states that allow some form of cannabis use. If the four ballot measures pass in November, the total number of states that have legalized either medical or recreational use will reach almost 70%, including Washington, D.C.

While these recent developments indicate changing attitudes towards cannabis as a dangerous “drug,” they also present several public policy issues that stakeholders in the industry will need to proactively engage and address in the coming months and years in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

I have compiled a list of the top seven public policy issues that all stakeholders in the cannabis industry should consider as the move towards full legalization in the United States approaches. My hope is to provide you a glimpse into topics that will be at the forefront in the public policy arena in the coming years, offering you a chance to prepare and plan for your engagement strategy in advance.

Read the full article here…

Questions about the legislative and regulatory landscape in your area? Contact us today to discuss at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com or by the contact form available here.

Governor Signs Two Bills to Expand Where Cannabis Events Can Be Held and to Provide Equity and Diversity in the Industry


On September 26, Governor Brown signed two bills of interest to the cannabis industry: AB 2020, which expands the locations where cannabis events can be held and SB 1294, which establishes a cannabis equity program to provide assistance to local equity programs throughout the State. Both bills go into effect January 1, 2019.

Cannabis Events

AB 2020 (Quirk), expands where cannabis events can be held as long as the local governing entity approves. Prior to AB 2020, the law limited cannabis events to county fairgrounds and the State’s active district agricultural associations. Small business owners in the industry argued that these limits stifled economic opportunities for both businesses and the local governments that support commercial cannabis activities in their communities.

Under the bill, all event participants must be licensed retailers and the event organizer must submit a list of all participants at least 60 days in advance of the event to the Bureau of Cannabis Control. If a retailer is not on the final list submitted to BCC, they are prohibit from participating in the event.

In addition, the bill authorizes BCC to issue fines for non-compliance and provides the Bureau with the ultimate authority to cease an event if the Bureau or local law enforcement believe the event has become a threat to the health and safety of community. Moreover, the bill does not allow an event organizer to appeal the Bureau’s decision to cease an event; placing the burden of risk ultimately on the event organizer.

Cannabis Equity Programs

The Governor also signed SB 1294 (Bradford), also known as the Cannabis Cannabis Equity Act of 2018, which authorizes the Bureau of Cannabis Control to provide assistance to local equity programs throughout the State.

This bill was designed to provide some relief and assistance for people, specifically minorities and women, that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. The passage of Proposition 64 created an opportunity for Californians to engage in the cannabis industry; including those that been marginalized or criminalized under previous state marijuana laws. However, since January 1, entities with significant financial resources have dominated the legal market; leaving economic and socially disadvantaged individuals without resources or an opportunity to enter the market. SB 1294 seeks to level the playing field so that all Californians can participate in this rapidly growing (no pun intended) industry.

Next Steps

Although AB 2020 was designed to support local economies and small businesses, the challenge of acquiring local approval for events or any type of cannabis business activity across the state is still a major challenge. For localities that have adopted cannabis-friendly policies, AB 2020 can help spur economic growth and jobs in those areas. For cities and counties that continue to ban cannabis business activities in their district, the challenge of holding an event remains.

On the equity front, SB 1294 is a first-step towards equalizing the opportunity for all to participate in the industry as intended by Proposition 64. It remains to be seen how local governments utilize the assistance provided by the State, and what type of resources are needed to ensure the program is a success.

For more information about these two bills, contact me at ashley@ampublicaffairs.