ReformCA has filed a new cannabis legalization initiative with state officials. ReformCA (an initiative of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform) has been working with many different groups across the state to establish responsible language for cannabis legalization in California. The proposed initiative, called The Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016, is one step closer to getting on the 2016 ballot.

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Our mission at Smoke Reports is to provide the community with accurate information on everything cannabis. The legal progress for cannabis in the last few years has been very positive overall, including legislation for a more sensible medical cannabis program and Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy. Here we will provide an overview of the proposed legislation so that our community can be more active and informed during the legalization process.

The Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016

The language present in ReformCA’s proposed initiative shares the same vision for cannabis policy that has been included in recent medical legislation. The goal is to establish a self-sufficient system of licensing and taxation, which will create a safe and responsible market place. The initiative proposes safe access to cannabis for adult use with special attention paid to education programs that reduce exposure and criminalization of youths.

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ReformCA, with the guidance and input of law enforcement, the medical community, and social welfare groups, is pushing for a legal environment that actually improves the safety of the industry while reducing the number of people persecuted for non-violent cannabis crimes. This was a major theme from the Blue Ribbon Commission’s report, and also pronounced in the new medical cannabis legislation awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

Declaration of Intent and Purpose of The Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016

  1. Adults 21 and older can legally possess, consume, cultivate, and transport cannabis for personal use.
  2. Prohibit dangerous activities while discouraging criminalization of minor cannabis crimes.
  3. Establish state office to regulate and license commercial cannabis activity.
  4. Prevent criminal diversion of funds from the licensed industry.
  5. Prevent cultivation on public lands.
  6. Raise business and retail tax revenues.
  7. Improve law enforcement use of resources by eliminating felony penalties for minor cannabis-related crimes.
  8. Ensure small and medium-sized businesses have equal access to the industry through fair licensing approval.
  9. There shall be no interference with existing or future medical programs.
  10. Implement further legislation for scientific research as well as oversight of the cannabis industry, including legal banking opportunities and federal tax issues for cannabis businesses.
  11. The initiative shall “express the will of the People of the State of California that the scheduling of cannabis be changed under Title 21 United States Code Controlled Substances Act, and to deschedule cannabis from the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act.”

Legal Penalties and Lawful Activities

Possessing, processing, sharing, and transporting less than one ounce of cannabis flowers (or the equivalent of cannabis products) would be made lawful. Fines ranging from $100-$1000 would be instituted for those individuals 21 years of age and older who sell, distribute, or share cannabis with those under 21 years old.

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Smoking while operating any vehicle would be considered driving under the influence. Cultivating cannabis in public view would be an infraction, and serious cannabis crimes involving over sixteen ounces of cannabis would carry harsher penalties.

Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis

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The ReformCA also introduced clear indications that driving under the influence of cannabis would not be tolerated. The initiative later calls for a more comprehensive sobriety standard be determined for cannabis, but acknowledges that  the proposed rules require further research.

26007: “A person shall be deemed to be under the influence of cannabis if, as a result of consuming cannabis, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle or operate a vessel with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances. This standard shall be the sole standard used in determining driving under the influence allegations.”

Business and Employment Policies

Under federal law, businesses can establish their own policies for hiring and firing based on drug testing. The legalization of cannabis will not change the fact that employers can set their own rules regarding drug use, even when the employee is not on shift or present at work.

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The proposed initiative does include language that further empowers the medical cannabis community in California, including more security against discrimination of medical cannabis use.

26010: “Schools, employers, and landlords may not discriminate against or penalize a person solely for their status as a qualified patient or primary caregiver as defined under Health and Safety Code Section 11362.7, unless failing to do so would put the school, employer, or landlord in violation of federal law or cause it to lose a federal contract or funding.”

California Cannabis Commission and Office of Cannabis Regulation

The initiative calls for the establishment of the Office of Cannabis Regulation within the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The office shall be administered by the California Cannabis Commission, consisting of seven public members and six ex officio members (held by virtue of their current office and position).

Public Members of the Commission

  1. Specialist in public health and medical cannabis
  2. Local government representative
  3. Law enforcement representative
  4. Environmental representative
  5. Specialist in cannabis patient care
  6. Cannabis industry representative
  7. Organized labor representative

Ex Officio Members of the Commission

  1. Leuitenant Governor of California
  2. Attorney General of California
  3. Member of the Board of Equalization
  4. Member of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
  5. Member of the Department of Consumer Affairs
  6. Secrteray of the Environmental Protection Agency

Cannabis Safety Fund

The Office of Cannabis Regulation will be in charge of the Cannabis Safety Fund, which is composed of all of the taxes, fees, interests, and penalties associated with commercial cannabis in California. The funds will be allocated to fund the operations of the California Cannabis Commission, and all of the educational campaigns and enforcement efforts related to legalized cannabis. Currently, the proposed initiative calls for funds to be set aside for evidence based studies on:

  • Developing valid impairment standards
  • Implementing youth prevention programs
  • Creating educational campaigns for safe, controlled, sustaniable cannabis cultivation
(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Commercial Licensing, Registration, and Taxation

The licensing and registration for commercial cannabis companies is still being determined, but it appears that it will be very similar to the licensing system proposed in the recent medical cannabis legislation. The important features included in the ReformCA proposed initiative are that small and mid-sized business have equal access to cannabis licenses.

Example of a Cannabis Business License from Colorado

Example of a Cannabis Business License from Colorado

A major concern of legalizing cannabis is that large corporations from other industries would move in and over-commercialize this plant that must be respected as both a recreational substance and an important medicine.

Taxing cannabis has always been a lucrative opportunity. The tax revenue possible from the estimated industry will be incredible, but it is important that the funds are used to promote responsibility and sustainability of the Office of Cannabis Regulation.

As of the most recent version of the initiative, the proposed taxation will be divided into both retail and business taxes. Cultivation and production will be based on square footage of the operation or the dry weight of plant being processed and manufactured.

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Retail taxes are proposed at 5% of the retail price for cannabis flowers and products, and 10% of the retail price on edibles and concentrated cannabis extracts. An additional 5% retail tax will be established for local governments.

Local Control and Law Enforcement

Law enforcement has always been at odds with the cannabis community, and this proposed initiative aims to relive some of the tension. Many jurisdictions have voted for commercial cannabis restrictions in their areas. These moratoriums on the cannabis industry will still be at the decision of the voters, but the bill does specifically deny bans on legitimate delivery companies for medical patients. Not everyone supports the legalization of cannabis, and local governments are still empowered to create their own business restrictions.

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Track and Trace Program

Tracking cannabis has been a major concern for every new piece of legislation proposed in recent years. While the technological tools do not yet exist, companies like Smoke Reports have already been working to establish methods of transparency and product safety.

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Like past versions of a cannabis tracking system, the proposed system would record and report all cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, and final sale of every individual cannabis product. While this is a feat that will require a lot of developmental power, it is incredibly positive for a more open and accurate cannabis industry.

Future of The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016

ReformCA is a longstanding organization that has made many of the necessary legal and industry connections needed to pass this type of sensible legislation. Provided that more than half of voters approve of this initiative on the 2016 ballot, and that no other competing cannabis legislation gets a larger majority of votes, The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 appears to be in good position for cannabis legalization to get onto the California ballot.

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It is important that the cannabis community and industry are able to accurately promote this proposed voter initiative, because the future of cannabis requires safe and sensible policies based on everyone’s input. The initiative will be passed around for signatures over the upcoming months, and it is important that we support ReformCA as a group pushing for positive cannabis legislation.

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