Capitol Tracker: Cannabis banking, special event bills advance

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ruth Schneider, Eureka Times-Standard

While the recreational cannabis market continues to pick up steam, lawmakers in Sacramento continue to work out the kinks in the system. Several marijuana-related measures are moving forward.

Lawmakers say the goal is to limit black market activities.

Here’s where some of those proposals stand:

Temporary event licenses >> Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) proposed AB 2020, which would allow consumption and sales of cannabis at certain special events.

In Humboldt County, this would allow cannabis farmers markets or cannabis festivals to take place. Restrictions on the types of special events have curtailed both activities. Organizers of Cannifest 2018 put the event on hold earlier this year because of a “lack of policies” being in place.

“I have been a cannabis supporter for a long time,” Quirk said in a statement emailed to the Times-Standard on Monday. “It is a priority for me to find ways to curtail the black market, and I know that because of the restrictions under current law, there are underground events happening. Right now, cannabis events can only take place on county fairground property, in my district, this is a distance of at least 30 miles, in other parts of the state, it can be hundreds. This is why I am excited to author AB 2020. My bill strikes a good balance between local control, public safety, and allowing a growing business to take advantage of a booming economy.”

Quirk added that he has heard from areas across the state that are looking to allow consumption and sales at special events. Humboldt Green Events, which puts on the Cannifest events, sent a letter of support for AB 2020 to Quirk’s office.

“By making this simple, minor change AB 2020 will give greater opportunities to small businesses, allow an emerging industry the same opportunities granted to others, and support local and regional economies,” the letter states.

The bill was passed 13-1 by the Assembly’s Committee on Business and Professions last week and re-refered to an appropriations committee.

A similar bill from North Coast Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) would also open up special events to cannabis use.

AB 2641 would allow for the Bureau of Cannabis Control to grant temporary license for special events in jurisdictions where the events have been approved. Essentially, this bill would allow for licenses of sales and consumption of cannabis by adults at county fair events, if locally approved.

“Because unregulated events are common, providing a pathway to compliance will help prevent illegal distribution and ensure that the sales that take place at unregulated events are taken out of the hands of the illegal market,” the bill states.

AB 2641 was passed 15-0 in Assembly’s Committee on Business and Professions last week and re-refered to an appropriations committee.

Banking >> A bill that would license special banks to handle the state’s burgeoning billion-dollar industry crossed its first hurdle last week passing out of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.

Hertzberg said the Trump administration’s decision to potentially loosen the federal policy on cannabis coupled with movement on the banking bill is a step in the right direction.

“Everyone agrees that there has to be a better way for cannabis companies to do business,” Hertzberg said in a statement. “They simply cannot and should not have to continue to run their businesses like black market operations. We’ve been seeing tremendous interest and getting input from stakeholders across the state, and I’m confident we’re going to get this done.”

The bill is expected to be addressed Wednesday at 9 a.m. in a Senate Governance and Finance Committee hearing.