Ammiano bill lets ABC control medical marijuana

Medical marijuana would be regulated by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control under a bill rolled out by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Tom AmmianoAmmiano, D-San Francisco, last year had carried a bill that would have created a nine-member Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement within the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate the industry. The Assembly passed AB 2312 on a 41-30 vote last May, but Ammiano pulled it from consideration by a state Senate committee.

Now his new bill, AB 473, would instead establish a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement within the ABC, responsible for monitoring supply and sales of medical cannabis so that the product is kept clean of toxins and criminal involvement is eliminated.

“Where marijuana rules are concerned, California has been in chaos for way too long,” Ammiano said in a news release. “Cities have been looking for state guidance, dispensaries feel at the mercy of changing rules and patients who need medical cannabis are uncertain about how their legitimate medical needs will be filled. This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe. We will get it into the right hands and keep it out of the wrong hands.”

Ammiano says the approach is similar to that which has operated successfully in Colorado for three years, because the ABC has the experience in education, compliance and enforcement necessary to regulate successfully, said Matt Cook, a national consultant who was the architect of Colorado’s regulatory plan.

“With this kind of mechanism, you can ensure that only those who are authorized through state law are able to get it,” Cook said. “We’ve had not one federal intervention.”

Ammiano introduced a placeholder version of AB 473 last month, but updated it Tuesday. He’s also introducing an Assembly resolution asking the federal government to give California breathing room to get its medical cannabis house in order without the threat of new widespread prosecutions of medical providers.


Bill would require condom use in California porn

The California Legislature remains, er, hard at work.

Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, D-Los Angeles, announced he’s holding a news conference tomorrow – Valentine’s Day – to introduce a bill requiring condom use in all adult films produced in California.

Hall will be joined by Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Darren James, a former adult film actor who contracted HIV while working in the porn industry. The assemblyman’s news release said his bill would “provide statewide uniformity needed to ensure that the thousands of actors employed in this multi-billion dollar industry are given reasonable workplace safety protections needed to reduce exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

About 57 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November approved Measure B, requiring the use of condoms in all adult films produced within the county.

The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation conducts regular screenings of porn performers, which has minimized the spread of HIV and other diseases. But James was believed to have contracted the virus during a film shoot in Brazil, and transmitted it to several actresses here in California before he tested positive a few weeks later in 2004.

UPDATE @ 2:22 P.M.: Remarkably, this isn’t the only condom legislation the Assembly is rolling out (or on) today.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, just announced he has introduced a bill that would further public health goals by ending the criminalization of condom possession among sex workers.

AB 336 would end the practice by which police use the possession of one or more prophylactics as a factor in prostitution arrests and prosecution. Researchers believe this change would help stem the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“The police have plenty of other criteria they can use in determining who should be arrested as a prostitute, but condoms are the only effective deterrent to the spread of HIV,” Ammiano said in a news release. “We have to encourage safe-sex practices, not frighten people into spreading disease.”

A researcher presenting a study at the International AIDS Conference in 2012 called for just this kind of legislation to resolve the dilemma of sex workers who feel they must decide between being arrested and protecting themselves for sexually transmitted diseases. Condom use during prostitution also protects customers and families of both parties.

The bill would not prevent the police from identifying or arresting suspected prostitutes. Law enforcement could still use other factors – things like presence in known prostitution areas, approaching cars, manner of dress, possession of sex toys or lubricants, possession of large amounts of cash – as evidence.

“They can still arrest people under the law,” Ammiano said. “They would only be prevented from using as evidence the one thing that protects public health: condoms.”


Bills push for ammo tax, assault weapon seizure

Among the gun-control bills being rolled out by Assembly Democrats are a pair from a freshman East Bay lawmaker to tax ammunition and perhaps move toward confiscating banned assault weapons.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s AB 187 would place a tax on the sale of ammunition in California with proceeds going to a high-crime prevention fund that would be used in targeted areas suffering from high violent crime rates.

“In communities like Oakland and Stockton, parents are afraid to let their children play outside while gun violence ravages the streets,” Bonta, D-Oakland, said in a news release. “We must take swift action to get these communities the resources they need, and in AB 187 I propose to do so through a tax on ammunition.”

Far more controversial is Bonta’s AB 174, which for the moment reads as follows:

Under current law, certain banned weapons are permitted under various “grandfathering in” clauses. It is the intent of the Legislature to subsequently amend this measure to include provisions that would end all of those exemptions.

Rob Bonta“State laws on the books currently restrict the purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity magazines, but almost all laws only apply on a going-forward basis and exempted weapons remain on our streets,” Bonta said. “With AB 174 we will closely examine this loophole and do what’s right for the children and people of California.”

Ending any grandfather clauses presumably would mean a mandatory buyback of all banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines – just the kind of registration-driven confiscation that gun-rights advocates have been warning about for decades, and that they’ve sworn to resist.

According to the state Justice Department, 77,103 Californians own 166,424 registered, grandfathered assault weapons.

Other Assembly bills touted today include:

    AB 169 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, to prohibit people who’ve been exempted from restrictions on buying guns that the state designated as unsafe from selling or transferring those guns to anyone who isn’t also exempt. California maintains a list of state-tested handguns that are approved for sale in the state.
    AB 170 by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, would allow only individuals – not corporations or other associations – to be issued permits for assault weapons and machine guns. “In the same way that we prohibit sharing driver licenses, we should not allow dangerous weapons to be passed from hand to hand within an organization. One person, one permit just makes sense,” Bradford said.

And, yet to be introduced:

    A bill from Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, to prohibit those involved in gun or ammunition trafficking from possessing any guns or ammo for 10 years.
    A bill from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, to tighten gun-safety laws already in place by adding a safe-storage requirement when a person prohibited from gun possession is living in the home. Ammiano’s bill also would let the state Justice Department extend the state’s 10-day waiting period when necessary for background checks.
    Another bill from Dickinson also to impose an ammunition tax – this one at a nickel per bullet, with proceeds going to an existing program that screens young children in grades 1 through 3 for mild to moderate mental illness and then intervenes to help those in need.
    A third bill from Dickinson to require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest any existing pension fund investments from companies that manufacture, sell, distribute or market firearms or ammunition, and to prohibit any such investments in the future.

“Although California already has some of the nation’s best laws to reduce the incidence of violent and fatal shootings, we are always prepared to move when we can improve the safety of our communities and families,” Ammiano, who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said in a news release. “The Assembly is acting on this challenge and looks forward to seeing other proposals from the Senate. We will work with the other house to protect Californians from those who would misuse weapons. We will take a careful look at each bill when it comes to the committee.”


Good Samaritan drug law takes effect Jan. 1

Among California’s new laws taking effect Jan. 1 will be a “Good Samaritan” law, encouraging witnesses of suspected drug or alcohol overdoses to seek emergency aid without fear of arrest.

California is the 10th state to enact such a law; it was authored here as AB 472 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

The law neither penalizes those who don’t call for help, nor is a blanket protection against arrest – for example, those who sell drugs aren’t protected. But it does ensure that you won’t get busted for personal possession if you call 911 on behalf of an endangered friend.

“Reassuring all Californians that calling 911 is safe and the right thing to do when someone’s life is on the line is essential,” Meghan Ralston, the Drug Policy Alliance’s harm reduction manager, said in a news release today. “While people should feel confident that they won’t get in trouble for small amounts of drugs when they call for help, the range of the protections provided under the new law is very limited and very specific. This isn’t a get-out-jail-free card for people who sell or traffic large quantities of drugs. This law basically says, ‘If you have a small amount of drugs in your possession, or the person overdosing does, don’t let your fear of arrest for that be the reason you fail to call 911 to help save someone’s life.”

As in many other states, drug overdose fatalities are California’s leading cause of accidental injury-related death, beating out even motor vehicle deaths. Studies have found most people overdose in the presence of others, yet many onlookers either delay or don’t call at all for emergency services, often because they fear their own arrest.


A new push for ‘split-roll’ property taxes

Hot on the heels of a poll showing support for altering Proposition 13 so commercial properties can be taxed at their current value, a Bay Area lawmaker says he’ll pursue exactly that.

The “split roll” property tax, in which all of Proposition 13’s protections for residential properties would remain but commercial properties would be regularly re-assessed, has been a goal of many Democrats for quite some time. But now, with a super-majority in both the Assembly and the state Senate as well as a Democratic governor, they may be in a position to actually do something about it.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll found majorities – 57 percent of adults, 58 percent of likely voters – favor such a plan; it’s supported by 66 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents, while Republicans are split (47 percent in favor, 48 percent opposed). The poll of 2,001 Californians was conducted Nov. 13-20; it has a 3.5-percentage-point margin of error for all adults and a 4-point margin of error for likely voters.

Tom AmmianoAssemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, announced this morning he’ll introduce commercial re-assessment legislation this session – not his first bite at this apple, but perhaps he’s feeling better about his chances.

“Prop. 13 is not the untouchable third-rail anymore. It’s more like the bad guy with the mustache who has tied California to the rails with the fiscal train wreck coming,” he said in his news release. “This year’s election, both at the federal and state level, shows that people recognize we have to improve revenue to maintain needed services. Reform of Prop. 13 is one possibility.”

Actually changing Proposition 13 would require another ballot measure, but Ammiano aims to reduce corporations’ ability to structure ownership to avoid having property reassessed when it changes hands. The change would not be a tax increase, he noted, but would increase needed revenues for education and other uses by taxing properties at their actual value, rather than leaving those values at artificially depressed levels.

“Corporations want to be treated as people when it suits them, as in the Citizens United case, but when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes, they are looking for a deal that real people – like you and your neighbor – can’t get,” he said.


Bay Area’s new Assembly leadership assignments

Here are your Bay Area Assembly members’ leadership assignments for the 2013-14 session, made today by Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

Speaker pro Tempore: Nora Campos, D-San Jose
Assistant Speaker pro Tempore: Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco
Rules Committee Chair: Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley

Committee and Subcommittee Chairs
Accountability and Administrative Review Committee: Jim Frazier, D-Oakley
Budget Subcommittee No. 2 (Education Finance): Susan Bonilla, D-Concord
Business, Professions & Consumer Protection Committee: Rich Gordon, D-Los Altos
Education Committee: Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo
Elections and Redistricting Committee: Paul Fong, D-Mountain View
Judiciary Committee: Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont
Public Employees, Retirement & Social Security Committee: Rob Bonta, D-Alameda
Public Safety Committee: Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco

Also, Fong was elected chairman of the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.