Will tax breaks and banks help California’s struggling marijuana industry?

marijuanaUnfriendly banks, high taxes and black-market competitors are some of the obstacles that licensed cannabis companies say hold them back as they try to cultivate a new industry in California.

Some California lawmakers want to give them a hand, and they’re considering a set of bills that would in ways great and small fine tune the law governing recreational marijuana.

“We’re all in this for the long haul,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said at a press conference Monday. “It’s incumbent on us to continue to monitor what’s happening and course correct if necessary.”

Some of the bills aim to give cannabis businesses the same opportunities as others — such as access to state tax deductions or the ability to bank — while others look to provide relief to legitimate businesses locked in a losing battle with the black market. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Legislature Claims New CA Gun Control Bill Will Help Prevent Suicides

GunMore stringent gun regulations to curb suicides could soon be enacted in California. Assembly Bill 1927 successfully passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee during a hearing Tuesday morning.

Spurred by recent mass shootings, the legislation, introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, and co-authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would allow residents to “voluntarily add their name to the California Do Not Sell List for firearms.”

“A lot of the political opposition to efforts California has taken to address gun violence is around government telling people what they can and cannot do,” Bonta told the SacBee. “This is different. This is an individual saying, ‘I want to do this. I’m choosing to do this.’ We think it will save lives.”

Of the roughly 38,000 gun deaths in the U.S. in 2016, about two-thirds were suicides. In California alone, there were nearly 1,600 suicides with guns in 2016.

While a controversial topic, the issue of guns and suicide are inextricably linked. Research suggests that suicide attempts are an impulsive act, and firearms offer a disproportionately lethal means.

The bill is not without its opponents, such as the National Rifle Association, with some expressing concern that the law could be abused.

To join the list, a person would provide the names and contact information for five people. These contacts would be informed if the person attempted to buy a firearm. Additionally, while those on the list may not be able to legally purchase a firearm, they would not be liable for “any criminal or civil penalty for purchasing, receiving or possessing a firearm.” Those who knowingly sell firearms to Californians on the list, however, would be subject to penalties.

The law would require the state to regularly add people on the list to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

People on the list would need to wait a year before removing themselves; however, to remove themselves earlier, they could provide testimony from a medical professional that they are not a risk to themselves or others. The state would “expunge records related to the person’s inclusion in, and removal, from, the Do Not Sell List.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Legislation would make it easier to clear pot convictions from criminal record in California

Buds are removed from a container at the "Oregon's Finest" medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon April 8, 2014. Over 20 Oregon cities and counties are moving to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries ahead of a May deadline, reflecting a divide between liberal Portland and more conservative rural areas wary about allowing medical weed. Portland, Oregon's largest city, already has a number of medical marijuana clinics and has not moved to ban them. Picture taken April 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES - Tags: DRUGS SOCIETY POLITICS HEALTH) - RTR3KMHE

Recently proposed legislation would make it easier for Californians to have their pot convictions wiped away, in just the latest drug policy development following marijuana legalization on a state level earlier this year.

Under Proposition 64, California residents can petition to have certain drug convictions overturned – but Assembly Bill 1793, introduced by Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, in January, would make it even easier, by automatically clearing the records of those convicted of crimes that are now legal under the new law.

“Let’s be honest, navigating the legal system bureaucracy can be costly and time-consuming,” Bonta told reporters last month in Sacramento. “[It] will give people the fresh start to which they are legally entitled and allow them to move on with their lives.”

Offenses that can now be wiped away include past convictions for possessing up to an ounce of weed and growing between 1-6 plants for personal use, which are both now legal.

However, Bonta has not specified what the cost of such a move would be, as it would require courts to identity who’s eligible and then notify those persons of the changes.

But the proposal is in line with the positions of district attorneys in San Francisco and San Diego, who have said their offices will go through case files themselves so that residents don’t have to go through the petition process.

For example, in San Francisco, pot-related felony and misdemeanors dating back to 1975 will be cleared or re-classified based on the new state law. The city so far has identified 8,000 such cases and San Diego has identified around 5,000.

“Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocket books, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it,” San Francisco D.A. George Gascon reportedly said late last month. “A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community.”

Proponents of the move argue that it’s a necessary part of a legalization framework, as past convictions can be a hurdle to finding a job or obtaining certain professional licenses.

“This isn’t just an urgent issue of social justice here in California, it’s a model for the rest of the nation,” Lt Gov. and gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom added.

However, not all cities are taking this approach, as Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey says the city will instead have residents follow the petition process already in place.

“The process also allows people most affected by these convictions to pro-actively petition the court for relief and move to the head of the line – rather than wait for my office to go through tens of thousands of case files,” Lacey said in a statement.

As of September 2017, around 5,000 Californians have petitioned to have marijuana convictions expunged or reclassified.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Criminal justice reform under fire in California

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies inspect a cell block at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he plans to implement all the reforms suggested by a commission in the wake of allegations that a culture of violence flourished in his jails. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Not only has it been a disappointing year for the lawmakers and civic leaders behind the recent push for sweeping reforms of California’s criminal justice system, their achievements are under harsh fire in Los Angeles County.

Last December, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, proposed to largely scrap cash bail on the grounds that it wasn’t essential to getting people to show up for their trials, was destructive of individuals’ lives and would sharply reduce costs and crowding at county jails. But while one of the two related bills the lawmakers introduced passed the Senate on mostly party lines, the other stalled on the Assembly floor, only getting 35 votes in support. The bail bonds industry has strong relationships with both parties, especially in urban areas where bail bond agents are often significant donors.

On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced their support for the measure – but for review and passage in 2018, not the remaining few days of the current legislative session.

The support of Brown and Cantil-Sakauye was depicted as good news by Bonta and Hertzberg. But the governor’s and chief justice’s delay in getting on the bandwagon and the Assembly’s coolness to the concept showed that bail reform never enjoyed as much support as two other recent criminal justice reform measures. Adopted by state voters in 2014, Proposition 47reclassifies several nonviolent crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies for those without criminal records involving crimes of violence or related to guns. Approved in 2016, Proposition 57 made it easier for those guilty of “nonviolent” crimes to win parole.

Reforms face intense blowback in L.A. County

Now, however, enthusiasm for these reforms has faded in the largest county in the state and nation.

In Los Angeles County, some law enforcement and women’s groups are upset with Proposition 57 over how many of the crimes it considers “nonviolent” involve considerable violence, including types of sexual assaults.

But many local leaders, politicians, law enforcement members and citizens are furious over the effects of Proposition 47. They say it amounts to a “get out of jail free” card for drug addicts who no longer face incarceration for their crimes but who face no punishment when they don’t honor requirements they meet with drug counselors. Anecdotes about addicts being arrested over and over and over without consequence have been common in police circles for more than two years. Similar stories abounded in a harsh October 2015 Washington Post analysis of the early effects of Proposition 47. It concluded the well-meaning state law kept addicts out of jail, but not out of trouble.

These concerns led Los Angeles County supervisors to vote 3-0 on Aug. 15 to set up a commission to examine “the challenges and opportunities” created by Propositions 47 and 57 and AB109, a 2011 state law that “realigned” criminal justice by having those convicted of many “low-level” crimes serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons.

The reforms have been the focus of anger over two gun murders on Feb. 20 in Los Angeles County, allegedly committed by convicted felon Michael C. Mejia – one of a family member, the other of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer. Mejia had been released from state prison 10 months before the killings and the Los Angeles gang member reportedly committed several parole violations without being sent back to state prison before Feb. 20.

After the killings, Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper and the Los Angeles Police Protective League blamed AB109 and Proposition 47for making it easier for Mejia to avoid being returned to state prison for breaking parole.

Reformers said Proposition 47 had nothing to do with Mejia’s treatment. They said that while AB109 changed how Mejia was treated after being released from prison, it did so by assigning responsibility for his oversight to the Los Angeles County Probation Department – not the state corrections department.

But the argument that the county was blaming state reforms for its own failings never took hold. The day after officer Boyer’s death, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said state reforms were “putting people back on the street that aren’t ready to be back on the street.” He said his jail system had so many dangerous inmates that it amounted to a “default state prison” – undermining claims that reforms would have positive or benign effects on local communities.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Bill making CA a sanctuary state is approved Senate committee

Opportunistic California Democrats are presenting bills to refute the recent immigration executive orders of President Donald J. Trump, to protect Americans.

kevin de leon 2Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, the author of Senate Bill 54, says that ”immigrants are valuable and essential members of the California community” and all attempts to enforce immigration laws create fear of the police among “immigrant community members” who fear “approaching police when they are victims of, and witnesses to, crimes.”

Despite the wave of refugees coming to the United States from Syria and Iraq under the Obama administration, California Democrats are denying national security issues, in favor of political opportunism. California is home to the largest illegal-alien population in the country, with 35 sanctuary cities. President-elect Trump has vowed to build a border wall and deport immigrants that have a criminal record, which he estimates to be two-three million.

Several bills authored by Senate Democrats in the California State Legislature are meant to be a thumb in the eye of President Donald J. Trump over immigration laws.

SB6 by Sen. Ben Hueso would create a state program to fund legal representation for illegal aliens facing deportation, and AB3 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta would create taxpayer-funded training for defense attorneys and public defenders on immigration law for illegal aliens.

The third bill, SB54 by Sen. Pres. Pro Tem Kevin de León, heard Tuesday in the Senate Public Safety Committee, seeks to restrict local police and sheriffs from working with federal immigration enforcers. SB54 prohibits law enforcement from responding to federal requests for notification when a jail houses someone who might be the subject of an immigration enforcement action. Whether the immigrants are here legally or not, and whether they have committed crimes in the United States, this bill effectively prohibits communications between local law enforcement and federal authorities.

SB54 specifically prohibits almost all cooperation and communication with federal immigration authorities.

Sen. Pres. Pro Tem Kevin de León and California Democrats essentially want to bar state and local resources from being used for immigration enforcement. De León said Tuesday the cost to California to help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detail suspected illegal immigrants is $65 million.

Proponents of SB54 claimed the Trump administration’s executive order is just more racial profiling, and California’s long-standing history of welcoming immigrants overrides illegal immigration enforcement.

Concerned about releasing criminal illegal aliens back into society, Sen. Jeff Stone, R- Temecula, asked repeatedly for assurances that the bill would not allow this. “When we have dangerous felons, undocumented felons, in prison, should they NOT be deported and prosecuted under the law?” Stone asked de León. Stone said he was concerned they will be released back into communities and cause heinous crimes, similar to what happened to Kate Steinle, who was murdered by a five-time deported criminal illegal alien.

Stone said the bill was making California a sanctuary state, if passed in its virgin form. Stone tried to get de León to agree to an amendment regarding criminal illegal aliens, but de León resisted.

“The bill decouples criminal acts from immigration statute,” de León said. “It doesn’t stop ICE from doing their job,” dodging the question.

Stone questioned de León again, asking if he would “be supportive of any amendment to allow local law enforcement to pick up dangerous criminal immigrants.”

“It’s not necessary,” de León said. “There is nothing stopping ICE from getting the individual.”

Another dodge from Stone’s question, splitting hairs. Stone asked if local law enforcement would be able to assist ICE only in cases of criminal illegal aliens, and de León replied, there is nothing stopping ICE from doing this – no mention of local law enforcement assistance.

“What is particularly alarming is a very false dichotomy, fueled by hyperbole and rhetoric,” said Committee Chairwoman Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. “All of us wand hardened criminals prosecuted under the law. We are watching now a pitting of the people against each other – of immigrants. That is not right.” Skinner talked again, for the third or fourth time in two days about “easily manipulable fear,” and said “the state of California will not be compliant with authoritarian policies.”

Cynthia Buiza of the California Immigrant Policy Center, a witness at the hearing in support of SB54, launched into an out-of-order editorial, calling Trump’s order “anti-immigrant, zenophobic and propaganda,” explains more from her organization’s website: “The California Values Act answers the ugly slurs of xenophobia with a simple but profound truth: all people are created equal. Against Trump and other forces who seek to demonize and persecute immigrants, the Golden State must embrace and defend our common humanity and deepest values.  Getting law enforcement out of painful deportations, protecting the integrity of public spaces, and rejecting any registry which target Muslims will send a potent message to the nation – and the world.”

From the Bill:

SB-54 would, among other things, prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies and school police and security departments from using resources to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes, or to investigate, enforce, or assist in the investigation or enforcement of any federal program requiring registration of individuals on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national or ethnic origin, as specified. The bill would require state agencies to review their confidentiality policies and identify any changes necessary to ensure that information collected from individuals is limited to that necessary to perform agency duties and is not used or disclosed for any other purpose, as specified. The bill would require public schools, hospitals, and courthouses to establish and make public policies that limit immigration enforcement on their premises and would require the Attorney General, in consultation with appropriate stakeholders, to publish model policies for use by those entities for those purposes.

SB54 passed the Senate Public Safety Committee along party lines.

This article was originally published by the Flash Report

Here are all the sports events California state lawmakers attended for free

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Being an elected official in California has its perks. Want proof? Consider all the free tickets to sporting events that members of the Legislature accepted last year as gifts from utilities, unions, law firms and other firms.

Among the top gifts disclosed on annual forms members of the state Assembly and Senate are required to file: Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León was at the deciding game in Dodgers Stadium thanks to a $556 ticket — half of it paid for by a political consulting group and the other half by a downtown Los Angeles law firm.

Bay Area Assemblyman Rob Bonta got $460 tickets to see the Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets and advance to the …

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