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Senator Anna M. Caballero. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Bill Requiring Public Disclosure on Disciplinary Actions Against Marijuana Applicant or Licensee

SB 581 is best kept secret in the Capitol

By Evan Symon, September 10, 2019 2:15 am

Currently in the Assembly, Senate Bill 581, would require authorities to publicly disclose disciplinary actions taken against a Marijuana applicant or licensee. 

This has proved to be an unusually active legislative session over marijuana bills, with more than 40 currently on the docket between the Assembly and the Senate. Some are gaining a lot of attraction, such as AB 286 which is aiming to lower marijuana taxes. But that is leaving many overlooked, and this includes SB 581, which was introduced by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas). To give an idea of how ignored this bill has been, when the Globe called Senator Caballero’s office about SB 581, those on the other side did not initially recognize the bill number. And when the Globe talked with marijuana advocates about the bill, they had never heard of it.

According to the bill, SB 581 would not only put up the publicly available infractions and crimes applicants have done, but it would post them on either licensing authorities websites or through the California Cannabis Portal. Any and all documents having to do with actions taken against them would also be linked for anyone to view.

The bill has received support, passing the Senate 35-0 in May. Those supporting the bill have pointed out that this is all public information, that the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control have done the same thing for years, and that the ease of the system would lower the amount of requests that the current system of asking for applicant information receives.

Senator Caballero has those same reasons listed not only in the language of her bill, but also through her voting record on past marijuana and labor issues. For example, in 2017, she voted against AB 1578, which, if passed, would have prohibited state law enforcement from cooperating with Federal marijuana law enforcement. In the same year, her voting record was also decidedly pro-labor.

Labor groups have also been in favor, citing the need to be transparent about labor violations up front to protect workers.

“UFCW [United Food and Commercial Workers] members strongly supported Proposition 64 in 2016 because of the promise made to voters to bring the industry out of the shadows with strict oversight, transparency and accountability standards,” said Jacques Loveall, President of UFCW Local 8, over SB 581. “This legislation will help the public hold businesses accountable for truthful applications regarding lawsuits or their record of violating labor laws.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council is sponsoring this bill. The California Cannabis Industry Association opposes the bill.

But this bill is concerning to some marijuana applicants and business owners. Jason, a “budtender” in Santa Monica who is currently taking out a loan for his own hemp shop, voiced his concern. “We have guys trying to open their own shops that this would just devastate,” Jason told the Globe. “There was one guy who applied last year but chickened out at the last minute because he was afraid that somebody would dig and find a labor issue involving hiring migrants he had in Texas a few decades ago. He was that embarrassed about it, and I think he was afraid he’d be denied because of that. Now, if they were all out in the open, he wouldn’t have even applied. I can tell you that more than a few people who applied a few years ago probably wouldn’t have bothered if this was a thing then.”

Language that originally would have included criminal, felony, and misdemeanor convictions was taken out in previous amended bills. As the current bill stands, it would largely only list labor code violations and disciplinary actions

SB 581 is expected to quietly pass to the Governor later this week. If passed, the new law would be in effect in 2022.

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