Senator Wiener’s Legislation to Restore Access to Medicinal Cannabis Across the State Passes Senate Business and Professions Committee

April 4, 2022

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s Senate Bill 1186, which restores voter-created access to medical cannabis across the state by requiring cities to provide consumers access to purchase medicinal cannabis, passed the Senate Business and Professions Committee by a vote of 8-3. It now heads to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

Cannabis is an important and life-saving medicine for many people, including those who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, arthritis, neurodegenerative disorders, and numerous other illnesses. Everyone deserves access to the medicine, including medicinal cannabis. SB 1186 restores this access for all Californians.

“Access to medical cannabis is both a health and equity issue, which is why we need to ensure everyone who needs this medicine — including seniors, those living in rural areas, and those living with chronic illness — has access,” said Senator Wiener, “No one should have to drive two hours or buy from the illegal market in order to get their medicine. That’s unacceptable and undermines the will of California voters. SB 1186 ensures that every Californian can access medicinal cannabis, either at a store or by delivery.”

The California Cannabis Industry Association is sponsoring SB 1186, and California NORML is supporting the legislation. 

Under current California law — which arguably allows cities to ban any and all cannabis sales — 62% of cities have banned all cannabis sales, including medical cannabis sales. As a result, residents of those cities, including people living with HIV, cancer, arthritis, insomnia, and other conditions, frequently have no option other than to buy on the illicit market. California’s thriving and growing illicit cannabis market both undermines the legal, regulated market and risks people obtaining contaminated cannabis.

To address this significant medical access problem, SB 1186 requires cities to allow some form of medical cannabis access. Cities can choose how to provide that access, either by authorizing medical cannabis delivery, storefront, or both. However, under SB 1186, cities will no longer be able to ban all medical cannabis access.

To be clear, SB 1186 does *not* in any way change cities’ ability to limit or ban sales of adult use of cannabis. Prop 64, passed by the voters in 2016, grants cities that local control. But Prop 64 did not speak to medical cannabis — which the voters legalized in 1996 via Prop 215 — and the Legislature’s decision to grant cities that local control was not required by any voter measure. Indeed, the Legislature’s grant of power to cities to ban medical cannabis undermined the voters’ intent in passing Prop 215. Prop 215’s core goal was to create legal access to cannabis as medicine.

California was the first state in the country to allow medical use of cannabis with the 1996 approval of Proposition 215. This voter initiative, driven largely by caretakers and activists seeking palliative therapies for AIDS and cancer patients, led to a cascade of state medical cannabis legalization efforts nationwide, as well as recognition that cannabis is essential medicine.

SB 1186 prioritizes patient health by allowing patients to access licensed stores or licensed deliveries in their area, and by prohibiting jurisdictions from enacting unreasonable restrictions on these businesses. Under SB 1186, local jurisdictions retain all of their local control over adult-use (non-medicinal) cannabis businesses. This bill simply prevents jurisdictions from prohibiting all forms of medicinal retail and therefore preventing patients from accessing the medicine they need.

By doing so, SB 1186 respects the voters’ intent and ensures that Californians throughout the state have timely and convenient access to safe, effective, and affordable medicinal cannabis and cannabis products.