Legislators weigh in on drugs, tribal rights
With a new legislative session well underway, local legislators have had their hands full addressing the rising costs of drugs, cannabis taxation and regulation and Native American tribal rights, amid other issues with regional implications.
According to a press release, Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), who has been vocal over the last few months about the tight timelines associated with Proposition 64, will chair a Senate Governance and Finance Committee hearing next week intended to address cannabis business taxes, implementation of California’s cannabis tax collection system and the “track and trace” system, which verifies cannabis taxes and product safety, all in anticipation of the structure for cannabis that is being developed and slated to go live on Jan. 1.
“The California cannabis industry is worth an estimated $7 billion, and we’re only bringing in a small fraction of taxes,” McGuire said in the release. “The state is due about 20-30 percent. The state’s tax collection system is not in place and it will be near impossible to get it up and running by the new year.”
The hearing is on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol in Sacramento and will be live-streamed at senate.ca.gov. Topics include current and future tax compliance rates, obstacles and hurdles retailers will face as they come into the system, how the state’s Board of Equalization will handle the influx of hundreds of millions of dollars and how the state intends to sign up growers and cannabis-related businesses to start paying their mandated taxes, amid other areas of discussion.
“Proposition 64 put a massive requirement on state marijuana regulators and very little time to accomplish the landslide of rules and regulations mandated by the initiative,” said McGuire. “Some departments who have been working on the licensure issue for the last year may well be ready by Jan. 1, 2018. But we have to face the facts- it’s not realistic that all of the Prop. 64 rules and regulations will be in place by the new year.”
Also on Tuesday, the second of three informational legislative hearings on prescription drug costs will focus on the fiscal impact prescription drug costs have on public and private payers and explore how these sectors buy prescription drugs while educating the public on drug pricing trends, according to a release from District 2 Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg).
“Our first hearing covered the economics of drug pricing and an overview of the pharmaceutical supply chain,” said Wood, chairman of the Assembly Healthy Committee. “This hearing will cover how rising drug costs are affecting small businesses, large employers, hospitals and government programs and what these organizations are doing to control costs.”
Wood said this year Americans will spend more than $328 billion on prescription drugs. He added that of that amount, individuals will pay $50 billion out of pocket, while the federal government will pay $126 billion.
The hearing brings together organizations like Kaiser Permanente, CalPERS, Los Angeles County and others to hear options they use to control costs. Dr. Jeffrey Hoch, who spoke at the first hearing in October, is scheduled to present emergency policy issues to the discussion. It will be broadcast on The Califorina Channel at calchannel.com
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) along with members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter to President Donald Trump this week, blasting his administration’s approval of a final easement to build the Dakota Access Pipeline and their failure to consult with Native American tribes, according to a press release.
“This decision was made without appropriate tribal consultation, a full environmental review or sufficient due process,” Huffman said in the release. “This blatant disregard for federal law and our country’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native American tribes is unacceptable. We strongly oppose this decision and any efforts to undermine tribal rights.”
Huffman added that he, along with a number of his legislative colleagues, has repeatedly expressed his concerns with the tribal consultation and permitting process and has called not only for consultation with tribes but also for substantive reviews of the environmental and social impacts, as well as potential alternatives.
“Granting this easement without meaningful tribal consultation, nor proper review of environmental impacts,” said Huffman. “Is unlawful and morally unacceptable.” The letter urges the president to immediately reverse the decision and to follow established procedures required for tribal consultation, environmental law and due process.
He said Army Corps of Engineers policy mandates that it wait 14 days after notifying Congress that it intends to grant an easement of this nature before actually doing so.
The pipeline is projected to carry 500,000 barrels of oil underneath the Missouri River each day. The oil crosses the river at Lake Oahe, a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Lake Oahe and the Missouri provide drinking water for the tribe and surrounding regions, as well as providing habitat for fish and wildlife. The lake is also a sacred site for the Standing Rock Sioux, playing a vital role in sacred ceremonies.
Signing the letter in addition to Rep. Huffman are Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-3), ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources; Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08) and A. Donald McEachin (VA-4).