Uncertainty for health care, pot in the age of Trump

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – State Assemblymember Jim Wood has told the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that the presidential election of Donald Trump has brought “uncertainty” to California, with health care and marijuana regulation being two main aspects.

Wood, who represents the state’s North Coast district, was at the Dec. 13 Supervisors meeting to talk about his work and his goals. He highlighted the potential effects of Trump’s election and the changes it could bring, saying that the Affordable Care Act is in crosshairs and the effects of a total repeal could be drastic.

“If there is a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it will potentially be a $20 billion – with a B  – dollar hit to California and that will be really, really significant for safety net health programs throughout the state,” Wood said. “And as we know, in rural California, we’re already struggling to get adequate providers and adequate funding for care and this would be a huge, huge issue for us.”

Jim Wood

Another wildcard is how the feds will deal with state-level marijuana law. Trump has appointed Senator Jeff Sessions, who strongly maintains marijuana is harmful and shouldn’t be legal on any level, as the U.S. Attorney General.

“That’s got to leave a lot of people very concerned, certainly with medical cannabis,” said Wood.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg asked whether a federal mandate to back off of enforcement actions in states that have marijuana regulations in place “would protect us.”

Wood said the state’s medical marijuana industry would be “potentially” protected but he has doubts about recreational use.  “A lot of that is up to interpretation at this point,” he continued.

With recreational marijuana only being legal in eight states – compared to 28 states for medical – “there’s some question as to how aggressive the new administration will be on this issue and nobody really knows.”   State-level legal change may also have dramatic effects. The voter approval of Prop 64, which legalizes and sets forth a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana, has given rise to concerns about corporate control of the marijuana industry.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell asked how Prop 64 could affect Humboldt County “if it survives the federal change.”

Wood said he is concerned about the state’s allowance of a license that would allow for “unlimited-scale cultivation.” Actually approval of those licenses may not happen, he continued, but is possible.

He added that in some places in the state, larger-scale producers have already established themselves. Supply will be influenced by demand, however, and “I do have to wonder how much cannabis is the state going to produce – I don’t know what the need is out there, quite frankly,” he said.

Wood, who co-authored the state’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, said he is also concerned about how the medical and Prop 64 systems will mesh. He said that Prop 64’s “fine print” about the legislature not being allowed to contradict the intent of the initiative could be an opening for litigation.

Other issues highlighted by Wood included expanding broadband telecommunications access in rural areas, advancing a state program for transportation infrastructure improvements and supporting affordable housing.



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