California Governor Vetoes Smoking Ban at Beaches and Parks

Published on October 9, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
It's now legal to possess and enjoy cannabis, privately, in Arizona. (Julia Sumpter for Leafly)

Beachcombers might be split over some of Governor Moonbeam’s recent moves. Late last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a pair of bills that would’ve banned smoking and vaping on nearly 300 miles of state beaches and in 280 state parks.

“If people can’t smoke even on a deserted beach, where can they?” Brown asked in his veto message, calling the measures overbroad and noting that monetary penalties could’ve totaled hundreds of dollars after mandatory assessments.

A violation that would’ve carried a $100 fine under one measure could have climbed to $485 after court assessments were factored in, the governor said. “There must be some limit to the coercive power of government,” he wrote.

Brown’s veto of the two bills may cheer cigarette smokers more than cannabis consumers, however. As Tom Angell at Marijuana Moment points out, public consumption isn’t permitted under the state’s cannabis laws.

It’s the second year running that Brown has snuffed out the Legislature’s proposals to ban smoking and vaping on the state lands. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar measure in 2010.

This session’s bills—Assembly Bill 725, by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae), and Senate Bill 386, by Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda)—would have applied to both cigarette and cannabis consumption, as well as the use of vaporizers.

Supporters said the bills were aimed at reducing health and environmental harms. “This bill would reduce the serious health hazards posed by smoking—to people and wildlife—in our state parks and beaches,” Glazer told the LA Times. “It would reduce fire hazards and litter and the costs for those now borne by the public.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, cigarette butts are the biggest source of litter collected during environmental cleanups, particularly along the coast. Discarded cigarette butts can also pose health threats to wildlife.

One of the measures, SB 386, was endorsed by numerous national and local interest groups, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, California Fire Chiefs Association, Save the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, March of Dimes, and San Francisco Baykeeper. The groups supported the legislation on the grounds it would reduce secondhand smoke exposure, decrease waste on public lands, and prevent the damage and costs of wildfires.

Scott St. Blaze, a Los Angeles surfer who wrote SB 386, told the Mercury News he was frustrated by Brown’s opposition to the bills. Many of the state’s coastal cities have already passed local bans, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, though enforcement is far from consistent.

“I don’t know what his deal is,” he said of the governor. “Jerry Brown is not stupid. He’s an intelligent man. I’m not quite sure why he did this. It was a good piece of legislation. It was good for the environment and it is going to save the taxpayers quite a bit of money.”

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Ben Adlin
Ben Adlin
Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin
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