Comments on California's New Science and Health Laws

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It's approaching 2017, which means Californians have a raft of new laws to worry about. Some are outside the scope of the American Council on Science and Health, they are just pure social engineering. But some matter because other states sympathetic to California's aggressive stance on controlling science and health choices will lobby to do the same, in order that the Golden State won't be alone in showing "leadership." (a) (b)

Here are the big changes, in no particular order.

1. Felons can vote, and more people have to be let out of jail if they have a drug conviction, except for people possessing these drugs.

The police have been unhappy that Californians had gone soft on crime by downgrading drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor (activists for Proposition 47 made it seem like everyone in jail for drugs was for personal marijuana possession) so the legislature gave them something back - if someone possesses flunitrazepam, ketamine, GHB, etc. (date rape drugs) and can be proved to have had had intent to commit a sexual crime, rather than actually committing a crime, the drug possession is again a felony.

Governor Jerry Brown refused to sign the Bill, since he had just signed a law to let felons vote and let a lot out of jail who were convicted of drug possession, but it became law because he did not veto it. 

2. Prostitution is no longer a crime - if you're under 18. There is no question that prostitution is a health risk for the participants, so it may seem odd to decriminalize it for minors (they can't even buy cigarettes, but they can sell sex?) but the new law makes them victims of sexual trafficking and so won't be arrested. Pimps will be just as hard to convict, but now even the assets can't be removed.

Another law removes mandatory minimum sentencing for both prostitutes and johns.

3. California gives a gigantic subsidy to Mylan. Though anaphylaxis is rare, parents have been scaremongered into believing every allergy will lead to death, and so they must keep a supply of EpiPens - which contain an easy-to-use epinephrine autoinjector for severe allergic reactions - everywhere; at school, at the homes of grandparents, anywhere they might go. With a panicked market, and FDA taking its bureaucratic time in approving competitors, Mylan took advantage and raised the price.

California Governor Jerry Brown has given them a new revenue gift and signed a new law making them legal to stockpile just about anyplace. Want hyperbolic critical media coverage of your business? Have a business where a child has an allergic reaction, or a parent claiming one, and be without an EpiPen. Despite the fact that Mylan was just criticized for price-gouging by raising the price 400 percent, California has rewarded that Big Pharma company with an incredible government-endorsed marketing opportunity.

4. California hates Big Pharma, but then makes it easier to bypass FDA approval. Can patients with terminal cancer give informed consent? Maybe, maybe not, but the state has passed a new Right To Try, which only requires that patient's get two doctor signatures before they can try an experimental medication. This is in defiance of debate at the national level, which recognizes there are already mechanisms in place for compassionate use of drugs that lack approval.

FDA approval is an over-long, increasingly expensive process that has resulted in no increase in safety, but California is now putting the onus on companies to deny patients an unapproved medication that could get the company sued if things go wrong. It may seem like California is being pro-patient here but they are clearly being anti-science in the policy and anti-business in its implementation.

5. New car seat rules for kids go into effect. The American Council on Science and Health advocated early for national seat belt laws so obviously there is nothing wrong with that, but mandating that parents of toddlers throw out their car seats and replace them with rear-facing versions, with no evidence it will save any lives, is an assault on the poor, which number in the tens of millions in California. Then again, obesity is correlated to socioeconomic factors, so if those poor people have really obese kids, they are exempt.


(a) Three non-science ways California did show an actual liberal, rather than social authoritarian, tendency; Senate Bill 443 removed the ability of the state to commit "asset forfeiture" if a federal investigation occurs. Now, the state can only steal private property if there is over $40,000 in cash. For state cases, someone actually has to be found guilty before their property can be stolen by the government.

Another way they showed a tendency toward freedom was prohibiting companies from discriminating against Jews, a tenet of the progressive movement that has called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions of businesses that do business with Israel. Since California simultaneously argues that a business can't discriminate against gay people, it seemed strange to allow discrimination against a religion, so the state compromised and said a bidder for a state contract must claim they don't discriminate. It's self-certification and has no teeth, but at least it provides a veneer of equality, tolerance and diversity.

Finally, since felons in California can now vote, and California is throwing criminals out of jail, it seemed stupid to penalize taking a picture with a voting ballot - clearly a note of civic pride - with possible jail time. Yet that's exactly what the law said. Assembly Bill 1494 makes it now legal to take a selfie photo with your ballot.

(b) And one way we are the same old California. A new law makes it legal for state employees to refuse to travel to states such as North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee that refuse to let people pick their own gender. And even if state employees don't refuse, California will refuse to reimburse the business expenses.