No state has a longer history with legal cannabis than California. Voters in the state passed a medical cannabis initiative, in 1996, followed by an adult use initiative two decades later. During each legislative session since then, lawmakers have spent time hammering out proposed changes to the state’s cannabis laws.
While California’s latest legislative session ended on Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom has until October 10 to sign bills into law, which this year includes a batch of cannabis and hemp-related bills. These pieces of legislation will guide everything from the state’s sprawling cannabidiol market to new efforts to curb illicit activity.
Already, Newsom has signed significant cannabis-related bills into law. This includes the budget, signed into law this summer, which pushed forward the consolidation of the state’s cannabis regulation under the newly formed Department of Cannabis Control, increased allocations from cannabis tax revenue to $629.1 million, and allocated $100 million from the state’s general fund toward “grant funding for local governments to complete environmental studies, license reviews, and mitigate environmental impacts,” among other changes. This latter funding proposal is an “effort to transition cannabis businesses into the regulated market and to reduce barriers to entry for small businesses,” which remains one of the overarching priorities as the state tries to build up the regulated market while quashing its enduring unregulated one.
Another bill that Newsom signed into law, AB 1305, in late August, is the first in the nation to draw a distinction between cannabis cultivation that is regulated under state law, and that which is newly authorized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. In short, the exemption from state law that is outlined by the bill would “clear up the catch-22 that DEA-permitted researchers are in,” Mark Isidro, Assemblymember Tom Lackey’s legislative director, told Cannabis Wire, because “the federal government does not recognize any state cannabis system as legitimate.” Lackey is the sponsor of the bill.
Here are some of the most closely watched cannabis and hemp bills that are now awaiting Newsom’s signature.
AB 45 is a consumer protection bill that has been intensely watched by members of California’s cannabis and hemp industries. It requires that makers of food and dietary supplements that contain industrial hemp to register with the State Department of Public Health and to show that all hemp components came from producers that are compliant with “an established and approved industrial hemp program.”
Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, sponsor of the bill, told Cannabis Wire that she authored bills “over the past three years to provide a regulatory framework for the legal sale of non-intoxicant hemp CBD products because I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the risk to public health from the sale of illegal, unregulated CBD products in our state. My constituents have unwittingly been consuming these products for years and I wanted to provide regulated, tested alternatives and the jobs and economic activity that will come with this new law.”
AB 1138, a bill that aims to curb the illicit cannabis market by fining those “aiding and abetting unlicensed commercial cannabis activity” up to three times the cost of a cannabis license fee, but no more than $30,000 total, is headed to Newsom’s desk.
Lackey told Cannabis Wire that he co-authored the bill because “California’s illicit cannabis market is out of control, being three times the size of the state’s regulated market. This bill allows enforcement officials to penalize those who assist the illegal market in jeopardizing the health and safety of our communities.”
SB 311, known as the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law, would require certain health care facilities to allow patients who are terminally ill to consume their medical cannabis in the facility.
Bill sponsor Sen. Ben Hueso told Cannabis Wire, “It is inconceivable to me that, in a state where medical cannabis was legalized more than 25 years ago, those in deepest suffering receiving treatment in our state’s healthcare facilities cannot access this proven, effective, and prescribed treatment. Instead, terminally-ill patients in California healthcare facilities are given heavy opiates that rob them of their precious last moments with family and friends. This is a simple, yet critical, move that will provide relief, compassion and dignity to terminally-ill Californians.”
AB 1302, which is headed to Newsom’s desk, would amend the law so that a license holder cannot “advertise or market on a billboard or similar advertising device located within a 15-mile radius of the California border on an Interstate Highway or on a State Highway which crosses the California border.”
This is another bill that the state’s cannabis industry has been closely eyeing, as advertising remains a high hurdle for many companies, and this bill would restore some advertising protections provided by the state’s adult use law that were later challenged in a lawsuit.
SB 544, which would require the Department of Cannabis Control to “establish one or more standardized cannabinoids test methods to be used by all testing laboratories,” by January 2023, awaits Newsom’s signature. Cannabis testing standardization is also part of the Department of Cannabis Control’s most recent Strategic Plan.
Sen. John Laird, sponsor of the bill, told Cannabis Wire that “currently, there is no requirement for standardized testing of cannabis products under existing law. While legal cannabis products are rigorously tested and are safe for consumption, the cannabis industry lacks uniform testing standards.”
He added that he “hopes” Newsom will sign the bill into law.
“Establishing greater uniformity and consistency around cannabis testing is vital to California’s growing cannabis industry,” Laird said.
AB 1222, a packaging bill that would “authorize cannabis beverages to be packaged in glass containers that are clear or any color,” is headed to Newsom’s desk.
SB 166, a bill that requires the Department of Cannabis Control to create a program that provides waivers for cannabis application, licensing, and renewal fees that are required by law, is headed to Newsom’s desk.
SB 292, which awaits Newsom’s signature, would amend the state’s hemp laws through a number of provisions, from creating new hemp testing requirements to changing the makeup of the state’s Industrial Hemp Advisory Board.