California’s legislative session is picking up steam, and a picture is beginning to emerge of which cannabis bills might reach the finish line this year.
The deadline for bills to clear the chamber in which they were introduced came and went on June 2, and more than two dozen cannabis bills didn’t make the cut. Still, dozens more – from allowing foods and non-alcoholic beverages in consumption spaces to limiting edibles that appeal to children – remain on track. (The state has a two year legislative session, so bills that didn’t meet the June 2 deadline are back in play in January 2024.)
One top priority for some of the state’s bigger players is stalled until next year. AB 766, sponsored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, aims to address unpaid debts in the cannabis industry by requiring, among other provisions, that invoices above a set amount be paid within a certain timeframe. The bill has support from the Cannabis Distribution Association, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, and several cannabis companies in the state, including Nabis, Kiva, Lowell Farms, Sunderstorm, CannaCraft, Glass House, and The Parent Company.
“For years, restrictions at the federal level have left our state’s legal cannabis operators with limited options for financing and capital. This has led to a severe debt bubble across the supply chain from cultivators all the way through to the retailers,” said Ting in a statement in May. “My legislation aims to bring much needed financial stability to California’s industry, while also ensuring that operators receive payment for goods and services in a timely manner.”
Eddie Franco, director of policy at Nabis, told Cannabis Wire that the coalition behind the bill “is working hard to finalize and publish our first iteration of findings around the collective debt and outstanding account invoices that operators are facing,” adding, “we hope this data can inform policies like AB 766, and spark conversations with state regulators through the remainder of the year to find potential solutions.”
On the other hand, one high-profile bill that has drawn opposition from some industry stakeholders, including Cal NORML, cleared the deadline.
Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s AB 1207, also known as the Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act, targets products that might be “attractive to children,” and would prevent, for example, “descriptors of flavors” for cannabis vapes. The bill has support from groups like the California PTA and the California Society of Addiction Medicine.
“The outrageous marketing and packaging of cannabis products so that they are intentionally attractive to children is one of the leading causes of pediatric cannabis exposures,” said Irwin in a statement in May.
Here are the other bills that are still in play:
Both bills aim to improve cannabis consumption spaces by allowing for “the preparation or sale of noncannabis food or beverage products, as specified, by a licensed retailer or microbusiness in the area where the consumption of cannabis is allowed,” and Haney’s bill would also allow for the sale of “tickets for, live musical or other performances on the premises of a licensed retailer or microbusiness in the area where the consumption of cannabis is allowed.”
“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” Assemblymember Haney told Cannabis Wire. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music. There’s absolutely no good reason from an economic, health or safety standpoint that the state should make that illegal. If an authorized cannabis retail store wants to also sell a cup of coffee and a sandwich, we should allow cities to make that possible and stop holding back these small businesses.”
SB-508 – Author: John Laird
This bill would remove some hurdles to licensure by lifting the requirement that the Department of Cannabis Control “serve as a responsible agency under CEQA” so long as “the local jurisdiction acting as lead agency under CEQA has filed a notice of determination for the commercial cannabis activity, or a notice of exemption for a retail commercial cannabis project, with the Office of Planning and Research following the adoption of a mitigated negative declaration or certification of an environmental impact report by the local jurisdiction, as specified, and the commercial cannabis activity that the applicant is seeking a license from the department for conforms to the scope of the commercial cannabis activity analyzed by the local jurisdiction under CEQA.”
“As the state strives to bring cannabis operators into the legal framework, it is apparent that various pieces of the legal framework have not had the desired outcomes,” Sen. Laird told Cannabis Wire. SB 508 “aims to ensure those trying to do the right thing by coming out of the shadows and into the legal framework can streamline and reduce the costs of obtaining an annual license from the Department of Cannabis Control.”
SB-540 – Author: John Laird
This bill would require regulators to evaluate, every five years, whether health warnings on cannabis product labels “reflect the state of the evolving science on cannabis health effects.” It would also require them to “create and post for public use a single-page flat or folded brochure that includes prescribed information, including, among other things, implications and risks associated with cannabis use” and would require the brochure to be displayed “at the point of sale in person or online.”
SB-51 by Author: Steven Bradford
In an effort to assist equity licensees, the bill allows cannabis regulators to “issue a provisional license for a local equity applicant for retailer activities, indefinitely, if the applicant meets specified requirements” and “to renew a provisional license for a local equity applicant for retailer activities until it issues or denies the provisional licensee’s annual license, subject to specified requirements, or until 5 years from the date the provisional license was originally issued, whichever is earlier.”
SB-512 by Author: Steven Bradford
The bill would reduce taxes at the retail level by excluding “from the terms ‘gross receipts’ and ‘sales price’ under the Sales and Use Tax Law the amount of the cannabis excise tax imposed under the Cannabis Tax Law and the amount of any tax imposed by a city or county on the privilege of engaging in commercial cannabis activity.”
AB-1111 – Author: Gail Pellerin
In an effort to assist small growers, the bill would “require the department to issue small producer event sales licenses that authorize the license holder to sell cannabis or cannabis products, containing cannabis cultivated by that licensee, at state temporary events licensed under the act.”
SB-302 – Author: Henry Stern
The bill expands Ryan’s Law, which requires “health care facilities to allow a terminally ill patient’s use of medicinal cannabis,” to include patients who are “over 65 years of age with a chronic disease, as defined.”
AB-1565 – Author: Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.
This bill would require for $15 million from cannabis tax revenue to go toward supporting “local equity programs in eligible local jurisdictions to assist local equity applicants and licensees gaining entry into, and to successfully operate in, the state’s regulated cannabis marketplace.”
SB-833 – Author: Mike McGuire
In an effort to provide cultivators with some flexibility while maintaining their license, this bill would require regulators to create a “cannabis licensing fallowing program for cannabis cultivators who choose to reduce or temporarily pause cultivating cannabis under their license.”
AB-1171 – Author: Blanca Rubio
The bill allows cannabis licensees to “bring an action in superior court against a person engaging in commercial cannabis activity without a license” as long as they can “demonstrate actual harm resulting from the unlicensed commercial cannabis activity.” It would also “authorize a court in that action to enter an order enjoining the defendant from engaging in commercial cannabis activity without a license. The bill would entitle a licensee prevailing in that action to actual damages, specified statutory damages not to exceed $500,000, and their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”
AB-623 – Author: Phillip Chen
This bill would “require the Department of Cannabis Control to establish regulations to adjust testing variances for edible cannabis products that include less than 5 milligrams of THC in total.”
For context, “existing law, for edible cannabis products, requires the certificate of analysis to report that the milligrams of THC per serving does not exceed 10 milligrams per serving.”
AB-420 – Author: Cecilia Aguiar-Curry
This bill outlines that, within the cannabis supply chain, state cannabis laws do “not prohibit a licensee from manufacturing, distributing, or selling products that contain industrial hemp or cannabinoids, extracts, or derivatives from industrial hemp, if the product complies with all applicable state laws and regulations.”
AB-993 – Author: Blanca Rubio
This bill is focused on worker protections and would “expand the task force on regulation of commercial cannabis activity to include representatives from the Civil Rights Department and the Department of Industrial Relations.”
AB-1610 – Author: Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.
The bill would require that cannabis regulators “maintain on its internet website a record of recall orders issued,” that testing laboratories “be subject to blind proficiency testing to ensure consistency of results across laboratories,” and it would “subject testing laboratories to annual audits by the department and would require the results of those audits to be posted on the department’s internet website.” It would also require regulators “to establish quality assurance standards and testing procedures for products available for retail sale, as specified, to ensure consistency with presale laboratory testing.”
SB-700 – Author: Steven Bradford
This bill would “make it unlawful for an employer to request information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis.”
AB-1616 – Author: Tom Lackey
For certain local grants made by the Board of State and Community Corrections using cannabis tax revenue, the bill would “prioritize local governments whose programs seek to address the unlawful cultivation and sale of cannabis” and would allow for grants to go to “local governments that ban both indoor and outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation, or ban retail sale of cannabis or cannabis products.”
SB-753 – Author: Anna Caballero
The bill expands penalties related to illegal cultivation’s impact on water and would “make it a crime for a person 18 years of age or older to plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process more than 50 living cannabis plants, or any part thereof, except as specified, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 6 months or by a fine of not more than $500, or both, or be charged with a felony, if specified conditions exist, including a violation of pesticide provisions, taking or using water from a conveyance or storage facility without permission, and extraction or use of groundwater from an unpermitted well or from a permitted well in excess of a restriction.”
AB-1684 – Author: Brian Maienschein
This bill, focused on local enforcement, would “expand the authorization for an ordinance providing for the immediate imposition of administrative fines or penalties to include all unlicensed commercial cannabis activity, including cultivation, manufacturing, processing, distribution, or retail sale and would authorize the ordinance to declare unlicensed commercial cannabis activity a public nuisance,” and would cap fines at “$10,000 per day.” It would also “authorize the ordinance to impose the administrative fine or penalty on the property owner and each owner of the occupant business entity and to hold them jointly and severally liable.”
AB-1126 – Author: Tom Lackey
This bill would clarify the Department of Cannabis Control’s enforcement powers by specifying “that a citation may be for a claim or representation of a product as licensed cannabis without a license, including the unlicensed use of the cannabis universal symbol.”
AB-1448 by Author: Greg Wallis
This bill is focused on enforcement against unlicensed cannabis activity, and would require that, “in an action brought by a county counsel, city attorney, or city prosecutor, the penalty first be used to reimburse the prosecuting agency for specified costs in bringing the action, with 50% of the remainder, if any, paid to the county or city, as applicable, and the other 50% to be deposited into the General Fund.”
SB-756 – Author: John Laird
This bill expands the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority with regard to inspections related to illegal cannabis cultivation.
AB-1024 – Author: Cecilia Aguiar-Curry
The bill aims to reduce diversion of water and also expand allowances for water storage.
AB-687 – Author: Gregg Hart
This bill would “require the track and trace program, if the sale of cannabis is conducted by delivery, to capture the ZIP Code of the delivery address.”
SB-622 – Author: Benjamin Allen
This bill makes minor changes to plant tagging requirements.