While California’s legislative session is underway, with several cannabis bills under consideration, another way to take a temperature check of cannabis stakeholder priorities is to turn to the state’s Cannabis Advisory Committee.
The Committee held its second meeting of 2023 this month, and its third since its 17 new members were selected late last year, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time. The membership represents diverse stakeholders, from those focused on cultivation to those focused on public health, and provides recommendations each year to the state’s Department of Cannabis Control.
At the December meeting, Christina Dempsey, DCC’s deputy director of policy and research, outlined priorities for 2023, including: supporting “craft and legacy” farmers, supporting “small and equity operators,” and getting more localities involved with licensing businesses to help combat unlicensed cannabis sales. Today, a majority of California’s cities and counties do not allow for cannabis sales.
So, half-way through 2023, where do things stand?
One big step toward that last goal came to fruition in June with the first distributions from the Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant Program. Eighteen jurisdictions, or, as DCC put it in its announcement, “areas where national surveys find high cannabis consumption but where there is little to no access to legal cannabis retail,” received a total of $4 million. The CAC contributed recommendations to the DCC on grant guidelines and eligibility.
Meanwhile, the CAC’s subcommittees have produced more than a half dozen recommendations this year for the full CAC to take up with the DCC.
The Cultivation subcommittee put forth two recommendations, and both were adopted as is. One asks DCC to allow growers to “fallow all or a portion of their mature plant canopy area” in such a way that the “fallowing request may be retracted should the cultivator choose to plant.” Another asks for “a simple and immediate pathway that allows a cultivation license holder to reduce the type and/or size of their cultivation license permanently without requiring a new application submittal or a new application review process,” as long as it doesn’t result in any new development or environmental impacts.
With regard to fallowing, Senator Mike McGuire’s SB-833 would, if it clears the legislature and is signed into law 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,” as Cannabis Wire recently reported.
Two of the Equity subcommittee’s recommendations were also adopted. One asks DCC to collect certain data about cannabis license owners, which includes anyone who owns 10% or more of a license. The recommendation was amended to include two new items – “sexual orientation” and whether the person was subject to previous “seizures, detensions, and raids” – alongside things like “race” and “education level,” as well as lengthier inquiries like “how did you raise capital and how much equity did you give up, how difficult was it to find compliant real estate, and how many properties did you pursue before securing one.” Another recommendation calls on DCC to “assess the retail shelf space devoted to social equity brands.”
Three of the Laboratory subcommittee’s recommendations were adopted, including one that was amended to add the word “unadulterated” and to read: “That DCC regulations require a distributor or laboratory to hold a specified amount of unadulterated cannabis or cannabis product for confirmation testing.”
And an amended version of the Public Health & Community Impact subcommittee’s recommendation was adopted. It calls for the DCC and the California Department of Public Health to “convene a balanced expert scientific task force exempt from conflicts of interest (i.e., no financial interest) to review the scientific literature on the issue of increasingly high THC potency of adult use cannabis products and to make public health recommendations to cannabis regulatory agencies and to the public.” (The words “adult use” were added as an amendment.)
The recommendation also asks that this be a DCC “priority” and that the review be completed within a year. Another amended clarified that any recommendations that result from the review could be revised “as new data or evidence comes to light.”
The Medicinal Use subcommittee has also met, but has not yet made any recommendations. Three subcommittees have not yet met: Licensing, Track and Trace, Manufacturing (ad hoc), and Finance (ad hoc).
The full CAC has two more meetings scheduled for this year, in September and December.