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California AG gives his opinion on interstate commerce.
In January of this year, the Department of Cannabis Control wrote to state Attorney General Rob Bonta to ask for an opinion on a bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in late 2022.
The bill would allow “the Governor to enter into an agreement with another state or states authorizing medicinal or adult-use commercial cannabis activity, or both, between entities licensed under the laws of the other state or states and entities operating with a state license pursuant to [the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act], provided that the commercial cannabis activities are lawful and subject to licensure under the laws of the other state or states.”
The letter to Bonta sought to answer one question: “Whether state law authorization, under an agreement pursuant to Chapter 25 of Division 10 of the Business and Professions Code, for medicinal or adult-use commercial cannabis activity, or both, between out-of-state licensees and California licensees, will result in significant legal risk to the State of California under. the federal Controlled Substances Act.”
Bonta’s answer, which was provided to DCC this week, in short? “Yes.”
This bill, if implemented, could “result in significant legal risk to the State of California under the federal Controlled Substances Act.” Further, the “law is also unsettled as to whether state officials could be federally prosecuted for implementing state law in this area.”
In a statement provided to Cannabis Wire, the DCC wrote that while they “appreciate” Bonta’s opinion, they applaud Newsom’s “leadership” on cannabis.
“We are grateful to Senator [Anna] Caballero,” the statement continued, referencing the bill sponsor, “and our partners in the Legislature for embracing that same visionary spirit. We look forward to continuing to pursue that vision.”
Cannabis Wire has asked DCC about next steps, and is awaiting a response.
Variscite strikes again (and again).
Remember Variscite NY One? One year ago, this entity filed the first in a wave of lawsuits against the state’s cannabis regulators. This particular group ended up blocking, for months, the awarding of CAURD licenses in particular regions of the state, as Cannabis Wire reported at the time. It ended in a settlement.
Now, Variscite NY Four and Variscite NY Five are suing regulators, arguing that the latest adult use licensing window violates the dormant Commerce Clause. (You can read the complaint here.)
They take issue with two primary things: first, with the requirement that a majority owner in a cannabis business had a cannabis offense in NY in order to qualify for “extra priority;” second, with the fact that the state’s map of Communities Disproportionately Impacted (or CDIs) only includes communities in NY.
As a result, they are seeking to pause the processing of adult use applications submitted during the window that was open from October through this week, and to pause any processing of CAURDs (except the ones that are open).
According to the complaint, Variscite NY Four and Variscite NY Five meet “every requirement” for “extra priority” except “the unconstitutional preferences for New York residents.”
This is the second time this month that the folks behind Variscite have gone after state regulators. They filed a suit against Washington regulators, also arguing that the state’s approach to social equity violates the dormant Commerce Clause. In fact, Washington regulators’ lawyers pointed out the pattern in their response, writing that it is not “the first challenge Peridot’s members have brought to a marijuana Social Equity licensing law on this same legal theory.”
(Peridot Tree is the other business that Variscite’s owners are behind. Across these cases, the two common names are Kenneth Gay and Jeffery Jensen.)
Public attitudes about cannabis-impaired driving risks clash with research.
Brown University researchers published an editorial in the journal Addiction that highlights the rising prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) and associated motor vehicle collisions following cannabis legalization in the US and other countries.
The editorial complements a recent five-year study that was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Existing research has found that “acute cannabis intoxication” is linked with a “statistically significant” jump in motor vehicle collision risk.
“Despite the unequivocal evidence that cannabis acutely impairs driving-related skills and increases risk, public attitudes toward DUIC are highly permissive in the United States and in Australia, particularly among medical cannabis users,” who often see it as safer than drunk driving, the authors wrote.
Researchers suggest the need for universal DUIC standards and effective policies, like alcohol-impaired driving laws, but hit head on the challenges with cannabis due to differences in cannabis pharmacology and the lack of reliable impairment detection methods.
“These challenges underscore the complexities in developing clear, consistent and enforceable policies to limit DUIC. The most promising approach would be behavioral assessment of impairment combined with a positive biomarker test,” researchers wrote.
“Ideally, this combination would use a ‘successive hurdles’ approach, where an initial step with high sensitivity to detect recent cannabis use would be followed by a more thorough assessment with high specificity to detect impairment. Although there are promising methods for such an approach, there are several problems that would need to be resolved prior to implementation.”