The deadline next week for California lawmakers to introduce new cannabis bills is fast approaching, but several cannabis bills that stalled in 2023 remain in play.
The state’s current legislative session, which runs for two years, began in January 2023, and, as Cannabis Wire reported in September, more than a dozen cannabis bills reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk last year.
The legislative proposals that didn’t, however, have another shot in the coming months.
AB-420, for example, which aimed to rein in “intoxicating hemp products,” fizzled last year. As Cannabis Wire reported, the debate around the bill grew heated, including between the California Cannabis Industry Association and the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. The Roundtable called the Association’s support for new limits an effort to “impede on the hemp industry,” while the Association called the Roundtable’s position on hemp product potency “very concerning.”
But this week, the bill’s author, Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, has reintroduced the effort, with some new language, as AB 2223.
“We are greatly increasing enforcement at the state and local level,” Aguiar-Curry told Cannabis Wire.
And then there was a high-profile bill that did reach Newsom’s desk, but which he ultimately vetoed: AB 374. That effort, which would allow for food and live music in cannabis consumption spaces, is back as AB 1775. Newsom’s veto noted concern about the air quality in these spaces, and Nate Allbee, a legislative aide for Assemblymember Matt Haney, the bill’s author, told Cannabis Wire that they “heard the governor’s concerns,” and that the “good news” is that the latest air filtration technology should resolve them.
“One of the best things to come out of alcohol and bars is the music and the culture and the nightlife,” Allbee said. “And to completely have that separated from cannabis,” Allbee continued, “just doesn’t make sense to us.”
On the other hand, there were some closely-watched efforts that aren’t making a comeback. One of those bills, AB 766, aimed to address the issue of untimely payments in the industry, or what bill author Assemblymember Phil Ting called a “debt bubble.” A spokesperson for Ting told Cannabis Wire by email that the bill, as written, “would have injected state regulators into debt disputes between marijuana businesses. This would add to the duties of the [California] Department of Cannabis Control, taking away staff time from the licensure process. We don’t want to slow the licensure process. That’s why we are continuing conversations with stakeholders and considering if there is another approach we can take.”
While there’s still time for new bills to be introduced, here are some of the other noteworthy cannabis bills in play so far in 2024:
SB-820 – Author: Marie Alvarado-Gil
This bill, focused on enforcement, would allow regulators and local jurisdictions to “seize specified property in the place or building, or within any yard or enclosure, where commercial cannabis activity is conducted without a license required” under the state’s cannabis law. It would also allow them to “seize a vehicle used to conceal, convey, carry, deliver, or transport cannabis or cannabis products by or for a person engaging in commercial cannabis activity without that license.”
SB-285 – Author: Benjamin Allen
This bill would allow 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.” One major difference between this bill and AB 1775 is that SB 285, as written, doesn’t reference live music.
“When cannabis lounges are prohibited from serving fresh food, they are barred from an important revenue source that is available to bars that serve alcohol,” Sen. Allen told Cannabis Wire. “As we work hard to combat the illicit cannabis market, SB 285 can support these small businesses by correcting an unnecessary imbalance.”
SB-508 – Author: John Laird
This bill would aim to streamline regulatory requirements by eliminating the need for the Department of Cannabis Control to “serve as a responsible agency under [California Environmental Quality Act]” if “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 for which the applicant is seeking a license from the department is the same project as the commercial cannabis activity analyzed by the local jurisdiction under CEQA.”
Sen. Laird told Cannabis Wire last year that 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.”
AB-1111 – Author: Gail Pellerin
This bill would provide a boost to growers by requiring regulators 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.”
AB-1024 – Author: Cecilia Aguiar-Curry
This bill is multipronged, but it primarily would “permit specified registrants to store water for small irrigation use during times of high streamflow in exchange for those registrants reducing diversions during periods of low streamflow.”
In other words, it would allow growers to divert small amounts of water during the wet season so that they have it on hand for use in other parts of the year when diversion would disrupt the necessary water flow, for example, for vulnerable fish species.
AB-1610 – Author: Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.
This bill focuses on various aspects of quality control. It would require, for example, that labs that test cannabis products “be subject to blind proficiency testing to ensure consistency of results across laboratories,” and it would “subject testing laboratories to biennial, in-person 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, and would authorize inspections of licensed retail premises for these purposes.”
A spokesperson for Jones-Sawyer, Sr. told Cannabis Wire that the bill will be amended.