In California, Which Cannabis Bills Made the Cut?

California’s cannabis industry is poised this year for its most significant transformation since adult use became legal in 2016. 

Already in 2021, the newly-formed Department of Cannabis Control launched in July, consolidating the regulatory authorities of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Public Health. It immediately put forth regulations for a bill passed last year that serves as a sort of state-level Act. The Department then released consolidated cannabis regulations in September. And this month, it opened the application window for $100 million in local grants, earmarked in the state’s 2021-22 budget, which is aimed at bringing the state’s unlicensed operators above board. 

And now, as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Oct. 10 deadline to act has arrived, he’s signed into law more than a half-dozen cannabis-related bills that will bring about even more sweeping changes.

One bill that proved contentious, though, was vetoed. AB 1302 would have amended to clarify 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.” Proponents argued it would restore some advertising protections provided by the state’s adult use law that were later challenged in a lawsuit, but opponents argued it would work against public health efforts.  

Another hot-button bill, though, made it over the finish line. AB 45 was arguably the most intensely watched bill of the session by members of California’s cannabis and hemp industries. It will allow hemp-derived CBD (or other cannabinoids) in supplements, foods, drinks, cosmetics, and pet food. Versions of the bill have failed to advance in recent years, but lobbying has been strong, and, as Cannabis Wire reported last year, included companies like Canopy Growth.

When the bill hit Newsom’s desk in September, Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry told Cannabis Wire that she authored versions of the bill over the years because she’d “grown increasingly concerned about the risk to public health from the sale of illegal, unregulated CBD products in our state.”

She added, “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.”

Here are other cannabis bills signed into law:

SB 311, known as Ryan’s Law, would require certain health care facilities to allow patients who are terminally ill to consume their medical cannabis in the facility. 

When the bill reached Newsom’s desk, 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 1305 is the first state legislation 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. 

Days before the bill was signed into law, Mark Isidro, Assemblymember Tom Lackey’s legislative director, told Cannabis Wire, that the exemption from state law that is outlined by the bill would “clear up the catch-22 that DEA-permitted researchers are in,” because “the federal government does not recognize any state cannabis system as legitimate.” 

AB 1138 will fine 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.

“California’s illicit cannabis market is out of control, being three times the size of the state’s regulated market,” Lackey, who co-authored the bill, told Cannabis Wire when lawmakers sent the bill to Newsom’s desk. “This bill allows enforcement officials to penalize those who assist the illegal market in jeopardizing the health and safety of our communities.”

SB 544 requires the Department of Cannabis Control to “establish one or more standardized cannabinoids test methods to be used by all testing laboratories,” by January 2023.

“While legal cannabis products are rigorously tested and are safe for consumption, the cannabis industry lacks uniform testing standards,” Sen. John Laird, sponsor of the bill, told Cannabis Wire in September.

Other bills signed into law include: AB 1222, a packaging bill that would “authorize cannabis beverages to be packaged in glass containers that are clear or any color;” SB 166, a bill that establishes waivers for licensing fees, among other provisions; and SB 292, which would amend the state’s hemp laws.

More In California, Which Cannabis Bills Made the Cut?