Friday marked the deadline for introducing bills in Sacramento, and based on those that have been introduced, it appears that some members of the Legislature are wary of California's licensing authorities' intent to create robust regulations. With the fall also bringing another election cycle for members, some seem to be doubling down on their efforts to help the cannabis industry, perhaps to gain additional support from their current or future cannabusiness constituents. Whatever their reasons, California has several new interesting bills to watch this cycle.
- Industrial hemp: Senator Wilk's SB 1409 looks to ease administrative restrictions on hemp cultivars, which could help boost the hemp industry if passed.
- California Cannabis Bank: While the offices of Treasurer Chiang and Attorney General Becerra investigate the feasibility of creating a public bank for cannabis, Senator Bob Hertzberg is looking to establish one through legislation. His SB 930 does not yet outline a specific plan yet, but this is certainly one to keep an eye on.
- Marketing and Advertising: One of the hottest issues this year has been about advertising and marketing for cannabis products; many stakeholders believe the current regulations are not stringent enough. AB 3067 (Chau) and AB 2899 (Rubio) look to strengthen the law by further clarifying prohibitions on cannabis marketing to minors, and mandating that advertisements include the licensee's number, respectively.
- Premises, redefined: Assemblymember Gipson is proposing to allow for common use areas, such as break rooms, hallways, and bathrooms to be shared across licensed premises with his AB 2980. The bill changes the definition of “premises” to include the contiguous area in which a license will be exercised, per business' application and for which a separate license is required, which may alleviate some of the challenges with applications for licenses on the same property.
- Sales at temporary events: AB 2641 (Wood) gives a nod to the traditions of cannabis festivals and similar events by allowing cultivators and manufacturers to apply for a temporary retail license, permitting them to sell products at a specified temporary event.
Other legislation to keep an eye on are spot bills like AB 2721 (Quirk) and AB 2555 (Cooley), which are placeholder bills that do not contain any substantive changes to the law. The authors may amend the language in the future to propose other ideas for the cannabis industry. Based on the oversight hearing held by the Assembly Committees on Business and Professions, Agriculture, and Health on February 20, issues like lowering the state tax to allow local governments more flexibility in their tax structure, increasing enforcement, and altering track and trace requirements may come up as new bill ideas.
But legislators aren't the only ones who have been busy. The volunteer members of the state's Cannabis Advisory Committee have their hands full with a tough job: in March, after less than a handful of meetings, they will be formally submitting recommendations to the state's licensing authorities on changes that should be made to California's current cannabis regulations. It is unlikely that these regulations will be altered for a while after they are set in stone later this year – the timing of which has yet to be released by the licensing authorities – which means that the committee's recommendations are very important. While the committee has no statutory authority to change the state's laws and regulations, its influence should not be underestimated. Many members have a great deal of experience working with the Governor's office, state and local authorities, and the Legislature to move policies considered heavy lifts. Members have formed subcommittees to discuss specific topics on the regulations. After their first meeting on February 13, all but the testing laboratories subcommittee have elected to meet again on March 1 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento. All the subcommittee meetings are open to the public. Members have listened closely to public comment in previous meetings, so if you can attend and help them with their recommendations, you should! The state still needs a lot of education to get these final regulations right. Make sure to look out for agendas here.