Another series of California marijuana bills—including one to ensuring that medical cannabis patients across the state have access to delivery services—are heading to the governor following last-minute votes in the legislature ahead of Wednesday’s end-of-session deadline.
In the past several weeks, about a dozen cannabis reform bills crossed the finish line in Sacramento, pending action from Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
One of the latest developments is the passage of legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D) that would prohibit localities from banning medical cannabis deliveries in their areas—a move that advocates say will both improve patient access and help fill voids throughout the state where no cannabis license types have been authorized.
“With over 300 California cities banning any and all sales of cannabis, millions of Californians are effectively blocked from purchasing legal medical cannabis,” Wiener said in a press release on Wednesday.
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“We must ensure everyone who needs access to medical cannabis has access—that includes seniors, people living with cancer, HIV and other chronic or life-threatening illnesses,” he said. “Otherwise, people have to turn to the illicit market, which creates safety risks and undermines the regulated, legal market. This is not an acceptable situation, which is why we need to ensure that everyone can access medical cannabis delivery.”
Advocates were also especially pleased to see a measure providing employment protections for most workers who use marijuana off the job clear the legislature on Tuesday, after earlier versions stalled in committee in past sessions.
Also earlier this month, a key reform to streamline record sealing for people with eligible marijuana-related convictions passed the legislature.
Another passed measure would set the state up to allow interstate cannabis commerce. The sponsor of that legislation, Sen. Anna Caballero (D), said in a statement on Tuesday that “California can and should lay the groundwork for a multi-state legal cannabis market, which will benefit our rural economy and our workers and put a dent in the dangerous illicit market.”
California is leading the way to create more trade opportunities for the emerging legal Cannabis market. SB 1326 will give California a competitive advantage and it’s on its way to the Governor’s desk! https://t.co/wyBbwLwkkN
— Anna Caballero (@CASenCaballero) August 30, 2022
An additional bill that was passed this week and is now moving to the governor would amend the state’s medical cannabis law to authorize marijuana products for non-human animals and protect veterinarians who issue cannabis recommendations for pets.
But while these measures have received ample attention from advocates and stakeholders, Newsom will have his hands filled as more enacted bills make their way to his desk in the coming days.
Here’s a rundown of the recently passed marijuana bills that are on the way to the governor:
SB 1326: Caballero’s measure would set the stage to allow for interstate marijuana commerce from California to and from other legal states, contingent on an official assurance that the activity would not put the state at risk of federal enforcement action.
AB 2188: Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s (D) bill would “make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person” solely because of off-duty marijuana use. It would eliminate employment-based THC testing, with exceptions for certain positions, such as federal employees or those working in construction.
SB 1186: The bill from Wiener would “prohibit a local jurisdiction from adopting or enforcing any regulation that prohibits the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers by medicinal cannabis businesses.”
AB 1706: Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s (D) legislation is meant to enhance justice reform provisions of the state’s marijuana law by mandating the courts to process record sealing and other forms of relief for people with eligible cannabis convictions on their records in a specific timeframe. Courts would have until March 1, 2023 to seal records for qualifying cases that weren’t challenged by July 1, 2020.
AB 1885: The bill from Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D) would prohibit regulators from penalizing licensed veterinarians who recommend medical cannabis for animals and revise state law to include definitions for marijuana products intended for animal consumption. The Veterinary Medical Board would also be required to create guidelines for veterinarian cannabis recommendations.
AB 2568: Sponsored by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D), the bill would “provide it is not a crime solely for individuals and firms to provide insurance and related services to persons licensed to engage in commercial cannabis activity,” according to a summary.
AB 1954: From Quirk, the legislation would make it so doctors could not discriminate against patients by denying medication or treatment based on a positive THC test if the person is a registered medical cannabis patient in the state. It further stipulates that medical professionals couldn’t be penalized for administering treatment to a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law.
SB 988:The legislation from Sen. Ben Hueso (D) would amend an existing law that requires certain California medical facilities to accommodate medical cannabis use by registered patients. It would specify that it the responsibility of patients and caregivers to obtain, administer and adequately store cannabis products—and also remove them from the facility after a patient is discharged.
AB 1646: This bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Phillip Chen (R), would “authorize cannabis beverages to be packaged in containers of any material that are clear or any color.”
AB 1894: Assemblymember Luz Rivas’s (D) bill would add advertising and labeling requirements for cannabis vaporizer products, stipulating that they should be properly disposed and would constitute hazard waste if thrown away improperly.
AB 2210: Another bill from Quirk would prohibit state marijuana regulators from “denying an application for a state temporary event license solely on the basis that there is a license issued pursuant to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act for the proposed premises of the event.”
AB 2925: This measure from Jim Cooper (D) would mandate that the State Department of Health Care Services submit reports to the legislature, starting no later than July 10, 2023, that accounts for cannabis tax revenue that has been distributed to the Youth Education, Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment Account, as required under the state’s marijuana law.
Newsom has a long record of supporting marijuana reform and backing the state’s market, so he’s generally expected to sign these measures. But despite his record, he recently vetoed a key piece of drug policy reform legislation from Wiener that would have authorized a safe drug consumption site pilot program in the state—a move that’s prompted widespread criticism from the harm reduction community.
San Francisco officials have since signaled that they’re prepared to defy the governor and launch an overdose prevention program regardless of the veto.
In another disappointment for reform advocates, a separate Wiener bill that would have legalized possession of limited amounts of certain psychedelics was recently pulled by the sponsor after its main provisions were gutted, leaving just a study component that advocates say is unnecessary given the existing body of scientific literature on the subject.
Here’s an overview of other recent drug policy developments in California:
Last month, California officials awarded more than $1.7 million in grants help promote sustainable marijuana cultivation practices and assist growers with obtaining their annual licenses. A total of $6 million will be allotted through the program, which was first announced in August 2021 and will remain open for applications through April 2023.
Regulators also recently announced that they are soliciting input on proposed rules to standardize cannabis testing methods in the state—an effort that they hope will stop marijuana businesses from “laboratory shopping” to find facilities that are more likely to show higher THC concentrations that they can then boast for their products.
Meanwhile, California officials are distributing another round of community reinvestment grants totaling $35.5 million with tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales.
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced last month that they’ve awarded 78 grants to organizations throughout the state that will support economic and social development in communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The amount of funding and number of recipients increased from last year’s levels, when the state awarded about $29 million in grants to 58 nonprofit organizations through the CalCRG program.
California has taken in nearly $4 billion in marijuana tax revenue since the state’s adult-use market launched in 2018, the Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) reported late last month. And for the first quarter of 2022, the state saw about $294 million in cannabis revenue generated from the excise, cultivation and sales tax on marijuana.
The state collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the last fiscal year. That represented 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the 2020-2021 period.
California officials also announced in January that the state had awarded $100 million in funding to help develop local marijuana markets, in part by getting cannabis businesses fully licensed.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.