The Week(s) Ahead: 5 Marijuana Bills California Lawmakers Are Considering — and Why They Should Pass

The Week Ahead is Monterey Bud’s weekly column focusing down on the most pressing cannabis policies, issues, and discussions. Each Monday, Monterey Bud brings his voice to comment on the marijuana industry and the politics of cannabis from the perspective of a weed apostle. This week, Monterey Bud presents part 2 of California’s upcoming legislative schedule, and provides us with the five bills to keep an eye on

Still in a state of uncertainty and experiencing growing pains, California’s cannabis industry has received a new set of rules since the state legislature adjourned on July 6, 2018. The state’s three state licensing authorities – the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Health — have each published their proposed draft regulations. Released on Friday, July 13, 2018, the suggested rules provide a noteworthy clue on the general direction state regulators are taking for what is projected to be the world’s largest marijuana market.

The Week Ahead highlights five critical bills under consideration by California lawmakers when they reconvene on August 6, 2018

1. Let’s Agree On the Terminology

A bill to amend sections of the Business and Professions code, AB 2555 would eliminate ambiguity with regards to specific terminology within the cannabis industry. Additionally, the proposed bill would require identifiers be issued only for “mature cannabis plants.”. AB 2555, in addition to the other 17 bills, are scheduled to receive a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The new definitions proposed in AB 2555 provide all stakeholders a clear, concise meaning for much of the common terminology utilized within within the state’s rapidly growing industry. By creating state-approved definitions, regulators are eliminating any ambiguity between the state licensing authorities, the industry, and consumers.

More often than not, semantics matter. When all are working from the same definitions, there is less room for confusion, conflict, and chaos. Because California will attempt to simplify the identification of permitted cannabis plants and provide a set of universal definitions for the industry, I believe this bill should ultimately pass.

2. California Bureau of Cannabis Control Temporary Event Licensing  

AB 2641 proposes allowing the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) to issue temporary event licenses for marijuana sales and consumption at county fairs and local agricultural events, with some restrictions.

While the bill would authorize the BCC to issue temporary state licenses under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), it would also prohibit the issuance of any license in those jurisdictions that had not specifically approved the event first.

Temporary event license restrictions:

  • Only a valid licensee may obtain a temporary events license.
  • A city, county, or other local jurisdiction must first authorize the event.
  • Cannabis consumption area is restricted to adults ages 21 or older.
  • All marijuana consumption must be shielded from public view.
  • And, most importantly, the sale of alcohol or tobacco would be prohibited.

Less problematic than alcohol consumption, particularly at public events, marijuana would not only reduce the potential of black-market sales at the county fair, it could significantly increase the overall “chill” factor during the next agricultural hootenanny. An underdeveloped revenue source for smaller marijuana businesses, by creating a streamlined temporary event license for compliant businesses, this legislation opens the door for many boutique marijuana brands. While it may be awhile before we see Marijuana Gardens replace Beer Gardens at the Monterey County Fair, AB 2641 would certainly get my vote.

3. Marijuana Advertisements and Suspended Licenses

Under AB 2899, marijuana businesses with a suspended license would be prohibited from publishing any advertisements or making available any marketing materials for cannabis or marijuana-related products.

Parameters for California marijuana ads:

  • Marijuana advertisements must refrain from making false or untrue statements.
  • Marketing of marijuana shall be consistent with labeling.
  • Representation of regional marijuana shall carry appellation of origin in ads.
  • Billboards shall not advertise marijuana along a freeway or highway in California or crossing the state border.
  • Marijuana advertising shall not target anyone younger than 21.
  • Marijuana shall not be advertised within 1,000 feet of any day-care facility or K-12 school campus.

Passed unanimously by the Assembly and the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee over the summer, AB 2899 heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee, in which it seems more than likely lawmakers will follow suit. In the brave new world of legal marijuana, it makes perfect sense to me: no license, no ads, no marketing.

4. Cannabis-Infused Alcoholic Beverages

AB 2914 would prohibit a licensed alcohol distributor from selling cannabis or cannabis products, including cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages. The proposed legislation would require the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to suspend or revoke licenses of violators.

Making beer or cocktails with cannabis, it turns out, is still a major problem with the state’s elected officials – primarily because the federal government still considers cannabis a Schedule I narcotic. As more beer companies jump into the cannabis mix in Canada, breweries in California will have to wait for now. In order to not disrupt California’s growing marijuana industry, I believe this legislation should pass as a means of safeguarding the state’s progress.

5. Dual-use Cannabis Production in Common-use Areas

AB 2980 would mandate that provisions of the MAUCRSA not be interpreted to prohibit two or more licensed premises from sharing common-use areas, as long as all licensees comply with the requirements of the act. Under the bill, the MAUCRSA would require all applicants for a cannabis license provide a detailed diagram of the proposed premises where  the businesses would share space in common.

This is another pro-industry bill that will effectively reduce overhead for some startup marijuana companies. Marijuana-startups — already in an industry that is expensive, competitive, and fraught with financial liability — would save money by sharing the cost of common areas. Passed by an overwhelming majority in the State Assembly and by the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, this bill makes sense for the state’s news industry. Pass it.

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