The California state legislature recently delivered more than a dozen cannabis reform bills to Governor Gavin Newsom just as the legislative session is set to end on Wednesday, September 7. The new bills address a host of issues related to California’s legal cannabis market.
One of the primary measures passed by the legislature ensures that Californians who have medical cannabis prescriptions are able to access delivery services. Currently, there are more than 300 localities in California that prohibit the sale of marijuana, which prevents patients from accessing the medical marijuana they are legally entitled to purchase. Under the new legislation, localities will no longer be able to ban medical cannabis deliveries, which will make it easier for patients to get the cannabis they need to treat pain or other conditions.
State Senator Scott Wiener (D), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement, “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.” A lack of access, he emphasized, causes patients to turn to the still-flourishing illegal cannabis market, which is not regulated and could pose health risks to patients. If patients can easily access delivery, they won’t have to go through the illicit market to obtain their medical marijuana.
Another bill that passed the legislature after several revisions protects most workers from being fired for using cannabis while they are not on the job. A measure that would hasten the process of sealing records for individuals who have previously been convicted on marijuana-related charges also passed the legislature. Other reforms that address cannabis-related issues, such as interstate commerce and veterinary care, were adopted as well.
Here is a brief summary of the latest series of cannabis bills and reforms to hit Governor Newsom’s desk:
SB 1186 – Senator Weiner’s bill bars localities from prohibiting the delivery of retail medical cannabis products to patients or their primary caregivers.
AB 2188 – This bill offers protections for workers who use cannabis outside of the workplace. It prevents employers from hiring, terminating, or penalizing workers just because they use marijuana when they are not on the job. Under this bill, most employers (aside from the federal government and construction companies) will no longer test employees for THC.
AB 1706 – This legislation sets up a specific window of time during which courts must seal records of individuals who have eligible cannabis convictions. Under this bill, courts must seal certain cases (specifically, cases that were not contested before July 1, 2020) by March 1, 2023.
SB 1326 – Although the state still needs official assurance that it will not incur the wrath of the federal government (cannabis remains illegal at the federal level), this bill will allow for interstate marijuana commerce between California and other states where cannabis is legal.
AB 2595 – This bill has to do with social worker visits. In the past, when a social worker was investigating allegations of child abuse, they could treat the parent or guardian’s use of cannabis differently than their possession of alcohol and prescription drugs. Under the new bill, cannabis possession would be treated in the same manner as alcohol and prescription medications.
SB 1496 – This bill concerns changes to California’s cannabis tax policy. It allows cannabis businesses more time to make tax payments in areas where the Governor has made an emergency proclamation.
AB 1954 – Physicians cannot deny care or medication to qualified patients who screen positive for THC if those patients are registered medical marijuana patients under this legislation. Healthcare providers also cannot be charged with a crime for treating medical marijuana patients who use cannabis lawfully.
SB 988 – Current California law allows registered medical cannabis patients to use cannabis products in certain healthcare facilities. This bill puts the onus on patients and caregivers to properly administer and store marijuana while they are in these facilities and prohibits them from leaving products behind when they are released.
AB 1885 – This bill has to do with cannabis and pets. Under this legislation, veterinarians can’t be penalized for prescribing cannabis as a treatment for pets. Marijuana products meant for pets will also be outlined and defined by state law.
AB 2568 – Under this bill, individuals and firms can’t be charged with a crime just for offering “insurance or related services” to anyone who has a commercial cannabis license.
AB 2210 – This bill bars the DCC (Department of Cannabis Control) from rejecting an application for a “state temporary event” just because a license has been issued in accordance with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act for the proposed site of the event.
AB 1646 – This bill simply allows cannabis beverage producers to package cannabis drinks in any type of material they choose. It also allows producers to use any color of material, including clear.
AB 1894 – This reform has to do with cannabis vape products. It requires vape producers to include instructions about proper waste disposal in their advertising and product labels and to warn consumers that failing to properly dispose of cannabis vape products would create hazardous waste.
AB 2925 – Beginning on or before July 10, 2023, this measure requires the California Department of Health Care Services to disclose how revenue from marijuana taxes is being distributed to the Youth Education, Prevention, Easly Intervention and Treatment Account.
Cannabis advocates expect the Governor to support the reforms passed by the legislature, as he has generally been very supportive of other cannabis reform bills, in addition to the legal market in California.
However, he has vetoed certain cannabis reforms in the past, including a measure that would have given cities permission to start safe consumption sites, with the goal of saving lives and helping drug users access the treatment they need. The bill was authored by Senator Weiner, who called the veto “tragic” and “a huge lost opportunity” in a statement on Twitter. The move was widely decried by advocates of harm reduction. Weiner also authored a bill that would have made it legal to possess small amounts of specific psychedelic drugs, but the bill was gutted in the legislature.
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