After months of speculation, California’s marijuana regulators have released a draft of their final regulations for state’s burgeoning cannabis industry, following a seven month period where the state was operating under “emergency regulations.”
Last Friday, California released its final rules for every aspect of the cannabis industry and commenced a 45-day public comment period. There are plenty of hits and misses in the plan. For example, advocates are excited to see the elimination of certain unneeded redundancies in paperwork for duly licensed companies providing to both the recreational and medical markets, but simultaneously are much less excited about the exit bag requirement.
Perhaps the most unexpected rule in the regulations is a ban on giant vaporizers that could be used to dispense cannabis in the air throughout an event’s premises. At the very least, this means you won’t be able to smoke blunts and legally have a giant vape cannon on the same premises in California anymore.
Overall, multiple experts told Cannabis Now that they were pleased with the new regulations, after seeing a lot of what they were looking for in the new guidelines from the Bureau of Cannabis Control. According to the California Cannabis Industry Association, the regulations are favorable to cannabis businesses because the industry attempted to stay as involved in the drafting process as they could be.
“The reciprocal educational process that California’s cannabis industry has been involved in with our state’s licensing authorities is paying off,” CCIA Communications and Outreach Director Josh Drayton told Cannabis Now. “CCIA has taken the emergency rule-making process as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between cannabis operators and our regulating bodies. We’ve hosted tours of commercial cannabis facilities for lawmakers and regulators, providing an opportunity for the state to engage with the industry and create solutions that streamline operations for businesses while prioritizing public safety and health.”
Adult-Use and Medical Industries to Coexist
In Drayton’s eyes, one of the biggest challenges faced by the California cannabis industry in this new era was over the “adult” or “medical” designations that companies were receiving.
“The A or M designation was causing bottlenecks in the supply chain, was doubling application and licensing fees and was crippling an industry that is trying to come into compliance,” said Drayton. “CCIA worked tirelessly at the State Capitol to merge the A and M designation, which we saw in the re-adopt of the emergency regulations. Although this change happened prior to the release of the draft regulations, we believe that this change will benefit all sectors of the industry.”
Drayton said CCIA is currently focused on critically examining all of the changes in the draft permanent regulations, “but we are receiving positive feedback from our membership on a few of the key changes.”
The nation’s oldest dispensary, Berkeley Patient Group, was one of the many retail organizations whose staff spent their weekend pouring over the regulations. We asked BPG’s Director of Government Affairs Sabrina Fendrick how satisfied she was with what she saw on a scale of one to ten.
“About a seven and a half,” she said, though she noted this was her preliminary reaction. “It was really good to see A licensees can work with M licensees — that will be good for moving more product through the supply chain since there is already a shortage of licensees due to local regulations and local prohibitions. Having the separation of only having to work with either A or M licensees would have further hindered the supply chain.”
Fendrick said the adult-use market and medical market should be treated similarly, except at the cash register because “it’s the same product moving all the way through and it saves on administration costs.”
Environmental Concerns Over Exit Bag Requirement
Drayton hit on the controversial topic of exit bags and gave the manufacturers perspective and why they were happy to see that language included.
“Our manufacturers have voiced strong support for child-resistant packaging requirements being met at the retail level with opaque exit packaging,” said Drayton. “The emergency packaging requirements have left many manufacturing companies struggling to come into compliance on a very short timeline. This suggested change will streamline packaging operations for all companies.”
While Drayton admitted to understanding the environmental concerns on exit bags, he said they’re a temporary solution and everyone involved in the process needs to continue the conversation on how to create reasonable child-resistant packaging standards “that don’t wreak havoc on the environment.”
According to page 9 of the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s regulations, “The exit packaging will make it more difficult for young children to gain access to the commercial cannabis goods.” But it would hard to see how that argument would work at events where vendors will also be forced to use the exit bags, despite no children being on the premises. In those cases, you’ll be able to rip the bag open and spark the contents legally without moving at all.
Fendrick said she was the least excited to see the BCC mandate that dispensaries put all products in resealable childproof exit bags. “Aside from the fact it’s a complete 180 from what we’ve been working off of and trying to educate manufacturers and cultivators on what was compliant, I think the environmental concerns that come from every single dispensary having to put products in an exit bag is going to be… We don’t even know what kind of environmental repercussions this is going to cause,” she said.
Fendrick said when she asked BPG’s director of operations how many exit bags they were going through a month, he told her that they were using a pallet.
“It takes a forklift to move a pallet, and that’s one dispensary in one month,” said Fendrick.
Cannabis Delivery Allowed Statewide
Another notable rule in California’s final regulations is the fact that local municipalities won’t be able to ban cannabis delivery services.
“This final interpretation will formally give patients and consumers the access to cannabis that they voted for in Prop 64,” said Drayton. CCIA had previously supported SB 1302, which would have done the same thing, but should the regulations hold up, the bill wouldn’t be necessary.
Jesse Stout, a cannabis industry attorney on the San Francisco State Cannabis Legalization Task Force, agreed that access for all Californians to cannabis at their doorstep was a big victory.
“The bureau’s proposed regulations also add a new subsection… that says ‘a delivery employee may deliver to any jurisdiction within the State of California,’” Stout said. “Some local jurisdictions had wanted to prevent Californians from receiving deliveries at their own homes; I am optimistic that this change will deter such prohibitions.”
Stout was also pleased to see the Bureau of Cannabis Control clarify the requirements for cannabis companies to demonstrate compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“The emergency regulations previously required some license applicants to prepare CEQA compliance documentation, without specifying whether or how the bureau would approve it,” Stout said. “The proposed regular regulations spell out exactly what information these applicants will need to give the bureau, and the standards for the bureau to evaluate this information.”
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