You win some, you lose some – Calif. Governor acts on cannabis bills
California Governor Gavin Newsom saw a flurry of activity over the weekend, signing several bills into law—and vetoing a few others. Much of the legislation centered around cannabis, including efforts to open Amsterdam-style cafes and new regulations around packaging.
While Gov. Newsom took action on a number of bills, here’s a snapshot of a few of the wins and losses for the plant medicine space.
Signed into law: permission for seniors with chronic illness to use medical cannabis in health facilities
SB 302, aptly named the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act, ensures that people with serious health conditions over the age of 65 can use medical marijuana in assisted living facilities and other home-based agencies. Previously, only patients with terminal illnesses were permitted to use cannabis in these environments.
“Many individuals with chronic diseases seek medicinal cannabis as an alternative to opioids for treatment of chronic pain, and their living situation should not be a barrier to access,” Gov. Newsom said in a signing message.
While the bill stops short of allowing medical cannabis in hospitals, it does help broaden access for thousands of Californians who may benefit from the plant.
Vetoed: cannabis cafes
When the California Assembly overwhelmingly approved AB-374, the state’s cannabis community celebrated. But it all came screeching to a halt when Gov. Newsom decided to put the kibosh on so-called “Amsterdam-style” cannabis cafes.
The bill, which would have allowed cannabis retailers to prepare and serve non-infused food and drink and provide open consumption space, was vetoed over concerns about California’s “smoke-free workplace protections.”
Signed into law: a ban on employers asking prospects about past cannabis use
As more states legalize cannabis and stigmas around the plant erode, more employers are leaving marijuana drug testing out of the recruitment process. Even the U.S. armed forces allow newcomers to clean out their systems if they fail initial drug screens.
SB 700 will protect prospective employees in California from being asked about their cannabis consumption habits. The bill comes one year after Gov. Newsom approved legislation that prevents employers from punishing staff who consume cannabis off the clock. There are exceptions to the laws, particularly for people in construction or certain federal agencies.
Vetoed: new cannabis packaging requirements
Cannabis brands in Cali can breathe a sigh of relief now that Gov. Newsom has axed legislation that could have had far-reaching impacts on the industry. AB 1207 would have created a new definition for cannabis packaging deemed “attractive to children.” Cartoon-y drawings, people, animals, mythical creatures, and even fruits and veggies would all have been banned if the law were to be signed.
Given the multi-colored cannabis branding landscape, the bill would have created a massive headache for operators who would have been forced to overhaul their catalogs.
“While I deeply appreciate and agree with the author’s intent, I am concerned that the definition of ‘attractive to children’ used in this bill is overly broad,” Gov. Newsom declared in a statement. “By prohibiting entire categories of images, this bill would sweep in commonplace designs, and I am not convinced that these additional limits will meaningfully protect children beyond what is required under existing law.”
RELATED: The problems with cannabis packaging
Signed into law: eliminating single-use plant tags in cultivation facilities
Sustainability scored a W this weekend when Gov. Newsom put his John Hancock on SB-622. The bill addresses the current track-and-trace method for cannabis plants, specifically the use of disposable plastic tags. With thousands of plants grown annually, the waste adds up quickly.
The bill doesn’t actually outline what growers should use instead of plastic tags, but digital solutions could be an eco-friendly option.
Vetoed: decriminalization of plant-based psychedelics
While not a cannabis bill, SB-58 would have had far-reaching implications in the plant medicine community. The legislation was poised to decriminalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and DMT throughout California and would have made The Golden State the third in the nation to enact reform.
The news isn’t all bad for proponents. In this veto message, Gov. Newsom asked the Legislature to re-work the bill to include therapeutic guidelines before sending it to his desk once again.
“I am…committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place,” he said.
California continues to be closely watched by stakeholders nationwide who see the state setting the bar for what’s to come in other communities. While some of the Governor’s actions may have surprised certain constituents, it’s clear what’s on the table for the next legislative session.