California Cannabis Department Proposes New Regulatory Changes

The California Department of Cannabis Control is proposing a variety of new changes to “streamline and simplify” the state’s cannabis industry.
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The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) announced on March 4 that it was releasing a list of changes to the state’s regulations on cannabis. According to a press release, these changes intend to “streamline and simplify” existing cannabis regulations, as well as “enhance consumer protections and make permanent changes that are currently in effect as emergency regulations.”

According to DCC Director Nicole Elliot, these changes are a reflection of the intention of the department to continue bettering the state’s cannabis programs. “This proposal is a direct result of DCC’s engagement with stakeholders and the thoughtful feedback received through letters, conversations, meetings and previous rulemaking processes,” said Elliott in a press release. “We are deeply [committed] to creating a cannabis regulatory structure that works for all Californians, including California’s cannabis industry, consumers and communities.”

This most recent round of regulation proposals also marks the beginning of a 45-day public comment opportunity, which will end on April 19, 2022. Public comments can be sent via email, or presented during a live hearing on two different days: March 23 and April 19. The DCC also held a webinar on March 3 to educate viewers on the rulemaking timeline, and how to share feedback.

The proposed changes can be read in their entirety here, which includes a variety of suggestions, ranging from video surveillance and sale of live cannabis plants, cannabis event requirements, certificate of analysis and much more. The DCC summarizes some of these key changes to include no longer requiring distributors to have paper copies of product test results, allowing pre-packaged food and beverages for sale at consumption lounges, ingredient restrictions for inhaled cannabis products, and a ban on medical devices or applicators such as “nasal sprays, eye drops or metered-dose inhalers.”

According to an article written by cannabis attorney Hilary Bricken, “Unlike other states, California hasn’t implemented sweeping changes to its cannabis regulations with immense impacts on the industry,” Bricken wrote. “Instead, it has adopted a series of emergency rules with substantive changes here and there since 2018.”

“The DCC’s changes appear to be technical fixes and more consolidation rather than huge regulatory shifts,” she continued. “The DCC states in its Initial Statement of Reasons that the need for these rules is to ‘consolidate, clarify, and make consistent’ licensing and enforcement regulations across all of California’s cannabis license types.” Bricken goes into further detail with some of the highlights of these changes as well, choosing 15 different points of interest.

If approved, these regulations are expected to go live in Fall 2022. Emergency regulations that were established in September 2021 would also be permanently adopted as well.

California has a few bill proposals in the works currently, exploring some other necessities of the industry. On February 15, Assemblymember Bill Quirk introduced AB-2188 which would end workplace discrimination for positive drug tests when cannabis metabolites are detected. “The bill would make it unlawful for California employers to penalize or discriminate against a person when making decisions about hiring, termination, or other aspects of employment if the discrimination is based on the person’s off-duty cannabis use or the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites revealed in an employer-mandated drug screening,” said Attorney Lauren Mendelsohn of the Law Offices of Omar Figueroa in an email to High Times.

In January, Assemblymember Mia Bonta sponsored a bill that would require courts to update any cases relating to cannabis convictions. “California made a promise. I’m focused on making sure that California keeps its promises,” Bonta said. “This bill would allow us to automatically seal qualifying cannabis criminal records.”

As for overall performance of California’s cannabis industry, the Americans for Safe Access annual “State of the States” review rated California as a “C+.” With high marks in “Consumer Protection and Product Safety” (154/200) and “Program Functionality” (85/100) and lower marks in “Affordability” (40/100), ranking it average among states in the country.

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