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California Seeks to Enforce Separation of Cannabis and Alcohol

Under these clarified regulations, one may not enjoy a joint and a beer in the same public place.

A.J. Herrington

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California Seeks to Enforce Separation of Cannabis and Alcohol
CBD cocktails at a San Diego bar; A.J. Herrington/ High Times

California regulators have issued an advisory that delineates a clear separation between cannabis and alcohol in the state. The memo from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) on the Cannabis Portal website was published on July 25. The advisory is a list of frequently asked questions received by the ABC, and the department’s responses.

Dual Licenses OK

The first question the memo addresses is whether a person can hold both a license to sell alcohol and a license to grow, sell, or process cannabis. The ABC advises that this permissible—neither the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act or the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) preclude holding both types of licenses.

However, holding the two licenses is apparently all that is allowed under the rules. The ABC has ruled that combining business operations in several specific ways are all not allowed under the regulations.

No Pubs With Pot

Under the regulations, alcohol and cannabis license holders are not permitted to conduct both businesses at the same location, so enjoying a beer and a blunt at a bar is out.

“The MAUCRSA (Business and Professions Code section 26054) states that the holder of a license issued under the MAUCRSA ‘shall not sell alcoholic beverages or tobacco products on or at any premises licensed under this division,’” the notice states.

Bars and other businesses licensed to sell alcohol are not allowed to permit their customers to bring and use their own weed, either. Public consumption of any cannabis products, including edibles and vaporizers, is not allowed under California law. And since any premises with a license to sell alcohol is legally defined as a public place, consumption is not permitted. The restriction applies at all times, even after hours or during private functions. That means food, wine, and cannabis pairing events are not allowed at ABC licensed establishments.

No Cannabis Cocktails, Either

California regulations also prohibit license holders, both manufacturers and retailers, from mixing or infusing alcoholic beverages with cannabis. The memo offers two reasons for that ruling. First, because cannabis cannot be sold at an ABC-licensed business, any product with both alcohol and cannabis is not allowed.

“Second, regulations issued by the California Department of Public Health prohibit the sale of “edible cannabis products” as alcoholic beverages,” the advisory notes.

Hemp CBD Is Out, Too

Although many bars in California have been offering cannabidiol cocktails made with “legal” hemp CBD, that practice is also now off-limits.

“ABC licensees may not manufacture, produce, or sell CBD or CBD products, or any products that contain CBD. It does not matter if the CBD comes from industrial hemp or from cannabis,” states the memo. “This also includes non-alcoholic beverage products and edibles. It is thus prohibited for an ABC licensee to use CBD or CBD products, regardless of source, in the manufacture or production of any alcoholic beverage, including using it in mixed drinks or cocktails.”

But Is the Info Reliable?

Although the advisory is an attempt by regulators to clarify matters surrounding alcohol and cannabis, the introduction warns that the information given shouldn’t be relied upon as the final word on the issues.

“The following frequently asked questions and responses are intended to offer some guidance,” the advisory reads. “This is not intended to be a comprehensive review of what may be permitted or prohibited. You should obtain independent legal advice before engaging in business involving either alcoholic beverages or cannabis, and you should not act in reliance on any information presented herein.”

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