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Regulations for Recreational and Medical Cannabis Industries Updated in California

california state flag on cannabis background

Since recreational cannabis was legalized earlier in the year, the state has been “operating under a set of emergency regulations” to enable cannabis-selling businesses to operate legally and be governed without the risk of any federal oversight. These emergency regulations were obviously not intended to be permanent, however. With the regulations scheduled to expire in the spring of 2018, officials were feeling the pressure to make some sort of official decision on it. And, last Friday, decide they did; the temporary rules, barring a few small changes, will remain in effect for six more months. The California Department of Public Health (DPH), the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (DFA), the three agencies responsible for this decision, made it based on the information they’ve gathered from the first four months of legalization, along with input from stakeholders.

Since medical has been legal since 1996 and recreational has only now become legal, it’s understandable that the medical cannabis industry would operate under a different set of regulations; they’ve had more time to develop and establish a system that works. One of the adjustments made to the current regulations was made to help merge these two industries, “mak[ing] it easier for canna-businesses to get involved in either aspect of the sector.” In the past, if a business wanted to dabble on both the medical side and the recreational side, they’d have to submit both a medical license and an adult-use license, paying two fees. Thanks to the slight update to the regulations, businesses can now apply for both licenses by submitting only one application and paying only one fee. As if this wasn’t already a great and much-needed change, the BCC also decided to make it even easier for all business owners and lower the cost of the annual fee for the license.

Some regulations pertaining to cannabis deliveries were also updated with the change. The BCC decided to increase the amount of cannabis products each vehicle is allowed to transport. They can now carry $10,000 worth of product, $7,000 more than the previous $3,000 limit, but they’re also now required to return to a physical location to restock their products, hoping to put an end to the “ice cream truck model” for delivery.

The new regulations will be formally adopted after a five day period wherein the public has a chance to respond to the regulations and state any potential problems or complaints. Once the new regulations are in place, the three agencies will be gifted with six months to plan out and draft the final regulations for the cannabis industry in California. Hopefully, that will allow them enough time to sort through everything.

There are a few things that went unaddressed with the updates made to the regulations. For instance, after July 1, only lab-tested products can be sold; the new regulations don’t address what will happen with the product that isn’t lab-tested. Will they allow distributors to test previously untested cannabis in the hopes they can still sell it? Or will it be destroyed after the July 1 changes are implemented? It would certainly be more efficient and lucrative to retest the products, but only time will tell what path officials will take.
Another issue remaining unsettled is that of free samples of cannabis products in dispensaries. In the original emergency regulations, free samples were banned as an advertising restriction. However, the issue expands beyond just advertising, as dispensaries are concerned about providing medical marijuana to the poor for free, so they still have access to their medication. This also presents a question of equity with which officials will have to deal.

The issues that remain unaddressed will have an effect on the regulations officials draft for the end of the six month period, as they are important concerns to handle. However, the updates have given them an extra 180 days to address these issues, formulate solutions, and draft updated regulations.

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