Graphic by Julia Meyer
The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom (D), signed a set of cannabis-related bills recently, enacting 10 new laws for the state. Nearing the end of the legislative session, the legislature delivered several measures for Gov. Newsom to approve including setting up California to allow interstate cannabis commerce, providing employment protections for cannabis consumers, facilitating record sealing of prior convictions, and preventing localities from blocking medical cannabis deliveries.
Newsom said in a press release the reforms to the state’s cannabis laws were necessary to fulfill promises of legalization and continue to redress the collateral effects of prohibition. “For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach,” Newsom said in a press release. “These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the Legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California.”
Despite California making significant strides since legalizing cannabis in 2016, local opposition, rigid bureaucracy, and federal prohibition proceed to create challenges for the industry and consumers. With this new set of bills, Gov. Newsom is calling on legislators to enhance efforts to address and eliminate these barriers.
Introducing Interstate Commerce
Since cannabis is federally prohibited, this poses automatic restrictions on the capacity for the industry to expand at a national-level. With the new bills signed by the Governor, California will be able to set up a pathway to participate in the cannabis industry nationwide.
One of the more significant measures passed, SB 1326, was introduced by Sen. Anna Caballero (D) allowing for interstate cannabis commerce. Caballero’s bill will permit interstate commerce from California to and from other legal states, reliant on an official assurance that this activity would not put the state at risk of federal law enforcement action.
The measure will provide an avenue for the state to transport cannabis products to other legal states without federal penalty, giving California the opportunity to grow its expansive industry. With more states participating in the legal industry, California has more opportunity to exchange goods at a time when federal prohibition remains.
Protection Against Employee Mandated THC Testing
Another notable reform Gov. Newsom approved, AB 2188, prohibits employers within the state to face a penalty for off-duty cannabis use. Introduced by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D), the bill will “make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person,” solely because of off-duty cannabis use.
Quirk’s measure will also eliminate employment-based THC testing within the state.
There are exceptions for those working certain positions, such as federal employees or construction workers.
Expunging Cannabis Convictions
As a way to further reverse the damage of prohibition, one of the bills enacted aims to enhance justice reform provisions in California. Sponsored by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D), AB 1706 will mandate the courts to process record sealing and other forms of relief for people with qualifying cannabis convictions on their records in a specific timeframe. Under the bill courts have until March 1, 2023 to seal records for eligible cases not challenged by July 1, 2020.
Bonta said in a press release, “It is unimaginable and unacceptable that years after we legalized cannabis, Californians are still waiting to get their records cleared,” she said. “We promised this to tens of thousands of Californians, and to date, we have fallen short of that promise. My bill finally provides that relief and guarantees individuals are not denied opportunities to succeed in life because of minor cannabis records. We have a moral obligation to get this right.”
Other Notable Reforms
In addition to making cannabis more accessible nationally, another piece of legislation signed last week will make medicinal cannabis easier to acquire within the state. Drafted by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), SB 1186 prohibits localities from banning medical cannabis deliveries in their areas.
The bill from Wiener would “prohibit a local jurisdiction from adopting or enforcing any regulation that prohibits the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers by medicinal cannabis businesses.” This is a move that advocates say will both improve patient access and fill vacancies in the state where no cannabis license types have been authorized.
“This is a victory for seniors, and for those living with HIV, cancer, and other chronic illnesses who use medical cannabis,” Wiener said in a press release. “Finally, patients in rural areas—who have to drive for hours or rely on the illegal cannabis market to access their medicine—will be able to get cannabis delivered right to their door. Thank you, Governor Newsom, for helping us ensure anyone who needs it can access this life-saving medicine.”
In addition to increasing accessibility, other measures that Newsom signed include proposals to amend the state’s medical marijuana law to authorize cannabis products for non-human animals and protect veterinarians who prescribe cannabis recommendations for pets. Bills to revise labeling and advertising rules for cannabis vaporizers were also enacted.