California lawmakers delivered a slew of marijuana and psychedelics bills to the governor as the session came to a close last week, and now the question is: will he sign, veto or allow them to take effect without his signature?
More than a dozen drug policy reform measures have been sent to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in recent weeks. The governor has long championed marijuana legalization and taken steps to support the industry, but his position on each of the individual measures is currently unclear.
One piece of legislation that advocates are paying particularly close attention to is a proposal to legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of certain psychedelics for adults 21 and older, while also taking steps to develop a regulatory model to access them for therapeutic or facilitated use.
While Newsom’s stance on cannabis legalization is clear, he’s stayed silent on the psychedelics issue. A spokesperson told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that he will make a decision based on the “merits” of the bill.
Other key proposals that the legislature has advanced to his desk include measures to prevent employers from asking job applicants about marijuana use, legalize cannabis “cafes,” promote environmentally sustainable track-and-trace plant tagging, allow patients 65 and older with chronic diseases to use marijuana at health care facilities, add cannabis packaging and labeling restrictions and revise marijuana testing requirements, among others.
The governor has until October 14 to decide how he wants to handle each bill.
Here’s an overview of the drug policy reform bills that are now before the governor:
SB 58—Sen. Scott Wiener (D): The bill would legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of psilocybin, DMT and mescaline for adults 21 and older. It would also establish a work group under the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to study and make recommendations on establishing a regulatory framework to access the substances for therapeutic and facilitated use.
SB 700—Sen. Steven Bradford (D): The legislation would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about prior marijuana use—a policy that would build on existing employment protections enacted last session that bar employers from penalizing most workers for using cannabis in compliance with state law off the job.
AB 374—Assemblymember Matt Haney (D): This measure would legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval. It would further explicitly authorize “live musical or other performances on the premises of a retailer or microbusiness licensed under this division in the area where the consumption of cannabis is allowed, and the sale of tickets for those performances.”
SB 622—Sens. Ben Allen (D) and Juan Alanis (R): The bill would change how marijuana plants must be tracked in a way that supporters say will promote environmental sustainability by eliminating the use of single-use plastic tags. While it doesn’t provide specific examples of alternatives to the plastic identifiers that are currently used to track marijuana plants, supporters say that regulators would have discretion to implement ecologically sound policies such as digital tags.
SB 302—Sens. Henry Stern (D), Carlos Villapudua (D), Marie Waldron (R) and Scott Wiener (D): The bill would add people 65 and older who have serious chronic illness to use medical cannabis at health facilities, including “home health agencies. Currently only terminally ill patients are afforded that right.
AB 1021—Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D), Isaac Bryan (D) and Corey Jackson (D): This proposal says that, if the federal government reschedules any Schedule I drug, California health professionals will automatically be able to legally prescribe and dispense it. This could be especially relevant to the psychedelics psilocybin and MDMA, which have been designated as breakthrough therapies by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are expected to be approved for medical use as early as next year.
AB 1171—Assemblymembers Blanca Rubio (D) and Matt Haney (D): The measure would give marijuana business licensees the right to pursue legal action against unlicensed cannabis businesses in state superior court if they can prove damages resulting from the operation. Currently, regulators and law enforcement are the primary arbitrators of enforcement against the illicit market, so this would give private licensees the means to independently seek intervention.
AB 1207—Assemblymembers Jacqui Irwin (D), Josh Lowenthal (D) and Kevin McCarty (D): The legislation would codify a new definition for marijuana product packaging that is considered “attractive to children” and therefore prohibited. It would specifically ban the use of images such as “cartoons, toys, or robots,” “any real or fictional humans,” “any fictional animals or creatures” and “fruits or vegetables, except when used to accurately describe ingredients or flavors contained in a product.”
SB 753—Sens. Anna Caballero (D), Megan Dahle (R), Brian Dahle (R), Melissa Hurtado (D) and Henry Stern (D): This legislation would make it a felony offense for adults who plant, cultivate, harvest or process more than six cannabis plants in a way that intentionally or “with gross negligence” causes “substantial environmental harm to surface or groundwater.”
AB 623—Assemblymember Phillip Chen (R): Existing California law requires THC variance testing of cannabis edibles containing 10 mg of THC per serving, and products that contain 10 percent more or 10 percent less THC than 10 mg must be destroyed. That standard means that even lower THC products such as cannabis beverages with 5 mg of THC will fail the variance test, so this bill would require regulators to develop “appropriate testing variances” for low-THC products.
AB 1126—Assemblymembers Tom Lackey (R) and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D): The legislation would prohibit the unauthorized use of a universal cannabis symbol for commercial purposes and authorize the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) to seize products that feature the symbol without authorization as contraband.
AB 1448—Assemblymember Greg Wallis (R): Under this bill, a portion of civil penalties that are collected following enforcement action against unlicensed marijuana businesses would be transferred from the state general fund to local treasurers in jurisdictions that brought the action against the illegal operators.
AB 1684—Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D): This would make it so administrative fines and penalties that local officials can impose against certain violations by unlicensed cannabis cultivators could also be applied to unlicensed marijuana manufacturers, processors, distributors and retailers.
SB 51—Sens. Steven Bradford (D) and Michael Gipson (D): The legislation would allow people who qualify as social equity business applicants to continue to apply for and renew provisional retailer licenses through January 2031. Regulators stopped accepting provisional licenses for all business types this summer, but because of the ongoing challenges associated with obtaining an annual license still exist, this measure proposes a narrow extension that only applies to equity applicants seeking retail licenses.
SB 833—Sen. Mike McGuire (D): The measure would allow regulators at DCC to approve requests from cannabis cultivators to change their license type to a smaller category or inactive status. As it stands, there’s no pathway for cannabis licensees to do so without going through the entire DCC license application process again. But a variety of situations—including market volatility, drought, oversupply and more—could cause a cultivator to want a smaller license or become temporarily inactive.
SB 540—Sen. John Laird (D): The measure would require the state Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) to work with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to create a “brochure with information about steps for the safer use of cannabis” that would need to be provided to people who shop at a dispensary for the first time. It would also mandate that DCC reevaluate labeling and packaging regulations by July 1, 2025 and every five years thereafter.
AB 993—Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D): The bill would add representatives of the state Civil Rights Department and Department of Industrial Relations to an existing marijuana task force that is responsible for facilitating communication between state and local cannabis regulators.
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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The governor has already signed three drug policy-related bills so far this session, and he’s yet to veto any. But how he will approach these other proposals is unclear, especially when it comes to some of the more ambitious measures like psychedelics legalization and marijuana employment rules. Newsom took some harm reduction advocates by surprise last session after he vetoed a bill from Wiener that would have established an overdose prevention site pilot program in the state.
The legislation Newsom has signed in recent months, meanwhile, includes a measure to grant immunity to people who possess personal use amounts of any controlled substance if they test it for adulterants such as fentanyl and they report positive tests to law enforcement positive and also provide information about where they obtained the drug. Another signed bill empowers the State Water Board to take investigatory steps against suspected illicit cannabis cultivators and participate in enforcement efforts. A third enacted measure alters background check requirements for cannabis businesses.
A number of cannabis and psychedelics bills that were introduced earlier this session, including proposals concerning marijuana advertising, psychedelics-assisted therapy, cannabis delivery service rules and the state industrial hemp program did not advance by legislative deadlines, though some crossed over to the opposite chamber before being being held in committee.
Separately, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced a new program last month aimed at curtailing the illicit market, and he also argued that the high tax rate for cannabis in the state is partly to blame for why illegal sales are continuing.
Bonta’s office has also been soliciting input from local government and cannabis industry groups as it works to finalize an opinion on the potential legal risks of authorizing interstate marijuana commerce under ongoing federal prohibition, documents obtained by Marijuana Moment show.
Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.
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