The love affair between California and marijuana has been as tumultuous as Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston’s relationship. After becoming the first state to prohibit a crop that had been used for centuries for anything from medicine to food to clothing, California essentially spearheaded a movement that saw the banning of marijuana sales across the States.
THE UPS AND DOWNS OF CALIFORNIA MEDICAL MARIJUANA REGULATIONS
This movement has seen cannabis criminalized across America, with the majority of the country still holding the plant in negative regard. However, in 1996 the first state that first chose to close the door on marijuana was the first to open it back up when California voted yes on Proposition 215, making medical marijuana a legal form of treatment.
Since that fateful day in 1996, it took 16 years for the next to jump on board with regulating medical marijuana. Finally in 2012, Massachusetts became the second state to recognize medical marijuana as a legitimate practice. The following year, Colorado and Washington followed suit but upped the ante by allowing those 21 and over to purchase recreational marijuana as well.
After seeing Colorado rake in over $1 billion in taxes due to the legalization of recreational marijuana, many states have jumped onboard with legalizing the schedule 1 controlled substance for recreational use during the 2016 election. California was one of these states.
With this extreme change to cannabis laws 20 years following its decision to uplift the ban on medical marijuana, California needed to readdress its approach to regulating marijuana. California governor Edmund Brown (No, he did not have a role in The Terminator), submitted a bill that would consolidate and ultimately modify California’s cannabis laws. This bill was introduced as Senate Bill (SB) 94.
California’s State Legislative Counsel took SB 94 and created a new Proposition 64. With Prop 64, two-thirds had a majority vote. On June 27, 2017 both legislative branches signed off, and SB 94 came to life, with laws coming into effect 2018.
WHAT THESE LAWS MEAN TO CALIFORNIA
Under SB 94 came a provision that has a profound impact on the regulation of marijuana within the state of California. Known as the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulations and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), California combined its medical and recreational regulatory regimes into one comprehensive framework at the state level. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) has been charged with government oversight of marijuana.
A few months after the initial signing of the law, BCC released its much anticipated emergency rules to see the implementation of MAUCRSA through by the time sales go live in the new year. Both the Departments of Public Health and the Department of Food & Agriculture in California also had to release comprehensive emergency regulations to ensure cannabusinesses could begin compliantly operating by January 1, 2018.
The emergency medical rules and regulations are similar to the previous ones under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). However, there are some changes to the licensing structure.
CHANGES FORTHCOMING IN CALIFORNIA MEDICAL MARIJUANA LICENSING
For manufacturers of medical cannabis products, there is a special category of licensure referred to as an “M-license” in the medicinal market. Under that category, there are four types of licensure- these were not listed originally as part of SB 94, but are enacted through the emergency rules. The four types of medical manufacturing licenses are as follows:
Type 7- Extraction using volatile solvents (i.e. butane, hexane, pentane).
Type 6- Extraction using non-volatile solvents or mechanical methods (i.e. food-grade butter, oil, water, carbon dioxide). The new definition of “volatile” now includes ethanol, unlike under previous regulations.
Type N- Infusions (i.e. using pre-extracted oils to create edibles, beverages, capsules, vape cartridges, tinctures or topicals).
Type P- Packaging and labeling only.
Each medical manufacturing licensee must submit the following SOPs when applying for a license:
Cannabis waste disposal
Medical marijuana retailers, dispensaries, testing facilities, distributors, and microbusinesses can apply for licensure through the BCC. In order for medical marijuana cultivators and processors to remain compliant, they can apply through the Department of Food & Agriculture. There, the offices may issue a license authorizing the commercial business as official cannabis cultivators in California.
There are three categories of medicinal cannabis cultivation licenses:
Cultivators- There are numerous license types under this category. What license you need depends on plant count.
Nurseries- This can include cloning and seed operations
Processors- This can include trimming, drying, curing, grading, or packaging operations of cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products.
CALIFORNIA CANNABIS PRODUCT STANDARDS
Although new laws are being put into effect following the new year, many of the same product standards will be carried over from the initial MCRSA agreement . For example, no products may be infused with nicotine, alcohol or caffeine. Also, edibles still cannot be shaped like a human, animal, insect, or fruit, and any product that requires refrigeration is prohibited.
Other limitations include that edibles are also still only allowed a maximum potency of 10 mg of THC per serving and 100 mg of THC per package. Edible packaging must now be opaque and not look like traditionally available food packaging. This is done to stop smuggling of the product into states and countries who do not allow marijuana to be brought over their borders.
Other medical cannabis products may contain up to 2,000 mg of THC per package, as opposed to only 1,000 mg for recreational cannabis products. This category includes tinctures and topicals. Packaging cannot be attractive to kids and must be both tamper-evident and child resistant. If Joe Camel wasn’t allowed to sell cigarettes to minors in the 90’s, nothing furry and fun can sell cannabis to children today.
RIGHTS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIETNS
Medical marijuana patients living in California enjoy many rights under MAUCRSA. These patients are allowed to cultivate as many plants as necessary to effectively treat their medical condition(s). Qualified patients are automatically allowed to cultivate up to 100 square feet of cannabis for personal medical use.
In addition to possessing flower, medical patients are also allowed to possess the following for personal medical use in reasonable amounts:
Concentrated forms of cannabis
Medical patients who suffer from AIDS, cancer, and other debilitating diseases will find refuge in California’s new emergency cannabis rules and regulations.