California Legislature approves broad-scale cannabis licensing changes

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A sizable budget bill that amends California’s cannabis regulatory system has received final approval from lawmakers.

Assembly Bill 141, which Gov. Gavin Newsom is anticipated to ink with his signature, has been nicknamed the “governor’s trailer bill.”

Included in the bill is an important provision that would extend California’s provisional cannabis licensing program — something that has long been pushed for by advocates. 

Regulatory system changes are being positively embraced, but industry insiders claim that they don’t go far enough to stabilize the legal sector. 

Because of this, California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) lobbyist Amy Jenkins says that lawmakers will likely return their focus to reform issues in August; following a summer recess.

What areas of California’s cannabis regulatory system does Assembly Bill 141 tackle?

A significant component of the “governor’s trailer bill” encapsulates the merging of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Public Health’s Cannabis Manufacturing department, and the Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis division the three regulatory agencies that currently oversee the state’s legal cannabis market.

In accordance with the rules laid out in AB 141, the three aforementioned agencies would be consolidated into a sole entity named “the Department of Cannabis Control.” 

AB 141 increases the provisional licensing program’s lifespan; permits can be renewed up until Jan. 1, 2025. Additionally, it permits businesses to share trade samples of cannabis for no charge.

Provisional licensing woes plague California’s cannabis business owners

While California’s cannabis regulatory system is sure to be somewhat strengthened by the Legislature-approved licensing changes, many business owners are concerned that they won’t be able to extend their provisional licenses next year. 

This subject has made Jenkins feel apprehensive, since AB 141 fails to grant compliance with state environmental regulations in counties that have established their own regulatory paths for medical cannabis businesses. She says that this flaw has prompted the CCIA to submit a letter to legislative leaders. The letter opposed the bill just two days prior to its full Legislature approval.

Jenkins told reporters that provisional license holders may have to shutter their businesses in 2022 if  the Governor fails to sign the legislation. If lawmakers pass an additional bill that allows exceptions for specific counties, such as Calaveras, Mendocino, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo, the outlook could be much brighter.

“We’ve won the battle but not the war,” Jenkins proclaimed. “Can we get this fixed in a way that ensures that all of our provisional license holders have a path to annual licenses? That is uncertain.”