2022 California Cannabis Legislative Update (Part 1)

February 18, 2022, brought the close of the last day to introduce bills for the 2022 California legislative session. In the coming months, each house will now discuss, amend, vote on, and pass these bills—the last day to pass any bills for this year, in either house, is August 31, 2022. Once passed, the Governor must either sign or veto all passed bills by September 30, 2022.

The following summary contains the significant bills introduced for the 2022 legislative sessions, and industry participants are encouraged to keep an eye out for the outcome of these bills in the coming months. See our second installment on the bills that dropped this session here.

AB 1624: Budget Act of 2022.

Assembly Member Phil Ting (D) of the 19th District introduced this bill on January 10, 2022.

This bill proposes appropriations in support of the state government. The legislators allocated $155, 277, 000 to the Cannabis Control Fund, which supports the Department of Cannabis Control and Cannabis Control Appeals Panel. In addition, the Cannabis Control Fund allocates small sums to the State Department of Public Health and Department of Food and Agriculture.

AB 1646: Cannabis packaging: beverages.

Assembly Member Phillip Chen (D) of the 55th District introduced this bill on January 13, 2022.

Under the current language of Section 26120(e) of the California Business and Professions Code, “Cannabis beverages may be packaged in glass containers that are clear or any color.” The proposed amendments change the language to allow for clear containers of any material, not just glass. The new language would read: “Cannabis beverages may be packaged in clear containers.”

AB 1656: Cannabis; industrial hemp.

Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D) of the 4th District introduced this bill on January 14, 2022.

This bill would allow cannabis licensees to manufacture, distribute, or sell products that contain industrial hemp and derivatives/cannabinoids therefrom, so long as the product complies with all applicable state laws and regulations, including regulations surrounding testing and traceability.

It would be a new section in the Cal. Bus. and Prof. Code, section 26003, which reads:

This division does not prohibit a licensee from manufacturing, distributing, or selling products that contain industrial hemp, as defined in Section 11018.5 of the Health and Safety Code, or cannabinoids, extracts, or derivatives from industrial hemp, if the product complies with all applicable state laws and regulations, including Division 24 (commencing with Section 8100) of the Food and Agricultural Code or Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 111920) of Part 5 of Division 104 of the Health and Safety Code, as applicable.

AB 1690: Tobacco and cannabis products; single-use components.

Assembly Members Luz Rivas (D) of the 39h District, Cottie Petrie-Norris (D) of the 74th District, and Mark Stone (D) of the 29th District introduced this bill on January 24, 2022.

This bill proposes amendments to the language of the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act, resulting in a more explicit coverage of cannabis. Language referring to “single-use vaporizer device(s)” is specifically amended to refer to a “single use integrated cannabis vaporizer.” In context, Article (6)(a)(4) now completely bans cannabis vaporizers that are not “refillable or rechargeable and (are) typically recycled or disposed of after the contents inside the device have been used.”

AB 1706: Cannabis crimes; resentencing.

Assembly Member Mia Bonta (D) of the 18th District introduced this bill on January 26, 2022.

Existing law requires the DOJ to review state records to identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal or sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation. Existing law gives the prosecution until July 1, 2020, to conduct this review and requires the court to reduce or dismiss a sentence that has not been challenged by July 1, 2020.

This bill would deem a case to have been reduced or dismissed as of January 1, 2023, if the case:

  • has been reviewed and the prosecution has not challenged; or
  • if the case has not been reviewed and would require the court to update its recording accordingly and to notify the DOJ.

This bill will also require the DOJ, on or before July 1, 2023, to complete the update or the state records and notify all third parties that access to data to ensure that inaccurate criminal history is not reported. The DOJ will also be required to conduct a broad public awareness campaign so that individuals impacted by this process become aware of updates to their criminal history.

Additionally, the act of renting, leasing, or making available a space for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, or distributing a controlled substance, or conspiring to commit specified crimes, is currently illegal; under existing law, this crime is a felony.

This bill would authorize a person to petition for the reduction of the felony conviction to a misdemeanor for the above crime if the underlying crime involved cannabis. The bill also sets some deadlines for the DOJ and the prosecution to update records and/or challenge any of these convictions.

AB 1725: Illegal cultivation of cannabis.

Assembly Member Thurston Smith (R) of the 33rd District introduced this bill on January 27, 2022.

Current law criminalizes the acts of planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, or process of more than six (6) cannabis plants without a commercial cannabis license. For individuals over eighteen (18) but less than twenty-one (21) years old who plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process less than six (6) cannabis plants are guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable of a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100). All persons over the age of 18 who plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process more than six (6) cannabis plants are guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to six (6) months or by a five hundred ($500) fine, or both fine and imprisonment. The only time these actions will rise to the level of a felony, is under specified conditions such as various prior offenses.

This bill would eliminate the distinctions above and raising the penalty of the crimes. This bill proposes to make it a felony for individuals over eighteen (18) and under twenty-one (21) to plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process less than six (6) plants. AB 1725 would also make it a felony for all individuals over eighteen (18), whether or not certain conditions exist, to plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process more than six (6) cannabis plants, punishable by sixteen (16) months or 2 or 3 years in county jail.

It is important to note that this bill is unlikely to pass—it completely contradicts the intent of AUMA and the progress/trend of the decriminalization of cannabis.

AB 1885: Cannabis and cannabis products; animals; veterinary medicine.

Assembly Member Ash Kalra (D) of the 27th District introduced this bill February 8, 2022.

In accordance with AUMA, MAUCRSA, and the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act, the Veterinary Medical Board within the Department of Consumer Affairs, is prohibited from disciplining a licensed veterinarian solely for discussing the use of cannabis on an animal for medical purposes, absent negligence or incompetence, and requires the board to adopt guidelines for veterinarians to follow with having such discussions. Current law also prohibits a licensed veterinarian from dispensing or administering cannabis or cannabis products to an animal patient.

This bill would prohibit the board from disciplining a veterinarian who recommends the use of cannabis on an animal for potential therapeutic effects or health supplementation purposes, unless the veterinarian is employed or has an agreement with a cannabis licensee. The Board would be required to adopt guidelines by January 1, 2024, for vets to follow with recommending cannabis and for those guidelines to be posted on its website. This bill would also amend the definitions of “cannabis products,” “cannabis concentrate,” and “edible cannabis product” under MAUCRSA to include products intended to be used for therapeutic effect or health supplementation use on, or for consumption by, an animal. Under this bill, any cannabis products intended for animals must comply with additional concentration and other standards adopted by regulations of the department.

AB 1954: Physicians and surgeons; treatment and medication of patients using cannabis.

Assembly Member Dr. Bill Quirk (D) of the 20th District introduced this bill on February 10, 2022.

Existing law, the Medical Practice Act, establishes the Medical Board of California within the Department of Consumer Affairs and sets forth its powers and duties over the licensure and regulation of physicians and surgeons. The Act authorizes the board to pursue actions against any person guilty of violating the act.

The bill would add a new section to the Cal Bus. & Prof. Code, as section 2228.5. It would prohibit a physician and surgeon from denying treatment or medication to a qualified patient based solely on a positive drug screen for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or report of medical cannabis use, except to the extent that the qualified patient’s use of medical cannabis has been found by a physician and surgeon, following a case-by-case evaluation of the patient, to be medically significant to the treatment or medication.

AB 2150: Cannabis research.

Assembly Members Thomas Lackey (R) representing the 36th District and Ken Cooley (D) representing the 8th District introduced this bill on February 15, 2022.

This bill would, if the regents accept the responsibility, require the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to establish a study examining the effects of cannabis products that are currently in the commercial cannabis stream of commerce and, in consultation with the Department of California High Patrol, evaluating the public safety consequences of cannabis use and improving understanding of the best methods for determining related driving impairments. The bill would appropriate $2 million to the Center for this purpose from the State and Local Government Law Enforcement Account in the California Cannabis Tax Fund and would require the Center to report the findings of the study on or before January 1, 2027.

AB 2155: Cannabis beverages.

Assembly Member Carlos Villapudua (D) of the 13th District introduced this bill on February 15, 2022.

This bill would simply state the intent of the legislature, “to enact legislation that would regulate cannabis beverages as a unique cannabis product.”

AB 2188: Discrimination in employment; use of cannabis.

Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D) of the 20th District introduced this bill on February 15, 2022.

As currently constructed, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects and safeguards the right and opportunities of all persons to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination, abridgment, or harassment on account of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical ability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status.

This bill proposes to 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, if the discrimination if based upon the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace or, with prescribed exceptions, upon an employer-required drug screening test that has found the person to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their urine, hair, or bodily fluids.

AB 2210: Cannabis; state temporary event licenses; venues licensed by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; unsold inventory.

Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D) of the 20th District introduced this bill on February 15, 2022.

AB 2210 would provide a greater range of activities for licensed parties and temporary events. If passed, a retail licensee would be able to apply for and obtain a state temporary event license authorizing the sale of cannabis onsite at an event. The currently enacted law permits limited consumption of marijuana at a temporary event but has no provisions for on-site sales.

Legislators proposed amendments to the statutory language establishing compliance for temporary event applications and activities to account for AB 2210. The retail licensee would be required to properly track, trace, and reconcile all inventory used at the temporary event and would be permitted to transport unsold inventory back to their licensed premises. Further, the event would need to properly delineate separate spaces for purchasing and smoking cannabis.

AB 2421: Water; unpermitted cannabis cultivation.

Assembly Member Blanca Rubio (D) of the 48th District introduced this bill on February 17, 2022.

Current environmental regulation makes it unlawful to either place harmful substances into water or divert water without authorization, a violation of which is a crime and may also be subject to a penalty of up to $10 per gallon of discharged substance. AB 2421 more directly discusses how unpermitted cannabis cultivation fits within this scheme. First, several statutorily defined and existing affirmative defenses would be removed for unpermitted cannabis cultivators (UCCs). For example, currently, defendants charged with this crime can argue that the covered substances did not actually enter the water supply, or that they reasonably mitigated the discharge. If passed, these defenses will not be available to UCCs, which means UCCs could be found in violation of the code for simply placing a covered substance near a water source, regardless of actual deposit into the water.

Second, the bill would increase the state’s ability to bring action against UCCs. Current law requires the Attorney General to bring actions for violations, but AB 2421 would allow county counsel and, in some cases, a city attorney in the context of a UCC. The fish and wildlife propagation fund would also be able to allocate expenditures for investigating and prosecuting civil action against UCCs. The general effect of these provisions is to increase potential prosecution against UCCs by allowing more claims and diverting more money towards prosecution.

AB 2506: Cannabis; excise tax; cultivation tax.

Assembly Members Bill Quirk (D) of the 20th District and Thomas Lackey (R) of the 36th District introduced this bill on February 17, 2022.

Existing law requires the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to adjust the cultivation tax rate for inflation each calendar year, except for the 2021 calendar year, in which existing law prohibited the department from adjusting for inflation unless the adjustment was for an inflation rate less than zero. The revenues from the excise and cultivation taxes are to be deposited into the California Cannabis Tax Fund, which is continuously appropriated for specified purposes.

This bill proposes to suspend the imposition of the cultivation tax from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2028, and would discontinue the requirement that the department adjust the cultivation tax rate for inflation for the 2023 calendar year and during the suspension. In turn, if passed, the bill would increase the excise tax by an additional percentage during July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2028, to generate the amount of revenue that would have been collected pursuant to the cultivation tax.

AB 2568: Cannabis; insurance providers.

Assembly Member Ken Cooley (D) of the 8th District introduced this bill on February 18, 2022.

This bill would add language to the Business and Professions Code to clarify that an insurance provider, “does not commit a crime under California law solely for providing insurance or related services to persons licensed to engage in commercial cannabis activity. . .”

AB 2595: Juveniles; dependency; jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D) of the 59th District introduced this bill on February 18, 2022.

This bill proposes an exception to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which treats children as dependents of the court when there are certain risk factors present. The language of the proposed amendment provides that a child shall not be placed within the court’s jurisdiction solely because of a child or guardian using, possessing, cultivating, processing, or testing positive for the use of cannabis. As currently constructed, these cannabis-specific facts, without more, could establish a “substantial risk” of harm for a child and result in guardians loosing legal agency over their children.

AB 2691: Cannabis; temporary cultivator event retail license.

Assembly Member Jim Wood (D) of the 2nd District introduced this bill on February 18, 2022.

The proposed language creates a new license for cannabis events, referred to as a temporary cultivator event retail license. This would allow a licensed cultivator, cultivating less than one acre of cannabis, to sell their own cannabis at an event. The license is predicated on compliance with the requirements normally imposed on cannabis retailers. A qualifying licensed cultivator may only receive 12 of these temporary licenses on an annual basis. Under currently enacted law, neither a licensed cultivator nor a licensed retailer are permitted to sell cannabis at a temporary event.

Mio Asami

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