Lawmakers look to balance the playing field



Last update: May 29, 2018


Lawmakers are well into this year’s legislative session, and several bills are under consideration this year that would impact marijuana policy, even as the new regulatory system continues to develop. Here are some highlights.

SB 1294 would require the state to support local equity applicants – those applicants who are from areas that have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. If passed, the measure would offer assistance to equity applicants in securing business locations and low- or no-interest loans. Another bill, AB 1793, would automatically remove (or expunge) cannabis-related offenses from individuals’ criminal histories, if the original offense was later made legal under state law.

Lawmakers are considering AB 2641, a measure that would allow local jurisdictions to authorize temporary cannabis-related events, even allowing local authorities to allow consumption such as smoking or vaping under certain circumstances. A bill that would have offered workplace protections for medical cannabis patients who consume marijuana outside of work, AB 2069, fell short and does not appear like it will advance further.

The introduction of these bills follows a huge milestone at the start of the year, when the first licensed retail cannabis shops opened for adult consumers. While the number of shops initially was modest, the number of stores and other types of cannabis businesses is expected to ramp up quickly. As of the end of May, the Bureau of Cannabis Control listed well over 600 adult-use retail licenses issued. If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for our email alerts to stay current on latest events!

The current legal status of marijuana in California


Until the 2016 Election Day vote, possessing up to an ounce or less of marijuana was a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. Following the vote, possession of an ounce or less and the secure cultivation of up to six plants is lawful for all adults 21 and over.

While California had already reduced penalties before the vote, the state still punished tens of thousands of responsible adults each year for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol and tobacco. A study released by the Drug Policy Foundation reported that despite the reduction in penalties, state law enforcement still arrested over half a million people in the past 10 years on marijuana-related charges, a huge number of which are minorities.

California stopped wasting precious resources citing, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenders and is now in the process of ensuring the profits of marijuana sales go to responsible businesses and state budgets, instead of the pockets of criminals.

At the same time, the state’s medical marijuana protections continue, and a regulatory system is being implemented for medical marijuana businesses in tandem with the non-medical program, but without the same tax burden.

Timeline of marijuana policy reform in California


1996: Voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, allowing for the medical use of marijuana.

2003: California’s legislature expanded the state’s medical marijuana law to allow patients and caregivers to collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana.

2015: California’s legislature enacted a licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses.

2016: Voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for adults and establishing a regulated marijuana market.

2017: Licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana businesses is paired with similar regulatory system being developed for non-medical, now under one agency.

2018: First legal sales for adult consumers began!

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