Newsom's 10 New Cannabis Laws: What They Are and What We Think About Them

Higher Origins
Posted on Oct 5 2022

On September 18th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed 10 cannabis related bills into law. We dug through the lawyer-speak to summarize these bills below, as well as added our own take on them. If cannabis is going to be legal, it pays to keep an eye on the laws!

NOTE: The name of each legislator is linked to CalMatters, a site which provides detailed information on their political career including voting history, legislation, and industry overlords. Do your own research, and never take what politicians say for granted.

 AB-1706 by Mia Bonta, Democrat, Oakland

Creates a clear path towards expunging cannabis legal records. Earlier laws already directed the California DOJ to review the cannabis criminal records and identify cases for expungement. The DOJ can challenge these expungements on a case by case basis. 

This law lays out the next steps in the process. For anyone with an expungement eligible charge, so long as the DOJ did not challenge the case before July 1 2020, the DOJ must clear that charge from the suspect's record. Additionally, the bill requires the state to inform and educate those who the bill applies to, as well as commit to reporting on their progress.

In our opinion, this is a baby step in the right direction. Obviously, expungement of any kind is progress, and commitment (on paper at least) to moving the process forward is good. However, it’s still too slow, and it does nothing to offset the years of damage that has been done to people’s lives due to their criminal status. We would like to see the state actively do more to compensate the victims of its drug war. 

AB-1646 by Phillip Chen, Republican, Yorba Linda

Clarifies that beverages can be sold in any kind of container, whether clear or colored.

As far as we can tell this really only affects beverage manufacturers by giving them a wider array of packaging options. Unfortunately, this may have the effect that beverage makers opt for single-use plastic containers instead of more environmentally friendly options like aluminum cans or glass bottles. 

AB-1885 by Ash Kalra, Democrat, San Jose

Paves the way for use of cannabis in veterinary applications. Essentially, it expands current medical cannabis rules to include animals, defines key terms, and clarifies the responsible organizations. 

While the exact scope of cannabis’s healing capabilities are still a topic for research and debate, it’s clear that it has plenty of benefits. It’s a no-brainer to extend cannabis into animal medicine, and we’re honestly surprised it took this long. This provides another market outlet for cannabis growers. 

AB-1894 by Luz Rivas, Democrat, Arleta

Requires cannabis vape cartridges and vapes with built-in cartridges to be labeled as hazardous waste, and prohibits them from being marketed as disposable in the trash or recycling. The bill proposes no further clarifications on penalties for violating this policy, nor earmarks any funds for expanded hazardous materials infrastructure or access. 

This is a head scratcher. Single use electric vapes should be considered as E-waste, due to their batteries and circuitry. However, the traces of extracts leftover in old cartridges are of negligible risk. Furthermore, disposing of anything at a hazmat facility is a massive headache, considering that they aren’t always conveniently located, sometimes charge for disposal, and are not always open. This bill does nothing to solve the problem, and just creates another rule with little to no context or forethought. People will still throw them in the trash.

What SHOULD happen is an across the board ban on single use electronic vapes. Vaping is an acceptable alternative to smoking and is a controllable way to deliver heat-sensitive terpenes from concentrates. That said, we find the idea of throwing the whole vape away when the cartridge runs out to be environmentally irresponsible. Lithium ion batteries and their charging circuitry can be cycled dozens of times before they begin to wear out.

Ban single use electronic vapes, remove the hazardous material designation from empty vape cartridges, and ask Assemblyman Rivas to rethink this myopic and performative bill. Furthermore, this reflects poorly on Newsom, who frequently espouses environmental regulations. Mr Governor, if this is the kind of half-baked regulation you’re willing to sign, then it makes us doubt you even read it.

AB-2210 by Bill Quirk, Democrat, Hayward

Allows temporary cannabis consumption event licenses to be issued to premises that also hold an alcohol license, and prevents ABC from penalizing alcohol license holders from having cannabis consumption events. The bill stops short of allowing co-consumption however, as the venue must cease alcohol sales and consumption during and for some hours after the end of the cannabis consumption event.

While we’re glad to see more venues allowed to serve cannabis on special occasions, the prohibition of co-consumption is frankly ridiculous. It seems like Assemblyman Quirk has never been invited to a good party. 

AB-2188 by Bill Quirk, Democrat, Hayward

Makes it illegal for businesses to discriminate against employees based on positive cannabis results in a drug test. This is exempt in the case of informed pre-employment testing (they have to specifically tell you before they hire you that it’s a condition of hiring), construction/building workers, and jobs that require federal background checks or use federal funding.

This is a step in the right direction. Obviously where this interferes with Federal prohibition, the State rule has no jurisdiction. And while cannabis is pretty mild, it can affect some people more than others- if there’s a chance that someone doing a dangerous job is mentally fuzzy from their wake and bake, testing makes sense from a health and safety perspective. I wouldn’t trust myself to drive a forklift if I was high! 

Of course, there will be gray areas where jobs unaffected by off-the-clock cannabis use will still require pre-employment testing, but at least those employees won’t be able to be fired after they test clear and get hired. To companies that still want to pre-test cannabis as a condition of employment for low risk jobs, we say: Good luck hiring people, may the odds of the free labor market be ever in your favor!

AB-2568 by Ken Cooley, Democrat, Rancho Cordova

Makes it legal to provide insurance to people engaged in commercial cannabis activity.

That’s it actually, that’s what the bill does. I’d like to congratulate Assemblyman Cooley for the clearest piece of legislation I’ve ever read. This is clearly a good thing, although it does nothing to prevent insurers from charging predatory rates. Also, since insurance is a massive financial industry, there are likely federal regulations that insurers will still wait to be lifted before the average insurer will cover your operation.

AB-2925 by Jim Cooper, Democrat, Elk Grove

Requires the Department of Healthcare Services to file a financial report on how much cannabis tax revenue it spent on certain youth health programs and services.

More financial oversight on spending is always a good thing. This bill ties into the confusing mess that is the California Cannabis Tax Fund, and all of its spending initiatives, both reasonable and ridiculous. Overall this seems like a routine reporting clarification rather than a substantive change. 

SB-1186 by Scott Weiner, Democrat, San Francisco

Prevents local governments from prohibiting the delivery of medical cannabis. This bill ONLY applies to medical cannabis, not recreational. 

This is a step in the right direction for patients living in prohibitive localities. Unfortunately, it does nothing to address the serious issue of local governments impeding the will of the voters and prohibiting recreational sales, something recently shown to actually support the illicit market. 

Additionally, this may motivate more people to get medical cards, which would classify their purchases as tax free and deliverable under this new law. Obtaining a medical card recommendation is just as easy as it ever was from your nearest compassionate cannabis doctor. The application fee is under 100$, and is 50% off for MediCal recipients. As far as we can tell, this law basically motivates people in prohibited areas to just go use that sore back as a way to get tax free legal delivery. Wouldn’t it just be easier if localities weren't allowed to prohibit sales? 

SB-1326 by Anna Caballero, Democrat, Merced

Lays out a framework of responsibility and accountability for establishing interstate cannabis commerce, in the event that such commerce becomes Federally legal.

While this is an exciting prospect, and it’s a proactive move for California to have trigger legislation in place to prepare for such an eventuality, it’s still based on the eternal “What If?” of Federal legalization. Given the current tightrope of legislative polarization at the Federal level, cannabis legalization at best seems like a carrot to be dangled by partisan figureheads to promote voting, while at worst it seems like another wedge issue that will be kept in no-progress purgatory, regardless of public opinion. 

We’ll believe it when we see it, and if we see it, we’ll look back on Senator Caballero’s bill to see if it hinders or helps California’s entry to the mythical National Cannabis Market.

That's all for now, happy Harvest, and don't forget to VOTE!