California Cannabis Laws In 2018-2019: What You Need To Know

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

At the beginning of 2018, the state legalized recreational use for the adult population. Nevertheless, the cannabis industry in California is still facing some challenges. Here's a look at the legislative environment for pot in the Golden State. 

The California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018

The California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018, also known as Senate Bill 1294, it was introduced by state Sen. Steven Bradford and co-authored by state assembly members Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Rob Bonta. The bill was introduced in February, passed in both the Assembly and Senate on Aug. 31, and enrolled Sept. 7.

The law aims to help people enter the cannabis industry. The bill allows the California Bureau of Cannabis Control to provide technical assistance and funding to a local jurisdiction that would assist entrepreneurs in obtaining licenses to operate in the cannabis space. In this way, the law could level the playing field in the cannabis industry and open it to players for whom it would have been inaccessible in the past. 

“For far too long, people in cannabis have been treated as criminals. SB-1294 is a way to right those wrongs while giving real support and assistance to those who deserve a chance to succeed in this new legal industry," Green Flower CEO Max Simon told Benzinga. "Unfortunately, it's still way too expensive for most people to enter the legal cannabis industry. This bill goes a long way in evening the playing ground." 

Other Important Cannabis-Related Laws

Another bill that passed through the California Senate this year concerns the distribution of free cannabis.

Senate Bill 829, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, would allow cannabis companies to provide free medical cannabis to certain patients provided that some requirements are met. The bill also includes provisions related to the taxation of medical marijuana that is donated. It was enrolled Sept. 6 and is now in Gov. Jerry Brown's hands. 

California enrolled Assembly Bill 2914, which bans the production and sale of cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages, on Aug. 31. 

Californian lawmakers also passed Assembly Bill 350 and Senate Bill 1127 dealing with youth consumption of marijuana.

Bill 350 bans manufacturing weed products in the shape of “a person, animal, insect, or fruit” in order to avoid appealing to children or confusion with regular candy.

Senate Bill 1127 allows a parent or guardian to administer medicinal cannabis to a pupil at school. The bill stipulates that weed in smoking or vaping form is still not allowed.

Laws With An Uncertain Future

Other bills remain at the legislative stage but, if passed, would be material to California's cannabis industry. 

SB 930, proposed by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, would allow California to create special banks to interact with the cannabis industry.

Even though the bill passed was approved by the state Senate, the state Assembly Appropriations Committee halted SB 930 until at least next year’s session.

Lawmakers were concerned that it would be impossible to protect banks that work with the cannabis industry from federal prosecution, since marijuana remains a banned substance on a federal level.

Another bill hanging in limbo is AB 3157. This bill would lower the excise tax for cannabis from 15 percent to 11 percent and waive the cultivation tax altogether. Both tax cuts would remain in place until 2021.

Assembly bills 2641 and 2020 are also of note. The first bill would permit cannabis growers and manufacturers to sell their products at cannabis events. Only licensed retailers are presently allowed to sell marijuana products.

The second bill would allow cannabis events to take place at any venue that is permitted, as opposed to just county fairgrounds or district agricultural associations.

Overall, more than 100 bills that refer to cannabis were discussed during the 2017-2018 session.

Javier Hasse contributed to this article.

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