California is getting its first interstate cannabis law, as Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 1326 this Sunday, September 18th.
“These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the Legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California,” Newsom said in a press release.
Sen. Anna Caballero’s (D) bill will allow Californian businesses to buy and sell cannabis to and from other legal states, starting Jan. 1, 2023. Newsom will have to enter into agreements with other states’ governors to make it happen.
The move opens up California to billions of dollars in potential revenue streams, as the state currently produces much more cannabis than its residents can consume.
Until now, products from regions like the Emerald Triangle couldn’t get to places where demand is high — like New York City, which one 2017 report found consumed more than twice as much weed as Los Angeles.
High-profile California brands like Kiva, Miss Grass and Her Highness will also have the opportunity to expand nationwide.
It remains to be seen whether states like New York, where growing conditions are tougher, would welcome cheaper Californian weed, potentially cutting into profits of the state’s own producers.
Of course, weed is still illegal federally, and the Drug Enforcement Agency could theoretically drop its hands-off approach at any time. Until the feds officially allow interstate cannabis business, California’s attorney general will have to be satisfied that each agreement with another state won’t open California up to legal risk.
Decriminalization could happen sooner rather than later, though. Democrats introduced a proposal to do just that earlier this summer.
The interstate agreements will have to include standards for public health, safety, labeling, tracking, and collecting state taxes. Any products from out of state will have to comply with California’s existing regulations.
Some lawyers believe those regulations could violate the federal Dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from getting too in the way of interstate commerce. Whether the feds would want to push for easier trade of an illegal drug is an open question.
SB 1326 passed through the Assembly Appropriations Committee in early August. From there, the California bill moved through the full chamber before being passed by the Senate on Aug. 25 in a 28-10 vote.
All Republican senators voted against, plus one Democrat: Melissa Hurtado, who NORML awarded the “worst voting record of any Democrat in State Senate” this year.
California’s bill comes at the same time New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) introduced similar legislation in his state. Other high-production states like Oregon have been pushing for interstate cannabis trade for years.
SB 1326 is one of many recent California cannabis reform bills sent to Newsom’s desk.
He previously signed one: Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s (D) AB 1954, which prohibits doctors from denying patients medication or treatment if THC shows up on a drug test, as long as the person is a registered medical cannabis patient.
As of Sunday, he has signed another nine bills on top of the interstate commerce bill, including:
AB 1706, introduced by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D), will speed up the sealing of records of people with eligible cannabis convictions. Courts would have a deadline of March 1, 2023 to seal records for cases that weren’t challenged by July 1, 2020.
Assemblymember Ken Cooley’s (D) AB 2568 will “provide it is not a crime solely for individuals and firms to provide insurance and related services to persons licensed to engage in commercial cannabis activity.”
SB 1186, from Sen. Scott Wiener, (D) will ban local jurisdictions like municipalities from prohibiting medical cannabis delivery sales.
Quirk’s AB 2188 will make it illegal for employers to discriminate against or penalize prospective or current employees based on off-duty cannabis use. And it would ban THC testing for employment purposes, with exceptions for industries like construction or federal employees.
Assemblymember Ash Kalra’s (D) AB 1885 will ban regulators from penalizing veterinarians who recommend medical cannabis for animals, among other animal-weed regulatory updates.
The governor has been all for the state’s market, so it was a solid bet that he’d sign most of these measures. He has generally supported drug policy reform, despite vetoing supervised consumption site pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.