California’s cannabis market has been subject to constant change and near disaster as well as actual disasters, like when hundreds of pounds of cannabis had to be destroyed in 2018 when the medical marijuana collectives were shut down and testing and labeling rules changed.
Now the industry stands at another such crossroads, with its reliance on provisional licenses at risk in areas where permanent licenses have not materialized.
A new bill, SB 59 by Sen. Caballero, would extend the state’s provisional licensing system, currently scheduled to terminate at the end of the year. Since 80 percent of all licensees are still operating on provisional licenses, it’s essential that the program be renewed and state legislators need to hear from the public to support the bill.
Cannabis held to a higher standard
A big problem for applicants has been getting through CEQA environmental quality review. Proposition 64 and the MAUCRSA package of laws impose much stricter CEQA requirements for cannabis than other legal crops, in part because cannabis is listed as an “agricultural product,” not a farm crop.
State CEQA reviews have therefore been delayed as local governments struggle to catch up with a flood of cannabis applications, while canna businesses that can meet the standards for other farm crops likewise struggle to meet the much more rigorous standards applied to their industry.
Unfortunately, environmental groups have been pushing back hard against SB 59 in order to force prompt the toughest CEQA compliance. While the industry supports environmental controls, many question why cannabis rules needs to be so much more stringent than other products that potentially cause more pollution (such as cotton, cattle and other farm animals).
CA NORML: “reduce overregulation”
California NORML, while strongly pro-environment, considers their efforts to treat cannabis more strictly than other agriculture to be “misguided.”
“One of the most important provisions in SB 59 would keep the provisional licensing system open for six years to new equity applicants,” said director Dale Gieringer. “Otherwise, provisional licensing would be closed to new applicants after July 2022. We hope this will at least level the playing field a bit for equity applicants.
“Senate Bill 59 is one of several bills we have supported to reduce overregulation and make cannabis more affordable for consumers and small businesses. But a lot more work needs to be done.”