The state of California has released its much-awaited rules that will govern its emerging legal cannabis industry. This set of emergency rules regulate everything pertaining to both medicinal and recreational marijuana in California, from cultivation of the plant, to sale and transportation, to product packaging, to testing.
The regulatory scheme was released on Nov. 16 by three licensing agencies: the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Health, and the Bureau of Cannabis Control. They come less than two months before California is set to launch a state-regulated cannabis market on Jan. 1, 2018.
Here are the basic rules:
On Jan. 1, state regulators will start issuing temporary licenses to cannabis growers and retailers as long as they already have a local permit to open for business. This means a valid authorization issued by the jurisdiction where a qualifying business operates.
The state-issued temporary license will allow cannabis businesses to operate for 120 days. This four-month period will allow business owners to collect additional information that are necessary to obtain a permanent license, including insurance bonds, security plans, and business formation documents. This will also give the state enough time to review an applicant’s qualifications and conduct background checks. This temporary license, which does not require fees, may be extended.
The state also included a matrix for the annual operating license fees that legal businesses will be required to pay. Businesses could pay as low as $800 to as high as $120,000, depending on the size of operations.
Cannabis Cultivation Farms
The debate on the appropriate farm size limit had been hot, but the new regulatory scheme does not include specific provisions for this, except for limits set only on certain mid-sized growers’ licenses. There are no limitations established for other license categories. This means that the new regulations are potentially opening the way for large-scale farms.
The state is putting a limit on the size of cannabis edibles for both medical or recreational purposes. Serving size per edible should have only up to 10 mg of THC, with a maximum of 100 mg in a single package.
There is also a limit as to the shape of these edibles. They cannot come in human, animal, or fruit shapes so as not to appeal to children.
Meanwhile, medical cannabis that comes as tinctures, topicals, concentrates, and other non-edible forms should contain only up to 2,000 mg of THC per package. Adult-use non-edibles, on the other hand, should contain only up to 1,000 of THC per package.
Moreover, all cannabis products should not contain added caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol (except in tinctures). They also cannot contain seafood, nor have any dairy content other than butter sourced from a licensed provider. Perishable products, as well as low-acid canned goods, are also not allowed.
Additionally, all cannabis products are required to carry California’s cannabis warning label.
Regulators are also imposing limits on the amount of marijuana a medical patient or recreational user can buy in a single day from a single retailer.
For adult-use cannabis, customers can only purchase up to one ounce or 28.5 grams of non-concentrated product, 8 grams of concentrate, and six immature plants. Meanwhile, medical patients can purchase up to 8 ounces of cannabis. And if a valid doctor’s prescription specifies a different amount, a medical patient is allowed to buy that much.
Furthermore, one cannot purchase recreational cannabis as gifts or product giveaways. One can, however, buy cannabis products to be given to medical patients. This is the state’s way of recognizing that lower-income patients and veterans can benefit from free or lower-cost medicine.
Cannabis retail stores are allowed to operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Delivery is also permitted, as long as it is by a licensed retailer’s delivery employee. However, there should be no deliveries via bicycle or drones, only through enclosed automobiles.
Additionally, medical cannabis dispensaries and retail stores should be located no less than 600 feet from a day care center, school, or youth center already existing by the time a license is awarded. Cannabis window displays are also prohibited, while interior displays should not be visible to people outside the store.
Under the new scheme, marijuana products should be tested to measure its cannabinoid content, which includes CBD and THC. It should also measure heavy metals, foreign materials, mycotoxins, microbial impurities, water activity, moisture content, residual pesticides, terpenoids, and residual processing chemicals and solvents.
Edible products should also be tested to ensure that THC and CBD concentrations are evenly spread out across the servings contained in a package.
Only products that have met the state’s testing standards can be sold. Products that fail testing can go through a remediation process and will be tested again. There will be only two testings allowed per product. When a remediated product fails for the second time, the entire batch will be destroyed.
These testing standards are designed so they could become more rigid over the first year. Initially, the cannabis samples are going to be tested only for potentially harmful contaminants and for potency. But by the end of 2018, products will be tested even for “minor relative health risks.”