Newsom to decide on proposed cannabis legislation; NV County cannabis advocates weigh in

Marianne Boll-See / The Union

California lawmakers recently put forth 17 bills regarding cannabis and psychedelics to Governor Gavin Newsom (D) in recent weeks, according to Marijuana Moment (MM) an online news source.

The Governor has until October 14 to decide whether he will sign, veto, or allow the bills to take effect without his signature.

His position on each individual measure is unclear according to MM although Newsom has supported the legalization of cannabis and taken steps to support the industry over the years.

One bill for Newsom to consider addresses the recent surge in pediatric poisonings and hospitalizations caused by the consumption of cannabis products named The Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act, Assembly Bill (AB) 1207, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks).

AB 1207 focuses on the packaging of cannabis or cannabis products that are intended for adults who are 21 years of age and older, according to AB 1207.

“Use of images that are attractive to children, including… Cartoons, toys, or robots, any real or fictional humans, or any fictional animals or creatures,” according to AB 1207.

Any imitation of candy packaging or labeling… of cereals, sweets, chips, or other food products typically marketed to children would be prohibited, according to AB 1207.

Annual cannabis exposures reported to California Poison Control increased from below 200 in 2010 to over 1600 by 2020, according to Irwin, author of AB 1207.

There were only 16 total reported cannabis gummy exposures between 2010 and 2015 compared to 409 in 2020 alone, according to the California Poison Control.

Local cannabis businesses could be impacted if the bill passes into law, according to Diana Gamzon, Executive Director of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance.

“The intent of this bill is understandable. However, its expansive definition could potentially ban many local cannabis brands. Our local small cannabis businesses use packaging to tell the story of our homesteads, our farming practices and to provide an identity. If AB 1207 were to be signed into law, beloved local brands, such as Wade Laughter’s, House of Harlequin would be banned since it includes a fictionalized human,” Gamzon said.

Gamzon went on to say, “The logo of Potters Organic, featuring the image of two brothers farming cannabis, would be banned too. We have cannabis farms that also farm vegetables or raise animals and under this law, images of their broccoli, pumpkins and alpacas would be banned. Small businesses do not have the capital to overhaul packaging and re-brand. This bill would also ban the use of humans, animals, and fruits and vegetables in photographs on websites and other marketing materials. Like other farmers, we share photographs of ourselves, our land and our animals to showcase our culture and story. AB1207 is unnecessary and overly restrictive.”

Grant opportunities for qualified applicants were made available as mentioned at the August 22, 2023 Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Almost $756,000 is currently available to existing commercial cannabis applicants who live and work in Nevada County through the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GOBIZ) Local Jurisdiction Assistance grant program, according to Senior Cannabis Compliance Officer Thomas Maioli.

In addition, the Cannabis Division in Nevada County was awarded $1.2 million last month to bolster the Equity Program, according to the County website.

The Cannabis Equity Program provides more funding opportunities for commercial cannabis farmers who have had a history of poverty and cannabis criminalization.

“Our goal is to support and retain current applicants and assist those interested in participating in the regulated market while remaining consistent with the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and State Law.

Nevada County focuses on cultivation, not enforcing packaging according to Maioli.

Maioli said the County partners with the DCC who would be the one to enforce packaging.

Additional bills for the Governor to consider

Assembly Bill 1021, states that California health professionals will automatically be able to legally prescribe and dispense drugs previously considered a Schedule I drug.

Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

AB 1021 was introduced by Assembly Member Wicks (D).

Some examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote, according to the DEA.

Another bill SB 58 introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D) “would, on and after January 1, 2025, make lawful the possession, preparation, obtaining, or transportation of, specified quantities of psilocybin, psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and mescaline, for personal use, as defined, by and with persons 21 years of age or older,” according to the text of SB 58.

Wiener’s proposal would decriminalize certain hallucinogenic substances, according to SB 58.

SB 753 is proposed legislation that would amend current laws making it a felony to cause substantial environmental harm to public lands or other public resources, which with the passing of SB 753, would include surface or groundwater specifically, according to the text of SB 753 introduced by Senator Caballero.

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