When California was getting ready to legalize adult-use and medically commercial cannabis sales on January 1, 2018, we all knew it would be a bumpy ride. Going from the collective, cooperative, and non-profit models that governed marijuana operators (and I use the term “governed” loosely) prior to 2018, to a robust regulatory regime that was going to keep the federal government on the sidelines (hopefully) and better serve the public and the environment was never going to be easy.
When the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) was enacted in June of 2017, it merged the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) and the Adult-Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) into one regulatory regime. Under MAUCRSA there are three state agencies responsible for regulating and licensing cannabis operators: 1) The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), regulates cultivators, processors, and nurseries; 2) The California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch regulates cannabis manufacturers; and 3) The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) regulates distributors, retailers, delivery-only retailers, microbusinesses, temporary cannabis events, and laboratories.
In November of last year, all three agencies released their emergency regulations and licensing requirements (which we covered here and here). Upon gathering input from the public and cannabis businesses, all three state agencies made changes to their emergency regulations and readopted them last month.
In both the initial and readopted regulations, cannabis businesses were provided with a transition period that allowed for exceptions from certain regulatory provisions. The goal of the transition period was to grant cannabis businesses with a period of less stringent regulations so that they could sell cannabis products that were already in their inventory. The cost of compliance is a steep one and the transition period was an attempt to soften the blow. The readopted regulations made a number of changes (which we covered here) but what they didn’t change is the transition period’s termination date. The transition period ends on June 30, 2018, so starting on July 1st (which is also Canada Day!) the following regulations will apply:
- Untested cannabis goods cannot be sold by a retailer and must be destroyed, nor will a retailer will be able to send the untested cannabis goods for testing.
- Untested cannabis goods manufactured or harvested before January 1, 2018, in possession of a distributor that are owned by the distributor will have to be destroyed.
- Untested cannabis goods manufactured or harvested before January 01, 2018, in the possession of a distributor owned by a manufacturer or cultivator may be returned to them. The manufacturer or cultivator could then sell the returned cannabis goods after sending them to a distributor and they pass all of the testing requirements.
- All packaging and labeling of cannabis goods must be properly performed before being transported to a retailer. This also applies to cannabis goods that were in a retailer’s inventory before July 01st. The only exception is that a retailer will be able to affix “FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY” for medicinal sales.
- Cannabis goods in a retailer’s possession that do not meet packaging and labeling requirements will have to be destroyed.
- All cannabis goods must be in child-resistant packaging, only having exit or secondary packaging be child-resistant shall no longer suffice.
- Edible cannabis goods may no longer exceed 10 milligrams of THC per serving and may not exceed 100 milligrams of THC per package.
- Non-edible cannabis products shall not contain more than 1,000 milligrams of THC per package in the adult-use market.
- Non-edible cannabis products shall not contain more than 2,000 milligrams of THC per package in the medicinal market.
- All products sold by a retailer will have to meet the CDPH’s requirements for ingredients and appearance.
In the long-term, the end of the transition period will benefit the public as the cannabis goods consumed will have passed stricter testing requirements. However, come July 1, you can expect to see less inventory on retailers’ shelves as there will inevitably be a number of cannabis goods that cannot pass the stricter testing requirements. Cannabis businesses that have been planning for the expiration of the transition period regulations are going to be the ones with good compliance programs and they’ll be able to take advantage of a less crowded marketplace as less forward-looking operators struggle to adapt.
One major concern for the California cannabis industry is whether there are enough licensed laboratories to meet demand. The BCC has currently issued temporary licenses to approximately twenty-nine (29) laboratories and whether they have the capacity to test all the cannabis products supplied by cultivators and manufacturers will have a direct impact on how fast a retailer can restock their inventory. In the short-term, you can expect to see some steep discounts from retailers as they’re forced to unload all their marijuana products that they’d have to destroy if not sold by July 1. Be ready for longer than normal lines at your favorite cannabis retailer on June 30!