California regulators on Friday announced dozens of changes to proposed rules for the state’s recreational and medicinal marijuana markets, kicking off a frenetic 15-day public comment period.
The amendments to proposed rules issued in July are tucked into 318 pages of documents released by the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Public Health. The changes respond to some of the 6,000 public comments that were submitted to the state this summer.
Interest groups were still sifting through the proposed new language Friday afternoon but some changes—and just as importantly, the rules that stayed the same—were readily apparent. Here are a few takeaways.
➤➤ Delivery services remain protected.
The Bureau of Cannabis Control did not add restrictions on where delivery companies can operate. Police groups, the League of California Cities and the United Food and Commercial Workers lobbied for regulatory language that would allow local governments, many of which already prohibit retail sales and grows, to ban pot deliveries within their boundaries.
“It’s unfortunate the Bureau of Cannabis Control made the decision to undermine the authority of local officials,” David Swing, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said in August. He added: “The proposed regulations give unrestricted access to the cannabis delivery industry and open the floodgates to a number of public safety risks.”
Companies including WeDrop Cannabis Delivery, CannaWagon and Weedmaps lobbied the Legislature and other policymakers this year to keep the local delivery restrictions out of state law.
There is some new language to the cannabis delivery rules. The final rule would prohibit delivery “to a school providing instruction in kindergarten or any grades 1 through 12, day care center, or youth center.”
➤➤ License costs will be lower (for some).
Regulators have lowered the annual license fees for smaller operators. Previously, retailers with revenues of up to $750,000, for instance, would have had to pay $4,000 for a 12-month license. The proposed changes create lower revenue caps, so now retailers sales under $500,000 will pay $2,500.
Costs will be cheaper for small-scale cannabis event organizers, micro-businesses, distributors and labs. Industry advocates had complained that high projected fees were encouraging some operators to stay in the black market.
Bigger operations will still see big license fees. Retailers with sales of $7.5 million or more will pay $96,000 year for a license under the rules.
➤➤ Packaging and promotion restrictions abound.
The changed rules include new language mandating more child-proof packaging and more specifics about labeling cannabinoid content. Amendments also clarify that cannabis products can’t have the “realistic or caricature” shape of a human being. The same prohibitions were already in place for products resembling animals, insects and fruit.
As for advertising, retailers will now be barred from promoting giveaways of non-cannabis products—not just marijuana itself. Ads can’t depict anyone under the age of 21 instead of 18. And billboards can’t be located on highways within 15 miles of the California state line.
The final regulations, which will be issued some time after the 15-day comment period, must be sent to the Office of Administrative Law for review on or before Dec. 3.