Business, Politics

California Releases Long-Awaited Cannabis Regulations, With No Limit On Farms

California Cannabis Regulations released by three licensing agencies — the Department of Health, Department of Food and Agriculture and the Bureau of Cannabis Control — offer the first glimpse of the future in which cannabis is legal throughout California.

California Delivery

California’s regulations dealt a win to cannabis-delivery businesses, which for years have operated in the shadows. They will now be allowed to apply for licenses once the new rules take effect next month.

“With delivery, it’s been a huge fight,” said Nina Parks, co-founder of the San Francisco-based cooperative Mirage Medicinal, “which allows patients to order cannabis through a website, and have it brought to their doorsteps. When you think of bedridden patients or elderly people, they don’t want to travel far to get their medicine.”

The state will allow cannabis to be delivered only in cars and trucks — transport by “aircraft, watercraft, drone, rail, human-powered vehicle, and unmanned vehicle is prohibited,” according to the rules.  Small delivery services will finally operate legally, but cannabis won’t be transported in self-driving cars or on bicycles, and it isn’t allowed in strip clubs.

cannabis drone delivery

Edibles

Edible cannabis products can contain only 100 milligrams of THC in each 10-serving package under the new rules. Other products, such as lotions and tinctures, are limited to 2,000 milligrams of THC in the medicinal market, or 1,000 milligrams for regular adult use.

That means some popular but extremely potent items will be illegal.

Branding

Cannabis labels cannot be decorated with cartoons or other marketing that appeals to children. Manufacturers also can’t use the term “candy” in any of their branding language. The new regulations also prohibit businesses from mixing cannabis with alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or seafood.

That provision won’t affect brews like SuperCritical Ale, a new cannabis beer by Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma. It’s made with terpenes — plant-oil compounds — which have a strong flavor but contain no THC.

Aesthetics and Branding

The state also clamped down on the aesthetics of cannabis products, which “cannot be (made) in the shape of a human being, animal, insect or fruit,” Miren Klein of the Department of Public Health said at a Cannabis Advisory Committee meeting in Sacramento on Thursday.

The rules didn’t include size restrictions for cannabis farms and nurseries — a notable shift from the one-acre cap that the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture had proposed in an environmental impact report published Monday.

What About Farms?

Big farms will continue to thrive in Mendocino and Monterey, with no limit on farm size, opening the door for large-scale cultivation in California.

Those guidelines come amid mass confusion among cities that haven’t put together their own regulations for the sale of recreational cannabis, which will be legal January 1, 2018.

Under state law, local jurisdictions can craft policies limiting the local marketplace, such as the size of farms and the types of businesses allowed.

How Does The Industry Feel?

The idea of limiting cannabis agriculture to one-acre plots had become a major point of debate in the industry. It would have benefited small businesses and blocked corporations from setting up huge farms or greenhouses in the Salinas Valley.

But now that the cap has been tossed, California has set the stage for marijuana to be the next major industrial crop.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, called the decision “a catastrophe.”

“Simply put, there will be too much supply,” he said, noting that federal law still prohibits interstate shipment of controlled substances — and reports from the Department of Food and Agriculture show that the state already produces far more marijuana than it consumes.

Even so, the state has set up a sliding-scale fee system so that large companies pay much more for licenses than their mom-and-pop counterparts. The biggest distributors — companies that expect to earn more than $80 million in gross revenue — will pay $125,000 annually.

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