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California Law Primer

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The 2019 legislative session delivered up an impressive quantity of legislation relating to California’s nascent marijuana legalization program. Most, but not all, were signed into law by Governor Newsom. The impact will be minimal on most consumers, but just so you can’t say you didn’t know, here is a quick rundown on what happened.

cannabis_bud2-page-001.jpgSB 34 – The Cannabis Compassionate Use Tax Act aka The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act, was certainly one of the key pieces of legislation that undid Prop. 64 tax section that required the payment of state taxes even on cannabis that was provided for free to veterans and other financially disadvantaged patients. As was twitted by the bills author, Senator Scott Wiener:

"Gov. @GavinNewsom signed #SB34, our legislation to ensure #cannabis compassion programs - which provide free medical cannabis to low income patients - can survive. These programs are critical to the health of many with #HIV, cancer, PTSD & other conditions. Thank you Governor!"

There was some indication that Gov. Newsom was waffling on this bill, but thanks to all the people who wrote and phoned into his office as requested by activists throughout the state, including this newsletter, the Governor signed the bill into law which will take effect March 1, 2020.


SB 153 authored by State Senator Scott Wilk requires the appropriate state agencies to develop an industrial hemp program plan that follows the requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and its derivatives such as CBD.

SB 185 by State Senator Mike McGuire allows for the creation of proprietary appellations for cannabis grown in certain geographical areas of California. In the same way that appellations are currently done for wine, the bill applies prohibitions against misrepresentation of county of origin and appellation of origin to the use of names that are likely to mislead consumers as to the kind of cannabis they are purchasing.


SB 223 by State Senator Jerry Hill allows parents to give medical cannabis to their children while on school campuses. Although parents were allowed to give their children medical marijuana previously it was not allowed on school campuses requiring parents to take their children off the school grounds in order to administer cannabis.

The bill, called Jojo’s Act, is named after a South San Francisco High School student with a form of severe epilepsy who was having up to 50 seizures a day. To prevent his debilitating and life-threatening seizures, his mother had to take him off campus to give him a dose of cannabis oil.

The law takes effect on Jan 1, 2020, but each school district will have the final say on whether they'll allow it. Students would need a doctor's note and parents would have to bring the medical cannabis to school rather than store it there. It would also have to be in a non-smoking form like a capsule.


SB305 Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law introduced by State Senator Ben Hueso would have required certain health care facilities to allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis on site. Concerned that health care facilities would be at risk of losing Medicare and Medicaid funds if they allowed use of federally illegal cannabis, Governor Newsom vetoed the bill writing “This bill would create significant conflicts between federal and state laws that cannot be taken lightly,”

As part of his veto message the Governor protested having to sign it as “It is inconceivable that the federal government continues to regard cannabis as having no medicinal value,” further stating that its “ludicrous stance puts patients and those who care for them in an unconscionable position.”


SB 595 by State Senator Steven Bradford  requires state and local government agencies involved in the licensing of cannabis businesses to develop and implement a program to provide a deferral or waiver for application, licensing and renewal fees in order to further the enactment of local equity programs which provide technical and financial help for low-income, minorities and people who have been convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

AB 37 by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer will allow cannabis companies to take tax deductions for business expenses.  Under current federal tax law Section 280E, cannabis businesses cannot deduct expenses from their taxes for business expenses which all other businesses are allowed to do. California had followed the same approach by not allowing cannabis businesses to deduct their expenses.

With the passage of AB 37, California will no longer follow Section 280E and will allow licensed cannabis businesses to deduct their business expenses. Note that it is “licensed” cannabis businesses – if they do not have a local and state license, they will still not be able to deduct their business expenses.

AB 404 by Assembly Member Mark Stone would allow testing laboratories to rectify minor errors in the testing process and to retest any sample.


AB 420 (that’s right 420) by Assembly Member Tom Lackey would authorize the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research to cultivate cannabis for use in its research programs. The research programs would include “the study of naturally occurring constituents of cannabis and synthetic compounds and to require the program to develop and conduct studies to examine the effects of cannabis, cannabinoids, and related constituents, and other behavioral health outcomes." It also authorizes controlled clinical trials to focus on examining testing methods for detecting harmful contaminants in cannabis, including mold and bacteria.

AB 858 by Assembly Member Marc Levine regulates cultivation canopy sizes for outdoor cultivation authorized by a Type 1C license. The bill allows a maximum size of 2,500 square feet or less of total canopy size, with the option to meet an alternative maximum threshold to be determined by the licensing authority of up to 25 mature plants.


AB 1291 by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer requires a licensed cannabis business with 20 or more employees to enter into a labor peace agreement. The bill requires cannabis businesses with less than 20 employees to enter into a labor peace agreement within 60 days of employing its 20th employee.

As explained by attorney Ken Stratton, “A Labor Peace Agreement is essentially a contract between an employer and an organized labor union in which the employer agrees to help the union organize the employer’s workforce (i.e., unionize), for example by providing certain information or by agreeing not to disrupt certain union organizing efforts, in return for the union’s agreement not to strike or cause other disruption at the employer’s workplace during a union organizing campaign.”UniversalSymbol-2.jpg

AB 1529 by Assembly Member Evan Low requires that a standardized symbol be placed on all cannabis vape cartridges.

Signed by Governor Newsom was a ban on cannabis smoking in public conveyances that had been rolled into omnibus transportation bill AB 1810 making it illegal to smoke cannabis on any bus, taxicab,cannabus.png limousine, housecar, camper, or pedicab. Alcohol consumption was specifically allowed in the bill. Although consumption of cannabis on the tour buses is banned, it does not prevent the sampling of cannabis at the various stops along the way.


Although not strictly a cannabis law, SB 8 by State Senator Steve Glazer bans smoking tobacco and any other product, such as cannabis, in the approximately 300 California state beaches and state parks. It was promoted as an anti-littering bill as research and surveys have shown that about 70 percent of smokers habitually flick their butts onto the ground. The bill exempts smoking on roads and in parking areas. If caught smoking in any other area, the fine is $25.ignorance.jpg

OK there you have it. Now you can’t say you didn’t know because ignorance of the law is no excuse.

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