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California’s Marijuana Laws: What To Know

California first enacted laws protecting the use of medical marijuana in 1996. Since that time, and mainly since 2016, there have been substantial changes in those laws. Many of these have broadened protections to recreational or “adult-use” marijuana or cannabis.

The Early Stages Of Cannabis Law

First, in 1996, California approved the country’s first medical cannabis program through the Compassionate Use Act (CUA), commonly known as Proposition 215, a ballot initiative passed by voters. The CUA exempts qualified medical marijuana patients with valid recommendations from physicians for medical cannabis use from criminal prosecution for possession and use of medical cannabis. The CUA was groundbreaking and cracked the door open for what has now become the legal cannabis industry in dozens of states more than two decades later.

Next, in 2003, the California State Legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act (“MMPA”) through Senate Bill No. 420. The MMPA formalized California’s medical cannabis program by providing for patient identification cards issued by the Department of Health and the formation of patient “collectives” that can cultivate and distribute marijuana to approved patients who are members of the collective.

In the ensuing years, patients, cultivators, manufacturers, distributors and dispensaries relied on the CUA and MMPA to protect their activity in the medical cannabis industry under what was known as the collective model.

More Recent Changes

In October 2015, California enacted three bills (Assembly Bill No. 243, Assembly Bill No. 266, and Senate Bill No. 643) that made up the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, later renamed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (“MCRSA”). MCRSA established “a comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework for the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution and sale of medical marijuana.” Under MCRSA, Medical cannabis would be subject to licensing and regulations by several state agencies within the Department of Consumer Affairs, including the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Public Health, and the newly-created Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.

In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, known as, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (“AUMA”). AUMA legalized cannabis possession and consumption for individuals 21 years old and above and provided for a comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis similar to that created by the MCRSA for medical cannabis. AUMA also provided for a reduction of certain qualifying crimes relating to adult-use cannabis from felonies to misdemeanors.

In June 2017, MCRSA and AUMA were combined into the Medical and Adult Use Recreation and Safety Act (“MAUCRSA”) through Senate Bill No. 94 to provide a comprehensive licensing and regulatory system for both medical and adult-use cannabis. As a result, beginning January 1, 2018, separate licenses or permits had to  be obtained both from local municipalities and the state to grow, manufacture, distribute, transport, test and sell cannabis products. This dual jurisdiction licensing requirement allows counties and cities to license, regulate and tax cannabis businesses or even ban commercial activity in its entirety. Additionally, as of 2019, the collective model ceased to offer protection for commercial cannabis activity; those businesses are required to have a license or permit to legally conduct their activity.

The Important Details Of MAUCRSA

Under MAUCRSA, cannabis is regulated by the including the Department of Cannabis Regulation. This act requires cannabis businesses to meet complex development and operating standards and regulations. These include, among other requirements:

  • Security, fire and safety measures
  • “Seed-to-sale” tracking of medical cannabis
  • Testing, labeling and packaging requirements to ensure products are safe for consumption
  • Labor and employment law compliance
  • Restrictions on where businesses may be located

While these measures have provided a vastly more stable and predictable business environment, they are nonetheless obstacles that require sophisticated legal advice to navigate.

Why You Need A Cannabis Lawyer

Regardless of whether you currently own a cannabis-related business license, you are seeking to obtain such a license, or you are interested in having your current or prospective business serve the burgeoning cannabis business sector, you can turn to Chernis Law Group P.C. to counsel you about your rights and how your desired activity can be done legally under the California laws. Mr. Chernis is a sophisticated thinker and creative strategist who understands the nuances of California and federal cannabis law. He is adept at solving complex problems and brings that training and sophistication to cannabis law as it continues to evolve and raise new and cutting-edge challenges and opportunities.

Learn More About Cannabis Law From An Attorney

Learning about California’s many regulations regarding cannabis can seem incredibly complex. It is wise to have the counsel of an attorney like Michael S. Chernis to guide you and explain your rights. To speak with Mr. Chernis about the law, schedule an initial consultation with him by calling 310-558-2346 or by using his online contact form. The firm can also help businesses that create products containing hemp, CBD, or non-Delta 9 THC cannabinoids.