Nearly 20 years after California become the first state in the country to legalize the medical use of cannabis, Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of bills, which went into effect January 1, 2016, that is designed to regulate the medicinal-cannabis industry. Known as the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), this legislation sets forth comprehensive regulations and standards that govern almost every aspect of the industry in California from taxation and licensing, to quality control, packaging, shipping and standards for cultivation.
MMRSA is made up of three laws, Assembly Bill 266, Assembly Bill 243, and Senate Bill 643. Here is a summary of the provisions of these three laws.
AB 266 establishes the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The Bureau will be responsible for keeping track of licensees and reporting the movement of cannabis and cannabis-related products. AB 266 also establishes 17 different license types for marijuana producers, testing facilities, dispensaries, distributors, and transporters:
1.Type 1 = Cultivation; Specialty outdoor. Up to 5,000 square ft of canopy, or up to 50 noncontiguous plants
2.Type 1A = Cultivation; Specialty indoor. Up to 5000 sq ft
3.Type 1B = Cultivation; Specialty mixed-light. Using exclusively artificial lighting.
4.Type 2 = Cultivation; Outdoor. Up to 5000 sq ft, using a combination of artificial and natural lighting
5.Type 2A = Cultivation; Indoor. 5001 -10,000 sq ft.
6.Type 2B = Cultivation; Mixed-light. 5001 -10,000 sq ft
7.Type 3 = Cultivation; Outdoor. 10,001 sq ft - 1 Acre
8.Type 3A = Cultivation; Indoor.. 10,001 - 22,000 sq ft
9.Type 3B = Cultivation; Mixed-light. 10,001 - 22,000 sq ft
10.Type 4 = Cultivation; Nursery.
11.Type 6 = Manufacturer 1 for products not using volatile solvents.
12.Type 7 = Manufacturer 2 for products using volatile solvents.
13.Type 8 = Testing
14.Type 10 = Dispensary; General
15.Type 10A = Dispensary; No more than three retail sites
16.Type 11 = Distribution
17.Type 12 = Transporter
For marijuana cultivators, the licenses also set a maximum allowable size for cultivation operations depending on the type of license issued. The law is also designed to prevent vertical integration of licensees businesses by only permitting licenses to be held in up to two separate categories. It also places quality control restrictions, which are in the process of being developed, on distributors regarding the content of cannabinoids, contaminants, microbiological impurities, and other compounds. These standards have not been developed yet by the California Department of Public Health. There is also a provision for a new fee for testing to be charged by the distributor in order to cover any new taxes that may be imposed at a later date.
AB 266 establishes with written laws that the actions performed by licensees that are permitted by a state license and local government, meaning that their actions are legal under state law in order to protect the licensee from legal repercussions. It also makes provisions for the grandfathering in of facilities that were in compliance with the law on or before January 1, 2018 so that these facilities can continue to operate until their license is approved or denied.
AB 266 also regulates cannabis deliveries requiring documentation of every delivery. The licensee is required to maintain a physical copy of the delivery request during the delivery to be made available upon request to law enforcement officers as required by the licensing authority. In addition, all employees of a dispensary offering delivery of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products are required to carry a copy of the dispensary's license along with government-issued identification.
Deliveries may only be made by licensed transporters to qualified patients and only by dispensaries in cities and counties where deliveries are not prohibited by local ordinance. The deliveries may also be taxed by the local county. The law also protects the privacy of patients and caregivers by protecting the confidentiality of their names and medical conditions.
AB 243 & SB 643
AB 243 & SB 643 assign the responsibility of regulating marijuana cultivation to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (DFA). The California Department of Public Health is responsible for developing the standards for the manufacturing, testing, production, and labeling of edibles.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is responsible for developing standards for pesticide use in marijuana cultivation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California State Water Resources Control Board have been given the responsibility of developing measures to protect water quality.
The DFA will establish a track and trace program for all marijuana plants at a cultivation site and also enacts civil penalties for cultivation operations that are in violation of these provisions. However, qualified patients can be exempted from the track and trace program if the cultivation area is less than 100 square feet for personal medical use. If the individual is a primary caregiver with five or less patients, then up to 500 square feet is permitted.
SB 643 sets for the qualifications for licensing including proof of local approval. The applicants are also required to undergo a DOJ background check at a Public Live Scan Site. Under these qualifications for-profit entities are also implicitly allowed.
New cultivation and dispensary facilities are not allowed to be located in school zones and must be located at least 600 ft from a school.
There are several provisions regarding physicians recommendations included in SB 643. However, they are not designed to significantly affect or impair a patient's current access to medicinal marijuana. The Medical Board has been ordered to consult with the California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research in order to develop the medical guidelines for medicinal marijuana recommendations.
Physicians may not make medical recommendations to patients if the physician or a family member has financial interest in a licensed facility. Physicians are also required to include a warning notice that medicinal marijuana is still a Schedule I substance under federal law.