Here’s the First Batch of California Cannabis Bills in 2017

With Proposition 64 the law of the land and adult-use cannabis stores expected to open in a year or so, California lawmakers are now introducing legislation to tinker with the state’s current cannabis laws.

The bills already introduced in Sacramento include measures that would allow police to test a driver’s saliva for recent cannabis consumption, restrict advertising for cannabis businesses, explicitly prohibit advertising to children, and outlaw consumption while operating a motor vehicle.

Here’s a brief overview of the bills currently making their way around Sacramento. (Thanks to Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access and a keen Capitol watchdog, for rounding up the new bills.)

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Assembly Bill 6 — Driving under the influence: drug testing
Introduced by Assembly Member Tom Lackey (D-Palmdale)

You may have read about some California law enforcement agencies testing drivers for cannabis consumption by taking saliva samples. Those tests have been voluntary—you actually have to give permission to an officer to have your spit sampled—but AB 6 would allow officers to require such a test. The law already forces drivers to submit to breath, blood, and urine tests. This bill would expand that to include “a preliminary oral fluid screening test that indicates the presence or concentration of a drug.” Critics have complained that the testing is unproven and has not been demonstrated to be effective in published scientific studies.

Keep in mind, Prop. 64 didn’t establish a per se limit on THC or its metabolites in a driver’s bloodstream. Instead, it charges the California Highway Patrol with deciding what, if any, per se limit will apply. (In Colorado and Washington, the limit is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.) It’s a tough question, as even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges that it’s “difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”

Assembly Bill 64 — Cannabis: medical and nonmedical: regulation and advertising
Introduced by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and others

This bill contains a number of provisions and could certainly attract more amendments as the legislative session stretches on. As written, it would prohibit cannabis-related billboards on all state and interstate highways. Currently the law forbids only such advertisements on highways that cross state borders. Similar restrictions already apply to tobacco products, but they don’t extend to alcohol.

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AB 64 would also expand state trademark protections to include marks for legal cannabis products and services; provide a $3 million loan to help the California Highway Patrol develop cannabis DUI protocols (the loan would be repaid by future cannabis taxes); and clarify that medical cannabis licensees operating under the state’s new medical law, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, could operate either as nonprofits or for-profit businesses. The existing law has been widely interpreted to prohibit for-profit medical cannabis operations.

Assembly Bill 76 — Adult-use marijuana: marketing
Introduced by Assembly Member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park)

In the run-up to the election, many were outraged at what they perceived as a loophole in Prop. 64 that could allow cannabis businesses to advertise to children. While the law wasn’t that simple—and actually expressly prohibited such advertising—this bill would strengthen that provision by specifically stating the Legislature’s intent to prohibit marketing adult-use cannabis to minors.

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Senate Bill 65 — Vehicles: alcohol and marijuana: penalties
Introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo)

This bill is fairly straightforward. It prohibits “smoking or ingesting marijuana or marijuana products” while operating a vehicle. Similar laws already apply to alcohol. A violation could be charged as either an infraction or a misdemeanor, and offenders could be sentenced to drug or alcohol education and counseling classes in addition to criminal or civil penalties.

The year, of course, is just getting started. “Expect new bills and amendments soon,” Duncan, of Americans for Safe Access, wrote in an email newsletter. Various regulatory agencies will also be taking up cannabis issues this year, making decisions that will shape the future of California’s legal cannabis industry.

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