California cannabis advocates scored a pair of victories in the state legislature this week. Lawmakers sent a bill to the governor’s desk to set up a regulatory framework for hemp-derived CBD sales that also removes the ban on smokable hemp products, and they also approved a measure to require hospitals to permit medical marijuana use by certain patients.
State Sen. Ben Hueso (D) has been fighting for his measure to allow cannabis use in medical facilities for terminally ill patients for multiple sessions. He recently sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeking clarification on whether the policy change could jeopardize federal funding for those facilities.
His bill to codify that hospitals can, in fact, allow select patients to use cannabis cleared the Assembly in a 57-1 vote on Thursday, and the Senate signed off on the other chamber’s recent amendments in a 36-1 vote on Friday.
“For many Californians, particularly terminally-ill patients, medicinal cannabis is a preferred alternative to other drugs, providing therapeutic relief without the caveats that may come with other medicines,” Eddie Franco, legislative and regulatory affairs manager at CCIA, told Marijuana Moment.
The bill “marks an opportunity for California to continue to lead the way in cannabis regulation and reform,” he said.
Confusion about possible implications for permitting marijuana consumption in health facilities led pro-legalization Newsom to veto an earlier bill meant to address the issue in 2019. Representatives from both HHS and the governor’s office have recently reached out to Hueso to say they’re continuing to look into the matter.
The senator’s legislation was partly inspired by the experience of a father whose son died from cancer and was initially denied access to cannabis at a California hospital. Jim Bartell did eventually find a facility that agreed to allow the treatment, and he has said his son’s quality of life improved dramatically in those last days.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)hasn’t yet signaled whether he now feels comfortable approving the use-in-hospitals legislation, SB 311. But when it comes to the hemp bill, stakeholders say they’ve reached an agreement with the administration.
AB 45 would “explicitly permit the sale of hemp-derived extracts such as CBD” outside of licensed marijuana dispensaries, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable said in an action alert after it passed the Senate in a 29-2 vote on Wednesday. The Assembly concurred with amendments and gave final passage to the bill in a 56-3 vote on Thursday.
The state’s ban on smokable hemp products would be lifted for out-of-state sale effective upon enactment, but a tax would need to be established for such smokable products in-state before they could be marketed in California. Once sales begin, the products couldn’t be sold to people under 21 or contain flavoring or additives.
Hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD would be allowed in foods, beverages, cosmetics and dietary supplements, and hemp manufacturers would need to register with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
CDPH would be authorized to “determine maximum serving sizes, active cannabinoid concentration per serving size and number of servings per container, and any other requirements for foods and beverages,” according to a legislative analysis.
The state Department of Cannabis Control would be required to “prepare a report to the governor outlining the steps necessary to allow for the incorporation of hemp cannabinoids into the cannabis supply chain” by July 1, 2022.
In disappointing news for drug policy reform advocates this session, a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca has stalled this year following a decision by the sponsor that more time is needed to build the case for the reform and solidify its chances of being enacted next year. The senator said in a forum this week, however, that he is confident the bill will ultimately pass—and that the state will eventually decriminalize all drugs.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.