Biden’s Nominee for Health Secretary Would Deny Due Process to Many Weed Businesses
California attorney general says having a provisional license — which is what 83 percent of the state’s weed businesses have — excludes business from having full legal rights in a court of law.
Published on March 9, 2021

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California attorney general Xavier Becerra, the president’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, argued in a court of law that the state’s provisional license-holding cannabis businesses are not entitled to due process. 

This would be less of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that around 83 percent of cannabis business licenses in California are provisional — a whopping 8,280 of the 9,950 permits that have been awarded so far. 

The suit’s judge disagreed

This is a rather shocking proposition, given Becerra’s track record of supporting California weed companies. It came in response to a San Francisco cannabis testing lab that claimed its right to due process was violated when the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control revoked its provisional business license. 

Harrens Labs’ lawsuit centers on the fact that there is no appeal process available for holders of the provisional cannabis business license.

“They are mistaken,” Becerra wrote in a filing of Harrens Lab’s claim. He goes on to assert that provisional license holders do not enjoy the same rights under the law as holders of permanent business licenses. 

“It is not reasonable to expect that a provisional license confers any permanent entitlement,” the document continues.

Becerra, a former member of US Congress, has garnered a reputation as an advocate for California’s cannabis businesses. In 2019, he joined other state attorney generals in supporting a bill that would protect state-legal businesses from federal interference. 

If confirmed, Becerra would be the country’s first Latino Secretary of Health and Human Services and would oversee the administration’s COVID-19 response. 

He faces opposition from Republicans based on his support for abortion rights and the universal right to health care. 

Harrens Lab’s business license was revoked due to various allegations that the company broke with state regulations on a variety of fronts, including their use of a third-party courier to transport cannabis samples, and modifying the lab’s physical premise without seeking approval from the Bureau of Cannabis Control. 

Judge Frank Roesch rejected Becerra’s logic, and ruled that Harrens Lab could reopen in advance of a court hearing scheduled for March 25. 

For Harrens Lab’s attorney, that hearing will be a referendum on the future of California’s $3.5 billion cannabis industry. 

“The lab’s position is that the (83% of the) provisional licensees that form the bulk of the multi-billion dollar California cannabis industry have a constitutionally protected property interest in their licenses,” attorney James Anthony told Marijuana Business Daily. “And that therefore the government cannot shut them down without due process of law.”

Despite the state’s storied role in the global cannabis legalization movement, California attorney generals have not always been renowned for their pro-marijuana stance. During Becerra’s predecessor Vice President Kamala Harris’ six-year tenure in the office from 2011 to 2017, Harris memorably laughed when a reporter asked her for thoughts on cannabis legalization. (Her position has since evolved; Harris is now a vocal supporter of cannabis decriminalization and backed Senator Corey Booker’s legalization-oriented Marijuana Justice Act back in 2018.)

Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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