Photo via Bob Tilden
This week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed three new cannabis bills into law, further cementing the state's reputation as a leader of marijuana reform. One of the new bills will establish a program to help minorities who’ve disproportionately suffered under marijuana prohibition to attain opportunities in the legal weed industry. The second bill grants California cities the ability to approve temporary cannabis festivals, while the third permits veterinarians to legally discuss cannabis treatments for animals with their clients.
Since Proposition 64 was approved by Golden State voters in 2016, the cities of Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles have established equity programs to encourage diversity in their local cannabis industries. On Wednesday, Gov. Brown signed the Cannabis Equity Act, which will further the state’s push for equal opportunity in legal marijuana. Every jurisdiction that has established its own local equity program can now apply for a slice of a $10 million fund set aside by the state for this purpose.
Towns and cities that apply for this funding can use it to grant business loans or technical assistance to minority business owners, or to offset the costs of waiving license fees or administrative expenses incurred in setting up these programs. This assistance can be offered to business owners hailing from lower-income neighborhoods as well as those excessively impacted by the effects of drug law enforcement.
“The City of Los Angeles created its social equity program to bring relief and new opportunities to communities of color that suffered through decades of disproportionate enforcement and punishment for non-violent cannabis offenses,” said Cat Packer, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation to the Compton Herald. “This legislation will help clear the way for more equitable ownership and employment opportunities for people who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs and want to establish legitimate cannabis businesses in California.”
State Sen. Steven Bradford, author of the bill, said that Brown's signing of his bill “recognizes the failed efforts of the war on drugs,” the Compton Herald reports. “But more importantly, it highlights the disproportionate devastation cannabis criminalization has had on communities and helps address the harms by reducing barriers to licensure and increasing opportunities for employment. This bill will aid in the development of a safer and healthier cannabis industry that benefits all Californians.”
On Thursday, Gov. Brown approved a bill that allows California cities to apply to hold temporary pot-themed events. Before this bill became law, cannabis events could only be held at county fairgrounds, limiting access for many residents. The state Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) was previously tasked with handling the licensing for all events throughout the state, subject to local approval. Ahead of this year's 4/20 celebrations, the bureau licensed around 50 legal festivals, while simultaneously threatening to revoke the license of any cannabis company that was found to be supplying weed to an unlicensed festival.
“Cannabis events support local economies and small businesses,” said state Assemblyman Bill Quirk, author of the bill, in a statement. “Despite the fiscal and communal benefits such events bring to a city or local community, current law prohibits local governments from approving applications for cannabis sales at special events if they are held anywhere but on county fairgrounds.”
The new law enables local jurisdictions will to approve pot events at any venue of their choice, but the BCC reserves the right to revoke an event permit if unlawful activity is discovered. Event planners are also required to respect local and state ordinances regarding secondhand smoke. The new law will go into effect on January 1st, and many city officials are already drawing up plans for a variety of marijuana-themed events.
The Oakland City Council pushed hard for this bill's passage, in hopes of allowing legal pot sales at its annual Art + Soul Oakland street festival. “With this bill now law, any local jurisdiction can choose to take part in this robust industry, while supporting small businesses, enhancing regional economic opportunities, and maintaining safety,” Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said in a statement.
Finally, Governor Brown also signed Assembly Bill 2215, which permits veterinarians to legally discuss medical marijuana for animals with their clients. Under previous state regulations, such animal doctors were at risk of losing their licenses simply for advising pet owners on how to administer cannabis to their companions. Yet marijuana-based products for animals are a booming market in California and elsewhere, with widespread reports of success in treating animal anxiety, arthritis, and other ailments — but pet owners in the Golden State have been unable to seek proper veterinary advice on cannabis (even about potential side effects) without putting their animal doctor’s job in jeopardy, until now.
“This is historic, as it is the first bill of its kind to be signed into law, making California the world leader in the integration of cannabis and veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Tim Shu, veterinarian and CEO of VETCBD to MERRY JANE on Thursday. “The implications of this bill will be life-changing for so many pets.”