California

Calif. Advisory Committee Fields Range of Concerns

By Willis Jacobson

The California Cannabis Advisory Committee, which reports to the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), wrapped up its 2020 schedule by approving an annual report of its activities over the past 12 months and by fielding a range of concerns from operators and state residents.

The 17-member committee – which is made up of operators, regulators, law enforcement officers and medical professionals, among others – included several of its own recommendations from the past year in the annual report, many of them aimed at helping licensed businesses. Citizens from various regions of the state also weighed in during the online meeting.

Improving social equity, expanding business operating hours, and addressing concerns about high-THC products are among the issues the attendees suggested the committee explore in 2021.

Here are some of the concerns and suggestions that were recommended by members of the public:

Social Equity: Multiple attendees encouraged the committee to take a closer look at the state’s social equity program in the coming year, with some suggesting the program is falling short of its goals.

  • An attendee suggested forming a subcommittee to focus solely on social equity matters. This new committee could help bridge the gap for resources and better position social equity applicants to succeed, she said.
  • The committee did not take any action on the idea, but Chair Jeff Ferro, a labor activist within the industry, noted that representatives of United CORE Alliance, a social equity advocacy group, are scheduled to make a presentation at the advisory committee’s January meeting.

Operating hours: Multiple attendees, including at least one consumption lounge owner, called on the body to take another look at the state’s hours of operation for cannabis businesses, which under current law must close by 10 p.m.

  • The advisory committee discussed the issue earlier in the year, according to the annual report, but took no action and made no recommendation.
  • Jackie Subeck, CEO and founder of Hey Jackpot, a consulting firm, encouraged the committee to revisit the issue. The 10 p.m. rule was intended for dispensaries, she said. By enforcing such an early close time, she said, the state is effectively barring consumption lounges from participating in the nightlife scene that bars and nightclubs can profit from.
  • “This effectively puts the lounges on an uneven playing field before they’ve even had a chance to get their businesses off the ground,” she said.

High-THC products: The committee held two lengthy discussions regarding the impacts of consumption of high-THC products, one in August and another in September. Ultimately the committee recommended that the president of the state’s university system convene an expert task force to study the issue and make a presentation and recommendations to relevant state agencies.

  • Speakers at Wednesday’s meeting expressed an interest in continuing and expanding that conversation in 2021, particularly as it relates to public health.
  • The state has not defined what qualifies as “high THC.” Committee members said the data that will be gathered in research will help inform that definition by pinpointing which THC levels trigger increased difficulties or benefits for consumers.
  • Some have suggested high potency products can lead to adverse effects and should be more closely regulated. Others suggest the state is simply searching for problems and that the BCC should focus on regulating an industry, not performing medical research.
  • The BCC announced last month that it would award nearly $30M in grants to public universities for research proposals. Among the grants is $1.43M to UCLA to study the impact of cannabis potency on the properties, composition and toxicity of inhaled and second-hand smoke.

The only action taken by the committee during the meeting was to approve the 29-page annual report, which outlines many of the discussions and actions of the committee in 2020.