New Regulations Pose Threat to Cali Cannabis Businesses

Throughout the nation, drug possession crimes are still treated very seriously. In many states like Indiana, the penalty individuals face for possession of a controlled substance depends on two factors: namely, what the substance is and how much is in their possession. In California, these same rules essentially still apply, with the addition of an individual’s intent and with one big exception: marijuana.

Back in 2016, California voted to decriminalize recreational marijuana with the passing of Proposition 64. This law makes it legal for adults aged 21 and up to purchase, possess, and use up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or eight grams of concentrated marijuana within their private residence or in a licensed dispensary or other related establishment.

But while the rules pertaining to marijuana usage are much less strict in California than in many other states, some new regulations meant to ensure consumer safety have some dispensaries and manufacturers a bit concerned.

The state Department of Public Health recently set potency limit recommendations that will impact medical marijuana edibles. The newly released guidelines give a recommended limit of 100 milligrams per edible or package, with pieces (or doses) marked with 10 milligrams or less.

This is the first time California has ever set potency standards for either marijuana edibles or pot, and it could potentially disrupt companies’ operations. Korova Edibles, an Oakland-based manufacturer specializing in marijuana confections, is particularly concerned with how the regulations will affect their business.

Korova prides itself on its “unrivaled potency.” Their medical cannabis Black Bar chocolates, known as the “20 dose,” contain 1,000 milligrams of THC. Their new THC Blondie treat contains caramel, crushed pretzels, and a total of 500 milligrams of the psychoactive ingredient. These new regulations threaten to derail their entire business marketing strategy by forcing them to cut the THC levels found in their chocolates, brownies, cookies, and popcorn carried by more than 750 different dispensaries throughout the state.

CEO of Korova Edibles, Joe Gerlach, feels that state regulators have failed to consider the needs of medical marijuana users with these new recommendations. Many of these users have painful conditions like cancer and Crohn’s disease, and through their continued use, they’ve developed higher THC tolerances. Therefore, these consumers require more potent edibles, which would cease to exist with these regulations. Gerlach says he’ll lobby for higher potency limits for medical marijuana edibles, but also notes that any pot product is safer than opioid and prescription drugs.

“I think our main goal is to find something that is a compromise to definitely keep public safety in mind but also to keep the patients in mind,” said Gerlach. “Nobody has ever died of cannabis. And you don’t want people running off and getting opiates. Why are we restricting this when it is one of the safest alternatives?”

Gerlach also pointed out to The Sacramento Bee that Korova’s more potent products are especially cost-effective and can be rationed out over longer periods of time.

“Their price point per THC [content] is the lowest on the market,” he explained.

But these new regulations echo those passed in other states that have legalized marijuana. Both Colorado and Washington have limited their edibles to 100 milligrams of THC and also require serving sizes to be labeled as having 10 milligrams or less. In addition, Oregon set a standard of only 50 milligrams for edibles sold to recreational users, which include individual serving sizes as being five milligrams or less.

Other marijuana regulations recently passed in the state of California require labs that test medical cannabis use to be fully licensed and subject to strict guidelines for sample examination. They must also prove their employees are properly trained. These rules would lay out standards for detecting processing chemicals, impurities, metals, and pesticides, along with moisture content. All marijuana sold would be given a certificate to show it’s safe for public consumption.

The Bureau of Marijuana Control intends to start issuing these licenses for cultivation, transportation, testing, and sale of marijuana next January.

“The broad objectives of these regulations are to ensure that the medical cannabis goods sold to consumers from licensed dispensaries are safe for consumption,” said the bureau in a recent statement.

Although hard-hitting consumers and dispensaries may not be pleased with the government telling them how much THC they can use or sell, proponents of the regulations would likely say that they address an important public safety issue. Considering that health officials nationwide have seen evidence that more kids are visiting the ER after consuming pot-infused confections, these new rules — which include the requirement that packaging must not appeal to children — may actually be a step in the right direction.