Cannabis industry applauds governor’s veto of bill banning cannabis labels deemed ‘attractive to children’
The California cannabis industry breathed a sigh of relief upon Gov. Gavin Newsom splitting the difference on two competing bills among the flurry of more than 900 that have recently hit his desk.
Newsom on Sunday vetoed the controversial Assembly Bill 1207, known as the Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act, which bans the sale, distribution or manufacturing of cannabis products with packaging and labeling deemed “attractive to children.”
The bill would have defined the appeal as promotional material displaying fictional humans, animals, fruits and vegetables.
Statewide, regional and local entities came out against the bill. Instead, representatives from those groups had counted on Senate Bill 540 as a suitable replacement.
SB 540 instructs the California Department of Cannabis Control to revisit packaging and labeling restrictions “in line with evolving science” and to create “a brochure encouraging responsible cannabis use,” statewide cannabis trade groups wrote in a letter to the governor.
“We're enormously grateful for the governor's thoughtful and nuanced approach to cannabis advertising,” said Tiffany Devitt, who manages government affairs for CannaCraft, a Santa Rosa producer. “By vetoing AB 1207 and signing SB 540, he's taken a science-based approach to safeguarding consumers while preserving the ability of California cannabis companies to compete in the national market.”
AB 1207 would have gone into effect Jan. 1, 2024, leaving little time for cannabis companies using labels with fictional people, plants and animals to go back to the drawing board and get out new products in a few months.
“No one would have been able to accommodate that,” said Genine Coleman, executive director of the Origins Council, a Mendocino County-based trade advocacy group supporting regenerative farming and legacy growers. “We’re grateful to the governor.”
The overhaul of packaging would have amounted to a costly endeavor for most cannabis businesses falling into that category — between $100,000 and $300,000, according to the California Cannabis Industry Association.
Instead, SB 540 becoming law allows the regulatory arm of the state to reevaluate and “routinely review” the labeling process and draft a brochure highlighting what’s appropriate.
“Instead of a sweeping ban, SB 540 promotes a dynamic approach, enabling the (Department of Cannabis Control) to make evidence-based decisions on packaging and labeling while also providing guidance on responsible consumption and potential underage misuse,” said Amy O’Gorman Jenkins, association legislative advocate and Precision Advocacy president.
Association President Pamela Epstein said AB 1207 would have posed “excessive restrictions” and, in the long-haul, might have led to a boost for the illicit market by threatening the economic vitality of legal operations. These companies are tasked to pay taxes earmarked for youth programs.
Statewide youth advocacy organizations supported the failing legislation as a means to protect children against drug poisonings, a goal the cannabis industry said it shares with the groups.
Dr. Lynn Silver, a senior adviser for the statewide Public Health Institute, expressed disappointment in the outcome of AB 1207 and found a comparison to the tobacco industry’s promotion of smoking for youth.
“There’s no question the (anti AB 1207 forces) took a page from the tobacco industry’s playbook,” Silver said, while also insisting the groups “are not anti-cannabis.”
She vowed the affiliated groups will continue with the youth protective efforts. This means having a hand in helping the state Cannabis Control agency draft its labeling policy.
“We’ll try to address this with the (state) and the court of public opinion,” she said.
Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. She can be reached at 530-545-8662 or firstname.lastname@example.org