Following a meeting with the Governor's special advisor on cannabis policy, his legislative affairs deputy responsible for cannabis bills, and leads from the BCC, DPH and DTFA, LCCS sent the following letter with more specific recommendations for the administration:
December 6, 2019
The Honorable Gavin Newsom Governor of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Newsom:
Thank you for meeting with Legal Cannabis for Consumer Safety (LCCS) to discuss our policy recommendations in the context of illicit vape-attributed lung illness, in addition to some of the broader challenges that the industry is facing in California. We appreciated your time and willingness to work in partnership with us to support a responsible, regulated cannabis industry. As follow up, we wanted to provide some additional information about the key topics discussed and the questions that came up during our conversation.
Enforcement Against the Illicit Market
We respectfully request an additional appropriation of $10 million to provide greater support for statewide enforcement against unlicensed cannabis operators, with an emphasis on unlicensed cannabis retail. This $10 million could be used to hire sworn peace officers under the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). Under the current structure, the BCC has no peace officers under their jurisdiction, instead relying on the Department of Investigation (DOI). This makes enforcement activities against illicit cannabis businesses a long and ineffectual process.
We are also particularly concerned about the recently announced state tax increases which go into effect in January. As you are aware, high taxation is a key reason the illicit market in California continues to thrive. We need comprehensive tax reform that streamlines the process and ensures safe, regulated cannabis is accessible to consumers.
Opportunities to Impact Counterfeiting
We understand the need to prevent the illicit market prior to retail, at earlier points in the supply chain, especially as Leafly estimates that as many as 50 million illicit vape cartridges are in circulation.
Control access to and distribution of empty vape cartridges. Require that such products can only be imported and shipped to state-approved medical or adult use licensees and licensed hemp manufacturers.
Call on large internet platforms to cease selling these products. These include Alibaba, DHGate, Made-In-China, Amazon, Craigslist and eBay and others. In September, seven U.S. Senators, led by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), called on Alibaba, eBay and Craigslist to cease selling e-cigarette and other vaping products in light of the lack of age-verification and access for counterfeiting operations. Approximately three weeks later, Alibaba announced it would cease sales of e-cigarettes and accessories. There is an opportunity to take a similar approach for counterfeit cannabis vape hardware and accessories, which are still widely available, with a request coming directly from the Governor -- potentially in partnership with other states.
As discussed, we’d like to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the issue of counterfeiting in greater depth. Several LCCS members have significant knowledge in this area, and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss potential solutions to help mitigate this important issue.
Approach to Additive Regulation: Avoid a “flavor ban” that prohibits terpenes in any form.
Given the importance of terpenes in oil concentrates to provide the proper therapeutic effect, desired aromas and effective viscosity of the oil, it is imperative that they be allowable in the appropriate concentrations. Further, because they are molecularly equivalent regardless of how they are derived, allowable terpenes should not only include those that are cannabis-derived.
Case study: Regulation is working in Colorado.
Governor Polis’ office has shared insight that while youth in the state are vaping nicotine at the highest rate of 37 states surveyed (according to the CDC), they’ve seen far fewer illnesses and fatalities than nearby in Utah and other states, where cannabis is not legal for adult use.
○ In Colorado, there is a special class of products called "audited products" which allow regulators to include additional requirements related to health and safety. The state established vape products as being in that category, and then:
Allowed a limitation exception for cannabis OR botanically-derived additives
Specifically prohibited certain additives known to be harmful
Required all ingredients to be listed on labels
We are eager to make our shared expertise and resources available to you as you consider your recommendations and evaluate next steps. Please let us know what additional information or support would be helpful in that process.
Legal Cannabis for Consumer Safety
Nicole Elliott, Special Advisor on Cannabis
Che Salinas, Chief Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary
Lori Ajax, Bureau of Cannabis Control
Miren Klein, Department of Public Health
Nick Maduros, Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Members, California State Legislature