With 2020 being the third year Californians enjoy the legal use and sale of recreational cannabis, stakeholders expect new laws kicking in, big court cases taking place, and major reforms to criminal justice, all to make this a big year for the cannabis industry.
While 2019 was a challenging year for many cannabis business operators, industry insiders say changes being ushered in bring with them hope, that situations will improve for business owners as the industry presses on.
The top six cannabis policy items Californians should watch in 2020 are outlined, below.
April 2019 saw a county and 24 cities sue the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (CBCC) challenging a rule allowing the delivery of marijuana throughout California, even with communities that have banned cannabis businesses.
The case places those advocating access to legal marijuana against governments pushing for control over the industry. A trial is set to take place on April 20 in Fresno County Superior Court.
A separate lawsuit addressing the same issue at a local level will also go to trial this month. East of Eden Cannabis Co. filed a lawsuit shortly after the delivery of marijuana was banned by companies not licensed to do so by the Santa Cruz County.
Then in November last year, Attorney General Xavier Becerra showed his support on the issue when he joined the plaintiff in the case. A hearing was scheduled for early January, so stay tuned for updates on the court’s findings soon.
On January 1, 2020, three new marijuana laws came into effect.
Senate Bill 34– will allow licensed businesses to donate medical marijuana products to patients in need.
Assembly Bill 37 – will permit cannabis businesses to deduct expenses previously blocked by a federal law.
Assembly Bill 1810 – will make it illegal for passengers within taxis, limos or any other commercial vehicle to consume cannabis. This essentially ends marijuana party buses.
Penalties for most crimes involving marijuana have been retroactively reduced thanks to Proposition 64. For example, the punishment for selling marijuana without a license has been downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor.
However, only a small portion of those eligible to ask a court to reduce or clear their records, have done so since the law was passed in November 2016. Cost, time and expertise needed to make the claims are cited as reasons for the small uptake so far.
If you need legal help petitioning the courts to have criminal charges cleared or reduced, our Southern California marijuana criminal defense lawyers are here for you.
Assembly Bill 1793 requires the state of California to proactively find and process all cannabis eligible for expungement. Local prosecutors have til July 1, 2020 to process those cases, meaning hundreds of thousands of people could soon have cannabis charges dropped or downgraded, making them eligible for new housing options, jobs, or other benefits convicted felons are often denied.
Cleaning up Weedmaps
California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control issued Weedmaps with a cease-and-desist letter in February 2018, ordering the online marijuana shop directory to stop promoting illegal retailers on their site. Weepmaps said it would cease running those ads by the end of 2019.
As legal marijuana businesses have called for tougher penalties for black market operators throughout the industry this year, industry insiders expect the state to hand down hefty fines if all illicit ads don’t stop running this week.
Legalization Ramping up in Other States
For the first time, licensed cannabis shops are now open in Illinois, (the 11th state to sell legalized recreational marijuana), and six additional states are considering legislation to legalize cannabis in 2020. A further twelve states may also vote in November on legal cannabis too.
Federal Changes Ahead
For the first time ever, the House of Representatives voted on a stand-alone cannabis bill, which allowed federally-insured banks to service cannabis businesses within states that have legalized marijuana. Observers expect some version of the SAFE Banking Act will pass this year.
When considering these big cannabis items in 2020, the following implications jump out:
- Cannabis businesses still say if they are to find a way to compete with the illicit market, more legislative changes are needed, even as cannabis wholesale prices are expected to drop in 2020.
- If Weedmaps does put a stop to all illicit marijuana seller ads now, as a byproduct, the industry will receive a real-time test showing just how impactful Weedmaps has been in promoting illicit cannabis businesses.
- California’s legal industry could enjoy more clout as a greater number of states move toward legalized marijuana.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.