What Are the New Medical Cannabis Regulations?

While medical Marijuana has been legal in California for 20 years, Prop. 215 and S.B. 420 did not establish a framework for the commercial cultivation, production, transportation, quality assurance, and retail dispensation of this alternative medicine. As a result, people involved in the medical Cannabis industry in CA have been operating without proper guidance or protection for far too long, putting both producers and patients at risk. Thanks to the passage of A.B. 266, A.B. 243 and S.B. 643 in 2015, The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act  (MMRSA) was established. This legislation created the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which falls under the purview of the Department of Consumer affairs.  MMRSA also requires that the Board of Equalization, along with the Department of Food and Agriculture establish a "track and trace" system to report the movement of commercial Cannabis and Cannabis products. Furthermore, The Department of Public Health will establish standards for the manufacture, labelling, packaging, and quality assurance testing of medical Cannabis. Additionally, businesses will no longer be required to operate as a non-profit, as they have for the last 20 years. It's also important to note that the collective model established by A.B. 420 will sunset (become invalid) in January 2019. 

You can read the full text of A.B 266 Here, A.B. 243 Here, and S.B 643 Here. We highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with these bills, especially where they apply to your current or planned medical Cannabis business. 

Laboratory Testing Regulations FAQ

+ Is Testing Required in California?

Yes and No. The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) was signed into law by Governor Brown in late 2015. This legislation requires mandatory laboratory testing for all medical Cannabis dispensed in the state, but the law will not be enforced until January of 2018. In the meantime, the Department of Public Health, along with the newly formed Bureau of Medical Cannabis will be determining what Cannabinoids and contaminants labs like CW Analytical will be required to test for, and at what levels. A.B. 266 lists some specific testing requirements, although these regulations are and will continue to evolve over the next two years. Although there are no statewide regulations yet, certain cities require testing of Marijuana dispensed through dispensaries or collectives within the boundaries of the city.

+ What Cities Currently Require Testing?

Currently, Oakland, Richmond, San Jose and Berkeley require all Cannabis to be tested. Each city has different standards and requirements, but Berkeley has by far the most specific and stringent standards in California today. You can find a comprehensive list [here] Our customer service team is well-versed in the specific requirements for different municipalities and can help advise producers, cultivators, and dispensaries on becoming compliant.

+ What Are The Requirements for Testing Labs Under MMRSA?

  1. Labs must be independent and third-party. This means that a person who holds a license for a Cannabis testing lab cannot hold any other license. This is important for ensuring that there won't be conflicts of interest between labs and certain clients they test for.
  2. Labs must achieve ISO 17025 accreditation. (In most major countries, ISO/IEC 17025 is the standard for which most labs must hold accreditation in order to be deemed technically competent.) CW Analytical achieved this accreditation in August of 2016.
  3. Cannabis Laboratories will have to hold both a local permit, as well as a state permit, and will be regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs

+ Will CW Analytical be Able to Perform the Required Testing Under MCRSA?

Yes! CW Analytical is working closely with state and local officials to ensure that we will be kept abreast of all implemented standards. We are also continually updating and procuring new equipment that will allow us to handle whatever testing standards are deemed necessary. You can be confident that we will be compliant well before the testing standards are even enforced.

+ Who is Required to Test Under MCRSA?

Currently, the law states that in 2018, cultivators, infused products producers and concentrate producers will be mandated to utilize a distribution service to both test their products, as well as bring them to a licensed dispensary for sale. Mandatory distribution has proven to be an extremely polarizing topic thus far. While some small farmers and producers laud it for saving them the hassle of dealing with transportation and sales, others worry this system will result in potential monopolies, with distributors wielding all the negotiating power. Although it remains to be seen exactly how this will play out, producers and cultivators must be ready to take accountability and responsibility for the safety and consistency of their products. It will no longer be acceptable to show up at a dispensary without proper proof that the products being delivered have been tested to state standards for potency, microbiological contamination, pesticide contamination, and residual solvent contamination by a licensed testing laboratory.

Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act FAQ

+ What Types of Licenses are Available?

The following categories of licenses are established under THE MCSRA (AB 266 adding B&PC 19300.7):

  • 10 types of Cultivation licenses, distinguished by scale, light source and production stage (SB 643 adding B&PC 19332(g)
  • 2 types of Manufacturing licenses, permitting solventless, butane and CO2 extraction (AB 266 adding B&PC 19341)
  • Testing license (AB 266 adding B&PC 19341)
  • 2 types of Dispensary licenses, for licenses with >3 retail sites, and ⋜3 sites (AB 266 adding B&PC 19334)
  • Distribution license (AB 266 adding B&PC 19334)
  • Transportation license (AB 266 adding B&PC 19334)
    *summary provided by CCIA

+ When Can I Apply For a License?

A state license is contingent upon first receiving a local license. Some local municipalities are already opening the application process, and some plan to very soon, while others have passed temporary bans on all sorts of Cannabis businesses. It's important to be in touch with local laws and ordinances before you invest money in a building or land.

+ How Can I Get Involved in the Rule-making Process?

Strength is truly in numbers. Over the past several years several well-organized and politically active trade associations have formed and need membership from Cannabis industry stakeholders in order to make their voices heard and meaningful

The California Cannabis Industry Association is an effective and knowledgable group, worthy of membership for any type of Cannabis business (whether you "touch" the plant or not).
The California Growers Association fights for the rights and privileges of farmers small and large and has local chapters all over the state
The Association of Commercial Cannabis Laboratories is a wonderful resource for currently operating Cannabis Laboratories to participate in joint research, proficiency testing, and standards development nationwide.