by Robyn Ranke, Eskaton Law
California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) Proposed Final Regulations:
There are some quirky cannabis regulations seldom discussed by industry professionals which have a hidden impact on your business operations. Most business owners are, as they should be, preoccupied with the more prevalent draconian-styled regulations, like license fees, taxation, and testing.
Obviously the state has public safety concerns with the legalization of marijuana, but has the state overreached in its mission to craft “robust regulations” for the industry. Upon review of 142 pages of proposed regulations, we opted to shine light on what we consider to be quirky cannabis provisions that have gone unnoticed by cannabis business owners. Some are laughable, others insulting; and as to the remainder, the state’s regulation of your cannabis business simply never ends.
The California Bureau of Cannabis Control BCC proposed final cannabis regulations are currently under review of California Office of Administrative Law AOL to complete the rulemaking process. After considering the following, one might ask, what exactly were the rule-makers thinking when they wrote these provisions?
California Quirky Cannabis Regulations
No. 1 No Naked Employees
- 5806 Attire and Conduct
No licensee shall employ or use the services of any “host or other person to mingle with the patrons” … “in the sale or service of cannabis goods in or upon the licensed premises while such person is unclothed or in such attire, costume, or clothing as to expose to view any portion of the male or female breast below the top of the areola or of any portion of the pubic hair, anus, cleft of the buttocks, vulva, or genitals.” Nor shall the licensee encourage or permit any person “to touch, caress, or fondle the breasts, buttocks, anus, or genitals of any other person.”
– Cannabis Strip Club?
No. 2 Beware Of Fake Buyers
- 5805 Minor Decoys
“Peace officers may use a person under 21 years of age to attempt to purchase cannabis goods, for the purposes of enforcing the Act, and to apprehend licensees, employees, or agents of licensees who sell cannabis goods to minors.”
No. 3 Your Coffee Cup Is Regulated
- 5041.1 Branded Merchandise Approval
If a licensed distributor, retailer, or microbusiness “wishes to sell branded merchandise” – goods other than cannabis such as clothing, hats, pencils, pens, keychains, mugs, water bottles, beverage glasses, notepads, lanyards, cannabis accessories – “the licensee must receive written approval from the Bureau.”
To obtain a approval, the licensee must submit a written request and provide a photograph to the Bureau. Notably, there appears a discrepancy in the language of the regulation 5041.1 as to whether or not approval is required for all items listed in §5000(b) definition of “branded merchandise.”
- Is this kindergarten?
No. 4 $500 State Fee To Modify Your Reception Area
- 5014 Licensing Fees
An application and licensing fee of $500 is charged for “Physical Modification of Premises.”
Alterations or modifications to the premises include, but are not limited to: “the removal, creation, or relocation of a wall or barrier; or changing the activities conducted in or the use of an area identified in the last premises diagram provided to the Bureau.”
- Hidden fee for commercial lease space improvements?
No. 5 Cannabis Goods Intended For Disposal Must First Be Destroyed On The Premises Except Vape Cartridges Filled With Cannabis Oil
- 5054 Destruction of Cannabis Goods Prior To Disposal
Cannabis goods intended for disposal must remain on the licensed premises until destroyed into cannabis waste. The licensee must restrict access to the cannabis goods intended for disposal, store the disposal goods separate from the other goods, and first destroy the goods “on the licensed premises.” This includes separating the cannabis goods from any packaging, or container rendering it “unrecognizable and unusable.”
However, the licensee is not required to empty vape cartridges of cannabis oil prior to disposal, “provided that the vape cartridge itself is unrecognizable and unusable at the time of disposal.”
- Statutory rhetoric?
No. 6 You Get One Chance, With One Lab, To Test Your Cannabis
- 5305.1 Re-sampling
Once a cannabis sample has been obtained for testing by the laboratory employee – which sampling must be “video recorded with the batch number stated verbally or in writing on the video at the beginning of the video and a visible time and date indication on the video recording footage” (§5305) – a licensed distributor may not have another licensed testing laboratory sample or re-sample the same batch for regulatory compliance testing without the Bureau’s blessings, e.g. you must first making a written request to, and obtain, the Bureau’s written approval to re-sample the same batch (§5705(g).)
- Unnecessary barrier to quality control leading to heightened chance for product recall?
No. 7 Unfettered Discretion To Audit Your Business 24/7 Without Notice
- 5037 Record Retention
Licensees shall keep and maintain all business records related to commercial cannabis activity for at least 7 years to and including (a)(9) “all other documents prepared or executed by an owner or their employees or assignees in connection with the licensed commercial cannabis business.”
(d) All records are subject to review by the Bureau anytime . . . . Prior notice by the Bureau to review records is not necessary. The Bureau may review records outside of the licensee’s standard daily business hours.”
– Something Unconstitutional About This, Right?
No. 8 Ultimate Veto Power Over Renewal Of Your Retail License
- 5019 Excessive Concentration
Even if you satisfy all licensing regulatory requirements on both the local and state levels – the Bureau maintains the exclusive discretion to deny you a license and/or deny renewal of your license if the Bureau determines that (a) “an excessive concentration exists in the [geographical] area” where you operate.
Excessive concentration applies when either of the following conditions exist: “(1) the ratio of licensees to population within the census tract or census division in which the applicant premises is located exceeds the ratio of licensees to population in the county in which the applicant premises is located . . . . (2) The ratio of retail licenses or microbusiness licenses to the population within the census tract, census division, or jurisdiction exceeds that allowable by local ordinance . . . .”
Should the Bureau deny your license on this basis, the burden is on the you, the applicant licensee, to (f) “provide reliable evidence establishing, to the satisfaction of the Bureau, that a denial of a license would unduly limit the development of the legal market so as to perpetuate the illegal market for cannabis goods.”
- Unreasonable evidentiary burden and extraordinary cost on applicant licensee to conduct an economic field study on an illegal market that is, in effect, a legal impossibility to achieve under any circumstances.
The list goes on. While the California BCC has clearly satisfied its commitment to promulgate “robust state regulations” for the industry, one wonders about the state’s definition of robust.
An experienced corporate litigator having worked in both the private and government sectors, Attorney Robyn Ranke has taken a modern business approach to the cannabis industry and in working with cannabis business startups. Throughout her legal career, Robyn has represented a diverse base of business clientele in a variety of industries involving both complex and novel legal matters. Her diverse experience as a business litigator provides a valuable legal platform from which she is uniquely postured to address the regulatory hurdles, costly pitfalls, unique business transactions, and business litigation risks that confront California cannabis business owners today and into the future as state regulations continue to evolve.