It's been a long time coming, but it's finally here. On January 1, marijuana's artisanal crafts community will receive long overdue legal protection, and local governments now know what types of marijuana manufacturing and extraction are permitted. Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2679 on September 29, legislation exempting medical cannabis manufacturing collectives or cooperatives from certain criminal sanctions.
For years, the medical cannabis community “effectively operated in a legal gray area,” according to the Assembly floor analysis of the bill. That changes on the state level come New Years Day
Brown signed the bill prior to the public's vote approving the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on November 8. Until now, some medical marijuana extractors were prosecuted as if they were running meth labs. Now those extractors who follow the stringent standards laid out in AB 2679 receive historic legal protection.
These standards include using specified manufacturing processes and possession of valid local licenses or permits. Those not adhering to the law still face arrest and possible incarceration.
Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), sponsor of the bill, says, “AB 2679 brings needed clarity to local governments about the type of manufacturing of medical cannabis that is allowed during this interim period before the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act is fully implemented.”
Keeping in Compliance
Medical marijuana extractors stay in compliance with the new law by following basic protocols. These include:
- Using either solventless manufacturing processes or only nontoxic, nonflammable solvents
- Using only solvents recognized as safe by the FDA
- Using systems designedd to recapture solvents and contain solvents during the manufacturing process
- Licensed engineer certification for code, manufacturing and safety standards.
- Approval from the local fire official.
- Meets standards of the California Fire Code, the International Building Code, the International Fire Code and the National Fire Protection Association.
Basically, medical marijuana extraction must meet the requirements of any similar manufacturing industry.
Extraction Lab Raids
The new law should bring an end to extraction lab raids, as long the labs make the bureaucratic effort for certification. Just this past year, several major raids made headlines. In June, approximately 100 Sonoma County law enforcement officials – led by the Santa Rosa Police Department – conducted raids on marijuana extraction facilities. Among them was Care by Design.
During the raids, police seized computers, financial records, equipment, payroll information and “product.” Police arrested a Care by Design founder, Dennis Hunter, and held him in jail on a $5 million bond. Massive protests ensued, and Hunter was later released with no bail and no criminal charges.
The company, considered one of the tops in its field, was back in business the following week. Care by Design noted the company uses pressurized carbon dioxide, not butane, for extraction of plant material. A former employee, “disgruntled” of course, allegedly provided a phony tip to law enforcement.
Motor Skills and Marijuana Research
The legislation specifies that the University of California Medical Research Program develop studies to “ascertain the effect of marijuana on motor skills.” Currently, there's not much in the way of actual research on weed use and motor skills.
There's plenty of anecdotal information, but that's what happens when a substance ridiculously labeled federally as a Schedule I drug can't be used for testing purposes. At what point does a marijuana smoker become a dangerous driver? That's a legitimate public safety issue, and these studies should provide the information.
In addition to the new taxes on legal pot, the results of these studies will eventually fill municipal coffers when people are arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana.
It looks like 2017 is going to be a brave new world for a lot of reasons, many of them unpromising, but there is light at the end of the California marijuana tunnel. Not only do Golden State residents now have the right to purchase and use recreational pot, but extractors performing necessary work no longer have to fear raids if their facility is up to snuff.
Marijuana is well on its way to becoming a regulated, regular, somewhat boring industry, and that's a good thing. If the cannabis lawyers at Tully – Weiss can help with your legal compliance needs give Ashley a call at our office.