California Gov. Jerry Brown may be kept quite busy by the legislature this session. There are several bills in discussion relating to implementing marijuana legalization. Pictured: Gov. Brown signs bills in Oct. 2015. (Rich Pedroncelli, The Associated Press)

California delves into details of regulating recreational marijuana

A wrap-up of nine bills sitting before the Senate and Assembly

Should police officers be able to use a controversial spit test to see if they believe drivers are high?

Should billboards advertising pot shops be allowed on state highways?

Should marijuana business owners have to drive hundreds of miles with their trunks full of cash to pay their tax bills?

These are a few of the questions California legislators are attempting to tackle through an ever-increasing number of bills proposed since voters legalized recreational marijuana with Proposition 64 in November.

Prop. 64 was 62 pages long. And it combined elements of three lengthy bills approved in 2015 to start to overhaul California’s loosely regulated medical marijuana program. But state leaders say there are still too many conflicts between those two systems, too many loopholes left open, too many protections missing and too many details left vague.

That’s where “clean-up legislation” comes into play.

With the state aiming to issue licenses for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses by Jan. 1, 2018, expect much more of it to come over the next 11 months.

Here’s a roundup of key cannabis-related legislation now pending before the California Senate and Assembly.


Assembly Bill 389

Who’s behind it: Assemblymen Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Anna Caballero, D-Salinas; and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles

What it would do: Would require the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation to make a marijuana consumer guide available to the public online by July 1, 2018. The state website would have to include information such as where recreational marijuana may be purchased, how much can be bought at one time, rules on public consumption and more.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 9; may be heard in committee March 12

Read the full bill and track it


Assembly Bill 416

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia

What it would do: Paves the way for legislators to craft a policy specific to cannabis enriched with CBD, the compound in the plant that’s said to have much of its medical benefits without making consumers feel high.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 9; may be heard in committee March 12

Read the full bill and track it


Assembly Bill 420

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg

What it would do: Would require all ads for either medical or recreational marijuana products to clearly state who has a license to sell whatever is being advertised by listing, at a minimum, the seller’s license number on the ad.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 9; may be heard in committee March 12

Read the full bill and track it


Assembly Bill 350

Who’s behind it: Assemblymen Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield

What it would do: Would add more details to rules in Prop. 64 that forbid companies from making recreational marijuana products designed to appeal to kids.

This bill specifically says manufacturers couldn’t make edibles “in the shape of a person, animal, insect, fruit or in another shape normally associated with candy.” But it states companies could make edibles in the shape of their logo.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 8; may be heard in committee March 11

Read the full bill and track it


Assembly Bill 238

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga

What it would do: Make it illegal for anyone with a state license to distribute marijuana – transporting it from growers and manufacturers to retailers – to turn someone down for a job because they aren’t part of a union. The bill also states entrepreneurs applying for a business license can’t be denied simply because they employ people who aren’t unionized.

The bill is aimed at preventing groups like the Teamsters, who represent much of the trucking world, from getting a monopoly on the industry, according to Brandon Ebeck, legislative director for Steinorth.

The Teamsters initially opposed Prop. 64, donating $25,000 to fight the initiative. But they soon changed their tune and opted to remain neutral, with one leader saying they were optimistic they could lobby legislators after the bill was passed to give their members a place in the regulated market.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 30; may be heard in committee March 2

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Senate Bill 148, a.k.a. the “Cannabis Safe Payment Act”

Who’s behind it: Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, with support from Board of Equalization Chair Fiona Ma

What it would do: Allow cannabis businesses to pay state taxes and fees in cash at multiple designated locations throughout the state, including county offices.

Major banks and credit card companies still won’t service the industry since marijuana remains federally illegal. Cannabis business owners are then left dealing largely in cash, which means they often have to travel long distances carrying that cash to make payments to the Board of Equalization and other state agencies.

Under this bill, counties could opt to collect payments and forward them along to the appropriate state agency. And it would let the state tax collector also accept payments for other state agencies, expanding options for where business owners can settle their bills.

“We need to make it as easy and safe as possible for cannabis business owners to pay their taxes and fees, and we should not force them to drive hundreds of miles with a trunkful of cash just to comply with the law,” Wiener said in a statement.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 17; referred to the Committee on Governance and Finance

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Senate Bill 175

Who’s behind it: Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg

What it would do: Prohibit marijuana businesses from using both the name of a California county or any name that appears similar to it unless their cannabis is produced in that county.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, testifies at a 2016 hearing in Sacramento. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

State law already says it’s illegal for marijuana products to use the name of a California county in the product’s labeling, marketing or packaging if the marijuana was not grown in that county. McGuire’s bill expands those prohibitions to include “any similar sounding name that is likely to mislead consumers as to the origin of the product.”

“A similar battle was fought several years ago by the wine industry and it was resolved by legislation that prevented individuals and corporations from making marketing claims that weren’t true, or what we call ‘alternative facts’ these days,” McGuire said. “This legislation is all about truth in labeling.”

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 23; waiting to be assigned to a committee, with action expected on or after Feb. 23

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Assembly Bill 64

Who’s behind it: Assemblymen Rob Bonta, D-Oakland; Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova; Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles; Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale; and Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg

What it would do: Reconcile some of the differences between the state’s medical marijuana reform signed into law in 2015 and Prop. 64. Here are the key changes proposed.

  • Allows businesses and collectives to operate as either for-profit or nonprofit entities. But if a collective chooses to try and make money, the bill clarifies they’re only protected if they have a state seller’s permit and a valid local license.
  • Lets dispensary or retailers sell either through a storefront or without one, giving delivery services a legal path forward.
  • Makes cannabis industry billboards illegal on any interstate or state highway, rather than just highways that cross state lines as stated in Prop. 64.
  • Creates a way for business owners to trademark both medical and nonmedical marijuana products at the state level.
  • Advances $3 million to the CHP to develop better tests and protocols for catching people driving under the influence of marijuana. Prop. 64 dedicates funds to that purpose starting in the 2018-19 fiscal year, so this bill would advance the $3 million as a loan starting in the 2017-18 fiscal year, to be paid back out of future pot tax revenues.

Where it stands: Introduced Dec. 12; waiting to be assigned to a committee

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Want to weigh in? Use this website to find your local representatives

Then reach out to share your views on these pending bills and the future of marijuana policy in California.


Assembly Bill 76

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park

What it would do: Give leaders a path to introduce legislation that strengthens prohibitions on marketing recreational marijuana to children.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 4; waiting on referral to a committee

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Assembly Bill 171

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale

What it would do: Add some accountability to annual state reports on cannabis licenses.

State law already requires every state agency issuing licenses to cannabis businesses to file an annual report that’s posted online, listing information such as the number of licenses issued that year. This bill would require them to also include those reports the number of conditional licenses issued.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 17; waiting on referral to a committee

Read the full bill and track it:leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Assembly Bill 175

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park

What it would do: Require edibles companies to submit packaging and labels to the state for approval before introducing the products to the market.

A variety of cannabis chocolates available at Laguna Woods Medical Cannabis. (Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Under the bill, the state’s Bureau of Marijuana Control would have up to 60 days to check that the packaging complies with Prop. 64, including requirements that it be child resistant and not attractive to children. And the bureau would get to charge the manufacturer a fee for reviewing the packaging.

The bill also creates a process for edibles companies to redesign packaging as needed and appeal any rulings.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 17; waiting on referral to a committee

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Senate Bill 65

Who’s behind it: Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, with support from Assemblyman Evan Low,  D-Campbell

What it would do: Close a potential loophole in Prop. 64 by clarifying that it’s illegal to smoke or ingest marijuana while driving.

It’s currently illegal to have an “open container” of weed in a vehicle.  It’s also illegal to drive while high. But existing laws don’t address actual usage while driving.

This bill would make it an infraction for anyone to smoke or consume marijuana in any form while driving a vehicle or piloting a boat or plane – consistent with the law on alcohol.

“This bill will give law enforcement and judges more tools to crack down on smoking pot or drinking while driving,” Hill said.

Where it stands: Introduced Dec. 29; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Housing plus the Committee on Public Safety

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Assembly Bill 6

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale

What it would do: Let law enforcement officers start using a heavily debated roadside saliva test to help determine whether a driver has consumed marijuana.

Fullerton police officer Jae Song arrest a man suspected of driving while impaired by marijuana. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The bill would allow officers to take a spit swab from drivers who’ve failed field sobriety tests, then use portable instruments promise to detect the presence of pot and other drugs within minutes. If they test positive, officers would then take them to the station for a blood test and possible arrest.

The technology remains controversial because there’s no clear impairment threshold with marijuana as there is with alcohol. Also, critics argue that the roadside testing device is still experimental, citing studies that show the tests are least effective at detecting impairment, in part because marijuana stays in a person’s system long after its effects have worn off.

As a former CHP officer, Lackey said, “I’ve seen the tragedy that results from impaired driving. I feel like I have a responsibility to be the voice on this issue.”

Where it stands: Introduced Dec. 5; referred to the Committee on Public Safety

Read the full bill and track it: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov


Staff writers Will Houston and Lisa M. Krieger contributed to this report.