SACRAMENTO, Calif. (July 11, 2022) – California Gov. Gavin Newsome has signed a bill into law that will help expand the market for cannabis beverages despite ongoing federal marijuana prohibition.
Asm. Carlos Villapudua (D) sponsored Assembly Bill 2155 (AB2155). The new law creates a specific definition for cannabis beverages.
“Cannabis beverage” means a form of edible cannabis product that is intended to be consumed in its final state as a beverage.
Under the old law, cannabis beverages were included in the definition of edibles. Testifying in support of the bill, the Cannabis Beverage Association said that the old law put cannabis beverages in a regulatory no man’s land. Lumping beverages in will solid edibles made it difficult to develop consistent testing standards and a sensible regulatory structure.
With “beverages” categorized as “edibles,” DCC is unable to develop regulations for testing and labeling that are specific to a liquid. This situation poorly serves consumers, as producers struggle to follow testing standards designed specifically for solid edible products. This bill will provide much-needed clarity by creating a codified definition of cannabis beverage that will allow the creation of a framework for the development of regulations and laws to correctly and specifically apply to cannabis beverages.
In effect, the new law will allow the market for cannabis beverages to expand.
The Assembly passed AB2155 by a 71-0 vote. It cleared the Senate by a 37-0 vote. With Gov. Newsome’s signature, the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
All of this is illegal according to the federal government.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains a complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
The legalization of marijuana in California removed a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though federal prohibition remains in effect. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. Earlier this year, New York, New Mexico, Virginia and Connecticut legalized marijuana through legislative action.
With 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 18 legalizing for adult recreational use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
The lesson here is pretty straightforward. As Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin noted, “When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations, or mandates down our throats.”
The move to expand the market for cannabis beverages highlights another important strategic reality. Once a state legalizes marijuana – even if only in a very limited way – the law tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These new laws represent a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.
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