Policy Recommendations California

2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations for California

(based on ASA's 2020 State of the States Report)

The foundation of a well-functioning program is patient access. And while California law provides for medical access, the effectiveness of that law is hamstrung by local control laws maintained in the state constitution. Under the law local governments maintain sole control of zoning and land-use decisions, which two-thirds of the state's local governments are using to maintain bans on medical retail access. The sentiment against providing legal medical access is so strong among California local governments that, in 2019, 25 cities filed suit against the state to prevent legal cannabis delivery to patients from neighboring jurisdictions with legal access systems. A full five years after state lawmakers approved a comprehensive medical package (MCRSA) designed to extend safe and legal access to the state's large population of cannabis patients, California's medical access system continues to fail patients. The rate of patient enrollment in the state program has declined steadily since the 2009-2010 fiscal year, when over 12,000 new patients registered with the state to just over 3,300 in FY 2019-2020. As of August 2020, there are 111,387 patients enrolled in California's medical cannabis program.

While the state continues to receive low marks for functional access due to this phenomenon, efforts were made in 2019 to restore a version of the state's previously existing collective/caregiver model to benefit disadvantaged patients, reduce businesses tax burdens, and permit guardian possession and administration of cannabis medicine to minors at schoolsites. The state also maintained patient access by declaring cannabis businesses as essential during the COVID pandemic, provided for curbside pickup and home delivery subject to state and local authorization during the emergency and permitted telehealth visits with physicians for patient enrollment renewals.

As state lawmakers and regulators consider improvements for 2021, ASA encourages California lawmakers to identify strategies to overcome local resistance to extending legal medical access to patients. ASA also encourages a thorough review and update to California hemp-derived CBD laws, the absence of which are currently putting patient health at risk. CBD storefronts are proliferating in cities across the state selling hemp-derived CBD products that have undergone absolutely no government-mandated testing to ensure consumer safety. As of the writing of this report, California still has yet to submit its hemp production program to USDA for authorization to operate a state-run program, which was made possible by the 2018 federal Farm Bill.