Sep 30

Re: Curbing the Illicit Cannabis Market to Ensure Public Safety

The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor, State of California State Capitol
First Floor Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Curbing the Illicit Cannabis Market to Ensure Public Safety

Dear Governor Newsom:

On behalf of the United Cannabis Business Association, San Francisco Cannabis Retailers Alliance, Santa Ana Cannabis Association, Long Beach Collective Association, United Medical Marijuana Coalition, and Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network we applaud your work to reduce youth tobacco vaping consumption, a serious public health concern. We also thank you for your work to date to curtail the illegal cannabis market – this year taking critical steps in the right direction to keep Californians safe and ensure the ongoing vitality of the legal industry. However, the current public health issues at hand bring another set of concerns to address. We are writing to respectfully request your collaboration on finding a solution to this current crisis that will truly protect Californians.

Recent reporting and investigations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), NBC and The New York Times, have now officially linked lung injury cases to the illicit market, demonstrating the immediate threat posed by California’s nearly 3,000 illegal retailers. California’s legal cannabis market operates within a strict framework of regulatory oversight, scientific bodies and track and trace system that establish multiple layers of consumer protection and regulatory accountability designed to deliver the safest available product. Conversely, sellers operating outside of the legal market do not adhere to any of the state’s testing, tracking or regulatory mandates and can contain cheaper additives – the safety of which is unknown. As industry leaders, we believe that a solution to this current crisis should be multi-faceted, but must include a plan to curb access to the illegal market and the counterfeit products in order to truly protect Californians.

For this reason, we also believe that shutting off access to legal products through a ban puts Californians at increased risk. Rather than curbing consumption, a product ban will funnel Californians to illegal retailers where they can access products and the contents will be unknown, untested and untraceable. This all or nothing approach will not solve the current crisis and could expose Californians to additional danger through increased access to unlicensed shops and dangerous counterfeit products.

We suggest the following actions to address this public health crisis by limiting the public’s access to the illegal market and ensuring we continue to provide the best and safest available products:

1. Stricter Testing Requirements – California’s cannabis testing requirements are grounded in science and represent some of the highest levels of scrutiny across consumer facing products. To reach the shelves, all products must be analyzed by state licensed and regulated third-party testing labs that test for more than 400 potential contaminants to evaluate safety and quality, including: pesticides, heavy metals, foreign metals, and mycotoxins and terpenes. While we already comply with strict testing requirements, we welcome further requirements regulations. We support the ban of ingredients such as Vitamin E Acetate, PG, PEG, VG in all cannabis products including oil concentrates in vape cartridges.

2. Certify Shipping of Vaping Products – California must work to prevent unregulated vaping products from out of state and country from entering the California cannabis market. Laws should be introduced that work to ensure only certified cartridge manufacturers that meet safety criteria are shipped and imported into California. We welcome a third-party to certify vaping products to ensure public safety.

3. Implement AB 97 – We have long advocated for utilizing laws already on the books to penalize illegal operators and online platforms, like Weedmaps, that increase access to unlicensed shops. AB 97 allows the state to impose $30,000 a day fines for non-licensee violations. But as we’ve written before, these tools are only effective when they are being used. AB 97 took effect in July 1, 2019 and should be utilized on marketing platforms, like Weedmaps, who are advertising for the illegal market and allowing them easy access to the public. AB 97 is an enforcement tool already in our toolbelt that can help curb access to and the size of the illegal market.

Now is the time for us to work together to develop an approach that will truly keep Californians safe. For additional questions or information, please contact Marvin F. Pineda at (916) 869-3685 or marvin@lobby-california.com of California Advocacy.

Sincerely,

United Cannabis Business Association,
San Francisco Cannabis Retailers Alliance,
Santa Ana Cannabis Association,
Long Beach Collective Association,
United Medical Marijuana Coalition, and
Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network

Cc: Nicole Elliot, Senior Adviser on Cannabis, Office of Business and Economic Development Che Salinas, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary Lori Ajax, Chief, Bureau of Cannabis Control
Miren Klein, Assistant Deputy Director, Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch Richard Parrot, CalCannabis