Assemblymember Low Introduces Legislation to Enhance Oversight of Cannabis Business Regulators

Friday, February 15, 2019

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) introduced legislation this week to place the Bureau of Cannabis Control under the same sunset review process for legislative oversight as other state licensing bodies.  Assembly Bill 545 is coauthored by Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles), Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), and Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa).

“California’s legal cannabis market will only succeed if our regulations correctly balance consumer protection and industry innovation,” said Assemblymember Evan Low. “As the black market continues to threaten legitimate business, AB 545 will provide responsible legislative oversight of the Bureau of Cannabis Control through the sunset review process.”

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) – which licenses cannabis retailers, distributors, and labs – was established under the Department of Consumer Affairs to take advantage of the same regulatory framework as approximately three dozen other state licensing bodies under the jurisdiction of the DCA.  However, the BCC is currently exempt from the sunset review process, making it the only DCA entity that does not undergo formalized oversight by policy committees within the Legislature.

Approximately every four years, state boards and bureaus responsible for licensing professions ranging from doctors to contractors to barbers are required to report important metrics such as licensing numbers, enforcement statistics, and examination pass rates to the Legislature’s Business and Professions committees.  This information is then analyzed in a published report and discussed at a public hearing.  The sunset review process is well-regarded because it ensures that regulations creating a barrier to entry into a legal profession are regularly evaluated and revisited by the Legislature, while giving boards and bureaus a predictable schedule for its public oversight.

The BCC was initially exempted from sunset review by the Legislature while the licensure of newly lawful cannabis businesses was arguably too nascent to justify the full scope of oversight typically conducted through sunset.  After several years have passed following the implementation of Proposition 64, however, holding the state’s licensing entity for cannabis to the same standard as every other board and bureau under the DCA appropriately brings the BCC into conformity with analogous regulators.  Without the sunset review process, the Legislature’s policy committees have exercised their important oversight responsibilities primarily by holding ad hoc informational hearings, a less structured format that is considered more disruptive to the bureau’s activities.

While the sunset provisions for most boards and bureaus consist of an actual statutory repeal date that must be extended to sustain the existence of the regulatory entity, AB 545 will instead mimic language used for other initiative-created regulators to ensure that voter intent is preserved: the BCC will be reviewed “as though it were to sunset” on a later date.

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