Contrary to the bill’s projected outcome from earlier in the summer, California lawmakers will not make a decision on Assembly Bill-228 (“AB 228”) this year as the bill has stalled in the state legislature despite broad bipartisan interest and consumer support. Previously expected to be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) this month, the bill was placed on suspense file on August 12, 2019, meaning that the Senate Appropriations Committee required more research into the fiscal impact of the bill. On August 30, 2019, the Senate Committee held AB 228 under submission, which means the bill may be set for another hearing, but no motion has been made to move the bill out of the Senate Committee. After this move, it is likely that AB 228 will be on hold until at least 2020, as the last day for any bill to be passed by either the California State Senate or the California State Assembly is September 13, 2019.1
Proposed by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D), AB 228 would ease certain restrictions on the sale of ingestible products infused with hemp or hemp derivatives – such as cannabidiol (“CBD”) – as the California Department of Public Health officially banned the sale of such products in the summer of 2018. Widely believed to be a critical step in jumpstarting the state’s hemp market,2 AB 228’s postponement leaves California CBD and hemp stakeholders without a clear idea of how to proceed.
“This position by the California Department of Public Health has put our state in an Alice-in-Wonderland world,” Aguiar-Curry stated in a release following the Committee’s decision, “where adult consumers can walk into a licensed marijuana dispensary and purchase all manner of recreational cannabis products, but they cannot legally purchase non-psychoactive hemp products that they believe can bring them calm or reduce their pain.”
Highlighting the effort to resolve apprehensions regarding the bill, Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry’s statement notes, “We have been asked by the Governor to work with his staff during the interim on the complex issues of food safety related to CBD, as well as the complicated rules associated with selling products in state marijuana dispensaries.”
Since its initial introduction this year, AB 228 has not encountered significant opposition, however, in the weeks prior, another West Coast state issued a notice similar to the current California law prohibiting CBD food additives. Effective August 1, Washington has also banned the sale of CBD-laced consumables, citing the substance’s lack of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) established approval.3 Whether or not Washington’s decision impacted the fate of California’s AB 228 is not immediately known, although it does once again shift the attention to FDA, as hemp and CBD businesses have awaited updated federal guidelines since the enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 on December 21, 2018. From the last significant agency update in July, FDA officials aim to produce guidelines sometime this fall.
Even with the hold on the bill, supporters are still optimistic that it will be revisited and passed once the state legislature reconvenes in January 2020. “Regardless of the action in Senate Appropriations today,” Aguiar-Curry goes on to conclude, “I am confident that we will have a bill ready for the Governor to sign at the beginning of next year, so that our California hemp farmers and producers of hemp-CBD can take advantage of this new multi-billion dollar opportunity.”
- Drotleff, Laura. “California Puts Proposed CBD Legislation on Hold until 2020.” Hemp Industry Daily. Marijuana Business Daily, September 4, 2019. https://hempindustrydaily.com/hemp-in-california-proposed-cbd-legislation-put-on-hold-until-2020/
- CannabisNewsWire. “Passage of California Assembly Bill Expected to Spur More Growth in the Hemp, CBD Markets.” PR Newswire. PR Newswire Association LLC, August 28, 2019. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/passage-of-california-assembly-bill-expected-to-spur-more-growth-in-the-hemp-cbd-markets-300908211.html
- Adlin, Ben. “Washington State Bans CBD in Food and Beverages.” Leafly, September 6, 2019. https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/washington-state-bans-cbd-in-food-and-beverages