The recently passed Assembly Bill 1207 in California proposes significant restrictions on the packaging and labeling of cannabis products, leaving many legal operators concerned.
The bill prohibits any cannabis product package or label that is deemed “attractive to children,” which includes images of cartoons, toys, or robots; real or fictional humans; animals or creatures; fruits or vegetables (except when used to describe ingredients or flavors accurately); images, characters or phrases “popularly used to advertise to children”; likenesses to food products typically marketed to children; and more.
The proposed bill would impose a significant burden on licensed cannabis businesses, particularly those that have spent years building their brands, as these restrictions threaten existing logos and packaging. Furthermore, the move has critics arguing that it would do little, if anything, to curb illicit market activity or improve public safety.
Reasons Why Legal Cannabis Operators Oppose the Bill
Legal cannabis operators in the state have expressed strong opposition to AB 1207, citing several reasons why it should be rejected. First and foremost, proponents of the bill argue that its overly broad ban on existing brand logos and packaging would place an excessive burden on licensed businesses attempting to sell their products within California’s legal market.
Citing that the bill would require all flavor names and descriptors to be in no larger than eight-point font, it is not clear that a smaller font size would deter accidental use by minors while making it harder for adults to understand the qualities of a particular product. Also, AB 1207 would ban the depiction of fruits and vegetables, which would accurately describe flavors or ingredients found in the cannabis product.
Single dose packaging requirements have also been a source of contention among legal cannabis operators. The bill would prohibit edible cannabis products from containing more than one serving per package, which would preempt current DCC regulations that allow for multiple servings per package with clearly presented information on total dosage and serving size and a requirement that those packages be resealable. Critics argue that the requirements of this bill would likely result in a significant increase in packaging waste without any clear indication that limiting serving sizes would reduce consumption by minors.
AB 1207 also prohibits the use of any natural or artificial coloring for edible cannabis products that are a hard candy or gummy. While colors are commonly added to both cannabis and non cannabis edible products to make them more appetizing, it is not clear that this practice disproportionately increases a product’s attractiveness to children. It also could potentially limit the range of products offered by licensed operators and reduce their ability to differentiate themselves from the illicit market.
Legal cannabis operators are also concerned that the proposed bill would have little to no impact on illicit market activity or improve public safety. The restrictions contained in AB 1207 would be impossible to enforce on unlicensed sellers while at the same time placing a considerable burden on legal cannabis businesses attempting to remain compliant with state regulations.
The California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, Cannabis Distribution Association, and California NORML write jointly in opposition to AB 1207, saying, “AB 1207 will increase cost burdens on the licensed cannabis industry while empowering an unlicensed market that flagrantly markets to children. As such, it may inadvertently exacerbate public safety issues rather than improve them.”
The letter further states: “While we share the author’s goals of protecting public health, AB 1207 will only undermine access to safe, tested cannabis products while bolstering an unlicensed cannabis market that notoriously sells and markets to children. Furthermore, proponents of this bill cite an uptick in emergency room visits and youth use but have failed to demonstrate that these incidents are associated with legal products. In fact, the majority of the data available indicates that these incidents are associated with illicit cannabis or intoxicating hemp products and not legal cannabis products.”
Call to Action for Governor Newsom
Given the broad opposition to AB 1207 from both industry stakeholders and other advocacy organizations, legal operators are now calling on Governor Newsom to veto the bill. If passed, the bill would not only limit legal cannabis businesses’ ability to differentiate themselves from products available on the illicit market but also impose unnecessary costs. Furthermore, there is little evidence that suggests that any of these restrictions would improve public safety or reduce youth access to cannabis.
A veto of the bill would likely be a huge victory for California’s legal cannabis industry, which continues to face an uphill battle to compete against illicit operators. A decision by the Governor to veto AB 1207 could send a strong signal that the state is committed to creating an equitable and competitive marijuana marketplace and preserving the success of its legal cannabis operators.
You can sign a petition to veto AB 1207 here.