The Rotation: Vol. 35
California Seeks Feedback on Interstate Cannabis Commerce, British Columbia Launches Drug Decriminalization Pilot Program, and Hong Kong Bans CBD
California Officials Request Formal Opinion on Interstate Cannabis Commerce
Marijuana Moment reports that officials in California have taken a key step toward interstate cannabis commerce, with the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) requesting guidance from the state attorney’s general’s office whether it would be at significant risk of federal enforcement action.
- The request for guidance is considered a key step that could eventually trigger a law that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last year, allowing California to enter into agreements with other legal states to import and export cannabis products.
- General Counsel Matthew Lee and Director Nicole Elliott of the DCC sent the letter to California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s (D) office which emphasizes that they’re not disputing the idea that Congress can directly legislate and enact federal laws prohibiting people for conducting cannabis-related activity, whether that’s simple possession or shipping marijuana across state lines as part of an interstate commerce agreement, instead, looking to determine whether allowing interstate cannabis commerce to proceed under California law would put the state itself at significant risk, aside from the implications for private individuals and businesses participating in such activity.
- Based on previous rulings, it is being argued that disallowing imports and exports of cannabis between consenting states could be construed as protectionist and unconstitutional.
Progress related to cannabis legalization has almost always been led by the states and there’s no reason to think interstate commerce will be any different. In our view, this is a long-term strategy that will help push the issue forward, although will still depend heavily on whether other states will even allow imports. This is being viewed by some as a call to action for cannabis operators and activists inside and outside of California, as interstate cannabis commerce is still in its infancy and yet to be established at all. It could also provide a roadmap that other states will follow to move interstate cannabis commerce forward as congress will likely continue to demonstrate inaction on the issue.
British Columbia Becomes First Province to Decriminalize Small Quantities of Opioids, Cocaine, Methamphetamine and MDMA
It will no longer be a criminal offence to possess small amounts of certain illicit drugs in B.C. for people aged 18 or above as part of a three-year pilot by the federal government, which granted B.C. an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) on May 31, 2022, reports The CBC.
- The exemption pilot is set to last for three years until Jan. 31, 2026, unless it is revoked or replaced before then, with the federal government monitoring the pilot throughout its duration to gauge its effectiveness.
- Selling or trafficking these drugs will remain illegal and possessing illegal drugs at schools, child-care facilities, and airports remains prohibited.
- When the province first applied for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in November 2021, it sought a threshold of 4.5 grams but this was lowered to 2.5 grams by the federal government, citing feedback from law enforcement officials across B.C.
It’s important to note that the BC government is not changing a law or policy. Criminal law is a federal matter under Canada’s constitution, and BC’s provincial government does not have jurisdiction to officially decriminalize (or criminalize) any drug. Although considered a major step forward to some the pilot is receiving criticism for not going far enough, with some arguing decriminalization alone does not address the issue that drug users will still need to access an unregulated and deadly drug supply.
Hong Kong Bans CBD
Hong Kong banned CBD as a “dangerous drug” and imposed harsh penalties for its possession on Wednesday, forcing fledging businesses to shut down or revamp, reports NPR.
- Although THC has been illegal in Hong Kong for a long time, CBD was once legal in the city, with several cafes and shops selling CBD-infused products.
- The new rule reflects a zero-tolerance policy toward dangerous drugs in Hong Kong, as well as in mainland China, where CBD was banned in 2022.
- The Hong Kong government cited the difficulty of isolating pure CBD from cannabis, the possibility of contamination with THC during the production process and the relative ease by which CBD can be converted to THC.
- Possession of CBD can result in up to seven years in jail and a 1 million Hong Kong dollar ($128,000) fine and those convicted of importing, exporting, or producing the substance can face up to life in prison and a 5 million Hong Kong dollar ($638,000) fine.
This is a clear step backwards for Hong Kong, which was previously viewed as a potential hub for international cannabis investment in the future. CBD is now being classified as a “dangerous drug” alongside heroin, which is extremely unfortunate, not to mention the negative impact this will have on current businesses selling CBD-related products.