The Bureau of Cannabis Control (Bureau) is the lead agency in regulating commercial cannabis licenses for medical and adult-use cannabis in California. The Bureau is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing laboratories, microbusinesses, and temporary cannabis events.
In 1996, voters approved Proposition 215, which legalized the use of medicinal cannabis in California. Since the proposition was passed most regulation was done by local governments.
In 2015, California enacted three bills —AB 243 (Wood, Chapter 688); AB 266 (Bonta, Chapter 689); and SB 643 (McGuire, Chapter 719)—that collectively established a comprehensive state regulatory framework for the licensing and enforcement of cultivation, manufacturing, retail sale, transportation, storage, delivery and testing of medicinal cannabis in California. This regulatory scheme is known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). Senate Bill 837 (Committee on Budget, Chapter 32, Statutes of 2016) built upon the MCRSA framework and added comprehensive environmental safeguards that require the State Water Resources Control Board, in consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to adopt principles and guidelines governing the use of water for cannabis cultivation with the goal of protecting streams and rivers from illegal diversion.
In November of 2016, voters approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). Under Proposition 64, adults 21 years of age or older can legally grow, possess, and use cannabis for non-medicinal purposes, with certain restrictions. In addition, beginning on January 1, 2018, AUMA makes it legal to sell and distribute cannabis through a regulated business.
In June 2017, the California State Legislature passed a budget trailer bill, Senate Bill 94 (Chapter 27), that integrated MCRSA with AUMA to create the Medicinal and Adult‐Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) contained in division 10 of the Business and Professions Code (§26000 et seq.). Under MAUCRSA, a single regulatory system governs the medical and adult use cannabis industry in California.In December 2017, the Bureau adopted emergency regulations to clarify and make specific licensing and enforcement criteria for commercial cannabis businesses under the MAUCRSA. The Bureau readopted these regulations in June 2018, which will remain in effect for 180 days while the Bureau goes through the formal rulemaking process to create non-emergency regulations.
On January 1, 2018, temporary licenses issued by the Bureau of Cannabis Control for retailers, distributors, testing laboratories, microbusinesses, and event organizers went into effect and businesses began operating in California’s newly-legal commercial cannabis market. More than 5,000 cannabis operators now hold state licenses in the largest cannabis market in the country.
The Bureau announced the publication of proposed regulations to the California Regulatory Notice Register in July 2018, the, the first step toward adopting non-emergency regulations under the regular rulemaking process. A 45-day public comment period was held on these proposed regulations for industry, stakeholder, and public feedback, which was followed by an additional 15-day comment period after the Bureau announced changes to the proposed regulations. The Bureau’s proposed regulations were submitted to the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on December 3, 2018 and are currently under review.