Calif. cannabiz defeats label bill, for now

By Alex Halperin
Aug 25, 2022

The cannabiz scored a big win in Sacramento this week with the defeat of legislation that would have added bright yellow warning labels and “graphic” language to weed packaging. Supporters of the Right to Know Act shelved their bill after accusing the industry of diluting it. 

While trying to address the industry’s many ongoing challenges, the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) made blocking the Right to Know Act a priority this year. CCIA argued that it would add onerous and expensive regulations that would drive up prices and push consumers to more dangerous illegal market products.

As initially filed, the bill would have required bright yellow warning labels on packaging, roughly like Canada’s, with text such as:

  • “Cannabis use may contribute to mental health problems, including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Risk is greatest for frequent users and when using products with high THC levels.”
  • “Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. Substances in cannabis are transferred from the mother to the child and may harm your baby’s health, including causing low birth weight.

Supporters of the bill argued that the state’s current warning labels are “nearly invisible,” and too mildly worded.

  • The bill would also have required dispensaries and delivery services to make available brochures with similar information.

“We didn’t feel the language needed to be that prescriptive” or specific, Amy Jenkins, an industry lobbyist with Precision Advocacy told WeedWeek. She said the bill’s warnings weren’t based on “mutually agreed-upon scientific consensus.”

Instead wrote amendments to the bill which proposed language about: “The potential for THC to exacerbate certain mental health conditions,” and “Implications and risks associated with cannabis use by pregnant and breastfeeding women.”

  • The more specific labels risked pushing consumers to the illegal market, she said.
  • Her amendments’ also proposed that the labeling requirements could be met “via an insert or label.”

Dr. Lynn Silver, a pediatrician and director of the Public Health Institute’s Getting It [legalization] Right from the Start program said in a video promoting the bill that the labels addressed issues where there is “substantial evidence of harm.”

  • She also cited some public health benefits of legalization such as fewer people going to prison and several of the plant’s therapeutic properties.
  • The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento.), a pediatrician, and had support from Kaiser Permanente, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Emergency Physicians among other health organizations.

“We won today but can’t rest on our laurels,” Jenkins said. She expects the bill to be filed again next year.

“We were very disappointed that the industry’s lobbying to continue to hide this information from consumers was effective,” Silver said. “We’re not stopping.”