The California legislature has sent a bill to the governor that would change how marijuana plants must be tracked in a way that supporters say will promote environmental sustainability by eliminating the use of single-use plastic tags.
The legislation from Sen. Ben Allen (D) passed both chambers with unanimous votes over recent months, with the Senate advancing it in a final concurrence vote last week.
While the text of the measure doesn’t explicitly discuss the current use of plastic tags under California’s track-and-trace rules, cannabis businesses and industry groups say the transition away from that practice will prevent waste while saving the state millions.
“Existing law requires a unique identifier to be issued for each cannabis plant and to be attached at the base of each plant or as otherwise required by law or regulation,” the legislative summary says. “This bill would instead require the unique identifier to be recorded in a manner as determined by” the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC).
The legislation doesn’t provide specific examples of alternatives to the plastic identifiers that are currently used to track marijuana plants. But if signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), regulators would have discretion to implement ecologically sound policies such as digital tags.
“We eagerly anticipate Governor Newsom’s signature on SB 622, drawing attention to the impact of the past five years: the state has used between 200 and 250 million plant tags, resulting in over 1 million pounds of plastic waste,” Tiffany Devitt, head of regulatory affairs at the vertically integrated cannabis company CannaCraft, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday.
“Astonishingly, this waste carries a price tag of approximately $15 million annually, as the state of California purchases these tags and distributes them to cannabis farms,” she said. “The most unfortunate aspect of this situation is that these tags failed to fulfill their intended purpose of preventing diversion.”
Policymakers at the state and congressional level have raised concerns about the environmental impact of illegal grow operations, including the use of banned pesticides that could hurt wildlife. A bipartisan bill filed this Congress takes aim at the illicit cultivation sites in California, for example.
But this state-level bill from Allen looks at a different environmental side of the issue, showing how even regulated markets can inadvertently contribute to waste.
Supporters of the legislation also includes the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA), California NORML, Cresco, Humboldt County Growers Alliance, Kiva Confections, Pax and Project CBD.
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In 2021, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife unveiled a Cannabis Restoration Grant Program, offering $6 million in funds from marijuana tax revenue to help small cultivators with environmental clean-up and remediation efforts.
Meanwhile, ahead of the launch of New York’s adult-use marijuana program, regulators approved rules to limit the use of plastics and promote sustainability in cannabis packaging.
Back in the California legislature, another cannabis bill is heading to the governor following a final Assembly vote on Monday. The measure would legalize marijuana cafes, allowing dispensaries to offer non-cannabis food and drinks at their location if they receive local approval.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee also recently approved a Senate-passed bill that is meant to bolster protections for workers who use cannabis off the job. The panel adopted technical amendments to the measure from Sen. Steven Bradford (D), however, so it will go back to the Senate for concurrence if it is approved by the full Assembly.
Also, the legislature sent a bill to the governor last week that would legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of certain psychedelics by adults. It would create work group to explore a possible regulatory model for access to the substances for therapeutic and facilitated use.
Photo courtesy of California State Fair.
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