Last week the California state assembly advanced a bill to permit cannabis growers to sell at farmers markets statewide. If passed, Assembly Bill 2691 has the potential to dramatically expand both consumer and retail access to the state cannabis market, which could signal a further shift in the way that cannabis is currently regulated statewide. Simply put: customers could soon find themselves picking up seasonal asparagus from a local grower at the Hollywood Farmers Market while an adjacent stand offers cannabis for sale.
Perhaps even more importantly, AB 2691 hopes to bridge the gap between producers who grow less than one acre of cannabis and consumers, something that has been consistently challenging since California voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act/Proposition 64 in 2016. Adult use officially started in 2018, but licensed cannabis growers and dispensaries continue to see a drop in state cannabis tax collections, an indication that these businesses are likely fighting a robust black market. Allowing small growers into the marketplace and increasing legal access to cannabis, particularly in other agricultural settings like farmers markets, could help to level the playing field for many.
There are some restrictions, of course. AB 2691 would allow cannabis growers with up-to-date paperwork (a state cultivation license and valid local license, permit, or other authorization included) to sell at eight farmers markets per year, though the logistics of which markets and where would still mostly be handled locally. Independent jurisdictions have their own rules surrounding retail cannabis, and the state has been keen to allow for local control over most cannabis matters. Recreational use of cannabis, of course, continues to be illegal at the federal level.
Perhaps the best example comes from the region’s cannabis consumption lounges, which are not permitted in the City of Los Angeles proper. By contrast, West Hollywood has some of the friendliest laws surrounding cannabis, having passed legislation in 2017 and 2018 that presented a pathway toward the state’s first cannabis consumption lounges. The city now has several spaces either open or in the planning stages, including the temporarily closed Original Cannabis Cafe and the Artist Tree, which opened in April.
Though AB 2691 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee last Thursday, it still has a ways to go, advance next to the Assembly Chamber and then the Senate before reaching Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. If last week’s vote measured lawmakers’ enthusiasm surrounding AB 2691, this legislation has clear support with 12 votes for yes, two votes for no, along with two NVR/no votes recorded.
There is some opposition to AB 2691, which includes advocacy groups like the United Cannabis Business Association, reports KCRA. On its website, UCBA believes goes against the intent of the original Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Brea’s Assemblyman Phillip Chen cited concerns about the farmers markets increasing the number of places to purchase cannabis in his community, reports the Sacramento Bee. “As I represent Orange County, there will be an oversaturation of these retailers in my communities,” says Chen.