On January 27 this year, Matthew Lee, General Counsel for the Department of Cannabis Control, sent a letter to Senior Assistant Attorney General Mollie Lee requesting an opinion on whether “medicinal or adult-use commercial cannabis activity … between out-of-state licensees and California licensees, will result in significant legal risk to the State of California under the federal Controlled Substances Act.”
The eight-page letter, itself a detailed legal opinion in favor of interstate cannabis commerce, states strongly that the legal risk to California of such commerce is insignificant. The DCC hopes the AG will help authorize the state to negotiate agreements with other states, allowing their cannabis companies to do business with each other. Such agreements, the letter says, “would represent an important step to expand and strengthen California’s state-licensed cannabis market.”
Prices for wholesale cannabis in California have plummeted in the last year: a pound of packaged flower is wholesaling in the $1,200 to $1,400 per pound range compared with $1,700-$1,900 a pound at the beginning of 2022, a year-over-year decrease of about 25%-30%. With many growers struggling and many others forced to enter the illicit market to get a sustainable price for their product, the DCC believes opening up interstate opportunities for California growers will provide much-needed support for their large cultivation industry.
Additionally, this request by the DCC should serve as a roadmap for other states to follow in order to move interstate cannabis commerce forward through state legislatures since it appears that federal progress in legalizing cannabis has become mired in inaction.
The DCC cited new state legislation, Senate Bill 1326, which took effect on January 1, 2023, and which allows interstate agreements for both export AND import of cannabis. This is important because other states would not be inclined to enter an agreement with California if they could only receive (import) cannabis into what may be an already glutted market.
In drafting their letter, the DCC chose to side-step some “thorny” issues, including avoiding having the Attorney General delve into any discussion regarding the federal illegality of cannabis.
While many states to the east, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are opening up their states to adult-use cannabis consumption, California is paving the way forward for the future of interstate cannabis commerce. The DCC’s letter is a bold move to support and strengthen California’s cannabis industry and will likely be watched closely by other cannabis states and the nation as a whole.