Newsom Vetoes Cannabis Labeling Law Meant to Prevent Child Poisonings

Newsom Vetoes Cannabis Labeling Law Meant to Prevent Child Poisonings

Cannabis-infused Nerd rope candy in Mendocino County, Calif., on July 18, 2023. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

10/13/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed legislation that would have banned the labeling of cannabis products in a manner appealing to children, citing the broad nature of its language.
Assembly Bill 1207, authored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), was designed to protect youth from accidental cannabis poisoning by prohibiting the use of food-like images and words on product packaging.
“While I deeply appreciate and agree with the author’s intent, I am concerned that the definition of ‘attractive to children’ used in this bill is overly broad,” Mr. Newsom said in a veto letter. “By prohibiting entire categories of images, this bill would sweep in commonplace designs, and I am not convinced that these additional limits will meaningfully protect children beyond what is required under existing law.”
Some well-established cannabis brands currently utilize imagery and words that would have been banned by the measure, including imitations of popular candies, chocolates, chips, and other snack foods.
Cannabis cultivators often market varieties of their products using descriptive monikers, such as Lemon Cherry Gelato and Red Velvet, which would have been banned by the proposal.
While the governor vetoed the bill, existing regulations prevent marketing products in manners that are attractive to children, but without specific definitions regarding food and flavors.
Cannabis vape products in Mendocino County, Calif., on July 18, 2023. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Cannabis vape products in Mendocino County, Calif., on July 18, 2023. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Recognizing the growing number of hospital and emergency room visits over cannabis poisoning since the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016—20 years after the Golden State first decriminalized the plant for medicinal purposes—the governor stressed that he will be working with regulators to identify solutions.
“California must continue to refine and advance its regulation of cannabis to protect the health and safety of children,” Mr. Newsom stated. “As such, I am directing the Department of Cannabis Control to strengthen and expand existing youth-related cannabis protections—including measures to enhance enforcement of those protections.”
The bill’s author said the legislation was necessary to help safeguard youth from unsuspecting poisonings, as many cannabis labels utilize bright colors and descriptions of foods that children enjoy.
“Since the passage of Proposition 64, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased exponentially,” Ms. Irwin said in the legislative analysis of the bill. “These exposures are heavily influenced by the use of features on cannabis product packaging that are explicitly attractive to children.”
Candy bars laced with medical marijuana on display at the Alternative Herbal Health Services cannabis dispensary in San Francisco on April 24, 2006. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Candy bars laced with medical marijuana on display at the Alternative Herbal Health Services cannabis dispensary in San Francisco on April 24, 2006. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Such packaging strategies are creating the potential for harm and should be addressed, she argued.
“Children being poisoned by cannabis is a public safety issue,” Ms. Irwin told The Epoch Times in a statement on July 18. “The danger that cannabis products pose to children is significant. When the packaging of these products is attractive to children, it directly leads to pediatric hospitalizations.”
Supporters, including health care professionals throughout the state and the Public Health Institute—a public advocacy group based in Seattle—agreed that stronger regulatory enforcement is needed to protect the vulnerable.
“Products attractive to or marketed to children and youth in each of these sectors need to be addressed through appropriate policy and enforcement,” the health institute wrote in legislative analyses. “AB 1207 will implement key measures for the legal cannabis market.”
Cannabis industry organizations and advocacy groups opposed the bill, saying it would jeopardize public safety by increasing access to illicit, black-market products.
“AB 1207 will increase cost burdens on the licensed cannabis industry while empowering an unlicensed market that flagrantly markets to children. As such, it may inadvertently exacerbate public safety issues rather than improve them.  AB 1207 will only undermine access to safe, tested cannabis products while bolstering an unlicensed cannabis market that notoriously sells and markets to children.”
While fighting to change packaging laws, the measure’s author noted that parents must be responsible when bringing cannabis products into their homes.
“Kids being poisoned are not walking into retailers and being drawn to display counters,” Ms. Irwin told The Epoch Times. “They are sitting at their kitchen tables and in their living rooms and coming across cannabis products that they cannot distinguish from their own cereal, candy, or snacks.”
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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