A bill to restrict marijuana products with packaging that appeals to children continued to gain traction in the Assembly, with more votes shifting in favor of the bill in recent weeks.
Assembly Bill 1207, authored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), would build upon provisions in the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), more commonly known as Prop 64, which legalized marijuana in California under a statewide vote in 2016. Under the legislation, AB 1207 would implement provisions of AUMA by prohibiting the sale or manufacture of cannabis or cannabis products that are attractive to children and by prohibiting the advertisement and marketing of cannabis or cannabis products in a way that is attractive to children. The bill would implement AUMA by prohibiting cannabis or cannabis products intended for use by inhalation or combustion from containing any natural or synthetic flavors or descriptors of flavors.
AB 1207 would also further define “attractive to children” by having marijuana products use the images of cartoons, toys, robots, fictional animals, real or fictional humans, as well as any likeness to images, characters, or phrases that are popularly used to advertise to children. Names of products would also be greatly limited under the bill by banning the use of any names similar to cereals, candies, chips, or any other food products sold to kids, as well as variant names with similar spelling.
In addition to the more precise wording of AUMA, the bill would also prohibit any artificial, synthetic, or natural flavoring, similar to a flavored tobacco ban law that went into effect in California earlier this year.
Assemblywoman Irwin wrote the over the increase of marijuana use for those under the legal age of 21. While many factors have been blamed for the rise, with teens 18% more likely to use marijuana following the passage of Prop 64, Irwin specifically targeted product packaging, similar to how tobacco companies had to stop using cartoons and designs on packs during the “Joe Camel” lawsuits in the mid 1990s. In addition, she noted that AB 1207 would help curb any accidental use by young people.
“Since the passage of Proposition 64, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased exponentially,” Irwin said earlier this year. “These exposures are heavily influenced by the use of features on cannabis product packaging that are explicitly attractive to children. Children who unintentionally consume cannabis consistently require poison control treatment, and in many cases, they can also expose their fellow elementary and middle school peers to cannabis.”
Initially slow in gaining support, the bill quickly gained support last month when it was passed 13-0 with 5 abstentions in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. In the past month, more Assembly members have also signaled that they would either vote for it or abstain from voting, despite the next Appropriations Committee hearing over it having been delayed.
“No one is really against it, but for many it is mixed,” said “Dana,” a Capitol staffer to the Globe on Wednesday.” On the left, no one really wants to restrict marijuana that much after it was fought so hard to legalize, but they also don’t want kids smoking it. On the other side, no one wants to obstruct the free market, but again, they don’t want kids doing it. Some also can’t resist on curtailing marijuana to some degree. So they are all either voting for AB 1207 or abstaining.”
“Generally, most people agree that marijuana is here to legally stay, but it needs to be treated more and more like alcohol and tobacco. This bill, and more like it in the future, are going to do that, along with whatever else California chooses to legalize in the next several years.”
AB 1207 is due to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee soon.
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