California ignores public health and quickly approves cannabis “emergency” regulations

On September 27, 2021, just a week after the 5 day public comment period closed, the California Department of Cannabis Control released its final emergency regulations. The minor changes the Department made in response to the comments all but ignored the extensive thoughtful public health comments Getting it Right from the Start submitted, with the exception of requiring branded merchandise to be subject to the criteria of not be attractive to children. Even making the weak warning labels big enough to actually see (as opposed to the current 6 point size) or restoration of age verification on delivery do not appear.

In short, California’s cannabis regulators continue to ignore public health best practices and by further weakening state rules.

As a well-done Nova documentary The Cannabis Question that first aired on September 29, 2021 reported, there are unquestionably medical uses of cannabis that need to be better defined, but there are many dangerous aspects of cannaboids, especially for developing brains.

The hope has been that California would create a regulated market that would carefully balance these factors. That’s not happening.

Instead, state government is barrelling ahead with unquestioning and unrestrained promotion. This permissive environment is made to order for Big Tobacco. As Timothy Dewhirst said in his paper “‘Beyond nicotine’ marketing strategies: Big Tobacco diversification into vaping and cannabis product sectors,” “While tobacco industry denomalization is regarded as an effective tobacco control intervention, tobacco companies are counteracting such measures and seeking to improve their corporate reputation by becoming associated with more legitimized and socially acceptable products.”

As Dewhirst reports, Big Tobacco is already getting into cannabis in Canada, something that have been thinking about since the 1970s. The high levels of cannabis use among youth combined with the dual gateway effects between nicotine and tobacco makes cannabis promotion a double win for Big Tobacco.

This also has implications for California’s tobacco control program. Tobacco industry denormalization has been a central pillar of the California Tobacco Control Program since it was launched in 1990. As Dewhirst noted, Big Tobacco’s entry into the cannabis market could not only make them a lot of money, but “improve their corporate reputation by becoming associated with more legitimized and socially acceptable products.”

The long-term question is: Who will clean up the mess the Department of Cannabis Control is creating now when the costs finally become obvious?

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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