New California Cannabis Laws for 2023




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New cannabis laws protecting California cannabis users’ medical rights, parental rights and more took effect on January 1, 2023.

California NORML is committed to the implementation of these reforms, and would like to hear from anyone with questions about their rights under the new laws, or who is continuing to experience discrimination against cannabis consumers that is now illegal in California. Contact us here.

Download Cal NORML’s updated pamphlet California Consumers’ Guide to State Marijuana Laws (printable on 8 1/2 x 14″ paper in color or black and white).

Pain Patients and Other Cannabis Users’ Medical Rights Protected

AB 1954 (Quirk) to protect the right of patients to medical treatment if they use marijuana, and the right of physicians and clinics to treat them, is now Section 2228.5 of the California Business and Professions Code.

“Many physicians are under the mistaken impression that they can’t prescribe medication to patients who test positive for cannabis,” said Dale Gieringer, Director of Cal NORML, which sponsored AB 1954. In California, many health plans, health systems, and hospitals require patients to sign agreements not to use illicit or controlled substances for the duration of their prescribed opioid treatment and agree to drug testing, and deny them prescription drugs if they test positive for THC. 

The new law clarifies that physicians cannot be punished for treating patients who use cannabis, notwithstanding its illicit status under federal law and states that “the use of medical cannabis that has been recommended by a licensed physician shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance” and that “a physician and surgeon shall not automatically deny treatment or medication to a qualified patient based solely on a positive drug screen for THC or report of medical cannabis use without first completing a case-by-case evaluation of the patient that includes, but is not limited to, a determination that the qualified patient’s use of medical cannabis is medically significant to the treatment or medication.”

Parental Rights of Cannabis Consumers Expanded

AB 2595 (Jones-Sawyer), requiring the State Department of Social Services to treat a parent’s use of cannabis in the same manner as alcohol or legally prescribed medication, is now Section 328.2 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, which states, “The State Department of Social Services shall update all regulations, all-county letters, and other instructions relating to the investigation of a minor who may be described by Section 300 to ensure that, when a social worker is investigating an alleged case of child abuse or neglect, a parent’s or guardian’s use or possession of cannabis is treated in the same manner as a parent’s or guardian’s use or possession of alcohol and legally prescribed medication.” We have been assured that DSS is in the process of producing these updates to inform case workers of the new policy.

The law expands on protections in Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) that was passed by California voters in 2016, which codified CA H&SC 11362.84 stating, “The status and conduct of a qualified patient who acts in accordance with the Compassionate Use Act [Prop. 215/medical marijuana] shall not, by itself, be used to restrict or abridge custodial or parental rights to minor children in any action or proceeding under the jurisdiction of family or juvenile court.” Those rights are now extended to recreational cannabis users in California.

Terminally Ill Patients’ Right to Use Cannabis Protected in Health-Care Facilities

SB 988 (Hueso) to address “Ryan’s Law” allowing terminally ill patients to use cannabis in healthcare facilities, amends CA Health and Safety Codes 1649.1-1649.5, clarifying that marijuana’s continuing illegal status under federal law does not interfere with the state mandate, first passed as SB 311 (2021-22), to allow hospice and other terminally ill patients to use non-smoked forms of cannabis, if self administered. “Terminally ill” is defined to mean “a medical condition resulting in a prognosis of life of one year or less, if the disease follows its natural course.”

Health care facilities are defined to include any “health facility specified in subdivision (a), (c), (f), (i), or (n) of Section 1250,” meaning general acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, special hospitals, congregate living health facilities, and hospice facilities. Chemical dependency recovery hospitals, state hospitals, and emergency departments are excluded from the law, which states that all facilities must “prohibit smoking or vaping as methods to use medicinal cannabis.” Health care facilities are required to “develop and disseminate written guidelines for the use and disposal of medicinal cannabis within the health care facility pursuant to this chapter.”

Expungement for Past Cannabis Crimes To Be Expedited

AB 1706 by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) amended Section 11361.9 of the Health and Safety Code to ensure that Californians with old cannabis-related convictions will finally have those convictions sealed. This law expands on AB 1793 (2018) by Rob Bonta, imposing new deadlines on county courts and the state Department of Justice to implement expungement or resentencing of past cannabis crimes now made legal or lesser crimes. It requires county courts to issue an order recalling or dismissing the sentence, dismissing and sealing, or redesignating the conviction no later than March 1, 2023, and requires the court to update its records accordingly, and to notify the Department of Justice. And it requires the Department of Justice, on or before July 1, 2023, to complete the update of the state summary criminal history information database, and conduct an awareness campaign so that individuals that may be impacted by this process become aware of methods to verify updates to their criminal history. Until June 1, 2024, the DOJ is required, in consultation with the Judicial Council, to produce a quarterly joint progress report to the Legislature.

Read more about cannabis record expungement.

Cannabis Business Bills

Several bills regulating cannabis business bills have passed into law. Among them:

•  AB 2210 by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) expands access by allowing venues with liquor licenses to host cannabis events. It prohibits the DCC from denying an application for a state temporary event license solely on the basis that there is a license issued pursuant to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act for the proposed premises of the event.

•  AB 2155 (Villapudua) defines the term “cannabis beverages”  as a form of edible cannabis product. The law does not change the current requirements for beverages, which still must abide by edible cannabis product regulations. Rather, it could open the door for future delineation between solid versus liquid edible products for regulation. AB 1646 (Chen) allows cannabis beverages to be packaged in clear containers.

AB 2568 (Cooley) creates a ”safe harbor” by stating that an individual or firm providing insurance or related services to a state legal cannabis business does not commit a crime under California law solely for providing that insurance or related service.

AB 2925 (Cooper) requires the State Department of Health Care Services, on or before July 10, 2023, to provide to the Legislature a spending report of funds from the Youth Education, Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment Account paid for by the Cannabis Tax Fund for the 2021–22 and 2022–23 fiscal years, and requires the department, on or before July 10, 2024, and annually thereafter, to provide that spending report for the prior fiscal year.

Veterinary Bill

AB 1885 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) prohibits the Veterinary Medical Board from disciplining a veterinarian who recommends the use of cannabis on an animal, unless the veterinarian is employed by or has an agreement with a cannabis licensee. The law requires the board to adopt guidelines by January 1, 2024 for veterinarians to follow when recommending cannabis. It also requires that cannabis products intended for animals comply with concentration and other standards adopted by regulations of the department, and requires the Department of Cannabis Control to promulgate regulations for animal product standards no later than July 1, 2025. It prohibits the marketing or sale of those products before the regulations take effect. 

Laws Taking Effect in the Future

Laws taking effect in 2024 or later are:

AB 2188 (Quirk), Cal NORML’s sponsored bill to protect employment rights of cannabis consumers. The new law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2024, will ban most California employers from discriminating against workers or job applicants based on drug testing for inactive cannabis metabolites—in particular, urine tests, which can detect a worker’s cannabis use days or weeks before they show up for work and have no correlation with on-the-job impairment. The California Chamber of Commerce requested delaying implementation of the bill for one year, in order to give employers time to phase out urine testing in favor of more scientifically accurate methods like performance testing or oral swabs.

SB 1186 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) preempts local bans on medicinal cannabis delivery, expanding patients’ access to legal, regulated cannabis products and will take effect on January 1, 2024.

SB 1326 by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Merced), which creates a process for California to enter into agreements with other states to allow cannabis transactions with entities outside California, passed this year but will only take effect when the federal laws change.


  • Watchdog implementation of AB 1954 (pain patients’ rights) and other bills
  • Inform public and employers about AB 2188 (employment rights), taking effect in 2024
  • Push for federal rescheduling and legalization
  • Support cannabis industry efforts towards public education on high-potency cannabis products
  • Advance greater access and less taxation for medical patients
  • Support local activists in opening more cannabis retail outlets and consumption lounges, while fighting off smoking/vaping bans in apartments
  • Support parental rights for cannabis users, and end drug testing of newborns and their mothers
  • Watchdog AG Bonta’s new EPIC program against illegal cannabis grows


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