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California May Force Cannabis Shippers To Report To Feds

By Roger Malespin (photo/istock.com/demaerre

One of the many complications between the federal government and state-run cannabis companies is the issue of transportation. The status of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug at the federal level means that despite the state level legalization and a current hands off approach, the act of transporting marijuana is technically a federal crime. Before November 2016, when voters passed proposition 64, California was operating under the Compassionate Use Act, which ‘encouraged the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana’. However, proposition 64 came with a much more stringent set of rules for cannabis transport.
While the law allows users to grow their own crops and carry up to an ounce without fear of prosecution, it also came with a requirement that vehicles used to transport cannabis must be owned, or leased, by someone with a permit issued by the state-run Bureau of Cannabis Control. It includes provisions such as each plant getting a serial number, as does all products that are made from it, be they oils, dabs, cookies, or anything else. Additionally, Anyone transporting will have to scan an RFID tag upon pickup and delivery. They’ll have to deliver it in a GPS-equipped vehicle and stick to a predetermined route, no unplanned excursions or unscheduled pit stops. 

Big rig vehicles must be regulated by the federal government, but unless the vehicle is owned by a company transporting their own goods, the state’s Department of Transportation requires any commercial vehicle seeking a Motor Carrier permit to obtain a federal DOT number, which obviously will require explaining to the feds what exactly the vehicle is being used for.

“How am I supposed to tell the feds I’m going to starting up a criminal conspiracy to transport cannabis?” says Debby Goldsberry, the CEO of Magnolia Wellness, an Oakland cannabis company, who is hoping to add cannabis transport to her company’s roster of services.
Hers and any other company have nothing to worry about if they are transporting their own goods, but could face trouble if they want to transport anyone else’s. Yes, there is a cannabis transport industry in California and the companies such as Omni Security, which started out as a standard armored vehicle service, have already registered and have nothing to worry about. But smaller startup companies, or even larger ones who want to add transportation to their business repertoire are essentially locked out without risking violating federal law.
For now, it looks like the situation will remain the same for the foreseeable future because the California Bureau of Cannabis Control cannot change what is written in the statute. Change in the language will only come from significant political pressure. We can be cautiously optimistic about it though because that pressure is mounting, with several major politicians who were previously against it attaching themselves to the legalization movement in various ways, and longtime supporters capitalizing on the decreased stigmatization with bold legislative initiatives aimed at federal level changes. This is one aspect of the legalization movement that we should keep an eye on throughout and after the 2018 midterm elections