The governor’s veto is heart-wrenching. I’ve seen hundreds of children become violently ill because they made an understandable and preventable mistake of ingesting something that was attractive and familiar. There is no excuse to allow marketing of an intoxicating drug that can kill a child as their favorite candies, snacks or cartoons. AB 1207 was an evidence-based solution to the growing cannabis poisoning problem I have witnessed firsthand.”
~ Dr. Natalie Laub, M.D., University of California, San Diego
In early October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 1207, also known as the Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act. While the marijuana industry understandably applauds the move, child advocates and healthcare experts are dismayed that Governor Newsom blocked the bill, especially since cannabis poisonings are skyrocketing among children.
To help you understand the implications of this veto, let’s take a closer look at AB 1207, why it is so urgently needed, and what the experts are saying.
What is AB 1207?
“Children being poisoned by cannabis is a public safety issue. 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.”
~ Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, Thousand Oaks, California
The purpose of Assembly Bill 1207 was to address a serious and growing concern – the purposeful marketing of cannabis products with packaging that could appeal to children.
Assemblymember Irwin points out that since Proposition 64 passed, pediatric cannabis exposures have increased significantly, influenced by packaging explicitly designed in a way that could be attractive to children.
Critical provisions of AB 1207 included:
- The definition of “attractive to children” includes images of fictional characters, cartoons, and toys.
- Banning the use of brand names or packaging that imitates or resembles other products typically marketed to children, such as sweets, chips, and cereal.
- Prohibiting the use of terms like “candy” or any variants, such as “kandy” or “kandee” when marketing cannabis products.
- Restricting the use of any flavorings in inhalable marijuana products, whether natural, artificial. (This provision was omitted from the final proposal.)
AB 1207 was approved by the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee 63 – 0 and was passed 23-10 by the State Senate. With such broad support, the Governor’s veto was unexpected.
Why is AB 1207 Necessary?
“Since the passage of Proposition 64, pediatric exposures to cannabis have increased exponentially. These exposures are heavily influenced by the use of features on cannabis product packaging that are explicitly attractive to children.”
~ Assemblywoman Irwin
When marijuana was legalized in California through Proposition 64, one thing was supposed to be perfectly clear – “Marijuana products shall be: Not designed to be appealing to children or easily confused with commercially sold candy or foods that do not contain marijuana.”
That was the assurance given to California residents, but as with so many promises made by the cannabis industry, the reality is something else altogether different.
Since then, the combination of nearly unchecked commercialization and systemic regulatory failures has led to an explosion of hundreds of perfectly legal cannabis products that closely resemble some of children’s favorite snacks, candies, and sodas.
As a tragic consequence, cannabis edible poisonings among children under the age of 6 spiked nationally by 1,375%, from just over 207 cases in 2017 to more than 3,000 by 2021. In 2021 alone, California had 791 calls to poison control centers for cannabis exposures involving children five or younger – a troubling increase of 140% since 2018.
Why Did Governor Newsom Veto AB 1207?
“…I am not convinced that these additional limits will meaningfully protect children beyond what is required under existing law.”
When Governor Newsom returned the bill without his signature, his explanation was curiously contradictory – he acknowledged that there was a need to protect children from marijuana and all. Still, he admitted outright that the current regulations are inadequate and that their enforcement is substandard, but there is no need to make broad changes.
It is hard to reconcile both statements. If child marijuana poisonings are skyrocketing since legalization, it is blatantly obvious that more needs to be done.
Members of the cannabis industry may have accidentally revealed the Governor’s true intent behind the veto – to protect marijuana companies and the millions of dollars of sales tax they pay.
In other words, his veto suggests that Governor Newsom cares more about the financial well-being of Big Cannabis investors than he does the physical and mental health of California children.
Tiffany Devitt, who works with Santa Rosa producer CannaCraft, pointedly says that her company is “enormously grateful” to the Governor and that his veto preserves “the ability of California cannabis companies to compete in the national market.”
Perhaps Governor Newsom should have worked for the gratitude of concerned California parents.
The Power of Big Cannabis
“Today, corporate shamelessness won, kids lost. We are shocked and disappointed that the governor opted to veto AB1207, a widely-supported bill to protect children from some of the most egregious marketing practices of the cannabis industry. Our state now shares responsibility with the cannabis industry for this growing toll, both for failure to enforce existing law and now, for blocking even these basic, sensible added protections endorsed by state legislators.”
~ Dr. Lynn Silver, M.D., Senior Advisor for the Public Health Institute and Director of Getting it Right From the Start
Sadly, Governor Newsom’s veto is just another example of the political power and influence of the Big Cannabis industry and special interest lobbyists.
AB 1207 should have enjoyed bipartisan support and passed easily. It made it through the Assembly without a single vote of opposition. After all, the intent was to protect children.
Just last year, Proposition 31 passed in the state when state residents overwhelmingly voted to ban flavored tobacco and vaping products. And if Californians do not want kids to be lured into using flavored tobacco products, they surely do not want them using flavored marijuana.
Again, it should have passed easily.
But cannabis lobbyists convinced members of the Senate Committee to weaken the bill and remove the provisions that prohibited flavored inhaled marijuana products.
Unfortunately, the amount of influence wielded by Big Cannabis is not exactly a surprise, because the industry spends millions of dollars every year to promote expanded legalization and relaxed regulation.
Newsom’s Veto Puts Vulnerable Children At Risk
“The governor’s veto of AB 1207 represents a sad day for children’s health. We don’t let Valium or cigarettes be sold with Smurfs on the box or looking like Nachos and neither should cannabis. This bill was a missed opportunity to honor the promise and intent of Proposition 64 and take fair and appropriate steps to prevent the rapidly-growing problem of poisoning of young children.”
~ Jim Keddy, Executive Director of Youth Forward
Any time a product sold to the public puts people in danger, companies have the moral and legal obligation to take the appropriate steps to protect consumers – by fixing the problem or pulling the product from the market.
That is Responsible and Ethical Business 101.
But sometimes, industries try to protect their profits instead. We saw this with Big Tobacco and Big Pharma – companies made billions while people died by the millions.
The similarities are disturbing because right now, we are seeing Big Cannabis employ strategies straight out of Tobacco’s playbook – making their products more attractive to young people. Internal memos show that companies wanted “a design that is attractive to kids” as they researched how to influence “pre-smokers” as young as five years old.
This is exactly what is happening today.
When companies will not do the right thing and police themselves, the government is supposed to step in. There is already a precedent – when the Federal Trade Commission said that the Joe Camel mascot enticed children to smoke, the cool cartoon character was retired.
The California Assembly and State Senate tried to take a few steps in the right direction to protect children from marijuana exposure and poisoning.
Governor Newsom blocked those protective measures.
What Can Be Done?
“…no young child should wind up in the emergency room because they mistakenly ate cannabis-laced gummies either, nor should a teen be drawn into vaping cannabis by cartoon characters.”
~ Dr. Silver
After this setback, Dr. Silver said, “We’ll try to address this with the (state) and the court of public opinion,” and that seems like the best strategy – concerned citizens and advocacy groups making their voices heard. If enough people speak up long enough about the dangers of marijuana, eventually, someone will listen.
Written by The Every Brain Matter editorial staff, including Bart Bright and Heidi Swan of the Moms Strong community, who play a crucial role in advocacy efforts in California to protect kids.
We urge you to please share this article with the hashtag #ATrickNotaTreat to help us raise awareness about Cannabis Candies and Kids.
A Trick Not A Treat. Help us raise awareness for child poisoning from Cannabis. Hand this flyer out to schools, churches, health departments, law enforcement, elected officials, stakeholders, and other community organizations and members. Including trick-or-treaters for Halloween!
Every Brain Matters is a trusted educational resource for individuals and families wanting to stay safe from the harms associated with marijuana and the drug culture.
We reject the false narrative that marijuana is a harmless expression of personal freedom. Based on the latest scientific evidence and personal stories, our position is that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug, and like all drugs of abuse, it can destroy lives.
Spread awareness by sharing this article everywhere with everyone you know. To stay informed and up-to-date, join our national movement and subscribe to our channel.
If you found this information valuable, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Every Brain Matters, a registered nonprofit organization devoted to telling the truth about the mental, physical, and societal dangers of marijuana.
Every Brain Matters! Let’s purchase a hoodie or shirt to Support Healthy, Drug-Free Brains for Halloween!