California officials announced on Wednesday that the state will be awarding up to $20 million in marijuana tax-funded grants to universities that carry out research into cannabis science and policy—including studies on preventing monopolies in the legal industry and securing the genetics of “legacy” strains.
This is the second round of academic marijuana grants from the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), which said it is soliciting research proposals from public colleges with a focus on five priority study areas.
The department said that it developed the top research priorities in consultation with other state agencies, seeking to learn more about the implementation of cannabis legalization “from economic vitality to public health to preservation of the state’s cannabis heritage.”
Regulators previously issued $30 million in marijuana research grants to public universities across the state in 2020.
For this new round, DCC said it is looking for solicitations for projects that deal with cannabis potency and cannabinoid analysis, the health of the state’s marijuana industry, “monopolies and unfair competition, legacy cannabis genetics and data on medical marijuana use.
“California continues to direct millions of dollars to accelerate scientific understanding of cannabis and evaluate the impacts of legalization,” DCC Director Nicole Elliott said in a press release. “Decades of federal cannabis prohibition has hindered our collective knowledge related to these issues, to the detriment of consumers, communities, our environment and more.
“Our hope is that research resulting from these grants proves beneficial not only to California policymakers but also to those across the nation and world,” she said.
One of the more notable research objectives concerns anti-competitiveness in the industry—a topic of growing interest as state markets across the U.S. have increasingly consolidated, raising concerns about the future of small cannabis businesses.
DCC said it’s seeking research and recommendations “related to possible policies that would support reasonable competition, reduce anti-competitive behavior, uphold the ability of small businesses to compete in the legal market, or prevent the creation of monopolies within the California market.”
California also seems to be leaning into its unique marijuana culture and economy by soliciting study proposals to “identify and preserve the history, value and diversity of California legacy cannabis cultivars and the rich experience of its legacy cultivation community.”
DCC said that genetic sequencing and chemical profiling of those legacy strains (e.g. Granddaddy Purple) could be part of that research.
“Although grant funding is not limited to the identified topics, their prioritization provides additional direction to prospective grantees eager to help state cannabis leaders close gaps in research,” the department said. “The resulting research and data would continue to inform and support the creation of a safe, sustainable, and equitable cannabis market that protects people, safeguards the environment, and provides adult access to safe, tested products.”
Study proposals will be accepted from November 1-30, and grant awardees will be announced in February 2023.
The academic funding opportunity was announced just days after California officials said that they would be accepting another round of applications for grants to support local efforts to promote equity in the marijuana industry.
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) started accepting applications for an earlier round of grants under the program around this time last year, with a total of $35 million made available for localities across the state. This year’s funding cap is set at $15 million.
The department separately distributed a round of community reinvestment grants earlier this year totaling $35.5 million with tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales.
GO-Biz announced in July that they’ve awarded 78 grants to organizations throughout the state that will support economic and social development in communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. The amount of funding and number of recipients for that program increased from last year’s levels, when the state awarded about $29 million in grants to 58 nonprofit organizations through the CalCRG program.
Meanwhile, the state is also taking steps to bring more marijuana businesses above board as it continues to mitigate the illicit market.
California started granting provisional marijuana business licenses as a way to more quickly stand up the adult-use market. That temporary licensing category was set to expire last year, but it was extended to give localities more time to complete the permitting process and meet environmental requirements.
Since then, the state has identified a number of jurisdictions that may need additional support to get those provisional licensees into the traditional, annual license category. A separate grant program run by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) is providing that licensure funding.
Ensuring that localities are able to effectively stand up a regulated industry is especially important in California, where more than half of the state’s jurisdictions have banned cannabis businesses from operating in their area, which has helped sustain the illicit trade.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), along with regulators and lawmakers, have attempted to resolve the issue through different means.
The governor has signed about a dozen pieces of cannabis reform legislation in the past month, including one proposal that will prevent localities from blocking medical cannabis deliveries, along with measures on interstate cannabis commerce, employment protections for consumers and record sealing of past convictions.
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
The legislature delivered numerous cannabis bills to Newsom near the end of the session, and he acted on the majority of them in one fell swoop last month. The governor said the reforms were necessary to help fulfill the promises of legalization and continue to address the collateral consequences of prohibition.
Newsom as a long record of supporting marijuana reform and backing the state’s market, so he’s generally been expected to sign reform measures delivered to his desk. But despite his record, he recently vetoed a key piece of drug policy reform legislation that would have authorized a safe drug consumption site pilot program in the state—a move that’s prompted widespread criticism from the harm reduction community.
San Francisco officials have since signaled that they’re prepared to defy the governor and launch an overdose prevention program regardless of the veto.
In another disappointment for reform advocates, a separate bill that would have legalized possession of limited amounts of certain psychedelics was recently pulled by the sponsor after its main provisions were gutted, leaving just a study component that advocates say is unnecessary given the existing body of scientific literature on the subject.
Here’s an overview of other recent drug policy developments in California:
In July, California officials awarded more than $1.7 million in grants help promote sustainable marijuana cultivation practices and assist growers with obtaining their annual licenses. A total of $6 million will be allotted through the program, which was first announced in August 2021 and will remain open for applications through April 2023.
Regulators also recently announced that they are soliciting input on proposed rules to standardize cannabis testing methods in the state—an effort that they hope will stop marijuana businesses from “laboratory shopping” to find facilities that are more likely to show higher THC concentrations that they can then boast for their products.
California has taken in nearly $4 billion in marijuana tax revenue since the state’s adult-use market launched in 2018, the Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) reported in July. And for the first quarter of 2022, the state saw about $294 million in cannabis revenue generated from the excise, cultivation and sales tax on marijuana.
The state collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the last fiscal year. That represented 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the 2020-2021 period.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.