Is Cannabis Massage Legal in California? (Massage Monday #390)

Last week I mentioned that April is a National Stress Awareness Month. April is also National Cannabis Awareness Month with April 20th being the big day because 420 is a code-term for cannabis. So once you are aware of how stressed you are now you are aware of one of the options to ease your stress. How appropriate is that?

Back in January when the recreational use of marijuana became legal in California, I started learning about the benefits of cannabinoids, CBD and THC, and after I was amazed by the cannabis massage myself, I started wondering if I could offer it.

Around the same time, the Bureau of Cannabis Control was touring Southern California. They are the government agency that regulates cannabis businesses from seed to sale in California. So I went to their workshop. It was all Q&A with the staff from the Bureau and other agencies at the table answering questions one-by-one.

In the opening remarks, the chief of the Bureau, Lori Ajax was encouraging people to ask any questions because the law is new and the Bureau hasn’t considered all the possible situations.

Lori Ajax Chief of Bureau of Cannabis Control
With Lori Ajax the Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control
With Lori Ajax

And I had a chance to ask her in person, if I could offer cannabis massage. And she said “That’s a great question! See that’s the kind of questions that we never thought of. Why don’t you submit your question to the committee and we’ll respond after 2 business days.” And to my surprise, they did respond with details after 2 business days. Thank you BCC for your integrity and quick response. I appreciate you taking my question seriously when you must be so swamped.

So to summarize their response dated January 30th, 2018, I cannot offer cannabis massage without a retail license. Even if I’m not selling the cannabis product in a bottle, if I’m using the cannabis products in my service, they consider it as a sale and I have to have a retail license. They are ok with “industrial hemp” products which don’t have THC more than 0.3 percent.

In my original email, I had included some follow up questions like what if it’s only CBD as opposed to CBD and THC, because CBD doesn’t give you psychoactive effects and it’s legal in all 50 states. But they said regardless of CBD only or CBD and THC you have to have a retail license.

Another follow-up questions was “what if the clients bring their own cannabis lotion or oil?” And they said if the massage therapist is not providing the cannabis products, there may not be a requirement for the retail license. So that’s what I’m going with right now. I research and suggest products to my clients and they are welcome to bring their own topicals for their massage. Right now, I even give discounts if they bring their own because these products are not cheap and I get the benefits too. My hands, fingers and forearms are not achy after giving a cannabis massage.

By the way this retail license, there is no way I’m going to even apply for it and here’s why. The retail license is what the dispensaries have. In Orange County where I live, there are 34 cities and there is only one city Santa Ana that even allows a dispensary. They issued 20 retail licenses last year and for that 627 entities applied in 2015 and the 20 winners were selected through a lottery. The newer licenses will be issued on merit-based.

I was talking to a lawyer about this retail license requirement for a massage therapist and she was saying this is like requiring a liquor license to a restaurant who doesn’t serve alcohol but they use alcohol in cooking. Hmm I think that’s an interesting argument. And during massage you only apply topically externally over the skin. You’re not going to ingest it through your mouth. And the effects are very different.

I think spas and wellness centers will benefit a lot if they are allowed to use cannabis products for their massage and facial services. More business means more tax revenue for the state and if the state can come up with a special cannabis license for spa businesses, more licensing revenue for the state too. I’m just saying.

I think things like massage is the last thing on their mind as they try to regulate more serious stuff like shutting down the illegal dispensaries but things might change (and I hope it does) and if I hear any changes, of course I will update.

Massage Monday #390 – Cannabis/Marijuana Massage in California