Category: Legal News

6 new things we learned from California’s cannabis czar

Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, talked to the Bay Area News Group on Friday at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco.

We wanted to find out what’s up with the state’s law legalizing recreational marijuana. Here are the most interesting things we learned:

1. The state’s on schedule — so you may actually be able to walk into a store and buy marijuana on Jan. 1, 2018. That’s because Ajax may start issuing temporary licenses.

“We are going to issue licenses” on Jan. 1, she said. “We may issue temporary licenses until we complete our background investigations.”

But it’s going to take awhile for the whole system to ramp up.  “There is no possible way we can issue everybody a license on Day 1,” she said. “For some people, it make take a few months.

“We expect to accept applications on Day 1,  we expect our licensing system will be in place, where you can go online to apply.”

But if you have a medical marijuana card, relax: It’s business-as-usual. Under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, if you have a local permit you are allowed to continue cultivation and dispensing — until the state makes a final decision on applications.

2. Want a commercial growing license? Talk to your local officials. Now.

“You have to be in compliance with your local jurisdiction before we issue a license,” Ajax said.

And because there will be limits to the number of “Type 3” licenses — which will allows licensees to grow up to one acre outdoors — you’ll need to hurry to make sure you’re at the front of the line.

3. Colorado, Washington and Oregon have offered some helpful hints — but only up to a point.

“Colorado had issues with edibles and overconsumption — and it getting into the hands of kids. Washington taxed very high. We can learn from that,” she said. “Those are important lessons for us to look at — to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes here.”

California has a lot more commercial cannabis than these other states. And we’re really diverse — culturally and geographically, she noted.

“At the end of the day, we’ve had a cannabis industry for two decades,” she said. “We need to learn from our own folks. We need to do the best model for California.”

4. Cannabis is one plant — so why the heck will there be two sets of proposed regulations?

Here’s the challenge: There are two statutory structures in place, one for medical marijuana (created by the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, or MCRSA) and one for recreational adult use (created by Proposition 64’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA.)

Although the structures are similar, they’re not identical. For instance, they take different approaches to distribution, transport and testing labs. MCRSA established 17 license types; AUMA established 19 license types.

Ajax wants to make these regulations match, if possible — or maybe just create one set of regulations.

“There is going to have to be alignment,” she said. “We are going to strive to have one set of regulations — because we want to minimize confusion, so people know what rules you have to follow.”

5.  January 1, 2018, isn’t that far away. When can we expect to see these proposed regulations?

Early April for the medical marijuana regs, she said. Then the public can chime in during a 45-day public comment period (which will include hearings) before the final regs are released.

September is the release date for the recreational marijuana regs. Because of the Jan. 1 deadline, these may be “emergency regulations” that go into place immediately, before public comment, then finalized later.

6. Will Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, mess with California?

“We don’t know. We are going to focus on what we can control in our state,” she said. “Now we’re operating under federal guidelines (established by former President Obama). We will operate under these guidelines until we hear otherwise.  That’s the best way to move forward at this point.”


Republican congressman introduces legislation that would take marijuana out of the hands of the federal government

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California is proposing a law that would only allow states to determine marijuana policies, resolving the current conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

Four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have laws that allow the production and sale of marijuana for adult use. Four additional states — California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — are in the process of establishing similar regulations. Under federal law, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, meaning it “has a high potential for abuse . . . has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States [and] there is a lack of accepted safety for use of drug or other substance under medical supervision” [21 U.S.C 812(b)(1)]. Thus, a conflict.

“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue,” Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “It is time to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and give states the authority to determine their own policies.”

“States throughout the country are effectively regulating and controlling marijuana medical or broader adult use,” Capecch said. “Federal tax dollars should not be wasted on arresting and prosecuting people who are following their state and local laws.”

In July, medical marijuana failed to make the GOP platform after a vigorous debate to embrace the growing acceptance of marijuana. The conflict between state and federal marijuana laws was not an issue under the previous administration, but with the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, there are concerns he may crack down on states’ marijuana policies.


Long Beach Will Begin Accepting Medical Cannabis Business License Applications in Days

The application period for a license to legally sell medical cannabis will soon initiate in Long Beach. Entrepreneurs can apply beginning on January 23, 2017. According to California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, recreational licenses won’t be available statewide until early 2018.

“We are strongly encouraging applicants to read through the application materials before contacting city staff with questions on the application process,” Assistant City Manager Ajay Kolluri told the Signal Tribune. “Applicants should also check in with the website regularly in order to ensure they are working with the most up-to-date information.”

Long Beach’s Financial Management Department offers a website listing all of the requirements. The web portal will be reinforced with a hotline for additional guidance. Applicants must pay the business license bureau an application fee of $226.45, plus a live scan background check with the Long Beach City Police Department. Those who were part of the city’s 2010 lottery winners will have until July 24 to apply. Priority Group 1 will have first dibs and includes 2010 lottery winners that stayed in their original locations. The application period for all others is only January 23-February 23. Business license applications must be submitted in person at the Business Services Division on the seventh floor of City Hall.

Last November, Long Beach voters approved two measures, which outline cannabis tax regulations. Per Measure MM and city-sponsored Measure MA, the city of Long Beach will collect:

Six to eight percent of gross receipts for medical marijuana dispensaries(with a minimum of $1,000 per year)

Eight to 12 percent of gross receipts for recreational marijuana dispensaries
Six to eight percent of gross receipts for processing, distributing, transporting, or testing marijuana and marijuana-related products
$12 to $15 per square foot for marijuana cultivation.
A statement on the website noted that the tax rates for marijuana businesses “will be set at the lower end of the ranges.”

The move by the City of Long Beach signals a change of pace surrounding medical cannabis dispensaries. Long Beach’s 2010 lottery system was eventually ruled unconstitutional and cannabis collectives were banned. In 2012, nearly every collective within city limits was shut down or driven underground as a delivery business. Long Beach’s current zoning code does not yet allow recreational sales.


GOP Rep Rohrabacher Introduces Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s definitely the motto of California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Over the past four years he’s twice introduced legislation to end Federal marijuana prohibition in states where it has already been legalized. Rohrabacher’s bill would exempt citizens who consume, sell, or otherwise engage with marijuana in those states from prosecution under Federal law. It’s a strict states’ rights argument that principled conservatives should be able to get behind without question. Now, Dana Rohrabacher has introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act once more is hoping the third time will be the charm.

This isn’t the first time that Dana Rohrabacher has stood up for states’ rights on marijuana issues. All the way back in 2003 he introduced a rider to prohibit the DOJ from spending funds enforcing Federal law in states that had legalized medical marijuana. The amendment eventually became law in 2014. Naturally, Rohrabacher was also one of the first to introduce legislation to protect states that had legalized recreational marijuana as well. The first time he proposed his Respect State Marijuana Laws in early 2013, it didn’t advance past committee. The second time, in late 2015, Rohrabacher earned more than twenty bi-partisan co-sponsors but the bill still didn’t pass.

Rohrabacher is hoping that this time will be different given the multitude of states that haven now legalized recreational marijuana; including his own California. The Republican Congressman endorsed Prop 64 which passed in November of 2016 to legalize the drug. Earlier that year, Rohrabacher himself became the first sitting Congressman to admit that he used medical marijuana. He’s also one of the founding members of the House’s new bi-partisan Cannabis Caucus. The group was formed earlier this year to organize support for marijuana legalization related legislation and will be sponsoring a variety of bills.

With the changing political climate, and the President’s purported support for states’ rights on drug issues, now is the time to finally reconcile state and Federal law. Dana Rohrabacher’s bill to prohibit Federal enforcement in states that have legalized marijuana is an easy first step that should be able to receive broad bi-partisan support in both houses. Here’s to hoping his persistence will finally pay off.


Will California finally have a statewide standard for the sale of legal marijuana by 2018?

Marijuana for medical use has been legal in California since 1996, but efforts to regulate it like a normal product have been elusive.

For nearly two decades the production, distribution, sale and taxation of cannabis has operated through a patchwork of local rules that can differ from one city or county to the next. What one grower or pot dispensary does in one part of the state could be illegal in another, from the number of plants producers can grow to whether or not cannabis-based edibles require warning labels.

Now that voters have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use through November’s Proposition 64 referendum, officials involved with working out regulations are scrambling. They must establish statewide rules before the start of next year, when licenses are supposed to become available for the sale of recreational-use marijuana.

Some are doubtful that state policymakers will have everything in order by then.

“They can’t get it together about what they want the laws to be,” Alicia Darrow, chief operations manager of Blum Oakland, a 13-year-old Bay Area medical marijuana dispensary, told Salon. “I’ll be shocked if it goes live in 2018.”

The problem, she said, is that Prop. 64 threw a wrench into regulators’ efforts that began in October 2015 after the passage of Assembly Bill 266, the state’s first successful attempt to pass a law regulating medical marijuana.

Prop. 64 and AB 266 have considerable differences in the way marijuana is regulated that must be worked out. For example, AB 266 requires a small number of third-party companies to control distribution and oversee testing for pesticide contamination, something dispensaries argue is unnecessary and would increase costs. Another unanswered question pertains to how dispensaries that sell medical-use marijuana and the more heavily taxed recreational-use weed will be required to track and manage their inventories and sales. Under Prop. 64,  dispensaries must have two separate inventories and tracking systems.

“It’s a big job, but we’re working hard and have every intention of meeting our goals,” Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, said in an email to Salon. “The work we’ve done on regulations for medical cannabis have given us a great start.”

Meanwhile established growers, many of them mom-and-pop operations, are worried about being muscled out by bigger, well-financed ventures backed by deep-pocketed investment groups that are chasing the potential for big gains in the years to come. California’s medical marijuana business generated nearly $2.7 billion in sales in 2015 and that’s expected to balloon to $6.45 billion annually by 2020, including sales from recreational-use marijuana, according to cannabis industry investment network Arcview.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director at the California Growers Association, said the state’s marijuana growers fear the rules established by AB 266 would put them at a disadvantage against companies that would be allowed to control both the production and sale of marijuana.

“Growers operate on a year-to-year cash flow cycle,” Allen told Salon. “It’s typical for our farmers to be insolvent at harvest, so when you’re a business that includes a farm and a dispensary, you’re able to cut costs at the farm level because of your cash flow. An independently owned farm is unable to compete with a bigger, vertically integrated farm.”

Growers and dispensaries are divided on the vertical integration issue but they seem to agree that the state’s pot industry should remain a diverse industry.

“We have people calling us trying to sell us all different kinds of products from all over California,” Darrow said. “If that’s reduced to just a few vendors then we’re going to have a problem where there isn’t enough variety of product.”

Sam Kamin, professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, said that California is uniquely challenged in marijuana legalization in ways Colorado wasn’t when it legalized recreational-use marijuana in 2012. One issue is size — California, the world’s seventh-largest economy, has a lot of weed growers who come from a long outlaw tradition of growing pot illegally.

“Bringing those people into the system will be the number one challenge,” Kamin told Salon. “If they can’t keep the black market under control then an expansive regulatory system just isn’t going to work.”

Allen added that California’s marijuana growers need to be especially careful under the new presidential administration. Marijuana, after all, is still considered by the federal government to be a Schedule 1 controlled substance, in the same category as heroin. Growers should exclusively conduct business in states where weed has been legalized; any exports to states where marijuana is illegal could rile up the federal government.

“We need to not get tripped up with the federal government,” Allen said. “With this incoming administration, it is very, very important that California’s marijuana businesses stay in the state.”


California delves into details of regulating recreational marijuana

Should police officers be able to use a controversial spit test to see if they believe drivers are high?

Should billboards advertising pot shops be allowed on state highways?

Should marijuana business owners have to drive hundreds of miles with their trunks full of cash to pay their tax bills?

These are a few of the questions California legislators are attempting to tackle through an ever-increasing number of bills proposed since voters legalized recreational marijuana with Proposition 64 in November.

Prop. 64 was 62 pages long. And it combined elements of three lengthy bills approved in 2015 to start to overhaul California’s loosely regulated medical marijuana program. But state leaders say there are still too many conflicts between those two systems, too many loopholes left open, too many protections missing and too many details left vague.

That’s where “clean-up legislation” comes into play.

With the state aiming to issue licenses for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses by Jan. 1, 2018, expect much more of it to come over the next 11 months.

Here’s a roundup of key cannabis-related legislation now pending before the California Senate and Assembly.

Assembly Bill 389

Who’s behind it: Assemblymen Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Anna Caballero, D-Salinas; and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles

What it would do: Would require the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation to make a marijuana consumer guide available to the public online by July 1, 2018. The state website would have to include information such as where recreational marijuana may be purchased, how much can be bought at one time, rules on public consumption and more.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 9; may be heard in committee March 12

Read the full bill and track it

Assembly Bill 416

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia

What it would do: Paves the way for legislators to craft a policy specific to cannabis enriched with CBD, the compound in the plant that’s said to have much of its medical benefits without making consumers feel high.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 9; may be heard in committee March 12

Read the full bill and track it

Assembly Bill 420

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg

What it would do: Would require all ads for either medical or recreational marijuana products to clearly state who has a license to sell whatever is being advertised by listing, at a minimum, the seller’s license number on the ad.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 9; may be heard in committee March 12

Read the full bill and track it

Assembly Bill 350

Who’s behind it: Assemblymen Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield

What it would do: Would add more details to rules in Prop. 64 that forbid companies from making recreational marijuana products designed to appeal to kids.

This bill specifically says manufacturers couldn’t make edibles “in the shape of a person, animal, insect, fruit or in another shape normally associated with candy.” But it states companies could make edibles in the shape of their logo.

Where it stands: Introduced Feb. 8; may be heard in committee March 11

Read the full bill and track it

Assembly Bill 238

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga

What it would do: Make it illegal for anyone with a state license to distribute marijuana – transporting it from growers and manufacturers to retailers – to turn someone down for a job because they aren’t part of a union. The bill also states entrepreneurs applying for a business license can’t be denied simply because they employ people who aren’t unionized.

The bill is aimed at preventing groups like the Teamsters, who represent much of the trucking world, from getting a monopoly on the industry, according to Brandon Ebeck, legislative director for Steinorth.

The Teamsters initially opposed Prop. 64, donating $25,000 to fight the initiative. But they soon changed their tune and opted to remain neutral, with one leader saying they were optimistic they could lobby legislators after the bill was passed to give their members a place in the regulated market.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 30; may be heard in committee March 2

Read the full bill and track it:

Senate Bill 148, a.k.a. the “Cannabis Safe Payment Act”

Who’s behind it: Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, with support from Board of Equalization Chair Fiona Ma

What it would do: Allow cannabis businesses to pay state taxes and fees in cash at multiple designated locations throughout the state, including county offices.

Major banks and credit card companies still won’t service the industry since marijuana remains federally illegal. Cannabis business owners are then left dealing largely in cash, which means they often have to travel long distances carrying that cash to make payments to the Board of Equalization and other state agencies.

Under this bill, counties could opt to collect payments and forward them along to the appropriate state agency. And it would let the state tax collector also accept payments for other state agencies, expanding options for where business owners can settle their bills.

“We need to make it as easy and safe as possible for cannabis business owners to pay their taxes and fees, and we should not force them to drive hundreds of miles with a trunkful of cash just to comply with the law,” Wiener said in a statement.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 17; referred to the Committee on Governance and Finance

Read the full bill and track it:

Senate Bill 175

Who’s behind it: Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg

What it would do: Prohibit marijuana businesses from using both the name of a California county or any name that appears similar to it unless their cannabis is produced in that county.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, testifies at a 2016 hearing in Sacramento. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

State law already says it’s illegal for marijuana products to use the name of a California county in the product’s labeling, marketing or packaging if the marijuana was not grown in that county. McGuire’s bill expands those prohibitions to include “any similar sounding name that is likely to mislead consumers as to the origin of the product.”

“A similar battle was fought several years ago by the wine industry and it was resolved by legislation that prevented individuals and corporations from making marketing claims that weren’t true, or what we call ‘alternative facts’ these days,” McGuire said. “This legislation is all about truth in labeling.”

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 23; waiting to be assigned to a committee, with action expected on or after Feb. 23

Read the full bill and track it:

Assembly Bill 64

Who’s behind it: Assemblymen Rob Bonta, D-Oakland; Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova; Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles; Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale; and Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg

What it would do: Reconcile some of the differences between the state’s medical marijuana reform signed into law in 2015 and Prop. 64. Here are the key changes proposed.

  • Allows businesses and collectives to operate as either for-profit or nonprofit entities. But if a collective chooses to try and make money, the bill clarifies they’re only protected if they have a state seller’s permit and a valid local license.
  • Lets dispensary or retailers sell either through a storefront or without one, giving delivery services a legal path forward.
  • Makes cannabis industry billboards illegal on any interstate or state highway, rather than just highways that cross state lines as stated in Prop. 64.
  • Creates a way for business owners to trademark both medical and nonmedical marijuana products at the state level.
  • Advances $3 million to the CHP to develop better tests and protocols for catching people driving under the influence of marijuana. Prop. 64 dedicates funds to that purpose starting in the 2018-19 fiscal year, so this bill would advance the $3 million as a loan starting in the 2017-18 fiscal year, to be paid back out of future pot tax revenues.

Where it stands: Introduced Dec. 12; waiting to be assigned to a committee

Read the full bill and track it:

Want to weigh in? Use this website to find your local representatives

Then reach out to share your views on these pending bills and the future of marijuana policy in California.

Assembly Bill 76

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park

What it would do: Give leaders a path to introduce legislation that strengthens prohibitions on marketing recreational marijuana to children.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 4; waiting on referral to a committee

Read the full bill and track it:

Assembly Bill 171

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale

What it would do: Add some accountability to annual state reports on cannabis licenses.

State law already requires every state agency issuing licenses to cannabis businesses to file an annual report that’s posted online, listing information such as the number of licenses issued that year. This bill would require them to also include those reports the number of conditional licenses issued.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 17; waiting on referral to a committee

Read the full bill and track

Assembly Bill 175

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park

What it would do: Require edibles companies to submit packaging and labels to the state for approval before introducing the products to the market.

A variety of cannabis chocolates available at Laguna Woods Medical Cannabis. (Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Under the bill, the state’s Bureau of Marijuana Control would have up to 60 days to check that the packaging complies with Prop. 64, including requirements that it be child resistant and not attractive to children. And the bureau would get to charge the manufacturer a fee for reviewing the packaging.

The bill also creates a process for edibles companies to redesign packaging as needed and appeal any rulings.

Where it stands: Introduced Jan. 17; waiting on referral to a committee

Read the full bill and track it:

Senate Bill 65

Who’s behind it: Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, with support from Assemblyman Evan Low,  D-Campbell

What it would do: Close a potential loophole in Prop. 64 by clarifying that it’s illegal to smoke or ingest marijuana while driving.

It’s currently illegal to have an “open container” of weed in a vehicle.  It’s also illegal to drive while high. But existing laws don’t address actual usage while driving.

This bill would make it an infraction for anyone to smoke or consume marijuana in any form while driving a vehicle or piloting a boat or plane – consistent with the law on alcohol.

“This bill will give law enforcement and judges more tools to crack down on smoking pot or drinking while driving,” Hill said.

Where it stands: Introduced Dec. 29; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Housing plus the Committee on Public Safety

Read the full bill and track it:

Assembly Bill 6

Who’s behind it: Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale

What it would do: Let law enforcement officers start using a heavily debated roadside saliva test to help determine whether a driver has consumed marijuana.

Fullerton police officer Jae Song arrest a man suspected of driving while impaired by marijuana. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The bill would allow officers to take a spit swab from drivers who’ve failed field sobriety tests, then use portable instruments promise to detect the presence of pot and other drugs within minutes. If they test positive, officers would then take them to the station for a blood test and possible arrest.

The technology remains controversial because there’s no clear impairment threshold with marijuana as there is with alcohol. Also, critics argue that the roadside testing device is still experimental, citing studies that show the tests are least effective at detecting impairment, in part because marijuana stays in a person’s system long after its effects have worn off.

As a former CHP officer, Lackey said, “I’ve seen the tragedy that results from impaired driving. I feel like I have a responsibility to be the voice on this issue.”

Where it stands: Introduced Dec. 5; referred to the Committee on Public Safety

Read the full bill and track it:


Recreational Weed Sales in California Could Be Delayed

Recreational Weed Sales in California Could Be Delayed

Supporters of marijuana legalization are elated about the passage of Proposition 64, which will allow anyone 21 and older to buy recreational pot from licensed California sellers starting Jan. 1, 2018.

Or will it? Some officials say that the start date might have to be pushed back because the state agency that will regulate growers, producers and pot shops won’t have the regulations required by state law in place by then. In fact, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation needs to establish not only how recreational shops are licensed and permitted but also how the multibillion-dollar product is grown, tracked and tested.

“It’s taking so long to get the draft regulations out there,” says Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re late. Furthermore, there’s every indication the Legislature will pass some more bills altering the regulatory system this year, which could require a midstream adjustment that would further push legal sales down the line.”

State Sen. Mike McGuire, head of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, told the Sacramento Bee that delays are probable and that some businesses would open anyway. “But is it a licensed business?” he asked.

Yet Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, insists recreational sales will start on Jan. 1. He says regulations will be sent to the state Office of Administrative Law in March, after which the public will have 45 days to offer feedback. “The Jan. 1 deadline is mandated by law, and we have every intention of meeting it,” he says.

The work is being spread among state bureaucracies: The Department of Food and Agriculture is focused on grow regulations, the Department of Public Health is focused on manufacturing (including edibles), and the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation is developing rules for retail and testing lab licenses, Traverso said.

There are elements of the process that could make it more difficult to make the deadline. Traverso acknowledges that public feedback could inspire a major reworking of the regulations (which would then require another round of feedback), while unforeseen legislation could rewrite the rules or reshape the process.

Organizers of Proposition 64 expressed optimism that the bureau would be able to pass the regulations on time — largely because they can be based on existing rules for medical marijuana passed by the Legislature in 2015.

“This didn’t start from scratch,” says Lynne Lyman, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped write Proposition 64. “A lot of the work has already been done.”

Like Lyman, Jason Kinney, spokesman for the now-concluded Yes on 64 campaign, points out that the heavy lifting of regulation-writing already has been carried out by 2015’s Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which will require medical pot shops to obtain state and local licenses by Jan. 1

“Proposition 64 was written to find conformity where [it] can, not having two people doing the same thing,” he says. “There’s no wheel-reinventing going on.”

Tens of millions of dollars in 2016 and 2017 have been earmarked by Gov. Jerry Brown to help implement new medical and recreational regulations. Any delay would add up to huge disappointment and big monetary losses for a wave of marijuana entrepreneurs who see California as a potentially explosive legal drug market come 2018. Investments are on the line.

“The DPA is pushing hard for on-time implementation,” Lyman says. “Not doing so would leave us in the same gray-market state we’ve been in for 20 years.”

She argues that legalization proponents should fear President Trump more than California’s sometimes-slow bureaucracy. Trump’s choice for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has expressed disdain for cannabis.

“If Trump sends in the feds to shut down dispensaries, it might not make sense to issue licenses,” Lyman says. “To me that’s a much bigger question mark.”


California seeks citizens for marijuana advisory committee

The Cannabis Advisory Committee will report to the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation. It will work on developing regulations that protect public health and safety, along with a fair market for pot.

The bureau is taking applications now. Crafting regulations for an entire industry — including both medical and recreational cannabis — takes more manpower than the state’s bureau currently has, bureau communications director Alex Traverso told KPCC.

“We’re hopeful that we can cast a wide net and get representation from all backgrounds — growers, law enforcement, labor representatives, health experts, you name it,” Traverso said.

These aren’t paid positions, but if you’re selected, you’ll be reimbursed for travel related to cannabis committee business.

In the November election, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 64, legalizing recreational marijuana. The law eliminates criminal penalties for adult personal use of the drug and creates the opportunity for a market potentially worth billions of dollars.

Traverso and other staff members with the bureau have spent the past year conducting pre-meetings with stakeholders representing differing interests in the new marijuana economy. During the meetings, the bureau has gathered information that it will use to write the state’s new regulations, Traverso said.

Committee members will primarily weigh in on the regulations, which will go into effect in 2018, said Traverso. They’ll meet several times during the next year to review drafts of regulations, sharing their opinion and making sure California is on the “right path” for regulating the cannabis industry, Traverso said.

The bureau doesn’t have a set number of seats for the committee, Traverso said, adding that the number of qualified applicants will determine the committee’s size.

Committee members will be appointed by the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Traverso said. The application window will last several weeks.


California begins licensing framework for $7 billion marijuana economy

California regulators are scrambling to put in place the infrastructure they need to oversee and monitor the state’s now-legal marijuana economy, estimated to be worth more than $7 billion once it’s fully in place.

California legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in November, and now allows adults 21 or older to grow as many as six plants at home and possess an ounce of pot at a time. But more importantly to the state, the new law is expected to rake in $1 billion in taxes once marijuana-related businesses receive their licenses and begin operating — a daunting task in a state that has long had one of the world’s largest black market for weed production and cultivation.

The Los Angeles Times reports that regulators are facing a massive uphill battle in creating a new framework for the industry by their required deadline of Jan. 1, 2018, with a state lawmaker likening the process to “building the airplane while it’s being flown.”

“The new law calls for nearly 20 different types of licenses, including permits for farmers; delivery services that will take pot to a buyer’s front door; testing labs; distributors; and dispensary operators at the retail level,” the paper reports. “Part of the job heading toward the start of next year falls to other agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Department, which will issue licenses for cultivators.”

Lori Ajax, head of the new Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, told the paper that while the challenges her agency faces are unique, she is confident her staff of 11 full-time workers will both meet the deadline to have new regulatory tools in place and be prepared to begin collecting taxes.

“We’re small but mighty,” she told the paper. She likely will need to be: Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month said he’d like to see the state spend more than $50 million to put in place programs to issue licenses and collect taxes for the new marijuana industry, a figure that was immediately blasted by opponents as much too low to get the job done.

His office stresses that one regulatory framework is needed, not separate ones for recreational and medical cannabis, even though there are laws for each that could duplicate costs and confuse businesses,” the paper reports.


California couples are gifting marijuana bouquets for Valentine’s Day

If you think flowers are overrated and overpriced, there’s a different kind of bouquet you might be interested in.

Marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles are competing with florists for business this Valentine’s Day, as they offer customers flower arrangements with a hefty dose of cannabis, according to KTVU.

ShowGrow, a Los Angeles dispensary, told KTVU their bouquets are made up of lavender, wild flowers, eucalyptus, and $400 worth of marijuana. That’s one ounce (about 28 grams) of high-grade marijuana, according to the growers at Lowell Farms.

TimeOut reports Lowell Farms produced 500 of the bouquets as a test-run for the holiday.

California voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2016, but for now you still need a medical marijuana permit to purchase one of these bouquets.