The long process of crafting new cannabis regulations is already underway and moving forward quickly in California, despite concerns from the public that there may be delays in the roll out of the recreational cannabis market. Lori Ajax, the chief of California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, who used to work in the state’s alcohol control department, is leading the charge in crafting the new regulations for the state. She recently addressed a group of San Diego industry leaders at a forum, laying out what has been done so far, and what is still to be done in the process of establishing a recreational cannabis market in the state by the beginning of 2018.
Ajax has stated that there has been a lot of positive momentum in the crafting of regulations for the recreational cannabis industry. She is optimistic that getting the market up and running in the state can help the medical marijuana industry gain legitimacy in the eyes of federal entities, such as banks. Ajax is also not worried about the Trump Administration getting in the way of their progress. The state of California is choosing to move forward despite any chance that the Trump Administration, namely Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will try to put up future roadblocks.
She also announced that the proposed new medical marijuana regulations are expected to be released by late April, followed in the late summer or early fall by new proposed recreational cannabis regulations. These proposed regulations will then each enter 45 day comment periods in which everyone from the general public to industry leaders can offer opinions on the proposals.
Lori Ajax is sometimes referred to as the Marijuana Czar of California
Once these proposals become law, however, it does not mean they are completely set in stone. Ajax made it clear that when the new industry rolls out in California there are expected to be some changes as real world applications either succeed or fall short of what is necessary for proper regulation. There is expected to be a transition period where the laws can be changed and shaped based on the industry’s needs. The way that local jurisdictions decide to regulate cannabis will also greatly effect how all of these new laws are implemented and how the industry moves forward.
There are still some unknowns in the formation of the industry that are expected to continue to unfold in the coming months. One of Ajax’s biggest concerns is having enough testing labs that are specifically certified to test cannabis products in time for the roll out of the recreational industry. There is also large scale consolidation of departments that still needs to be undertaken by the California government.
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Besides the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, whose job is to oversee dispensaries, labs, transporters, and distributers, there are many other departments that will be involved in the regulation of cannabis in both medical and recreational fields. The Department of Food and Agriculture, and partially the Department of Fish and Wildlife, will oversee the cultivation of cannabis and the processes at marijuana farms. The Pesticide Control Department will also be partially responsible for looking at the use of pesticides in cannabis farming. The Department of Public Health will be responsible for overseeing the manufacturing of edibles.
One of the biggest unknowns going forward in the future of California’s cannabis industry is how it will be able to counter the illegal black market industry. Ajax has said that the state hopes to eliminate the illegal industry with the creation of the recreational cannabis industry. State law enforcement agencies are planning to conduct a large scale crack down on the illegal marijuana industry after the recreational industry is up and running.
Ajax believes the grassroots support of recreational and medical marijuana industries are crucial to ending illegal markets in the state, which could mean working with county and city jurisdictions to reduce the levying of additional large taxes on cannabis products.