With just a few months to go before California’s much-anticipated recreational marijuana market comes online, there’s no shortage of apprehension from both the industry and the its regulators.
“We all have anxiety,” Lori Ajax, California’s pot czar, told industry leaders in September. “It’s not going to be perfect.”
The state’s medical-marijuana market has operated largely without regulations for two decades. This makes the process of licensing cannabis businesses confusing for current operators, especially when both the state and local governments are still figuring out exactly what their regulations will look like.
On Oct. 7, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed two bills that would’ve narrowed what is permitted: One proposed a ban on smoking and vaping on California beaches and in some areas of state parks, while the would’ve prohibited the sale of gummy-type edibles that allegedly appeal to children.
Lawmakers have also proposed allowing multiple permits to be grouped together. That would let both medical and recreational marijuana to be sold out of the same storefront if the business had licenses for both. Growers would be able to group their cultivation permits in one facility as well.
Ajax announced that the state would issue temporary licenses to ensure that the new market would launch on Jan. 2. But even with that, cannabis businesses need local approval first, and California’s largest cities have indicated they’ll take their time with enacting regulations.
Proposed regulations in Los Angeles drew outcry from the industry, which fears that businesses would have to shut down while waiting for city approval. Advocacy groups worried that forcing current operators to close would disrupt the supply of medical marijuana to patients who depend on it.
Meanwhile, San Francisco said it would not issue local marijuana permits until it passes regulations that also create an equity program, to try to ensure that the ethnic and racial communities that have been disproportionately affected by drug-law enforcement aren’t excluded from the economic benefits of the newly legal market.
With two months to go, no one is quite sure what the new market will look like—or where consumers will be able to buy adult-use cannabis.
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