Pubdate: Sun, 27 Dec 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Thomas D. Elias


It surely looked like reefer madness was back the other day, when the 
state began advertising for a new medical marijuana czar. The timing 
of the listing, coming while a dozen proposed ballot initiatives to 
legalize recreational pot are pending, appeared to suggest an 
assumption by Gov. Jerry Brown and his administration that at least 
one will pass.

The new pot czar, to be paid between $115,000 and $128,000 annually, 
would actually only be in charge of medical marijuana  to start with. 
(Two more putative ballot measures now authorized to seek voter 
signatures would make refinements to the 1996 Proposition 215, which 
legalized medipot.) The wide presumption is that if and when 
recreational marijuana is legalized, it will be regulated by the same 
czar as medipot, working under the state's Department of Consumer Affairs.

So even while the marijuana industry ThomasD. Eliaswrites 
onCalifornia politicsand otherissues. and its millions of customers 
can't seem to decide which measure to back, the choice of their 
future chief regulator is almost upon us.

That person will supposedly be hired by the end of January, and then 
get one year to organize a new agency that will label all medical 
marijuana products, license growers and dispensaries around the state 
and weed out mavericks who refuse to comply with the state's new 
regulations, passed by legislators last summer and then signed into 
law by Brown.

"What we're seeing is a dramatic shift in professionalism within the 
cannabis industry and a major component is more vigorous, resilient 
and intelligent regulation," said Paul Warshaw, head of GreenRush, a 
medipot business with 125 associated dispensaries offering 5,000 
pot-related products.

Colleague Seth Yakatan, CEO of Kalytera, a company now developing 
marijuana-derived cannabidiol products it hopes will be used against 
osteoporosis and other health problems, sees a major shift in mindset.

"California's medical marijuana industry has gained a reputation as 
being loosely regulated, often to the detriment of patients and 
business owners," he said. "If this budding industry is to be taken 
seriously, California's new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation 
will need to be properly...managed."

But establishment of that agency also implies the Brown 
administration wants to be ready for full legalization, which could 
come as early as one year from now, depending on which, if any, 
currently proposed ballot measure should pass.

"Whoever takes the job will probably have a target on their head," 
predicted Dale Sky Jones, president of Oakland's Oaksterdam 
University, to a reporter. A leading source of information on pot, 
Oaksterdam also advises the states of Washington and Colorado, which 
already have legalized recreational pot.

The new medipot boss will have to be careful never to even imply that 
he or she would like to see recreational marijuana legalized in 
California. That would bring ire from cannabis opponents, who cite 
federal studies indicating the weed can demotivate youthful users, in 
addition to damaging the brains of some young people.

While polls indicate opponents now number only about 40 percent in 
California, that figure will no doubt grow if pot critics mount a 
serious campaign against whatever initiative eventually qualifies for 
next fall's ballot.

So it might be best if Brown and his aides make it clear their job 
posting is merely a requirement of new laws already on the books, and 
not an anticipation or endorsement of any or all of the putative pot 

One thing for sure: Given the fact that medical marijuana is already 
an almost $4 billion business in California, and rates as the state's 
most lucrative crop by a margin of more than $1 billion over 
second-place grapes, legalizing random pot growing and use will 
likely make pot a dominant product, perhaps producing as much revenue 
as all other crops combined.

This would be an enormous change, possibly causing some present 
growers of everything from grapes to nuts, citrus and cotton to 
change signals and plant marijuana instead. The impact of that on 
American diets and food prices could be enormous.

So it behooves Brown to avoid reefer madness and stay as far from 
endorsing a pot proposition as he can.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom