Pubdate: Fri, 18 Aug 2017
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Sacramento Bee


You can buy legal marijuana in four months. But is California ready to
sell it?

With four months left until full legalization, the apparatus to
regulate commercial cannabis sales in California is being built on the

Up to 82 people must be hired. Software must be written to accept
applications of thousands of entrepreneurs hoping to legally sell
marijuana. Regulations governing sales aren't fully cooked.

Welcome to Lori Ajax's world. She is the director of the California
Bureau of Cannabis Control (formerly the Bureau of Medical Cannabis
Regulation aka BMCR or, colloquially, "Bummer"), having worked 22
years at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

She readily acknowledged during a meeting with The Sacramento Bee
editorial board that California's regulatory scheme is a work in progress.

That's to be expected, though it's also a cause for concern. Voters
approved Proposition 64, the legalization initiative, in November 2016
and set an ambitious deadline of January 2018 for retail sales to begin.

Like most initiatives, the measure, promoted by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom
and largely funded by entrepreneurs who intend to profit from
legalized weed, left the details to be worked out by others.
Legislation passed as part of the 2017-18 budget filled in some
blanks. But much is to be determined:

* California growers produce far more marijuana than residents
consume. However, it's not clear that there will be sufficient amounts
of product properly tested for pesticides, mold and potency for
retailers to sell starting on Jan. 2.

* UC San Diego has embarked on a study to determine when users can
and cannot safely drive. That study won't be completed for another

* The state has not yet started accepting applications for the
licenses. That won't begin until the end of the year. Licenses will be
temporary because the state won't have time to check individuals'

Sacramento and Davis have begun working on local regulations. But few
of California's 58 counties and 482 cities have begun working on
ordinances to implement the initiative, and that could be a problem,
Tim Cromartie of the League of California Cities told an editorial
board member.

Under the initiative, he said, the state could receive a request for a
license to open a store in a particular jurisdiction, and conceivably
approve that license within 60 days if locals have no ordinance on the

Ajax anticipates a tourist trade will arise in California. Some
bed-and-breakfast operators have suggested "bud and breakfasts," for
example. That raises a health-related incongruity.

California has a strict a statewide ban on smoking cigarettes and
vaping in workplaces, including at bars and restaurants. But smoking
or vaping weed apparently would be permitted at cannabis retailers, if
local authorities grant permits for on-site use.

Proposition 64's backers boldly promised that the initiative would
create a safe and comprehensive system allowing adult use of marijuana
while keeping it away from kids. Newsom promised there would not be a
gold rush. But of course, there is. Entrepreneurs who funded it have
hired top lobbyists to shape regulations to ensure a handsome return
on their investment.

We opposed Proposition 64, out of concern about the public health
implications of commercializing a mind-bending product. We remain
skeptical, but hope Ajax succeeds, understanding she and her staff
have the seemingly impossible task of designing, building and
operating this regulatory contraption, all at the same time.
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