Medical cannabis comes of age
After 21 years, California’s medical marijuana industry is finally getting some firm rules. It’s the end of a freewheeling experiment — and the beginning of a large-scale industry.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration released draft regulations for the sale, distribution, transportation, and purchase of marijuana and cannabis products last Friday. While they don’t cover recreational marijuana, which will be for sale in California in 2018, they offer a window into what’s coming.
California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation chief Lori Ajax has said the state’s intent is to have a single regulatory scheme for both medical and recreational marijuana.
What we can tell from the draft rules, which are open for written public comment through June 13, is that the state has made a thorough attempt to bring some badly needed order to a booming industry.
Cities and counties will be relieved to note that they still have a large measure of local control: medical marijuana businesses will need approval from their local jurisdiction before they’re able to get a license from the state.
Parents will be pleased to learn that dispensaries must use childsafe packaging and be located at least 600 feet away from schools.
While there are a couple of onlyin-California rules — transportation of weed via drone is explicitly prohibited, for example — for the most part, the draft regulations show that the bureau has thought about most of the big issues around marijuana regulation.
The bureau has weighed everything from setting limits on dispensary hours (they must be closed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.), to sales limits for patients (no more than eight ounces per patient per day, unless there’s a physician’s recommendation).
It’s a comprehensive list, and the draft regulations certainly speak to the maturation of California’s cannabis industry.
Abiding by these rules will require a well-organized business model, and having access to capital will help. Many cannabis businesses are unhappy with the sheer number of rules — along with the possible cost increases they’ll bring.
Some outstanding questions remain, especially for the upcoming recreational marijuana market.
Marijuana prohibition had disproportionate effects on low-income communities of color. In cities like Oakland, there’s an ongoing debate about whether, and how, officials address these inequities as a lucrative new industry unfolds.
The state regulations allow applicants with criminal convictions, provided they offer evidence of their rehabilitation. It’s a worthy attempt to address the issue, but it probably won’t satisfy anyone.
User limits, especially when it comes to inebriation, are another crucial concern.
We don’t yet have roadside toxicology tests for marijuana that have the same reliability as the ones for alcohol. While efforts are underway to produce them, it remains a problem that must be addressed if Californians are to have a safe, legal cannabis industry.