Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation for California, under the Department of Consumer Affairs, spoke about the bureau’s actions to develop regulations after the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized adult-use cannabis in the state.
Regulations for production and sale of adult-use cannabis are expected by January 2018.
“It’s quite a journey we have all been on since the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act was passed in 2015,” said Ajax, former chief deputy director of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I didn’t realize how much different cannabis is from alcohol. Alcohol is simple to understand. Cannabis is a lot more complicated. I had to start over to learn how best to regulate this industry.”
She was the keynote speaker at North Bay Business Journal’s first North Coast Cannabis Industry Conference, held at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa in Santa Rosa on May 9.
Passage in November of Prop. 64, “expanded our role” to include adult-use cannabis, Ajax said.
“We are working with many other state agencies,” she said, especially the Department of Public Health, which regulates manufacturers of cannabis edibles and concentrates, and the Department of Food and Agriculture.
“We had an industry for two decades that hadn’t been regulated at the state level,” Ajax said. “It has been regulated at the city and county level. The state is now trying to catch up” to begin issuing licenses to operators in the cannabis industry.
“The twist is that we have adult-use also,” Ajax said. “We have a looming timeline,” with licenses for adult-use expected by January 2018. “We are determined to make that timeline. It became a statutory mandate.”
Medical-use proposed regulations are available for public viewing and comment, she said.
“These are nowhere near final,” she said. The goal is to find a balance between public safety and environmental protection but “not having regulations that are so onerous on the industry that it’s difficult for people to comply. The goal is to get folks into the regulated market.”
California cannot simply adopt regulations from Colorado, Washington or Oregon, Ajax said.
“We have a lot of public input. We want to hear from you. We are going to be going on the road for regulation hearings,” she said.
The agency created a new California cannabis portal, with links to proposed regulations, at cannabis.ca.gov. The 45-day public comment period started May 5.
Proposed regulations for adult-use cannabis are expected in the fall, following the governor’s budget trailer bill, which attempts to “align the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act with Proposition 64 to have one model,” she said. “Are they similar? Yes, but there are a lot of key differences,” Ajax said.
“The goal is to get to an efficient model.”
The bill has to be passed by the Legislature to take effect. There are about 60 bills regarding cannabis floating in the legislative process.
“We are waiting to see what happens,” she said, noting “how quickly the cannabis industry is moving and changing. We have to keep up with changes, plan for the unknown.
The goal is to have online applications available about two months before January.
North Coast Cannabis Industry Conference
More coverage of North Coast cannabis commerce: nbbj.news/cannabis