There is much enthusiasm, but also much concern, about implementing legalized marijuana sales in California. Pictured: California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, speaks in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act ballot measure in San Francisco on May 4, 2016. (Jeff Chiu, The Associated Press)

Why we should worry about California meeting deadlines for marijuana rules

Via The Associated Press
The following editorial was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 29:

California’s voters legalized recreational marijuana in the November elections, and the expectation is that the state will spend most of 2017 developing business regulations and begin distributing licenses by the start of 2018.

Not everyone is convinced the state will meet those deadlines.

“We’re building the airplane while it’s being flown,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. “I believe some departments will be fully operational by January 2018 but, if we’re being honest, it’s going to be difficult to get everything done by then.”

McGuire’s district encompasses some of the largest marijuana-growing regions in the country. He was opposed to Proposition 64, in part out of his concern over the initiative’s compressed timeline for marijuana regulations.

“Creating a safe and effective market for legal cannabis is more than just licensing businesses,” McGuire said. “This is one of California’s largest agricultural crops and it’s the only one that’s not regulated.”

McGuire’s concerns are understandable.

Under the terms of Prop. 64, there will be 19 license categories for recreational marijuana and taxes on cultivation and sales. A whopping number of state agencies, including those who work on public health, consumer affairs, water, and fish and wildlife, will play a part.

Then there’s California’s 58 counties and 482 cities. The localities will set rules for their communities about whether to accept or say no to storefront businesses or commercial cultivation.

The state’s relatively new Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (soon to be the Bureau of Marijuana Control) is confident that California officials will meet the deadline.

“There are a lot of people invested in getting this done,” said bureau spokesperson Alex Traverso. “We’re all working hard, we’re all working in a coordinated fashion, and we have every intention of meeting our goals.”

But as anyone who’s experienced state government timelines can confirm, the process for creating rules can be lengthy and controversial.

For example, the state has yet to develop a computer system for tracking cannabis. Something as simple as a new software program gets infinitely more complicated when you consider the state’s long timelines for drafting proposals, selecting vendors, and completing a statewide rollout.

On Monday, the state Senate launched a series of oversight hearings into the cannabis regulations process. Good. Californians must also know that, even with everyone in state government working to make the launch of legal cannabis successful, there will be plenty of bumps along the way.

Information from the San Francisco Chronicle