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Prop 64 Passed, Now What?
Michael Cervieri access_time 4 min read

California voters approved Proposition 64 allowing for legal recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Great, but what happens now?

First, it seems, an entire regulatory regime needs to be established where state agencies, law enforcement and local governments come together to figure out how to implement the measure.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, “Although the measure’s passage would immediately allow adults to possess and grow marijuana, there may not be places to legally purchase it for some time.”

Matter of fact, it’s not until January 1, 2018 that the state will begin issuing licenses for recreational retailers to begin sales.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

The issue of when people can legally buy marijuana is one that the state Legislature is expected to grapple with when it returns in January.

[Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland)] said lawmakers will likely consider allowing existing medical dispensaries to be given temporary, interim power to sell marijuana for recreational use until the new licensing system is in place.

“We have to consider honoring the spirit of the law and making it work,” Bonta said. “If it’s legal to use but there is nowhere to buy, then I think we could consider a special, conditional, time-restrained license that could be operative for a short period of time while we bridge into the new regime that Proposition 64 envisions. That is definitely possible.”

Some in the industry would prefer to let cities and counties approve temporary licenses to sell recreational pot to avoid delays while people are allowed to possess marijuana.

“If you don’t fill that vacuum with regulated sales, then people are going to go to the black market,” [Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association] said.

The Legislature will also have to decide whether to reconcile differences between Proposition 64’s regulation of recreational pot and the law approved last year by the Legislature for medical marijuana — or to have two different regulatory schemes.

The state is expected to create a task force to look at which rules to merge.

If that sounds a bit confusing, it’s because it is.

As the Cannabist reported right before the election, while the expectation was that voters would approve the measure, “much of the existing cannabis industry is not prepared.”

[T]he lack of a unified industry and entrepreneurs ready to make the death-defying jump from the state’s mammothly unregulated medical pot economy to a regulated adult-use system is one of the biggest issues facing legalization’s most important warfront.

As Joshua Stewart, the politics reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune. told the Cannabist, “It will be up to various levels of government, either the county or city or whatever’s relevant for that particular area, to decide on how they’re going to license it or possibly outright ban dispensaries and cultivation centers.”

All of which leads to comments that Betty Yee, California State Controller and the State’s Chief Financial Officer, made in September at the State of Marijuana Conference.

Listen, she cautions: It’s not so much that California’s officials can’t put in rules and laws to regulate the industry, it’s that they are not yet ready to do so.

Here are some regulatory issues she thinks we should think about as Prop 64 passes:

“You have the Department of Consumer Affairs that will be the lead agency for oversight of this adult use, cannabis industry,” she begins. “You have the Department of Public Health that will have jurisdiction over testing and manufacturing. And I will tell you right now that that department has zero bandwidth to do that. And how are they going to develop that?”

Add the Department of Food and Agriculture which will oversee all issues related to cultivation (think: pesticide, energy and water use), and Yee estimates that over a dozen California regulatory agencies will look into the cannabis industry.

Her comments, she suggests, could discomfort those entering the industry. But that’s not her intent. While regulatory issues remain “thorny”, she supports those within the industry.

“I just need to applaud all of you because I don’t know of any other industry that has essentially stepped forward to say, ‘Regulate us,’” she says. “Who does that?”

“And frankly, that’s your selling point. We want to be looked at as legitimate businesses under the guise of the law. We want to be regulated. We know what happens when we’re not regulated. We don’t want a black market. Right? So kudos to you for doing that.”

California citizens legalized recreational marijuana. Great on them but that’s just the beginning.

california prop 64 regulation