How California fares in relation to the legalization of recreational marijuana coming into force next January will in many ways set the scene for the rest of the country. While other States have legalized marijuana, with recreational marijuana first becoming legal in Colorado in 2014, none are as big or as significant as in California at the present time. And none have run into as many problems so far, with ever-changing rules and regulations. The industry in California is already huge and going to get bigger. The total marijuana industry is estimated to be in the region of around $7 billion next year, up from previous estimates of $5 billion. Companies are flocking into the market and customers eagerly await legalization, but there is some ambiguity remaining and there is a huge rush to make the deadlines. Ready or not, California is kicking recreational marijuana into play on the first of January, and, sad to say, most businesses and counties are certainly not ready.
California Marijuana Confusion
Los Angeles and San Francisco are among many cities still struggling to fashion local rules for pot shops and growers. Without the regulations, there could be limited options in many places for consumers eager to ring in 2018 with a legal cannabis purchase.According to Cara Martinson of the California State Association of Counties:“The bulk of folks probably are not going to be ready Jan. 1”.In general, California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing adults 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce and grow six marijuana plants at home. This January, the newly legalized recreational sales will be merged with the state’s two-decade-old medical marijuana market (established in 1996, California being the first state to allow the use of medical marijuana in the USA), which is also coming under much stronger regulation.
But big gaps loom in the system intended to move cannabis from the field to distribution centers, then to testing labs and eventually retail shops. This is the area of concern for many. There are many concerns around moving the marijuana from the fields to the shops and centers, storage and security regulations, what type and quality of testing is required and what the acceptable levels of toxins are as well as marketing and packaging guidelines. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to set a standard on, given many states also lack comprehensive regulations concerning these issues. Agreeing on what is appropriate and then implementing it is going to take some time, and all of these rules will certainly not be in place come the first of January. Temporary measures will have to take place in the meantime unless legislators and councils can act quickly.
At present the state intends to issue temporary licenses in January, and it has yet to release its plan to govern the estimated $7 billion marketplace, the nation’s largest legal pot economy.If businesses aren’t licensed and operating in the legal market, governments aren’t collecting their slice of revenue from sales. California expects to collect $1 billion in taxes in the first 7 years of legalization, and this is exclusive of Federal taxation on marijuana. However, many outlets have complained about what they view as potential conflicts in various rules and laws, which is often the case when recreational marijuana is first implemented. The state expects businesses that receive licenses will only work with similar business that also hold licenses. But that has alarmed companies who are concerned at the prospect of their current supplier deciding not to come into the legal market, or accidentally failing to comply, given the ambiguity in the current laws.
Many regions in Californian have simply decided to ban marijuana altogether. This is usually done via an ordinance which is a yearlong measure banning all marijuana related activities. However, because it is banned in a lot of cities, other places which allow marijuana have become business hotspots, such as Shasta County, which has 3 medical marijuana dispensaries. And some cities have made an absolute killing by providing generous marijuana business policies and setting out marijuana industrial regions, to the detriment of more conservative regions which have opted for marijuana bans.
Many parallels may be drawn with Canada. Canada promised to have recreational marijuana across the nation by July 2018. However, there is little chance that this is going to occur and the government is seen to be dragging its heels on certain election promises. But this is not entirely due to any form of incompetence, laziness or corruption. The fact is that marijuana legalization is a complex business in many respects, with a number of conflicting requirements. There are also a number of competing interests between the cultivators, the distributors, the customers, and wider society including the rights of children and the protection of the environment.
A possible solution around many issues would be to enforce strict testing and quality control requirements. Vendors cannot sell their product unless toxins are below a certain level and products have to be lab certified. Marijuana which is shown to contain synthetic additives or dangerous toxins would not be permitted, meaning the growers who used chemicals harmful to the environment would not be able to get rid of their marijuana. In states where rules and regulations are in place, medical marijuana has been shown to contain alarming amounts of toxins. Meaning that medical rules and regulations are not doing their job and independent testing facilities might be a better selection.