When it comes to blazing trails, California is a cut above the rest of the country. Few remember that it was way back in 1996 when the state legalized medical marijuana. But now that the medical cannabis industry in California has bloomed to an estimated $2.7 billion annually, the state is about to rein in the operation.
The complexity of regulating consumer safety and business practices for an industry that size is something California hasn’t had to deal with before.
From the outside, however, few know the state is in over its head.
While only spotty local oversight has regulated the business so far, lack of control hasn’t been noticed very much. At least according to John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Brookings focuses on marijuana policies.
“The state’s medical marijuana program is in many ways the laughingstock of marijuana policies in the United States,” Hudak said. “It’s a significant example of everything that can go wrong, serving in many ways as a proxy system for recreational marijuana.”
And the situation is about to get worse. Changes to the more than 17 licenses available to retail shops that will take effect in 2018 and California expects thousands of business will try to obtain one or more.
Furthermore, California will vote (again) on whether or not to legalize adult recreational cannabis use. If that happens later this year, the regulatory issue will skyrocket.
Testing for safety, keeping pesticides in check, and cultivating a new way of business for the medical cannabis industry is a drain on available state resources.
Marijuana growers are also a major consumer of the state’s rapidly decreasing water supply. Agencies that deal with Fish and Wildlife and who monitor water resources are hiring more than 30 new positions to keep marijuana cultivators in check.
All told, the state expects to add 126 jobs and spend $24.6 million on the new regulatory effort in the coming year alone.
Needless to say, news about how California is about to invest more money and effort into reining in the already very relaxed medical cannabis business is bumming people out.
So it’s ironic when the agency overseeing the regulatory crackdown is the brand new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation or BMMR. Those in the biz have already started calling it “Bummer.”