The world’s 6th largest economy has their sights set on legal cannabis sales starting January 2018; but will they be ready?
As the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and eventually one of the first 6 to legalize recreational / adult-use, California has long been a pioneer in the fight to legalize cannabis. However, their early efforts have plagued them ever since and continue to do so; today moreso than ever.
With legal cannabis sales in California projected to reach $6 billion by 2020, the Golden State is set to become the Golden Goose of marijuana. For perspective, $6 billion was the total for all legal marijuana sales in the United States in 2016.
Bringing California’s adult-use market online would change the landscape of the industry permanently, however, doing so will be the most difficult task ever faced by cannabis regulators.
Rewind to 1996: California is toying with the idea of becoming the first state to legalize medical marijuana and tensions are high across all sectors of government. Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I narcotic alongside heroin and LSD. Polls showed only 25% of the US population favored some form of legalized cannabis (compared to 60% in 2016), and nearly 40% of all drug related arrests were for marijuana possession or sale.
In short, legalizing cannabis, even for medical use, was highly controversial and for that reason nobody wanted to run the risk of being associated.
After Prop 215 passed in November ’96 legalizing marijuana for medical use, not even the state government wanted to take responsibility for its regulation.
What was their solution? Delegate.
The voters of California had spoken and the state now had no choice but to permit medical marijuana facilities from doing business, but that didn’t mean they wanted to be in charge of it. Their solution was to pass the buck to the local governments. California would allow medical marijuana, but would make each city, town, and county decide how to make it happen.
The result? Dozens of California localities and municipalities each passed their own laws regulating the cultivation and sale of medical cannabis.
Why was that a problem?
Now that cannabis has been legalized for adult-use, the state government is finally taking charge of all rules, regulations, and enforcement.
This means California must now unite over 50 different sets of medical marijuana rules.
How does this effect the rollout of recreational (adult-use) sales by January ’18?
Every state that has legalized adult-use cannabis previously had medical cannabis laws in place. This means all the procedures for licensing, sale, and consumption of marijuana had already been laid out and were in use at the time recreational use was passed.
When lawmakers were asked to write the rules for adult-use, rather than start from scratch they simply copied and modified the existing medical laws to fit the new recreational system.
This saved countless thousands of hours and tax dollars and allowed for states to expedite legal cannabis sales.
This is where California runs into a problem. The Golden State has promised to have the groundwork for recreational sales complete by January 2018 and, for a state with a previously established medical marijuana system in place, this would’ve been a relatively simple task.
California was lacking this state-sanctioned medical system from which they could derive their new adult-use system.
The pressure was on for California lawmakers and they did finally come through, releasing new state-wide regulations for the sale of medical marijuana in early 2017. Now they are under the gun again trying to adapt these brand new medical laws into recreational laws.
Will California pull it off and open their $2.4 trillion dollar economy to adult-use cannabis? Time will only tell.
Stay tuned to our blog as we bring you updates on California and the rest of the US!