The Sacramento County Bar Association’s, Public Law, Environmental Law, and Administrative Law sections, co-hosted an event entitled, “From the Ground Up: Implementing the Medical Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act – Cultivating solutions to administrative, regulatory, environmental, and consumer protection challenges,” at the September 21, 2016 luncheon. The luncheon was held at the Sacramento County Bar Association‘s main offices at 425 University Avenue, Suite 120, Sacramento, CA 95825.
“From the Ground Up” is a fitting title, as California is entering into unfamiliar territory, creating new agencies to regulate and license the budding medical marijuana industry. The state will be regulating everything from cultivation, to manufacturing, to distribution – so literally everything “from the ground up.” As licensing and administrative law are two of the main practice areas of Simas & Associates, Ltd., the firm’s entire legal staff was in attendance.
Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulations at the California Department of Consumer Affairs, spoke to a full audience regarding the licensing authorities’ regulatory approach, implementation timelines, public information sessions, and public interest surveys. Michele Dias, General Counsel for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, also provided some insight on how things are going from the cultivation side.
Both speakers fielded questions from a room full of eager attorneys wanting to know more about the licensing process, and many wanted to know what the Departments are doing to learn about the industry in order to gain a better foothold on the market. As far as the specifics for how the licensing is going to work, the most frequent answer was, “we don’t know yet,” or “we are still gathering information.”
“It really is amazing how far the Bureau has come in such a short amount of time,” explained Justin D. Hein, Vice Chairperson of the Administrative Law section. “And it appears they are doing as comprehensive job as can be expected in investigating a long-standing staple of the underground economy. Plus, drafting foundation regulations for an entire new Bureau—let alone, industry—is in some pretty heady waters. At the same time, it appears that there is a lot left to do in the next 20 or so months.”
The Departments are goaled to start accepting licensing applications in January 2018, so many of the finer details are still being ironed out. To learn about the industry, the Departments are leaving no stone unturned and are actively reaching out to all four corners of the state, talking to the public and businesses already established in the medical marijuana arena, touring testing labs and cultivation sites, and conducting studies.
Ms. Ajax has been holding pre-regulatory meetings to gather input on these upcoming regulations, provide the public with information about the new agencies, answer questions, and to explain and encourage participation in the regulatory process. Most recently, she was in San Diego on October 5, 2016, but no additional meetings appear to be scheduled at this time.
“What is especially fascinating,” added Steven L. Simas, former Chairperson of the Administrative Law section, “is how much of this work is ostensibly being done in anticipation of decriminalizing recreational marijuana, in addition to just regulating medical cannabis. And in doing their due diligence, that is where they may encounter the most resistance from existing growers, cultivators, purifiers, and distributors that are not likely participants in medical cannabis but existing participants in illegal recreational marijuana.”
At Simas & Associates, Ltd., license application appeals and license discipline are our primary practice area. And so we are curious and excited to see how this new licensing system turns out.