In October 2015, the Governor of the State of California, at the urging of the federal government, signed into law the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. The federal government was concerned that California did not have adequate regulation in place to make marijuana safe and requested more robust regulation. Although marijuana is federally prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act, the official position of the federal government is to not prosecute persons in the marijuana business industry who are in compliance with state law.
Thus, it is unlikely that Governor Brown and his staff is concerned about federal prosecution. This is mentioned because federal prohibition is a common reason city governments state they prohibit instead of regulating medical marijuana, even though they know unregulated, untested marijuana is being sold to medical marijuana patients within their city borders. They are unwilling, in other words, to create safe access to medical marijuana patients, because they say marijuana if federally prohibited. Yet in recent history, the federal congress defunded the Drug Enforcement Agency from prosecuting state legal cannabis businesses, has told banks they can do business with state legal cannabis businesses, it actively encourages states to regulate marijuana; a duplicity that just can’t be missed.
As a leader, Governor Brown has the foresight to see that Commercial Cannabis Business is likely to be a multibillion dollar industry in California. And he recognizes, the business activity has already begun. As such, the new law creates a framework for thousands of new jobs. Cannabis business may become one of the biggest new industries in the country. This is obviated by the fact that in California there is a tremendous demand for marijuana; and locally there a tremendous demand for marijuana in the San Gabriel Valley. As a lawyer in this industry, I can attest to the interest in this new business sector in the San Gabriel Valley. I can also attest to the fact that entrepreneurs are frustrated by the lack of vison of local government.
Marijuana legalization will be on the Nov. 2016 ballot. Governor Brown, in signing the new law appears to anticipate its passage, as this is what polls predict. The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act establishes within the department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. It also creates new jobs in the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Public Safety, and dozens of other state agency jobs, which will oversee the implementation of the new commercial cannabis industry; a cutting edge “for profit” industry that will likely be the biggest in the country. This is history in the making.
It is likely in 2016, California will become like the recreational states Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC. Legalization in other states has worked. It has not been a public disaster. It has not increased crime. And it has allowed responsible adults to be treated like responsible adults, in their choice to use marijuana, the way many choose to have an occasional adult beverage.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act creates a state licensing system that recognizes the business side of medical marijuana and sets the framework for a robust recreational marijuana industry. Many have not realized until recently that just as there is a business side to alcohol, there is a legitimate business side to medical cannabis. Regulation of medical and recreational marijuana is creating new jobs all over the country. Jobs in cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, factories are being opened, safe dispensaries are opening, medical marijuana testing laboratories are being built, new innovations are being created every day, and the dozens of ancillary businesses are needed to support the regulated marijuana industry; such as marketing firms, construction, lighting, agricultural products, printing, web design, package manufacturing, insurance, security services, computer software systems, chemists, lab technicians, delivery services, secretarial and accounting services, to name a few.
The San Gabriel Valley has been short sighted to see the legitimate business opportunities in commercial cannabis. The Governor has not been so short sighted. He sees the big picture. The San Gabriel Valley needs leader cities, which can see and understand the Governor’s reason for signing such broad based legislation into law. This region needs cities like Pasadena, Arcadia, Altadena, San Dimas, Irwindale, and others to become leaders; just as Palm Springs has become in the desert, Santa Ana has become in Orange County, Santa Monica and Venice have become on the West Side, Los Angeles has locally, and San Francisco has become up north. This region needs leadership to step up to the challenge of taking advantage of all the opportunity this history making opportunity presents.
Unfortunately, the lack of leadership from local governments in the San Gabriel region, and their failure to follow the leadership of our Governor, will result in this region not being able to take advantage of what the new law calls “priority” registration. Priority registration is reserved to those qualified applicants who can demonstrate they were running their cannabis businesses in accordance with local laws by January 1, 2016. Thus, because so many cities in the San Gabriel area have written ordinances of prohibition, instead of foreseeing the opportunities to their citizens by moving to regulation of medical marijuana businesses, cities like Palm Springs, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, and others, will have the only business owners eligible for priority in the state licensing scheme. Thus, the more progressive cities will be the first to take advantage of the opportunities, and financial rewards, of recreational marijuana business if California votes for recreational marijuana in 2016.
So let’s pose the question. What down side is there to following the leadership of the Governor in making way for commercial cannabis; especially where the process pays for itself in the application and taxation processes?