Thursday, February 22, 2024

California Edible Cannabis Cooks Get Bitter Taste of Legalization

There have been two overriding business visions of legal Cannabis. Craft — winemakers, microbrew — vs. commerce — Marlboro, Budweiser. A recent report finds in California, legal pot may be cutting into artisanal cottage industries. reports that although an estimated $180 million worth of edibles was sold in California in 2016, this year only 28 licenses have been obtained to legally bake, or make, them.

A cannabis industry consultant, Sean Donahoe, said he expected the Golden State to follow a post-legalization path similar to Colorado’s. The business has consolidated into major players, due to regulation and consolidation.

“I’m seeing a lot of these similar things and then some,” Donahoe said. “And it didn’t have to be this way.”

California voters OK’d medical marijuana in 1966, with lawmakers refining the rules in 2003. Recreational cannabis became legal there this year. Colorado has allowed recreational use since 2014.

So far the major pain point for California’s cannabis bakers and chefs hasn’t been from Big Money. It’s the cost of turning a previously unregulated business into one that now has to follow health and processing codes. And a patchwork of local laws.

California law allows counties and cities the ability to regulate, up to outright ban, cannabis businesses in their jurisdiction. In December, an industry observer said simple retail sales would only be legal in a third of the state.

“It’s going to be months, maybe even a year before a majority of the state has access that is less than a half-hour drive away,” Nate Bradley of the California Cannabis Industry Association told the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s impossible to follow,” attorney Aaron Herzberg, whose firm represents California cannabis businesses and has a stake in a few, told the Orange County Register. “It’s just too hard to keep up with everything.”

And even in cities where it is legal, simple costs such as rent can hit former cottage industries.

Greenstate tells the tale of Gina Golden, an Oakland baker who has been making treats for 12 years under the Golden Goddess label. The city turned down her application for a legal business last year, deeming her commercial kitchen space didn’t meet legal standards.

“I took pride in being self-sustaining and not collecting food stamps, not becoming a statistic or dependent on the system,” she said. “Now I feel like I do need that help.”


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