Blame it on high taxes. Or the catastrophic wildfires. Or governmental red tape. The reasons may vary, but one thing is certain: When legalized cannabis goes into effect on Jan. 1, California won’t be ready. Not even close.
Of course, all eight of the previous states that legalized the herb had trouble getting out of the gaits: Supply and demand issues. Regulatory confusion. Reconciling medical and recreational protocols.
California is the sixth-largest economy in the world and is the state produces more cannabis than any other state. (Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996. The state’s black market is responsible for most of the domestic inventory.)
According to most experts, the combined legal and illegal market for marijuana is worth an estimated $30 billion. The legal California market is estimated to be valued at $7 billion. But those working in the illegal market are reluctant to go legitimate, so the black market is unlikely to remain strong.
Related Story: California’s 5 Worst Counties for Recreational Marijuana
Earlier this week, a report from the Associated Press detailed some of the warning signs for California. According to the report:
Los Angeles and San Francisco are among many cities still struggling to fashion local rules for pot shops and growers. Without the regulations, there could be limited options in many places for consumers eager to ring in the new year with a legal pot purchase.
“The bulk of folks probably are not going to be ready Jan. 1,” conceded Cara Martinson of the California State Association of Counties.
Almost one year ago, voters in the state overwhelmingly supported Proposition 64 — The Adult Use of Marijuana Act. And one year later, there remains a lack of clarity as to how the herb will be regulated. This confusion is becoming a major headache for state regulators, local governments, law enforcement, growers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Basically, nobody know what the hell is going on.
The state will not even issue permanent licenses at launch. Instead, those companies switching to the Prop 64 market will be given “temporary licenses.” The hope is that the dust will clear soon after the program begins and permanent licenses will be disbursed.
With recreational legalization fast approaching, “we don’t have enough of anything,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, a marijuana industry group.
According to the AP report:
Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Coalition, an industry group, warned last month that L.A.’s draft rules could upend the emerging industry by failing to provide a prompt way to license suppliers, potentially forcing them to shut down. And he’s dubious that the city will be ready to begin issuing licenses on Jan. 1.
“There’s not a lot of calendar days left in the year,” he said.
One thing is guaranteed: Californians are in for a bumpy ride.