California is far from ready, but the green rush is nonetheless upon us.
On New Year’s Day, commercial sales of recreational cannabis will become legal for adults. No one knows exactly what will happen. ...
But here’s what everyone should know: The rollout is going to be an absolute mess – a mess that will last longer than a day.
For months now, ever since voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016, regulators have been doing the equivalent of building a plane while flying it, slapping together policies in hopes of crafting a viable, multibillion-dollar industry that doesn’t crash and burn on takeoff. They’ve worked hard, but hints of the coming chaos are everywhere.
On Wednesday, a mere five days before adults will be able to walk into a store and buy a drug that is still banned by the federal government, Sacramento’s pot czar Joe Devlin spent hours trying to understand the finer points of Proposition 64.
He wondered aloud, for example, how to enforce a new limit on how much pot a person can buy per day: “Does the dispensary have to create a customer account or do you just check ID? I don’t know how you prove you’re not exceeding the daily limit without creating a customer account.”
He also had unanswered questions about the newly required state permits for medical dispensaries. None had arrived yet. “If we don’t get an answer from the state, what does that mean? Shut them down?” he asked. Most dispensaries also had yet to meet the new labeling requirements for edibles already on their shelves. There were no stickers.
Take the pace of commercial licensing. Under Proposition 64, local governments were given power to decide how – and even if – cannabis should be sold or grown within their jurisdictions. Oakland and San Diego took advantage of that early.
But not everyone has been eager to be a guinea pig. Many city councils and boards of supervisors have refused to even discuss cannabis, and those that have often have been slow to enact regulations for it, complicating matters for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, which is now dealing with a slew of last-minute applications for licenses.
Modesto, for example, waited until the week before Christmas to decide to start accepting applications for retail sales and should begin issuing licenses by February.
There also has been uncertainty over cultivation in Calaveras and Yolo counties. And Sacramento and Kern counties banned commercial pot altogether.
It also doesn’t help that California has yet to find a way to get banks involved so the industry can stop dealing in wads of cash, instead of credit cards and checking accounts like other businesses.
There are also lingering public health questions, a big reason we didn’t endorse Proposition 64.
For the past few weeks, local and state officials have been rushing to release information to educate Californians about the risks of using pot. How much is too much? What should first-timers take? What happens if kids use it? But there isn’t enough research to effectively answer those questions, another consequence of rushing to legalize weed.
In short, expect a mess.