Skip to main content

Exclusive Interview: California Cannabis Czar Talks Regulation

Ending cannabis prohibition is a no-brainer whose time has come. It is obvious that cannabis prohibition is a costly failure that causes too much harm with racist and classist consequences. Regulating cannabis, however, is a much tougher job than just removing criminal penalties, as there isn’t a clear path to the best policies for any market. Lori Ajax, Chief of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, has the biggest cannabis regulatory job in the world, a bigger job than even the nation of Canada. The Golden State’s Cannabis Czar took the time to answer a few questions about her difficult task of regulating cannabis in the world’s sixth largest economy while dealing with federal prohibition, and just a month before her appearance at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 7-8, 2019.

Anthony Johnson, for the International Cannabis Business Conference: When developing rules for the California cannabis industry, what are your top priorities?

Lori Ajax, Chief, Bureau of Cannabis Control: The statute sets out the highest priority for the licensing authorities, which is protection of the public. Currently, we are focused on issuing temporary licenses before December 31, 2018, and getting our final regulations into effect.

What are some of the toughest decisions that you have had to make?

I think the toughest decisions are those where the need for consumer safety and the need for providing a reasonable system that encourages licensure are the furthest apart. Testing requirements are one area that often involves difficult decisions.

What seemed to be the overriding factor to allow statewide delivery even into areas that had passed bans on regulated cannabis businesses?

The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act itself. It specifically prohibits a local jurisdiction from preventing delivery of cannabis goods on public roads.

Do you find it difficult balancing the need to curtail the illegal market with the need to implement robust regulations?

It is definitely a delicate balancing act to implement a robust regulatory system that will also bring businesses into the regulated market.  In order to strike the right balance, it is important for us to continue to be open to feedback and have a strong working relationship with our stakeholders.

What are some issues that you imagine you will be examining or reassessing in the near future?

We will be evaluating how the final regulations are working and determining what issues arise that will need to be addressed.

Anything that you would like to add?

We look forward to the further discussion of California’s legal market when we see everyone in San Francisco in February.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear directly from California’s Cannabis Czar and network with top investors and entrepreneurs at the International Cannabis Business Conference this February 7-8, 2019. Be sure to secure your place at THE cannabis event to attend by January 18th to save on early-bird discounted tickets. After San Francisco, the ICBC will be holding events in Barcelona, Berlin, Zurich, and Vancouver throughout 2019. Get your tickets today!  

Bureau of Cannabis Control, Cannabis Czar, Lori Ajax, Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act