New State Bureau that Regulates Medical Cannabis Sounds Like an Advocate

by on June 10, 2016 · 2 comments

in California, Culture, Environment, Health, Politics, San Diego

Lori Ajax Calif medMJ

Lori Ajax

State Medical Marijuana Officials Hold Hearing in San Diego

By Terrie Best /San Diego Americans for Safe Access / June 9, 2016

San Diego, CA – The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulations held a hearing June 9th as is required when crafting commercial regulations in the State of California. The trio of women who currently make up the bureau had already held events in Oakland, Humboldt and Riverside among other places. They were wrapping it up with San Diego.

The event was called a pre-regulation hearing. There were about 100 people in attendance and newly appointed Chief of the Bureau, Lori Ajax began the meeting at 11:19 in the Garcia Room at the Caltrans building on Taylor St. in Old Town.

The head of Narcotics at the District Attorney’s Office, Steve Walter sat in the front row.

Chief Ajax, as her staff calls her, introduced her team, An-Chi Tsou and Tamara Polson. She told us she was appointed by Governor Brown and left her position at the Bureau of Alcohol in February to take the chief position at the BMMR.

medical-marijuanaThe BMMR was established to sit under the Department of Consumer Affairs to comply with the State’s new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act – the law which seeks to regulate the commercial medical cannabis industry in California.

Chief Ajax seemed interested in the prospect of a legal commercial cannabis market, she said it is somewhat rare that new bureaus are created in state government. Though the BMMR is also the lead and will be responsible for the distribution, dispensing and transportation portions of the regulations, Ms. Ajax also provided this rundown of other responsible California departments: The Department of Food and Agriculture will oversee cultivation and a track and trace program and the Department of Health will be responsible for manufacturing and testing regulations.

Although the BMMR will also be tasked with enforcing the new regulations, thankfully no mention was made of narcotic officers being involved or even a desired element of oversight.

The process of writing regulations in California involves a pre-regulation hearing;   a couple rounds of public comment; proper noticing; some time for modifications; a trip to the Office of Administrative Law and a department approval process.

The BMMR hopes to have the commercial cannabis industry regulations drafted by early 2017 and to begin accepting applications for the various licenses in January 2018.

Ms. Ajax gave the BMMR’s web address and encouraged stakeholders to get on their email listserv, BMMR@DCA.CA.GOV.

She also made it clear Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act was “crafted to local control” she stated many times no state licenses would be issued without local authorization and that the BMMR was not tasked with creating new law.

Among the plans the bureau has is to expand the definition of “dispensary”, craft license qualifications and appoint an advisory committee of stakeholders and officials.

Ms. Ajax also answered a lot of questions about local restrictions.  In a nut shell, local governments can go beyond what the state has restricted but they can not fall short of those restrictions. It is not likely regulations will allow for stand-alone delivery services and there is nothing promising on the horizon that she was aware of to alleviate the banking problem. She encouraged good security measures. She gave no advice on how to keep narcotic officers from seizing your assets either.

Of the 100 attendees about 15 or 20 had questions.  Ms. Ajax and her staff had already warned us ahead of time that we would hear this standard answer from her:

“That’s going to be taken care of with regulations.” 

It was rather fun to see our state officials fielding questions from the drug prevention crowd with that particular mantra.  Without question, pleading for regulations as an approach to reefer madness rhetoric is a standard medical cannabis advocate response. The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation sounds very much like an ASA member!

From what I could determine, the room was nearly all cannabis proponents with a scattering of vocal drug preventionists. They did a lot of the talking but since the law passed it has felt like the wind carries away their words before I can be bothered to grasp them.  I don’t know what they said but we all know the answer: “That will be taken care of with regulations.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug Card June 11, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Hey, come up here and visit Oregon where we’ve been working out the details for a while and things are running pretty smooth for not just medical but also recreational marijuana sales. My little city of Veneta, home of the Oregon Country Fair, has several “stand alone” dispensaries delivering both med & rec. The state of Oregon is seeing few problems but is stunned by the amount of taxes they are collecting.
But Oregon is a little state with a unique population, when California gets fully on board it will be hard for the Federal controllers to maintain their banking prohibitions and Schedule 1 restrictions.


Daniel W. Nickles October 3, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Dear Lori Ajax, I would like to talk to you about (Hemp), and the ability of growing it in the state.
We would like to start with 300 acs. and see how it goes. And if it requires a licence we would like to be the first on the list. This could be a big income to the State in taxes and put a lot of people to work in this growing industry. This would be industrial Hemp.

Looking forward to hearing from your office.
Daniel W. Nickles


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