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 Dispute over rules riles California’s legal pot market

/ 06:00 PM January 18, 2019

 

LOS ANGELES  — California has finalized its rules governing the nation’s largest legal marijuana market, a milestone coming more than a year after the state broadly legalized cannabis sales for adults.

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But a dispute over home deliveries into communities that ban pot sales could end up in court. And the hundreds of pages of dense regulations are unlikely to resolve other disputes, including how purity and potency tests are conducted for infused cookies and other products.

Even if imperfect, the rules were welcomed by many in the industry who have been contending with shifting temporary regulations since California kicked off broad legal sales last year.

“Love it or hate it, California has regulations for commercial cannabis. There are no asterisks,” said Hezekiah Allen, chair of cannabis growing cooperative Emerald Grown and former executive director of the California Growers Association, an industry group.

Meanwhile, the regulations that deal with the minutia of running a legal pot business do not address other broad challenges in the industry, from a lack of banking access for pot companies that will likely need to be resolved in Washington to what to do about a thriving illicit market that is undercutting legal sales.

“Do these solve every problem that exists in the cannabis business regulatory regime? Absolutely not,” said Assemblyman Ron Bonta, a Democrat from Oakland who said the rules nonetheless create a strong foundation for a market that has gotten off to a shaky start.

By far the biggest dispute focused on deliveries. The rules released Wednesday will allow home marijuana deliveries statewide, even into communities that have banned commercial pot sales.

The regulation by the state Bureau of Cannabis Control was opposed by police chiefs and other critics who predict it will create an unruly market of largely hidden pot transactions, while undercutting control by cities and counties.

The League of California Cities said the rule conflicts with Proposition 64, the law approved by voters in 2016 that opened the way for broad legal sales, which says local governments have the authority to ban nonmedical pot businesses.

“This decision puts the public safety needs of communities across the state at risk,” league executive director Carolyn Coleman said in a statement.

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Many cannabis companies and consumers had pushed for the change, since vast stretches of the state have communities that banned commercial pot activity or not set up rules to allow legal sales. That means residents in those areas were effectively cut off from legal marijuana purchases.

“The public spoke loud and clear in favor of statewide delivery,” cannabis bureau spokesman Alex Traverso said in a statement.

Bonta said he supports statewide deliveries for medical patients, regardless of local bans, but not recreational users. He suggested legislation may be needed to deal with the dispute./gsg

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