Marijuana Business Magazine September 2018

COLUMN: TRENDS AND HOT TOP¬CS “I miss Prop 215.” That comment was posted on Facebook in July by a worker in California’s cannabis industry. Proposition 215, for anyone who doesn’t recall, was the 1996 California ballot measure that made the Golden State the first to legalize medical marijuana. If anything, that sentiment has become more and more widespread in California – although many busi- nesses may not be giving voice to it because they wanted full legalization. Two decades after the passage of Prop 215, California voters got full legalization by approving Prop 64. Now, more than half a year into the new regulated market, many are reminiscing about the good old days, when cannabis could be grown and shared without having to worry about child-resistant packaging or testing- lab approvals. Even giving out free samples is banned, as are many “compassion programs” originally dedicated to providing free or low-cost medical marijuana to low-income patients. But the difficulty of acquiring busi- ness licenses and the power of local governments to revert to prohibition may be the real reason I’ve heard so much nostalgia in recent months. As of July, an estimated 70% of California cities and counties had Voter Remorse in California The freedom afforded to local governments by Proposition 64 comes at the expense of marijuana business owners By John Schroyer John Schroyer prohibited cannabis companies of any kind from setting up shop in their jurisdictions. That number hasn’t fluctuated much since the start of the year, and there’s been little progress in getting more municipalities to open themselves to the industry. Los Angeles is a great example. Not only has there been a flood of local companies leaving L.A. because they haven’t been able to get licenses, but the city has yet to license any growers, edibles makers or extraction com- panies. The city doesn’t even have a single licensed testing lab, though all of its 155 licensed retailers are required to sell only lab-tested products. Meanwhile, thousands of small business owners have found them- selves without any way to take part in the legal market because they’ve been operating in a city or county that decided either to ban MJ compa- nies or limit the number of licenses they’re willing to issue. “We all voted for (Prop 64) thinking this was the way it was going to end up, that all small business owners could all become legal,” one delivery operator in Alameda County told me in July. “Not happening.” The woman, who requested ano- nymity, said that her 5-year-old busi- ness was likely going to be shut down because she hadn’t been able to find a municipality in the Bay Area willing to give her a license. The business owner said she felt as if she’d wasted $3,000 when she applied for a license in Oakland and then learned it guar- anteed her only a spot on a wait list for hopeful licensees. “This was not the way this was supposed to be. I wouldn’t have voted for it. No way, if I had known what was going to happen,” she said. “I’m beyond frustrated. I’d hate to see the business close, but …” she said, her voice trailing off. She’s not the only one in that boat. Thousands of others are in it with her. And while I’m not sure how this is going to pan out in California over the next year – the current system has been breathing new life into the illicit market, as opposed to extinguish- ing it – I can see very clearly that the authors of Prop 64 either didn’t con- sider or didn’t care that it was a grave mistake to give local authorities free rein in banning MJ companies. Class in Session A history lesson may be appropriate here, because California isn’t the first state to make the mistake of granting local authorities broad powers to ban cannabis businesses. Colorado owns that regrettable distinction. Colorado’s Amendment 64, passed by voters in 2012, provided cities and counties with the same type of power. 36 • Marijuana Business Magazine • September 2018