Proposal Would Create Comprehensive Regulations on California Cannabis Dispensaries, Growers

Several years ago, California was the undisputed heavyweight of the medical marijuana industry, home to 2,000-plus dispensaries that generated an estimated $1.3 billion or more in marijuana sales annually.

But a federal crackdown coupled with a sizable backlash in many communities has hammered the state’s MMJ industry, forcing hundreds of centers out of business and leading to a large decrease in medical marijuana revenues.

California still has the largest medical marijuana market in the country, with roughly $700 million to $900 million in annual MMJ retail sales, according to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2013 (which you can learn more about here). However, its influence is waning, in large part because a lack of state-level regulations on dispensaries has created a unpredictable business climate that leaves itself wide open to chaos.

One lawmaker hopes to change that, introducing a bill this week that would create state-level regulations on the medical cannabis industry.

The measure – AB 473, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) – doesn’t have a ton of details at this point. In general, though, it calls for the creation of the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation, which would set operational standards, overall rules and related fees on MMJ operations. The new agency would operate under the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Regulations would cover everything from cultivation and processing to testing and sales. Dispensaries and related operations – including growers and testing companies – would be forced to obtain permits to operate in the state. You can read a copy of the amended bill here.

Although many residents, officials and medical cannabis advocates agree that a solution is needed, Ammiano faces an uphill battle. He was forced to table an MMJ regulation bill last year after facing stiff opposition from many groups, including law enforcement officials.

Still, something needs to be done. California is one of the most volatile MMJ markets in the country, and the only way to reverse the situation is through state-wide regulations. Given the lack of direction from California officials, many cities have banned dispensaries or enacted tough regulations that have limited the industry’s potential.

Amid this uncertain business climate, voters in Los Angeles will weigh in on several proposals this spring that could drastically reshape the city’s MMJ industry – which ranks as the largest single market in the country. One of the proposals would force most of the city’s estimated 700 dispensaries to close, wiping out hundreds of millions in medical cannabis revenues.