Opportunity knocked in California last week, but lawmakers refused to answer the door. The state had a real chance to improve the situation for medical cannabis businesses via a proposal to regulate the California marijuana industry. But instead of moving forward and voting in favor of some long-overdue oversight, lawmakers let the bill die in a Senate committee.
It’s a discouraging development on several levels, though it was somewhat expected. California’s medical marijuana industry is a complete mess, and legislators have been dragging their feet on MMJ reform for quite some time. The longer the state waits to introduce regulations, the longer businesses will have to operate in a hostile climate filled with uncertainty, intense federal scrutiny and rapid change.
But it’s not all bad news: The main sponsor of the bill actually said waiting a bit might be a good thing, as it will give supporters a chance to craft a proposal that will win over holdouts by addressing some of their concerns and making sure the state does it right.
So what will it take for California to right the MMJ ship?
It starts with people in the industry.
Legit medical marijuana dispensaries and related businesses need to stop protesting when the government raids a questionable center or a town bans MMJ operations. It’s a waste of time in the current climate. That energy and those resources should be funneled into lobbying lawmakers to pass laws that bring oversight and regulations to the entire state. If the industry would collectively get on board, it might be able to help force California’s hand. But MMJ professionals seem to fear regulations and oversight, as if they’re a bad thing. The sad fact: The only thing that can save the California MMJ industry is the very thing everyone’s afraid of. Put it this way: Would you rather have regulations or no business at all?
Also last week, most dispensaries stopped accepting Visa and MasterCard payments from patients, a development that will have broad implications on the industry. Cash is now the only method of payment the majority of dispensaries can take, as they’ve been shut out from the banking and merchant services worlds. This leaves them in an increasingly vulnerable position on many fronts – including security and accounting – and makes it a bit harder for patients to get their medication.
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