On the afternoon of October 9, 2015 Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of bills that will—for the first time since 1996—regulate the medical cannabis industry in CA. The legislative package consisted of three bills: SB 643, AB 243, and AB 266.

California Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen celebrated these signatures as a historic moment: “These signatures mark the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work. A diverse coalition of stakeholders came together to develop and advance the best policies for California.”

The three bills work together to provide a foundation for solutions but policy experts expect the work to continue—and even intensify—in future years. “We are confident that the legislature will continue to be vigilant and develop solutions, but the real focus of our work will now turn to working with regulators and our members to successfully implement this new program,” Allen said.

The new licensing scheme requires authorization from both local and state government to do business. Local governments will maintain the authority to restrict or prohibit commercial cannabis activity. This balance between state and local authority is a key principle of the legislation.

“Local government and law enforcement are the most important partnerships for business owners seeking to be licenses. We are actively working to build stronger relationships in communities up and down the state to ensure that implementation is as smooth as possible.”

The regulatory framework restricts vertical integration. Supporters of this concept argue that it will prevent the development of abusive monopolies. Opponents argue that it restricts their ability to grow their businesses. Opinions aside, the legislation passed by the state legislature provides a historic opportunity for cannabis businesses to be licensed and thus to be lawful operators.

"The legislation is very strong on protections for independent businesses,” Allen said. "By preventing the consolidation of large conglomerates, the legislation creates opportunity for existing independent businesses to transition to regulation. It is important to the success of this program that it be accessible to currently operating cannabis businesses. Otherwise, this legislation will have little effect.”