California’s cannabis industry is diverse, dynamic and productive. California is a global leader in the cannabis industry. More than 50,000 small business create more than 250,000 good jobs. We use less than 10,000 acre feet of water a year, while the state’s agricultural sector uses 35 million or more. We are conservation minded, hard working, productive members of society.
Still, for all of this, our industry is in crisis. The public safety crisis and environmental crisis are well known. But lesser known is the small business crisis. In an unregulated marketplace, the worst actors using worst practices have a competitive advantage. Criminals run amok on public lands; best practices like water conservation prove to be a costly investment with little reward in the marketplace and act as a disincentive. And, an entire community of people continue to live with only the limited immunity provided by proposition 215. Time tested war on drug tactics continue to terrify families and ruin lives as crops are destroyed and businesses are ransacked simply for being cannabis businesses. Our own business community is quick to throw itself under the bus anytime there is a bust, as ego and personality take center stage sometimes overshadowing policy and progress. In spite all of this, hope is on the horizon.
On Friday September 11, 2015 state legislators in Sacramento made history by passing legislation to provide comprehensive regulations for medical cannabis. The bills, SB643, AB243 and AB266, had strong support from Democrats and Republicans. This has been a monumental effort by many different groups and individuals. We are honored and inspired to have been included in the process and are grateful for the hard work and focus of so many people.
The policy is not perfect but the relationships that were forged combined with a strong and fair framework represent the best possible outcome. This legislation will provide immediate relief as we begin to tackle the crisis that has been damaging California's communities, waters, and independent business owners for years. It will help provide some sanity on the eve of the expected 2016 ballot initiative.
We will be completing a more thorough analysis of what is in the legislation soon, but a few highlights:
Cannabis cultivation is regulated like agriculture
Specific license are created for specialty, small and medium cultivators
Specific licenses are created for indoor, mixed-light and outdoor cultivation
Appellation controls may now be established
Nineteen years after voters approved Prop. 215, California cannabis farmers are just a few years away from becoming licensed, but immediate environmental protections kick in now. We have an adequate and fair pathway to licensure. In passing these bills, which set up licensing categories based on size and style of farming, we sought clarity. By 2018 when licenses are available we will know exactly how to become compliant, just like other farmers and business operators. We have two years to get into compliance with existing regulations. And we start on a level playing field. Nobody has a special advantage.
But we’re not finished. In fact, we have barely begun. It's a whole new world and cannabis policy in California is in it's infancy.
The legislative affairs work will continue. There’s a potential ballot initiative for adult use coming next year. There are counties and cities all over the state that will need to review and update local ordinances and policies. And, in just a few months our state will begin one of the most comprehensive rulemaking processes of recent memory.