Leaders from the state agencies tasked with regulating the medical marijuana industry held a forum in Clovis Tuesday to gather feedback before drafting the new rules.
Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, and Asif Maan, chief of the Office of Medical Cannabis Safety, led the discussions. The bureau will regulate dispensaries, distributors, testing and transportation, while the office will monitor the packaging and manufacturing process.
About 100 people attended the event, which mainly consisted of small group discussions on ways the agencies could refine their suggested rules. Organizers said this was the smallest turnout so far in the meeting series, which started in Redding last week and will end in Orange County next week.
Many in this modest crowd were not from the Fresno area, which is one of the fiercest opponents of medical marijuana in the state. The city of Clovis, where the meeting was held, voted unanimously last week to extend its strict medical marijuana rules to recreational pot, should Proposition 64 to legalize recreational marijuana use pass in November. Most in attendance were representatives from medical cannabis operations up and down the Central Coast or Bay Area insiders who missed previous meetings.
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The groups discussed the minute details of the coming regulations. For example, the bureau will require background checks for all cannabis company owners – similar to requirements placed on doctors, nurses and attorneys. But the current proposal would also require checks for their spouses/domestic partners, as well as anyone with a 5 percent financial stake in the company. Since many medical marijuana operations are run as co-ops, this could mean 40-50 people would need to pass a check for one license. And under federal law, their current job is illegal, so many attendees were concerned about the review process.
Little things like that are expected to be ironed out when the three licensing entities – the third being the Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program, which regulates cultivation – draft the new rules. They are expected to be ready for another round of public discussion by the beginning of next year. The licensing process must begin by Jan. 1, 2018.