California is just weeks away from officially kicking off recreational cannabis sales and the state finally started accepting license applications late last week.
The initial licenses are temporary four-month permits for which the $1,000 application fee and a background check requirement will be waived. The temporary licenses will not be effective until Jan. 1, and businesses need a local permit before applying for state license.
California's Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is the lead agency in the development of medical and adult-use marijuana.
Here are 5 things to know about the bureau:
1. The Bureau of Cannabis Control is only responsible for licensing retailers -- such as dispensaries, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is handling the licensing and regulation for manufactured cannabis-- such as edible or infused products-- while the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is responsible for cultivation licenses. The CDFA won't start issuing licenses until next week.
2. The bureau is currently staffed by approximately 40 employees, according to Alex Traverso, Chief of Communications for the bureau. The BCC is led by Lori Ajax, who was formerly the Director at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). The bureau currently operates under the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) but will soon work at a new facility located in Rancho Cordova. The agency expects to grow and depending on budgets and demand, may eventually become their own department, according to Traverso.
"Once we're officially operating we're going to need more enforcement," Traverso said.
3. The DCA established a Cannabis Advisory Committee, which will advise the bureau and the other licensing authorities on the development of regulations that help protect public health and safety and reduce the illegal market for cannabis. Committee members include representatives of the cannabis industry, representatives of labor organizations, appropriate state and local agencies, health experts and people who work directly with racially, ethnically, and economically diverse populations.
4. The BCC website features information on a CDPH campaign called "Let's Talk Cannabis" which details what’s legal in California and the potential health impacts of cannabis use. The CDPH received funding to develop the campaign which describes topics such as the potential harms of using cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding and the harms of overusing cannabis, as well as the penalties for providing cannabis and cannabis products to persons under the age of 21 years.
5. What's next? The agency is anticipating "a very busy year" come Jan. 1 and will spend the first six months watching for any issues so they can be addressed and fixed, according to Traverso. The bureau will focus on "building and making sure regulations are working as intended" as license issuing cools down. The BCC is also planning on opening an office in Humboldt.
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