California’s new bible for medical marijuana laws has industry anticipating a crackdown

A new summary of California’s marijuana laws from the Department of Justice has the cannabis industry anticipating more enforcement actions targeting black-market operators.

That’s the takeaway for Kyle Kazan, CEO of Glass House Group, a vertically integrated cannabis company that sells both medicinal and recreational product.

It tells me the state is getting serious about cracking down on the black market,” Kazan said.

A former police officer himself, Kazan said law enforcement is often confused about what to do with illicit grows, often wondering “what are the laws ... what will the district attorney prosecute in your city.”

The 16-page document from Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office is “a good, solid first step” for enforcement, Kazan said. It spells out what is and what isn’t a lawful grow.

“I appreciate that it is coming from the top,” he said.

The document summarizes more than 20 years of state laws, regulations and guidelines concerning the growing, distribution and transportation of medicinal cannabis in the Golden State.

The purpose of the release was “to reflect the evolution of cannabis legalization in California,” according to a statement from the Attorney General’s Office.

Though there was nothing new in the document, the act of releasing it is a really good sign for the state’s handling of medicinal cannabis, says Adam Spiker, a cannabis lobbyist and senior partner with Spiker Consulting Group.

“I think it’s a win that our state’s attorney general is reaffirming some of these things and taking more ownership,” Spiker said in an interview Tuesday.

Spiker said the document provides a road map for law enforcement, showing how officers should be handle medicinal marijuana cases that might come up.

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California has no uniform marijuana policy despite voter-approved initiatives that have legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis. Each local government is given latitude to decide for itself whether to allow cannabis businesses to operate.

When it comes to seizing product, or even involving the federal government, Spiker said law enforcement in the past has tended to ‘shoot first, aim later.’

This document provides police with a reminder that “we have a licensed, legal industry, let’s make sure that’s in the back of our minds,” he said.

The summary also lets medicinal cannabis patients know both their rights and their responsibilities, he said.

“I think they’re collating all these different laws and regulations into one document for the medical industry,” Spiker said.

Kazan said the next step is for the Bureau of Cannabis Control to begin collaborating with local law enforcement entities, “to find a way to partner with the locals and also provide them guidance in how to shut down the illegal market.”

It’s time, Kazan said, “to focus in, makes some examples, get some big busts.”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.