California alcohol brewers tap into discussion about marijuana industry
There’s been no shortage of requests of California’s cannabis czar.
For one, noted Lori Ajax, chief of the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, many people want the ability to host the equivalent of wine tastings, just with marijuana.
“Bud and breakfast is my favorite,” Ajax said. “They want cannabis at yoga studios. They want cannabis at farmers markets. We are not there yet.”
Ajax spoke Thursday, Sept. 7, to a crowded room at the Sacramento Convention Center Complex as part of the state’s annual Craft Beer Summit. Brewers and others wanted to hear how California’s fledgling legal cannabis market could impact them.
Short answer: Likely not that much, at least for now.
Once recreational sales are legal next year, no cannabis can be sold at a business that sells tobacco or alcohol products.
People can consume marijuana at certain cannabis retailers, previously called dispensaries, but only if local government allows and strict requirements are met. Because a brewery can’t sell cannabis, no one can consume it at that type of business, Ajax said.
“The smoking is the easy part of detect,” said Ajax, adding that edibles will be more difficult to enforce.
The Bureau of Cannabis Control has a lengthy set of regulations prepped in advance of Jan. 1, the first day the state can issue licenses. Marijuana retailers can be open only from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., though a local government could reduce those hours.
Additionally, no cannabis retailer can exist in a jurisdiction if that local government forbids them.
People can simultaneously hold a variety of cannabis licenses — like manufacturing, distribution and retail. However, the holder of a testing lab license can only have that license — and all cannabis must be properly tested, labeled, and packaged before it reaches a retailer, Ajax said.
Someone must hold a distribution license to transport product between licensees, though Ajax repeated that people can hold multiple licenses, other than the testing license.
That’s a difference from Nevada, which has a law currently in the courts that restricts cannabis distribution to liquor distributors only.
“We don’t have that statute,” Ajax said.
Previously with the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Ajax has served as California’s top cannabis official for some 18 months. She quipped a handful of times about how quickly things have changed, and not just with the law.
“We are now the Bureau of Cannabis Control,” Ajax said. “I believe this is our fourth name change since I started a year and a half ago.”
Initially, Ajax’s department oversaw the implementation of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. Then, in November, voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults.
Now Ajax’s office is working within the confines of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.
“So we’re hoping it stays like this for a little bit,” she said.
Ajax spoke to a standing-room only crowd. One of the attendees was Dennis Yadroff, director of retail for ol’ Republic Brewery in Nevada City.
“I’m always seeking knowledge about the industry,” said Yadroff of breweries.
Yadroff doesn’t anticipate cannabis sales directly affecting ol’ Republic. A discussion of allowing people to consume marijuana at the brewery never has occurred. Besides, as Ajax noted, it wouldn’t be legal.
Yadroff does hope that legalization helps curb illegal activity, like water theft, associated with cannabis.
“That’s a positive that comes out of that,” he said.