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Backlog of Cannabis Applications Slowing Licensing Process In California

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California is currently in the process of creating a second stop-gap licensing program for the marijuana industry to prevent any disruptions from occurring in the newly legalized market.

Since the launch of the state’s recreational market on January 1, they only issued marijuana businesses temporary permits, so long as they had community approval where the business would be located and provided the state with the required information about their business and their products or services. Many of those temporary permits, however, are about to expire and several communities are still debating whether or not to approve marijuana. State regulators hope to buy the time they need to implement a full annual licensing system by creating a second provisional licensing system.

In several counties, regulators struggle to keep up with the backlog of applications.

Humboldt County officials wrote that “rushing these [applications] through would be a mistake, as that could lead to real environmental damage” in a statement made in support of the provisional licensing program.

“Letting permits expire as applicants run out of time would also be a mistake, as the entire goal includes bringing cultivators into taxing, permitting, and environmental compliance.”

The first stop-gap licensing program the state initiated issued permits that would last for four months- time business owners could use to gather all the information necessary for annual licenses, and officials could use to review and verify the conditions they will require for annual licenses.

By the time April came around, temporary permits were starting to expire, and the state still wasn’t ready to issue annual licenses yet. They extended the temporary permits of these businesses for another 90 days, enough time to hopefully resolve the issue. California law states that regulators can’t issue new temporary licenses or extend the existing licenses past January 1, 2019, however, so they’re running out of time.

They have yet to issue any annual licenses, but, according to Richard Parrot, head of the Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis division, we can expect the first ones to be issued sometime this month.

There are roughly 6,500 businesses that currently hold temporary licenses across California. Regulators say that they aren’t able to process annual applications for everyone that needs them by the end of 2018, due to lack of resources. Once the temporary licenses start expiring after that, businesses will be forced to shut down until the state can catch up.

There’s hope, however. Senate Bill 1459 will allow the state to issue a new type of provisional license through January 1, 2020. These licenses would last for a full year, without renewal. In order to obtain a provisional license, applicants must currently hold a temporary license for the same business activity and address as is on the application for the provisional license, have submitted fully completed applications for annual licenses and must comply with the mandated track-and-trace system California has in place.

The state will likely continue to issue temporary permits through the end of 2018, issuing provisional licenses as they’re necessary starting on January 1, 2019, according to the spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control, Alex Traverso.

Senate Bill 1459 was supported by most major cannabis groups and unions – such as the California Growers Association and the California Cannabis Industry Association, several counties in California, and the League of California Cities. No one, so far, is on record opposing this bill.

The bill was signed into law on September 27 by Governor Jerry Brown after passing 33-4 in the Senate and 73-1 in Assembly.

After vetoing several cannabis-related bills this legislative season, Brown signed a bill to protect the personal information of those buying recreational marijuana in California. The bill prohibits businesses from disclosing customers’ personal information to any third party without the customer’s consent and from discriminating against those who choose to withhold said permission.

“Cannabis users will finally have their personal information protected in the same manner as other medical information,” according to the author of the bill, Assemblyman Evan Low of the Silicon Valley.

Brown also approved a bill to broaden venue options for marijuana-themed festivals and other such temporary events and a bill allowing veterinarians the option to consider medical marijuana for pets.

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