Colorado has been a pioneer in cannabis legalization, and now the country's other pioneer is turning to Colorado officials for guidance in implementing a regulated system.
California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996 (Colorado followed in 2000), but voters in the Golden State didn't vote to legalize recreational use until last November. And in following Colorado's lead, it's looking to Colorado for help.
Governor John Hickenlooper will testify today, February 14, in front of California's State Governance and Finance Committee on Colorado's experience in implementing a recreational system. At an oversight hearing titled "California Cannabis in a Turbulent Time," Hickenlooper will discuss cannabis taxes and regulatory timelines, according to a statement by the California Senate. He is also expected to talk about his own experiences and lessons learned when Colorado had to create a new regulatory system for marijuana.
Unlike in Colorado, California's medical market operated virtually unregulated for twenty years. At the hearing, local politicians, industry professionals and leaders from the Board of Equalization and California's Department of Food and Agriculture will also speak about the difficulties they see in updating marijuana regulations for their state.
Some California officials are nervous about the impending deadline to set up this taxation structure: Proposition 64 gave the state until January 1, 2018, to put the structure to regulate cannabis in place. That's the same amount of time Colorado had — but California state senator Mike McGuire, who will chair the hearing, has voiced concern about the tight time frame.
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“Proposition 64 put a massive requirement on state marijuana regulators and very little time to accomplish the landslide of rules and regulations mandated by the initiative.... We have to face the facts – it’s not realistic that all of the Prop 64 rules and regulations will be in place by the new year,” McGuire said in a statement. “The all-important Track and Trace program, which verifies taxes and ensures product safety, will not be in place by January 1, and we have to resolve the massive and uneven tax collection process that currently exists throughout the state. I think it’s important that we are transparent and realistic, and that is why we are holding this hearing, to ensure an implementation timeline is put into place over the next several months.”
He hopes Hickenlooper can provide some guidance, and that the hearing will help legislators and state officials better understand tax compliance rates, obstacles and hurdles that retailers will face, as well as how long it takes to implement a track-and-trace system — the equivalent of Colorado's seed-to-sale program.
And McGuire's not alone. "We're grateful that Governor Hickenlooper will be sharing the unique experiences Colorado has witnessed since passing recreational cannabis," California senator Mike McQuire said in a statement. "We look forward to hearing his perspective, and we hope to learn from the Governor about what works and what California can improve upon in the months to come."
The hearing will be live-streamed at senate.ca.gov.