Temporary licenses for farms in California are expiring before a corresponding number of permanent licenses can be issued, leaving the supply chain for medical cannabis in California in a dangerous situation. Risk of running out of product by summer is a real possibility.
The timeframe for California to issue licenses to replace the temporary ones is taking longer than projected, since it has been over 830 days since voters approved cannabis legalization measures in 2016, yet only nine annual licenses have been issued. Meanwhile, 39 licenses are pending payment, but that price tag can be as high as $44,000.
One main issue holding up the annual licensing process is environmental reviews. These reviews include making sure cannabis meets the requirements set out by the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires cannabis growers to meet the exceptionally high standards that are set. Other agricultural products get a pass on this specific set of rules.
SB 67, a new bill introduced to help provide some leeway for legal cannabis growers trying to transition from a temporary license to an annual one, is focused on helping growers get past that environmental review.
However, officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife say that the cannabis growers themselves are partly to blame. Applications are turned in without full completion of the requirements, meaning they have to be sent back or further communication is needed before the application reaches completed status and can be considered for merit.
All temporary licenses expire in July, and with current projections, only 144 farms out of thousands that have applied will have annual licenses in place. With such a small number of providers, the legal cannabis market can falter and consumers will turn to the still-thriving black market for their marijuana. This will further cripple the legal market, perpetuating the cycle.
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