Monday, April 16, 2018
Guest post: "New Database Tracks Local Variation in Implementing Cannabis Legalization in California"
Professor W. David Ball, who has served on California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Regulation, was kind enough to alert me to a new database that details how localities in California are implementing the state's marijuana reform laws. He was even kinder to take up my invitation to write up an account of this resource. Here is his terrific guest post:
California's regulated cannabis market is roughly four months old, but within the statewide framework, there are notable local variations. The ballot initiative that legalized adult-use provided for a strong degree of local control and, as this article details, some areas have been quicker (and more willing) to license activities than others. This database provides details about which activities county and municipal governments have decided to permit (sales, testing, manufacturing, growing, and distributing) for both the medical and adult-use market.
The database (and accompanying article) point out a number of dynamics likely to be replicated in other nascent adult-use markets. First, the statewide framework is usually only the beginning -- localities still have a great degree of control over which geographical areas (and which parts of the new market) will be a part of a regulated cannabis regime. California requires local licensing, but even if it didn't, local governments, via land-use regulations and zoning laws, would still be able to exercise a significant amount of control. Focusing only on inter-state differences fails to capture the significant intra-state differences that exist within a given statewide regime. It may be true that, say, the regulations of the San Francisco market have more in common with Seattle than they do with Fresno.
Second, we should remember that regulation is an ongoing process. Proposition 64, the adult-use legalization initiative, gave California the foundation to enact administrative rule-making. These administrative rules, in turn, will be modified as the market develops. Indeed, one bill currently under consideration in the state assembly would cut cannabis taxes in order to lure price-sensitive customers to the legal market. There is no reason to suspect that the database of local regulations won't change on a regular basis. Some localities might expand the scope and depth of permitted activities, some might contract them. This is why it is important both to have a flexible framework and to ensure that stakeholders (including those not participating in the market as either consumers or producers) remain engaged.
With almost 40 million people and a population and landscape that contains almost every kind of diversity one sees in the country, a closer analysis of these local regulations is sure to yield insights normally associated with the federalist conception of "laboratories of democracy." In this instance, though, the laboratories are to be found within a single state, rather than among the 50 states.