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California Officials Rush To Draft Regulations For $7 Billion State Marijuana Industry Before 2018 Deadline

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With the November 2016 passage of Proposition 64, the marijuana industry found validation from the largest state in the nation. Now, the state is scrambling to create regulations for the $7 billion industry as the January 1, 2018, deadline approaches. “We’re building the airplane while it’s being flown,” state Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat representing Healdsburg, said, notes the San Francisco Chronicle. “I believe some departments will be fully operational by January 2018 but, if we’re being honest, it’s going to be difficult to get everything done by then.”

"It's taking so long to get the draft regulations out there," Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, told LA Weekly. "It wouldn't surprise me if they're late. Furthermore, there's every indication the legislature will pass some more bills altering the regulatory system this year, which could require a mid-stream adjustment that would further push legal sales down the line."

According to the Associated Press, the state's lead pot regulator, Lori Ajax, said that she and her 11-person team are indeed facing challenges, but can and will (and must) be ready for the January 1 deadline. She added, "We're small but mighty."

Under law established by Prop. 64, some 20 new types of licenses will need to be created, regulating everything from marijuana farmers to home-delivery services and pot retail dispensaries. However, current estimates see a potential $1 billion in tax revenue for the state from the newly-legalized industry.

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But one question still looms in the minds of state regulators and marijuana advocates alike: federal drug policy.

"If Trump sends in the feds to shut down dispensaries, it might not make sense to issue licenses," Lynne Lyman, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped draft Prop.64, told LA Weekly. "To me that's a much bigger question mark."

“Good people don't smoke marijuana,” President Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April 2016, reports Politico. He added that pot poses a "very real danger" and it is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”

“Part of the challenge here is that the wild card is the president,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, added in December. “I think it’s unlikely that a President Trump takes a stand and reverses this trend that would put him out of step with his constituents. He’s not likely to do anything to alienate himself with millions of his supporters.”

In the meantime, Ajax and her team is hard at work completing California's regulation standards in the months remaining, notes the Associated Press. Ajax concluded, "We're confident that we can get this accomplished."