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Ep.301: Lori Ajax, CA Cannabis Regulation Chief

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep.301: Lori Ajax, CA Cannabis Regulation Chief

Ep.301: Lori Ajax, CA Cannabis Regulation Chief

California’s Chief of Cannabis Regulation Lori Ajax joins us in a two part interview to share what’s happening with California Cannabis Regulations. In the first part of the interview, recorded in Sacramento California, she notes that she has monthly meetings with all state agencies involved in cannabis regulation. Lori feels that all of California’s involved State Agencies realize the importance of cannabis legalization to the state. She notes that each of the agencies needs one another to ensure success across the board. In the second part of the interview Lori shares updated branding information as well as online resources available to the industry.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: Lori Ajax,

Speaker 2: California, is chief of cannabis regulation. Lori Ajax joins us in a two part interview to share what's happening with California cannabis regulations. In the first part of the interview recorded in Sacramento, California, she notes that she has monthly meetings with all state agencies involved in cannabis regulation. Laurie feels that all of California's involves state agencies, realized the importance of cannabis legalization to the state. She notes that each of the agencies needs one another to ensure success across the board. In the second part of the interview, Laurie shares updated branding information as well as online resources available to the industry. Welcome to cannabis economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Check us out on social with the handle can economy. That's two ends of the word economy, Lori. Ajax. Absolutely. So I mean, you know,

Speaker 1: where do you want to begin as far as how we're doing on our way to January first for instance, what was your day like today? Well, like every day it's, it's, it's very busy.

Speaker 3: Uh, we did meet with all, uh, all the state agencies that are involved in somehow involved with cannabis, so we have monthly meetings with them to brief them on what we're doing, to hear what they're saying just so we're all on the same page and we're all headed on the same path to January one of 2018.

Speaker 1: Okay. And it sounds like you guys are actually working well together, which, uh, you know, for anyone outside would think, well that can't possibly be. What do you think the key is here? Is it just because we know that this is a such a big deal and know that this is such a big opportunity or is it your management? What, what might it be?

Speaker 3: I think it's a few things. One, everybody, all the different state agencies realize how important this is to California. So we all understand that and we actually, I think we need one another to make sure we're all successful. So I think that's the big thing. We have to do this together. It's not just about the bureau. Yes, we're the lead agency, so we're coordinating this, but really we need, we're in this together so when we all want to be successful

Speaker 1: as far as success is concerned, what if folks need to understand as far as what you're doing, what is success?

Speaker 3: So success is, is that we're issuing licenses on January one, 2018 for the short term. Obviously, you know, longterm it's getting folks into the regulated market. But for January one or uh, they were talking to the industry about how we're going to accomplish that. We planned to have our regulations issued sometime probably mid to late November, then the next month in December, accepting applications and then January one issuing the temporary licenses. And so we have some information on our website on what information we're going to be requiring in order to issue a temporary. But I think the big thing for folks to know is that in order to get a temporary you have to have local approval from the city or county where you're conducting cannabis activity. And so for us is making sure we can issue as many temporary. So those folks that are in compliance with the locals,

Speaker 1: what are you hearing from local municipalities a backup to you as far as here's what we would love, you know, to know, or here's what we would love for you to know,

Speaker 3: well, you know, we have some local municipalities that have a Rhombus, a cannabis, a licensing system, and then you have others that have outright banned it and then you have the ones in between that are still trying to catch up and then they're also, you know, want to know what we're doing and you know, it's understandable. They're used to the state taking the lead on things and right now they're waiting to see what is the state going to do because I think in some ways they want to look at what we're doing and then at least incorporate that in their own ordinances. So you've got a mixture out there

Speaker 1: so that it does make it difficult, right? Because you're saying we need to know that you're okay locally and local is saying, all right, well what's happening at the state? So how do we do that dance? I guess what if I'm an operator because that's most of the listenership anyway, what do I need to be doing to, to help my local municipality or you know, how would I bridge that gap so to speak?

Speaker 3: Right. So you want them to obviously to reach out to that local municipality. We were doing that too from our end, but if there's somewhere like a city or county that maybe doesn't have this information I'm providing today, maybe directing to our website, directing them to us, we're happy to answer questions because they think it's really important for the listeners to know that we can only issue those temporaries in those areas that are allowing for it. Right. And it's also important to know if they're dealing with, you know, if they're getting their product from a cultivator that won't be able to get that local approval and won't be able to get that temporary license, they need to start thinking about that now because once we issue that temporary to, let's say a retailer, they can only deal with other cannabis licenses at that point. So they've got to start looking at who they're getting their product from, who they're dealing with business wise, and making sure they also can get that temporary license.

Speaker 1: Lori Ajax,

Speaker 2: California, is chief of cannabis regulation. Lori Ajax joins us in a two part interview to share what's happening with California cannabis regulations. In the first part of the interview recorded in Sacramento, California, she notes that she has monthly meetings with all state agencies involved in cannabis regulation. Laurie feels that all of California's involves state agencies, realized the importance of cannabis legalization to the state. She notes that each of the agencies needs one another to ensure success across the board. In the second part of the interview, Laurie shares updated branding information as well as online resources available to the industry. Welcome to cannabis economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Check us out on social with the handle can economy. That's two ends of the word economy, Lori. Ajax. Absolutely. So I mean, you know,

Speaker 1: where do you want to begin as far as how we're doing on our way to January first for instance, what was your day like today? Well, like every day it's, it's, it's very busy.

Speaker 3: Uh, we did meet with all, uh, all the state agencies that are involved in somehow involved with cannabis, so we have monthly meetings with them to brief them on what we're doing, to hear what they're saying just so we're all on the same page and we're all headed on the same path to January one of 2018.

Speaker 1: Okay. And it sounds like you guys are actually working well together, which, uh, you know, for anyone outside would think, well that can't possibly be. What do you think the key is here? Is it just because we know that this is a such a big deal and know that this is such a big opportunity or is it your management? What, what might it be?

Speaker 3: I think it's a few things. One, everybody, all the different state agencies realize how important this is to California. So we all understand that and we actually, I think we need one another to make sure we're all successful. So I think that's the big thing. We have to do this together. It's not just about the bureau. Yes, we're the lead agency, so we're coordinating this, but really we need, we're in this together so when we all want to be successful

Speaker 1: as far as success is concerned, what if folks need to understand as far as what you're doing, what is success?

Speaker 3: So success is, is that we're issuing licenses on January one, 2018 for the short term. Obviously, you know, longterm it's getting folks into the regulated market. But for January one or uh, they were talking to the industry about how we're going to accomplish that. We planned to have our regulations issued sometime probably mid to late November, then the next month in December, accepting applications and then January one issuing the temporary licenses. And so we have some information on our website on what information we're going to be requiring in order to issue a temporary. But I think the big thing for folks to know is that in order to get a temporary you have to have local approval from the city or county where you're conducting cannabis activity. And so for us is making sure we can issue as many temporary. So those folks that are in compliance with the locals,

Speaker 1: what are you hearing from local municipalities a backup to you as far as here's what we would love, you know, to know, or here's what we would love for you to know,

Speaker 3: well, you know, we have some local municipalities that have a Rhombus, a cannabis, a licensing system, and then you have others that have outright banned it and then you have the ones in between that are still trying to catch up and then they're also, you know, want to know what we're doing and you know, it's understandable. They're used to the state taking the lead on things and right now they're waiting to see what is the state going to do because I think in some ways they want to look at what we're doing and then at least incorporate that in their own ordinances. So you've got a mixture out there

Speaker 1: so that it does make it difficult, right? Because you're saying we need to know that you're okay locally and local is saying, all right, well what's happening at the state? So how do we do that dance? I guess what if I'm an operator because that's most of the listenership anyway, what do I need to be doing to, to help my local municipality or you know, how would I bridge that gap so to speak?

Speaker 3: Right. So you want them to obviously to reach out to that local municipality. We were doing that too from our end, but if there's somewhere like a city or county that maybe doesn't have this information I'm providing today, maybe directing to our website, directing them to us, we're happy to answer questions because they think it's really important for the listeners to know that we can only issue those temporaries in those areas that are allowing for it. Right. And it's also important to know if they're dealing with, you know, if they're getting their product from a cultivator that won't be able to get that local approval and won't be able to get that temporary license, they need to start thinking about that now because once we issue that temporary to, let's say a retailer, they can only deal with other cannabis licenses at that point. So they've got to start looking at who they're getting their product from, who they're dealing with business wise, and making sure they also can get that temporary license.

Speaker 3: So it's not just the, you know, where I am geographically, it's also my entire supply chain I got to be concerned with. Exactly. And those are some things that they can start thinking about now, is this person that I'm working with, are they going to be able to get a temporary license? If not, they may, may need to talk to them about it. Hey, have you talked to the local? So I think we need everybody's help in this to make sure we're all successful. Is that the best thing for me, the operator to do just to send folks to your website or can I do more? Is there, you know, how can we use the folks that are listening as a crutch to help you get across the finish line successfully on January first? Which is really just the beginning anyway. Right? Right. I am.

Speaker 3: So for us, yes, we want to make sure that any local jurisdiction that has questions that were available to answer that, but I think there's a lot they can do on their end to inform the locals on what they're doing. There's also, I'm also the industry, you know, the California cannabis industry associates in California Growers Association. I think those are all good areas to get the word out because that's, I think the main thing is making sure we're getting the word out and we're giving. We're getting credible information out. Um, sometimes we hear rumors like I just heard a rumor that we're issuing licenses like on October 20th, well that's not happening. I think there's a lot of things that are being said that aren't, aren't accurate. So I'll keep the record straight. We won't be issuing licenses prior to January, first of 2018. That's just not gonna happen no matter what you here type of thing.

Speaker 3: Where, how could that rumor mill have gotten started? And I guess I'll lean on your experience being, you know, in public, in public office, so to speak. How does that happen? Where does that any myriad of ways, right? I would imagine. I don't know that I have a uh, a great answer. I don't know. I just know it's, we want to make sure people are getting really accurate information because as it gets closer and I think people are starting to get anxious just like we are at the bureau, I think we're all, you know, there, there is a little bit. We're what we're at 96 days before January one, so people are getting anxious and I think things just get sad and then they take on a life as their own. But, but we were here and I want people to know that we are very responsive. We have our, you know, we ha, we answer our emails, you can call us. We want to make sure they're getting good information.

Speaker 1: Good. And you mentioned a couple of things that I can do now in advance of January first, what about after January? First you said those are the temporary licenses and then we'll talk about longterm. Is there anything I can be doing now in regards to that longterm view?

Speaker 3: Yeah. So we're, we, you will be expected once you get that temporary license, it's good for four months and then during that time the applicant will need to complete the full permanent application package. Uh, once we get that has to happen within the four month period. If for some reason we can't get that application of vetted by the time that temporary expires, if they're full application is in, we can give an extension of 90 days. We don't, we want to make sure we keep people going, right? Um, and then I think what's going to happen next for us, that'll be really important because people are asking, well, what are you going to ask for on that full full application? And we have a lot of that outlined in our draft medical regulation, but next month we're going to a whole host some licensing workshops around the state. We're going to be an la, Riverside and Sacramento and we're gonna have all the agencies that I talked about earlier where we get together. They're all gonna be there to answer people's questions. We'll have a checklist for what people will need for that full application. We're going to try to give them as much information as we know it so that can help them get ready and start gathering the necessary documents and information they need.

Speaker 1: That is fantastic as far as easing confusion, that will certainly help with that medical on top of adult use. Adult use on top of medical. What do I need to know? What are you thinking? What's going through your mind

Speaker 3: specifically? Are you talking about if a retailer wants to do both adult and medical cannabis sales? Yeah, we're still, we're well as you know, a Ab 1:33 removed the requirement of having separate and distinct in the premises definition. So now we're looking at, uh, how does that work? As, as, as we look at it from a regulator's point of view. So we do feel like co location is going to happen for like folks that have similar license types. So if it's the same ownership and it's a retailer, they could have both adult and medical on the same premises. Uh, they'll still have to be separate supply chains specific for medical and adult use, but we think we can accomplish that with the co location. We're still trying to work out some of the details or maybe some additional. There may be some kind of separation we may need of the product. Those haven't been a completely figured out yet because uh, um, we're just dealing with this and, and hopefully we'll have, we'll be able to people more direction on that vehicle.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And it's on your radar. Oh, absolutely. That's a biggie. Yeah. That's something with a bunch of other stuff. I'm sure. Exactly to that end as far as kind of those that have come before, even though prop 15 came before everybody else, folks in the industry need me to say that. Right? Uh, but Colorado, Washington, Oregon, uh, just for folks that are in the neighborhood, I guess, what lessons learned or are you taking. What have you noticed that those states have done that you do want to do that you don't want to do?

Speaker 3: Yeah, it's, we've taught, we have, we still talk to the other states because, you know, even though they've been doing it for several years, they're still making changes to their regulations, still finding things out so it's always valuable to talk to them. So when we look at like Colorado for example, and what they did with their edibles and how, you know, we're, we're looking at what happened with that folks, not really understanding how it works when they ingest edibles and how long it took. So we're looking at making sure we, you know, at least with public health side they side, they have a campaign going right now that really just talks about the effects of cannabis and you know, just having a big, strong public educational campaign campaign on, you know, edible products and, and also looking at strong regulations, making sure our packaging and labeling, making sure it's very clear, people know what they are going to be inhaling or ingesting.

Speaker 3: I think that's very important. Obviously the lab stuff is, is, is uh, is, is a really big issue for folks because we really want to make sure people have safe cannabis. And that we're testing it properly and um, and I know it's gonna, it's, it's, it's one of those things where you talk to the other states and I think they're still perfecting things, but we learn a lot from Oregon and how they rolled out theirs and we're trying to take those, what happened there and make sure that we're incorporating that because, you know, the last time,

Speaker 1: one more piece there, just what do you mean really? Right.

Speaker 3: Well, we want to make sure that we have product on the shelf. You One, right? I mean, I think everybody would like to make sure of that, but at the same time we want to make sure we're, we're, it's safe cannabis that has been tested and so it's putting in those strategies to make sure that we're licensing. Uh, we have enough temporary licenses across the supply chain. So that does not happen.

Speaker 1: There you go. All right, so two final pieces because I know that we don't have a ton of time. What are you drawing from, from your experience to help you through a these days right now? No.

Speaker 3: Well, that's a, that's a good question. Uh, you know, I came from the alcohol industry, so, um, you know, even though it's a completely different product, um, I worked a lot with our stakeholders. I feel I, I'm very good at solving problems and I think that's what's going to help me after, you know, it's one thing to issuing license on day one, right? I think we're, we're in good shape to get that done, but we know there's going to things that are going to happen after day one that we didn't expect or we didn't anticipate and it's just being able to solve problems quickly and find a way to get things done. And I think that's what is going to be in the important part and try not to let bureaucracy get in the way. Just make sure people can continue, especially the people that are trying to get regulated and want to do the right thing. We got to make sure we're assisting them with that.

Speaker 1: To hear the regulator say, make sure not to let bureaucracy get in the way. I feel like that's a good place to start. Right. Three final questions, I'll tell you what they are. I'll ask you them in order. What has most surprised you in cannabis? What has most surprised you in life? And then on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there. I ask everybody that what's most surprised you in cannabis? You're coming from the alcohol industry, right? So I mean, you know, you've worked with, uh, we've, we've said in this industry regulate cannabis like alcohol. So you have a very unique kind of point of view here. What's most surprised you in cannabis?

Speaker 3: More than the actual, the industry itself and the people that I've come across. I just a uh, just a passion for the product and I think, I'm not saying that you don't have that with alcohol, but it just something that I don't think this level of passion, how people are just so excited that they like to tell their story because they've, now that it's legal, they feel like they can really just get out there and talk about it. And, and that's been actually just a, um, a pleasure to work with the industry. They care, they care. And, and that's what energizes us, by the way. I mean, it really does. When, you know, they're counting on you and I care this.

Speaker 1: Have you gotten a chance to see any patients and you know, uh, any of that piece as far as folks affected? Yeah.

Speaker 3: Oh, every. Everywhere I go people come and tell me stories and it just, it just, it just brings you goose bumps of what the things they tell me on what, how this product has helped people that have been very sick. And um, so to be a part of, of, of this whole thing has been just a great honor by the way, for all of us that are involved.

Speaker 1: I appreciate that. What's most surprised you in life? Probably that I'm of regulating candidates, probably them, I, I don't think I ever really had thought that I would be here. What would your folks say if you, uh, you know, back then, right?

Speaker 3: Oh yeah. You know, my dad is 91, my mom's 84, but they are so like they are, they are very happy and they love to like talk about it. So it's, it's, it's, um, it's been, it's just been a surreal almost

Speaker 1: totally, uh, so, and, and it's a big job. So we thank them for putting you here. Final question on the soundtrack of your life. One track, one song that's got to be on a David Bowie and queen under pressure. Look at you, Lori Ajax coming through in every way. Thank you so much and keep on working more behind you. Thank you very much for the second half of our conversation. How are we doing? And, and, uh, what now should folks be doing within the industry in California?

Speaker 4: Well, we're, we're doing well. We are on target tissue licenses on January first. I think, as for your question, does the industry have everything they need? I think they need to see each of the state licensing authorities final regulations which are on target to be released in the next probably three week. So I think that's a really important piece of the puzzle here for everybody.

Speaker 1: Okay. And if I'm doing the math, that means by the end of November we'll have those and then we'll take the month of December to go ahead and make sure that those, a temporary licenses are out there. Yes.

Speaker 4: Yeah, for you, it'll give you an idea of what all the requirements are for each license type and then once those regulations get published then we are going to immediately in December, early December, have our online system available so we can start accepting applications for the temporary.

Speaker 1: Great. And you know, one of the reasons that we made sure to do this followup kind of second half pieces that you guys did rebrand the site and I want to make sure that folks know what they are, know what they will see on the site and know what they're looking for on the site as it stands right now.

Speaker 4: Yeah. So we are now officially the bureau of cannabis control. I think it's our fourth name change, but we plan to keep this name for a while. Uh, and so you'll see we have a new logo, we have our, um, we have all the information that we handed out at the licensing workshops on our website. So there is a lot of information out there. We post on social media, we did add instagram to our twitter and facebook lineup. Uh, so that's all available out there. And then we also have the cannabis portal, which is cannabis.ca.gov. and we have a lot of stuff there too. Um, you know, I have a great communications team and they're gathering all the information from all of the different state agencies that are regulating cannabis and putting it on there. So it's like a one stop shop for, for anybody that's interested in what's going on with cannabis.

Speaker 1: Okay. And that of course is, but as far as operators or even maybe kind of local legislators, uh, how does the portal serve them?

Speaker 4: Well, first of all has, it's gonna. It's going to house all of our regulations once it becomes finalized, all of our press releases and then uh, it's actually, if you need to get in touch with any of the licensing authorities, you can just go to their website from that canvas portal and it also has all the other agencies involved, like the taxing authorities, fish and wildlife, a California highway patrol. So it really is a great way to get to all things cannabis for anybody that's looking for information.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And I, it's, it seems like that's a, this is an obvious way to go with it as far as information. Hey, let's connect all parties. Let's put all the information right here. Is this something that you kind of saw in another place and said, hey, we've got to do it in California or are you guys building this from the ground up?

Speaker 4: Yeah, I think there are some models out there from a, you know, go biz and whatnot of having like a one stop shop. So I think we just thought it would, it's, it's, you know, it's not easy for people to navigate and know, understand who's in charge of what license or what they need to do. So I thought, I think everybody saw a need that this is like having a one portal where we have all the information just made sense and it'll continue to grow. I mean it's since since we started it, it's just we've just continued to improve the content and put more and more out there. So you'll see, I have, I think it's important for people to keep checking back to.

Speaker 1: And that is cannabis.ca dot Gov, right?

Speaker 4: Yes.

Speaker 1: All right. I uh, I'm, I'm taking notes, Laurie. So as far as a early December when folks are, you know, ready to kind of apply for those temporary licenses, this is where they go, is that right?

Speaker 4: So the cannabis portal will get you to, our online system will have that all set up, but we'll also have the, you know, direct website that to get to our, to our online licensing system and it will direct you there. So. And we're going to have that all set up

Speaker 1: right. And then now everything will be digital. I can apply, you know, from wherever, you know, my operation is. I can just go online, apply and find out digitally. Is it, is it all, you know, that easy.

Speaker 4: Well we're, we're hoping it's going to be that easy,

Speaker 1: but I'm not going to have to mail anything. In other words with, with it being such a tight timeline. I'm not going to have to put anything in the, in the mail. I'm not going to have to go down to, you know, the, the beer, I'm not going to have to do anything like that. This will all be kind of Internet based, right?

Speaker 4: That's correct. Unless you to do that, but we'll have paper application for folks that want to mail it. So. But yes, the goal is to be able from your own home to be able to apply for a license, pay, do everything and not have to leave your house.

Speaker 1: Okay. Fantastic. Or a place of business.

Speaker 4: Yes.

Speaker 1: Alright. Anything else that uh, you know, we need you to get back to work? I mean, all of us really are just, you know, on your team. So, uh, I want to kind of let you go, but is there anything that we haven't covered here that, that operators should be thinking about or you know, even municipalities, local legislators, you know, folks that are also working with you on that side of things in college?

Speaker 4: Yeah, I think it's just important to know that everybody involved is just really working hard to make sure, you know, this takes place and we're ready to go on January first and, and really thank everybody that's been helping us and we still encourage people if they do have questions they can contact us and we're happy to answer any questions we can.

Speaker 1: That's it. All right. Fantastic. Lori Ajax. Thank you so much. We've got the new website. We've got the portal. We're ready to go in the beginning of December with the temporary licenses. January first lookout.

Speaker 4: It's pretty exciting, Huh?

Speaker 1: Absolutely can, I mean, yeah, without question. And um, you know, uh, as I said to you in person, I think that we've got the right person for the job here. You know, you, you've, uh, you've demonstrated this in the past, you're demonstrating it now and um, and again we're on your team. How about that?

Speaker 4: Well, I appreciate that. I still got a, we got a little bit to go before the finish line, but um, where, where we're excited about all of this.

Speaker 1: That's it. Do you have a song for the soundtrack of your life today, you, you did mention under pressure last time.

Speaker 4: I feel like, you know, from now until the end of the year is definitely under pressure Queen and David Bowie, I mean, but let's hope like after the first of the year I can come up with a new one. Right?

Speaker 1: The celebration.

Speaker 2: Okay. And there you have Laurie, a jacks. As you can hear in each of those interviews, I am turning out to be a lorry, Ajax man. So I mean, you know, she the regulator saying, make sure not to let bureaucracy get in the way. What else could you ask for it? Very much appreciate Lori's time. Very much. Appreciate Yours. Stay tuned.

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Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.