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Ep.311: Lori Ajax, Chief, Bureau California Cannabis Control

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep.311: Lori Ajax, Chief, Bureau California Cannabis Control

Ep.311: Lori Ajax, Chief, Bureau California Cannabis Control

Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control for California, Lori Ajax returns by phone on the day that the first temporary licenses have been granted. The Bureau is directly responsible for Distribution, Retailer, Laboratory Testing and Microbusiness licenses. Manufacturing licenses are directly granted by the California Department of Public Health and were also on track. Cultivation licenses are being granted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and aiming to be granted just prior to Jan. 1st. At the time of the interview on 12/14/17, Lori takes us through the fact that there are roughly 1,900 applicants in the temporary licensing system and the Bureau is on track to deal with all of them on time. She continues with what to expect between January 1st and July 1st 2018.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: Lori Ajax returns chief of the bureau of Cannabis Control for California. Lori Ajax returns by phone on the date that the first temporary licenses have been granted. Europa is directly responsible for distribution, retail or laboratory testing and micro business licenses, manufacturing licenses, or directly granted by the California Department of Public Health and we're also on track cultivation licenses are granted by the California Department of food agriculture and aiming at being granted just prior to January first at the time of the interview on December 14th, 2017. Lori takes us through the fact that there are roughly 1900 applicants in the temporary license. Six system at that. The bureau is on track to deal with all of them are on time. She continues with what to expect between January first and July. First 2018. 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.

Speaker 3: I'm really good. Thank you.

Speaker 1: And so you were saying I, I'm the first person that you're speaking to today. Uh, besides the nation of Canada. Is that what, what did I miss there?

Speaker 3: Oh, you know, you know, Canada is getting ready to, to start a licensing program about seven months. So they were just talking to us about what California is doing and we were talking about it looks like we're going to be issuing our first state cannabis licenses today. We're really excited

Speaker 1: at graduations. I am excited for you and everybody. You know what I mean?

Speaker 3: Oh, we're, we're thrilled that you. You don't know. Everybody's so excited about this.

Speaker 1: Okay. So then would this be a distribution licenses, retailer, licenses, lab licenses, microbusiness

Speaker 4: licenses, all of them. What are we talking about? Let's jump in.

Speaker 3: Yeah, we're talking about the licenses at the bureau this year is showing. So you're, you named them off right there, right.

Speaker 4: Okay, good. So each and every one. They're all live today, but that doesn't mean that they are. Excuse me, being issued today, that doesn't mean that they are alive today, is that correct?

Speaker 3: That's correct, yes. They will all have an effective date of January, first of 2018, but we're starting to get them out right now so people know who was going to be approved for January first.

Speaker 4: Perfect. And so when I received my license today, thank you so much laurie. Ajax end and team of course. But that's an important distinction. How are you letting folks know besides the, you know, what I read on the website that really, you know, don't do anything prior to January first with this license.

Speaker 3: Well, we've probably said that front of many times or like a broken record here about the need for state licenses on January first of 2018. So we've been communicating that a lot whenever we're at our conferences and meetings and of course that's on our website. So, um, I think most people know that at this point or at least we hope so.

Speaker 1: Lori Ajax returns chief of the bureau of Cannabis Control for California. Lori Ajax returns by phone on the date that the first temporary licenses have been granted. Europa is directly responsible for distribution, retail or laboratory testing and micro business licenses, manufacturing licenses, or directly granted by the California Department of Public Health and we're also on track cultivation licenses are granted by the California Department of food agriculture and aiming at being granted just prior to January first at the time of the interview on December 14th, 2017. Lori takes us through the fact that there are roughly 1900 applicants in the temporary license. Six system at that. The bureau is on track to deal with all of them are on time. She continues with what to expect between January first and July. First 2018. 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.

Speaker 3: I'm really good. Thank you.

Speaker 1: And so you were saying I, I'm the first person that you're speaking to today. Uh, besides the nation of Canada. Is that what, what did I miss there?

Speaker 3: Oh, you know, you know, Canada is getting ready to, to start a licensing program about seven months. So they were just talking to us about what California is doing and we were talking about it looks like we're going to be issuing our first state cannabis licenses today. We're really excited

Speaker 1: at graduations. I am excited for you and everybody. You know what I mean?

Speaker 3: Oh, we're, we're thrilled that you. You don't know. Everybody's so excited about this.

Speaker 1: Okay. So then would this be a distribution licenses, retailer, licenses, lab licenses, microbusiness

Speaker 4: licenses, all of them. What are we talking about? Let's jump in.

Speaker 3: Yeah, we're talking about the licenses at the bureau this year is showing. So you're, you named them off right there, right.

Speaker 4: Okay, good. So each and every one. They're all live today, but that doesn't mean that they are. Excuse me, being issued today, that doesn't mean that they are alive today, is that correct?

Speaker 3: That's correct, yes. They will all have an effective date of January, first of 2018, but we're starting to get them out right now so people know who was going to be approved for January first.

Speaker 4: Perfect. And so when I received my license today, thank you so much laurie. Ajax end and team of course. But that's an important distinction. How are you letting folks know besides the, you know, what I read on the website that really, you know, don't do anything prior to January first with this license.

Speaker 3: Well, we've probably said that front of many times or like a broken record here about the need for state licenses on January first of 2018. So we've been communicating that a lot whenever we're at our conferences and meetings and of course that's on our website. So, um, I think most people know that at this point or at least we hope so.

Speaker 4: Yes, exactly. All right, well then let's shift over and we'll probably come back. But as far as the California Department of Public Health and manufacturing licenses, understanding that that is a, you know, a friend of yours and not necessarily on your particular desk, what can you share with us about licenses and where we are with those?

Speaker 3: Yeah. They're, they're also accepting licenses. Um, they have been and I believe they, they may be issuing a temporary uh, this week too. Yeah. So it's, it's, it's great news.

Speaker 4: Alright. So we are, we are on our way and then of course let's just make sure to, to finish off here with cultivation licenses which are not being issued, that it never was a plan to be issued before January first. Is that correct?

Speaker 3: Yeah, I believe a food and ag culture, they're going to have their online system up and running fairly soon. I think you're going to see some more information on that next week.

Speaker 4: Got It. But they will not be issuing. There is no expectation for them to issue temporary license prior to January first.

Speaker 3: You know, I, you know, I, I'm, I'm not quite sure on that. I think they are trying to get those prior to January first. Yes, we were all, we're all trying to get as many issues as possible because we think it's important that people know who has a temporary when we start up on January first 2018 and then we'll be continuing to issue those licenses as we get applications.

Speaker 4: Okay. And so that brings me to the question of if I sent you an application and don't receive my temporary license before January first, what does that mean?

Speaker 3: Well, it means that you wouldn't be able to engage in any commercial cannabis activity

Speaker 4: [inaudible]. So you know, how can I kind of gauge whether I should expect my temporary license today or maybe next week or you know, maybe in the next couple of weeks before January first. Meaning if I don't receive it today, does that mean I don't have one and I've got to call Lori.

Speaker 3: So we're just excited because we got our first batch that we're issuing today, but we're going to continue to be issuing throughout the rest of the year and a lot depends on making sure we have the required information. We need for the temporary, so of course the big one is, is making sure you have a license permit or other authorization from the local jurisdiction where you're operating and so each time we get an application and that's attached to the application, we then have to notify the local jurisdiction and they have 10 days to respond to us. So the sooner we can get that information to the bureau and the sooner we can get that notification out and start that 10 day clock ready.

Speaker 4: Okay. Fantastic. So I should have already been on top of this. If I wasn't for some reason I'm going to bcc.ca.gov. and you know, kind of clicking on online licensing, right?

Speaker 3: Yes.

Speaker 4: I had a little, a question for you. It says that uh, registering on the bureau of cannabis control, the clear portal is only necessary for individuals applying online for a license and slash or a licensed maintaining their license. Why is the use of only there is that, am I being nitpicky or is there a reason for that?

Speaker 3: Yeah, we want to make sure that people, that we require people to become a registered user in order to apply for a license, so if they don't want to become a registered user and they just want to, for example, file a complaint, they can do that without registering and getting a login, a username and password, but if they want to apply for a license, they have to first become a registered user.

Speaker 4: Sure. Understood. That does clear it up. I very much appreciate that. Okay, so as far as. Yeah,

Speaker 3: and I'm sorry. So you can also use our. We're going to have a, our online portal and once we start issuing those licenses, people can look that up if you don't have to be a registered user to do that either.

Speaker 4: Okay. And that brings us to why not while we're talking about a cannabis.ca.gov, that's the portal that you're speaking of, correct?

Speaker 3: Well yeah, that is one of our portals in the online clear system, there's going to be a search factor where you can search for licenses and see where people have been issued licenses. And so for that part of the, the uh, website for online system, uh, you can do that without being a registered user.

Speaker 4: Got It. Okay. And I searched for my license essentially the, the, you know, where it is in the process on BCC.ca.gov. and to make sure that we do talk about cannabis.ca dot Gov, you know, it says California cannabis portal. What is that for? You know, what, what does that portal for?

Speaker 3: So that portal, it's really, we've, we've made it a one stop shop for everything. Cannabis. So you're going to find a, all the different agencies that are involved in cannabis regulation at the state. We have information on there, uh, how to reach them there, there a link to their website and then you know, all, all the things that we had at our licensing workshops. So all the documents for all the different state agency. It's all on that website. So it's just a simple way for people if they're not sure where to go, that's a good place to start.

Speaker 4: There we go. And it's got the calendar of agency events. All of the agencies are on there. It's got partners. It's got it. Really. It does have a every single thing. So you know, if you're confused, just kind of toggle back and forth between BC.ca dot Gov and cannabis.ca dot Gov, right?

Speaker 3: Yes. And it has our countdown clock in case you need to be reminded how far away we are.

Speaker 4: Yeah. Sadly I was watching that for a little bit. It

Speaker 3: keeps us on our toes here at the bureau.

Speaker 4: Yeah, exactly. This is what that is when it's happening. Um, so just before we talk about January, first you take us through, um, you know, the fact that you are issuing licenses today, since podcast land knows no time. It's December 14th. That is a Thursday. Um, is this a head of where you thought you'd be? Are you on time for yourself? You know, where are you as far as timeline management with your own expectations?

Speaker 3: Where are we? Are we think we're probably ahead of where we thought we would be at because you know, when you release an online system and that was just last Friday, you know, you're not sure if there's gonna be some issues or problems. And really we've, we've had very few so, and we've had great applications come in where they've, we have everything we needed, we've heard back from a local. So yeah, I think we're a little ahead of schedule than we thought. So that's, I think we're just really excited about that.

Speaker 4: Aside from the fact that there were not the, you know, the technical issues that could have happened. I, I, I'm trying not to jinx the whole thing here. Um, what else? What else would you attribute that to? I mean, I know that you've just got to experience being an organized regulator. Uh, so that helped us. I knew that going in. Um, what else would you attribute the fact that we're kind of maybe a little bit ahead of ourselves?

Speaker 3: Well, I, I have great staff. We hired a group just really outstanding people who work hard. We're all working weekends. We're all working late at night just to make sure this gets done. And obviously it's the, the collaboration between the other licensing authorities. We're all working together and then, you know, a lot of, you know, help we've gotten from the stakeholders themselves, a lot of great feedback. So I, you know, it really is a, it was really a team effort here that we're [inaudible] everybody I think wanted us to be successful and um, uh, that, that was, you know, a, a great thing, uh, throughout this, the last couple of years.

Speaker 4: Yeah, no, certainly. I mean it's, the entire industry at this point is, well, at least the entire industry that I care about, you know, folks that are interested in doing, uh, doing this the right way. Um, are, you know, hey, let's go ahead and do this. Uh, you know, at a certain point everybody Kinda got on the same page. Speaking of getting on the same page. I, I have just a couple of questions again before we get to January, first, number one, and I think it's only two of them, but as far as licensed types along the supply chain and uh, you know, m licensed types and otherwise, how, how are we, you know, uh, working together, not working together. Can you explain what is expected from licensed types working with each other or, or otherwise?

Speaker 3: So once he started, once those licenses become effective, then anybody that has a state license, they're only going to be able to conduct business with other state licensees. So obviously it's really important that we make sure that we're issuing enough licenses across the supply chain and geographically, you know, have that spread out across the state. So, you know, we're going to be keeping an eye on that over the next couple of weeks. And I think the expectation right now is, is that people read our regulations, um, they understand what's expected. I think we realize this is going to take some time for people to get in compliance with everything in those regulations because there is a lot. Um, and then knowing what that transition period, so we have created a transition period for, for the retailers and the distributors that when we licensed them, they're going to have retail product in, in, in inventory that might not meet all the state requirements and so they have a six month window where they can deplete that inventory. So I think just reading up on that and of course asking us questions.

Speaker 4: Yeah. So six months from January first product on shelves, I've got that, I've got six months to clear that, which, uh, that feels fair, you know?

Speaker 3: Yeah. For, I mean for the most part there's a c, you know, that whatever you have in stock with the exception of a couple of items, you can go ahead and deplete that. And, and we think that that gives ample time for them to do that in that six months.

Speaker 4: And not to get too far into the weeds, but as far as with a couple of exceptions, what can you share there?

Speaker 3: Yeah. So if you do have a product that doesn't mean meet the 10 milligrams of thc per serving, then you won't be able to sell that because that is in the statute. And then if there is product that is not already in child resistant packaging, then it will have to go into some kind of child resistant packaging before it's sold at retail.

Speaker 4: Got It. Okay. So I don't have to change that product. I can still sell it. I just have to change the packaging. And then the 10 milligrams that make sense to me as far as you said is as long as they are a state, if they've got state licenses, if I've got a medical license, you know, or an adult use license, can I, you know, as far as the supply chain partners, can I commingle those are not necessarily.

Speaker 3: Yeah, the we've, we've allowed. Because we know once we start issuing those adult use license, there's, there is no way for them to get any kind of inventory because there is no adult use market right now. So we are allowing that. Whether you're an a license or an m, y says during that six month period you're allowed to go ahead and if you're an adult, use retail or you could buy from a distributor that has m, m, a medical license.

Speaker 4: Got It. But, you know, as of July first I've got to be all with Aes or all with ems.

Speaker 3: That's correct. You, you, you either have both licenses or you choose having one or the other, right.

Speaker 4: There you go. Okay. So that brings us, as we talk about the supply chain to a question, which is, is probably not something you decided on, but I'm gonna ask you as far as the, the excise tax being collected from the middle of the supply chain being collected from the distributors as opposed to either the cultivators or the retailers. Um, can you just kind of square the circle on, on why we're doing it that way or.

Speaker 3: Well, you're right, I, I didn't make that decision that was in the statute. So that's what the statutes require. So, um, and I know we've heard from a lot of distributor, I think there's still a lot of concern on how that's all going to work and so, um, I think what we're, you're going to see all of this is really just trying to make sure we all understand what that, what the law says, and then I think working together with the taxing authorities and the licensing authorities and trying to do what we can to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Speaker 4: Okay, fair enough. I think that that is the answer from you in your position and that makes sense to me in my position. Okay, fine. So January, first through July first we've kind of outlined at least a few things that need to happen. What else haven't we discussed that must happen within that month transition time?

Speaker 3: Well, one thing we didn't talk about is we're issuing temporary licenses right now. And, and, and by the way, it's important to know there's no cost to apply for a temporary, there's no license fee and there's no application fee. So we, I really want your listeners to know, please apply. So yeah, so the temporaries only good for the 120 days, so during that 120 days in order for you for us to continue or give them an extension on that temporary you must apply for the annual license. So I think it is important to keep those timelines. We may not get to that annual license within that 120 days, but if we have that annual license submitted, then we can extend an extension of 90 days. So to keep people operating.

Speaker 4: Got It. When do I need to apply for that? You know, what are you calling them instead of temporary license?

Speaker 3: The annual life

Speaker 4: annual license. Oh, when do I need to apply for that annual license?

Speaker 3: Eight sometime whenever we make your temporary license effective. So it's January one. Then within that four month period, anytime during that four month period, you've got to submit your annual license application to the bureau.

Speaker 4: Understood. So I can give it right back to you on January first. If I get my temporary license tomorrow from you or even today, can I apply for my annual license before January first? It's a nuance

Speaker 3: we can totally can.

Speaker 4: Great. So as soon as I get my temporary license, I should be applying for my annual license,

Speaker 3: you know, I, I, you know, I'm not going to eat. You don't have to. I think it's a good idea and, but at least at least start getting everything you need for that annual license. So, you know, I, I wouldn't suggest waiting till the end of the 120 days, but, you know, and, and that way if there's any problems or anything, we have plenty of time to communicate with the applicant on what we need. And again, we were really here to answer any questions people have because we know it's none of this is, you know, this is new to everybody.

Speaker 4: Excellent. What other questions as you say, it's new to everybody. What questions have come up, you know, uh, since the last time I spoke to you, maybe the, let's say it's a couple months, uh, from the industry that have surprised you. What, what are some good questions that have been asked that you've been answering?

Speaker 3: Huh? Well, I, we get asked a lot of questions. Um, I'll go back to the temporary license being free. I think people are surprised on that. It actually is a, but for the annual license there is a thousand dollar application fee and that's payable at the time you apply for the annual but the licensee is not going to be payable to the bureau until we say we're going to approve the license. So been I think people get confused about

Speaker 4: how much does that.

Speaker 3: Uh, it depends on all of our fees are listed in our regulation. It is all there and it's based on the license type and the size of your business. So you just go to that chart and you and, and, and put in the size of your business and we'll pop up what you'll need to pay.

Speaker 4: Perfect. I only have to do the 1000 upfront though, which is more expensive than it would have been, but a lot less expensive than it will be, right?

Speaker 3: Yes. And there is no application fee for the temporary. There was a lot of confusion. There were people thought they had to do an application fee for the temporary, you don't need that. And then just reminding people for the temporary we, we need that license permit or other authorization from the local jurisdiction and then we have to notify them, give them 10 days to respond, but if the local jurisdiction wants to, to respond before the 10 days, that's great too. And then once we get that, then then we're able to issue the license.

Speaker 4: Great. Okay. So as far as distributors, retailers, labs, microbusinesses, can you share with us how many licenses you are a temporary licenses you are putting out there today? Do you have a number on that or.

Speaker 3: Uh, I, I will have a number on that fairly soon. And the bureau's or a release a. we'll have a press release so I don't have that quite yet, but we will keep an eye out.

Speaker 4: Got It. And just to press, is it in the hundreds or thousands or do you have a rough kind of.

Speaker 3: It is, it is under a hundred staff. It isn't bad. Fair enough. But I will say this, if this encouraging you, we have over 1900 registered users that are in some part of the process of the application.

Speaker 4: Yeah. That's essentially what I'm asking. Okay, great. So day one, it's under 100. We've got about 2000 folks in the system somewhere. We'll see what happens with them that that's kind of the size and scope of what I was looking for. That makes sense to me. Okay,

Speaker 3: well continue. I will continue throughout everyday we're going to be issuing licenses. So this is just really putting it out there saying, hey, here's the first release.

Speaker 4: Got It. Okay. Yeah, no. So it's not everyone in the system, you're not getting those all on day one. That's fair. I appreciate that. Uh, you know, a clarification on your part. All right, well

Speaker 3: we're going to have more than what you see today, you know,

Speaker 4: but if you're not in the, you know, if you don't have, if you've not registered on the site and you're not one of those 1900 people and you're doing business now, get to the site please. You know?

Speaker 3: Yeah. That would be absolutely. That needs to happen.

Speaker 4: That's it. Okay, perfect. So you and I, as we said, are talking on a Thursday, uh, December 14th. This goes up on a Monday, December 18th. So, um, you know, very much appreciate your time. I really, I can't wait to talk to you after January first. Do you have any kind of parting words? I feel like we've, you know, we've, we've asked you everything and you've answered everything. Any other thoughts or suggestions, you know, advice to, to everybody?

Speaker 3: Well, I think, um, I think from the bureaus were just actually just relieved to be at this point and so far so good. So, um, I think it's just one of those things were so looking forward to January first and we're excited to share what we're doing and looking forward to talking to you again.

Speaker 4: Fantastic. Then all I'll say here is I guess happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. A Happy Kwanzaa also, if you don't believe in any of that, you know, a happy holiday season, you know, uh, have not celebrating anything to you if you'd prefer that.

Speaker 3: Are you same to you?

Speaker 4: Yes,

Speaker 3: leave me speechless.

Speaker 4: It's my open minded way of, of, you know, discussing this holiday season. I think it might be easier just to say hey, happy new year, you know?

Speaker 3: Yeah, there you go. And I think it is going to be a happy new year. So there you go.

Speaker 4: Absolutely. Lori Ajax is on the job. Thank you so much for your time. As always, Lori, really appreciate speaking with you, you know, fantastic job to date. Thank you so much for your time and looking forward to talking to you after January first.

Speaker 3: Right, great.

Speaker 1: And there you have Laurie Ajax ahead of schedule and it's not as though she's a person that is going to take things lightly and make things easy for herself. So congratulations to her and the team that she's put together. Congratulations to the industry for at least having 1900 licenses in the system. Get Yours in there if you need it. Thanks to Laurie, thanks to you. 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.