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California’s "weed apocalypse" hit at the stroke of midnight on Sunday, leaving licensed cannabis dispensaries across the Golden State stuck with a shortage of compliant products, long lag times at testing labs, and mountains of marijuana that must now be destroyed.
In accordance with the state’s new rules and regulations for legal reefer, starting yesterday, every bud, infused beverage, cartridge, and edible must now be certified by a state-approved testing laboratory, sealed in childproof packaging, and comply with state dosage limits.
According to the Associated Press, nearly 150 marijuana companies that make up the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA) sent a joint letter to Governor Jerry Brown on Friday begging him to extend the deadline, warning that the industry could suffer up to $400 million in losses from unsold products. But by Saturday afternoon, it was clear that those pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
"We issued our emergency regulations back in November, and at that time we were pretty clear about the fact that there would be a six-month transition period for retailers to use up their existing supply. We felt that was a sufficient amount of time to deplete stock on hand and adapt to California's new rules," California Bureau of Cannabis Control spokesman Alex Traverso told the AP.
For Golden State canna-businesses that have spent the past few weeks trying to sell off backstock of non-compliant marijuana at deep discounts, the long-awaited regulations still came too quickly. With all of the state’s untested or improperly packaged weed now illegal to sell through state-sanctioned channels, distributors and dispensaries will have to either compost or literally burn thousands of pounds of pot.
“Sacramento is seeing possibly up to 8,000 pounds of product that will need to be destroyed,” said Josh Drayton, spokesperson for the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA), to Wired.
Adding insult to injury, those same pot shops now required to light up their stash without a pipe or paper are having an increasingly hard time keeping shelves stocked with state-approved product.
Despite a firm deadline at the end of California’s six-month grace period for legal weed, the high price of compliant packaging and long lag times at testing labs has sparked an immediate product shortage that some ganjapreneurs say could cause them to close up shop altogether, sending previously legal customers back to the black market.
"Customers and patients will turn to illicit market retailers and delivery services who will still have an abundance of products for sale. Licensed retailers will be forced to shut down," reads the letter from UCBA.
Industry insiders expect California’s legal cannabis market to reach full strength in a matter of years, and while the recent changes have caused uncertainty and headaches for dispensary owners and customers alike, Drayton argues that those growing pains are better experienced sooner than later.
“We have to remember that yes, that is going to be a growing pain we are going to have to deal with,” Drayton told Wired. “But ultimately Prop 64 passed through wanting to prioritize public safety and public health.”