A recent pandemic has sparked interest in the idea of using cannabis to treat some of the symptoms of an upcoming pandemic.  Of course, for the last decade, we’ve been told that cannabis is a deadly drug with no medical application. But, in the last year or two, several governments have introduced regulations to allow for the use of cannabis to treat symptoms of an upcoming influenza pandemic.  We’ve all seen the same reports: 1. Cannabis kills/cripples/harms you in other countries it is legal 2. You can’t use cannabis in most of the Western World 3. Cannabis is a gateway drug 4. Cannabis is the devil’s weed 5. Cannabis is the best medicine on

The number one fear citizens of the planet have today is that the world will end. According to recent polls, this fear is shared by everyone under the age of 35. But how many of these self-proclaimed apocalypticists have actually done their homework on the subject? The answer, it turns out, is not many.

In the early 2020s, California’s legal marijuana industry, struggling to stabilize itself amid a sea of confusing and often burdensome regulations, high taxes, a growing black market, and numerous business failures, hoped the state government would step in and ease some of its burdens.

Then Covid struck and everything was suspended while the state focused on managing the pandemic and wildfires. Fortunately, state and local governments have declared cannabis a necessary business, otherwise it could have been a disastrous year. The problems remained, but were somewhat mitigated by the increase in sales. Although the industry is still struggling and the economy is recovering, all hope is back for an early 2020 this year.

Progress has been made. One of the biggest problems facing the industry is that the vast majority of legal cannabis businesses have temporary licenses that expire next year. If the government does nothing, many of them will go bankrupt. Fortunately for the industry, the legislature passed a bill last week that extends the temporary permits until 2025. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the bill into law.

But the problems remain. In a letter to legislative officials, the California Cannabis Industry Association said it could not support the bill because it did not include provisions for cannabis businesses in different counties with their own regulatory systems and licensing requirements. The CCIA emphasized Calaveras, Mendocino, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo counties.

According to the governor’s office, about 8,600 cannabis businesses, representing more than 80 percent of the legal industry in the state, operate under temporary licenses rather than permanent, renewable licenses. This makes the future of these companies uncertain, and it makes it even harder to attract scarce capital. Temporary permits are issued to businesses that have not yet completed an environmental assessment under California’s stringent Environmental Quality Act. In June, the state legislature approved Newsom’s budget proposal to provide $100 million in grants to local governments to help cannabis businesses comply with CEQA and obtain permanent licenses.

But that doesn’t help companies that won’t meet the 2022 deadline. The bill, which extends the deadline for much of the state to 2025, disregards a number of common practices that lead agencies use to comply with CEQA when issuing permits and licenses for commercial cannabis activities, CCIA complains in its letter. In addition, this bill imposes an unworkable and unrealistic timetable on local jurisdictions that must process large numbers of cannabis licenses, which could result in thousands of existing cannabis businesses with temporary licenses not complying with state law and becoming ineligible to renew their temporary licenses.

The issue is likely to come up again when the Legislature meets in August. The CFIC and its allies are optimistic that these issues will be resolved.

But even if the bill passes, CEQA compliance will still be a daunting and costly task for many cannabis businesses and producers, especially the smaller ones. Given the high taxes, stringent regulations and low profit margins facing the industry, some companies will not be able to meet the requirements. All these problems deter entrepreneurs and financiers from entering the sector.

Not that it’s a simple problem. The unregulated cannabis industry can do enormous damage to the environment – sucking up scarce water and spraying dangerous pesticides everywhere, for example. That’s why environmental groups like the Sierra Club oppose the extension of temporary permits.

But this poses the same problem as the high state tax burden: It discourages the legal trade of marijuana, which in turn encourages the black market to continue operating. And those who grow weed on the black market care far less about the environment than those who grow it legally.

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