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California’s New Medical Pot Czar Highly Experienced in Regulation—Of Alcohol

Maureen Meehan

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Let’s hope California’s initiative to legalize recreational marijuana passes this coming November, because medical pot is going to be regulated by the state’s first marijuana czar whose experience in the subject matter is somewhat limited.

Meet Lori Ajax, a 21-year veteran of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department.

She has never smoked pot, does not know how it affects people or what it does, cannot remember if she voted for Proposition 215 legalizing MMJ back in 1996 and does not know anyone who needs medical marijuana—although she’s “heard stories of how it has helped folks with cancer.”

Ajax, a Republican appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, has two years to set up California's first system to license, regulate and tax medical marijuana.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ajax said that her background has prepared her to oversee medical marijuana licensing, referring to her years of alcohol regulation and her "stakeholder involvement with the public and prevention groups and the industry and law enforcement."

“Alcohol is a highly regulated product," she explained. "So I think it is beneficial in setting up this structure for medical cannabis.”

The interviewer asked Ajax what her new office would do about Californians who allegedly scam the system and get medical marijuana cards without having real medical conditions.

“I don’t have enough information at this point to tell you whether I think that is happening," she responded. "I think over the course of the next couple of years that is something we are going to have to look at.” 

Many say the new medical pot czar is facing a moving target as California voters are likely to approve an initiative to legalize adult use of marijuana this coming November.

Then, there is California’s unique system in which all cities, towns and counties have the authority to set their own restrictions, which will require dual licensing. Sound confusing? It is.

And, last, but not least, the federal government is always lurking.

But, Ajax is unfazed.

“When it comes to regulation, I really feel like if you can minimize the confusion for folks, and you just have clear, strong, comprehensive regulations, that's going to go a long way with the federal government, but of course nobody can predict things,” she said.

Minimize the confusion for folks. Now, there’s a thought.

(Photo Courtesy of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Department)

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