Gov. Jerry Brown Appoints California’s First Medical Marijuana Chief

California has appointed its first pot czar.

Governor Jerry Brown announced on Thursday that he has selected Republican Lori Ajax, who is currently the chief deputy director of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, to take on a newly created job of overseeing the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.

Lori Ajax

According to the Sacramento Bee, this new bureau was conceived last year in an effort to avoid placing regulatory authority of medical marijuana in the hands of the ABC. As the bureau's chief, Ajax will hire and lead a team of 40 to 50 people charged with developing comprehensive rules for the industry—from licensing pot growers to crafting environmental protections. 

The position, which pays $150,636 a year, requires confirmation by the state Senate, but with Ajax's wealth of experience (she has been with the ABC for 20 years) and support from lawmakers and medical marijuana activists alike, it seems likely that she'll make the cut. 

“Our members want to see a functioning bureau as soon as possible,” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by Lori’s experience with state bureaucracy and familiarity with rural counties.”

Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was "cautiously optimistic" about Brown's choice, noting that Ajax had led a delegation to visit his dispensary in 2014.

“For me, that’s reassuring because it showed me that she has an interest in learning about the industry,” DeAngelo said. “And she’s a woman, which is great, because the cannabis industry needs some more diversity.”

(Image Courtesy of Toke of the Town)

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