With little fanfare, the state of California released its revised cannabis industry regulations last week.
The updated regs are largely seen as a baby step between the initial rules released late last year and what will become the final regulations later this year. The latter are largely considered shrug-worthy.
"The first step that Neil Armstrong took on the moon, everybody noticed, but by step No. 43, nobody really cared anymore," cracked California Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily.
What is noteworthy about the new rules from the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Public Health is that they allow companies with medical licenses to continue to do business with those holding only adult-use, recreational licenses rather than requiring a separation, which would have been a huge disruption to the industry. Of special interest to Humboldt County is a provision requiring that if a product is branded as being from a specific county, 100 percent of the cannabis used in it must be from said county.
The new regulations also outlaw what industry folks refer to as the "ice cream truck" delivery model, in which someone can load up a delivery truck with all kinds of cannabis products to have on hand as orders are placed online and a delivery driver cruises through town. Instead, delivery drivers now must receive orders and stock their vehicles at a brick-and-mortar location before making the rounds. There are some other tweaks — like allowing multiple license holders in a single facility to use the same break rooms and bathrooms — that are generally considered to be industry-friendly.
But the big changes remain down the pipeline. Most notably, there's the looming July 1 deadline, after which all cannabis products sold legally in California must pass stringent laboratory tests for potency, molds and pesticides, with products that fail testing facing the possibility of being destroyed. There's an open question as to what will happen to the products left in dispensaries' inventories that haven't undergone lab testing. Many dispensaries stockpiled products prior to the new state regulations coming into effect Jan. 1 and are now lobbying the state to allow them to have those same products — all grown and produced prior to the new regulations taking effect — lab tested to see if they are suitable for sale under the new paradigm, but state regulators have yet to decide the issue.
Chris Walsh, an industry analyst and editorial vice president of MJBizDaily, meanwhile, reported at the Marijuana Business Conference in New Orleans this month that legal cannabis sales in the United States are expected to increase 50 percent this year, jumping to between $8 billion and $10 billion.
And, he added, there's an employment surge accompanying all these sales, with the industry now employing as many as 160,000 full-time workers — roughly six times the number of coal miners as are currently working in the country. And for those keeping score at home, the United States now has more full-time employees in the cannabis sector than employed librarians or kindergarten teachers.
But Walsh didn't stop there in his quest to quantify the economic power of the budding cannabis industry. Instead, he noted that cannabis sales revenue was nearly nine times that of Oreo cookies and almost on par with that of Netflix subscriptions. And Walsh prognosticates that with the addition of 2018 recreational sales in California, cannabis could surpass McDonald's U.S. sales figures this year.
Let's break this down a bit. According to a 2017 survey by Statista, 5.64 million respondents said they had eaten eight or more 36-cookie packages of Oreos within the last 30 days, which averages out to at least 9.6 cookies a day. In 2017, according to Tech Crunch, Netflix subscribers in the United States watched more than 500 million hours of content a week, or a daily average of about an hour and 23 minutes apiece. McDonald's, meanwhile, boasts of selling 75 hamburgers a second.
What's this all mean? Well, it appears if there's one thing Americans may love more than artificial snack foods, binge watching television series and gorging on fast food, it might just be getting high AF.
Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.