Audit shows California's Bureau of Cannabis Control is underfunded, understaffed

Audit shows California's Bureau of Cannabis Control is underfunded, understaffed

The California Finance Department has just performed an audit on that state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (responsible for the regulation of cannabis there), and the results are not very good at all. The department found that the Bureau has only staffed about 35% of its open positions, due in part to the fact that it has less office space than it needs.

Additionally, the Bureau isn’t getting the money it needs, or the support it requires from local communities — the group was supposed to get about $200 million in application and licensing fees, but the total collected (as of January 2019) was only $2 million. And the group is has spent $37 million (!), mostly on personnel and consulting.

And what have they done for that money? California’s three different regulatory groups for cannabis also aren’t in regular contact, and while one group might approve a license, other groups either don’t know about it, or aren’t doing what they need to get things done. 1,677 annual licenses had been sent to the Bureau, and of those, only 20 had actually been processed. 4,033 temporary licenses were issued (as the process is much quicker on those), but no licensing fees were gained for those approvals. Meanwhile, the group has gotten 5,680 complaints so far, only about half of which have actually been processed.

In other words, cannabis regulation in California is a complete mess (someone less elegant than we are might even call it a shitshow). Sales are huge and growing, and presumably there’s plenty of tax money coming in on all of those sales (though the illegal market is still flourishing, as taxes are too high in most places) but it sounds like almost none of the work has been done to make sure that the infrastructure is there to support licensing. The audit does admit that the Bureau is still growing, and growing pains are to be expected, and fortunately, there are some findings that will hopefully improve things. A lot of the figures are from back in January as well, so hopefully some progress has been made since then. But even if the group is trying to build the plane in mid-flight, it sounds like a very rough takeoff for the Bureau. Hopefully there will be improvements made, and the state can make sure it’s prepared to handle the market as it continues to grow.

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