California Casts a Cloud Over Pot-Legalization Drive

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The Associated Press calls 2018 “a 12-month champagne toast for the legal marijuana industry as the global market exploded and cannabis pushed its way further into the financial and cultural mainstream.” California tops a long list of states and countries that relaxed their laws. But the Los Angeles Times is being a bit of a buzzkill, reporting on many problems in the rollout of the nation’s largest legal marketplace of recreational marijuana.

“Retailers and growers say they’ve been stunted by complex regulations, high taxes and decisions by most cities to ban cannabis shops,” the Times reports. Far fewer cannabis shops have sought licenses than expected and tax revenue is falling far short of projections. Many residents have complained to city governments and courts about pot businesses they see as nuisances, and police chiefs are raising concerns about crime triggered by the marijuana trade. As legalization supporter Gavin Newsom takes office as governor, legislators hope to send him a number of bills next year to provide banking for the pot industry, ease the tax burden on retailers and crack down on sales to minors. But a bigger fix may be needed. “The cannabis industry is being choked by California’s penchant for over-regulation,” said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a pro-legalization group. “It’s impossible to solve all of the problems without a drastic rewrite of the law, which is not in the cards for the foreseeable future.”

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