While Proposition 64’s passage this week legalized adult-use recreational marijuana in California, business interests looking to cash in on cannabis still face a rocky regulatory landscape with piecemeal local laws and new uncertainties at the federal level.

In addition to the statewide ballot measure, some Los Angeles County voters also pondered local marijuana-related initiatives.

Long Beach implemented several taxes on marijuana businesses and repealed the city’s ban on pot shops. Carson voted to implement taxes on marijuana businesses should the city decide to allow them there. Avalon, meanwhile, rejected a measure that would have allowed two dispensaries to operate in the city and taxed them.

Noticeably absent from this group of municipalities: the city of Los Angeles.

That’s a concern for marijuana industry insiders because Los Angeles is without a local permitting system for cannabis businesses – a requirement under both Proposition 64 and medical marijuana regulations passed last year. If no permitting system is in place before the new statewide laws go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, all cannabis retailers, distributors, cultivators, and product manufacturers would be illegal in the city – including existing medical marijuana dispensaries.

“If no action is taken, there will be no legal marijuana activity in Los Angeles,” said Jerred Kiloh, owner of the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in Sherman Oaks and president of the United Cannabis Business Alliance Trade Association.

But developments late this week have led to a renewed sense of optimism among stakeholders. Kiloh said his trade group, which is also backed by labor organizers, submitted a local ballot measure last month with more than 100,000 signatures to the city’s Registrar Recorder’s Office to raise the issue with voters in March. On Nov. 9, the City Council adopted a resolution to put a similar ballot measure before voters.

The ballot measure submitted by the city includes provisions acceding to the trade group’s wishes that dispensaries compliant with current L.A. regulations should receive some priority in the permitting process, which could result in the trade association abandoning its own measure.

“We got all the language in that we thought we needed to protect our position,” Kiloh said. “It came down to the last five minutes before the (submittal) deadline, but we feel pretty good about it.”

Hot commodity

Despite the local regulatory turmoil, Los Angeles remains the focus of the cannabis world in the United States. The region is California’s largest hub for commerce and is expected to be the economic engine of a state pot boom that some analysts project to generate more than $7.6 billion in revenue by 2020, according to research released this week by Arcview Market Research and New Frontier Data.

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