California Dispensaries Display Empty Shelves Due to New Regulations

If you’re having a hard time finding marijuana on the shelves in California, you’re not alone, and you can blame the new regulations. California’s testing, packaging, and serving regulations kicked in across the state on July 1 and, since that time, cannabis products have been hard to find.

Here’s what’s been going on.

Cannabis Testing

Starting July 1, all California cannabis products required testing for pesticides and molds. The problem is that there are few testing facilities that have been approved by the state—the state has only granted 31 temporary licenses for labs compared to 599 manufacturing licenses and 3,105 cultivation licenses.

What does this mean? There’s a massive bottleneck of product at the testing level, which is forcing dispensaries to display mostly empty shelves. And if you thought that old product could fill in the gap, you’d be wrong. All cannabis products that don’t meet the testing requirements are basically trash.

There’s a huge shortage. As Jerred Kiloh, president of the United Cannabis Business Association told USA Today, “I’m getting pictures every day of retailers that went from 45 strains to five.”

Regulations Lead to Empty Shelves in California Dispensaries

The other struggle for the cannabis industry is on the testing end. Not only are labs packed to capacity with product, but also the new testing rules are incredibly stringent and require longer processing times. For example, the regulations now require tests for:

  • 66 residual pesticides
  • 20 residual solvents and processing chemical
  • 4 heavy metals
  • 3 microbes

That’s all in addition to tests for water and moisture content as well as tests for chemicals that give cannabis its smell, taste, psychoactive properties, and contaminants such as dirt, mold and rodent hair.

And because these testing standards are so stringent and new to the California marijuana industry, there’s a good possibility that many products won’t pass. In fact, Josh Swider, co-owner of San Diego-based Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs, told USA Today that he estimates as much of half of marijuana flower and 90 percent of marijuana distillates won’t pass compliance.

Cannabis Packaging

The other problem facing the California cannabis industry is the new packaging and labeling regulations. Moving forward, the labels on cannabis products must share the amounts of CBD and THC in their products based on the lab’s analysis. In addition, there are new requirements for child-proof packaging. All of this takes time to get into place and onto shelves.

Cannabis Serving Limits

Finally, California has cut back on their per-serving dosage limit. Now, cannabis products can only contain 10 milligrams of THC per serving and 100 milligrams of THC per package. This is a major problem for a state that used to allow chocolate cookies infused with 1,000 milligrams of THC. Now, these popular products can no longer exist, and dispensaries and customers are feeling the pain of fewer options.

And while tighter regulations can eventually lead to a more robust industry, they can also make it harder for legal businesses to compete on the black market. Californians will just have to wait and see how all these bumps in the road smooth out to see if their legal cannabis market can survive in the newly regulated world.

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