New details show sprawling web of corruption in Southern California cannabis licensing
The state’s top cannabis regulator has been accused of working with a company and its affiliates to help its owners circumvent regulations on licensing and testing. The agency has a history of approving licenses to grow and test cannabis with ties to companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
In the most recent scandal, the state board of cannabis control, an agency created by the California Legislature, found that a board member and the company that operates a medical marijuana company, Emerald Health Therapeutics, failed to comply with state regulations on the manufacturing and distribution of the medicine.
In a letter informing the state commission of cannabis control of the investigation, Emerald, headquartered in British Columbia, said the allegation had been made “in error to avoid public airing of a contentious issue.”
The agency will take no disciplinary action against the board member referred to in the letter, Deputy Director of Enforcement Steve DeAngelo. But state officials are expected to review the matter further, and the issue is bound to come up in the commission’s review of licensing applications for medical marijuana dispensaries and production companies.
“We are aware of a serious issue regarding Emerald, and will continue to review the status of the company and its management based on the facts,” said commission spokesperson Jennifer Rodriguez. “Once the commission completes its review, they will inform the attorney general to initiate possible sanctions.”
Cannabis is legal in California since 2016. But the state has struggled to establish uniform oversight of the industry. The cannabis commission has been criticized for its slow process for licensing, for its failure to keep track of hundreds of licensees, and for its lack of oversight of companies that are in the business of processing marijuana, testing and manufacturing cannabis.
The case highlights one of the most serious shortcomings: The agency is led by someone with a proven track record in the pharmaceutical industry, where he oversaw the development and approval of a widely