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J Psychoactive Drugs. 2019 Nov-Dec;51(5):391-399. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2019.1627444. Epub 2019 Jun 12.

Civic Engagement in California Cannabis Policy Development.

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Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California San Francisco.
Truth Initiative Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, and Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco.


During the regulatory drafting process, California considered allowing police officers to become licensed owners of cannabis businesses, an action that would have codified a conflict of interest (COI), allowing police to exert influence in two market strata, enforcement and licensure. Up until then, no state specifically excepted law enforcement from COI prohibitions, making California's proposed medical cannabis regulation unique. We performed two 50-state surveys and examined 298 public comments submitted to the Bureau of Cannabis Control during the initial medical cannabis rulemaking process in June 2017. After public comments, the Bureau withdrew this provision. However, that the exception was even considered is cause for concern in this new area of policy development. The progression from proposed medical cannabis rules to emergency rule adoption and now, into proposed final regulations, highlights the value of civic engagement with the rulemaking process. Jurisdictions should adopt bright-line COI rules within their cannabis codes that limit the relationships that law enforcement may have with the private cannabis markets.


Conflict of interest; cannabis legalization; civics; government ethics; law enforcement; policy process

[Available on 2020-11-01]

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