SACRAMENTO — A veteran of the state agency that oversees alcohol sales in California was tapped by Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to lead a new arm of government that will do the same for medical marijuana.
Brown appointed Lori Ajax as the first chief of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, a division of the Department of Consumer Affairs that was created through the passage in September of the state’s first comprehensive licensing scheme for medical marijuana businesses.
Ajax is chief deputy director of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, where she has worked as an investigator and administrator since 1995.
Some of the key features of the medical marijuana framework the Legislature approved — such as requiring wholesale distributors to serve as links between growers and retail pot sellers and limiting how many licenses an individual person or business can hold — were modeled after California’s alcohol license laws.
The state does not expect to start licensing California’s well-entrenched and already large marijuana industry until 2018 at the earliest. The division Ajax has been named to head up is working with several existing departments on drafting regulations that will guide the process for granting licenses, imposing sanctions, setting product-labeling and health standards, and tracking sales.
Her appointment to the $150,636-a-year post must be confirmed by the California Senate. Ajax is registered to vote as a Republican, the governor’s office said.
California voters are expected to vote in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana use and sales for adults 21 and over. A pending ballot initiative would give the bureau Ajax has been asked to lead primary responsibility for regulating marijuana sold for both medical and recreational purposes.
California Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Nate Bradley said his group is pleased with her appointment.