California Cannabis Farmers Continue to Face Headwinds

In many of the pushes for marijuana legalization nationwide, advocates have made claims that this new industry would create many jobs, expand the tax base, and create opportunities for restorative justice. In some communities, that's been true. In others, however, long-entrenched anti-marijuana attitudes have created a regulatory environment that maintains the pre-legalization status quo. Some counties have used background check compliance for cannabis industry operations as one tool to slow-walk the approval process as long as possible.

In some California counties where voters chose to authorize the legalization of marijuana farms, the licensing process has been virtually frozen for years. Despite accepting applications for nearly half a decade, one county has only one authorized marijuana farm within its borders. Others who've prepared land and applied for growing permits have not received denials but have not received approvals.

One farmer estimated he'd spent nearly $100,000 to comply with continually shifting demands from the county licensing office.

Mandatory background checks for cannabis companies are also being used as a roadblock. The local police must provide their approval of potential farmers and so far, have remained reluctant to do so. The police claim that the issue lies at the federal level; they say that without access to specific federal and criminal databases, they cannot complete the necessary due diligence. Instead, they've formulated their own "interim" process — a highly invasive check that is also expensive at $400 per individual.

Even those who've applied to have their background check processed in such a way say they're still waiting for results more than two or three years later.

County representatives claim that the process is simply subject to "normal issues" in the business licensing process. However, when few other businesses in the area must face such an arduous, expensive, and long-running process, that claim comes into question. Unfortunately for farmers worried about missing growing seasons and opportunities to generate revenue—and thus tax income for the county and state — there is nothing to be done but continue to wait.

Most cannabis sector background checks aren't meant to be such a barrier. Instead, they are an essential element of safety. For example, California does not allow someone previously convicted of high-level drug trafficking to be directly involved in cannabis businesses. Efforts to keep black market kingpins from entering the legal industry are a significant reason background checks remain prominent.

For companies looking to enter this space, background check compliance for the cannabis industry will continue to be a major concern. Any investors, farmers, or others exploring a business venture in this space should carefully review state and local county laws. Doing so could help you identify when an area is not friendly to cannabis companies, or it could streamline your work in the application process. As this industry matures, changes in this area are likely — so keep an eye on it.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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