An estimated $350 million worth of cannabis products could be destroyed in California soon in an event that has been called the Marijuanapocalypse of 2018.
When California passed a bill that legalized recreational cannabis for adult use in 2016, they also implemented rigorous production standards that had to be met by any products being sold in a the newly established legal market. For the first 6 months, however, dispensaries and producers were given a grace period, allowing them to get up and running quickly and begin to transfer over to the new regulations as time progressed. That grace period ended yesterday.
"Sacramento is seeing possibly up to 8,000 pounds of product that will need to be destroyed," Josh Drayton, spokesperson for the California Cannabis Industry Association told WIRED ahead of the Marijuanapocalypse. This will be the fate of many more thousands of pounds of cannabis across the state, as any product that is not up to code must now be disposed of. Millions of dollars worth of cannabis will be taken off the shelves of dispensaries across California and simply thrown out.
"Non-compliant flower and pre-rolls will be composted," Eliot Dobris—spokesperson for the San Francisco dispensary Apothecarium—said prior to July 1. "Non-compliant cartridges will be rendered unusable with a hammer and then will be put in the landfill bin."
And as if that wasn't bad enough, owners of non-compliant products also had to film themselves destroying their banned products.
"[W]e have to do all of this on video," Dobris added, “so if there's ever a question, the state can have access to that video."
Many dispensaries across California ran massive blowout sales last week to mitigate the loss of income that follow the 'Marijuanapocalypse.' And the destruction doesn't end with dispensaries either. Businesses further up the supply chain have to grapple with this reality, too.
"We have product that has not made its way through our processing system that is still OK," explained Cate Powers of Flow Kana—a company that tests and processes cannabis from Northern California farmers—said ahead of the deadline. Despite their best efforts, Flow Kana was unable to process much of the non-compliant cannabis before the July 1. "So the majority of our inventory is fine. It's only the stuff that was packaged and processed under the previous standards that is at risk."
Drayton admitted this has been a bumpy road, but he hopes it will lead to a better cannabis industry in the end.
"We have to remember that yes, that is going to be a growing pain we are going to have to deal with," says Drayton. "But ultimately Prop 64 [California's cannabis legalization legislation] passed through wanting to prioritize public safety and public health."
Still, the Marijuanapocalypse won't be the end of legal cannabis in California for ever, but a temporary hold up in what is an ever expanding industry.