People Behind the Plant: Lori Ajax Is a Marijuana Czar

Regulating California weed is a tough job, and this woman's gotta do it.

When California voters approved 1996's Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, they set a precedent: Marijuana is also medicine.

The subsequent lack of production and sales regulations in the two decades since have established a standard for weed governance in California that's somewhere between “Wild Wild West” and “quasi-legal.” To this day––when 26 states, and the District of Columbia employ some version of a medical-cannabis program and four have legalized the herb for all-purpose adult-use––a Golden State black market continues to thrive. In Los Angeles, nearly five times the number of allowed cannabis dispensaries openly do business. 

The February 2016 appointment of Lori Ajax as the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation’s first official chief is a step toward reining in this THC-infused anarchy. The Los Angeles Times dubbed the former deputy director of Alcoholic Beverage Control “California’s First Marijuana Czar.” 

Why you should be following her story: Ajax and her team's job is to figure out how California will license, regulate, and tax the sticky (and also legal) icky. 

By the numbers: Ajax has $10 million to turn this at-present pipe-dream into a reality. Her team will be 25-people deep. And it has been tasked with meeting a deadline of January 1, 2018.

In her own words: “Instead of us coming out and drafting [this legislation], I think we want to get feedback first, draft it, and then put it out for comment. I think that might be a more efficient way to handle it.”