Jerry Brown selects California’s first medical marijuana chief
By Alexei Koseff
California has found its czar for medical marijuana.
On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced the appointment of Lori Ajax, currently the chief deputy director of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, to the newly-created post overseeing the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation in the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The bureau was created through legislation last year, nearly two decades after California voters legalized medical marijuana, to develop comprehensive rules for the industry, from licensing pot growers to crafting environmental protections.
Ajax, 50 of Fair Oaks, has worked in various positions at the ABC since 1995. After studying criminal justice at Sacramento State and working in private industry for 10 years, Ajax began her career at the agency as an investigator in the Santa Rosa district office and later managed licensing and enforcement operations for 20 counties in Northern California. She is a Republican.
The position, which commands a $150,636 salary, requires state Senate confirmation.
There is irony in Brown’s appointment.
Medical marijuana advocates last year successfully pushed for the new bureau rather than placing regulatory authority in the hands of the ABC, which enforces liquor laws and oversees the licensing process. But on Thursday, pot advocates shied away from criticizing the appointment of a top ABC official to oversee pot rules.
“Our members want to see a functioning bureau as soon as possible,” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said in a statement. “We are encouraged by Lori’s experience with state bureaucracy and familiarity with rural counties.”
Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff. Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.
Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.