Women of Weed: Lori Ajax, California’s top cannabis regulator

By Cara Anderson

IG: @carajojo

To head our Women of Weed series, Candid Chronicle has chosen Chief Lori Ajax. This series is all about celebrating individual women in the cannabis industry who are making history, and sharing her story.

Lori Ajax is California’s “Czar of Cannabis,” and one of the most epic women in cannabis. As the top regulator of cannabis, it’s Lori Ajax’s job to oversee the regulated cannabis market, and she’s the saving grace of California’s cannabis industry.

“…I think it’s magic.”

Ajax’s moniker, Czar of Cannabis, is accurate, yet she isn’t a detached totalitarian leader. Lori makes her rounds, speaking to communities, answering questions and concerns about the regulated market, and working to create clear understandings of what is required by cannabis businesses in order to be compliant. In April, Ajax spoke at the first-ever Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival.

“Early on- up in Humboldt County, didn’t know anything, somebody came up to me, a gentleman, and said, “Lori, did you know cannabis is a magic plant?” And of course, at that point, I’m like what? i didn’t know that. I said, “No,” and he said, “It is.” And he told me all about the properties of the cannabis plant and said its helped so many people, it’s really up to you to make sure we honor it and respect it as a magic plant.

I don’t know if, at that moment in time, I truly understood what he was trying to convey to me but over these last couple years, I’m going to tell you it means a lot to me. That moment in time, I go back and think, it is magic, right? But not just because it’s helped heal people. Look at all of us together in this room, look at all the different people it’s brought together to the table. Look at how it’s changed all of our lives. I’m going to tell you, I don’t consume cannabis, but it’s changed my life and I think it’s probably changed all of your lives. So yeah, I think it’s magic.” – Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control

At the PSCFF, Ajax was honored as one of ten women to receive the Rozene Supple Visionary Award.

Her story…

In February 2016, Ajax was appointed to her position as Chief of the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, now named the Bureau of Cannabis Control. After Prop. 64 passed in November ’16, Ajax’s undertaking increased. The BCC was responsible for setting up the regulations for recreational cannabis sales that began this year.

Before the BCC, Ajax worked at the  Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for 22 years, from investigator trainee to Chief Deputy Director. Prior to the start of her government career, Chief Ajax graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a BS in Criminal Justice, then worked in private industry for ten years.

State permits became a requirement of dispensaries in December 2017, and Chief Ajax recognizes that the state permitting process can be daunting for business owners. She believes in helping and educating cannaseurs on the process and be flexible with compliance, rather than shutting them out with immediate enforcement.

Ajax told Washington Post, “If we have somebody that is causing a public nuisance or a public safety problem, then I do think strong enforcement is necessary. But if you just got somebody trying to comply, and they are completely overwhelmed because they just don’t know what to do, then I think that’s our job to then break it down for people.”

One Response

  1. A.Armstrong July 26, 2018