The thing about a new business in a new industry is that consumers often don’t know how much to invest in the new enterprise.

That’s because new businesses face multiple hurdles. The Small Business Administration tells us about 30% of startups fail within two years, 50% drop out within five years, and 60% call it a day within the first decade.

Here’s another thing — the cannabis growing and sales business aren’t new, at least not the legal part of it. Illegal marijuana grows and sales have been going on for generations.

With such an extensive history, California’s recently legalized cannabis industry clearly has a promising future. The real question is not how sales will grow, but whether government policies will come along with the industry.

Buellton officials seem to be on that sort of track. The City Council unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance clearing a path for Buellton’s first cannabis testing facility. The city apparently is sticking with a modified ban on retail sales, but will allow deliveries locally by state-approved vendors.

The new rule would allow the city to capitalize on scientific aspects of cannabis, a branch of the industry that is absolutely necessary to ensure customers are safely getting what they pay for.

That has been a problem in the past with illegal sales. Cannabis buyers/users really were just taking a shot in the dark when it came to illegal weed’s content. In the bad old days it was not uncommon for sellers to enhance products with non-specified additives.

The council still has to sign off on a final reading of the ordinance, but we encourage members to move forward. If they do, the ordinance would allow the city to issue conditional-use permits for testing labs in industrial zones, including Industrial Way and the north end of McMurray Road.

Actually, cannabis quality control and testing should be the federal government’s responsibility, but the feds seem resolute in keeping their heads buried in the sand. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, so the agencies that have the most resources for testing cannabis quality are kept out of the loop.

Given the national interest in legalizing marijuana, Congress will likely revisit marijuana prohibitions dating back decades, a fact immortalized in the truly dreadful film “Reefer Madness,” a mid-1930s cult classic that nonetheless continues to amuse marijuana users.

Cannabis testing is a bit like a blank canvas. No one truly knows what they should be testing marijuana for, what factors are actually negative indicators, and what should be allowed, banned or limited.

Most every state’s regulators have drawn up their own lists of contaminants, such as pesticides and mold, and impurities labs are required to check various marijuana strain samples.

Different states test for different contaminants, because there are no federal guidelines or standards. Oregon’s testing labs are not required to test for heavy metal or biological additives, but California just began requiring heavy metal testing last January.

At last count, California had 27 licensed testing labs that are not currently running at full capacity. Experts say that will change when the legal market achieves its full potential, which it has yet to do.

California’s cannabis industry is a work in progress, and one that needs scientific assistance from federal health agencies that could have, and should have been testing marijuana and related products many years ago.

We applaud the Buellton City Council’s foresight in making provisions for a local lab. Every new business has an uncertain future, but then, marijuana is not a new business.


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