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An-Chi Tsou: Bringing a Scientific Approach to Regulating Medicinal Cannabis

I often write about the big picture questions we’re working through as we finally establish a working regulatory system for medicinal cannabis in California. There are a ton of issues to work through: transportation, banking, consumer protections, track and trace etc. We need to get these right the first time, so of course we should spend a lot of time discussing the “what, when and how” of the new regulations.

But we shouldn’t overlook the “who,” and by that I mean the men and women who will be, in essence, helping to structure this industry from the ground up. The Governor’s Bureau of Medicinal Marijuana has an excellent team of dedicated professionals, and one of the most important voices in that team is the Senior Policy Advisor, Dr. An-Chi Tsou.

When I heard the news that Governor Brown had appointed her to that position, I had one thought: this is fantastic! She has a unique background an understanding of this issue, and I know she is going to make some impressive contributions in her new role.

She first started working in public policy in 2013, as a Capitol Science & Technology Fellow. She has a PhD in bioengineering from UC Berkeley, and applied for the fellowship, which aims to bring more scientists into public policy. She got assigned to the office of the then-Health Committee Chairman, my good friend, Assembly member Rob Bonta.

Now, if you recognize that name, it’s because he—along with his colleagues Ken Cooley, Reginald Jones Sawyer, Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire—helped craft the new set of laws that were enacted this year. An-Chi  was part of the team that helped push those bills over the finish line.

She is a great fit for this position. She knows the science, she knows the policy process inside and out, and she knows the structure of the industry left right and sideways. I am very excited to be working with her as we sort through a number of these issues. I talked to An-Chi  about what she is focusing on, and I want to share some of her thoughts with you.

On her impressions so far…

Working at the Bureau has been great so far.  I have always wanted to work at a start-up of some sort and I think this may be as close to a start-up as one may be able to get in state government! 

There are not many opportunities to help draft a historical part of law and also take part in its implementation; I am really grateful to be able to do both.  It has also been a huge challenge that has taken a lot of energy, stamina, and patience even in the first few months I have been with the Bureau, but I think it will be worth the countless working hours in the end. 

My background is in scientific research – but I entered the world of public policy so that I could help use my analytical skills and experience to help make an impact on society, and working at the Bureau is a perfect chance to do just that.

As we have gone through our informational sessions in preparation for our pre-regulatory stakeholder meetings, I have been encouraged by the amount of participation by stakeholders throughout the state.  But we also have a number of challenges that we continually need to adjust to such as new legislation, pending initiatives, collaborating with multiple agencies with different perspectives, and learning about new innovations within the industry, just to name a few. 

Some of the most useful things for me to remember have been to take each day one at a time, stay flexible, and not overwhelm myself with all of the huge tasks we have in front of us.

On her goals for the year…

During my first year, my goal is to assist the Bureau with developing strong and reasonable regulations to implement the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. This includes helping engage stakeholders statewide, learning more about the industry, and continuing fostering strong relationships with staff at our sister agencies.

On her philosophy of working with the industry…

I think it is important to listen and have an open mind.  Although I am very familiar with our medical cannabis laws, I am by no means an industry expert and so I am learning every day by working with industry entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.  Collaboration with stakeholders and being open to different viewpoints is critical to making sure we weigh all potential options when creating regulations.  By having all of the stakeholders working together, we will be able to create an effective regulatory system for California.

My final thoughts? An-Chi has such a unique perspective, and will be a real asset to the industry, the Bureau and the implementation effort across the board.  I think she was a phenomenal choice, and I look forward to working with her.

Fiona MaFiona Ma

Fiona Ma

About Fiona Ma, CPA, State Board of Equalization

Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Emeritus Fiona Ma was elected to the State Board of Equalization (SBOE) on November 5, 2014 and represents close to 10 million people in 23 counties from the Oregon border to Santa Barbara County. The 5,000 person tax agency affects every taxpayer in California and has broad regulatory and adjudicatory powers and is the only elected tax board in America.

Ms. Ma was elected to represent the 12th Assembly District from November 2006 to November 2012 (after serving the maximum three terms). She was the #112 woman to ever be elected to the California Legislature and the first Asian woman to ever serve as Speaker pro Tempore since 1850 (first Legislature). Ms. Ma first became interested in politics as a small business owner advocating on behalf of other small businesses. She was an elected delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business under President Bill Clinton and later was elected a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2002-2006.

In the Assembly, Ms. Ma authored groundbreaking legislation to protect consumers, prevent the spread of Hepatitis B, and increase access to quality healthcare. As a joint author of Proposition 1-A (Nov 2008), she was the legislature’s leading advocate to bring high-speed trains to California. Additionally, Ms. Ma has been and continues to be a leader in promoting trade and fostering relationships between California and Asia.

Ms. Ma received her B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), her M.S. in Taxation from Golden Gate University (SF), and an MBA from Pepperdine University. She has been licensed in California as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) since 1992. Fiona can be reached at [email protected]

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Thank you so much for your insight.
    We are a new edible manufacturer in the Bay Area, and are eager to participate in this evolution.

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