News Nuggets – December

Bay Area

Oakland Approves Recreational Cannabis Permits

While other Californian cities struggle to get ready for the first day of recreational cannabis sales on January 1, Oakland is way ahead of the competition. On November 7, the Oakland City Council approved adult-use permits. City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was behind the push to make permits available in time for January 1, and she is also behind Oakland’s progressive approach on cannabis. “Oakland now will be one of the few cities in California that will be up-and-running with permits by January 1st. I’m very, very proud of that,” Kaplan stated. Even though Californians approved Proposition 64 last year, businesses can’t sell recreational cannabis unless they get local authorization. Kaplan was also behind Oakland’s Measure F, which implemented one of the nation’s first cannabis taxes in 2009 taxing businesses at 1.8 percent on gross receipts.

San Francisco Public Transit Agency Bans All Cannabis Ads

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted on November 21 to ban both medical and recreational cannabis ads on buses, trains and shelters in preparation for January 1, when recreational cannabis sales are scheduled to begin in California. This affects at least 130 medical cannabis ads from companies such as Eaze, Urban Pharm and The Green Cross. Citing a staff report, the agency stated that it “has received a number of complaints from customers and others about cannabis-related advertising.” The move was supported by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who agreed that cannabis ads should not be seen by children. The agency will continue to run ads that have already been purchased. Keeping things fair, the agency also bans advertising for alcohol and tobacco-related ads. Limiting exposure to childrens’ cannabis has been a main source of focus in states with legal cannabis such as California and Colorado.

Colorado

Denver Approves Ban on Smoking and Vaping

A recently approved ban against smoking and vaping on Denver’s 16th Street Mall is another step in a series of efforts to permanently ban public smoking in the city. As of December 1, smokers and vapers need to be at least 50 feet from the mall if they choose to consume. Known as the “Breathe Easy Ordinance,” the new initiative has started enforcement by using signs and education, rather than immediately imposing fines. “With community feedback, staff training, odor control measures and other sensible requirements, designated areas within businesses can provide adults 21 and older with a safe environment to enjoy cannabis and help reduce the occurrence of cannabis smoking and vaping on public sidewalks, including the 16th Street Mall,” explained Emmett Reistroffer of Denver Relief Consulting, a cannabis advocacy group that fights for consumption areas in the city.

K-9 Puppies Trained to Ignore Cannabis

Nothing is cuter than a puppy—except when it is sniffing for cannabis. In light of legalization, the town of Rifle is now training its drug dogs to sniff for everything but cannabis. Not only will canine officers no longer need to sniff for cannabis, but evidence based on a drug dog’s sniffing is being called into question, since many think that other factors, like food, can cause the dog to falsely detect drugs. “The Colorado court of appeals ruled recently that because Colorado is legal, the alert of a dog is not evidence of criminal activity,” explained Judd Golden, a lawyer with NORML. “It doesn’t provide the police with reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do anything. It was resulting in cases being thrown out for an intrusion in people’s lives for doing something absolutely legal.”

Los Angeles

California State Treasurer Proposes State Cannabis Bank

On November 7, California State Treasurer John Chiang proposed a state government-owned bank that would serve cannabis businesses, calling it “a simple and elegant strategy” to the industry’s cash-only crisis. Cannabis’ federal status as a Schedule I substance makes banking inaccessible to most cannabis businesses. “The starting point is the current situation, in which the cannabis industry operates predominantly in cash, with only sporadic banking access,” Chiang wrote in a report. “The end point is federal legalization of cannabis or, if that is not achievable, legislation shielding financial institutions that serve the cannabis industry.” The conflicting state and federal laws need to eventually be reconciled, but until then, Chiang hopes that a state bank would solve the cash-only crisis that currently cripples California’s cannabis industry. The lack of banking access is a safety issue, as large amounts of cash are known to attract criminal activity.

West Hollywood City Council Approves Recreational Cannabis Sales

The West Hollywood City Council approved Ordinance No. 17-1016 on November 20 which amends its municipal code to allow recreational cannabis sales, consumption and delivery. The city will award up to eight retail licenses, eight medical dispensary licenses, eight smoking lounge licenses, eight edible lounge licenses (all attached to dispensaries) and eight delivery licenses. A total of up to 40 licenses will be available beginning in January 2018. The fee for both medical and recreational licenses, however, is nearly $10,000. “The City Council will waive further reading and adopt Ordinance No. 17-1016 approving amendments to the municipal code and zoning ordinance to regulate cannabis uses,” the bill reads. The exciting news offers a variety of business license types in an already diverse city that locals call WeHo. Additionally, The Standard, Hollywood hotel in WeHo recently unveiled plans of opening a dispensary inside the hotel in the near future.

Michigan

Michigan Coalition Collects Enough Signatures for Rec Cannabis Initiative

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has collected enough signatures to put the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act on the 2018 ballot, which would effectively legalize cannabis in Michigan if passed by voters. The campaign has well over the 252,523 signatures that are required by law. “Our campaign to end marijuana prohibition is at a critical stage as we prepare to turn in over 360,000 signatures to the secretary of state for certification,” the campaign stated in a press release. “For the past five months, activists, volunteers and donors have stepped up to the plate and gotten us this far—but we’re not there yet.” The next step will be for the bill to head to the Michigan Secretary of State, and as of mid-November, the campaign needs about $30,000 more to cover expenses before the legislative process can continue.

Northern Michigan University Offers Four-Year Degree in Cannabis Chemistry

Northern Michigan University undergraduate students can now pursue a four-year degree in Medical Plant Chemistry. The curriculum will include cannabis biology, chemistry and how to apply that knowledge in a professional setting. “There is currently a renewed and enthusiastic interest in medicinal plant chemistry as it relates to the herbal extract market and more recently to the emerging cannabis market,” the school stated on its department website. “With nearly half of the 50 United States currently recognizing the valid and legal therapeutic applications of cannabis, including eight states and the District of Columbia now fully legalizing both medicinal and recreational consumption of cannabis products, a national shift in policy away from the prohibition of cannabis has been signaled.” Students can expect to earn a salary of $70,000 per year straight out of school, the program’s creator Brandon Canfield said.

Oregon

Oregon-based Golden Leaf Holdings Receives License to Operate in Nevada

Golden Leaf Holdings is one of the largest cannabis companies in Oregon. The company, however, is expanding to the untapped market in Las Vegas, Nevada and recently received a business license on October 31. “Receiving this license represents a key milestone for Golden Leaf, as we now have all the necessary licenses to fully capitalize on the Nevada opportunity,”  William Simpson, CEO of the company, said in a press release. “Las Vegas is the tourist capital of the U.S., reporting a record 43 million tourists and its highest level of visitor spending on record in 2016.” The company recently secured a business license in Sparks, Nevada last September. Golden Leaf Holdings is also a producer of high-quality cannabis oil, and has become a recognized brand in the Portland area. Now, the company is moving into uncharted territory in Nevada.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission Suspends License of Cannabis Processor

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) suspended the license of a recreational cannabis processor on November 15 after Richard Wilkinson, owner of Rich Extracts, was allegedly caught illegally transporting cannabis extract. Wilkinson was pulled over by police in Nebraska, where medical cannabis is illegal, and police found 25 pounds of extract (a $1.1 million value), 3,500 seeds, cannabis and vials of hash oil. “We want to make it clear to our licensees that if you operate ‘out of bounds’ we are going to act with certainty,” Steve Marks, executive director of the OLCC stated. “The vast majority of our licensees support our efforts to root out shady operators, and certainly it’s what Oregonians expect of us.” Rich Extracts’ license could be permanently revoked, and the company has until February 12, 2018 to request an OLCC meeting.

San Diego

Med-West Distribution Owner James Slatic Takes Plea Deal

On January 28, 2016, police raided the premises of Med-West Distribution in San Diego, snatching $324,000 in cash, as well as priceless equipment and inventory. James Slatic, the owner of Med-West Distribution, faced up to 15 felony charges and the district attorney seized $100,000 from Slatic’s personal family bank account, which was later returned. Recently, however, Slatic and four of his employees each pleaded guilty to two lesser misdemeanor charges, conspiracy to delay and obstruct a public officer and conspiracy to unlawfully possess cannabis. Fortunately, now the case is finally coming to an end. Instead of serving hard time, Slatic will only have to pay a $1,000 fine and serve probation for one year for the two misdemeanor charges. Slatic was on “cloud nine” after hearing the outcome of his plea deal. Slatic could have served 15 years imprisonment if he was found guilty of all charges, according to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.

San Diego’s Only Commercial Cannabis Cultivator to Expand

OutCo, the only legal cannabis cultivation company in San Diego, is predicted to expand its output to 1,000 pounds of cannabis this year, 2,500 pounds in 2018 and eventually 5,000 pounds per year, if its upward pace continues. “As the largest legal cultivator in Southern California, we are uniquely positioned to deliver consistent quality cannabis, vape oils and infused products for our own dispensary operations and to other dispensaries throughout the state,” OutCo stated. All of the cannabis OutCo cultivates currently goes to medical cannabis facilities in San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties, but once recreational sales kick in throughout California on January 1, 2018, OutCo predicts a huge surge of business. There are around a dozen medical cannabis dispensaries in San Diego that are expected to receive permission to sell recreational cannabis in 2018.

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