World-famous Humboldt Cannabis Growers Apply for First-Ever County Permits
Although California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, medical cannabis growers in Humboldt County have been rather low-key about their businesses. On February 26, this changed as generations of growers were ecstatic as they were able to apply to legally grow cannabis without fear of prosecution. Up until now, Humboldt County’s laws on growing medical cannabis were rather restrictive: “It’s kind of validating things we’ve been chastised for years and years and years,” stated Brandy Siebuhr who’s been a grower in Humboldt County for 20 years. Under a recently approved ordinance that allows the commercial cultivation, distribution and manufacturing of cannabis, the county set up land use regulations and permitting guidelines for growers. This is the result of a year-long effort between county officials and cannabis advocates, according to Times Standard.
San Jose Discusses Changes to MMJ Program
On March 16, a public hearing was held at the San Jose City Hall to discuss possible changes to the city’s medical cannabis laws, according to FOX 2. So far, the city’s 16 collectives have been operating in accordance to a 2014 ordinance passed by the City Council, stating that they must cultivate outside of San Jose County bounds and have 1,000-foot buffer zones between schools, churches and other “safety zones.” However, in December council members got together to discuss creating a Division of Medical Marijuana Control among other things. The March 16 meeting was intended to hear what the public had to say about proposed changes to the city’s medical cannabis program. The feedback submitted by the public was scheduled to be presented to City Council on March 29, as this publication went to press.
Cannabis Clubs in Colorado Springs Have Eight Years to Phase Out
The Colorado Springs City Council voted 6-3 to continue to enact its ban on cannabis clubs. Initially the clubs were only going to be given five years to phase out but Councilman Tom Strand amended the original guidelines and the clubs will now have eight years, according to The Gazette. During this eight-year timeline, cannabis clubs are expected to pay to be licensed through the City Clerk’s Office like other cannabis and liquor establishments. In attempt to alter the council’s position on the matter 70 people attended the meeting to testify but came out unsuccessful. Many expressed concern for veterans who suffer from PTSD, asking councilmembers where these men will go to medicate safely and in good company. Councilman Keith King urged club owners to work to get an initiative on the ballot to try to save the clubs and the community created along with them.
Cannabis Tax Will Help Fund Education for Low Income Latinos in Pueblo
A new voter initiated excise cannabis tax in Pueblo is set to help low income Latinos go to college. The tax is expected to generate $700,000 in revenue and will fund a scholarship for Latino high school seniors planning on going to local community or state colleges, according to Fusion. Currently Latinos make up 43 percent of Pueblo County’s population, yet only 21 percent of Pueblo City’s residents have Bachelor’s Degrees. The fund is expected to grow by five percent in 2020 and will be able to match other local grants. Drug Policy Alliance Spokesman Art Way told Fusion that other cities in Colorado plan on making similar moves to promote public education and health. Last year Colorado’s cannabis industry collected $135 million in taxes, showing the economic boost a safe and regulated industry can bring to any state.
Moratorium Extended for Medical Cannabis in Apple Valley
A moratorium on Apple Valley’s medical cannabis collectives, manufacturers, cultivation and delivery was extended from 45 days to a little over 10 months, according to Daily Press. The Town Council initially voted on the moratorium in January to maintain control over its medical cannabis market in conjunction with the Medical Marijuana Regulations and Safety Act. The extension came after Mayor Barb Stanton visited a local collective and was surprised by the clientele, “ . . . they all were as old as I am or older. Every one of them . . . I was very, very surprised,” stated Stanton. Stanton went on to express her support for those in need of medical cannabis as therapy, revealing potential for the city to ease up on current regulations. Since 2008, the city prohibited medical cannabis collectives according to My California Cannabis.
First Licensed Collective in Orange County Unionizes Workers
South Coast Safe Access has become the first legally licensed medical cannabis collective in Orange County and is already getting off to a good start. The collective has signed a labor agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324 (UFCW 324) that will help provide its 22 employees with a number of benefits. The contract with UFCW offers starting a minimum wage of $13.50 an hour, health benefits, paid vacation and pension, according to the Orange County Register. South Coast Safe Access started working with UFCW 324 after the Medical Marijuana Regulations and Safety Act (MMRSA) was approved by Governor Jerry Brown in October. MMRSA Senate Bill 643 requires collectives with 20 employees or more to sign a contract stating that they will not prevent employees from becoming unionized. UFCW 324 plans on working with other collectives in Orange County to help expand and professionalize the county’s medical cannabis market.
Group Hopes to Halt Dismantling of Detroit Cannabis Collectives
Citizens for Sensible Cannabis Reform introduced a referendum that could reverse zoning rules on collectives if approved to appear on election ballots in August, according to Mlive. Last month, Detroit opened a 30-day window to allow collectives to apply to legally be run in the city. Although this seemed like an effort for officials to ease up on collectives, those who applied for a license found it nearly impossible not to run into some kind of zoning problem. As reported by Mlive, the collectives learned that they are located too close to a number of zoning areas including a Drug Free Zone, child day care center and a church to name a few. The referendum is being reviewed by the City Elections Department to determine if all signatures are legitimate.
Protestors Vocalize Discontent Over Collective Raids
On March 13, 100 protesters stood outside of the Michigan State Police Gaylord station to address 10 collective raids that occurred during the previous week. The raids were conducted by Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement (S.A.N.E.) and resulted in two arrests. Of the 10 raids, nine were in Gaylord and one in Vanderbilt. “The businesses were operating within the spirit of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, and that the medical marijuana patients of Otsego county are being harassed,” protesters stated. Two collective owners from the Cannabis Stakeholders Group, Chad Morrow and Ben Horner, help organize the protests, and stated that it is the second time over the past several years that collectives in Gaylord have been raided, according to Up North Live. This has caused many patients in Gaylord to feel targeted by police.
Oregon Set to Become First State to Legalize Cannabis Business Banking
House Bill 4094 has been passed in Oregon, making it the first state to remove all criminal penalties for banks and credit unions that work with state-regulated cannabis businesses, according to Marijuana Politics. This will allow collectives to manage money more safely as most have been forced to keep their earnings in-store, causing concern for robbery. “I suspect the passage of HB-4094 will inspire other adult use and medical cannabis states to follow Oregon’s lead on solidifying banking reforms at the local level in the not too distant future,” stated Sam Chapman of New Economy Consulting who helped lead the lobbying effort for the bill. This bill was created by Oregon State Treasurer candidate Tobias Read and is currently awaiting approval from Governor Kate Brown.
“Clean Air Act” Forces Beloved Cannabis Café to Close
Portland’s World Famous Cannabis Café closed in early March after its owner Madeline Martinez received warnings from the Public Health Department following Oregon’s Clean Air Act, which came into effect on January 1. Martinez believes that the Health Department has violated her First Amendment right to “gather peacefully,” and plans to take the matter to legislature to fight it, as reported by Kion 6. The Cannabis Café had its last night of “Stoner Bingo” on March 7 with Martinez stating that it was “a little bitter sweet.” Now that the café is closed Martinez plans on lobbying for a change to the Clean Air Act in 2017 according to The Oregonian. She believes that cannabis cafes should be on the Act’s list of exemptions.
Oceanside Allows Cannabis Delivery Under Strict Guidelines
Although medical cannabis collectives are strictly prohibited in Oceanside, the City Council made a split decision on March 2 to allow delivery services. Delivery services interested in working with medical cannabis patients in Oceanside will have to apply for a city business license that must be approved by the city attorney and police chief, as well as provide the names of all drivers along with copies of their licenses and proof of insurance, according to The San Diego Tribune. Other restrictions include clean driving and criminal records for drivers and liability insurance policy of $1 million. These requirements are a far stretch to some concerned citizens as Oceanside resident David Newman stated, “A dispensary an hour away is not going to go out of its way to register every driver with the Oceanside Police Department, get a restrictive business license, carry a $1 million policy and be subject to background checks to deliver a $50 order.”
Buffer Zones Eased for Collectives in San Diego
The San Diego City Council voted on March 14 to measure the 1,000-foot buffer zone between “sensitive use” areas differently. Previously, the city would measure the distance between collectives and sensitive use areas—which include schools, churches and parks—in a straight line, through buildings and other geographic obstructions. Now the city will measure the zone in walking distance along streets or sidewalks, according to KPBS. Although this is a positive change, the city’s current restriction of only four collectives per district still stands in place. San Diego medical cannabis lawyer Kimberly Simms believes that this will still leave neighborhoods or districts with no reasonable locations for collectives to operate. However, it is still a small victory for collective owners and as Simms stated, “Those who are part of the regulated cannabis industry are happy with the small, incremental steps.”
Tacoma Planning Commission Refines the City’s Cannabis Regulations
Tacoma’s Planning Commission is clearing up its regulations concerning the production, retail and processing of medical cannabis, creating buffer zones and requiring access points to have state medical endorsements, merging retail and medical sales as implied in Washington’s current laws. According to Tacoma Weekly, the Planning commission proposed a 100-foot minimum buffer between access points and video game arcades, child care centers, public libraries, public transit centers and recreational centers. Access points are also required to be 300-feet away from other cannabis businesses, court houses and drug rehabilitation or detoxification centers. Other buffers include 1,000 feet away from schools and playgrounds. The city’s Planning Commission plans to hold a public meeting on these proposed regulations on April 19 with a first reading in City Council planned for April 26.
Changes Made to Cannabis Access Point Licensing System
With the passing of Senate Bill 5052 last year, medical cannabis access points in Washington are now required to apply for a retail license by June 1. Unfortunately, the state only plans on issuing 556 licenses, according to KVEW-TV. With the recent number of medical cannabis patients registered in Washington, the state needs roughly 1,200 access points to fulfill demands, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Washington. This limitation on licenses has access point owners worried that they may have to close. Steve Lee, owner of Green2Go Collective Garden stated that a retail license initially costed $1,000 but with limitations set by SB-5052, he would probably have to pay a quarter of a million dollars to obtain one from an already wealthy cannabis entrepreneur, as reported by KVEW-TV.
Vermont May be First State to Legalize Recreational Through Legislature
Vermont could be the first state to legalize recreational cannabis through legislation rather than voter initiative, according to The National Memo. A bill that was passed by the Senate after a year of review will allow adults 21 and over to enjoy recreational cannabis by 2018. During its year-long review, Senate determined limits on recreational cannabis use and determined that it would not permit personal cultivation or edible consumption. Aside from the restrictions set forth by the Senate, the bill will also impose a 25 percent tax on recreational cannabis that will go towards drug enforcement and drug education programs. While the bill has been approved by Senate, state Representatives are expected to review it before the legislative session ends in May. Cannabis advocates in the state believe that this will encourage other states to pass recreational laws through legislation as well.
Switzerland Hopes to Fight Cannabis Black Market with Legal Clubs
With cannabis reform in Europe slowly taking shape, Switzerland has revealed a plan to open four cannabis clubs in Geneva, Zurich, Bern and Basel. The clubs are pilot programs intended to help people with existing drug problems and are planned to allow 2,000 people to use cannabis therapy legally, according to RT. Although this seems like a legitimate approach on minimizing the cannabis black market in Switzerland, this topic has been under debate since 2014, with the Swiss People’s Party in Geneva opposing the movement because to them, cannabis is a “hard drug.” Currently an estimated 500,000 people illegally use cannabis in Switzerland. In 2013, the federal government decided to remove possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis from its list of criminal offenses and only fine 100 francs those convicted of possession.
News Nuggets – December 2019
Cannabis Store Becomes Certified Green Business
One of the largest cannabis retailers in Santa Cruz County, KindPeoples, recently announced that it has been named a Certified Green Business for its commitment to helping to save the environment. The achievement fulfills the goals of the company’s founders. “We knew when we opened KindPeoples on Ocean Street in April it had to be a flagship for our values,” said Khalil Moutawakkil, founder and CEO of KindPeoples. “Becoming a Green Certified Business is the first step in implementing green practices that make a lasting impact on our community, our staff and business partners and our planet. This is just the beginning.” KindPeoples worked with theCertified Green Business Program in the City of Santa Cruz to install energy-efficient lighting, use paper products, minimize waste, promote alternative transportation and establish a company-wide Environmental Policy in order to meet the standards required for certification.
Contra Costa County Bans Vape Product Sales
On Nov. 12, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ban the sale of cannabis vape products and flavored tobacco products. At the meeting, students and local residents flooded the building to participate and testify against the dangers of vaping. “This is a health crisis; there are potentially fatal consequences,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen. “We are seeing people die, and I would much prefer to have us err on the side of protecting the public.” The ban comes amid reports of around 40 deaths and hundreds of cases of lung illnesses linked to vaping. The ban on sales of flavored tobacco and cannabis vaping products took effect on Nov. 18 for unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County. Incorporated areas of the county, including about 20 cities that are not under the county’s jurisdiction, will not be affected.
Cannabis Edible Sales Increase Following Vape Scare
The recent vaping health scare has shifted cannabis industry trends, causing some areas to plummet in sales and others to rise. According to Headset, a Seattle-based cannabis data intelligence company, edible sales are up 15 percent in Colorado and in four other recreational-friendly states, as a result of the decline of vape sales due the recent health crisis. According to a Headset report from Oct. 2, before the “Vapor Crisis” commenced earlier this year, vape pens totaled 15 to 30 percent of all cannabis sales. Every state where cannabis is legal saw an increase in vapor pen usage from January to June 2019, and vapes have been the fastest growing category of cannabis products. However, since the vape scare began with the first death on Aug. 23, vape sales are rapidly declining and have been banned in some areas. Headset reports that Colorado’s edible sales are up 15 percent from 12.7 percent, from Aug. 23 to Oct. 6 respectively. Nevada, California and Washington edible sales are also up a considerable amount. Dr. Anne Schuchat, head deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the issue is “continuing at a brisk pace.”
Pueblo County Uses Cannabis Taxes to Fund Jail
Pueblo County is setting another example of how cannabis tax dollars can benefit residents in Colorado. In November, voters said yes to 1B, which will raise retail cannabis tax to from 3.5 percent to six percent in order to raise funds to start construction for the new county jail. The proposal came from the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners on Sept. 3 and was made official by voters during the recent election. The new jail construction will cost an estimated $140 million, which includes demolishing the old jail. According to the county commission, while much of the money will go to the capital infrastructure of the new jail, 50 percent of the tax funds will go toward funding college scholarships. This was proposed to voters last year but was rejected. Now that it has passed, the restructured tax will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020. “Other jurisdictions in the state impose a special sales tax on retail marijuana at a higher rate, and this Board believes moving to six percent of the sales price would better align Pueblo County’s tax with other similar taxes in Colorado,” reads the resolution statement from the Board of Pueblo County Commissioners.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Charged with Lying about Cannabis
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Bradley Scott Dietze allegedly lied to the Los Angeles Police Department about a cannabis heist that took place last fall. Dietz was accused of posing as a narcotics officer with a search warrant, along with two other men, and carrying out a bogus raid. At the crime scene, 1,200 pounds of cannabis and $645,000 in cash and money orders were stolen. “The case was filed for warrant on Oct. 25,” a press release reads. “Dietze is expected to be arraigned on Dec. 23 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Alhambra Branch. Deputy District Attorney Deann Rivard of the Justice System Integrity Division is prosecuting the case. On Oct. 29, 2018, Dietze allegedly lied to a Los Angeles Police Department officer who was investigating whether a marijuana distribution warehouse was being robbed in downtown Los Angeles. If convicted as charged, Dietze faces a possible maximum sentence of one year in county jail.”
LARA Announces Cannabis License Rule Changes
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) released an advisory bulletin on Nov. 13, clarifying transfer rules for equivalent license holders who hold medical and recreational licenses of the same type. Growers, processors and provisioning centers may transfer up to 50 percent of their batch or product from their facility to their establishment if they hold equivalent licenses. Specifically, provisioning centers may transfer 50 percent of each product type such as concentrates or flower. “Under Rule 40 of the Adult-Use Marihuana Establishments Emergency rules, the agency may authorize licensees who hold equivalent licenses to transfer marihuana product from the inventory of their marihuana facility to the inventory of their marihuana establishment,” the bulletin states. “This applies if they hold marihuana grower/grower, marihuana processor/processor, or marihuana retailer/provisioning center equivalent licenses.” The bulletin also announced the updated allowed THC amounts in milligrams for cannabis products.
Portage Begins Accepting Medical Cannabis Permit Applications
Portage city leaders began accepting medical cannabis permit applications for provisioning centers, secure transporters, safety compliance facilities, grower facilities and processor facilities on Nov. 18. The window to apply for a permit ends on Dec. 13 and that date will not be extended. “All applicants must have received pre-qualification from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board in order to have their application considered,” a news release states. “There are no exceptions. Applications will not be considered on a first-come-first-served basis. All applications will be reviewed once the application period is closed. The city of Portage reserves the right to alter the application deadline.” According to the news release, a $5,000 permit fee applies, in addition to necessary paperwork. Applicants should keep in mind that 1,000-foot buffers apply to neighboring provisioning centers and sensitive areas.
Minors Consume Cannabis at Nation’s Second Highest Rate
A recent study by Las Vegas, Nevada-based US Drug Testing Centers showed that 10.35 percent of Oregonians aged 12 to 17 consumed cannabis during 2017. That makes Oregon the state with the second highest prevalence of youth cannabis consumption in the nation during that time period. Vermont topped the list, where 10.75 percent of children and teens had consumed cannabis during the same time period. Oregon was followed by Maine, New Mexico and Rhode Island for the top youth cannabis consumption rates. The study relied on data gathered in 2017 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Experts speculated that easy access to cannabis was a factor in the high rates of cannabis consumption, although rates have fallen in Oregon since 2002. The report arrives amid a nationwide teen vaping crisis, usually involving youth of the same age groups.
Oregon Court of Appeals Blocks Flavored Vape Ban
On Nov. 14, the Oregon Court of Appeals placed a hold on Gov. Kate Brown’s six-month vape ban that was recently implemented. Just one month ago, the court placed a hold the ban on flavored nicotine products, but the new hold also applies to THC vape products. The court was “ . . . unable to tie lung injury cases to the type of flavored vape cartridges at issue,” a news release stated. “The court is not convinced that there is a risk of harm to the public if the enforcement of the rule is stayed.” The court went on to say that the details of vaping illness remain unknown, so that a ban cannot be made based on speculation of what is causing the outbreak of pulmonary lung issues. As of mid-November, 17 Oregonians have fallen ill from vaping, including six who used only nicotine products and five who used only THC products, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Oceanside Planning Commission Approves Recreational Cannabis Cultivation
On Nov. 4, with three members absent, the Oceanside Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the Oceanside City Council add recreational cannabis cultivation to its 2018 ordinance that currently allows only medical cannabis cultivation. It would modify Articles 4, 14 and 36 of the City of Oceanside Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and Chapter 7, Article XIII of the Oceanside City Code. “By limiting cultivation to medical-only, licensed cultivators were restricted to conduct business with a small percentage of the available market in California,” the city’s staff report reads. “Expanding cultivation to include adult-use gives licensed cultivators the ability to sell product to the entire California cannabis market, increasing the product viability and profits.” Oceanside’s latest effort would only remove the medical-only restriction for cultivation from its city code, and storefronts would remain banned in the city.
California Raises Cannabis Tax Rate
On Nov. 22, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) issued a media alert announcing that higher tax rates will apply to cannabis products beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. The markup rate will be raised to 80 percent, or 30 percent higher than its current mark. The markup rate is used to calculate tax on cannabis products. “After analyzing thousands of transactions in the state’s Track and Trace system, CDTFA analysts have determined that the required markup rate for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2020, is 80 percent,” said CDTFA Spokesperson Casey Wells. In the news release, the CDTFA provided an example, indicating that a product with a wholesale cost of $50 would generate a mark-up of $40 and $13.50 in excise tax. California cannabis industry trade groups were seeking the exact opposite, or lower tax rates, and said they were “stunned and outraged” by the tax increase.
U.S. Customs Agents Seize Packaging from Cannabis Businesses
Several Washington-based cannabis businesses recently complained that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized all types of items including spice jars, vials and packaging materials. The materials were seized at a port of entry located in Tacoma, and were defined as “paraphernalia,” which angered business owners. The confiscated products were worth more than $8,000. “The seized property, including appraised domestic value (ADV) described as follows: 1,080 85x120mm glass jars with wooden lids, ADV: $1,620.00; 5,303 50x70mm glass jars with wooden lids, ADV: $6,628/75,” customs agents indicated in a Sept. 30 letter. “This merchandise from entry BUU-1311428 was seized as an unlawful importation of drug paraphernalia.” Shipment owners may petition to retrieve their property, but only if they post a bond of $5,000 or 10 percent of the shipment’s assessed value.
Study Links Rising Cannabis Consumption Rates with Legalization
A new study published on Nov. 13 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests an association between legalization in states including Washington and rising cannabis consumption rates. The study defined any kind of problematic use of the plant as cannabis use disorder (CUD). “This study’s findings suggest that although marijuana legalization advanced social justice goals, the small post-RML increase in risk for CUD among respondents aged 12 to 17 years and increased frequent use and CUD among adults 26 years or older in this study are a potential public health concern,” researchers reported. “To undertake prevention efforts, further studies are warranted to assess how these increases occur and to identify subpopulations that may be especially vulnerable.” The study’s lead author, Magdalena Cerdá, said that heavy cannabis consumption is linked to psychological and physical health concerns such as lower educational attainment and decline in social class.
News Nuggets – November 2019
Sonoma County Leaders Approve Controversial Farm
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year cultivation permit for Petaluma Hills Farm on Sept. 25, despite heavy push-back from the local community. Petaluma Hills Farm will cultivate about an acre of cannabis on a former chicken ranch in a quiet community. The other 37 acres of the property will be used for non-cannabis purposes such as cattle grazing. “It’s agriculture in my mind,” said Supervisor James Gore, “No matter how we classify it.” For the past three years, neighbors have been trying to stop the farm from growing cannabis including serving the farm a lawsuit. Community members held rallies to stop the spread of cannabis in the county. The farm is located on Purvine Road, which led protesters to hold up signs that say, “No Pot on Purvine.” But in the end, county supervisors were more interested in the financial opportunities cannabis could bring to the county.
Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs School Medical Cannabis Bill
On Oct. 16, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 223, or Jojo’s Act, which allows for students in grades K-12 to bring approved medical cannabis onto school campuses. The move signals a dramatic shift from the governor’s predecessor. Last year, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a very similar bill. State Sen. Jerry Hill named the bill after Jojo Garcia, a young student with severe epilepsy. “By signing Jojo’s Act, Newsom has lifted barriers for students with severe medical disabilities for whom medicinal cannabis is the only medication that works,” said Hill. “We need to be clear about what SB-223 allows and how important it is for families who have had to remove their children from campus, take them 1,000 feet away, give them their medicinal cannabis and then return them to school again.” The bill excludes smoking or vaping medical cannabis products on cannabis.
Colorado Lawmaker Sponsors the SAFE Banking Act
The time has come for cannabis companies to receive the same banking benefits as other businesses. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill enacting the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act of 2019, or SAFE Banking Act, on Sept. 25, which passed in a landslide vote. Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter sponsored the bill, and if it continues to receive approval, it would allow cannabis-related businesses to have access to banking, which has long been denied by the federal government. Cannabis-related businesses would have access to checking and savings banking accounts. This would also simplify finances for cannabis companies, and it would be beneficial to those who need loans or liens of credit. Perlmutter said in a tweet, “This is a huge milestone in reforming federal cannabis laws and reducing the public safety risk in communities across the country.” The next step for the SAFE Banking Act is to move to the republican-dominated Senate for approval.
State Tourism Board Includes Cannabis Tourism Training
The topic of cannabis tourism has been a back and forth issue for Colorado ever since legalization went into effect in 2014. Legal cannabis draws tourists to Colorado, but the lack of safe places to consume cannabis has become apparent to everyone including state officials. At the end of September, the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference was held. There were several panels and presentations to discuss all types of tourism issues and ideas in Colorado, including cannabis, which was endorsed and encouraged by Gov. Jared Polis. Only last year, a bill was passed that would allow businesses to apply for consumption permits. Now, the Colorado Tourism Office is offering cannabis training for businesses with social use permits. Polis assigned cannabis advocate Wanda James to the state tourism board in August. “A key goal of the training is to position frontline workers across the state to inspire the visitors they serve to seek out more experiences, especially in the state’s lesser-known destinations, to generate powerful word-of-mouth and generate even more economic impact from travelers,” stated a press release from the Colorado Tourism Office.
Attorney Association Creates Cannabis Law Practice Section
The Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) created a new law practice section specifically designed to assist cannabis business operators. The update will help business owners easily locate a lawyer who specializes in the cannabis industry. “The cannabis industry is booming, perhaps like the next gold rush. LACBA must provide its over 15,000 members with a practice group on the cutting edge of the law,” said Ronald F. Brot, president of LACBA. “Los Angeles already has countless business practices directly and indirectly involved with cannabis opportunities. The creation of the Cannabis Section within LACBA meets a current need, and provides an important and necessary space for the many types of lawyers who provide legal services to this industry.” As Los Angeles is one of the largest cannabis markets in the world, some operators have a very tough time? finding a lawyer who understands how the law works and the constant changes within the cannabis space.
Michigan Farmers Harvest First Hemp Crop
In mid-October, industrial hemp farmers in Michigan began to harvest the first season of crops as part of Michigan’s pilot program under the 2018 Farm Bill. Michigan authorities licensed 572 registered cultivators and 423 processors, with a plan to grow 32,614 acres of hemp. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development stated that it is unaware if the goal of 32,614 acres was achieved. One of the cultivators, Paw Paw Hemp Company, harvested nearly 30 acres of hemp for CBD oil production. “We want to empower our farmers, friends, and their families to live healthier, more eco-friendly lives through the production of hemp,” Paw Paw Hemp Company stated in a press release. The crops were planted in April and have matured and flowered due to the 12-hour light cycle that begins in September in Michigan. According to South Bend Tribune, it’s the first federally legal hemp crop in the Midwest since World War II.
Marijuana Regulatory Agency Expands Social Equity Program
Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) presented its updated Social Equity Program in Kalamazoo on Oct. 7. In order to qualify for the program, applicants must live in one of the 19 designated communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the “War on Drugs.” “Today, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced an expansion of its Social Equity Program, which is designed to encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people who live in Michigan communities which have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement,” an MRA release reads. Social Equity Program members will receive up to 60 percent off the application fee, the initial license fee and renewal fee. Disproportionately impacted communities will receive a 25 percent reduction, and an additional 25 percent off if the individual(s) with majority ownership has been a resident in a designated community and holds a cannabis conviction. A further 10 percent reduction will go to individuals who qualify for certain criteria, such as those who were registered caregivers between 2008 and 2017.
Oregon Education Association Backs Decriminalization
The Oregon Education Association (OEA), a teacher’s union, announced on Oct. 4 that it supports a decriminalization measure in principle but it still has some concerns over how the money would be spent. The OEA is concerned about lost revenue because of funds that would be taken from schools and redirected to drug treatment programs. The Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act would classify low-level drug possession as a treatment issue and not a criminal justice issue. “Again, the Oregon Education Association supports the policy behind this initiative. But as a practical and legal matter, it is essential that voters understand how the program will be paid for and the impact on education funding. The ballot title fails to do so and must be revised,” an OEA release states. The OEA estimates that schools stand to lose $65.7 million in funding, which amounts to two-thirds of a reduction.
OLCC Approves Punishments for Six Businesses
At the monthly meeting of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) on Oct. 17, the commission approved six violation stipulated settlement agreements. Most businesses were given steep fines and temporary suspensions, and one business, Gras Cannabis, will be forced to surrender its license for three violations. Another business, Artisan Agriculture, will not receive a renewed license after its old license expired. “The administrative hearings process is methodical and certain,” said Steve Marks, OLCC executive director. “Even though this case started last summer (2018), the end result is we’ve removed a bad actor from Oregon’s regulated marijuana system. We don’t have tolerance for this kind of behavior and licensees should know the clock eventually runs out on those who have no place in our system.” The license surrender was due to the business exceeding daily purchase limits, and other bad behaviors were reported.
UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research Awards Grants to Five Studies
The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California, San Diego’s School of Medicine announced on Oct. 10 that it will award a total of $3 million in research grants to five research teams. “Within the medical community, there is a lot of interest in the role of medical cannabis and CBD,” said Professor of Psychiatry Igor Grant, who also serves as the CMCR director. “There is a hope that it could be yet another useful agent in some of these conditions, which are difficult to treat or disabling.” The five grants are funded by Proposition 64, which includes revenue set aside for the purpose of advancing scientific research regarding medical cannabis. It’s the CMCR’s first year of grant funding. Research studies will explore topics including cannabis’ potential to treat early psychosis, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, alcohol dependence and anorexia nervosa.
Washington Extends Leaf Data Systems Contract
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) issued a bulletin on Oct. 3, announcing that it has extended its contract for an additional two months with the traceability system software, Leaf Data Systems. “As you may know, the Liquor and Cannabis Board and our traceability software vendor, Leaf Data Systems, have been operating under a two-month contract extension through Sept. 30, 2019,” Deputy Director and Executive Sponsor Megan Duffy stated. “We have now agreed to an additional two-month extension, the terms of which will continue to focus solely on providing a stable system to our users. Leaf Data will operate the system and work on addressing post-release issues to ensure a stable system.” The LCB and Leaf Data Systems will now focus on maintaining the current LEAF system that licensees utilize for seed-to-sale tracking. A recent update in the system last July caused the software to crash for several days, which cost businesses thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Governor Bans Flavored Vape Products
On Sept. 27, Gov. Jay Inslee issued Executive Order 19-03, which bans flavored vape products in the state containing nicotine or THC. The ban went into effect on Oct. 10 and affects both cannabis licensees and vapor product licensees. “I am pleased the State Board of Health agrees we cannot wait to act on this very important public health issue,” stated Gov. Inslee. “It comes down to protecting the health of Washingtonians, especially young people. These emergency rules will help protect public health and save lives.” Vape product vendors are required to post a specific warning sign at retail locations, add packaging requirements, disclose all compounds to the Liquor and Cannabis Board and cooperate with the ongoing vape investigation with state and federal authorities. The emergency rules follow a growing number of reports of mysterious vape-related cases of pulmonary illness.
Australia to Fund Medical Cannabis and Cancer Research
Australian officials will allocate A$3 million ($2.03 million USD) to study the benefits of medical cannabis on cancer patients. On Oct. 5, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that so far, 11,000 patients have been granted access to medical cannabis. “Our Government is committed to ensuring a safe, quality supply of medicinal cannabis to Australian patients, but only when it is prescribed by a medical professional,” said Hunt. “There have only been a limited number of well-designed clinical studies on medicinal cannabis, and we need to increase the evidence base to support medical professionals.” Hunt spoke at a fundraiser walk led by former CULTURE cover celebrity Olivia Newton-John, who is currently touting the beneficial effects of medical cannabis. Newton-John herself has utilized medical cannabis to battle a recurrence of stage 4 cancer.
News Nuggets – October 2019
Oakland Cannabis Breathalyzer Company Raises $30M in Funding
Oakland-based Hound Labs announced on Aug. 27 that it has raised $30 million in Series D financing, shortly after a University of California, San Francisco study revealed that THC can be reliably detected within a three-hour window after smoking cannabis. Hound Labs developed one of the first breathalyzers that are capable of detecting both cannabis and alcohol. “With the publication of clinical study results validating breath as the new frontier for testing recent use of THC, investors can see the tremendous value that Hound Labs will bring to the market with its first-of-its-kind technology,” CEO and Co-founder of Hound Labs, Mike Lynn, stated. “We are excited to usher in a new era of more meaningful and fair drug testing now that marijuana is both medically and recreationally available to so many people.” The study results helped to lure investors to participate in the latest funding round.
California Launches Vaping Danger Awareness Campaign
On Sept. 16, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the launch of a public awareness campaign to alert Californians about the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes with nicotine and vaping products containing cannabis. In addition, he announced that state officials will be developing a plan to ban the sale of illicit vaping products that contain harmful additives. “As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids,” said Gov. Newsom. “With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis.” Newsom stated that he doesn’t have the executive authority to outright ban all flavored vape products, as in certain other states, but he requested that state lawmakers send him legislation to carry out a ban.
Denver’s Nathaniel Rateliff Collaborates for Cannabis Line
WILLIE’S RESERVETM, the signature cannabis brand of singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, announced its collaboration with the popular Americana-style folk band, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. The company is set to release 500mg Cherry AK distillate cartridges from the new Nightstache Collection, which will be sold exclusively in Denver’s LivWell dispensaries. The Cherry AK will be cultivated at AJ’s Craft Cannabis farm in Pueblo County, one of 11 Colorado outdoor cannabis farms that grow flower for Nelson’s brand. Based in Denver himself, Rateliff announced the collaboration in a recent press release. “We are grateful to WILLIE’S RESERVETM and their vetted network of cannabis farmers in each state, and we respect the brand’s commitment to these growers—including the team at AJ’s Craft Cannabis in Boone, Colorado, where all of the flower for our initial vape cartridges is sourced,” Rateliff stated. “Our hope is that these cannabis products will provide enjoyment for many, as well as relief to those patients who need it most.”
New Social Equity Cannabis Legislation Moves Forward
In order to add more diversity to the industry, new social equity cannabis business licenses for low-income groups were worked into the new Senate Bill 224. According to the bill’s outline, those who are applying must come from designated low-income areas, deemed so by the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, and applicants must have been in that bracket for at least five of the last 10 years. The point is to offer entrepreneurial opportunities to those who many not have the financial backing once required. The state of Colorado is now trying to figure out how to distribute these new social equity cannabis business licenses for the 2020 launch. Under SB-224, in order to research and manufacture their cannabis products, new license holders will need to utilize existing cannabis companies’ facilities. Although there are restrictions on operating dispensaries, those with the social equity licenses may cultivate, extract and manufacture infused products in the designated existing facility. During meetings on Sept. 13 and Sept. 20, industry stakeholders and state lawmakers began creating the framework for the agreements between the new license holders and the existing businesses, as well as how the state should weed through the companies that will host for the new licensees.
Pasadena Officials Weigh Impact of Legalizing Unlicensed Dispensaries
On Sept. 16, Pasadena City Council unanimously agreed to direct City Staff to deliver a report on the potential impact of a citizen-led initiative to legalize all unlicensed dispensaries in the city. “This [initiative] would allow such business to operate without a permit required of other commercial cannabis [businesses], until Dec. 31, 2024,” the bill reads. “The Measure would require cannabis [businesses] that operated in violation of the Municipal Code in 2018 to obtain that permit as of January 2025, although it is unclear what the criteria for issuance of such permit would be.” The staff report will be ready to present to city council on Oct. 7. The bill, called People’s Initiative to Preserve the Existing Operation of Non-Offending Commercial Cannabis Businesses, would amend Section 5.78.010 of the Pasadena Municipal Code to allow those businesses.
Palm Springs to Tackle Cannabis Odors
Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Kors and Councilmember J.R. Roberts announced on Sept. 4 that they will be making revisions to the city’s existing cannabis ordinance. The announcement was made to a forum full of people at the Palm Springs Convention Center, where citizens could voice any concerns that they had with the local cannabis industry. “Our number one focus is odor and we’ve found that there’s a lot more we can do now than we could do in the past,” said Councilmember Roberts. The plan is to implement punishments in the form of a $10,000 fine for businesses that fail to control odor. In addition, those businesses could risk losing their permit if they don’t take action to abate offensive odors. According to Kors, the draft will be completed soon before being presented again for community feedback, followed by the full city council.
Four Cannabis Products Are Recalled
On Aug. 30, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued a health bulletin to recall four medical cannabis health products found in Michigan provisioning centers. The four products are RSO Syringe Monster X, Glue-Buds, Platinum Vapes – Diamond OG Cartridge and Savage Signature OG Budder – Concentrate. One product tested positive for a banned pesticide and three others tested positive for dangerous heavy metals, which prompted the recalls. “All affected medical marijuana is required to have a label affixed to the container that indicates the METRC number assigned to the marijuana product,” the bulletin reads. “Patients and caregivers should look for the production batch number associated with the product name or the individual package number which can be found under the name of the provisioning center at which the product was sold.” No adverse reactions linked to the recalled products have been reported as of mid-September.
Gov. Whitmer Orders Emergency Rules to Ban Flavored E-cigarettes
Amid a growing vaping epidemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules on Sept. 4 to ban flavored e-cigarettes for six months. Once issued, it would make Michigan one of the first states to ban flavored e-cigarettes, although several more states are currently in the process of taking similar actions. This ban would last for six months and currently only targets flavored e-cigarettes, but does not ban tobacco-flavored products. “As governor, my number one priority is keeping our kids safe,” stated Gov. Whitmer. “And right now, companies selling vaping products are using candy flavors to hook children on nicotine and misleading claims to promote the belief that these products are safe. That ends today. Our kids deserve leaders who are going to fight to protect them. These bold steps will finally put an end to these irresponsible and deceptive practices and protect Michiganders’ public health.” Retailers would have 30 days to comply with the new emergency rules once they’re issued, which could happen within weeks.
Oregon Company Raises Awareness for Veterans
Curaleaf launched the Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP) initiative in Oregon, according to an Aug. 29 report, to help promote awareness about veteran access to cannabis. Customers can buy a custom-designed Veterans Cannabis Project box of pre-rolls, with a portion of proceeds going to the VCP. Each box contains five pre-rolls, which are filled with a total of 2.5 grams of UKU flower, one of Oregon’s top-selling cannabis brands. “Raising awareness of veterans’ access to cannabis is an important issue for Curaleaf,” said Curaleaf Oregon President Tim Fitzpatrick. Curaleaf can play an important role by educating veterans and consumers on how cannabis may be of great benefit for veterans. We are proud to be able to support our veterans as they look to improve their quality of life.” The products are also available in Maryland, Maine and Arizona.
Judge Rules Cannabis Farm Damage to Grape Vineyard is Plausible
U.S. Senior District Judge Anna Brown ruled on Aug. 27 that Momtazi Vineyard, a grape vineyard, may proceed in its racketeering lawsuit against a neighboring cannabis farm. Momtazi claims that under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), its grapes were contaminated with cannabis odor. “The customer’s concerns, whether valid or invalid, arose directly from the proximity of defendants’ marijuana-grow operation,” Judge Brown stated in her opinion. Momtazi must now prove that it suffered “concrete financial loss” due to the smell of cannabis on its grapes. The defendants, Mary and Steven Wagner, as well as their son Richard, say there are no concrete losses. Momtazi also said that the Wagners are running a “criminal enterprise” because cannabis is illegal under federal law, and the company is seeking three times the amount of damages that were valued. Those found guilty of RICO charges face up to 20 years in prison—per racketeering count.
Voters will Decide on Imperial Beach Cannabis Regulations
Despite a passionate effort by Imperial Beach officials to invalidate a citizen initiative that would allow for an unlimited number of cannabis businesses, the proposal will be on the November 2020 ballot for voters to decide. The bill is sponsored by the Association of Cannabis Professionals and would allow for dispensaries, manufacturing businesses and lounges with no limit on the number of permits. Imperial Beach City Council voted on Sept. 18 to place the proposal on the ballot. Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina called the proposal “crazy,” while Councilmember Ed Spriggs suggested also putting the city’s current cannabis ordinance on the ballot as well as a competing measure. “Councilmember Spriggs stated that one of his big concerns about the amendment is that the city loses the requirement for data gathering analysis, the ability to examine impacts on schools,” the Imperial Beach City Council agenda reads.
National City to Draft Ordinance Allowing Cannabis Businesses
On Sept. 16, the National City Council approved staff recommendations to draft an ordinance that would allow for three cannabis businesses in industrial zones. The cap on the number of businesses could be raised in the future. Standalone retail businesses are not allowed in industrial zones of National City, so businesses may have to be defined as microbusinesses and operate under dual functions with operations such as manufacturing or distribution. However, city leadership has not yet settled on what types of businesses will be allowed, from delivery to retail. “If we’re going to open it up, I think everybody should be affected by the locations,” said Councilmember Jerry Cano. “And I think if we’re going to be considering to have dispensaries, I think we should go to the highest limit that we can do.” The final draft of the ordinance could be ready as early as the end of 2019.
West Seattle Cannabis Store Launches Recycling Program
Canna West Seattle’s new incentivized recycling program was announced on Aug. 29. Canna West Seattle employees will take any cannabis-related waste from other cannabis stores and ensure that it is recycled, and customers can earn points as an incentive. It’s common to find plastic canisters scattered around in cities like Seattle with a high saturation of cannabis businesses. “Some experts estimate that by 2020 the cannabis industry will be generating over one billion units of single-use plastic packaging waste per year,” said Maryam Mirnateghi, owner of Canna West Seattle and Canna Culture. “As an entrepreneur in this industry, that statistic bothers me and it bothers my staff, so we are taking action.” While some cannabis packaging is too small to recycle at conventional recycling centers, Mirnateghi aims to help develop new technology to make it easier to recycle small plastic containers like the ones used for most cannabis products.
Cannabis Trade Group Unveils Proposal to Launch Equity Fund
The Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) announced the Cannabis Capital Equity Act, a bill that would fund a social equity program to help remove obstacles for minority business owners and would eliminate a residency requirement. In addition, the fund would be generated by a one percent fee on cannabis investments for a total of over $500,000. “Our state is proud to have led the way in legalizing cannabis, but that was only one step in addressing historic injustices created by the War on Drugs,” said Rep. Kristine Reeves. “That’s why I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to create a new statewide loan fund to increase access to capital and more opportunity for women and minority license-holders in the cannabis industry.” The fee would not be integrated until Dec. 31, 2025. WACA’s bill awaits state lawmakers to reconvene in January, at which point the legislation can move forward.
Officials Suspect Vitamin E Acetate as Culprit in Vaping Epidemic
A joint investigation published on Sept. 12 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration points the finger at vitamin E oil, or tocopheryl acetate, as one of the compounds that may be linked to six deaths and the hospitalization of hundreds of people who vaped e-cigarettes or vape pens. “Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC,” the CDC report reads. “Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.” Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent by rogue vape manufacturers. Other common ingredients include propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, polyethylene glycol and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil). Even the terpene D-limonene is reported to be a dangerous solvent despite being organic, when it is added in unnatural quantities. Serious pulmonary illness can arise if unregulated or random ingredients are added haphazardly.
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