New Nuggets – June 2019

Bay Area

Study Suggests Suicides Rates Dropped in California After Legalization

A new study published in Archives of Suicide Research on May 13 indicates that the number of suicides in California dropped after Proposition 215 was approved by voters over 20 years ago. Researchers gathered data from non-gun suicides from 1970-2004 and compared California rates with the 41 states that didn’t have a medical cannabis program at the time. “The 1996 legalization resulted in mean annual reductions of 398.9 total suicides, 208 gun suicides and 135 non-gun suicides. The effect estimates for total and gun suicides were statistically significant (p<.05) but the effect estimate for non-gun suicides was not (p?.488).” When researchers began the study, they could not rule out if laws that block citizens who use controlled substances from purchasing a firearm contribute to the decline of suicide rates in the state, which is why non-gun suicides were observed. They also acknowledged that medical cannabis may lower the symptoms of depression, and depression can lead to suicide.

Oakland to Drop Tax Rate on Small Cannabis Businesses

On May 21, Oakland City Council voted unanimously to lower the gross receipts tax on cannabis businesses that make $500,000 or less from 10 percent to 0.12 percent. The new rate will be levied on the 2019 earnings of small cannabis businesses in the city. “We love Oakland and share your vision to make the town a cannabis destination, and to make this industry more inclusive and equitable for all Oaklanders,” Mark of Magnolia Wellness in West Oakland said at the meeting. “However, cannabis taxes are higher than any other city in the entire state. When Oakland’s taxes went up, our dispensary lost close to $1 million dollars in sales.” As for cannabis businesses that make more than $500,000, the Oakland City Council will vote on lowering the taxes for larger businesses on June 4. Compared to other cities, Oakland’s rate is high. Berkeley’s cannabis tax rate is at five percent, while Emeryville’s and Santa Rosa’s tax rates are at three percent.

Colorado

Psilocybin Mushrooms Decriminalized in Denver

On May 16, Denver became the first city in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin “magic” mushrooms. Initiative 301 was spearheaded by a people-powered movement seeking to reduce persecution of psilocybin mushrooms. “No one should go to jail, lose their children, lose their job and lose their citizen’s rights for using a mushroom. One arrest is too many for something with such low and manageable risks for most people, relative to its potential benefits,” stated the Decriminalize Denver team. Clinical research and individual experiences have demonstrated that psilocybin mushrooms can play a role in effectively treating depression, anxiety, PTSD and cluster headaches. The initiative proposed the decriminalization of possession and home cultivation of psychedelic mushrooms, and it passed with a 50.6 percent vote. With the passing of I-301, law enforcement is instructed to treat psilocybin as their lowest priority, as citizens of Denver will no longer be arrested for possession. Mayor Michael Hancock will establish a panel and has until Dec. 31 to implement the law.

Colorado Has Record-Breaking Cannabis Sales in March

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s (DOR) monthly Marijuana Sales Report, March 2019 holds the title for record-breaking sales in Colorado, totaling $142.4 million in recreational and medical sales combined. August 2018 is the previous record-holder, totaling $141.3 million. Medical sales fell behind recreational sales though, which currently stand at $28 million and $114.3 million, respectively. Several Denver-based dispensaries have closed the doors on the medical side, which may be the reason for lower sales in that category. Nathan Myers, owner of Bonfire Cannabis Company in Denver, said that his company’s sales are at an all-time high, with recreational cannabis accounting for 80 percent. Myers worries that record-breaking sales lead to saturation, which means a potential for lack of quality and integrity. “We have seen ounces of flower go all the way down to $34. Concentrates can be purchased for $10 a gram out the door. This can open the door for tainted products and recalls because of mass production. Now, more than ever, customers and patients need to be educated and use their knowledge to find healthy, safe cannabis,” he said. If these trends continue throughout the rest of 2019, this year will surpass 2018’s total sales, which totaled $1.54 billion.

Los Angeles

Study Suggests Suicides Dropped in California After Legalization

A new study published in Archives of Suicide Research on May 13 indicates that suicides in California dropped after Proposition 215 was approved by voters over 20 years ago. Researchers gathered data from non-gun suicides from 1970-2004 and compared California rates with the 41 states that didn’t have a medical cannabis program at the time. “The 1996 legalization resulted in mean annual reductions of 398.9 total suicides, 208 gun suicides, and 135 non-gun suicides. The effect estimates for total and gun suicides were statistically significant (p<.05) but the effect estimate for non-gun suicides was not (p?.488).” When researchers began the study, they could not rule out if laws that block citizens who use controlled substances from purchasing a firearm contribute to the decline of suicide rates in the state, which is why non-gun suicides were observed. They also acknowledged that medical cannabis may lower the symptoms of depression which leads to suicide.

Los Angeles County Approves Plan to Lock Out Illegal Cannabis Companies

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on May 21 to approve a plan to lock out unlicensed cannabis businesses and in some cases, shut off their utilities. The board has been toying with the idea since July 2018. “Unlicensed cannabis dispensaries create significant negative impacts to communities,” a motion by Supervisor Hilda Solis reads. “Residents and businesses are forced to contend with nuisance issues such as odor, littering and parking problems.” Solis pointed out that when dispensaries are shut down, they typically pop up in another location within weeks or days. Still, she suggested using non-criminal shut-down methods in most cases. In the meantime, the county will hire a consultant to design an outreach campaign to educate anyone who is unaware of what risks they face by shopping at illegal businesses.

Michigan

Petoskey Releases First Draft of Medical Cannabis Rules

On May 16, the Petoskey Planning Commission reviewed the first draft of an ordinance that would amend the city’s zoning code, adding specific conditions for medical cannabis under Section 1717. Under the proposed ordinance, medical cannabis facilities would be required to obtain a special use permit and be located in a limited zoning district. Businesses must abide by a 1,000-foot buffer around schools. “In general, the ordinance would allow provisioning centers (number to be determined by City Council) as a special condition use in the B-3 General Business District and as a possible use to be included in a Planned Unit Development, located no closer than 1,000 feet from a public or private primary or secondary school, and no closer than 500 feet from another provisioning center,” the Petoskey Planning Commission agenda reads. The Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the ordinance language on June 13.

Marijuana Regulatory Agency Announces Speedy Online Approval

Beginning on May 1, Michigan medical cannabis patients who apply for a cannabis registry card online can use the approval email as a temporary substitute for a physical registry card. Patients can use the approval email on the same day it’s received. “A process that used to take several weeks now can be done in a single day,” Marijuana Regulatory Agency Executive Director Andrew Brisbo stated. “We are excited to offer this new online approval option for the state’s medical marijuana patients.” The approval email will be valid as a substitute for up to 10 days until they receive their permanent registry card. That way, patients can buy cannabis with the email and a government-issued ID as soon as they are approved. In order to qualify, a patient’s certifying doctor must have an online account with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program, and the patient must use the same system.

Oregon

Oregon Senate Passes Interstate Commerce Bill

The Oregon Senate approved Senate Bill 582 on May 15, which authorizes the governor to make cannabis trading agreements with other states. It would allow producers, wholesalers and researchers with approval to transport and deliver cannabis across state lines. The law will only take effect, however, if federal law is amended to allow such types of interstate cannabis trade or if the U.S. Department of Justice issues a memo on the matter. “Oregon is a trailblazer, and this is another way that we can lead the nation regarding this relatively new legal industry,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanski. “Several states have legalized cannabis and so this puts Oregon in a great position to enter into agreements with other states, if and when the day comes that interstate cannabis trade is allowed by federal law.” As of late-May, the bill headed to the Oregon House for consideration.

Report Reveals Where Portland’s Cannabis Tax Revenue is Going

A May report from the Portland City Auditor indicated that most of the recreational cannabis sales tax being collected in the city is going toward police and transportation programs that were affected by budget shortages. Portland currently levies a three percent local tax on cannabis. While Portland’s Ballot Measure 26-180 was approved and allows for money to be allocated to police and transportation, “the City has not reported on how it’s used the tax revenues,” the Portland City Auditor’s May report stated. “We recommend the City improve the transparency of tax allocation decisions and results.” Other places the money could be going include drug and alcohol treatment programs, public safety programs, as well as women-owned and minority-owned businesses. The report revealed that 79 percent of cannabis tax allocations went to public safety efforts, including police and transportation, instead of small business and drug treatment efforts.

San Diego

Researchers Push for Cannabis Advertising Regulations

Researchers at University of California, San Diego published a study on May 16 calling for federal regulations on cannabis advertising, which often includes purported health benefits. Researchers pointed out to the explosive growth of the nationwide cannabis industry. “Sales of marijuana are projected to increase from $8.5 billion to $75 billion by 2030, rivaling current tobacco sales ($125 billion),” researchers wrote. “The initial marijuana marketplace was limited to a few states, but emerging brands have developed sophisticated national marketing campaigns that could potentially have an effect across state lines. This marketplace expansion, along with questionable marketing practices, introduces a need for federal action.” The study was led by John Ayers, Ph.D., who mentioned MedMen by name. MedMen, for instance, has a billboard ad running in his area that reads “Heal. It’s Legal.” Ayers referred to the ad as “reckless” due to unproven cannabis-related health claims.

San Diego County Adds Cannabis to Social Host Ordinance

On May 21, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to add cannabis to its Social Host Ordinance, which means that adults who provide cannabis to minors will face punishment. Adults who provide cannabis to minors face up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, plus law enforcement costs and any applicable injury costs. “Under current laws, it is illegal to furnish alcohol to individuals under the age of 21. In California, recreational marijuana use by individuals over the age of 21 is legal. However, marijuana is considered a substance that cannot be consumed by a minor in such social settings, except for medical purposes if authorized under state law,” reads a description of the Social Host Ordinance on the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s website. The department also provided a 24-hour hotline to report social host violations. The updated law goes into effect on June 21.

Washington

U.S. Court of Appeals Supports Cannabis-Related Bankruptcy Filing

A Washington-based landlord named Michael Cook, who previously rented out a property to a local cannabis cultivation business, has recently dealt with many hurdles regarding his application for bankruptcy. In Gregory Garvin V. Cook Investments, NW, SPNWY, the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustee Program initially argued that Cook could not file bankruptcy under Chapter 11, because he violated the current federal ban on cannabis. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stood in support of him. On May 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Cook, stating that the concern was rejected. “We do not believe that the interpretation compelled by the text will result in bankruptcy proceedings being used to facilitate legal violations,” reads the ruling analysis. The future holds many more opportunities to discuss the connections between cannabis businesses and the rights of those connected to them.

Governor Signs School Campus Medical Cannabis Consumption Bill

On April 30, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1095, also called “Ducky’s Bill,” into law. Effective starting on July 28, the new law allows young students who are valid medical cannabis patients to consume their medicine on school campuses. “Currently children who need medical marijuana for such reasons as seizures or intractable pain for instance have to leave school to take it, thus missing valuable education time,” Gov. Inslee read aloud at a live conference right before he signed the bill. The inspiration behind this bill is River “Ducky” Barclay, a nine-year-old who suffers from a genetic disorder that causes her to experience numerous seizures. Although CBD oil is a useful treatment for her, currently all minor medical cannabis patients are required to consume their medicine off-campus, which frequently interferes with their steady education.

National

Delaware Lawmakers Introduce Recreational Bill

Delaware Rep. Ed Osienski reintroduced House Bill 110 on May 16. This bill aims to allow adults ages 21 and over to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis. An earlier version of the bill was defeated on June 27, 2018, but efforts to legalize recreational cannabis haven’t slowed down. The bill calls for authorities to issue 15 retail cannabis store licenses within 16 months of the bill’s effective date. If passed, it would allow 50 indoor and outdoor cultivation facilities of varying sizes, plus 10 product manufacturing facilities as well. It wouldn’t allow any cultivation at-home as seen in other states. “On Thursday, [May 16,] I introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, which would establish a new industry that could create hundreds of good-paying jobs throughout the state while striking a blow against the marijuana black market,” Rep. Ed Osienski stated. The new version of the bill follows a task force study on the impact of legalization.

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