News Nuggets – April 2018

 

Bay Area

First Cannabis Lounge Opens in San Francisco

Barbary Coast Dispensary is the first dispensary in San Francisco to open up a lounge that allows smoking, vaping and edibles. Because of concerns, mostly over secondhand smoke, other social consumption lounge permits have not been issued to other businesses. Similar efforts are underway in other states, such as Massachusetts. “Those who wish to consume cannabis are going to do so whether social sites exist or not, and are going to make driving decisions regardless of where they consume,” said Jim Borghesani of Massachusetts Marijuana Policy Project. “Social sites will simply give cannabis users the same options available to alcohol users.” City officials in San Francisco are coming to terms with the fact that if no locations are provided for social consumption, people are going to end up consuming cannabis in illegal areas.

California Could Lower Cannabis Sales Taxes

On March 15, Assemblymembers Tom Lackey, Rob Bonta and three other co-authors introduced Assembly Bill 3157 which aims to drop California’s cannabis sales tax from 15 percent to 11 percent. The proposal would also suspend a cultivation tax, and cumulatively, the tax decrease would amount to a nine percent price-drop in prices for consumers, according to an assessment by New Frontier Data. “As someone who spent 28 years in law enforcement, I know how sophisticated California’s black market for cannabis has become,” Lackey said, after announcing the bill. “Criminals do not pay taxes, ensure customers are 21 and over, obtain licenses or follow product safety regulations. We need to give legal businesses some temporary tax relief so they do not continue to be undercut by the black market.” California’s current rising cost of legal cannabis cannot continue to compete with black market prices.

Oregon

Oregon to Fund Law Enforcement Grant

Senate Bill 1544, which establishes a $9 million grant to aid law enforcement, recently passed the Oregon Senate and House. The grant will help local police pay for costs incurred by illegal cannabis cultivation and distribution activity. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ginny Burdick. “The best way to protect our lawful businesses from federal intervention is to have a secure, closed loop system,” Burdick explained. “Unlawful producers and distributors are creating difficulties by acting outside of our regulated market. The Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program will help local law enforcement prevent unlawful cultivation and distribution in their communities, which is an important step toward solving this issue.” The grant will provide $1.5 million per year to Oregon law enforcement over the course of a six-year period. In addition, SB-1544 also requires industrial hemp products that exceed 0.3 percent THC to be sold in OLCC-licensed shops.

Bend-based Software Company Enters into Contract with Iowa

Bend-based BioMauris, formerly called Symplmed, will supply Iowa with a comprehensive tracking system in order to keep tabs on Iowa’s new CBD program and keep medicine from getting into the wrong hands. “Our team has extensive history in the pharmaceutical business, and therefore has a unique appreciation for data integrity and security,” BioMauris Founder Erik Emerson stated. “Additionally, we fundamentally believe the opportunity to track patient progress and associate the benefits received with the products used, is an incredible opportunity for the cannabis industry. Our patented technology, makes this not only possible, but simple for all users.” The $250,000 contract will cover the first year, and another $100,000 contract for each subsequent year. BioMauric began operating as a pharmaceutical company before becoming a software company. Iowa chose Metrc and BioMauris over other out-of-state tracking companies such as Florida-based Synadapt.

Colorado

Mistrial Declared for Church of Cannabis

The International Church of Cannabis’ Denver branch faced a trial after a 2017 undercover sting operation revealed that members were consuming cannabis at church events. However, a mistrial has been declared, allegedly because many of the jury members favored cannabis legalization. Of the 21 people called to jury selection, although only six would actually be chosen to serve, and city prosecutors were unable to seat six juror. One had a medical issue, two claimed their support of cannabis would make them biased, and eight questioned the case against the defendants. “My opinion from watching the reactions of the jury is that they truly represented the voters of Denver, especially the majority that voted for medical and recreational use of cannabis, but were not seeing their Democratic wishes being represented,” Lee Molloy, co-founder of the church, explained to CULTURE. According to Molloy, the city is planning to ask for a pool of 50 jurors next time, in the hopes that more people will be willing to serve on the jury.

Legal Cannabis is Raising Colorado Insurance Premiums

Legal cannabis may be exciting for Coloradans, but some are upset about rising car insurance premiums. According to The Zebra, an insurance search engine, rates have been rising in almost all legal states. “In every state where marijuana is recreationally legalized except Massachusetts, car insurance rates have increased both since 2011 and since 2016,” a spokesperson for The Zebra told CULTURE. “In Massachusetts, rates have decreased since 2011 but are up over 2016.” In Colorado, average premium rates increased 54.2 percent, between 2011 and 2017. These increases could be due to other factors that have arisen alongside legal cannabis, such as distracted driving from smartphones. Based on other states where rates are increasing, it appears legal cannabis could be a contributing factor.

Los Angeles

Simi Valley City Council Hires Cannabis Consultant

On March 26, the Simi Valley City Council voted unanimously in favor of hiring a cannabis consultant to advise the council on a potential cannabis tax ballot measure. “Staff recommends that before the city council makes any decision related to a ballot measure, tax rates, testing facilities and deliveries, that staff engage a consultant that is well-versed in these areas who can provide educational workshops to the city council and public so the council will be better informed prior to making decisions on such critical topics, or deciding whether to move forward with such decisions,” the city staff recommendation reads. The decision to hire a consultant was made to accommodate the rapidly changing landscape of California’s cannabis industry. Deputy City Manager Samantha Argabrite said that the city council has not yet chosen a consultant as of late March. Simi Valley is typically known for its slow, stringent approach to cannabis.

 

City of Riverside Considers Ban on Cannabis Businesses

It appears that Riverside could be headed toward an all-out ban on cannabis-related activities within city limits. The Riverside City Council voted on March 27 to ask its staff to draft a ban, which would replace the city’s current moratorium, which bans most cannabis activities. Councilman Chuck Conder said he wants to preserve the city’s “soul” by blocking normalized cannabis activities. Ryan Bacchus, CEO of California Cannabis Coalition, however, is planning to draft a measure that would allow some level of cannabis access in the city. He wasn’t entirely displeased, however, with the city council’s latest moves. “It was very good for the city of Riverside and its leadership to take the time to actually evaluate the situation in its whole totality,” Bacchus said. “It gave time, not only for the residents but also for the community staff to see what exactly you are taking these steps toward, but also how to properly evaluate and do this in a responsible manner.”

Michigan

Majority of Michigan Voters Support Recreational Cannabis

According to new polling data commission by Michigan NORML and carried out by EPIC-MRA polling, 61 percent of voters said they would vote “yes” on  the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which would legalize cannabis in the state. The number reflects an 11 percent drop since 2014. “Michigan NORML is a member of The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is backing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act,” NORML stated in its blog. “The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.” The poll indicates that if Michigan’s bill to legalize cannabis were voted on at the time of polling, it would pass.

 

Portage Approves Medical Cannabis Facilities

After approximately 500 hours of deliberation, the Portage City Council voted 4-2 in favor of approving two ordinance amendments on March 13 allowing for five categories of medical cannabis licenses. Amendments were made to Chapter 14, Article 12, Businesses and Chapter 42, Article 4, Zoning, for Medical Marihuana Facilities. “This council and staff has been working on this for many, many months,” Mayor Pro Tem Jim Pearson said at the meeting. “We’ve held a couple of different workshops, we’ve edited, we’ve gone through, items that have come up when we didn’t think about them. And we made changes. And so there’s been a lot of work. This council was not unanimous, and those that opposed it really contributed to the betterment of the ordinance proposal.” Three types of cultivation licenses include Class A (up to 500 plants), Class B (up to 1,000 plants) and Class C (up to 1,500 plants).

San Diego

La Mesa Considers Medical Cannabis Tax

The city of La Mesa held a public medical cannabis taxation discussion on Feb. 28 to get a better idea of where its residents stand on cannabis reform. The discussion was led by HdL Companies, an outside consultant. “We need to tax it, absolutely. But one of the things that is most important, regardless of how we do this, is to keep the rates stable for the first three years,” said Sarah Bullock, La Mesa’s City Finance Director. “That will provide certainty for the businesses. We also don’t want to overtax them; that would be self-defeating.” The city’s goal, as laid out by HdL Cannabis Compliance Director David McPherson, would  be to read a draft ordinance at a public hearing by April 24, send the ballot measure to the Registrar of Voters by Aug. 10, obtain primary arguments by Aug. 22 and obtain rebuttal arguments and the city attorney’s impartial analysis by Aug. 27.

Washington

Washington Hemp Program Could Be Revived in the Future

On March 8, the Washington State Legislature passed a supplemental state budget that included $100,000 to fund the Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Industrial Hemp Research Pilot (initially a request for $287,000 was submitted in 2017). The bill now awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature for approval. The funding, though limited and not final, was a bright spot for hemp enthusiasts after Gov. Inslee included no money for the program in a version of the budget drafted in late 2017. Hector Castro, the communications director for the WSDA told CULTURE about the potential funding. “[The WSDA] saw that $100,000 was included in the supplemental budget as passed by the Legislature recently,” Castro wrote. “Currently, we are assessing how the funding included in the budget could be used to continue the Industrial Hemp Pilot. However, it is important to remember that the budget must still be signed by Gov. Inslee. We must still wait to see what the final budget includes before we begin implementing any plans for the hemp program.”

Five Points of Pierce County Sues Lewis County for Cannabis Ban
Since July 2017, a retail store named Five Points of Pierce County has been embroiled in a lawsuit with Lewis County. The complaint was filed because the cannabis retailer alleges that a 2013 ordinance, which bans cannabis sales, contradicts state law. The retailer has licenses for  two retail locations in Lewis County, one in Chehalis and one in Centralia, but has not been able to open either due to the ban. Other cannabis retailers who are unable to open include Dank’s Wonder Emporium and Washington Green Leaf, who both own a licensed retail store in Centralia. CULTURE reached out to Dank’s Wonder Emporium Owner Random Vaughn about the issue. “We are not able to open [and have] been threatened by the sheriff down there multiple times,” Vaughn said. “We’re required to pay monthly expenses on a space we are not allowed to open.” Neither retailer are included in the complaint, but both have suffered financially due to the ban, as they are paying for licensed retail stores, but are unable to open and make any sales.

National

Virginia Governor Signs Medical Cannabis Bill

On March 9, Gov. Ralph Northam signed House Bill 1251, which expands access to cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) oils for medicinal purposes. “Gov. Northam signed HB-1251 on March 9, 2018. He added an emergency clause to the bills during the legislative process allowing immediate enactment with his signature,” according to Virginia NORML. “First, this expands the affirmative defense for possession to all patients with written certifications. Second, it will expand access to Virginia’s regulated medical cannabis program once it becomes operational. The affirmative defense certificate has been updated to reflect the change in law.” Before now, only a limited number of patients with extreme forms of epilepsy were allowed to have access to medical cannabis oil. The bill also increases the 30-day supply limit to a 90-day supply. The expansion could help fight the state’s ominous opioid problem by providing alternatives.

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