News Nuggets – February 2017

Bay Area

Watsonville Permits Medical Cannabis Cultivation

The Watsonville City Council decided to allow only medical cannabis cultivation during its January 10 meeting. They did so after contemplating four separate versions of ordinances. Many people at the meeting expressed concern for moving so quickly with the city’s cannabis legislation. City Manager Charles Montoya explained the reason for the city’s urgency with this legislation. “The passage of recreational marijuana last year in the state of California, this industry is evolving quickly and what we as staff are trying to do is get ahead of the curve, to make sure that we don’t leave anything on the table,” Montoya said. “As we move through this process, we are trying to make sure that we are not left behind and we have our process in place before the state does. Before the state imposes what they want to on this community.” He continued to share how this law will protect medical cannabis cultivators in the city when bigger places like Santa Cruz County permit recreational cannabis cultivation. Montoya also assured staff members that the ordinance could be amended in the future.

San Francisco Cannabis Task Force Presents Recommendations

San Francisco’s Cannabis State Legalization Task Force submitted its executive summary, which outlines a large number of recommendations regarding cannabis regulation. According to the executive summary text, the Task Force will be active for a two-year period, which began in January, 2016. Over the course of its first year, the Task Force has designed a set of approximately 80 recommendations across various topic areas to fulfill its mandate. The recommendations outline everything regarding cannabis regulation from social consumption clubs to excise taxes; the Task Force really puts a focus on fixing social justice issues. CULTURE connected with Task Force Chair, Terrance Alan, who shared that among 80 recommendations, one huge focus was to ensure that a stream of the money collected from the excise tax on cannabis would go toward the outreach and education for people who have been previously convicted for cannabis-related crimes. Alan shared that the recommendation for the excise tax being used for these programs comes at a good time, since San Francisco isn’t currently facing a budget crisis. “We’re able to use a little part of this moment of largesse in the part of the city to really drill into this cannabis question and really give the city a good template,” Alan said. “So I’m looking forward to however that looks.”


Increased Hacking Becomes Concern for Colorado Cannabis Businesses

Due to lack of access to bank services and strict regulations in the cannabis industry, dispensaries are forced to rely on specific software to keep track of purchases and customers. Unfortunately, even popular applications such as the seed-to-sale software MJ Freeway are susceptible to digital attacks. In early January, the software program was hacked by an anonymous group, which left cannabis businesses that use the software without access to necessary information. Now business owners can add the threat of being hacked to the list of things they need to protect their businesses against. “The hack of MJ Freeway was a devastating blow to many dispensary owners,” explained Leah Heise, CEO of Women Grow. “This raises a red flag for business owners not only about security issues, but also about the importance of creating redundancies to make sure their business operations are not shuttered due to the illicit activities of a hacker.” While the system going down had a major impact on the flow of business, this can ultimately be an important lesson for the cannabis industry. Backup systems and more software safeguards should be seriously considered following this issue.

Denver City Council Discusses Allowing Cannabis Dispensaries to Extend Hours

Legal cannabis in Denver has seen some of the best success in the nation, but many consumers in the city have one major issue. Due to Denver law, all dispensaries have to shut their doors early. For cannabis businesses, the only way around the local law is to be technically located in another county, such as stores located in neighboring areas of Glendale or Edgewater, where remaining open until midnight is allowed. However, business owners and consumers alike are starting to speak up and demand longer business hours in Denver. “The change in stores’ hours is an issue that activists have been pushing for years now,” said Jordan Person, Executive Director of Denver NORML. “At a recent marijuana committee meeting with the Denver City Council, several business owners spoke in favor of extending store hours, but members of the council were concerned that there were no community representatives present to speak on the matter. State law says stores must close at midnight. Denver adopted the rule of 7 p.m. as it was mirrored off of the required closing time for medical cannabis dispensaries. A fair compromise would be stores being open till 9pm or 10pm.” If dispensaries in Denver are allowed to stay open later, the industry could bring in even more revenue and continue to make customers happy.

Los Angeles

Long Beach Plans to Create a Cannabis Education Program

As Long Beach moves forward to regulate medical cannabis businesses, government officials and cannabis industry professionals will also move forward with a decision to create a cannabis education program. Councilmember Suzie Price shared her support for this new program. “When we look at some of the outreach and education components that we’ve seen in either industries, let’s say with alcohol, we see that a lot of the major manufacturers and bars and places where alcohol is served have partnered in this concept of outreach and education by sharing messages and purging people to drink responsibly, being aware and mindful collectively that there are negative consequences associated with misuse of certain products and really coming together to come up with outreach and education that addresses those issues,” Price said. “So I think where we are with marijuana, especially in the state of California and in the city of Long Beach, is very much in its infancy stage in terms of outreach and education.” The focus of the education will ensure public safety by helping to reduce the instances of youth consumption of cannabis and driving while under the influence of cannabis.

Fontana City Council Approves Ordinance to Allow Cannabis to be Grown at Home

On January 24, the Fontana City Council voted to allow homeowners to grow cannabis plants under the state’s new regulations. The council entered a tumultuous debate that ended with three councilmembers in favor of allowing home growing, and two opposing, with the promise that the topic would be revisited in one year. Both the Director of Community Development, Zai AbuBakar, and the council in favor felt it was necessary to discuss and take action in response to the new state law that voters supported in the November election. “We are probably the first city in the area that has this process; that’s why we sought legal advice,” said AbuBakar. “We wanted to know what we are doing.” Councilmember Michael Tahan expressed a concern with the lack of limitations regarding the number of houses that apply to obtain a cultivation licenses, with worry that some houses are located in close proximity to schools and parks. However, there are other rules in place that will help regulate cannabis growth, such as the 21-and-older requirement, a $411.12 permit fee, a maximum number of six plants per home and most importantly, that the grow area is secure from people under the age of 21 and suppresses any odors, sounds or other emissions that might bother neighbors.


MSU Extension Offers Government Training on the New Medical Cannabis Laws

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is offering a training program for government officials. The training is on the new Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, and it will help government officials understand relevant changes to the state’s law. This includes explaining a community’s right to either prohibit or permit cannabis cultivation, dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses. Mark Wyckoff is the Senior Director of MSU Land Policy Institute and the Director of Planning and Zoning Center at MSU. Wyckoff provided more insight into the available training. “There is no right answer other than communities making an informed choice that works for that community,” Wyckoff said. “The training will help communities understand these risks and how to evaluate them.” The workshops are happening at 11 different locations throughout February and March.

Monroe City Council Considers Medical Cannabis

According to new Michigan state law, municipalities can now “opt-in” to allow medical cannabis businesses, such as collectives and cultivation sites. The Monroe City Council is mulling over the idea of allowing such businesses, but first took action to hear from the public on January 17 to learn what locals think about allowing medical cannabis businesses. At the recent City Council meeting, Monroe officials found positive support for cannabis from advocates and potential business owners like Jesse Riggs, who believes that it’s the city’s duty to help its patients “We have veterans, chronically and terminally ill people, in this county that could benefit. We have a tax base that could be increased. We have deteriorating parts of this city that could benefit. And I think that it’s a shame and neglectful for us to chase people almost 25 miles [to the nearest dispensary],” said Riggs. Although no decisions were made at this meeting, this feedback will be essential to the city of Monroe’s future with cannabis. The state of California will begin accepting applications mid-September from those interested in operating a cannabis-related business.

San Diego

Advocates Aim to Lift Ban on Medical Cannabis Collectives in Oceanside

If advocates in Oceanside get their way, medical cannabis collectives would no longer be banned in the city. Amber Newman is one cannabis advocate who revealed the details of a new measure that would permit medical cannabis collectives in Oceanside during an Oceanside City Council meeting on January 4. “First and foremost, our initiative establishes sensible regulations for the cultivation, the manufacturing, lab testing and sale of medical marijuana that will allow Oceanside to be self-sufficient when it comes to the care of its ailing citizens,” Newman stated. “Our initiative keeps our kids safe, by moving medical marijuana sales off of the streets, and into licensed, regulated and inspected facilities that be required to obtain proof of age via state ID before allowing the purchase of any medical marijuana product.” She also shared the initiative would enact zoning regulations and a limit on the number of collectives that can operate within the city. Additionally, the initiative would provide various special revenue streams that will benefit the city. At this time, advocates are looking to get medical cannabis businesses up and running in Oceanside.

Trademarking Changes Coming to California Through Newly Proposed Bill

A bill that was recently introduced into the California Legislature could allow cannabis businesses to trademark their products, and it could also give them proper legal protections in the future. Assembly Bill 64 would allow the Secretary of State, who can normally only approve trademarks for items that fall under federal trademark law, to also register trademarks for cannabis products and services. “This bill, for purposes of marks for which a certificate of registration is issued on or after January 1, 2018, would, notwithstanding those provisions, authorize the use of specified classifications for marks related to medical cannabis and nonmedical cannabis goods and services that are lawfully in commerce under state law in the State of California,” the bill text reads. Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the author of the bill, has expressed his support in giving cannabis businesses a chance to protect their intellectual property. The current Secretary of State has not yet commented on his thoughts for the bill.


New Bill Would Allow Medical Cannabis to Be Used in Schools

Medical cannabis has been known to help patients of all ages find relief from a variety of ailments, but for young students it’s often difficult to gain permission to medicate at school. Fortunately, a new bill could help many Washington students get access to their medicine and still receive the proper education that they deserve. House Bill 1060 is inspired by seven-year-old River Barclay, an epilepsy patient who uses CBD oil. River’s father reached out to State Representative Brian Blake who is sponsoring the bill, among other Washington state lawmakers. The proposed bill’s text explains that children will need to meet many requirements to obtain cannabis medicine at school. “A school district must permit a student who meets the nine requirements of RCW 69.51A.220 to consume marijuana for medical 10 purposes on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or while attending a 11 school-sponsored event in accordance with the school district’s policy adopted pursuant to this section.” If permitted, children like River will be able to get daily access to medicine they so desperately need.

Washington Report Shows Decreased Fatal Car Accidents with Cannabis and Alcohol since Cannabis was Legalized

A new Washington State report and study called WA State Marijuana Driving Fatalities Occur while Speeding After Work: Nearly Equal Alcohol Fatalities, was conducted by Phillip Drum, Pharm. D. and Alfred Crancer, B.S., M.A. The study states that there are near equivalent instances of cannabis-related driving fatalities and alcohol-related driving fatalities. However, when the data is looked at over the years since cannabis legalization, it actually demonstrates a clear decrease in fatal car crashes within both categories. For example, in 2014, when recreational cannabis stores first opened, alcohol-related driving fatalities were reported at 30 percent, with cannabis-related fatalities at 25.4 percent. The following year in 2015, fatalities from alcohol dropped down to 24.3 percent, with cannabis-related fatalities also dropping to 23 percent. The study concluded, “The last two years show no statistical difference between the percent of marijuana driving fatalities and percent of alcohol driving fatalities.”


Eugene Gets Large-Scale Cannabis Complex

A company that specializes in turn-key style cannabis grow properties, called Grow Condos, Inc. submitted plans for a large cannabis complex in Eugene. The company recently announced it will be moving forward with what it calls the “Nuggetville Project,” which consists of 33 individual warehouse units that are each 1,500 feet. Chief Executive Officer of Grow Condos, Inc., Wayne Zallen, shared his excitement for this large-scale project. “We are very pleased to be able to expand in this advantageous segment of the industry,” Zallen stated. “This new property will give us a great opportunity to offer tailored space for production and processing in a market ripe with growers aggressively seeking suitable solutions.” This project will total 50,000 square feet of cultivation space in the Pioneer Business Park in the city of Eugene, and it will be built by the Oregon contractor, Nering Construction, LLC.

OLCC Grants 762 Recreational Cannabis Licenses

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) received 1,907 applications during 2016 for recreational cannabis licenses. Of those, 762 recreational cannabis licenses were approved through the first week of January. Steve Marks, who is the Executive Director of the OLCC, shared in a press release how hard his team has worked on the licensing process. “Our staff has worked nonstop and with determination to get this industry licensed,” Marks said. “Working after hours, working weekends, traveling long distances, this team has been flexible in getting this industry licensed, without compromising the trust placed in us to protect the public.” Praise for the OLCC staff’s hard work was also expressed by Will Higlin, OLCC Senior Director of Licensing and Compliance. “The staff has done a wonderful job getting the industry stood up during the last year, but we still have a lot of work to do in terms of continuing to license the industry,” Higlin stated. Higlin also shared that they next step is to shift resources to focus on public safety and industry compliance.


Arkansas will Permit 32 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

Thirty-two medical cannabis dispensaries will be serving patients in Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission. A variety of other decisions to regulate the state’s new medical cannabis industry were also discussed on January 10, which includes application fees, license fees and regulations on cannabis cultivation facilities. The most notable decision was a vote on how many dispensary licenses would be allowed, as detailed in the meeting minutes: “Commissioners discussed the number of dispensary licenses to be issued in the state. Commissioner Roman moved to issue 28 initial dispensary licenses. Commissioner Miller seconded the motion. By a vote of 3-2, the motion failed,” it reads. However, after the motion failed, the commission chose to unanimously approve 32 licenses instead. Some dispensaries will choose to grow their own cannabis, which would require them to pay a $25,000 license fee plus an annual fee of $32,500. Arkansas voters legalized medical cannabis in November 2016 for patients with various qualifying conditions, which include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, seizures and many others. The law went into effect on November 9, 2016, however regulators were given extra time days to enforce regulations on the program.


Guam Governor Supports Recreational Cannabis

Governor of Guam, Eddie Baza Calvo, surprised many when he announced his approval for recreational cannabis legalization in Guam. His announcement came as part of a veto for Bill 344, which set to permit patients and caregivers to grow medical cannabis at home. At the same time, Calvo also shared the reason for supporting recreational cannabis legalization. “I am introducing this bill, not because I personally support the recreational use of marijuana, but as a solution to the regulatory labyrinth that sprouted from the voter-mandated medical marijuana program,” Calvo stated. “The program was well intended, seeking to provide for patients rather than leaving them in the dark or to the risks of the black market. While eliminating the black market is advantageous, the regulatory nightmare that became the medicinal program would have replaced it with a gray market rife with corruption and cronyism.” He continued to state that decriminalizing the sale, distribution, production and consumption of cannabis would allow them to control and tax the cannabis industry properly.

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