News Nuggets – January 2017

Bay Area

Sacramento City Council Approves Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance

City Council members in Sacramento voted in November to allow licensed cannabis cultivation businesses within its city limits. Although the 5-3 vote was a win for Sacramento, the city will not begin issuing permits immediately. The city presented choices between amending “ . . . chapter 5.150 of the Sacramento City Code relating to marijuana cultivation permits and the delivery of medical marijuana, with direction to staff to return to council with 1) a neighborhood responsibility plan, 2) options for delivery-only dispensaries and 3) hiring criteria for previous offenders.” The council chose the former “neighborhood responsibility plan,” which was proposed by two councilmembers who were worried about how legal cannabis cultivation could affect the local neighborhoods. This plan would ensure that fees being paid by licensed cultivators would benefit local communities. The city will come up with necessary fees for cultivators based off of research it does into topics like how cannabis cultivation facilities affect law enforcement needs, property values and day-to-day life.

The Fight Continues for a Better Cannabis Cultivation Zoning Ordinance in Sonoma County

Sonoma County supervisors have adopted a new cannabis cultivation zoning ordinance that does not follow the recommendations received from the county’s Planning Commission. The new ordinance was adopted during the supervisors’ meeting on December 20, although it was initially approved at the December 14 city council meeting. The new ordinance will permit cannabis cultivation in commercial and industrial zones only, despite the county’s Planning Commission recommendation to include rural residential zones as well. Many growers and city officials opposed leaving out rural residential zones as compliant cultivation sites. Joe Munson, a local cannabis grower, spoke at the meeting. “This is going to affect a whole lot of people,” Munson said. “This is how they feed themselves. People are going to head right back into the hills, the national forests.” The ordinance will also permit a per-square-foot tax for cannabis cultivation, ranging from 35 cents to $18.75, and it will appear on the ballot during a special election on March 7, 2017.


CO Governor Proposes Changes to Growing Cannabis at Home

There could be some changes on the horizon for home growing in Colorado. Currently, laws are so lenient that medical patients can grow up to 99 plants, and anyone can grow six plants for recreational use. Due to concern that this allows for black market selling, Governor John Hickenlooper has proposed a variety of new regulations, such as more paperwork to better regulate legal medical cannabis growth (and thus separating it from the black market) and more restrictions for medical growers. However, some medical cannabis patients already feel that if these proposed regulations are adopted then they will be unhappy with the possibility of more limitations. CULTURE spoke with Jeff Wilson of McAllister Law, who notes that growing a variety of medical cannabis plants is essential the health of some patients, “Statewide plant limits for residences will negatively impact certain medical patients who need significant amounts of special strains of cannabis,” said Wilson. Colorado has always had one of the most understanding set of laws for those who need to grow special strains for medical use. Hopefully, this will be taken into account before any new rulings become official.

CSU Professors to Study Impact of Recreational Cannabis on College Campuses

Researchers at Colorado State University recently received a $186,500 grant to study the impacts of recreational cannabis on college campuses. The study will be looking into how cannabis affects marginalized communities, like adolescents still in school or the LGBTQ community. While the study will be specifically looking at college use, it does not seem that the purpose is to slam cannabis by proving that underage users are smoking. Rather, it will be looking at how legal cannabis is affecting the lives of students. “If conducted properly, studying the use of recreational marijuana will help to educate those opposed to it being legal,” explained Nate Wilson, CEO of NEOS cannabis company. The study is funded by a Marijuana Public Health Research Grant, which was provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and will be conducted between April 1, 2017 and March 30, 2019.

Los Angeles

Proposition M Receives Support from UCBA Trade Association

Proposition M for the City of Los Angeles received unanimous support from the largest trade association that represents Proposition D compliant medical cannabis collectives. The United Cannabis Business Alliance Trade Association (UCBA). The UCBA previously supported Prop. N, however the association now voted unanimously in support of Prop. M. In a press release, Jerred Kiloh, the President of the UCBA, said, “in the spirit of collaboration, the UCBA Board of Directors determined that the best approach to ensure uniform cannabis regulations for patients, communities and cannabis businesses is by working with the Los Angeles City Council rather than continuing to seek voter approval for our own initiative. Proposition N was the catalyst that lead to Proposition M and created a much broader inclusion of the overarching initiative.” He continued to explain how there were over 103,000 signatures collected in two months from voters in Los Angeles. These signatures influenced the drafting of Prop. M by Los Angeles City Council. It is the goal of the UCBA to be able to get its 135 legally authorized medical cannabis collectives in Los Angeles to work in accordance with Prop. 64 and MCRSA.

Fullerton PD Employs “Drug Recognition Experts” Instead of Scientific Breathalyzers for Cannabis DUIs

In response to the passing of Proposition 64, Fullerton law enforcement has shared how it plans to best identify when a driver is under the influence of cannabis. The department has reportedly trained 300 officers as “drug recognition experts,” who are apparently taught how to recognize many indications of drug impairment. Fullerton police officers have made no mention of implementing saliva tests or breathalyzer devices that, although still in the trial stages, have proven successful in providing actual evidence of cannabis impairment in places such as Colorado, Michigan and Northern California. Trained officers are instructed to conduct a 12-step sobriety test to determine if the individual is impaired, and then are allowed to make a call to arrest if they believe the person is unfit to drive. “It makes us more aware and gives us another tool to determine whether someone is impaired,” said Fullerton Police Sergeant Scott Flynn. While understanding the signs of drug impairment is helpful, it cannot be considered a permanent or accurate means for DUI assessment after recreational cannabis comes into play in California. It is vital that cities and states consider the use of technology that can obtain objective evidence on a person’s inebriation and ability to drive.


Ferndale Halts Processing of Request for Medical Cannabis Facilities

The city of Ferndale has decided to hold off processing the Medical Marihuana Facilities Request. April L. Lynch, City Manager wrote a Request for Council Action on the matter. “Due to the updated state law regarding marihuana facilities, staff is asking that City Council approve suspending the acceptance and review of any applications regarding marijuana facilities until July 1, 2017,” wrote Lynch. Her statement continued to explain that new state law resulted in extensive changes. Lynch added that the staff needs more time to review the laws in addition to getting recommendations from the City Council. The staff is currently facing various phone calls and requests every day in regards to medical cannabis facilities applications, and by suspending this process, it will help the staff with daily operations. As per this decision, applicants will not be able to obtain a license until December 2017.

Cannabis Testing Facilities Forced to Move if New City Proposal is Passed

The pending cannabis ordinance in Lansing may displace some of the city’s local cannabis business because of its new zoning rules. Although Lansing officials claim that 70 new medical cannabis collectives will be able to open up if the ordinance is passed, it will also be excluding a few local cannabis businesses as well. Jeff Nemeth is the Chief Executive Officer of ACT Laboratories Inc., which is preparing to move south to Jackson if the ordinance is passed, “We feel we’re there for a good service, just to make sure patients get good quality medicine, and we don’t want to see patients get bad medicine,” Nemeth told CULTURE in an interview. The Lansing City Council has proposed an ordinance that would require cannabis testing facilities to operate at a distance of at least 1,000 feet from any city parks. This creates an issue for ACT Laboratories, as the facility is 940 feet away from Cherry Hill Park, according to Lansing’s Planning Office. Although there has been almost $200,000 invested into ACT Laboratories since opening in Lansing, Nemeth and his business partners won’t give up if the ordinance is approved.


Public Calls for Resolving Cannabis Industry’s Banking Issues 

DHM Research and LT Public Relations (LTPR) released findings from a study that shows how Oregon residents feel about financial institutions and their relationship with the legal cannabis industry. The study shows that a majority of Oregonians believe banks and credit unions should provide legal cannabis businesses with financial services. “Financial institutions may even strengthen their reputation overall and attract new individual customers or members by doing so,” the study concluded. “Asked if their impression of their financial institution would change if it held deposits and made loans to various industries, Oregonians indicated they see a partnership between financial services and legal marijuana businesses as desirable.” Forty-three percent of Oregonians surveyed would have a more positive impression of their financial institution if it worked with the legal cannabis industry, while 43 percent said it would not influence their impression. While there is only one financial institution in Oregon that is currently working with the legal cannabis industry, it will be interesting to see if others will become influenced by this study and its findings.

Medford Moving Forward With Allowing Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries

The Medford City Council voted unanimously in December to allow recreational cannabis dispensaries within city limits. The vote changed zoning laws to allow cannabis dispensaries licensed through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to operate in the heavy commercial, regional commercial and community commercial zones. Voters in the city passed legislation to allow recreational cannabis sales in their community in November by only a three-point lead. Deputy City Attorney Kevin McConnell spoke at the meeting during the council’s discussion to decide between allowing conditional-use or permanent permits. “I have not heard  any complaints to me about any medical marijuana dispensary in the City of Medford,” McConnell said at the meeting. “I do know that even the medical marijuana dispensary that we had two court cases on . . . that was violating that moratorium back in 2014 and 2015, after this council changed its own text amendment—that medical marijuana dispensary has been in compliance with state law.” McConnell also stated that he would contact the OLCC to let them know that the city can now benefit from the state’s recreational cannabis sales tax of 15 percent.


PTSD is Added to Minnesota’s List of Cannabis Qualifying Conditions 

Patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Minnesota will be able to medicate using medical cannabis starting August 2017.The Minnesota Department of Health expanded its list of medical conditions to include PTSD after careful consideration, according to Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger in a press release. “This decision was made after careful deliberation of available evidence, consultation with experts in the field and public input,” Ehlinger said. “While the process of reviewing these potential additions was difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence, PTSD presented the strongest case for potential benefits. PTSD also has few effective treatment alternatives available for some patients with the condition.” There are around 3,500 registered medical cannabis patients in Minnesota. While patients are only permitted to use cannabis oil or pills, Ehlinger shared that topical forms of cannabis will be allowed as soon as next year.


Cayman Islands Voted Unanimously to Allow Cannabis Oil

The Cayman Islands, which are located northeast of Jamaica, voted unanimously to allow medical cannabis oil for patients with qualifying conditions. Premier Honor Alden McLaughlin made a speech in the Legislative Assembly. McLaughlin said, “Madam Speaker, I also wish to advise the House and the country that after carefully considering the merits and demerits of legalising the use of medical cannabinoid oil to treat those in our community with a debilitating disease, whether cancer, glaucoma, or perhaps even severe epilepsy, Government is persuaded that it is better to favour hope and compassion over fear.” He continued to explain that the Cabinet directed the Legal Department to draft a bill that would allow patients cannabinoid oil, which would be prescribed to them by doctors. McLaughlin also explained this was an urgent manner due to the need of patients, especially considering one Caymanian whose access to oil could make a difference between life and death. The new bill will only permit cannabis oil, and it will not permit the use of the whole cannabis plant for medical purposes.

San Diego

El Cajon Decides to Ban Recreational Cannabis Businesses and Outdoor Grows

Like many other cities across the state, El Cajon has passed an emergency ordinance that bans the outdoor growing or sale of recreational cannabis during a council meeting on November 15. The only permitted cultivation of cannabis will be inside a home or another building on a property. The El Cajon City Council Meeting Agenda for that day explained why this ban on outdoor cultivation is necessary. “The reasons for this are that allowing outdoor growth could result in problems related to theft, illegal consumption by persons under the age of 21, and potential sales of the stolen marijuana (or illegal sales by the individual grower where the plants and products are made easily available to a third party).” The city is prohibiting these activities, because they believed issues caused by outdoor cultivation could overwhelm the city’s law enforcement.

San Diego City Enacts Temporary Recreational Cannabis Ban

San Diego’s City Council enacted a ban on December 13 that puts a temporary hold on the operation of recreational cannabis businesses. At the meeting, councilmembers discussed the need for this temporary ban. Specifically, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf stated that the moratorium is important because it will “provide consistency and clarity” to the business community. Local attorney Kimberly R. Simms told CULTURE that this is a pivotal moment for city officials to get things right: “It is my sincere hope that the City of San Diego takes this time to develop sound and sensible land use policies for both the medicinal and adult use cannabis market,” Simms stated. “What we have seen time and time again, is that bans simply do not work. They do not act as a deterrent but rather encourage an unregulated market.” While the temporary ban limits outdoor growing of cannabis in addition to recreational cannabis businesses, adults are still afforded the right to grow indoors for personal use and possess up to 28.5 grams of cannabis flower and up to eight grams of cannabis concentrate.


‘Not For Kids’ Warning Symbol Will Soon Appear on Washington Cannabis Products

Adults in Washington will soon see a new warning symbol on cannabis products that will warn children to steer clear. The symbol was released by the Washington Poison Center (WPC), and it is a red hand with the words, “NOT FOR KIDS,” in addition to the word, “EMERGENCY” followed by an emergency phone number. Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board’s Chair, Jane Rushford shared the need for this new warning in a release. “This is a perfect example of the public and private sector working together toward a common goal of public safety,” Rushford said. “While this is the Poison Center’s warning symbol, they have collaborated with the agency and solicited our input throughout the process. We think their design is excellent and their process thorough. Should the symbol become part of our permanent rules, this will be another important tool in preventing child access to marijuana.” The new requirement will be effective on February 14, 2017, however the board will give the industry up to 90 days to comply. This is yet another step toward cannabis acceptance and providing a safe industry for all.

Seattle Hits Cannabis Retail Stores with Increased Fees

The Seattle City Council voted to approve an increase to retail store licensing fees, with the council detailing the reason behind the $500 increase, which takes the fee from $1,000 to $1,500. “This legislation is necessary since the current revenue fee from marijuana business licenses is inadequate to provide the resources for administrative, policy and enforcement efforts that are necessary to ensure compliance with the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) and State law,” the agenda states. Businesses outside of Seattle who sell supplies to Seattle retail stores will also be subject to a $750 license fee. The council’s explanation also shows how these fees are set up to help regulate the industry. “The marijuana enforcement program will ensure the equitable application of the SMC, which disallows marijuana businesses from being within specific distances to community resources. The program is also responsible for ensuring that communities receive complaint resolution with regard to marijuana businesses, which can have an adverse effect on neighborhoods, especially if marijuana businesses are able to congregate in certain areas,” the council stated. The fee changes went into effect on January 1, 2017.

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