News Nuggets – July 2018

Bay Area

Walnut Creek Enacts Delivery and Home Cultivation Regulations

On June 19, the Walnut Creek City Council unanimously approved an ordinance regulating cannabis cultivation. It took over 18 months of deliberation to get to this point. The Personal and Commercial Cannabis Activities Ordinance allows for up to two medical cannabis delivery-only businesses within city limits, located 1,000 feet or more from schools, churches or city parks. Residents can grow up to six plants in their backyards, and rental properties would be able to permit cultivation at their discretion. Brick-and-mortar locations, commercial cultivation operations and testing facilities will remain prohibited. “Thanks for doing this, but it’s a band-aid,” said Renee Lee, co-founder and president of Rossmoor Medical Marijuana Club. “We need the tax dollars here, and the black market out.” Many other people voiced their opinions that the city could have allowed more in terms of cannabis businesses.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to Cover Massive Wildfire Losses

Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) stated on June 21 that it expects to pay out at least $2.5 billion to cover the damages sustained by the deadly wildfire season in California during 2017. Last year, 21 major fires ripped through California, killing 44 people and devastating at least 34 cannabis farms through fire or smoke damage. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined that PG&E’s downed power lines were to blame for starting 14 fires. The company was not pleased. “Liability regardless of negligence undermines the financial health of the state’s utilities, discourages investment in California and has the potential to materially impact the ability of utilities to access the capital markets to fund utility operations and California’s bold clean energy vision,” stated Brandi Merlo, spokesperson. The company also faces over 200 lawsuits from various businesses.

Colorado

School Nurses Can Now Dispense Medical Cannabis in Colorado

Cannabis advocates and concerned parents are rejoicing now that Colorado officials passed House Bill 1286, which allows school nurses or other approved personnel who work at public schools to administer cannabis to children who need the medicine. “This is a good example of government support,” Rep. Dylan Roberts explained to CULTURE. “A constituent had an idea; the governor signed it, and now it’s law, so that has been exciting and encouraging.” The idea was first introduced to Roberts by a family of constituents with a son who has epilepsy who needed cannabis at school in the middle of the day. While both parents tried to make it to the school every day at lunch time, they also both worked full time jobs and had four other children. All they wanted was a way to get the medicine to their son, and now, thanks to the bill, they no longer have to be present when their son receives his medicine at school. HB-1236 will also benefit many other families and children in the state.

Denver and Thornton Mayors Stand Up for Federally Legal Cannabis

Colorado has been notorious for its support of legal cannabis, and recently the mayors of Denver and Thornton have joined The Government for Responsible U.S. Cannabis Policy Coalition which is made up of numerous city leaders from across the nation. The group is lobbying Congress and the Trump administration for a sensible cannabis policy in regards to cannabis banking and federal regulations. “We must have common sense federal legislation to successfully regulate and tax marijuana,” Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams told CULTURE. “The first thing they should do is pass legislation that will allow marijuana businesses to use our banking system. This will take the marijuana money out of the shadows. Currently, the cash-operated businesses have a safety risk, and the revenues are not as easily tracked and audited. Congress must take action on this, because marijuana will be coming to most cities around the U.S. very soon.” As legalization continues to spread, actions like this from public leaders will help further solidify the legitimacy of the industry.

Los Angeles

Costa Mesa Approves Tenth Medical Cannabis Business

On June 11, the Costa Mesa Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of granting Leaf Concepts LLC with a conditional use permit, which is the 10th medical cannabis business in the city to be approved. “I have faith that this is just a medical processing facility, and it’s not going to have the same sort of people that you would normally see around an unlicensed dispensary or any sort of unlicensed facility,” Planning Commissioner Carla Navarro Woods stated. Costa Mesa’s Measure X allows for manufacturing, research, testing and distribution businesses in an industrial area of the city. A few neighboring establishments opposed the dispensary, including the nearby St. Barnabas Orthodox Church. However, Leaf Concepts presented city officials with a sound plan of how they would respect neighbors and prevent unwanted odors from being detected in the surrounding area, which in part led to the dispensary’s approval.

Ban will Remain in Place on Cannabis Businesses in Unincorporated L.A. County

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided on June 19 to continue the ban on cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas of the county. While plenty of cannabis businesses have been approved or are in the process of approval in many other cities in the county, such as Los Angeles or Long Beach, the county government sees things differently. “The Board of Supervisors has decided not to rush this issue and, by taking no action on the report today, has allowed the ban on commercial cannabis in the unincorporated areas to stay in place,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn stated. “However, this ban does not affect residents’ ability to use cannabis recreationally or grow plants on their property for personal use as guaranteed under Proposition 64.” The board cited how much work would be involved in regulating cannabis, including setting up a commission, setting up an advisory board and being forced to amend several existing pieces of legislation as part of the reason they chose to continue the ban.

Michigan

Grand Rapids Bill Would Allow Up to 43 Provisioning Centers

On June 12, Grand Rapids city commissioners voted 6-1 to seek public input on a proposal that would allow up to 43 provisioning centers within city limits. The number was based on buffer zones around schools and other sensitive areas. The planning commission’s alternative proposal, however, would allow for up to 145 provisioning centers, and up to 377 other facilities for transportion, processing and safety compliance officers. In the end, the city commission decided not to advance the planning commission’s proposal. “There’s the suggestion of 43 sites and the planning commission has 377,” Joe Jones, Second Ward Commissioner said. “The answer is clearly somewhere in between.” It appears that the Grand Rapids city commissioners are more likely to adopt a more conservative version, preventing oversaturation of provisioning centers and other types of cannabis businesses in the city.

Michigan Begins Using Cloud-based Software to Process Applications

The state of Michigan announced on June 13 that it has processed over 500 medical cannabis license applications using a new cloud-based system that was provided by a company called Accela. “Accela offered an out-of-the-box solution for the essential back office and customer-facing functions we knew were essential for a successful launch,” Andrew Brisbo, director of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation said. “The system allowed us to be creative in our approach to implementing our processes and adjusting on the fly as our knowledge of the industry grew.” As of June 13, 546 applications that require background checks were processed. Additionally, over 150 facility license applications for legal medical cannabis use were processed. Accela was selected by LARA as a modern licensing solution that could help speed up the process.

Oregon

Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission Temporarily Halts License Approvals

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) announced on June 11 that it has paused the processing of recreational cannabis licenses received after June 15. All applications received after June 15 are being set aside until the first batch of outstanding approvals and renewals is completed, clearing out the backlog. “The OLCC will consider as ‘received’ an application submitted through the OLCC online license application system by June 15, 2018 even if it does not include an approved LUCS,” the announcement read. A LUCS is a land use compatibility statement used by the OLCC. The OLCC will contact and request a LUCS from applicants who do not submit the form with their application. In addition, the OLCC may consider an application incomplete if an approved LUCS is not submitted within 60 days of the OLCC request, unless an extension is granted.

Outdoor Harvest Regulations to Ramp Up Drastically

According to a press release dated June 15, The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) intends to require cultivators provide them with five harvest dates 24 to 72 hours before their first harvest. Inspectors will monitor harvests to ensure that businesses stay in compliance. “Staff has identified harvest as an opportunity for diversion and is seeking to adopt a notification requirement for outdoor growers,” the notification read. “This would require outdoor growers to notify the Commission of five harvest dates 24-hours before the first planned harvest date.” The harvest requirement wouldn’t apply to indoor cultivators, given the fact that they constantly harvest year-round. Regulators worry that damaged harvests could be funneled into the black market, and even obtain higher amounts of money. The requirement isn’t expected to be popular among Oregon’s cultivation companies. The notification is intended to allow staff to have ample time to monitor harvests.

San Diego

City Officials Approve Cannabis Retail Outlet in Sorrento Valley

A new recreational cannabis outlet to be located in Sorrento Valley was approved by the San Diego City Council on June 18. “As we all know, an overwhelming number of voters supported Prop. 64 and I, along with my colleagues, approved responsible regulation of the entire supply chain,” City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry stated. Belinda Smith, the owner of the new business, will partner with OutCo in El Cajon to open the 1,451-square-foot facility, which was formerly a bank. Before making the decision, members of the city’s planning commission were invited to tour OutCo in El Cajon for a preview of what to expect, but declined to take the tour, and the commission opposed the new location. In the end however, the city council felt that the business was compliant and granted it approval. The retail outlet could begin operation as early as September.

San Diego Bans Cultivation in New Urban Areas

On June 19, San Diego City Council unanimously voted to ban cannabis cultivation in new urban areas. Many dilapidated areas in San Diego were designated for rejuvenation as “new urban areas” last January under a tax incentive, a project that took several years to be complete. Several local gardening organizations are attempting to improve areas around town. The San Diego Community Garden Network stated that it wants to ensure “ . . . that community gardening is a resource used to build community, foster social and economic justice, eliminate hunger, empower communities, break down racial, ethnic [and generational] barriers, provide adequate health and nutrition, reduce crime, improve housing, promote and enhance education, and otherwise create sustainable communities.” City council members hope this ban will dismiss any confusion over whether or not cannabis will be allowed in these areas.

Washington

Pat Kohler Resigns from DOL and Heads to LCB

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) recently announced a new Deputy Director, Pat Kohler. Unfortunately, Kohler has received negative publicity in the news recently. Kohler was originally the head of the Department of Licensing (DOL) when The Seattle Times revealed that the state agency was giving personal information about immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, against the wishes of Gov. Jay Inslee. After the results of the investigation were made public, and politicians and citizens alike called for the DOL to clean the house at the leadership level, Kohler resigned. Her official reasons were unrelated to the controversy, but the timing of the resignation, just months after the scandal broke, was suspect. CULTURE contacted LCB Communications Director Brian Smith to better understand why the LCB decided to appoint the controversial figure as deputy director. “Pat is the former LCB agency director. She knows our business, our systems and our priorities.” Smith told CULTURE. “She will be a real asset to the agency.”

Utility Companies Offer Incentives to Indoor Growers for Energy Efficiency

Spokane-based energy company Avista is trying to combat the extreme energy output from indoor cannabis growing and save cannabis businesses money. Avista is incentivizing energy efficiency with rebates for lighting conversion and HVAC retrofits. West of the mountains, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) also offers similar rebates. Starting this month, PSE is offering even more energy efficiency rebate options for business owners. While none of the incentives offered by PSE are exclusively for cannabis growers, the company is offering rebates to businesses that work to lower their electrical output. David Montgomery from PSE told CULTURE about how they’re working to help indoor cannabis growers reduce their impact on the electrical grids, and in turn have more sustainable operations. “As long as they can meet our cost-effectiveness criteria we can fund it. Most of the work we’ve done is in the lighting arena.” Montgomery explained. “Installing LEDs especially within new facilities. We help them purchase LEDs instead of high-pressure sodium that are typical in the industry.”

National

Five Danish Political Parties Call for Cannabis Legalization

Five political parties in Denmark have called for the legalization of cannabis. The parties explained that banning cannabis forces the plant into the hands of criminal groups, since illegal cannabis activity hasn’t fallen due to Denmark’s laws. Several political groups drafted a public letter, which was translated from Danish. The letter stated that banning cannabis wastes the resources of the Danish police and ensures that the black market thrives. “It’s an unfair fight,” the parties stated. “Therefore, the Alternative, Red Green Alliance, Socialist People’s Party, Social Liberal Party and Liberal Alliance now take the lead in developing a Danish model for the legalization of cannabis that takes the drug and the profits out of the hands of criminals and gangs, introduces age limits and discusses funds for prevention.” The political party members plan on discussing the issue further in the Danish Parliament.

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