News Nuggets – June 2018

Bay Area

Mountain View Determines Retail Cannabis Rules

At a May 8 study session, the Mountain View City Council began developing the ground rules for retail, delivery and non-storefront cannabis businesses in the city. Most of the council opted for California’s default 600-foot buffers around schools, but Councilmembers Margaret Abe-Koga and Lisa Matichak argued that a 1,000-foot buffer would be more appropriate. “This is new territory for us, and I think it’s important that we have a checkpoint, whether it’s a year in or whatever it happens to be,” said Councilmember Chris Clark, when discussing how many dispensaries to allow. “I was thinking that we would initially limit it to about five and see how things go.” Mayor Lenny Siegel, on the other hand, suggested no limits on the number of retail outlets. Mountain View’s moratorium on dispensaries ends on Dec. 1, 2018.

Monterey County Lowers Cannabis Taxes

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors cut cannabis business tax rates on May 22, in some cases, by two-thirds. The decision followed a recommendation to revise the county’s cannabis tax rates. “The Board of Supervisors Cannabis Committee recommends that the Board of Supervisors: Receive a report and take action on recommendations from Board of Supervisors Cannabis Committee on the following ordinance revisions concerning the commercial cannabis tax rates and penalties,” the board stated at the meeting. Cultivation tax was cut from $15-per-square-foot to $5-per-square-foot. Indoor cultivation sites, however, will pay an $8-per-square-foot tax. Manufacturer and distributor taxes were lowered to 2.5 percent, which amounts to half of the percentage of tax they used to pay. The board also voted to use some tax revenue to keep a local homeless shelter in business for five months. Many cities and counties in California set initial tax rates too high, and they are now settling for a more realistic approach.

Colorado

Investigation of Denver’s Sweet Leaf Looping Case Continues

Denver’s Sweet Leaf dispensary chain has recently been subject to an ongoing investigation after an undercover sting revealed evidence of alleged “looping.” Hearing Officer Suzanne Fasing told The Denver Post that Sweet Leaf “actively aided and abetted the illegal purchases through its looping scheme,” and therefore was in breach of legal business operations. She also proposed that the company should lose access to all of its 26 licenses. CULTURE spoke with Shannon Gray, cannabis communications specialist with the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED). “MED prioritizes all of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, including protecting all licensee information as required by statute,” Gray said. “The MED Sweet Leaf investigation is still open and ongoing, so I have no other information to provide at this time.” On May 24, charges were dropped against seven of the 15 budtenders who were originally arrested for allegedly selling cannabis via looping.

Colorado Bill Could Establish New Round of Cannabis Investors

Recently, House Bill 18-1011 was proposed in the Colorado legislature, which would allow publicly traded companies to invest in the state’s cannabis industry—a positive move toward further securing compliance in the industry. “Colorado has been at the forefront of secure and safe cannabis regulation since the inception of the recreational marijuana in the country,” State Rep. Dan Pabon, prime sponsor of the bill, told CULTURE. “Allowing publicly traded companies to operate in Colorado keeps cannabis companies competitive in the industry and in line with what most states who have legalized cannabis already allow.” The bill would also eliminate the 15-person limit for out-of-state cannabis business owners, giving more people the chance to own business assets and contribute to the expanding industry in Colorado.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles County to Clear Cannabis Convictions

On May 22, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of Assembly Bill 1793 to create a fast track to removing or reducing cannabis-related convictions for county residents. The motion directs the Office of Cannabis Management to develop countywide recommendations including resentencing or removing past convictions. “Thousands of eligible people around the state may be unaware of the opportunity to erase cannabis-related convictions and start anew,” Supervisor Hilda Solis stated. “The ‘War on Drugs’ primarily hinders communities of color, and our goal at the County is to give people second chances and remove barriers to employment and a productive and happy life. I am hopeful that today’s support for AB-1793 is one step towards better opportunities for people who are eligible for this opportunity.” The bill is intended to help erase the injustices of the past, which disproportinately affect people of color.

Campaign Launched in Los Angeles County to Combat Teen Cannabis Consumption

California health officials launched a public education campaign on May 10 aimed at curbing teen cannabis consumption in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s “bigger choices” campaign covered the dangers of cannabis and how to handle peer pressure. “This campaign is an effort on behalf of public health to create peer-to-peer communications inspired and created by teens,” stated Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer. “It was important to us to involve young people to the greatest extent possible. We’re reaching teens exactly where they are: On social media. Our end goal is to provide teens with the facts and resources they need to make the best decision for themselves.” Part one of the campaign came in the form of a rap video, dissuading teens from consuming cannabis. Some believe the decision to create a rap video for teens was good-hearted, but ultimately ineffective.

Michigan

Lansing Officials Approve Two Cannabis Businesses

After receiving a total of 149 license applications for provisioning centers, processors, secure transporters, growers and safety compliance facilities, two have been approved so far in the city of Lansing, as of late May. Specifically, one safety compliance facility license and one secure transporter license were approved. The Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) explained delays that affect the licensing process could be attributed to prospective licensees. “The process to move an application through to the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board is a lengthy one,” the BMMR stated. “When a staff member from BMMR reaches out to applicants for additional information—or to advise of the next steps to take—it is important that applicants respond quickly and accurately so their application is not unnecessarily delayed.” Many more license applications could be approved soon, including another secure transporter license, 15 grower facilities and 14 processing facilities. Eighty-five applications have been submitted for provisioning centers, but 20 have already been denied.

Michigan Senate Bans Cannabis-infused Beers

The Michigan Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 0969 on May 17. This bill bans the possession and sale of cannabis-infused beer, wine and liquor. Former Eaton County Sheriff, Sen. Rick Jones, sponsored the bill after hearing word of beer companies like Blue Moon Brewing Company venturing into the cannabis industry in other states. “Bar owners and bartenders have said that this would be a recipe for disaster,” Sen. Rick Jones said in a press release. “They have enough trouble judging intoxication levels now without adding the element of marijuana—especially when you consider that marijuana-infused foods can take an hour to kick in.” Michigan’s legalization proposal clearly wouldn’t allow cannabis products to be sold at bars, but lawmakers still mentioned “bar owners” in the press release. Even though Jones opposes recreational cannabis, he is aware of recent polling and expects Michigan’s upcoming recreational cannabis initiative to pass in November.

Oregon

U.S. Attorney for Oregon Pledges to Fight Cannabis Trafficking

On May 18, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, outlined five priorities to ramp up law enforcement efforts to abate illegal cannabis activity in Oregon. His five priorities are controlling cannabis overproduction (which leads to interstate trafficking), public health threats, cannabis violations involving violence or firearms, organized crime and protection of public lands from pesticides. “As a preliminary matter, I am fully committed to continuing the long tradition in Oregon of carrying out law enforcement in close coordination with our partners at the State, Tribal, and local levels, including all Oregon sheriffs and municipal police departments,” Williams stated in a press release. Shortly after, Gov. Kate Brown backed up Williams by issuing a statement that she agrees with his priorities. This follows a February audit of Oregon Liquor and Control Commission, because there were issues found with the commission’s ability to effectively monitor the cannabis program.

Oregon Medical Cannabis Cultivators Subject to Tracking Requirements

Oregon’s medical cannabis cultivation sites will have to begin using Oregon’s Cannabis Tracking System (CTS) in order to stay compliant beginning on July 1. “This summer approximately 2,000 medical marijuana growers will need to start using Oregon’s CTS to ensure the marijuana they grow for patients is tracked and reported,” an Oregon Health Authority’s press release stated. “This week the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission launched a series of information sessions and workshops to help growers registered with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program begin the sign-up process to use CTS.” About 1,800 recreational companies already use CTS, so some businesses will be familiar with the system. Oregon Senate Bill 1544 requires all medical cannabis cultivators use the system beginning in July. Each business must select a cultivator to serve as a grow site administrator for CTS.

San Diego

Washington

National

Arizona Governor Signs Bill to Legalize Industrial Hemp Cultivation

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed legislation on May 14, which allows farmers to cultivate industrial hemp. Senate Bill 1098 allows cultivators, harvesters, processors and transporters to obtain a state license from the Arizona Department of Agriculture, which will oversee the program.Farmers will be able to harvest hemp up to four times per year, thanks to Arizona’s sunny climate. That could translate to 1,500 pounds of hemp per acre, according to estimates. “This bill opens Arizona to the possibility of a new agricultural product,” Gov. Ducey stated. “I’m glad to sign a bill that could have a positive economic impact for the state.” Ducey vetoed previous attempts to allow hemp cultivation due to the planned program’s lack of a funding source. Under the new law, anyone caught violating licensing requirements will be subject to strict penalties.

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