News Nuggets – March 2018

Bay Area

Berkeley Declares Itself a Sanctuary City for Cannabis

On Feb. 13, the Berkeley City Council declared it will not assist the federal government, namely the Department of Justice, in cracking down on cannabis businesses within city limits. Last January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, reigniting the disconnect between state and federal cannabis laws. “In light of threats by Attorney General Sessions regarding a misguided crackdown on our democratic decision to legalize recreational cannabis, we have become what may be the first city in the country to declare ourselves a sanctuary city for cannabis, #berkmtg,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín tweeted. The declaration means local law enforcement leaders won’t assist in any future crackdowns by the Drug Enforcement Administration. During the same session, the council also dropped Berkeley’s recreational sales tax from 10 percent to five percent.

 

Proposed Bill Would Allow Limited Medical Cannabis in CA Schools

Sen. Jerry Hill recently introduced Senate Bill 1127, which would permit schools to allow limited amounts of medical cannabis to be consumed on school campuses in California. Smokable or vaped products, however, would remain banned. “Existing law authorizes a school nurse or other designated school personnel to assist any pupil who is required to take, during the regular schoolday, medication prescribed for him or her by a physician and surgeon or ordered for him or her by a physician assistant, if the school district receives specified written statements from the physician and surgeon or physician assistant and from the parent, foster parent or guardian of the pupil.” Currently, parents of children who consume medical cannabis have to physically remove them from campus in order to administer their medical cannabis regimen. Health and Safety Code 11357 would remain in place, which makes cannabis possession on school grounds an infraction, unless law provides an exception.

Colorado

Gov. Hickenlooper Considers Cannabis Offense Expungement

With legalization sweeping the nation, many states have considered granting pardons to people with past cannabis convictions. Now, Colorado is considering joining those states. Gov. John Hickenlooper is deciding whether to release about 40 inmates who have convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses. “We have been discussing this idea for some time and are carefully evaluating whether there are some inmates who are appropriate candidates for clemency,” Jacque Montgomery, Hickenlooper’s press secretary, explained to CULTURE. The decision would be in line Hickenlooper’s stance on legalizing cannabis and decreasing the severity of prison sentences. Because Colorado prisons are crowded and cannabis is legal in the state, many consider this the next logical line of action. All of those who are eligible for this pardon are serving sentences for either possession or sale of cannabis. Hickenlooper’s attorneys are looking into each case, as well as good behavior in prison. Prisoners will be able to apply for clemency if they pass a background check.

New Cannabis Delivery Bill Proposed for Fall

A newly proposed cannabis delivery bill, known as House Bill 1092, would allow a licensed delivery person to bring cannabis from a dispensary to a consumer. “We’re not breaking new ground on this issue,” Colorado General Assembly Representative Jonathan Singer, one of the sponsors of the bill, explained to CULTURE. “Oregon and other states have innovated cannabis delivery, and we are taking their best practices to Colorado. One more step in stamping out the black market is ensuring that people can have their cannabis delivered. Right now the only marijuana delivery we see is through illegal online ads; this bill will fix that.” If HB-1092 passes, cannabis delivery to adults ages 21 and over could be allowed in Colorado as early as this fall. As of this writing, the bill has been approved by the House Finance Committee with an 8-5 vote.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Officials Issue Over 100 Temporary Cannabis Authorizations

Since the first day of recreational sales in early January, the city of Los Angeles has issued a total of 108 temporary authorizations as of Feb. 26, shortly after the Los Angeles City Council convened to discuss outstanding issues that weren’t covered when emergency recreational rules were released last December. Sales revenue is also through the roof. “Originally the department was given a budget of $1.3 million, and to date we have collected over $2.2 million in licensing fees, and we have around about $800,000 in outstanding invoices, so it is likely that our revenue projections through June will be $3.5 million,” explained Cat Packer, executive director and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation. During the meeting, the council also looked at potential restrictions on cannabis advertising, including an 800-foot buffer between sensitive locations and ads.

Michigan

$3.2 Million Investment Planned for Egelston Township

Sparrow Consulting announced on Feb. 1 that a $3.2 million dollar investment for a medical cannabis project in Egelston Township is underway. Construction is set to include two new medical cannabis storefronts, one remodeled storefront, 37 acres of land development and 75,000 square feet of industrial space. “Sparrow Consulting is very proud of client commitments to support Egelston Township economic development. In just five short months, passionate local entrepreneurs have created eight new medical marijuana facility startups; it’s very exciting!” stated Connie Maxim-Sparrow, principal of Sparrow Consulting. Sparrow launched the woman-led firm with medical cannabis-related clients specifically in mind. The company expects that the project will create 39 full-time positions as well as 47 long-term construction positions. The project is expected to begin within the next six months.

Anti-Cannabis Committee Gathers $150K

While the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has raised at least $651,486 in contributions to legalize recreational cannabis in Michigan, prohibitionists have raised money as well. Virginia-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana donated $150,000 to Healthy and Productive Michigan, an anti-cannabis group raising funds to fight against cannabis legalization. “While the polls are leaning in our favor, there’s no telling what the prohibitionists will throw at us,” the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol posted on social media. “That’s why we need your help. Prohibitionists will try to scare voters with lies about the sky falling if we legalize. We need your help to make sure the truth makes it into the minds of undecided voters.” According to Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Spokesman Josh Hovey, none of the anti-cannabis funding has come from within Michigan.

Oregon

Study Confirms the Public Views Alcohol as More Harmful than Cannabis

Researchers at RTI International surveyed over 1,900 adults in Oregon before the state legalized recreational cannabis. The study was released on Feb. 7 and published in the journal Preventative Medicine. Researchers found that 52.5 percent of respondents consider alcohol to be more dangerous while only 7.5 percent consider cannabis to be more dangerous than alcohol. “This study is the first to measure perceptions of the relative harmfulness of marijuana and alcohol,” stated Research Analyst Jane Allen. “The findings surprised me somewhat, because there is widespread acceptance of alcohol for adult recreational use, and in contrast, marijuana is classified at the federal level as a Schedule I drug. There seems to be a disconnect between the social and legal status of the substances and people’s perceptions of harmfulness.” The findings confirm that the stigma around cannabis is plummeting following the implementation of state cannabis laws.

Cannabis Tracking System Weaknesses Revealed in Audit

The Oregon Secretary of State released a 41-page report on Feb. 7 detailing software issues with Metrc and the lack of an adequate number of compliance inspectors. Eight IT issues were identified in the report, which could compromise the security of the state’s medical cannabis system. The lack of personnel also impacts the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s (OLCC) capacity to monitor cannabis properly. Shortly after, the OLCC replied with a 15-page report of its own in response. “The recommendations are essential to program improvement and acknowledged by this thorough response,” the OLCC stated. “The recommendations are important to our future operations and the OLCC has offered detail plans and responses to identified issues.” The OLCC is currently in need of additional funding in order to strengthen recruiting systems, equipment and training.

San Diego

Del Mar Councilmember Calls for Loosening Cannabis Policy

Dave Druker, who is a councilmember and deputy mayor of Del Mar, said on Jan. 16 that it’s time for Del Mar to consider allowing cannabis sales. The city currently bans the sale, cultivation and manufacturing of medical and recreational cannabis. “If I were to change these regulations right now, I would allow us to have at least one commercial outlet for recreational marijuana and one outlet for medical marijuana in the city,” said Councilperson Dave Druker. “I think the concept of regulating marijuana is passé at this point. It’s time for us to get with the 21st century. The concept that marijuana is somehow this terrible drug—if it was so terrible half the baby boomers would be dead right now or addicts.” Sixty-five percent of Del Mar voters shared the same opinion as Drucker, when they voted “yes” on Proposition 64 in November 2016.

Girl Scout Sells Cookies in Front of Dispensary

An unknown Girl Scout sold 312 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies within a few hours in front of the Urbn Leaf dispensary in Bay Park, San Diego in early February. “Get some Girl Scout Cookies with your GSC today until 4 p.m.!” Urbn Leaf posted on Instagram. “Have a friend that wants to #tagalong? Bring them with—shopping is more fun with friends anyways.” Girl Scouts San Diego revealed that cannabis dispensaries like Urbn Leaf are not found on the “approved booth site list.” Girl Scouts are allowed to sell cookies on the street door-to-door, but only in residential areas. While the organization isn’t conducting a formal investigation, it indicated a desire to talk to the girl’s parents to determine if she broke the rules. There have been previous incidents of Girl Scouts selling cookies in front of dispensaries that have gone viral online as well.

Washington

Cloud-based Producer and Processor Software Released

Seattle-based SORO is offering a software suite that is designed to help cannabis producers and processors manage all aspects of their business. The cloud-based software suite was recently unveiled, and it has the ability to complete complex tasks like navigating regulations and trends. SORO CEO Jerry Tindall told CULTURE about his goal in creating the software. “SORO helps cannabis producers and processors streamline their operations and run a better cannabis business. Our integrated CRM, inventory, order fulfillment and analytics tools allow our clients to better understand their operations, opportunities and cultivate the relationships they need to succeed,” Tindall told CULTURE. “Behind the scenes, we handle all the traceability and legal compliance required to protect their businesses. The result is greater profitability and less headaches for our clients.” Local cannabis businesses have already expressed that the SORO software is user-friendly.

Washington State Struggles with Tracking Software Switch

CULTURE has been following the saga of Washington State’s traceability switch to Leaf Data Systems. The initial switch was riddled with delays, debuting a full three months after the initially announced intended start date. Brian Smith, communications director for the Washington State Cannabis and Liquor Board (LCB), told CULTURE his thoughts on the switch. “The state’s traceability system is up and running. In the first 12 days, over 1.2 million plants [had] been added with nearly 400,000 transactions totaling about $14.5 million in sales.” Smith began. “We recognize that many licensees have faced challenges since the cutover to the new traceability system. The LCB and our vendor are working through prioritized issues, we’ve extended the deadline for moving plants and inventory, and communicated, and communicated with licensees that our enforcement team will be especially reasonable in their enforcement efforts regarding traceability.”

National

Singapore to Develop Synthetic Cannabis Strains

The punishment for cannabis consumption, importation and solicitation in the Republic of Singapore can result in strokes from the cane, the country’s cruel and legal system of corporal punishment, but things are slowly changing. Medical cannabis research is beginning to take root despite Singapore’s notoriously draconian approach to drugs. A 25 million Singapore Dollars ($19 million USD) research initiative called the Synthetic Biology Research and Development Program has been launched. Researchers will develop national synthetic strains of cannabinoids derived from cannabis. The cannabis material will most likely be imported from another country in order to carry out the research. “This will be done by translating selective genetic information provided by overseas partners into potent therapeutic compounds not found in nature through synthetic biology,” reads a press release from the National Research Foundation Singapore. For now, the country prefers to research into creating synthetic derivatives of cannabis instead of natural medical cannabis options.

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