News Nuggets – September 2019

Bay Area

Napa County Board of Supervisors Vote to Put Cannabis Cultivation Bill on Ballot

On Aug. 20, the Napa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that will allow voters to choose where cannabis cultivation operations will be allowed in county areas. Measure J will be put before the voters instead of being immediately adopted by the board. The locations of cannabis grow operations in the area are a constant, ongoing contested issue. “You can have a cannabis grow an hour and a half away from a tasting room and have clients at the tasting room smell the marijuana as if it’s growing right next to them,” said Napa County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas. For people like Klobas, the cannabis industry is often viewed as a threat to Napa County’s staple wine industry. The bill would impose limits on the size of grow operations, which may benefit smaller growers, but would place restrictions on where they can be located in proximity to vineyards and other businesses.

UC Davis Partners with Pharmaceutical Company to Conduct Cannabis Research

Researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) will partner with a federal government-approved pharmaceutical company to examine the chemical and biological profiles of cannabis in depth. The company, Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC), is registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “While cannabis is already available for medicinal and recreational use in a majority of states, cannabis research has long struggled to keep pace with the law,” said Gail Taylor from the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “We expect this partnership to bring more scientific understanding of the plant and its products so that regulators can more effectively manage potential risks and benefits.” Together UC Davis and BRC researchers will examine the most reproducible methods for standardizing cannabis products, as well as evaluating any interactions with microbes, pests and pathogens.

Colorado

Longmont Hemp Farm and Brewing Co. Partner to Launch CBD Seltzer Water

One of the biggest trends of 2019 is alcohol-infused seltzer water. Brands like White Claw Hard Seltzer are invading the adult beverage market, leaving local breweries with declining sales. Left Hand Brewing Co. out of Longmont was subject to that decline earlier this year, laying off a handful of employees. Looking to take the power back and stand out from the crowd, Left Hand partnered with WAAYB Organics, a certified organic hemp farm in Longmont, to create Present, a CBD-infused sparkling water. Each 16-ounce can contains 20mg of full spectrum CBD distillate, comes in three flavors, natural, lemon lime and blood orange, and contains no alcohol. Eric Wallace, co-founder and president of Left Hand said in a press release, “At Left Hand, we always strive to put the best beverages possible out in the market—we’re committed to what’s best for beer and what’s best for the community. We look forward to offering an organic, zero-calorie option that’s free from artificial ingredients, additives or adaptogens and offers the same high standards and integrity of our beers.”

Colorado Becomes Third State to Allow Cannabis as Opioid Alternative

Following New York and Illinois, Colorado is the third state to allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioid medication for pain relief. Gov. Jared Polis signed off on Senate Bill 13 on May 23, which went into effect on Aug. 2. At the signing Polis stated, “Colorado loses a community member to drug overdose roughly every nine hours, with opioids contributing to over half those deaths. Those deaths are preventable.” A report from the Colorado Health Institute found that in 2017 there were 1,000 drug-related deaths in the state. The hope is to reduce that statistic and provide those who struggle with pain the choice to use cannabis instead of pain medication. In the state of Colorado, doctors recommending medical cannabis must be registered with The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which can be done through the department’s website. Other current qualifying conditions for physicians to recommend medical cannabis are cancer, seizures, chronic pain, nausea, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD and autism.

Los Angeles

California Officials Approve Bill to Allow Medical Cannabis on School Grounds

On Aug. 26, the California State Assembly approved Senate Bill 223, which would allow parents to administer approved medical cannabis preparations to children on campus grounds. “Existing law allows schools to legally administer any pharmaceutical drug, including opioids, that a child has been prescribed,” wrote Sen. Jerry Hill. “But there are medical conditions pharmaceuticals can’t fix, and they often have debilitating side effects. Medical cannabis helps fill some of these gaps, and lessen these challenging side effects.” Hill introduced a similar bill last year, but the original bill was vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown. But now that Gov. Brown has been succeeded in office by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Hill and others believe they now have a chance. The bill returns to the Senate for approval on amendments, before heading to Gov. Newsom’s desk for signature. If the bill passes, school boards would reserve their right to decide on allowing medical cannabis.

Cannabis Regulation Commission Approves Barricades for Illegal Dispensaries

On Aug. 23, the Cannabis Regulation Commission, which falls under the City of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR), approved a request from Los Angeles City Council to padlock, barricade or fence properties used for unlicensed dispensaries. “Unlicensed cannabis businesses violate city and state laws,” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Despite increased law enforcement efforts to shut down unlicensed cannabis businesses, they continue to open for business and thereby jeopardize public safety and customer health, along with making it harder for licensed and regulated businesses to survive the competitive cannabis marketplace.” Los Angeles’ legal dispensary market dwarfs its illegal market. According to the DCR, there are 187 legal retail cannabis businesses, but according to a city controller report in June, there are as many as 1,700 illegal dispensaries, which would make the ratio of illegal dispensaries to legal ones nine-to-one.

Michigan

Educational Sessions Being Held for Recreational Cannabis License Application Process
Throughout September, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) will hold several educational sessions to teach applicants how to file recreational cannabis license applications online. Sessions will be held on Sept. 5 in Detroit, Sept. 12 in Saginaw, Sept. 19 in Kalamazoo, Sept. 26 in Lansing and Sept. 30 in Traverse City. MRA employees will provide hands-on demonstrations of how the process works. “While applications will not be completed during these events, attendees will be able to familiarize themselves with the process—and what will be required—when the applications become available online on Nov. 1, 2019,” a news release stated. The sessions are designed to inform applicants how to apply online once the applications are ready, with instructions, checklists and other resources. The sessions are free to attend, but registration is needed to secure a spot at each of the five sessions, as space is limited.

Former NFL Star Calvin Johnson Joins Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Board

Former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. joined the board of directors for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MICIA) according to a press release on Aug. 15. “The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association is a winning team that has established itself as the leading voice for licensed cannabis businesses in the state,” Johnson said. “I am proud to help drive them forward to advocate for a well-regulated, responsible and inclusive business environment that will position Michigan as a national leader.” The MICIA is Michigan’s largest nonprofit cannabis trade association with almost 200 businesses as members. Johnson and his former teammate Rob Sims also plan on opening several dispensaries throughout the state under the name Primitive. The other board members are Andrew Driver, Mark Passerini, Jeff Nemeth, Sam Usman, Alvin Alosachi, Nick Agro, Rush Hasan, Jerry Millen, Linda Palmatier, Jason Abro and Jeven Weyenberg.

Oregon

Psilocybin Mushroom Advocates Submit Bill Proposal to Attorney General

Recently, advocates behind the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act of 2020 submitted about 1,200 sponsorship signatures for the Oregon Attorney General to draft ballot language. One-thousand were needed in order to move forward. “We envision a community-based framework, where licensed providers, along with licensed producers of psilocybin mushrooms, blaze trails in Oregon in accordance with evolving practice standards,” the chief petitioners Tom and Sheri Eckert stated on the initiative website. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum developed the working title for the bill on Aug. 7. Petitioners now need to collect 110,000 valid signatures from voters in order to move forward and get the bill on the ballot. The initiative would set up a department that falls under the Oregon Health Authority to tackle the licensing and regulation of psilocybin production, processing, delivery and possession for adults 21 and over who qualify.

OLCC Approves Cannabis Licensee Stipulated Settlements

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) held a meeting on July 19 and approved eight cannabis violation stipulated settlement agreements, which allows businesses with violations to complete requirements in order to make amends and return to operation. Business operators were encouraged to attend the meeting. “It’s critically important for people in southern Oregon to see the people making these decisions about their businesses and important for us to have input from stakeholders here,” OLCC Chair Paul Rosenbaum said in a news release. “We want to have an open mind and we wanted to express to folks here that we’ll listen to them, and then we’ll make decisions that are best for everybody.” Most punishments consisted of short-term license suspensions and/or fines. Only one business, Joint Effort Farms, had its license revoked permanently for 10 alleged violations. In addition to the cannabis licensee settlements, three alcohol-related violation settlements were also approved.

San Diego

Imperial Beach Cannabis Bill Qualifies for Ballot

A bill that would allow an unlimited number of dispensaries, lounges and manufacturing businesses in Imperial Beach will move forward for the November 2020 ballot, despite multiple attempts to invalidate it. On Aug. 21, the Imperial Beach City Council reluctantly approved the bill, after an appeals court rejected an earlier technical issue. Now that the bill was approved, the city council will be “adding the proposed measure to the November 3, 2020 election” and direct “the City Attorney to prepare an impartial analysis; setting priorities for filing written arguments; and providing for the filing of rebuttal arguments,” the agenda reads. On Sept. 18, the city council will receive an assessment report, at which point it will then enact the bill or place it on the November ballot. Under current law, only one dispensary is allowed in the city, with an option to allow a second dispensary one year after the first one opens doors.

City of San Diego Sued in Dispensary Lawsuit

Back in 2014, San Diego’s Ordinance 20356 sought to designate where dispensaries can be located in the city, but didn’t include a key environmental impact requirement. On Aug. 19, the Supreme Court of California ruled that the city of San Diego violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions. CEQA requires local agencies that put forward zoning ordinances to evaluate environmental impacts. “The city did not conduct any environmental review when adopting the ordinance, finding that adoption of the ordinance did not constitute a project for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21000 et seq. (CEQA). Petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City’s failure to conduct CEQA review. The trial court denied the petition,” the court ruling stated. The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients filed an appeal to the lawsuit, but was denied by the California Supreme Court.

Washington

Everett City Council Proposed Doubling Number of Cannabis Stores

Everett City Councilmember Liz Vogeli proposed increasing the city’s number of cannabis stores from five to 10, during a city council meeting on July 31. While the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board allows up to 10 stores in Everett, city law currently only allows for only five. Several councilmembers agreed with the proposal. “From what I have heard from some people in our community who would like to find medical marijuana [is that they] are not able to find it in our community,” Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher said. Councilmember Vogeli’s amendment now moves on to the Everett Public Safety Committee for discussion. One of the perks of doubling the number of stores would be the anticipated added tax revenue. According to Lyle Ryan, the mayor’s chief of staff, each existing store in the city added an average of $67,886 per year each in tax revenue, since they originally began opening in 2014.

Study Indicates that Revenue in Washington and Other Legal States is Unpredictable

According to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts released on Aug. 19, cannabis tax revenue in Washington and other legal states is volatile and unpredictable. While dozens of forecasts can be published about the amount of revenue expected, researchers worry that they hold little value. “Given how unpredictable recreational marijuana is as a revenue source, states should adopt prudent policies for budgeting collections,” the study stated. “Treating it like other volatile or nonrecurring sources will reduce the chance of a budget imbalance if reality does not meet expectations.” The Pew Charitable Trusts calls cannabis taxes “sin taxes,” which consist of high rates, and are imposed on consumers that buy products like alcohol or tobacco. Even with the high tax rates in legal states, as new industries, it’s very difficult to predict how much tax revenue will be collected.

National

Recreational Cannabis Bill Filed in Arizona

On Aug. 9, Smart & Safe Arizona, a cannabis advocacy group, filed a bill proposal with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office to legalize recreational cannabis in the state. The bill aims to legalize the sale, possession and consumption of one ounce or less of cannabis for adults 21 and over. The bill would also legalize five grams or less of concentrate and require childproof packaging and labels. Legalizing recreational cannabis in Arizona would help right the wrongs of prohibition by including drug war reparation provisions. “Do the right thing by providing an option for folks who were previously convicted of low-level marijuana charges to have their criminal records sealed so they have fair access to jobs and housing,” the bill proposal reads. Campaign organizers plan on collecting signatures to get the bill on the ballot. In order to qualify for the November 2020 ballot, organizers must collect 240,000 valid signatures.

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