Sacramento City Council Finalizes Licensing Fees for Commercial Cannabis Cultivators
The Sacramento City Council has finalized local licensing fees for up to 200 cannabis grows that will soon appear in the city’s industrialized zones. This also means that the city council will begin accepting applications sometime this month. First-year fees are set at $9,700 for indoor grow rooms with up to 5,000 square feet and $28,910 for facilities of up to 22,000 square feet. (Those fees drop to a range of $8,240 to $26,630 for the second year). Sacramento’s Mayor Darrel Steinberg shared his support for the local licensing fees at a March city council meeting. “I think what we’re doing tonight . . . is really just the beginning,” Mayor Steinberg said. “I want us to be really proactive and upfront about where we want to go. I think there is a tremendous revenue opportunity for us—and jobs, potentially high-wage jobs. But we want to do it right.” Now, prospective cultivation license holders can begin the application process. The city hopes to raise $6.3 million in cannabis tax revenue over the next three years.
Yolo County Experiments with All-Encompassing Cannabis Tracking System
Yolo County has established a new pilot field-to-storefront tracking system that is designed to train cannabis producers how to label, register and ship their products. The county is one of a few local governments in California that is currently taking the initiative with the statewide “track and trace” program. Yolo County signed a $30,000 contract with SICPA, a Swiss security firm that is developing the tracking technology. Yolo County Agricultural Commissioner John Young is confident that the pilot will yield positive results for the local industry. “SICPA’s solution will allow Yolo officials to document a forensic trail across the medical cannabis supply chain, from cultivator to dispensary, enabling government regulators and law enforcement to accurately track products, and identify and reduce the distribution and sale of illegal cannabis,” Young said. “By tracking the entire supply chain of cannabis, from plant to final product, the system will further enable the patient community to identify and confirm medical cannabis originating from Yolo County has been legitimately sourced and properly tested.” A similar Humboldt County tracking pilot program began with 10 cultivators. Humboldt’s “track-and-trace” program ended February 28, and it led to 30,000 stamps placed on 1,800 pounds of cannabis product on its way to 47 different cities.
Longmont Considers Repealing Cannabis Ban
Although Colorado is known as the first place to fully accept recreational cannabis in the country, there are still many areas in the state that do not allow cannabis businesses. The city of Longmont has always disallowed cannabis businesses from operating within city limits, but this may change soon. The city’s staff will be presenting a report later this year that discusses repealing the ban on recreational cannabis and lightening restrictions. Kevin Gallagher, a Board Member for Cannabis Business Alliance and Director of Compliance and Government Affairs at his company, Craft Concentrates, explained to CULTURE how Longmont would benefit further from cannabis if it repeals its current ban. “Longmont seems to appreciate the benefits of regulated cannabis, since they accepted a $567,640 grant from state marijuana tax revenue,” Gallagher said. “It’s in [Longmont’s] best interest to allow more cannabis businesses so they can generate more taxes and contribute to something that [the city has] already received a great benefit from. Most importantly, the more local governments allow licensed businesses, the more the demand for black market product is removed from the streets.”
Judge Rules Banning Cannabis Consumers in Parks as Unconstitutional
A Colorado judge recently ruled that the ban of a cannabis consumer from a Colorado park is unconstitutional. The defendant was caught smoking cannabis in Commons Park in Denver and was subsequently banned for 90 days, which went into effect immediately, with the option for the accused to appeal later on. This 90-day ban was issued late last summer in the form of a decree, and it was intended to suspend those who participated in “illegal drug activity” in the park. The decree immediately drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which questioned the Denver Parks and Recreation’s authority to outright ban people from this public park. Judge Clarisse Gonzales acknowledged the concern and ruled that enforcing this law was a violation of due process. “within the pure unchecked discretion of any police officer on the scene, and with a complete lack of any pre-deprivation due process, the suspensions violate procedural due process protections, and are found unconstitutional for this reason.” A combination of allowed public use and less stringent citations for smoking in public areas could lead to a decrease in crime and an increase in responsible imbibing of cannabis.
Advocates Launch Petition to Legalize and Regulate Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
A medical cannabis initiative is set to replace Bakersfield’s current dispensary ban with rules and regulations under the recently approved Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. The city could reap anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million in sales tax revenue per year. Initiative proponent Heather Epps told CULTURE how the initiative could change the cannabis landscape in Bakersfield. “We currently don’t have a permit system in place at this point, yet we have, what I would say is over 100 collectives here,” Epps said. “They are not paying tax revenue. We did the [county] referendum petition, and it’s been six years now. We were able to block [Kern] County from banning collectives, so it’s been an ongoing political issue.” Epps continued to explain that officials have blocked this law before, so supporters of cannabis reform decided to write the law this time around. The measure would only affect dispensaries that are located within city limits. Epps has been actively working on the initiative along with Attorney Phil Ganong, Jeffrey Jarvis and others. They hope to have the same success as when they blocked the Kern County cannabis ban.
Porterville City Councilmembers Rendezvous with Cannabis Businesses
Porterville is taking a balanced, communicative approach toward implement the best practices for its medical cannabis industry. The Porterville City Council appointed Councilmembers Cameron Hamilton and Monte Reyes to serve on a temporary committee to meet with local medical cannabis businesses for a study session to look into potential hurdles caused by the city’s ordinance changes. Together, Councilmembers Hamilton and Reyes will help iron out city issues surrounding medical cannabis and include input from local business owners. “I would like to meet with these folks at least once before we make any decision and get their perspective,” Hamilton said. Some of the issues currently being looked at include modifying Porterville’s plant limit on home grows. Another issue that will be looked at is the local dispensaries that have been pushed aside into industrial zones. The city council regularly meets to discuss topics such as medical cannabis in the council chambers at Porterville’s City Hall. By adding the committee, cannabis businesses have the opportunity to share their side of the story.
Medical Cannabis Ban Shelved in Tehachapi
On March 21 the Tehachapi City Council voted unanimously to table a proposed measure that intended to ban medical cannabis businesses in the city. The decision was made after many first-hand accounts from patients who have experienced success from medical cannabis. In total, 14 community members spoke out including three who were in favor of the ban. The city council decided on seeking out a way to regulate medical cannabis instead. Tehachapi City Councilmember Ed Grimes shared that the next step is to put together an ordinance that would regulate the sale of cannabis in the city. “I would be in favor of regulations first, and I think that we need to go back to the drawing board, and make sure that we have all our ‘T’s crossed, and our ‘I’s dotted,” City Councilmember Ed Grimes said. The Tehachapi City Council now plans on drafting on another ordinance that would regulate medical cannabis in the city.
Los Angeles City Council Creates Cannabis Licensing Commission
Councilmembers of the city of Los Angeles unanimously approved the creation of the Cannabis Licensing Commission in a meeting on Wednesday, March 22. This decision now prompts the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that will offer more detail regarding the Cannabis Licensing Commission’s specific responsibilities, however, the meeting agenda briefly acknowledged the commission’s main purpose. It will “Grant authority to the Commission to administer the cannabis license and public hearing process, including applications made available beginning September 1, 2017, renewal, and revocation, as well as coordinate inspections, audits, and other duties as necessary related to cannabis.” The initial proposal stated that five people will head the Commission—two appointed by the city council and three chosen by the mayor. The city of Los Angeles is wasting no time in establishing cannabis regulations in the city following the passage of the recently approved Measure M, which allows the city to choose how to regulate both medical cannabis and recreational cannabis businesses.
Riverside County Board of Supervisors Consider Recreational Cannabis Regulation
On March 21, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors held a meeting and invited special guests as well as the public to offer statements regarding establishing cannabis regulations. Following almost three hours of varied opposition and advocacy, Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Chuck Washington took the time to respond to the public regarding possible approaches to loosening cannabis regulations in Riverside County. Jeffries stated that he personally does not support Proposition 64, but he recognized the choice that Riverside County voters have made. “I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I am the definition of ‘no fun,’” Jeffries began. “But the voters of California and the voters of Riverside County did speak, and they spoke overwhelmingly in support of Prop. 64, and we cannot pretend that they did not. We have an obligation to attempt to make the best of the situation.” Jeffries continued to explain that the board has an obligation to learn the best practices for regulating recreational cannabis by studying the issues other states have encountered. Supervisor John Tavaglione designated Jeffries and Washington as leaders of an ad hoc committee that will study how to best approach cannabis regulation.
Use of Cannabis Funded Grant Money Clarified by Livingston Sheriff’s Department
Officials from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department recently addressed concerns regarding how the department plans to use its recently obtained state grant, which is funded by medical cannabis patient fees. The funds were previously reported to be used to perform “spot checks” on medical cannabis cardholders and licensed caregivers who are out of compliance. The story gained momentum after a local newspaper reportedly misinterpreted the department, leading some medical cannabis patients to protest its motives at a county commissioner’s meeting. Attorney Denise Pollicella provided CULTURE with a statement regarding the issue, explaining that the sheriff’s department has since clarified the department’s intentions, which are to develop a plan to enforce compliance under the state’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). “Although the MMFLA will allow for state and municipal inspections of licensed businesses, nothing in any Michigan law or statute permits police to engage in compliance checks of patients or caregivers, require them to register with any local authority, or require entry into a person’s home without a warrant based upon probable cause,” Pollicella told CULTURE.
Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Releases 2018 Draft Proposal
Michigan will have another opportunity to pass legislation to allow adult cannabis use with the arrival of the 2018 election cycle. The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol released a new draft of legislation that, if approved by voters, will legalize cannabis for adults over the age of 21. The proposal in its current draft would legalize the possession, cultivation and consumption of cannabis and industrial hemp, and it would also require adequate labeling and testing to ensure consumer safety. Half of the excise tax revenue would go toward funding for community colleges and vocational centers, and the other half would aid municipal governments with implementing cannabis businesses within their jurisdictions. Since Michigan’s last adult use measure was shelved by the Board of State, advocates have been working hard to ensure that recreational cannabis is approved with the next ballot, “We are pleased to share the latest draft of a legalization initiative that will make Michigan the leader in cannabis law reform,” according to the draft ballot text. “The Coalition has developed this language over the last two months, taking input from a wide range of stakeholders.”
Vista Debates Access for Medical Cannabis Collectives
The Vista City Council meeting on March 14 was focused on listening to the public’s opinions concerning the lack of safe access to medical cannabis, as collectives are currently banned from operating within the city limits. The Vistans For Better Safety & Services group had originally put forth a petition to gather signatures from those who supported the operation of cannabis collectives to try and change the city restrictions. However, the petition was declared invalid due to a technicality in its text. The city council decided to hear directly from the voters by holding this meeting, which resulted in approximately 35 patients and caretakers, including patient Beatriz Chavez, who showed up to make their voices heard. “Times have changed,” Chavez stated. “Marijuana is not what it was 30 years ago. There is no more war.” Matthew Menkee, whose son has cerebral palsy, also shared with the council that the ban has negatively affected his son. “He needs to be heard by you guys,” Menkee said. “He needs to be able to have safe access [to his medicine].” The public exchange lasted for two hours, after which the council advised city staffers to begin drafting a proposal to find the best methods of regulation.
SDPD Debuts New Device to Detect Drivers Who Drive Under the Influence
The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) has recently begun using a new device to aid in detecting those who drive while under the influence of cannabis and other substances. On March 16, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman introduced a saliva-screening device called Dräger 5000. Not only does this mobile tool test for traces of cannabis, it also tests for illicit drugs including cocaine, prescription narcotics and amphetamines. “We’re here to introduce a technology to be used by our SDPD to help detect drivers who make the ‘wrong’ decision to drive while under the influence . . . ,” explained Zimmerman. “Public safety is a shared responsibility, and DUIs are a 100 percent preventable crime.” The Dräger 5000 was used for the first time in San Diego on the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. As of now, there are only two existing Dräger 5000 devices in the possession of the SDPD, each valued at $6,000. Currently, there is no standard for testing how much cannabis a driver has in their system, but if this is a successful pilot program, it could benefit many California cities that are looking for accurate procedures for testing drivers under the influence.
House Votes to Remove Industrial Hemp from the Controlled Substances List
A new bill to remove industrial hemp from the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act is making its way up the legislative ladder in the state. Already passed in the House, House Bill 2064 would lift the restrictions that currently bar the cultivation of industrial hemp in Washington. Also, industrial hemp cultivators would not be required to obtain a license prior to cultivation, which would allow hemp to be treated similarly to other plants, such as everyday vegetables. Rep. Matt Shea, one of the bill’s sponsors, believes that HB-2064 will provide a beneficial protection for Washington hemp farmers in the future. Rep. Shea said the bill will make it “very clear that Washington, right now, is removing hemp from the scheduling act, so it gives us better legal grounds to defend against any sort of federal intrusion later to prosecute people growing hemp here.” The bill gained unanimous support from the state’s Senate Committee on March 22, and it must also obtain approval by the Senate. If passed, this will open up new industry possibilities in Washington.
Bill to Regulate Cannabis Edibles like Other Foods Approved
The Washington House unanimously voted 98-0 to approve House Bill 1462 in March, which aims to regulate cannabis edibles like all other foods. The Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade & Economic Development Committee also signed off on the bill with hopes that it will be able to further regulate cannabis edibles, as well as protect those who consume them. The bill will put the Washington State Department of Agriculture in charge of regulating edible processing, which will require that all rules be written similarly to those of rules for other food items that are already established by the Department of Health. HB-1462 will also require that all processors of edibles must obtain a yearly “endorsement” from the Department of Agriculture. According to the House Bill Report, the Department of Agriculture will be responsible enforce the bill. “The Department [of Agriculture] has great expertise in regulating food products, and this expertise needs to be applied to the edible products being produced by the marijuana industry. The Department already has an excellent history of collaborating with the Liquor Cannabis Board in regulating marijuana-infused products and this bill will formalize and strengthen this role.” As of late March, HB-1462 is awaiting approval by the Senate.
Eugene City Council Temporarily Halts Discussion for Cannabis Zoning Buffer
The Eugene City Council shelved a rule proposal that would have required 1,000 feet of separation in between recreational cannabis stores. Instead, the council tasked city analysts with collecting more data on the subject, and they are to report back at the end of the year. At the meeting, councilmembers said that they haven’t heard any complaints about shops on every corner, however, some small business owners have requested a buffer. In response to the discussion, Councilman Mike Clark said there’s no need to move forward just yet. “I will wait to hear the compelling interest in us creating a buffer before feeling the need to do so,” Clark commented. Currently, about half of Eugene’s recreational cannabis shops are already within 1,000 feet of other cannabis shops. These proposed standards on recreational stores resemble requirements imposed on medical cannabis dispensaries.
Permanent Rules Proposed for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program
Permanent legal housekeeping changes are coming to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) in order to protect public health and safety. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced a proposal to amend the existing program’s rules to include “marijuana labeling, and marijuana laboratory sampling and testing; and permanently adopt, amend and repeal rules in chapter 333, division 8 pertaining to medical marijuana growers, processors, dispensaries and patient cards.” The OHA, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) would be tasked with protecting public safety by establishing the new rules. Under the new rules, sampling procedures for testing medical cannabis would be amended. For instance, the OHA or OLCC would be able to access cannabis samples in order to test for heavy metals and pesticides. Under the proposed rules, THC and CBD could be expressed on cannabis labeling as an average or range instead of specific defined values. The changes are needed in order to implement Senate Bill 1511, which directs the OLCC to register producers, wholesalers, retailers, processors and more. Residents are invited to review and comment on the proposed rules on April 27 in Eugene and on April 28 in Portland. (See public.health.oregon.gov for location details.)
Ohio Increases Limit on Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
Ohio’s State Pharmacy Board released a revision of the current medical cannabis rules, which would increase the limit of dispensaries from the state’s current 40-dispensary cap. The new rule raises the number of allowed provisional licenses on medical cannabis dispensaries to 60 until September 8, 2018. Additionally, the board can use its discretion to permit additional provisional licenses after September 9, 2018. “If the state’s population, patient population support it, and geographic location support it.” Dispensaries would also be allowed to stay open for an additional two hours within the window of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Home delivery, however, will not be permitted. Although the board has received public comment about the rule proposal, regulations regarding patients, physicians and cannabis product processors are still being considered.
South African Agency Publishes Medical Cannabis Guidelines Draft
The Medicines Control Council (MCC) published a draft of guidelines that cover medical cannabis cultivation and production in South Africa. “This guideline represents the Medicines Control Council’s current thinking on the measures required to be in place to ensure that quality products are cultivated and harvested and made available to patients when prescribed by an authorized prescriber/physician,” reads the MCC’s recently proposed guidelines. The guidelines provide extensive details about safety and security requirements, such as distinguishing hemp from medical cannabis and mandating that prospective medical cannabis cultivators obtain a license from the Department of Health. There is no cap on the number of licenses that the MCC can issue. However, the International Narcotics Control Board will control the total quantity of medical cannabis that is grown in South Africa. Currently, the MCC has only registered one product that contains synthetic CBD.