Humboldt County’s Proposed Tax May be Good for Cannabis Growers
Voters in California’s notorious cannabis-growing county of Humboldt have passed a cannabis excise tax to appear on the November ballot. The tax rate would be the first of its kind in California, taxing cannabis growers between $1 and $3 per square foot, which varies with types of grows. CULTURE spoke with Ellen Komp, the Deputy Director of CA NORML to get her insight into Humboldt’s proposed tax. “I think for one thing, Humboldt is actually one of the more reasonable taxes around,” she told us. “A lot of places are just going hog-wild and putting 15 percent, 25 percent maybe up, all kinds of different retail taxes as well as cultivation taxes. I even saw one come through as high as $25 a square foot, and I think one came in at $35 [per square foot]. So Humboldt actually kind of broke the ground, so to speak, with a workable licensing scheme I think, certainly compared to the other one.” Other counties like Mendocino County may tax up to $100 per plant, which is not ideal for cannabis growers struggling to feed their families. If Humboldt’s excise tax passes, it will hopefully set precedent for other counties in California.
Department of Justice Must Stop Fighting Against State Cannabis Laws
The Department of Justice (DOJ) was told by the largest federal appeals court in the United States to back off state-compliant medical cannabis. According to a press release from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, “. . . [the Court of Appeals] prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds to prevent states’ implantation of their medical marijuana laws.” The panel also instructed the DOJ that if they do wish to continue prosecuting medical cannabis, they must determine that the defendants of the hearings were not operating within their states’ medical cannabis laws. While this is a huge win for medical cannabis states in the country, it doesn’t mean the fight against the federal government for medical cannabis is over. In the same court document, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain warned, “But Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now, and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding. Moreover, a new president will be elected soon, and a new administration could shift enforcement priorities to place greater emphasis on prosecuting marijuana offenses.”
Sufferers of PTSD Who Want to Use Medical Cannabis Take Their Case to the Court of Appeals
Although Colorado has extensive access to medical and recreational cannabis, PTSD is still not listed as one of the qualified conditions for medical cannabis treatment. Despite the fact that studies and anecdotal reports have shown positive results in those who use cannabis to treat trauma, the state of Colorado has repeatedly rejected petitions to include PTSD on the list of treatable issues. “It is tragic to see veterans in Colorado still fighting for access to medical marijuana,” stated Mark Slaugh, Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Alliance in Colorado. “While cannabis is a federally illegal substance, civilians in areas of legalization are granted access to its many benefits, but our nation’s veterans are not provided the same rights. One out of four patients who are prescribed an opiate—the more commonly prescribed PTSD medication—will struggle with severe and crippling addiction. This is just a non-issue with cannabis.” As of this writing, the decision is still being fought in court, before the Colorado Board of Health. The board could have a decision soon, or if oral arguments are requested, three to six months in the future.
Federal Heights Puts Recreational Cannabis on Ballot
Even after recreational legalization, many municipalities in Colorado opted not to sell cannabis, or to sell medical-only, fearing the changes cannabis would bring to their communities. Now that it’s clear those changes are mostly positive, more places are allowing medical and recreational sales. Federal Heights, an area just outside of Denver, recently decided to put recreational cannabis on the ballot in light of their success with medical sales. The plan is to use this money to invigorate the economy and bring new growth to the city. “As we have seen over the past few years, legalizing cannabis has led to many positive things,” Jamie Lewis, founder of Mountain Medicine, told CULTURE. “I do believe it can save a town and/or state from financial troubles; we have seen the amount of money it has brought the state of Colorado and cities like Denver. Federal Heights has had the opportunity to watch Denver succeed in regulating cannabis responsibly. They can take the idea of generating money to save a city financially to help change the conversation.” New medical dispensaries are already opening their doors in Federal Heights, which will help prepare for a possible shift to recreational sales.
Laguna Beach Voters to Decide on Allowance of Medical Cannabis Collectives
The Laguna Beach City Council decided that voters will only get one choice in regards to medical cannabis collectives at the November election and that will be whether or not they will allow two cannabis collectives to operate within city limits. This came after Laguna Police Chief Laura Farinella proposed a city-sponsored measure that would only allow one dispensary to operate with special provisions. However, the city council unanimously voted against the city-sponsored initiative and instead decided to move forward by drafting a resolution against the resident-backed initiative. Police Captain of Investigation and Support Division Teams, Jason Kravetz discussed the measure with CULTURE, “We have discussed the issue several times, but ended up holding a special meeting on August 8th. At that time, the Council voted not to move forward with any counter-measures to the citizen sponsored initiative. With that said, there will be only one local initiative on the Laguna Beach ballot which will be asking voters whether they want to have two marijuana dispensaries in town.”
City of Upland Solidifies Ban on Cannabis
In the Planning Commission Agenda for August 24, it was recommended by the Upland City Council that the Planning Commission should adopt “ . . . an ordinance repealing Chapter 9.48, of Title 9 of the City’s Municipal Code and replacing it with a new Chapter 9.48 prohibiting marijuana-related uses and activities and amending related provisions of Title 17 (the Zoning Code) prohibiting the development and permitting of marijuana-related uses, citywide.” During Upland’s City Council meeting, it was decided the city would go through with this recommendation, ultimately banning cannabis-related businesses and activities. The only type of medical cannabis that is allowed in Upland is outlined in the Planning Commission Agenda. It read, “ . . . except that this prohibition does not apply to prohibit qualified patients and persons with identification cards to cultivate indoors, possess, and use marijuana for their own personal medical purposes only, as permitted by state law.” The City Council will meet on September 12 for a final review of The Planning Commission’s decision.
Lansing’s Fourth Medical Cannabis Proposal Serves Special Interests
The fourth draft of Lansing’s medical cannabis ordinance was proposed mid-July, and its 27 pages would have a serious effect on business owners, caregivers, city officials, patients and residents in Lansing. According to the most current ordinance text, this new draft could lessen the number of guidelines that cannabis dispensaries must meet in order to operate from 13 guidelines down to three; however, the financial requirements will only allow extremely rich entrepreneurs to operate cannabis dispensaries. Mayor Virg Bernero would also have the ability to create a seven-person commission dedicated to reviewing medical cannabis license applications with a requirement of $65,000 in fees to win approval. City Attorney Jim Smiertka has stated that the latest draft was a result of various hearings, committees and insight from “interested parties.” Could these interested parties be wealthy business people who could afford such high fees, therefore limiting the current, smaller collectives from operating? The ordinance could be voted on by council members in November, unless a fifth draft of the ordinance comes out soon, as rumored.
Michigan’s Medical Cannabis Fees Benefit Law Enforcement
Eighteen counties in Michigan will receive $1.2 million in grant money received from the State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs specifically for their local law enforcement departments to use toward enforcement and education of the state’s medical cannabis program. The money was collected from patients and caregivers as they submitted their fees during the application process for state medical cannabis cards. With Oakland County receiving an estimated $323,000, CULTURE was able to speak with Sheriff of Oakland County, Michael J. Bouchard, regarding how this money will be spent. “The money will be used to purchase equipment and pay for overtime for our Enforcement Team to oversee compliance with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act,” he told us, “Just as pharmacies are inspected, regulated, and enforcement action taken when they do not comply with law, similar action occurs with the Medical Marihuana Act. It is our duty to enforce the law and make sure that all are in compliance.” When asked about his thoughts on medical cannabis collectives in Michigan, he stated, “There is no such thing as a legal medical cannabis dispensary allowed in the state of Michigan. There was no provision put into law when the voter-supported referendum passed in 2008.”
Del Mar to Keep Medical Cannabis Ban Until After Election
Del Mar City Council banned medical cannabis last January. At a meeting in early August, the council decided against lifting the ban in lieu of November’s vote to legalize recreational cannabis. This is because they felt it would be preemptive to create permanent legislation regarding cannabis when recreational could potentially become legal in the near future. CULTURE was able to connect with Del Mar City Council Member, Dwight Worden, who stated, “At the council level, we are looking for the issues to come back to us after the November election. We had some brief discussion at the last council meeting but we have not adopted or endorsed any policy positions, deciding it was best to wait for the outcome of the election in November to see what happens with the ballot measure.” Residents in Del Mar are forced to continue waiting for the council to reexamine removing the ban following the election in November.
AUMA Supporters File Lawsuit to Change Opposition’s Ballot Arguments
Supporters of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) filed a lawsuit in early August to disallow parts of the opposition’s ballot argument that they claimed to be false or misleading. Ballot arguments are often the only information voters receive about a potential law, and while it is common for opposing sides to disagree, filing a lawsuit to change the ballot argument language is not common. In a statement, Jason Kinney, Spokesperson for Yes on 64 said, “Defenders of the failed war on marijuana are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. More so than any I’ve seen in recent memory, the ballot arguments submitted with a straight face by the opponents fundamentally and factually misrepresent this ballot measure and are riddled with obvious falsehoods. These aren’t evidence-based arguments—they are scare tactics—and they’re sadly reminiscent of the ‘reefer madness’-style disinformation campaigns that subverted honest dialogue around this issue for decades,” he said. “California’s voters demand and deserve better—and I have every confidence that an objective legal authority will reject these false and misleading statements out of hand.”
West Seattle Gains its First All-Natural Cannabis Certification Program
The Origins Certified Program launched in early September, and it’s going to give the local cannabis community a new and natural way to ensure caretakers are choosing the freshest cannabis products in Washington State. Headed by Origins Recreational, the company’s team plans to work with individual growers to aid them in seeking out the highest grade of naturally grown cannabis. The company works to make sure each certified grower is meeting all standards by regularly receiving farm visits, panel testing and lab testing. Beyond that, the company will also re-test all certified products. The company shared in a release, “The benefit of participating in the Origins Certification Program is simply put—it’s peace of mind. It is knowing that every time you opt for an Origins certified product you are aware of what you are going to receive—a unique product that represents the qualities that Origins Recreational hopes to instill in future generations including: Excellence, responsible and sustainable farming practices, as well as producing a truly honest and enjoyable product.”
Puyallup Tribe to Begin Growing Medical Cannabis
The Puyallup Tribe has taken another step toward entering the cannabis industry, this time through legally growing medical cannabis. The tribe signed a compact earlier this year with the state governor, as well as the Liquor and Cannabis Board, which enabled them to open a cannabis testing lab called Medicine Creek Analytics, located in Fife. The original text of the compact gave the tribe room to grow and do more with cannabis in the future, “The parties may agree to expand this compact, by amendment after its initial adoption to cover a range of the elements of the broad subject of regulation of marijuana, including medical marijuana, growing, producing, processing and retail sales of marijuana, marijuana concentrates, and marijuana-infused products.” The tribe has decided to amend the compact, in hopes of growing cannabis to be used for individuals in the tribe, specifically those suffering from cancer. The tribe is preparing a warehouse in Tacoma dedicated to growing medical cannabis, although there is no announcement yet as to when they will begin growing or offering cannabis to patients.
Deschutes County Lifts Ban on Cannabis
As of September 1, Deschutes County has lifted its ban on cannabis-related businesses. Last December, the ban was enacted, however the commissioners decided to adopt an ordinance to repeal the ban. There was both support and opposition from county residents in regards to lifting the ban, so commissioners did their best to consider all sides and meet somewhere in the middle.
In an interview with Deschutes County Commissioner, Tammy Baney, CULTURE gained insight into how the cannabis industry, community and county are now working together toward regulating medical and recreational cannabis businesses, “You know the regulations that we have put into place are what I would consider to be fairly restrictive, and they actually are more restrictive than I anticipated us being able to move forward with. Quite frankly I felt that maybe the industry would push back more than they did, and I think that it’s a testament to the relationship with the industry as well as a relationship with the community, that we want to have strong regulations in place so that businesses can operate in the light of day . . .”
The Small Business Tax Equity Act Could Yield Tax Benefits to Cannabis Businesses
Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced an act to update the federal tax law to allow cannabis businesses the ability to take advantage of tax benefits. The bill is also supported by Senator Ron Wyden. The Small Business Tax Equity Act would update the Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, which currently is responsible for not allowing cannabis businesses to pay taxes. The new bill would apply to states that have allowed the sale of recreational and medical cannabis and would also allow cannabis businesses access to banking tools, so they could update from the dangerous cash-only operations that are currently required. Aaron Smith, Director of the National Cannabis Association, stated in a release, “The small businesses that make up the legal cannabis industry are working overtime to be responsible, contributing members of their communities,” he said, “So it’s particularly outrageous that when they to do the right thing by paying their federal taxes, they end up penalized with double and triple tax rates. Instead of being able to create more jobs, increase salaries or add benefits for their employees, these businesses are being forced to send more than two-thirds of their profits straight to the federal government. Representative Blumenauer and Senator Wyden are standing up for fairness and support for small business—something everyone should applaud. We certainly do.”
Illinois Becomes the 21st State to Decriminalize Cannabis
Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB-2228 into law, which makes possession of cannabis up to 10 grams punishable by a citation and fine up to $200. This law makes Illinois the 21st state to decriminalize cannabis. The new bill also outlines specifics to determine whether someone is driving under the influence of cannabis. While Rauner has received some negative feedback from local police forces in regards to this new legislation, he clearly has the support of the cannabis community. Founder and CEO of an Illinois cannabis cultivation company, Revolution Enterprises, and Co-Founder of the Medical Cannabis Alliance, Tim McGraw shared his support for Rauner’s decision with CULTURE, “I think it’s positive overall for the industry and the movement, and [we should] not be locking people up for cannabis. It’s ridiculous. Anybody who gets locked up for a plant that gives them therapeutic value,” he said, “I think that finally the administration is seeing how it can economically help the state.” McGraw and many others who support the bill hope to see it eliminate the negative stigma around cannabis use and keep those who possess small amounts of cannabis from having a criminal record.
Puerto Rico Certifies its First Medical Cannabis Doctor
Dr. Michael Soler became the first doctor in Puerto Rico to recommend medical cannabis. Soler originally started his cannabis training in the state of Colorado. Then, once the regulation was approved in Puerto Rico, he complied with all the new regulations that had been enacted by the governor and coincidentally became the first doctor permitted to prescribe medical cannabis. Although Dr. Soler can legally prescribe cannabis, he explained how this is just the first step in the process to get patients high-THC cannabis in an interview with CULTURE, “In Puerto Rico, it is clearly established that anything that is dispensed and provided to patients has to be grown and produced on the island. In that sense, we are basically at the very first stage of the process. Stage two is now starting to become a reality. Crops are being grown, cannabis clinics are starting to be established throughout the island. We still need about six more months for the product to become available on the island.” There are 14 conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis, which include HIV, cancer, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, migraines and chronic pain, among others.
New Interim Zoning Ordinance is Not Good for Visalia Medical Cannabis
A new zoning ordinance was approved in early August by county administrators in charge of Visalia. The ordinance will stop new cannabis businesses from opening, while putting harsh restrictions on any cannabis-related businesses already operating in Visalia. The Tulare County Board of Supervisors Agenda from August 16 outlined the supervisors plan to, “Adopt the Interim Zoning Ordinance prohibiting the establishment of new or expansion of existing medical marijuana entities, including collectives, cooperatives, businesses, or other entities engaged in commercial cannabis activity in the unincorporated areas of the county as an urgency measure pursuant to Government Code Section 65858.” The ordinance will last for 45 days, but it could likely get extended for almost two years. There are currently only two dispensaries operating legally in Tulare County, and this new ordinance could limit patients’ ability to obtain legal cannabis.
San Luis Obispo County Postpones Medical Cannabis Ordinance
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to discuss a medical cannabis ordinance at their meeting on August 23. They had outlined on their agenda, “Hearing to consider an interim zoning/urgency ordinance prohibiting the cultivation of cannabis (marijuana) with certain exceptions in the unincorporated portions of San Luis Obispo County.” The county was also battling a forest fire at the same time, so the council decided to postpone this discussion until the September 20 meeting. It was reported that the board was set to review an early mock-up of a medical cannabis interim zoning ordinance on July 26. When the board gets around to finally discussing the ordinance, they hope to regulate the medical (and potentially recreational) taxation of cannabis within the county.
Illegal Grows in Kern County Gets Four People Indicted
Four people have been indicted for operating two large-scale cannabis grows illegally in the Sequoia National Forest of Kern County. The four people ranged from 19 to 55 years of age. Growing cannabis illegally is unfortunately a common trend as more local cities enact strict cannabis cultivation laws. However, it’s up to cannabis activists to ensure our community is only using responsible and legal methods for cannabis cultivation. A past press release by the Forest Service outlined the various ways the Forest Service and the environment are negatively affected by cannabis grows, “The effects of marijuana sites on natural resources are harsh. Native vegetation is cleared before planting. Thousands of feet of black tubing transport large volumes of water diverted from streams, lake, and public drinking water supplies.” The report continued by explaining how it costs tens of thousands of dollars to re-establish streams and restore land to its previous state. Also, when pesticides, rodenticides and herbicides are used in illegal cannabis grow operations in forests, wildlife and natural vegetation are killed. Cannabis should be grown in a way that is ecologically mindful and sound, not in a way that is harmful to plants and animals.