News Nuggets – June 2017

Georgia Governor Signs Medical Cannabis Expansion Bill

Rep. Allen Peake announced that Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 16 on May 9. The bill will expand the state’s medical cannabis oil program to add six additional illnesses to the list of qualifying conditions. “With Gov. Deal’s signature today, Georgia’s medical cannabis program takes another positive step forward,” Rep. Peak stated. “As of [May 9], 1,738 citizens and 354 doctors are registered with Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry program, and I’m confident that the addition of six conditions to this very successful program will allow even more hurting Georgians with debilitating illnesses to have a ray of hope for a better quality of life.” Registered patients are allowed to possess a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with a maximum of five percent THC. Severe Tourette syndrome, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease, symptomatic AIDS, peripheral neuropathy and hospice patients who have received authorization were added to the list of qualifying conditions. SB-16 also adds medical card reciprocity and removes the one-year eligibility requirement.

 

Chile is First Nation in South America to Sell Cannabis in Pharmacies

Canadian cannabis producer Tilray’s T100 and TC100 cannabis-based products were available for purchase in pharmacies in Chile, which began around mid-May. Before then, patients could only obtain medicine by import or through one of Chile’s narrow list of dedicated farms. It’s the first time that any nation in South America has moved forward to allow pharmacy sales of cannabis products. The average cost for a month’s worth of treatment will be $310. Tilray is partnering with Alef Biotechnology, a company that is licensed through the government of Chile. Roberto Roizman, Alef board president, explained how this will benefit patients in the country. “By importing Tilray’s medical cannabis products to Chile we intend to ease the suffering of those in need by offering pure, precise and predictable medical cannabis products.” The Chilean Congress is currently reviewing a bill that would allow patients to grow their own plants at home. Additionally, the nearby country of Uruguay will also begin selling cannabis in pharmacies in July.

Oregon

OLCC Approves Rule to Allow Recreational Cultivators to Supply Medical Patients

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has approved rules to allow licensed recreational cultivators to grow cannabis specifically for Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) cardholders. The “medical bump-up” option allows producers to grow additional canopy above the limit that is currently allowed by their OLCC license. This allows recreational producers to transfer excess cannabis product to medical cannabis patients, caregivers, processors and dispensaries. “This will be the first medically grown marijuana in Oregon under regulations that meet the compliance guidelines of the federal Cole Memo,” Marvin Revoal, Acting Chair of the OLCC stated. “It’s important that we keep legally produced marijuana from being diverted to the illegal market, and again Oregon’s leadership shows that both medical and recreational marijuana can be regulated together.” The OLCC already allows some recreational producers to sell medical products. Under the bump-up rules, up to 25 percent of the cannabis grown for medical patients can be sold to OMMP processors and dispensaries. The “bump-up” rules took effect on May 1.

Oregon Lawmakers Approve Bill to Remove Recreational Cannabis Labels

The Oregon State Senate has approved Senate Bill 1057, which no longer require testing information to be included on labels for recreational cannabis products. While the bill aims to impose better tracking of medical cannabis, it also removes the requirement for companies to include the cannabis product testing ID or where that product was originally tested. As a result, many are worried that this change will negatively affect consumer safety. Oregonians for Public Safety issued a press release stating its concerns about this bill which could result in possible health risks. “The bill also included a provision to remove important health and safety related test results from recreational cannabis labels. One of the dissenting senators claimed that the body was moving too fast with the bill—opening the legislation to possible oversights,” the statement read. Many have also voiced concerns over the fact that SB-1057 did not receive a public hearing.

Bay Area

California Bills Would Place Limits on Cannabis Edibles

Assemblyman Rudy Salas recently proposed Assembly Bill 350, which aims to limit what can be sold as a cannabis-infused food or drink. The bill’s legislative digest notes that these rules are specifically intended to prevent children from accidentally consuming products intended for medical cannabis patients. “AUMA prohibits marijuana products that are designed to be appealing to children or easily confused with commercially-sold candy or foods that do not contain marijuana,” the bill states. “This bill would specify that a marijuana product is deemed to be appealing to children or easily confused with commercially-sold candy if it is in the shape of a person, animal, insect, fruit, or in another shape normally associated with candy, but would not prohibit a licensee from making an edible marijuana product in the shape of the licensee’s logo.” Additionally, even more restrictions have been placed in the current draft regulations under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Under those draft regulations, cannabis edible manufacturers are prohibited from infusing cannabis with alcoholic beverages, products containing nicotine or caffeine, food that must be stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and any products that contain dairy, meat or seafood.

Santa Rosa City Council Proposes Measure D

Measure D, which would authorize for the local taxation of cannabis-related businesses, will appear on Santa Rosa’s June 6 ballot. The proposal is designed to mimic Measure A, which authorized local taxation of cannabis-related businesses in unincorporated Sonoma County. “Measure D was carefully crafted with input from the industry in a public forum to find the right balance between generating the revenue while addressing certainty for this emerging industry,” Chris Coursey, Mayor of Santa Rosa, said in a ballot argument. “Adoption of a clear, fair and easy-to-follow legal framework will encourage cannabis businesses to join the regulated market, ensuring protection for consumers, the environment and public health.” Measure D would impose a tax of $25 per square foot of commercial cultivation and would not exceed eight percent of gross receipts. Taxes could only be raised every two years, and an increase of more than five percent would require approval from at least five out of seven city councilmembers.

Colorado

Cannabis Revenue Helps Rebuild and Support Manitou Springs

Retail cannabis sales have been providing a major source of income for the residents of the small Colorado town of Manitou Springs. Although its location is adjacent to the more conservative City of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs is known as a quirky and liberal tourist spot, and it is the only place in the area that allows recreational cannabis dispensaries to operate. The cannabis revenue generated so far has helped to double the city’s funds after several natural disasters left the area devastated. Having the extra funds on hand is also allowing the city to prepare for future disasters. The money has also provided some much-needed improvements in the city’s Eastern Corridor. “Citizens and members of the cannabis industry alike commend Manitou Springs for taking the intelligent step in allowing retail marijuana dispensaries,” stated Kevin Gallagher, Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Alliance. “Manitou Springs is a prime example of how retail marijuana businesses can positively impact local communities.”

New Colorado Legislation Aims to Raise Cannabis Taxes

Colorado Senate Bill 17-267, otherwise referred to as the Sustainability of Rural Colorado, seeks to expand the cannabis tax budget from 10 percent to 15 percent, which is the maximum rate that voters initially approved. If this newly proposed tax bill is approved, the money from the tax increase would go toward funding rural schools. It would also provide a tax break for those who own personal property in the state. While both of these are issues that may potentially be looked on favorably, they are both also outside of the original list of tax use possibilities approved by voters. “Colorado’s cannabis industry can’t be viewed as an inexhaustible tax resource for the budget shortfalls of state programs,” said Geoff Doran, co-founder of Tradiv cannabis company. “We’re already operating on incredibly tight margins, and with wholesale prices still highly volatile, it’s extremely challenging for businesses to plan, budget and survive the ups and downs. What’s more, we don’t have access to banking or tax write-offs, like all other business, to help balance out increasing tariffs.” A higher tax rate will likely cause retailers to raise their prices, causing them to have difficulty trying to compete with the black market.

 

Paso Robles City Council Files Report on Cannabis Taskforce Findings

The Paso Robles City Council received and filed a report on medical cannabis that was put together by a seven-member taskforce. Under the direction of the Paso Robles City Manager, the taskforce met six times between September 2016 and February 2017 to learn about cannabis. Ultimately, the key findings highlight the need for protecting youth, supporting education with taxation, cultivation and drafting policies that favor local businesses. “They’re taking a very cautious approach,” Marie Roth, Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo County Cannabis Business Association, told CULTURE. “Our county has marketed itself as a destination for the wine industry. I think there’s some caution when it comes to diving into the cannabis industry. On the surface, they want to maintain that image that they’ve worked hard to create. I have optimism for the future of [Paso Robles], even if it’s not anytime soon.” The taskforce meetings were successful in preparing for the potential emergence of cannabis businesses in Paso Robles.

Bakersfield

Visalia Dispensary Joins Chamber of Commerce

CannaCanHelp, Inc., the largest medical cannabis dispensary in Tulare County, joined the Visalia Chamber of Commerce on April 26. The dispensary has been a permanent fixture in the community for over a decade, and it generates a great deal of revenue. “It solidifies our position within the community as a community business,” CannaCanHelp Manager Wes Hardin told CULTURE. “For us, it makes sense to be able to reach out and make connections with other business leaders in our community, because we’re definitely one of the biggest small businesses in the area. It made sense for us to join the chamber.” The dispensary’s official ribbon cutting ceremony also took place on April 26. Since Tulare County imposes a 99-plant limit on dispensaries, the regulations that will go into effect in January 2018 could affect CannaCanHelp’s profit margins. With the visibility gained from joining the chamber, however, CannaCanHelps’ future still looks brighter.

Majority of Atascadero Residents Support Cannabis Businesses

Recently, the Atascadero City Council indicated it may allow cannabis delivery services, laboratory testing and manufacturing operations. The city staff recently conducted a series of surveys to gather community input on the topic. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they were comfortable with or in support of allowing several types of medical cannabis businesses to operate in the city. “Based on both the online and the open house questionnaires completed by attendees,” the survey report reads, “Almost three-quarters of the respondents were comfortable or in support of allowing the following within the city limits: Outdoor cultivation for personal use; commercial cultivation for wholesale distribution; testing facilities; retail sales; deliveries.” Given the support from the community, the Atascadero City Council is considering whether to allow personal outdoor cannabis gardens. The council is holding off on allowing commercial cultivation and retail sales within city limits at this time. Councilmembers directed city staff to circle back with recommendations before they move forward with drafting an ordinance.

Los Angeles

Long Beach City Council Discusses Illegal Cannabis Dispensary Penalties

Long Beach City Councilmember Suzie Price has proposed new penalties that punish property owners who allow unlicensed dispensaries to operate, which was discussed in a city council meeting on May 2. The penalties include shutting off property utility services for property owners who harbor illegal activities. “Long Beach needs enforceable tools that reduce the likelihood of having illegal marijuana operations,” Price recommended. “Adoption of such an ordinance is necessary to limit the number of illegal businesses that would drain limited city resources.” Similar actions are being considered in Los Angeles and include working with the Department of Water and Power. Last November, Long Beach residents passed Measures MA and MM, which regulate and tax legal cannabis dispensaries and limit the number of legal dispensaries to 32. The city received about 200 applications for a dispensary license. Most dispensaries have converted to delivery services after the city’s storefront ban in 2011, however legal brick-and-mortar dispensaries could be operational in Long Beach by mid-summer.

Upland to Vote on Cannabis “Superban” in Special Election

On June 6, the city of Upland will hold a special election and vote on Ordinance 1910, also called Measure E, which aims to ban all cannabis-related business activity in the city. California cities by law cannot ban medical or recreational use of cannabis in the privacy of one’s home, however, every city has the option of banning all cannabis-related business. Even though the city is $1.8 million in debt and at risk of losing its fire department, the city of Upland has spent over $4 million fighting cannabis businesses over the last several years. “Measure E requests that Upland voters consider whether to adopt Ordinance No. 1910, a legislative act which prohibits the development and operation of marijuana (cannabis) related uses within the City of Upland which are not allowed due to specific preemptive provisions of state law,” reads an impartial analysis of Measure E, as prepared by the city attorney. “Such a local prohibition against the conduct of marijuana uses is provided by state law, which preserves the city of Upland’s local land use controls concerning the activities in question.”

Michigan

Ann Arbor to Discuss Which Types of Cannabis Businesses to Allow

On May 8, City Attorney Stephen Postema told councilmembers they have until mid-December to decide whichtypes of commercial cannabis businesses to allow in the city. Under the Medical Marihuana Licensing Facilities Act, there are five classes of licenses are available; which are for medical cannabis growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers and safety compliance facilities. Postema explained that licensing cannabis businesses is not the only option. “If you do nothing, if you decide that you’re not interested in any of these five types of facilities being in the city, then they’re not going to be in the city. You have to affirmatively do something,” Postema said. There are three classes of medical cannabis growers. Class A growers can grow up to 500 plants, Class B growers can grow up to 1,000 plants and Class C growers can grow up to 1,500 plants. The final say is up to the city council, who will decide to allow one or more of the five classes of licenses. The city council will also decide the number of facilities to allow in the city. Once Ann Arbor and other local communities have established laws on the local level, applications can be submitted starting on December 15.

Michigan Board of State Canvassers Approves Recreational Cannabis Petition

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol seeks to legalize cannabis for adults over 21 in the state of Michigan with its newest initiative, which was unanimously approved by the Board of State Canvassers on May 18. In response to the Board’s approval of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, the Coalition’s spokesperson, John Truscott, expressed his confidence in the initiative’s ability to regulate cannabis. “Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol, and it has clearly failed with marijuana as well,” John Truscott wrote. “Our campaign will make Michigan a national leader by creating responsible regulations that will end the waste of law enforcement resources that goes into enforcing Michigan’s outdated prohibition laws while also creating jobs and generating much needed tax revenue for our state.” The Board requires that 252,523 valid signatures be collected and submitted by the Coalition within 180 days of May 18. If the legislation is then approved by voters, adults could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants at home. A 10 percent tax on cannabis sales would be considered, on top of the state’s six percent sales tax on medical cannabis. If the signatures are approved for the recreational cannabis measure, it will go to a statewide vote in November 2018.

San Diego

Vista City Council Agrees to Spend $35,000 on City-Wide Cannabis Poll

The Vista City Council announced that it plans to run an opinion poll that will cost $35,000 to determine the number of residents who support medical cannabis dispensaries in the city. Although it is one of the few cities in San Diego County that is considering its own cannabis ordinance, Vista and its councilmembers are well-known for their support of local residents. In a meeting on May 9, the council voted 3-1 to move forward with this poll to help the council gauge its residents interest in medical cannabis. According to a staff report on the subject, “Staff is currently soliciting proposals from public opinion research firms.” However, not everyone on the city council is in favor of the poll, as Councilmember Amanda Rigby believes it to be a premature effort. Currently, dispensaries are not allowed to operate within city limits. A local advocacy group is also working on its own initiative that would force a measure onto the ballot, which could end up costing the city an estimated $350,000 for a special election.

Fines Increased For Illegal Cannabis Dispensaries in Chula Vista

In the midst of California cities preparing recreational cannabis legislation, the city of Chula Vista has chosen to implement higher fines on local dispensaries that are operating illegally. In a meeting on May 9, the Chula Vista City Council voted to increase the fine amount imposed on dispensaries that are operating illegally, and the council also removed the $100,000 fine limitation that was previously set. In the past, fines were established on illegal dispensaries at $1,000 per day but have now increased to $2,500. Mayor Mary Salas supported the decision, stating that this new ordinance is a hopeful move toward better regulations. “We have an ordinance in existence that is not working, and we have to fix that ordinance,” she said. Considering that in January 2018 recreational cannabis will officially be allowed on the market, some residents wonder why Chula Vista has decided to implement stricter regulations at this time. “We don’t want to be headed toward criminalization again,” resident Irene Matthews shared at the meeting. “As a state we decided where we want to go and the state got a lot more input. We want oversight. We want regulation. Otherwise, we will have a black market.”

Washington

University Place City Council Approves Conditional Cannabis Rules

The University Place City Council approved conditional rules for cannabis sales and processing operations on May 1. The council however has yet to officially decide if it will allow cannabis businesses to operate in the city. The conditional regulations, which would allow for retail sales in a limited area in the city, were recommended by the city’s planning commission. Per the recommendation, only production and processing operations would be allowed. Mayor Javier Figueroa asked the city council whether the city should lift the ban on cannabis sales, noting that he’d consider lifting the ban if two or more members stepped forward, but no councilmember decided to sponsor lifting the ban. However, the council did vote 4-3 to pass an ordinance “to incorporate the City Planning Commission’s recommended changes to the zoning and development regulations which would apply to State-licensed and regulated marijuana uses if the Council chooses to allow such uses in the future, providing for severability and establishing an effective date,” according to the recorded meeting minutes. The sole business person with a license to sell cannabis in University Place, Christ Stanley, hopes that the city will eventually allow cannabis sales. Stanley would need city approval to open up a storefront shop.

Minority Cannabis Business Association Helps Community Expunge Records

On May 20, Jesce Horton and the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) hosted a free event in Seattle to help people expunge cannabis-related charges from their records. The event organizers assisted people with court documents and arrangements. Most cannabis charges, including felonies, can be expunged in Washington state with the exception of DUI charges. “The Minority Cannabis Business Association and Marley Natural™ have teamed up to combat the negative consequences of the ‘War on Drugs,’” event organizers stated. “The mission of the Rise Up™ Expungement Program is to help men and women expunge (or ‘vacate’) certain types of cannabis-related crimes from their record.” The event was called “Expungement Day.” Attendees were able to vacate their records, and work through the entire expungement process only took about two hours per case. Cannabis charges can prevent job opportunities and block otherwise qualified job applicants from obtaining employment. Minorities are disproportionately arrested under the “War on Drugs” and the MCBA hopes to help end that trend by allowing some of them to clear their name.

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