News Nuggets – May 2017

Oregon

Oregon State Bar Now Includes Cannabis Legal Specialty

The Oregon State Bar has finally added a Cannabis Law Section and will assist attorneys who are involved with the cannabis industry. The section already boasts 71 members, according to the state bar, that exists to assist lawyers in navigating this growing sector of state and federal law. The agency will help individuals currently involved in law practices who are wary of the risks that are associated with providing legal services to cannabis businesses. Like any other type of business, cannabis businesses need to navigate land-use laws, stay in compliance and maintain a solid business framework. With an established source for cannabis laws in Oregon, lawyers like Leland Berger, who is also the new section’s founding chairman, believe that the growing support for an organized source of city and state cannabis laws has made non-cannabis lawyers more comfortable in practicing in that particular field. The Cannabis Law Section lists 17 separate topics of interest while the bar manages 42 other sections that are dedicated to other specialties such as Civil Rights, Antitrust or Real Estate.

Measure Would Redirect Tax Funds from Schools to Mental Health and Addiction Services

One of the key selling points of Measure 91, which legalized recreational cannabis in Oregon, could soon disappear with the implementation of new legislation. School funding that was originally promised to voters is being funneled into other areas. A bill was introduced that would redistribute funds from the Common School Fund to mental health and addiction treatment services. Senate Bill 845 would direct much less money to schools and their students. Oregon currently imposes a sales tax on recreational cannabis at 17 percent. Local governments are able to increase the tax up to three percent. According to the Oregon School Boards Association, $20 million per year would diverted from school funding; twenty percent must be transferred to the Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services Account established under ORS 430.380; fifteen percent must be transferred to the State Police Account established under ORS 181.175,” the SB-845 proposal text states. School advocates have called the change “unacceptable.”

Bay Area

Marin County Contemplates Delivery-Only Dispensaries

On April 10, Marin County Administrator Matthew Hymel advised the Board of Supervisors not to license any storefront medical cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. However, the board went against Hymel’s recommendation and has approved four dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county. “This decision illustrates the challenges in finding the right combination of operator and location to provide patients with safe access to medical cannabis locally,” Hymel said in a statement. The county received 10 applications for dispensaries and looked closely at written opposition from neighbors prior to making a decision. Per county law, a dispensary must be located at least 800 feet away from schools, public parks, smoke shops and competing dispensaries. The county is now looking at different options for allowing medical cannabis operations, including the delivery-only dispensary model. According to Inge Lundegaard, a program manager in the county’s Community Development Agency, another option is to allow a separate clinic where cannabis can be recommended by a doctor. A hearing is scheduled for May 9 for anyone wishing to appeal Hymel’s recommendation to oppose storefront dispensaries in the county.

California Supreme Court Committee Decides that State Judges Cannot Invest in Cannabis

A California Supreme Court committee has warned judges to avoid investing in the cannabis industry. On April 19, the Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) said that California judges cannot both maintain interest in medical cannabis and adhere to their obligation to follow the law at the same time. “Judges are prohibited from maintaining an interest in a marijuana-related enterprise because marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” said Judge Ken So, a committee member. “This opinion explains that investment in businesses that violate federal marijuana statutes is inconsistent with a judge’s duty to follow the law and advises that judges have an ongoing responsibility to discover if their investments involve a marijuana business.” The committee cited similar rules in Maryland, Washington and Colorado. In Maryland, for instance, judicial appointees are banned from growing, possessing or dispensing medical cannabis. The guidance was reportedly given in response to a request from a judicial officer or judicial officer candidate. The committee also said that California judges have a responsibility to investigate whether their investments are connected with the cannabis industry.

Colorado

Denver Establishes Strict Regulations Regarding Out-of-State CBD Products

Recently, Denver has begun enforcing stricter policies to review CBD products that originate out-of-state. Denver Environmental Health’s (DEH) Public Health Inspection’s Division released a statement that calls for stricter scrutiny of these foreign products. “When DEH encounters these products, retailers and manufacturers may be subject to DEH enforcement and requests for additional information to demonstrate that the product was manufactured safely,” the statement reads. While strict rules help establish a better regulated industry, some feel that the policy will be overregulated and be harmful to the state. “The response is unfortunate, as it prevents consumers from having access to high quality products from out-of-state in that region, and it will limit competition,” stated Will Kleidon of Ojai Energetics, a CBD company. Regulations like this help to keep local cannabis consumption safe at a time when there are still no federal regulations, but can also limit the diversity in the industry.

CSU-Pueblo Leads the Way with International Cannabis Conference

Through research programs and cannabis-funded college scholarships, Pueblo County is making great progress toward furthering essential cannabis research and higher education. Colorado State University-Pueblo kicked off the inaugural Institute of Cannabis Research Conference on Friday, April 28. This monumental event served as one of the first cannabis conferences to take place at and be hosted by a Colorado State University. The conference continued throughout the weekend with the keynote speaker of the event being Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who’s most well-known for his achievement as the first scientist to isolate and identify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), among many other great accomplishments. The conference also invited noteworthy speakers Dr. Carl Hart and Dr. Alexandros Makriyannis. The conference outlined the many research goals and visions of CSU-Pueblo’s new Institute of Cannabis Research. This informative and innovative event was a testament to the groundbreaking progress that Colorado has demonstrated with cannabis. Pueblo County has demonstrated its support of the cannabis industry through offering unique cannabis-funded scholarships to high school students in the county. All students graduating high school are eligible to apply for a scholarship if they are attending CSU-Pueblo or Pueblo Community College for their freshman year of college.

Los Angeles

Proposed Regulations for Medical Cannabis Cultivation in California Have Been Released

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released proposed regulations for the state’s medical cannabis cultivation program on April 28. The release coincides with the official 45-day public review and comment period that runs from April 28 to June 12, 2017. The public is invited to attend four public hearings on May 16 in Santa Ana. CalCannabis is the branch of the CDFA that will oversee cannabis cultivation. “We truly want to hear from Californians who care about the cannabis cultivation licensing process,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This is an opportunity to help us make sure we develop the best and most effective regulatory framework for our state. I encourage people to carefully review the proposed regulations then tell us what you think.” The last day that the public can submit comments is Monday, June 12. CalCannabis will accept applications for state cannabis cultivation licenses beginning January 1, 2018.

Advocates Convince L.A. County Board of Supervisors to Delay “Surge Strategy”

On Tuesday, April 18, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was informed about an aggressive plan to raid cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. The report was introduced by the Sheriff’s Department, the County Counsel and the District Attorney. The board decided to ignore the plan and not vote on the issue after hearing statements from individuals who were part of a local cannabis advocacy group called Angeles Emeralds. “In response to all the cannabis supporters who came to voice their concerns of the Board pushing enforcement before regulations, the board decided not to vote on the matter and merely accepted the report with no mention of plans of mass raids with their ‘Surge Strategy,’” Angeles Emeralds wrote on its website. Through the “Surge Strategy”, 26 illegal dispensaries were targeted by the sheriff’s Medical Marijuana Dispensary Enforcement Team.

Bakersfield

San Luis Obispo County Discusses Commercial Cannabis Regulations

San Luis Obispo County residents gathered on April 12 at a public forum to examine the rules on commercial cannabis in unincorporated areas of the county. The meeting was held at Nipomo Community Services District where residents discussed a draft zoning ordinance, which was amended to include commercial cannabis businesses. The ordinance, which amends Title 22 of the San Luis Obispo County code, is expected to take effect by next fall. “The purpose of this Chapter is to protect the public health, safety and welfare, enact strong and effective regulatory and enforcement controls in compliance with state law and federal enforcement guidelines,” the draft ordinance reads. It also continued to mention that it aims to “ . . . protect neighborhood character, and minimize potential for negative impacts on people, communities, and the environment in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County by establishing minimum land use requirements for cannabis activities.” The next hearing for the ordinance is on June 29, and the ordinance will be brought before the Board of Supervisors in September 2017.

 

Atascadero City Council Considers Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation

On April 25, the Atascadero City Council suggested that it may support allowing outdoor cannabis gardens, as long as they are hidden from the public view. The council also suggested it may choose to permit cannabis delivery services as well as testing and manufacturing facilities. “To gather a better understanding of local concerns and provide information for the city council, city staff held a series of public outreach meetings in February and March, in conjunction with an online questionnaire, to solicit input and feedback on the issue of recreational cannabis retail sales, personal cultivation, commercial cultivation and public smoking of both marijuana and tobacco products,” a staff report read. Councilmember Charles Bourbeau was in favor of allowing commercial cannabis sales and cultivation in the city, while most others in the council took a more conservative stance. According to Mayor Tom O’Malley, however, the council’s direction does not amount to a final decision. An ordinance based on the recommendations is expected to be shown to the city Planning Commission in either July or August 2017.

Kern County Extends Moratorium

On April 4, Kern County supervisors extended a moratorium on opening or relocating medical cannabis dispensaries in county territory that are outside of incorporated cities. The 2016 moratorium was extended to ban dispensaries for another year until the county drafts up a new regulatory plan. The moratorium states, “From and after the effective date of Ordinance G-8630, May 10, 2016, no medical marijuana dispensary, other than those in existence and operating on the effective date of this ordinance, is permitted within the unincorporated areas of Kern County during the period of time this ordinance is effective.” Large-scale cultivation, processing and the sale of cannabis is still allowed under existing medical cannabis rules for the county’s permitted dispensaries only. Kern County supervisors are racing to implement a temporary moratorium in preparation for January 1, 2018 when Proposition 64 takes effect. The only dispensaries that will be affected are businesses that ignored the moratorium when it was enacted in May 2016 and started to operate. Violation of the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor in Kern County.

Michigan

Northern Michigan University Introduces Medical Cannabis Program

Northern Michigan University (NMU) is introducing an undergraduate degree in medicinal plant chemistry, which is the first of its kind. Students will delve into chemistry, botany and the biology of cannabis and other medicinal plants. “There is great demand for qualified technical personnel and great opportunities for skilled entrepreneurs,” said Mark Paulsen, head of the Chemistry Department at NMU. “Our focus will be on analyzing variations in plant compounds and the impacts of different growing and processing methods. The knowledge and skills acquired are applicable to the cannabis industry, but also translate to the broader field of natural products chemistry and a wide range of professional opportunities.” There will be a weekly seminar to help students understand the medical industry and its regulations. Students, however, will not be working with actual cannabis in the classroom. They will instead learn all the processes and techniques that would be useful in the medical cannabis industry. The skills they learn can be applied to potentially starting their own businesses in the future. “This will be the first four-year undergraduate program dedicated to this topic,” said Brandon Canfield, Professor at NMU.

Detroit Releases Interactive Medical Cannabis Collective Map

The city of Detroit has released an interactive map that displays the application status for over 280 medical cannabis collectives located throughout the city. Each collective is represented by a color-coded dot on the map, which David Bell, Director of the Building Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department, believes will help inform the public understanding about currently existing collectives. “We continue to receive a lot of community feedback about the number of dispensaries across the city, and we are enforcing the ordinance, which we think is fair and equitable,” said Bell. “This new website map will allow people to stay up-to-date on any one of the locations.” According to the map as of mid-April, 160 collectives were closed down by order of the city. There are 120 collectives currently in the application approval process and 61 are are permitted to operate in the meantime. Two collectives are in the enforcement process, and three have been approved so far by the Medical Marijuana Control Commission (MMCC.) The map will be updated every Monday at 4 p.m.

San Diego

Cannabis Cultivation Under Debate in Encinitas

The first subcommittee meeting on cannabis in Encinitas was held at City Hall on April 12. Over 50 local residents were in attendance to voice their opinions. The discussion covered limited cultivation, banking, delivery and limits on consumption of edibles in public places. “We feel that what we could bring in Encinitas is something similar to the lab in Rancho Santa Fe,” said Heather May, tissue culture lab analyst based in Rancho Santa Fe. “But it would be limited to cannabis and we would only sell it to other growers who are licensed.” Others considered how businesses would be financed in the city. “I fully expect, once we have state laws in place, that there will be ways for banking solutions in other states to come to California,” said Erik Williams, a former political consultant. Opponents of cannabis regulation also weighed in, citing concerns over the image of Encinitas. In 2014, the city rejected Measure F, which would have permitted dispensaries, but the city has since warmed up, with 65 percent of voters in Encinitas supporting Prop. 64.

Lemon Grove Officials Currently Reviewing Dispensary Applications

The city of Lemon Grove began receiving applications from aspiring medical cannabis dispensary owners on March 20. Last November, voters approved Measure V by only 90 votes, which allows dispensaries with a conditional use permit to receive a license, if they are approved by the city. Lemon Grove City Manager Lydia Romero told CULTURE that the city is still in the middle of reviewing applications and sending out denial letters to those whose businesses are located in sensitive land use areas, but the city is making the necessary progress required to distribute licenses which is estimated to happen in late-summer. “Normally for a conditional use permit, it’s a 60- to 90-day process to go through everything, and that is assuming that there are some deficiencies in the application—that tends to delay the process,” Romero said. “Our first dispensary will either begin construction to open up or actually open up [in late-summer], it really just depends on the applicant and the quality of their application.” Dispensary locations in Lemon Grove are limited to commercial zones in industrial areas of the city. Like many other city ordinances, dispensaries must have a 1,000-foot buffer from schools, daycare centers, parks, substance abuse centers or other dispensaries.

Washington

Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Drops Over 2,000 Applications

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board dropped 2,340 applications for recreational cannabis retail licenses in late-April. Most of the applicants were former medical cannabis business owners that were forced out by the state’s Initiative 502 regulatory structure. The $266 fee for the applications is non-refundable. “By this email, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) is notifying you we will be withdrawing all priority two and three applications for retail marijuana licenses we received between October 12, 2015 and March 31, 2016. During that time, we received 2,340 retail marijuana applications to fill 222 additional licenses,” the email read. The Cannabis Patient Protection Act in 2015 merged the medical and recreational systems, and many business owners had hoped in vain that they would find a spot in the recreational market. There are only 222 available licenses and only priority one applicants are being considered. There are 290 priority one applicants, so not everyone will be granted a license. No priority two or three applicants are currently being considered.

Washington Legislature Moves to Restrict Cannabis Advertising

On April 20 Washington lawmakers passed new restrictions on recreational cannabis advertising. After considerable debate between the Senate and House, new restrictions were agreed upon, which ban cannabis shops from using ads that may appeal to children and teens. They also require the addition of warnings in advertisements that indicated cannabis products are only meant for adults. Ads would be banned from using toys, cartoon characters or anything that appeals to children. “Children should not be exposed to marijuana advertising, and advertising is becoming a big problem as the industry grows,” according to the Engrossed Substitute House Bill Report read. Further, “Recent studies have shown that eighth graders increasingly view the use of marijuana as not being harmful. The [WSLCB] receives more complaints about marijuana advertising than any other aspect of the marijuana industry. A complete ban on marijuana-related billboard advertising would be a good thing.” Billboard ads would only be permitted to display the store name and location in text. Pictures of cannabis would be banned. Outdoor advertising would be banned on arena signs, stadiums, shopping malls, fairs, farmers markets and arcades.

National

Medical Cannabis Expansion Bill Makes Progress in Iowa

Iowa’s Senate approved a measure on April 17 that would allow medical cannabis to be manufactured and dispensed throughout the state. Senate File 506 would permit patients 18 and older to consume medical cannabis if they’ve been certified by a medical practitioner. The bill would vastly expand Iowa’s cannabis oil law, and it would allow the state to license up to four manufacturers and up to 12 licensed dispensaries by July 2018. “We are interested in making law,” Sen. Charles Schneider stated. “This is not just a ‘statement’ bill. This is something that we would like to get through the House and down to the governor’s desk.” The state of Iowa allows CBD-only oil for those with intractable epilepsy, but currently imposes a three percent THC limit, and the oil must be approved by a licensed neurologist. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said that she hopes the legislature at least lifts the July 1 deadline on Iowa’s CBD-oil law and allows access to Epidiolex®. The bill proposal also includes a reciprocity arrangement, which would allow patients to access medical cannabis from Minnesota.

International

Argentina Legalizes Medical Cannabis Oil

Argentina received its final approval to legalize medical cannabis in the forms of oil or concentrate. Argentina’s Senate approved the bill unanimously with 58 votes in favor of the bill. The new law also creates a medical cannabis research program under the Health Ministry. Free access to cannabis oil will be available for those who join the research program. The bill was supported by medical cannabis groups like Mamá Cultiva Argentina, a nonprofit made up of mothers with children who suffer from refractory epilepsy. “It is a historic day in the struggle for rights in our country, a substantial improvement over legislation until yesterday [where medical cannabis consumers and their families were] persecuted, harassed and criminalized to seek relief from their suffering through this plant that helps us have more dignified lives free of disease, suffering and pain,” read a translated post from Mamá Cultiva Argentina’s Facebook page. The organization is already working on expanding the law further by allowing families of patients to grow cannabis as well.

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