Letter grades for Los Angeles pot shops? Health officials consider emblem program for retailers

Whittier Daily News/January 5, 2018/Susan Abram

Los Angeles County health officials are considering placing remblems on legal recreational retail shops, much like the iconic letter grades found hanging on the windows of restaurants.

The emblem would the public know that the products inside the shop passed regulations, and the businesses itself is licensed and inspected, health officials said this week.

“I think an emblem program will be helpful,” said Cynthia Harding, chief deputy director for Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

If initiated, the emblem program would be part of a broader effort to educate the public on cannabis use and safety, Harding and others said.

The upcoming messages and campaigns would include all the lessons learned from how to keep young people away from alcohol and tobacco, for example.

Even if the federal government comes down hard on California’s emerging retail recreational cannabis shops, ongoing education will be key to raising the pubic’s awareness about cannabis, whether used for recreation or medicinal purposes, she said.

“We’re trying to get unbiased, competent messages,” Harding said. “We’re working with parents, with schools, with elected officials. Our department is trying to pull together a youth campaign that is largely compiled by youth.

“It’s going to take a while for all the illegal businesses to stop doing business,” Harding added. “We’re going from an unregulated way of doing a business, to a very regulated.”

Los Angeles County has yet to approve any regulations in its unincorporated areas, which include more than 2,600 square miles or 65 percent of Los Angeles County. About 1 million people live in those areas.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss and vote on a proposed set of regulations at the end of January. But concerns about public health and safety already were expressed by at least two supervisors, who asked the county’s Department of Public Health and the Office of Cannabis Management recently to craft a model that would emphasize “health equity” for communities where legal cannabis businesses would be more likely to flourish.

“Cannabis businesses have continued to multiply in low-income communities of color, reminiscent of problematic alcohol outlets and compound the deterioration of the health and vitality of surrounding neighborhoods,” according a motion crafted by supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis. “How these cannabis businesses are operated, and by whom, greatly affect the physical and sociocultural environment of these neighborhoods, influencing norms and values, social networks and interactions, and social and cultural expression.”

In addition to ensuring health equity, Harding said she hopes cities within the county that are allowing legal retail cannabis shops will be on board with county health inspections.

Already, shops that will open in the City of Los Angeles will undergo health and sanitation inspections from county public health officials. Eleven inspectors have been trained to inspect cannabis facilities “to ensure compliance with state regulations and local laws related to commercial cannabis businesses,” according to public health’s office of Environment Health.

Inspectors will look for general sanitation, product that is free of contamination, proper packaging and labeling, any signs of vermin, proper temperature control, proper product handling and storage and employee health.

“Environmental Health is also proposing to conduct random sampling of cannabis products and test the samples for potency(THC) levels and potential mold and pesticide contamination,” health officials said in a statement.

“I think one of the other areas, we’re really looking at is our role as a regulator,” Harding said. “The way the law is written is that’s really the state’s role. But we see an important role for public health and health protection, to look at quality control.”

What would help education efforts is more information on how legal cannabis is affecting young people, Harding said, but so far such data remains unavailable. Even in states where marijuana has been legal for a while, data is insufficient to know if young people are smoking cannabis more, Harding and others said.

Early numbers in Denver show that while there was a decrease in the number of marijuana related arrests, there were more people smoking cannabis in public areas, Harding said.

“We don’t want to replicate that,” she noted.

Joseph Nicchitta, county coordinator for the Office of Marijuana Management, agreed educating the public of the laws, of what’s legal and safe, needs to be emphasized as California rolls forward with legal cannabis use. As many Los Angeles leaders have said, yesterday’s marijuana is not today’s marijuana.

“Much of the things we’ve focused on is trying to help buyers know which businesses are licensed and which are not,” he said.

But Nicchitta said he understood there also are concerns raised about the products themselves.

“Because they’ve been illegal for so long,” he added, “we don’t have good research on what the effects are of these products.”

California voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016, allowing legalization of recreational marijuana that began Monday. The new law means anyone 21 and older will be able to legally buy marijuana in California with just an ID, but not everywhere.

The diversity of products, such as edibles, beverages, butane, and hash oil signals a change in THC concentration and genetic breeding that didn’t exist before, officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said Wednesday.

A study referenced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana potency detected in confiscated samples has steadily increased over the last few decades.

“In the early 1990s, the average THC content in confiscated cannabis samples was roughly 3.7 percent for marijuana and 7.5 percent for sinsemilla, a higher potency marijuana from specially tended female plants,” according to the study. “In 2013, it was 9.6 percent for marijuana and 16 percent for sinsemilla.”

The study also found that “eating THC-rich hash oil extracted from the marijuana plant may deliver very high levels of THC to the user.”

“These trends raise concerns that the consequences of marijuana use could be worse than in the past, particularly among new users or in young people, whose brains are still developing,” researchers concluded in the study.

That last statement is troubling to Dr. Crescenzo Pisano, medical director for Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center’s, San Pedro Recovery Center.

If young people under the age of 21 can get alcohol, he warned, then they’ll also get their hands on weed and edibles. He said a young adult’s brain is not fully developed until 25 years old.

“My concern is not that it is legal or illegal,” Pisano said of cannabis. “Even though people don’t like to hear it, it can be a gateway drug. Not only is this not the marijuana from the 60s, it’s much more intense. To me, it’s a public health concern. Who knows what’s going to happen to emergency departments. I think that will be more significant than it is now.”

Sarah Armstrong, director of industry affairs for the pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, said she understands the concerns, and urges members of the public to educate themselves about dosages and what they can and shouldn’t consume. She said most of the new retail shops are already licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, and have a set of best practices in place.

She also said consumers should ask questions of bud tenders at the dispensaries.

“They are very carefully trained,” she said. “They don’t want people to be uncomfortable.”

Jeff Sessions is Rescinding Federal Marijuana Protections

Weedmaps/January 4, 2018/Duke London

Just days after California ushered in a new era for marijuana legalization by introducing a recreational market to the sixth largest economy on Earth, the Trump administration has positioned itself to undo years of progress by rescinding the integral federal protections that allow states to establish their own marijuana legislation.

Two anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the decision informed The Associated Press early Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would nix the Cole Memo, an Obama-era provision that ensured federal funds would not be used to enforce marijuana prohibition in states that had passed legalization. The sources added that, from this point forward, federal prosecutors in states with legal marijuana “will have deference to enforce U.S. laws on marijuana as they see fit in their own districts.”

This news complicates business operations for countless compliant entrepreneurs across the country who now must weigh the possible federal repercussions of following their respective state’s laws. In states where business owners could legally grow, process, sell, and possess cannabis products, the Cole Memo offered a layer of protection from federal scrutiny.

When reached for comment, Jonathan Blanks, a research associate with Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice, said of the rescinding of the Cole Memo, “This move endangers state-legal businesses and violates the principles of federalism that have been central to the Republican Party for decades.”

“While the average marijuana consumer is not going to be targeted or arrested by the federal government, business owners directly and indirectly involved in state-legal recreational marijuana distribution may see their freedoms and livelihoods threatened by this action,” Blanks added. “Put simply, the DOJ is using the criminal law to trample on state prerogatives and individual rights.”

The Cole Memo was introduced in 2013 by then-Deputy AG James Cole, promising to let states evolve their marijuana industries without interference from the federal government, so long as the states ensured the products were not leaving the state or ending up in the hands of minors.

Eight states (Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada) and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, while 29 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Erasing the Cole Memo also represents a stark disconnect from the campaign promises President Trump made regarding marijuana laws.

“I wouldn’t interfere because I think that really is a local issue. When you look at what’s happened in Colorado as an example, it’s a local thing,” Trump told CBS Boston in February 2017. “I wouldn’t interfere with it. I think that’s something that really is very much up to the local area.”

While AG Sessions’ stance on marijuana has been the worst kept secret in America, many believed the marijuana industry had achieved too much momentum for the prohibitionist to reverse course. President Trump issued an executive order almost a year ago that created a task force whose sole purpose was to investigate marijuana legalization around the country, develop an enforcement strategy, and issue recommendations for how the Department of Justice should handle cannabis. The recommendations were supposed to be submitted by July, but those findings have been sealed from public view.

Washington State Vows to Defend Cannabis From Federal Crackdown

Leafly/January 4, 2018/Tobias Coughlin-Bogue

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee was quick to defend his state’s legal cannabis industry in the wake of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision Thursday morning to rescind the Cole memo, an Obama-era Justice Department guideline that set a policy of federal noninterference with legal-cannabis states.

“As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement.”

“In Washington state we have put a system in place that adheres to what we pledged to the people of Washington and the federal government,” Inslee said in a statement. “We are going to keep doing that and overseeing the well-regulated market that Washington voters approved.”

“Make no mistake,” Inslee added. “As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement.”

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general and a frequent courtroom opponent of the Trump administration, joined Inslee in that promise, pledging “to vigorously defend the will of the voters in Washington state.”

In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan, a former US attorney, said she would instruct the Seattle Police Department not to cooperate with federal cannabis enforcement.

“Federal law enforcement will find no partner with Seattle to enforce the rollback of these provisions.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

“Let’s be clear: Our Seattle Police Department will not participate in any enforcement action related to legal businesses or small personal possession of marijuana by adults,” she said in a statement. “Federal law enforcement will find no partner with Seattle to enforce the rollback of these provisions.”

It would be difficult for federal agencies to pursue action against legal cannabis businesses without the aid of local law enforcement, as they depend heavily on joint task forces, but even without local cooperation, federal prosecutors could easily target individual businesses. However, some members of Washington’s legal cannabis industry say they’re more concerned about what this means for banking.

Ian Eisenberg, owner of well-known Seattle cannabis retailer Uncle Ike’s, said of course he was worried about criminal prosecution but was “most worried about how Salal will react.”

Salal Credit Union, one of the first financial institutions to work with the cannabis industry, now holds close to $40 million in cannabis assets, including those of Uncle Ike’s. Jeremy Moberg, president of CannaSol Farms, a state-licensed cannabis grower in Eastern Washington, echoed those concerns.

“I’ve kind of moved off cash and I’m all in the bank now. I’m kind of worried,” he said, “that my accounts could be frozen.”

Enforcement of federal cannabis laws in the absence of the Cole memo could vary greatly depending on policy priorities of individual US attorneys.

Sheryl Kirchmeier, Salal’s senior vice president of marketing, said there was no reason to worry just yet. “At this time, it’s business as usual. We’re really just waiting to see what potential impacts this may have, if any,” she said. “We’re still fully supportive of our members and wanting to the best for them.”

At the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, it also appears to be business as usual. Many licensees are concerned that the Justice Department could compel the agency to release licensing records. The agency’s spokesperson, Brian Smith, said they were deferring to the governor’s office for an official statement, but he offered licensees a bit of assurance about day-to-day operations.

“Our director, Rick Garza, met with marijuana licensing staff earlier this morning,” he told Leafly. “He told them that if they hear questions from licensees, that they are to tell them that nothing has changed. [That] we will continue to adhere by the Cole memo, that we’ll keep processing their applications, that deadlines facing licensees still apply.”

As Leafly has reported, enforcement of federal cannabis laws in the absence of the Cole memo could vary greatly depending on policy priorities of individual US attorneys. The US attorney for the Western District of Washington, Annette L. Hayes, did not respond to a request for comment. An assistant for US Attorney Joseph H. Harrington, of the state’s Eastern District, said that her office had been instructed to direct all media inquiries to the DOJ’s national press office.

How federal enforcement would unfold in Washington is still anyone’s guess, although it’s worth noting that Harrington, in the Eastern District, was recently promoted to interim US attorney by Sessions himself, while Hayes is a holdover from the Obama era.

Despite being in Harrington’s district, which tends to be a more conservative area of the state, CannaSol’s Moberg isn’t ready to panic yet.

“Everybody’s freaking out. I’m not freaking out. Should I be? It’s hard to take the Trump administration very seriously. If it was Obama doing something like that, it would be like, ‘Holy shit, what changed?’—or any other president.”

Legal cannabis to generate over 400,000 jobs study finds

New Vision/January 8, 2018

The legal cannabis sector is expected to generate $40 billion and more than 400,000 jobs by 2021 in the United States, according to a study released Tuesday.

The estimate by consulting firm Arcview includes direct purchases by consumers of $20.8 billion and indirect revenue for growers and various subcontractors as well as money spent with businesses not affiliated with the sector, such as supermarkets.

The projection would represent a rise of 150 percent on the $16 billion revenue recorded in 2017, according to the study, released the day after recreational use of marijuana became legal in California.

Arcview and its partner in the research, BDS Analytics, expect $4 billion in taxes to be generated within three years.

The new regime will lead to the creation of nearly 100,000 cannabis industry jobs in California by 2021, about a third of the nationwide figure and 146,000 jobs overall when indirect effects are considered.

Customers and operators in California have complained however about the punitive sales taxes to be applied to cannabis and its derivative products, which can hit 35 percent when state, county and municipal levies are taken into account.

California, the most populous US state, became the largest legal market for marijuana in the world on Monday, and public reaction to the law change has been enthusiastic, with long lines and stock shortages reported at clinics already licensed and open.

Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin hailed the reforms at a ceremony on Monday at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the United States.

“I’m stoked about this historic moment, not just for Berkeley, but for the state of California,” Arreguin said, praising the state for “embracing this new economy.”

Cannabis possession remains illegal under federal law, and Arcview’s Tom Adams said fewer than 100 out of the 3,000 outlets and delivery services operating in California were ready to go with the required local and state permits.

“Those that were generally report doing multiples of their typical day’s business with a far more diverse and less experienced customer base that need a lot of hand-holding and educating from their bud-tenders,” he added.

“We were very cautious in projecting revenue growth from $3 billion to $3.7 billion in this first year of adult-use legality in California, but we’ll have to revise that upwards if, as now appears likely, San Francisco and Los Angeles are going to get permits issued more quickly than we expected.”

Australia Approves Medical Marijuana Exports as U.S. Threatens Crackdown on Industry

MG News Extract/January 4, 2018/Danny Reed

While U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is threatening a possible crackdown on state-approved marijuana, which helped shield residents and businesses that follow state laws from federal prosecution, Austrailian authorities have announced a very different course of action.

Today, the Australian government announced that it plans to allow medical marijuana exports.

“In an important step for the development of the medicinal cannabis sector and to secure long-term supplies for Australian patients, the Federal Government will permit the export of medicinal cannabis products,” Australian health minister Greg Hunt in a statement today.

Hunt felt that the move could provide a boost for the Australian manufacturers and the country’s economy.

“This decision will help both the domestic supply and Australian producers by strengthening the opportunities for domestic manufacturers,” Hunt said.

Hunt also said the government’s focus was on the patients in Australia.

“This change will not come at the expense of Australian patients,” Hunt said. “In fact, by helping the domestic manufacturers to expand, this, in turn, helps to ensure an ongoing supply of medicinal cannabis products here in Australia.”

The plan will have to be approved by Australia’s federal parliament before becoming official. But the Labor Party, who is considered to be the main opposition to marijuana reform in Australia, has already signaled that they support the plan.

Australia joins Canada, Uruguay, the Netherlands, and Israel as countries that have approved similar measures.

Recreational marijuana use is still outlawed in Australia.

After the smoke clears: What’s next for Northern California’s cannabis industry?

The Cannabist/October 14, 2017/Bruce Kennedy

Experts say the region’s legal cannabis sector could face a long and costly recovery following a series of catastrophic wildfires that are still raging

The devastating and deadly wildfires in Northern California could hardly have come at a worse time for the region’s well-established and highly respected cannabis industry.

Growers in the area, famous for its world-class quality cannabis, were in the midst of their autumn harvest as the wildfires tore through Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties — leaving in their wake a rising death toll, millions of dollars in property loss and scores of acres of scorched farmland and forests.

A California Growers Association leader quoted by the food-and-dining website SF Eater estimated that 3,000 to 7,000 cannabis farmers operate in Sonoma alone, while another 7,000 to 10,000 farms in Mendocino — part of the Emerald Triangle cultivation zone — also are endangered by the blazes.

This year’s harvest in Northern California has an added significance, as growers prepare for the implementation of adult-use cannabis sales on Jan. 1.

According to the latest weekly report from Cannabis Benchmarks, a Colorado-based firm that conducts price-reporting on state marijuana markets, growers in Northern California have been investing “significant time, effort and capital” toward bringing their sites and facilities into compliance with the state’s new regulations.

Price declines already in effect before calamity

Even before the worst of the wildfires hit, Cannabis Benchmarks reported California’s state Spot Index — the current market price at which cannabis is bought or sold for immediate delivery — was continuing its current decline seen in 2017; falling just over 1 percent this week to settle at $1,445 per pound.

The report also looked backward at previous fire incidents for a possible indication of where California wholesale cannabis prices might be heading in the coming months. In 2015, wildfires hit other cannabis growers in another part of Northern California; wildfires that are currently similar in terms of acreage and destructiveness to this year’s fires. And at that time, California’s Spot Cannabis Index fell more than 23 percent in the space of about 10 weeks.

The focus now is on saving lives foremost and property where possible. But as growers are forced to assess their personal losses and damages, another concern in the Emerald Triangle is the extent of the fires’ impact on the region’s legal cannabis businesses and reputation.

Due to federal prohibitions, most cannabis-growing businesses are unable to secure federal crop insurance, qualify for federal disaster recovery funding or get loans from traditional banks.

“The lack of access to federal crop insurance will be devastating and most (affected cannabis operations) will not have any safety net to fall back on to rebuild their businesses,” Patrick McManamon, CEO of Ohio-based Cannasure Insurance Services, wrote in an email to The Cannabist. “Banking has been such a major impediment to the overall success of this industry that this will only exacerbate the problem further.”

It likely will be the outdoor grow operations that suffer the most. A lot of cannabis that survived the wildfires could be contaminated by smoke and ash — as California-based GreenState reported, there are already rueful jokes by some cannabis growers about changing strain names like “hickory Kush,” “beef jerky” or “campfire pot” for cannabis diverted to illicit markets out of state.

McManamon expected licensed outdoor growers in the fire-affected areas to face a “complete loss” on their smoke-damaged crops — although the Cannabis Benchmarks report suggested that some farmers might be able to recoup a portion of the losses on their tainted cannabis by diverting it to “feedstock” for cannabis extraction and processing operations; companies that typically utilize cannabis trim.

In the meantime, “We have been working with some great insurance agents in the affected area and they have been working really hard to educate the local industry about what is available and (how to) implement risk management best practices into the businesses wherever possible,” McManamon said.

Efforts to help others, providing relief

While there will be significant disruption to the supply chain locally in Northern California for months to come as the region recovers from natural disaster, some local cannabis businesses are rising to the occasion and working to help victims of the wildfires.

Cannacraft, California’s largest medical cannabis manufacturer, is loaning out 12,000 square feet of its office space in Santa Rosa to the American Red Cross for use as a regional headquarters. The company is also donating more than $40,000 of products to medical marijuana patients who have been displaced or forced to evacuate by the fires.

And the California Growers Association, which promotes growers and independent businesses within the state’s cannabis industry, has also formed a fund to assist those impacted by the fires.

The Cannabis Benchmarks report did have some bright spots amid the tragic news.

A large percentage of the Emerald Triangle region’s cannabis was already harvested before the wildfires hit and, according to local sources quoted by Cannabis Benchmarks, crops in Humboldt County have “largely been spared.”

Ben Larson, founder of Gateway, an Oakland-based cannabis startup accelerator and venture fund, told The Cannabist that while the fires are “certainly devastating,” especially to outdoor growers, he doesn’t expect a significant impact to California’s overall industry — in part due to an already existing surplus of cannabis flower that numerous distributors and growers have “been trying to offload for months.”

However, “This is not at all to detract from the devastation experienced by the individual growers impacted by the fires in Sonoma and Napa counties, and beyond,” he said. “It’s absolutely terrible.”

Washington State: Seniors Spend More on Marijuana Products

Business Marijuana News/October 11, 2017/Monterey Bud

Legal marijuana sales in Washington State have provided academics a rather unique opportunity – the ability to analyze and examine marijuana sales by demographics. Market data company Headset confirmed in their October report what most already suspected – “Cannabis is most popular with Millennials.”

Gathered from Headset’s database of customers, who voluntarily registered for a Washington State rewards programs, the study assessed the buying habits of four age groups, scrutinized their “brand preference,” and identified any age-related “price sensitivity.”

For the study, the company dissected Washington State’s recreational sales for September and categorized purchases in four demographics: Millennials (Under 35), Generation X (35-53), Baby Boomers (54-75), and the Silent Generation (Over 76).

By utilizing their proprietary data points, Headset’s report reveals how much legal weed was purchased in the Evergreen State … and just who was buying all that pot.

Primarily appealing to those with the XY chromosome, the report indicates that men bought way more weed than females. Out purchased by more than a 3 to 1 ratio for the month of September, men participated in 77.87 percent of Washington’s marijuana purchases, while females accounted for 22.13 percent of all recreational sales.

Though each group purchased its fair share of THC-laced beverages, capsules, concentrates, edibles, and tinctures during September – 62 percent of all in-state flower purchases were made by Millennial men. For the Silent Generation, those strains highest in CBD, as well as tinctures and topical ointments, topped their shopping lists.

Popular across all demographics, Washington’s Hybrid strains smoked both Indica and Sativa in total sales for the month of September.

Now that we have a greater understanding of who bought the most pot in the Evergreen State during September, let’s examine the year-over-year trend. Since September 2016, the average purchase amount has declined across all demographics. With the novelty of legal marijuana now gone, the sale of cannabinoid-related products has decreased for all four demographics.

Dictated by disposable income, the report indicates the Silent Generation spent $7.22 more per item than their cash-strapped cohorts.

Headset’s report discovered that marijuana consumers — at least the legal ones in Washington — have fiscal constraints. While Millennials were most likely to buy inexpensive products (under $10), Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation have a tad more disposable income to play with at Washington State dispensaries.

 

11% Of Government Employees In D.C. Area Have Bought Legal Marijuana, Survey Suggests

Forbes/October 12, 2017/Debra Borchardt

Washington, D.C., isn’t a large market for the cannabis industry, but it could be very influential with regards to legalization. It turns out that quite a few cannabis buyers are government employees, according to new research.

Consumer Research Around Cannabis surveyed 1,368 people in the D.C. media market, which covers five million adults in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Of the respondents, 8% said that they had bought cannabis from a legal retailer or from a dispensary.

Of the survey respondents who were government employees, 11% had bought marijuana legally, slightly higher than the 8% overall rate, and government employees accounted for 16.7% of the total number of buyers. Some 41% of the government employees approved of both legalized adult use and medical marijuana, only 11% disapproved of the legalization of both categories. This seems to fly in the face of the attitudes from the current leaders of the Department of Justice and The Drug Enforcement Agency.

Keith Stroup, legal counsel at the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said that many of the government employees who are in favor of legalization aren’t in positions that require drug testing. “Those in charge are anti-marijuana, but that doesn’t represent what most people believe in the higher levels of these agencies. Most people at the Department of Justice are frankly embarrassed by Attorney General Sessions.”

Washington, D.C. has a strange system when it comes to legal marijuana. District voters legalized recreational use of marijuana in a referendum in 2014, but members of Congress opposed to legalization have blocked it from being commercially sold in the city. However, vendors have gotten creative, bundling a “gift” of cannabis along with sales of other items, such as cookies or bags. However, there is no laboratory testing and so consumers are trusting the vendor labels of nontested products.

Stroup noted that many of the police are aware of these operations and haven’t shut them down, giving tacit approval to the recreational vendors even if they are technically illegal.

These DC cannabis consumers overwhelmingly see themselves as Independent, with 47% checking that box. Yet, these independently minded cannabis consumers are almost equally divided as to whether they identify as liberal or conservative. 27% consider themselves liberal, while 25% say they are conservative.

Michigan officials prepare for influx of medical marijuana applications

Detroit Free Press/October 15, 2017/Kathleen Gray

Medical marijuana advocates gathered in Ann Arbor Sunday to learn about the regulations and taxes the business will face next year.

Officials are expecting a rush  December 15 when Michigan begins offering applications to people who want to start a medical marijuana business and be part of what is expected to be a $700-million-a-year industry in the state.

“We may have 50. We may have 1,500. We may have 5,000,” Shelly Edgerton, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, told an audience of nearly 200 people who showed up at an Ann Arbor hotel on a rainy Sunday afternoon to learn about getting into the lucrative medical marijuana business.

“But we’ve had close to 1,000 people who have signed up for our  training. So we envision a large number of applicants on the first day.”

The license applications for five categories of medical cannabis licenses — growers, processors, testers, transporters and dispensaries — will become available on Dec. 15 and the Michigan Medical Licensing Board is expected to begin awarding licenses in the first quarter of next year.

People attending the session wanted to know everything from how much it will cost them to get approval from local and state authorities for the license, to how the state will accept tax payments from an industry that has so far been shunned from traditional banks because marijuana still is considered an illegal drug by the federal government.

The answers from Edgerton, lawmakers and lobbyists for the medical marijuana industry are everything is still a work in process as the state has been rolling out the rules and regulations that will govern the medical marijuana industry.

One of the big concerns for the people attending the meeting will be the transition time between the beginning of the application process and the actual availability of medical marijuana, especially since the state has said that they want existing dispensaries to close during the licensing process. And it will take licensed growers about six months to produce a medical marijuana crop.

“We’re trying to bring this into a new regulatory market. We had to have some date to start and we view that day as Dec. 15,” Edgerton said. “The Legislature didn’t provide for any transition. They didn’t recognize the problem, intentional or not.”

The meeting comes on the heels of raids on eight medical marijuana dispensaries in northern Michigan by undercover narcotics police teams earlier this month who asked the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s Office to send cease-and-desist letters to the shops operating in the county.

The undercover team, armed with medical marijuana cards, was able to purchase the cannabis at the eight shops — four in Traverse City and four in other parts of the county — even though they didn’t have a registered caregiver listed at the dispensary.

“They were pretty much selling to anyone who walks in the door, which is illegal under current state law. They can only sell from caregiver to registered patient,” said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.

Technically, that’s illegal until Michigan begins licensing medical marijuana businesses next year. Traverse City’s medical marijuana ordinance allows for dispensaries where caregivers can provide products to the patients they care for. Before the raid, seven dispensaries that went through a zoning and background check by the city were operating in Traverse City and three more are going through remodeling or renovation, said Dave Weston, the city’s zoning administrator.

Cooney said he’s not a big fan of the legalization of medical marijuana, but welcomes the new rules and regulations that are on the way.

“The Legislature, over the past five years, has flip flopped back and forth,” he said. “So we’re constantly trying to figure out what the state is going to do. It’s been very confusing for law enforcement.”

Before the new regulations were passed last year, the 218,556 medical marijuana card holders were supposed to rely on the 38,100 registered caregivers, who could supply marijuana to up to five patients to use to help treat a variety of ailments. That model will stay in effect with the new regulations, along with five categories of licenses — growers, who can produce up to 500, 1,000 or 1,500 plants, processors, testers, transporters and dispensaries.

To start fresh, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs wants the dispensaries that are operating now to shut down Dec. 15 and not open again until they get a license. And that has caused a panic among medical marijuana users, who have crowded licensing board meetings to tell regulators that the transition time will leave them without the medicine that they need to function.

As a result, lawmakers have introduced bills in the House and the Senate that would allow the dispensaries to stay open during that transition period while they’re awaiting a license.

At a hearing on the bill in the Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee last week, Carla Boyd, a board member of the Michigan Epilepsy Foundation from Grand Rapids, said shutting down the dispensaries would be devastating for many people, including her 15-year-old daughter Laine, who has found relief from epileptic seizures with cannabis-infused oils.

“You just can’t abruptly stop take any anti-seizure drugs,” she said. “If you shut down existing dispensaries for any amount of time, people are going to end up in the hospital, I promise you that.”

But Steve Linder, a Republican political consultant representing the Michigan Responsibility Council, which consists of successful entrepreneurs who want to get into the medical marijuana business, want the dispensaries shut down immediately.

“This gives a carve-out for people who knowingly are breaking the law,” he said. “Everyone feels compassion for people who need access to medicine. But it’s a patient’s responsibility to find themselves a caregiver.”

His stance brought this testy exchange from Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, one of the sponsors of the legislation allowing dispensaries to stay open during the transition.

“What millionaires are you working for and who wants a monopoly in this business?” Jones asked Linder.

“That’s kind of like my wife asking if I look fat in this dress,” Linder replied. “I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.”

Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said he supports the bills and expects quick action in both the committee and the full Senate.

“This was an unintentional oversight when we passed the comprehensive legislation last year,” he said. “But this is not going to drag out. It’s not going to linger.”

How Long Is My Cannabis Good For?

MRR/October 13, 2017

At some point, we all wonder how long is our cannabis is good for

At some point in our cannabis careers, we’re all posed with the question, “How long is my cannabis good for?” Maybe you’ve found a few nugs tucked in your winter jacket from last year’s ski trip, or when harvesting a medical crop you may need a way to safely store the excess buds until you’re ready to consume the fruits of your labor.

Like a fine wine cellar or whiskey barrel, cannabis is best when aged in a cool, dark place, and while there is no steadfast expiration date for cannabis, there are a few key elements to consider when storing cannabis for any extended period.

Ideal Temperatures for Storing Cannabis

Mildew and other molds on cannabis and other organic matter thrive in temperatures between 77° and 86° F, so basic precautions of keeping your cannabis in a cool, dark place will go a long way. Excessive heat can dry out the cannabinoids and terpenes that have taken months to develop. When these essential oils get too dry along with plant material, it can result in a hot, harsh smoke.

Lower temperatures also slow the process of decarboxylation of cannabinoids, the process that transfers THC-A into the psychoactive THC and eventually degrades into the less desired CBN. Additionally, warm air holds more moisture than cold air, which brings us to the next

Humidity Factors for Cannabis Storage

Humidity control is paramount to keeping mildew and other mold contaminants away from your cannabis. Keeping your cannabis stored in a controlled environment with the proper relative humidity (RH) ranges can be a bit of a balancing act, but the general consensus is to keep cannabis between 59% and 63% RH when stored to maintain and enhance color, consistency, aroma, and flavor.

Keeping your RH below 65% reduces the chances for mold to occur. However, if your RH drops too low, you risk your trichomes becoming brittle and drying out the essential oils.