State lays out Proposed Rules for Cannabis Testing in California

The Cannifornian/May 9, 2017/Brooke Edwards Staggs

he Bureau of Marijuana Control on Friday released a plan to make cannabis safer for patients, with rules for all medical marijuana legally sold in the state to be independently lab tested starting next year.

The 46 pages of regulations lay out everything from what clothing lab technicians can wear when collecting cannabis samples to what level of pesticides marijuana can contain.

The draft rules drew mixed reactions from industry professionals who are anxious to finally have uniform guidelines but believe the state included unnecessary testing that will drive up the price of cannabis.

“Like with any regulations, I think there’s still tons of work to do,” Robert Martin, executive director of the Association of Commercial Cannabis Laboratories, said.

Martin, who runs CW Analytical lab in Oakland, said state officials visited his facility and really listened as his association members weighed in on issues such as pesticides and how to handle the plant material.

But he was disappointed to see that the proposed regulations mandate measuring heavy metals and aflatoxins, which are cancer-causing chemicals produced by certain molds.

“We’re over-testing the products,” he said.

A study by UC Davis scientists earlier this year found samples from 20 unidentified Northern California marijuana dispensaries contained bacterial and fungal pathogens that may cause serious and even fatal infections if smoked or vaped by people with impaired immune systems.

But Martin said he has 10,000 data samples showing there’s no evidence of aflatoxins in cannabis anywhere in North America.

“I think it’s going to take some real science to change opinions,” he said.

If the rules stick as proposed, Martin said labs like his will have to buy pricey new equipment to measure for heavy metals. And he said that will drive up both the cost and turnaround time for test results.

The testing regulations are part of a larger plan to finally rein in the state’s unruly cannabis industry, as California marks 20 years since medical marijuana became legal and nearly six months since residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana regulations were mandated by a a trio of bills known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which became law in 2015.

The Bureau of Marijuana Control (formerly the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation) was created by that act and charged with establishing and enforcing rules for cannabis retailers, distributors, transporters and testers.

On April 28, the bureau released a 58-page document with draft regulations for the first three segments of the market. Those rules would limit dispensary operating hours, dictate security plans for each shop, cap how many ounces of cannabis patients could buy each day and more.

The same day, the Department of Public Health published detailed rules for cannabis manufacturers.

And the Department of Food and Agriculture released proposed rules for cultivators.

The bureau’s new draft regulations for testing are 46 pages long.

The testing regulations were the most challenging to develop, Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s marijuana bureau, said during a presentation Friday evening at UC Irvine.

Here are some key details in the proposed rules released Friday:

Labs will have to test for homogeneity; the presence or absence of various analytes, including cannabinoids, residual solvents, micro-organisms, pesticides, heavy metals, and mycotoxins; water activity and moisture content; and filth and foreign material.

Labs can also test for terpenes.

They must report in milligrams the concentration of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, CBG and CBN. Samples “pass” if they don’t vary from the stated THC or CBD levels by more than 15 percent.

Labs must report whether samples have more than allowed amounts of pesticides such as acephate, residual solvents such as butane, impurities such as Salmonella, heavy metals such as arsenic, mold that averages 5 percent of the sample by weight and more.

To get a full annual license, labs will need to be accredited by the International Organization for Standardization. But the state will offer 180-day provisional licenses to labs that meet all other qualifications while they work on their ISO accreditation.

Lab techs have to wear safety goggles, hair nets and other sanitary gear plus use sanitized tools when collecting samples for testing.

Labs have to collect 0.5 percent of the total cannabis batch for testing. Batches must be under 10 pounds.

Labs have to maintain detailed plans for chain of custody for samples, employee training, storage and more. And they have to make those plans available to the bureau if asked.

All of the draft medical marijuana regulations — which now total 257 pages — are open for public comment.

The state plans to take feedback in writing and through a series of public hearings over the next several weeks before getting a final set of rules in place in time to start issuing licenses to testing labs, cultivators, retailers and all other cannabis businesses by Jan. 1, 2018.

“We want to hear from you,” Ajax said. “We’re OK with you not agreeing with us. … Tell us what we did wrong and then tell us how we can make it better.”

Martin said his association plans to take advantage of that public comment period to present the bureau with solid science that he hopes will shape the final regulations into something that’s more logical and fiscally sound.

California expects to release draft regulations this fall for the recreational cannabis industry, created when voters passed Proposition 64 on Nov. 8. Those rules must also be in place by the start of the new year.

Meanwhile, the legislature is grappling with how to rectify differences between the medical and recreational marijuana laws.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s office pitched its plan for reconciling the two systems in a 92-page budget trailer bill released in April.

He largely recommends that California go with the more market-friendly plans included in voter-approved Prop. 64.

Lawmakers are holding hearings on that plan. And the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office on Thursday published an overview that praises parts of Brown’s proposal — such as allowing vertical integration — while urging caution on his recommendations to not start reporting on key aspects of the industry until 2023 and to limit the number of medium-sized farms allowed in the state.

If that budget trailer bill passes, the bureau said it will withdraw all of its proposed regulations and propose a new set that’s consistent with any changes in the law.

The public can submit written comments on the draft testing regulations for the next 45 days. They can also attend public hearings that will be held throughout the state in coming weeks. The first meeting will be held in Eureka from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 1 at the Adorni Center at 1011 Waterfront Drive.

New National Poll Results: Cannabis Approval in U.S. at All-time High

May 6, 2017/Matt Walstatter

Cannabis is hot! It’s sexy and exciting. There is constant news coverage of cannabis, so it must be important. We hear numbers like there was more than $6 billion in legal retail cannabis sales last year, so it’s clearly big business. It seems like every week a state decriminalizes, passes a CBD law or legalizes medical or recreational use. So we know that the increasing visibility of cannabis has been accompanied by increasing acceptance and support.

But we are still left to wonder just who is using cannabis and who is supporting legalization. Which Americans are joining this revolution?

Last month, the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion, home of the Marist Poll, released the results of a poll commissioned by Yahoo! News to learn more about Americans’ perceptions of cannabis. The results were highly instructive to those of us interested in not just the what, but the who and why behind cannabis legalization.

First the fine print: The Marist Poll is the central endeavor of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion. It is widely regarded as one of the most successful, trusted and respected polling organizations in the nation, earning high marks from NBC News, The Wall Street Journal and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. For this particular poll, they surveyed 1,122 American adults from March 1 thru March 7, 2016.  Calls were made to both mobile and land lines, and interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

Legalization

The poll found that 83 percent of Americans eighteen or older support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.  Among parents, support drops ever so slightly, to 81 percent.  Of those who have tried cannabis, 94 percent support legalizing medical, as do 98 percent of regular users (who consume cannabis once a month or more).

While this kind of support would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, it’s hardly surprising now. Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia allow some form of medical cannabis. If you count CBD-only laws, the number jumps to 44 percent. Even conservative strongholds like Texas and Georgia have begun to allow the use of CBD.

When asked about legalizing adult use of cannabis, support remained strong. Among U.S. adults, 49 percent support legalizing recreational cannabis. Of those who have tried cannabis, 70 percent support legalizing recreational cannabis. Among regular users, the number jumps to 89 percent.

That means that nearly half of American adults (perhaps more than half when you factor in the poll’s margin of error) support the full legalization of cannabis.  This bodes well for those of us working to end prohibition.

Put your money where your mouth is

The poll contained some questions related to finance as well. Of all respondents, 29 percent said they would invest in a cannabis business if it became legal.  The poll also showed that 52 percent (and 85 percent of regular users) are comfortable with their bank working in the cannabis space.  Respondents who approved of their retirement fund investing in cannabis totaled 51 percent. Of regular users, 80 percent also approved using their retirement fund for investing in cannabis.

It’s one thing to say you support legalization. But it requires much stronger conviction to pony up and risk personal savings on the industry. This finding tells me that we have more than just broad support for the cannabis movement – there is also deep conviction behind that support, evidenced by a willingness to invest in the future of the industry.

Who uses cannabis in the U.S.?

According to the Marist Poll, 52 percent of U.S. adults have tried cannabis at some point in their lives.  The poll also showed that 22 percent say they currently use cannabis, while 14 percent label themselves regular users (at least once or twice each month).

Among users, 54 percent are parents, and 30 percent are parents of young children. This tracks very closely with the national averages for all adults. This tells me that most folks aren’t passing on using cannabis simply because they have kids at home, which means that some of the stigma around cannabis has faded.

Just under a third, or 31 percent of cannabis users, have a college degree, compared to 32 percent for all U.S. adults.  Nearly half, or 46 percent of cannabis users, earn more than $50,000 per year, compared with only 29 percent of all adults.  From this we can deduce that we have cannabis users in all socioeconomic categories and all walks of life. If anything, it appears that tokers are slightly more successful than their non-consuming counterparts.

The poll also looked at party affiliation. Democrats represented 43 percent of users, with 14 percent identifying as Republican and 41 percent as Independent. It’s hardly surprising that Republicans comprise the minority. But it’s interesting to note that they represent a significant minority. This will help the cause of legalization.

Cannabis legalization is one of the few political issues that doesn’t cleave neatly along party lines. Progressive Democrats tend to be the strongest supporters of legalization, but supporters also appeal to some states’ rights Republicans. And people who have watched as a sick friend or relative gets some much needed relief from cannabis tend to buy into the cause, regardless of party affiliation.  This bipartisan support will make it much easier to accomplish the descheduling and full legalization of cannabis at the national level.

I was once asked during a lecture what the typical cannabis consumer looks like. I responded with a question of my own: What does a typical beer drinker look like?

The data from this survey shows that, as a group, cannabis consumers look and act just like the rest of America. We have similar educations and similar earnings power. We are male and female. We are black, white and brown. We have children at the same rate, and we all want to leave the world a little better for them.

Disney Just Banned Cannabis From Disneyland, Disney World

Leafly/May 4, 2017/Gage Peake

Last updated May 5, 2017, 10:25 a.m.

Medical marijuana might have the support of millions in California and Florida, but there are still plenty of places where it’s not allowed. One of those places, according to a new policy, is Disney World in Orlando. Another is “The Happiest Place on Earth”—Disneyland in Southern California.

The Orlando amusement park updated its website Thursday morning to specifically list “marijuana” as a prohibited item, a change reported by WESH 2 News. Disneyland’s website remained silent on cannabis until later that day, after Leafly News contacted the park to inquire about its policies.

“The answer is the same for both coasts and we are in the process of updating the park rules,” Disneyland’s media communications manager, Melissa Britt, told Leafly. By Thursday afternoon, marijuana had been added to Disneyland’s list of prohibited items on the park’s rules page. The prohibition appears to apply to all forms of cannabis, and it does not distinguish between medical and nonmedical marijuana.

“What makes that different than a pill of Oxycontin in their purse?”

Matt Morgan, Orlando attorney

“We are revising our rules to clarify that marijuana is not permitted on our property,” a Disney spokesperson told WESH 2 News when asked about the change. “Although some states have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.”

Orlando attorney Matt Morgan, a legalization advocate who fought to pass Florida’s Amendment 2 to allow medical marijuana in the state, told WESH he’s not surprised by the decision. Allowing medical cannabis into the park, he explained, could become a nuisance to the general public.

“But to the extent that they’d go through someone’s personal belongings to search for that, I think that’s when the public might start having an issue with it,” Morgan told the station. “So for instance, if someone has a vaporizing pen in their purse, what makes that different than a pill of Oxycontin in their purse, and should people be treated differently?”

One reason for the difference could be based on the misconception that cannabis consumption necessarily involves smoking. Disney understandably wouldn’t want people smoking inside of the park, Morgan said, but many medical marijuana patients consume cannabis simply by placing a few drops of oil under their tongues.

As Disney World moves to ban medical marijuana from the park, patients throughout Florida are watching as lawmakers continue to overhaul the voter-approved Amendment 2. Some, however, have criticized the process as two steps forward, one steps back.

“We have listened and we have worked hard to create a patient-centered process,” Florida House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) told local media in response to complaints.  “We believe this bill makes it easier for patients to obtain their medical marijuana.”

UPDATES

May 4, 2017, 6:04 p.m. — A Disney spokesperson tells Leafly News that the ban on cannabis also applies to Disneyland in California.

Cannabis workers, once facing legal peril, get the California seal of approval

Los Angeles Times/April 23, 2017/Robin Abcarian

The parking lot of the River City Phoenix medical cannabis dispensary was jammed last Thursday. As a security guard directed traffic, a line of patients stretched out the door of the North Sacramento outlet in a funky industrial neighborhood.

Unlike people who show up at cannabis festivals such as the Emerald Cup — young and looking for a good high — these marijuana seekers were indistinguishable from the folks you see in line every day at the grocery store.

Some were youngish, but many were middle-aged and elderly. Some looked pretty sick as they waited to get into the dispensary, which grosses $16 million a year in sales despite being crammed into only 1,700 square feet.

Everyone still had to show a medical marijuana card to get in; even though California voters legalized recreational cannabis last November, the new rules don’t kick in until 2018. Until then, unless you grow your own, you must have a doctor’s recommendation to buy.

Since this was April 20, a national marijuana holiday for reasons you should know by now, the dispensary was especially busy.

Like many around the state, River City Phoenix celebrated the occasion by offering treats to its patients: vouchers for pizza and tacos from food trucks outside and a goodie bag with a prerolled joint, a gram of bud and an edible sample or two. (Next to cosmetics, cannabis is the most sample crazy industry I’ve ever seen. Some pot lovers even treat 4/20 like Halloween, roaming around from dispensary to dispensary, collecting freebies.)

“Have a great 4/20!” a budtender cheerfully told a young woman who was buying a rainbow-colored Rice Krispies square.

Just as the high-end coffee culture gave us the “barista,” so has the booming marijuana trade given us a the “budtender,” the dispensary equivalent of the pharmacy technician.

“If a new patient came in, I would definitely ask what kind of effect you were looking for. Do you want something to relax at the end of the day? Are you suffering from joint pain, back pain, headaches?” said Shayna Schonauer, 27, who began working as a budtender at River City Phoenix almost five years ago.

Last month, Schonauer became California’s first official cannabis pharmacy technician. She completed 2,000 hours of training — on safety, packaging, patient verification and best business practices — and was awarded her journeyman certificate by the California Apprenticeship Council of the state department of Industrial Relations. Another 35 enrollees in the Sacramento-area pilot program are still working toward their certificates. The program was spearheaded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million members and began reaching out to dispensary workers about four years ago.

Shayna Schonauer’s cannabis pharmacy technician certificate from the California Department of Industrial Relations (Robin Abcarian/Los Angeles Times)

“This is an exciting time,” said Jeff Ferro, director of the UFCW’s’ Cannabis Workers Rising campaign.

He envisions apprenticeship programs covering every part of the cannabis industry “from seed to sale.” He is working with educational institutions like City College of San Francisco to create a cannabis apprenticeship curriculum that could be a model for other parts of the industry. (Dispensaries do not have to be unionized to participate.)

In addition to creating a more standardized workforce, Ferro said, apprenticeships will help level the playing field for the folks who have been penalized the most by the failed war on drugs. “This will be an opportunity for people of color to really thrive, because it’s the skills that will get you there, not your gender or color,” he said.

The apprenticeship program is yet another measure of how cannabis is professionalizing at a breakneck pace.

Another sign: the unionization of the cannabis workforce. The UFCW, which represents workers at River City Phoenix, has organized thousands of them in eight states.

Unlike many employers who want to run screaming when they hear a union is sniffing around their workers, River City Phoenix actually invited the union in.

“I had a real fear I was going to get hauled off to jail,” said David Spradling, an engaging 36-year-old who owns the River City Phoenix dispensary with Mark Pelter, 68, a serene former Buddhist monk who got his start in cannabis years ago as a seasonal worker, or “trimmigrant,” in Mendocino County.

“I reached out to the union because I wanted to solidify my staff wages and benefits, so if I was arrested or had to sell, the people I employed would be secure,” Spradling said.

With 100 workers on the payroll, he and Pelter operate the largest unionized dispensary in the state. Their employees start at $13 an hour and get bumped to $15 after 90 days. They receive health benefits, and will eventually participate in the UFCW’s pension plan as well. (Spradling said many of his entry level employees are not as excited about the health benefits as they could be, since they’re under 26, and not desperate for insurance because they are still on their parents’ plans.)

Spradling and Pelter have recently purchased a second dispensary nearby, and have plans to expand to Marysville and Portland, Ore. Their goal is to open three dispensaries a year for the next five years, including, they hope, in Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles is the biggest market in the world,” Spradling said. “You can’t be an industry leader without having a presence in Los Angeles. It dwarfs everything.”

When Schonauer, who did not attend college, first went to work for River City Phoenix as a budtender, she earned $9 an hour. Now a manager who oversees two stores, she is earning nearly quadruple that.

“I’m hoping this program will put some sort of standard into our industry, which we don’t have yet,” Schonauer said.

Jeffrey Ferro of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Cannabis Workers Rising project has pushed for a state apprenticeship program for cannabis workers (Robin Abcarian/Los Angeles Times)

We were chatting in a small, airy space next door to the dispensary called Honey’s Hideaway Gallery, recently opened by Spradling. The gallery is devoted to high-end blown-glass pipes, bongs and “rigs,” which are used to smoke concentrated forms of cannabis. Some of the pieces, which cost up to $5,000, looked like no smoking implements I’d ever seen. Personally, I couldn’t imagine befouling any of the delicate glass with gooey cannabis extracts.

Then again, I could hardly have imagined that cannabis workers would be unionized now, or that the state of California would put its golden seal of approval on a new class of cannabis industry journeymen.

Ohio will begin accepting applications to grow medical marijuana in June

Cleveland.com/April 7, 2017/Jackie Borchardt

COLUMBUS, Ohio — State officials will begin accepting applications to license 24 medical marijuana grow operations in June and will review them in July.

Once awarded, license holders will have nine months to meet all the requirements of the program.

The Ohio Department of Commerce plans to release application forms and instructions in the next two to three weeks, according to a fact sheet released Friday morning. Department officials will then hold a webinar to go over the process and answer any questions before growers begin applying for licenses in June.

Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio’s medical marijuana law in June 2016. It allows people with one of 21 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a physician. Most of the details of the program were left to three state regulatory agencies to decide before September 2017.

State officials are still finalizing the application process and rules for marijuana product manufacturers, testing labs and dispensaries.

The state will issue two types of cultivator licenses: 12 “level I” licenses for up to 25,000 square feet of growing space and 12 “level II” licenses for up to 3,000 square feet. The space was increased because of concerns the number of growers and allowed square footage were too little to serve Ohio’s patient population.

Department officials can decide in September 2018 whether to issue additional licenses or grant additional grow space to existing license holders.

The license fees and financial requirements are among the highest of the country’s 28 medical marijuana programs: a $20,000 nonrefundable application fee and $180,000 license fee for a level I license and a $2,000 application fee and $18,000 license fee for a level II license.

Other requirements for cultivators:

  • A person or company cannot own or invest in more than one cultivator.
  • Applicants must show local support for the plan and no bans or moratoriums can be in place.
  • Demonstrate the facility will be secured by fencing, 24-hour surveillance and security alarms.
  • Maintain an inventory of at least 20 pounds of medical marijuana for large growers and 10 pounds for small growers.

How will applications be scored?

Applications will be screened first to determine whether they are complete. A separate panel of reviewers will then score the applications based on criteria set by the rules. The applications reviewed in this stage won’t include identifiable information.

The department sought help in February developing the scoring system, but as of last Wednesday hadn’t yet hired someone, according to a department spokeswoman.

 

California Nuns on a Mission to Heal with Cannabis

Reuters/April 25, 2017/Omar Younis

The Sisters of the Valley, California’s self-ordained “weed nuns,” are on a mission to heal and empower women with their cannabis products.

Based near the town of Merced in the Central Valley, which produces over half of the fruit, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States, the Sisters of the Valley grow and harvest their own cannabis plants.

The sisterhood stresses that its seven members, despite the moniker, do not belong to any order of the Catholic Church.

“We’re against religion, so we’re not a religion. We consider ourselves Beguine revivalists, and we reach back to pre-Christian practices,” said 58-year-old Sister Kate, who founded the sisterhood in 2014.

The group says its Holy Trinity is the marijuana plant, specifically hemp, a strain of marijuana that has very low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in the plant.

Members turn the hemp into cannabis-based balms and ointments, which they say have the power to improve health and wellbeing.

More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized some form of marijuana for medical or recreational use, but the drug remains illegal at the federal level. California legalized recreational use of marijuana in November 2016.

“A sister becomes a sister through a commercial relationship and earning a wage or a commission and we want to grow this way because we want to free the women, we don’t want to make them more dependent,” said Kate, whose real name is Christine Meeusen.

She said the group had roughly $750,000 in sales last year, the most since it started selling products in January 2015.

President Donald Trump’s administration and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime critic of marijuana legalization, have worried some in the country’s nascent legalized marijuana industry.

But the “weed nuns” say the new administration has strengthened their resolve.

“The thing Trump has done for us is put a fire under our butts to get launched in another country,” said Kate. “Our response to Trump is Canada.” The group makes online sales to Canada, and hopes to launch an operation there in two months.

Sister Kate adopted the nun persona after she took part in an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011 dressed as a Catholic nun, a look that led her to be known by protesters as “Sister Occupy.”

“We’ve gotten a few hate calls but, by and far, the Catholics understand what we’re doing,” she said

New Federal Bill would Allow Banking for Marijuana Businesses

Bill co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives in Colorado, Washington and Alaska would allow banks to serve cannabis businesses without fear of federal penalties

The Cannabist/Apr 27, 2017/Alicia Wallace

Marijuana businesses can’t openly bank and congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., is hoping to change that.

Perlmutter on Thursday introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), legislation that would allow banks to serve marijuana-related businesses without fear of penalties from the federal government.

The bill is a reintroduction of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, which was first introduced in 2013 — and again in 2015 — and subsequently languished.

Whether the third time’s the charm remains to be seen, but a lot has changed in four years — and even two years — for the marijuana legalization landscape, Perlmutter and co-sponsors Denny Heck, D-Washington, and Don Young, R-Alaska, said in a statement.

Twenty-nine states and a couple of U.S. territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and Washington, D.C., also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age.

“There’s just too much danger in the buildup of cash,” Perlmutter said in an interview with The Cannabist.

Perlmutter positioned the legislation as a means to boost public safety, referencing threats that arise as a result of businesses operating primarily in cash. He noted the death of Travis Mason, a security guard who was killed during an attempted robbery of a marijuana dispensary in Aurora, Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Perlmutter said he’s optimistic that the bill would find acceptance among members of Congress.

It would need to make it out of House Financial Services Committee first.

Perlmutter said that the most significant hurdles facing the SAFE Banking Act are committee leaders who haven’t been favorable to marijuana legislation. Perlmutter said he’s spoken with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., about helping to ease some of those committee blockades.

“We’ve got to get the federal laws and the state laws to align and not be in conflict with one another,” Perlmutter said.

In the absence of specific banking laws to address the cannabis industry, banks, marijuana businesses and regulators are operating under a series of guidelines held over from the Obama administration.

Akin to the Cole Memo, which is the Justice Department’s guidance on marijuana law enforcement policy priorities, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2014 issued a directive for how banks could conduct business with marijuana firms in states with legal cannabis.

State financial regulators and members of the cannabis industry have argued that the guidance wasn’t clear enough and didn’t go far enough to spur greater participation from banking institutions.

The FinCEN guidance remains in place, but for how long, Perlmutter said he’s been given no assurances.

“So far, they’re following those guidelines and allowing for these banking transactions to proceed,” he said. “But I’ve heard from others — other banks, other credit unions — who want the law to be specific; so they aren’t just relying on this guidance out of the Treasury Department

 

California Studies Energy Impact of Marijuana Farming

CBS San Francisco/April 22, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — As California gears up for the implementation of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use, state regulators are trying to figure out how the new industry will impact the energy supply.

In February, the California Public Utilities Commission held a workshop to assess the potential energy impacts of widespread legal pot growth.

Panelists consisting of utility representatives, cannabis growers and regulators mulled over ways to make cultivation more energy efficient, according to CPUC officials.

“The fast growth in the cannabis industry presents a challenge and an opportunity to ensure that the choices made by the cannabis industry reflect California’s climate goals,” said CPUC President Michael Picker.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will begin accepting applications for licenses to grow pot, but it’s still unclear what the energy impacts of the industry might be.

Based on information from other states where recreational pot use is legal and California’s own experience with legalized medicinal marijuana, many growers appear to prefer indoor cultivation, according to a CPUC report based on the workshop’s findings called “Energy Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation,” which the CPUC released Thursday, also known as 4/20.

Indoor cultivation is generally seen as the most energy-intensive production method, but it is also potentially the most water-efficient, according to the report, so it’s uncertain how the state might come down on potential regulations.

About 45 percent of California growers surveyed by CalCannabis, the state’s pot cultivation licensing body, said they prefer indoor cultivation.

Additionally, local governments’ land-use decisions seem to be pushing growers indoors.

Most local governments are still working out land-use policies for commercial grow operations, but the trend seems to be that many, like Sonoma County, will require that those farms are restricted to indoor facilities, according to the report.

Also, while Prop. 64 prevents local governments from prohibiting marijuana growth for personal use, local authorities are able to require that any such cultivation is done indoors.

Still, it’s unclear if local jurisdictions are aware of the energy consumption implications of their decisions, the report says.

Some potential recommendations discussed during the CPUC’s workshop include that the CPUC share energy-use information with local governments so they can make fully informed decisions when crafting land-use policies for the pot industry.

Also, growers could be required to submit energy-use projections before they are allowed to begin farming, a requirement already in place for growers in Oregon.

While there isn’t much energy-use or environmental-impact data currently available for the new industry, CalCannabis is working on a report that will evaluate potential impacts and possible ways to mitigate those impacts.

That report should be ready by the end of this year.

The CPUC’s workshop didn’t make any policy recommendations but suggested that the state work with the representatives from the cannabis industry, state agencies, utility companies and local governments to form a “Cannabis Working Group” in order to explore, for example, a special energy tariff for pot growers, similar to what’s already in effect for the state’s wider agricultural industry.

The CPUC report can be viewed here: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/General.aspx?id=6442452715

State of the Leaf: Sacramento Sees 500% Drop in Cannabis Arrests

Leafly/April 26, 2017/Jay Lassiter

US News (Alphabetically by State)

Arkansas

It’s regulation by legislation in Arkansas as lawmakers cobble together the rules that will govern the state’s nascent medical cannabis program. There is a ton of new laws. Literally dozens of them.

“They did some crazy things, but it wasn’t anything that would affect the overall stability or the overall ability to get medicine, marijuana to the patients,” said David Couch, who led the campaign for the November ballot measure that legalized medical cannabis in the state.

California

Cannabis arrests in the state capital of Sacramento are down a whopping 500% since state voters passed Proposition 64, to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state.

And just in time for Earth Day weekend, US Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) made an environmentally minded pitch for ending prohibition.

District of Columbia

On 4/20, several high-profile DC cannabis advocates were arrested while carrying out an act of civil disobedience on Capitol Hill. Their motive was to highlight a soon-to-expire recurring budget amendment that protects legal medical cannabis operations from unwanted federal intrusion. It was a gutsy gesture that attracted heaps of media attention but not universal praise.

“I don’t think it is the best way forward,” cannabis stalwart US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told US News. “We’re going to have many advocates and business people on Capitol Hill making the case in a calm, thoughtful, rational basis.”

Florida

In November, Sunshine State voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 to legalize medical cannabis. Since then, Florida’s largest newspaper Tampa Bay Times has dropped a series of editorials skewering Tallahassee lawmakers for getting it all wrong—on, well, basically everything. The Times’ latest, a blistering admonition from Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Ruth, is the most derisive yet.

“Last year, Floridians approved by 71.3 percent an amendment that broadly legalizes the use of medical marijuana. That was huge. You’d have a hard time getting 71.3 percent of the state to agree on the color of an orange. Then it was left to the Legislature to craft the rules for implementing the amendment. That’s the way the system is supposed to work. It’s called democracy and it’s all the rage, except in Florida.”

You can almost hear the mic drop.

Massachusetts

Voters in Massachusetts ended prohibition last November after passing Question 4 at the polls. Since mid-December, it has been legal to grow and possess cannabis. Since then, we’ve watched a turf war play out over who has final regulatory authority over Massachusetts’s adult recreational market.

New Hampshire

Mixed results on a mostly GOP-led effort to expand New Hampshire’s list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis: Chronic pain legislation, HB 157, passed the Senate and is expected to become law. But a similar, separate measure that would have included PTSD as a qualifying condition, HB 160, failed to clear the Senate hurdle and was sent back to the drawing board on committee.

New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie is literally the most unpopular governor in America, and his notoriously anti-cannabis policies are partly to blame. But for cannabis advocates, there is light at the end of the tunnel: He’ll be gone in less than nine months, at which point NJ’s cannabis landscape should transform swiftly and dramatically.

Phil Murphy, a Democrat and former ambassador to Germany, is the odds-on favorite to replace Christie. His approach would be a dramatic departure from his predecessor’s.

“By carefully watching what other states have already done, we can ensure a legalization and taxation program that learns from their experiences and which will work from the outset,” Murphy told Leafly. “This also is about social justice, and ending a failed prohibition that has served mainly to put countless people—predominantly young men of color—behind bars and behind a huge roadblock to their futures. New Jersey should choose to be a leader.”

Pennsylvania

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, the state’s chief fiscal officer, joined hundreds of cannabis advocates in Harrisburg to make the fiscal case for ending prohibition.

“The state’s now looking for revenues and also looking to where they can save money,” DePasquale said, adding that “the most failed war in the history of the United States is the war of drugs, specifically when it comes to marijuana.”

Activists were thrilled to have backup.

“It was an unexpected surprise when Auditor General DePasquale added his voice to the call for legalization via a ‘tax and regulate’ model,” Pittsburg NORML’s Patrick Nightingale told Leafly. “PA is facing a huge budget deficit, projected by some to be as high as $3 billion. Mr. DePasquale knows we must find additional sources of funding, and he pointed out the most obvious source of potential revenue: cannabis. My only criticism is that I think he projected revenue is far too low, especially when the $200 million to $300 million PA spends annually on marijuana-related law enforcement, courts, and corrections is factored in.”

South Dakota

Legalization advocates in South Dakota hope the third time’s a charm as they again circulate petitions to put cannabis reform on next year’s ballot. One ballot measure would legalize medical cannabis, while another would OK adult use. Advocates have until November to gather the requisite signatures—17,000 each—to qualify for the November 2018 election.

” We’re embracing this showdown,” advocate Melissa Mentele told Leafly. “When we get these measures on the ballot, that sets up an intriguing showdown with our notoriously anti-cannabis Attorney General Marty Jackley, who already announced his campaign for governor in 2018.

“The prospect of a showdown with South Dakota’s most notorious anti-cannabis villain,” she added, “makes my heart go pitter pat.”

Utah

A surgeon in Utah refused to perform a life-saving double-lung transplant on 20-year-old Ryan Hancey because he had THC metabolites in his blood.

“We do not transplant organs in patients with active alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drug use or dependencies until these issues are addressed,” Utah Health System explained in a written statement. Despite a frantic last-minute crowd-sourced effort to fly him to Philadelphia’s Penn Hospital for his transplant, Hancey died over the weekend.

West Virginia

Just in time for 4/20, West Virginia became the 29th state to adopt medical cannabis legislation. “This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said MPP’s Matt Simon.

That’s common refrain in WV, where advocates are upbeat after such a heady win. And it’s definitely a huge step forward. But this glass is also half-empty. No homegrown, no smokable flowers, no out-of-state reciprocity. Nothing before mid-2019 at the earliest. And with this flawed legislation now officially on the books, many activists fear politicians will think their work on the issue is done.

“This was done without much outside help,” Reverend John Wires told Leafly. He’s one of several unpaid lobbyists who, with nothing more than “gas money and shoe leather” helped make medical marijuana a reality in West Virginia.

“Imagine what we could have accomplished if we had the financial backing that has been thrown into other states,” he said. “It was the calls from the public that brought us over the top. All those in office know West Virginia citizens vote with their temper.”

International

Canada

Medical cannabis and job-related drug testing—it’s a common dilemma anywhere that medicinal cannabis is legal. Including Canada.

“There’s nothing wrong in saying you can’t be stoned at work,” said Canadian employment lawyer Peter Straszynski.

But is there something wrong with discriminating against legal medical patients who medicate responsibly?

France

Four of the top-five finishers in the first round of France’s presidential election support decriminalizing cannabis, including Emmanuel Macron who finished first. The only opponent is Marine Le Pen, who finished second. Macron and Le Pen will face off May 8 to determine France’s next head of state.

Colorado Could Become a Marijuana Sanctuary State

MG News/April 27, 2017/Danny Reed

State officials voted on a measure that could prevent law enforcement from assisting federal agents targeting marijuana.

It is unclear if the anti-marijuana statements coming from the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is simply rhetoric or foreshadowing. Colorado lawmakers may not want to wait to find out.

The state house approved a measure prohibiting police from working with federal authorities in “arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a Colorado constitutional right.” The proposal was passed by a 56-7 margin.

While the bill does not mention marijuana directly, the sponsors of the measure have been motivated by the tough tone the Trump White House has taken toward legalized marijuana. Jeff Sessions has been hinting at a potential crackdown since being confirmed.

This is not the first state to consider such action. Earlier in the month, we reported on a similar plan in California to prevent state authorities from coordinating with the federal government to target marijuana businesses and patients.

Federal raids typically rely on assistance from local law enforcement. While these laws may not totally prevent federal interference, it likely federal authorities would not have the resources to pursue a nationwide crackdown on marijuana on their own.

Colorado is also considering another measure that would allow growers to classify all marijuana as medical. This could spare plants from being confiscated under possible federal plans to target the recreational market.