LA could become the biggest marijuana market in the world. But will the city be ready?

By GFarma News

September 15, 2017

With the cannabis industry set to be legalized in California at the start of next year, the pressure is on for Los Angeles, as some anticipate that the city will be among the hottest marijuana markets in the country, if not the world.

“It’s the California gold rush again – it’s the ‘Green Rush,’” said Greg Meguerian, owner of The Reefinery medical marijuana dispensary in Van Nuys. “The world’s paying attention, and at the end of the day, this is Los Angeles. It’s going to be the largest market in the world … it’s going to be huge.”

“If I’m a tourist from another country, why would I go to Washington if I can go to Hollywood?” he said.

The revenue projections appear rosy to those cannabis businesses looking to be a part of the Los Angeles market. Some believe that with about 10 million people in Los Angeles County, the market potentially eclipses entire states like Colorado and Washington, which have already legalized marijuana.

But with less than four months to go, city officials still have a hefty workload ahead of them as they race to meet a mostly self-imposed Jan. 1 deadline to set up a program that could potentially issue licenses to dispensaries, cultivators, distributors and other sectors in the industry.

And once licenses become available, demand is expected to be high in the Los Angeles area, compared to other parts of the state. A survey of cannabis businesses conducted by the state Department of Food and Agriculture in 2016 found that there were 2,718 companies interested in getting licenses in Los Angeles County, which is the highest number of the counties mentioned in the survey, followed by 1,415 for San Diego, 1,177 for Sacramento and 1,141 for Alameda.

Local licenses are critical because cannabis businesses must obtain them before they can even begin to apply for a license with the state.

But some groups representing cannabis businesses are concerned Los Angeles city officials may be cutting it close, and it could be well into next year before a licensing program is available to many that want to operate.

The city is not expecting to adopt local regulations until the end of October, with licensing applications expected to be made available in November. Hiring has not quite begun for the city’s cannabis department, which will be tasked with processing applications.

City Council President Herb Wesson has been leading the process for developing the regulations for L.A.’s cannabis industry, and says he is “guardedly optimistic” that the city will be able to get a licensing program running before January.

His aides said they are aiming to get regulations adopted by the end of October, and the application process started in November.

Businessman Brian Blatz, who has spent the last two years getting his marijuana distribution business ready to enter L.A.’s market, said that there have already been delays and any further ones would be hard to take, as he does not plan to start operating until a license is issued to him.

“I won’t move a stem until we have, at the bare minimum, a local license in Los Angeles,” he said.

Blatz said he is expecting to begin paying rent next month on a facility in Los Angeles, which means there will soon be more bills to pay, despite not being able to earn income.

“I’m interested in the city of Los Angeles, as I know a lot of people in this industry are, and they’re trying to be as patient as possible,” he said. “But it’s very difficult … I have investors, and I have money at risk. Every time that they delay or hold back on the licensing, it costs us a lot of money.”

Blatz said ideally he would want Los Angeles to make licensing applications available to businesses like his starting in November, so that he could be ready to apply with the state on Jan. 1.

Some businesses say that while they are eager to be a part of the Los Angeles market, if the process takes too long, they have other options.

“There’s definitely the desert cities around us that have moved much more quick,” said Ryan Jennemann, who co-founded THC Design, a cultivation company based mostly in Los Angeles.

“We are very actively looking at surrounding cities right now,” he said.

There are also a few legislative hurdles to get through for the city, before it can launch its cannabis licensing program. The L.A. City Council still needs to weigh in on a “social equity” component to the regulations that would give licensing priority to those that have historically been most affected by drug law enforcement policies, such as the federal government’s so-called “war on drugs,” a crackdown that led to many minorities being incarcerated.

With worries that L.A. may not be able to make licenses available to many operators by Nov. 1, some in the industry are pressing the city to develop an application process that can feasibly be completed by cannabis businesses in time before Jan. 2, so that those businesses are not left out when the state makes its applications available.

City officials have some motivation to get its licensing program set up sooner than later. The industry is expected to be a boon for city coffers, with estimates coming in at around $50 million in tax revenues for the first year of licensing, according to figures projected by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin’s office.

Meanwhile, as city leaders work to shepherd its licensing program through the process, illegal cannabis businesses, including cultivators, continue to feel the threat of being shut down through ongoing enforcement by state and city authorities.

The City Attorney’s Office has filed criminal actions against more than 1,700 marijuana businesses and shut down more than 800, since the enactment of Proposition D, a ban on marijuana businesses. Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for that office, said officials continue to enforce the measure and pursue criminal cases against such businesses.

Erik Hultstrom, who co-founded the Southern California Coalition, a trade group that has lobbied on behalf of its cannabis business members, said that he believes “the city really wants to get it done right,” so the process to set up the licensing program might not go as quickly as some are hoping it would.

But that leaves some businesses, which supply cannabis or provide services to dispensaries, operating in a “limbo,” making them vulnerable to enforcement actions by the city, he said.

Some cultivators have complained of aggressive enforcement from the city, and say that they have had to let go of employees and take apart their facilities.

Hultstrom, who is also the president of a cultivators trade group, said he supports interim measures providing “short-term clarity,” that could “keep unnecessary enforcement from happening to the good operators.”

But some operators have been willing to take the risk, despite this uncertainty. Jennemann, who started the company in the Bay area, said he moved to Los Angeles in 2014 because he saw promise in L.A.’s market.

“I wanted to position my company to have a foot in the (door of the) largest market in the world,” he said.

“Granted I can make my product somewhere else,” he said. “But the bulk of it is still going to be sold in Los Angeles, so I’d like to have my roots in the city where most of it is being sold.”

Why the Elderly Are the Fastest-Growing Pot Demographic in the U.S.

By GFarma News

August 29, 2017

On a recent Friday at the Balfour Riverfront Park senior living facility in downtown Denver, an unusual event took place among the day’s regular activities. In between scrapbooking at the Sky Bar and water walking in the Pompeii Pool, the facility was hosting a “cannabis 101” seminar in the Moffat Depot community room.

As one of the 50 or so attendees bellows at his neighbors to quiet the chitchat, Joseph Cohen, medical director at Holos Health, a Denver holistic medicine and medical marijuana evaluation center, steps in front of the audience in the sunlight-filled room, tastefully decorated with golden chandeliers, chenille couches, and potted mock orange trees. “I will try to go slower than my usual pace for my talk,” he says into a microphone, noting he’d be discussing cannabis’ uses for a variety of age-related diseases.

“The idea is to minimize psychoactive activity and maximize therapeutic effects,” he says, then adds with a smile, “Unless you want to have psychoactivity. Then go for it.”

This free seminar is the brainchild of Stratos, a Colorado marijuana company that produces medical cannabis tablets. Since launching in 2014, the firm has found its simple and discreet product lines — which come in somber bottles with names like “Sleep,” “Relax,” and “Energy” — are a hit among one demographic in particular: seniors. “The baby boomer generation has been huge for us,” says Kate Heckman, Stratos’ sales director, who’s watching Cohen’s presentation from the side of the room.

Stratos stumbled upon a seemingly surprising phenomenon: According to a 2016 study, seniors are the fastest-growing pot demographic in the country, with marijuana use among those 55 and older increasing by 53 percent between 2013 and 2014. But the trend isn’t as unusual as it might sound: Many of the ailments cannabis is most often used to treat are those that often plague the elderly, such as joint inflammation and pain, insomnia, muscle spasms, and decreased appetite.

Many older consumers have disposable income to spend on marijuana, at least according to the sort of luxury senior-living amenities on view at Balfour Riverfront. The compound, nestled in the heart of Denver’s booming downtown and surrounded by modern condos and lush riverfront gardens, feels more like an all-inclusive resort than an assisted-living facility, with its valet parking out front and open-air patio bars. For the most part, the residents attending the cannabis 101 talk look hale and healthy, boasting the poise and vigor of those who’ve earned a comfy retirement. Cohen, with his comfortable short-sleeved shirt, well-manicured beard, and grey ponytail, fits right in.

Balfour is part of a growing trend of operations and organizations tackling the issue of seniors and marijuana use. For years, Harborside Health Center, a prominent dispensary in Oakland, California, has been hosting monthly support groups for patients over 50. In early 2017, New York City nursing home captured headlines for allowing residents to store and use cannabis on site. The storied National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has organized cannabis informational sessions and lobbying efforts geared towards seniors under its so-called “Silver Tour.” And earlier this year, the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, a major organization of medical providers, discussed cannabis use at its annual conference. Judging from the interest at this cannabis 101 seminar, events like these won’t be the last of their kind.

Many nursing homes, whose higher level of care is regulated by the federal government, could be fearful of losing Medicare and Medicaid funds if they permit cannabis use. But an assisted-living facility like Balfour doesn’t have rules prohibiting its residents from consuming marijuana as long as they don’t violate the facility’s no-smoking policy. (In other words, no joints or bongs.) But there’s another barrier to entry for even those at Balfour: A lack of education. After long being told cannabis is no different than other dangerous street drugs, many could be confused about this bold new world of legalized marijuana.

That’s why, after some initial hesitation, Balfour agreed to Stratos’ proposal to hold these seminars, several of which are also taking place at other Balfour residences in the area. “For me, it’s really important for communities like Balfour not to be some kind of gatekeeper or paternalistic guardian,” says Balfour CEO Michael Schonbrun, who hasn’t noticed anyone actively consuming cannabis at his facilities — but adds that it doesn’t mean folks aren’t doing so. “We want our communities to be places where people are exposed to new ideas. Let people make their own decisions.”

Plus, adds Schonbrun, “When you get old, something happens to your body. If this is something that can help with arthritis, cancer treatments, diabetes, and a whole range of other illnesses, why not bring it to people’s attention?”

According to Cohen’s presentation, medical marijuana can help with all of those ailments and many more. Over his hour-long talk, aided by a text-dense PowerPoint presentation that’s devoid of psychedelic stoner images, the physician holds forth on every aspect of the modern cannabis industry. In a slow, droning voice, he covers marijuana research and the war on drugs, cannabinoid receptors and terpenes, transdermal marijuana patches, and ultra-high-potency “dabbing” (the latter of which elicits a rumble of concern from the audience). Cohen says his wife found relief from an autoimmune disease thanks to cannabis, and he speaks of the plant like a true believer, listing condition after condition it can be used to treat: Anxiety, opioid withdrawal, diabetes, osteoporosis, psoriasis, neuropathy, muscle spasms, Parkinson’s, cancer. He even recommends low-THC, high-cannabidiol strains for diabetic dogs.

But many of these treatments aren’t yet supported by thorough research. Studies related to marijuana use among the elderly are especially scarce, which is a concern since many older people have conditions or take pharmaceuticals that cannabis could impact in unexpected ways. “While they certainly are not the target of the new Big Marijuana industry, there are health and safety concerns [for this population],” says Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of the major anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “For example, older people are more likely to drive unsafe and have weaker memories — marijuana, in particular THC, makes those things worse.”

To the contrary, at least one recent study suggested marijuana could actually improve cognitive functioning in elderly brains. But that research was preliminary; there’s still a lot we don’t know about cannabis’ potential benefits — and its risks. According to Cohen in his presentation, that’s because the “medical-industrial complex” and the federal government have long worked with doctors and universities to suppress science around the plant. “Welcome to America, folks,” he says with a wry smile.

At the end of Cohen’s presentation, an attendee stands up and introduces himself as a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University. “You do a very nice presentation, but you do yourself a disservice when you talk about medical facilities suppressing medical information,” he tells Cohen sternly.

A physician in the audience concurs. “I am very suspicious of people like you who accuse the medical establishment of suppressing medical research,” he says. “You said that up front, and you lost me.”

These seniors, it turns out, don’t need convincing that marijuana has been unfairly stigmatized for decades. They’re already okay with legalized cannabis use. Now they just want the facts, minus the hyperbole.

Cohen’s rabblerousing doesn’t turn off everyone at cannabis 101. After the talk, several folks approach Heckman about potential doses of Stratos capsules. Others will likely take part in upcoming Stratos-sponsored shuttle rides to a nearby dispensary.

Still, despite Cohen’s thorough presentation, questions remain. When the doctor asks if audience members have questions, a man with white tufts of hair sprouting above his ears raises his hand. “You have gone through this huge list of what it will do,” he says. ”But will it grow hair?”

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Agrees with Marijuana Legalization

MG Retailer/August 15, 2017/Danny Reed

Neil deGrasse Tyson is famous for his notable work in the field of astrophysics. He hosted the revival of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and is following Sagan’s footsteps in another way as well.

Like Sagan, Tyson does not believe marijuana should be criminalized.

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous,” Sagan wrote in the 1971 book “Marihuana Reconsidered.” “An impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

Tom Angell, of Marijuana Majority submitted a question to Tyson at a public event asking the physicist about his views on marijuana.

“If you really analyze it,” Tyson said, “relative to other things that are legal, there’s no reason for it to ever have been made illegal in the system of laws.”

“Alcohol is legal,” he continued, “and it can mess you up way more than smoking a few J’s.”

Tyson is not an advocate for marijuana. “I don’t count myself among active recreational drug users,” Tyson said in a 2015 Reddit AMA. “For me, the least altered state of awareness I can achieve is the one I seek, because that one is most likely to be closest to reality.”

However, even if his job takes him into the cosmos, Tyson seems to have a grounded approach to marijuana. His views are in line with the majority of Americans. A recent poll showed that 94 percent of Americans support medical marijuana while 61 percent support recreational use.

In Denver, Marijuana Users Aren’t Hard-Core Partiers — They Really Just Want To Sleep

By GFarma News

September 20, 2017

Contrary to the popular image of stoners as party animals, many cannabis users may just want to go to sleep, if a Denver-area survey is a reliable indicator. The survey, conducted by Consumer Research Around Cannabis, found that only pain relief rivals sleep as a reason for using marijuana.

Consumer Research surveyed 1,258 marijuana users in the Denver metropolitan area and nearby parts of Wyoming and Nebraska.

The survey found that 47.2% of the respondents bought marijuana to help them sleep. Using cannabis to resolve insomnia is so common that several sites like Leafly and HelloMD list top strains for going to sleep. HelloMD goes a little further and suggests that users who have problems staying asleep should eat an edible because it releases the marijuana slower and lasts longer. The site also recommends using a vape pen to help them fall asleep faster.

Many people with sleep problems like cannabis because they aren’t left feeling groggy in the morning, which is a common problem with over-the-counter sleep aids. Marijuana also doesn’t have the addictive properties that some prescription sleep aids like Ambien or Lunesta.

Contrary to the myth of hard-partying stoners like Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, only 28.5% of the people surveyed said they used marijuana to have a good time with friends and family. More people (32.8%) said they used marijuana for creative purposes and expanding perceptions and thought processes rather than partying.

Some 47.2% said they buy marijuana is to treat chronic or recurring pain, tied for first place with sleep as a motivating factor. It was followed by 45.7% who used it to help depression or anxiety.

Sessions Says He has “Serious Concerns” About Legal Marijuana….What’s Next?

Weedistry/August 9, 2017

With thousands of jobs and billions of dollars at stake, it’s a burning question: Is Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions preparing to mess with voter-approved sales of recreational marijuana?

It’s a question of prime importance in six Western and two New England states that have legalized marijuana use despite a federal law of the land classifying weed as a controlled, dangerous drug. And it appears Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Maine and Massachusetts are likely to get a lot of company.

Fourteen additional states are planning similar recreational-sale initiatives, possibly this year. The rush to legalize marijuana has been driven by the potential tax and economic boosts of an industry already generating an estimated $6 billion in annual sales. Twenty-nine states also have decriminalized or legalized medical marijuana.

Last year, while still a Republican senator from Alabama, Sessions made his opposition clear: He called weed dangerous and “not something to laugh about.” The government needs “to send that message with clarity — that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

This year, as President Trump’s new attorney general, Sessions said marijuana’s effect “is only slightly less awful” than heroin’s. (Nearly 13,000 people died from heroin overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while no one has ever been recorded as fatally overdosing on marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Administration says.)

So what does Sessions intend to do now?

He warned four governors in letters released last week that he had “serious concerns” about the effects of legalization and suggested the states’ drug detente with the Justice Department was at risk.

The letters were sent to Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Kate Brown of Oregon (all Democrats) and Bill Walker of Alaska (a left-leaning Independent).

In the similar-sounding letters, Sessions didn’t outright tip his hand regarding a possible federal crackdown, leaving government and industry officials to read the letters as tea leaves and interpret them differently. Some supporters of legalized weed are worried, some encouraged — just slightly.

Citing a series of recent federal and state investigations into the impact of pot legalization, Sessions listed repeated breakdowns in security, distribution and the controlled use of marijuana in all four states.

For example, a 2017 state police impact report on Oregon’s market, Sessions wrote, found that as much as two-thirds of marijuana production occurred in the black market; marijuana-related emergency room visits had soared by 55%; law enforcement was unable to keep pace with out-of-state cannabis diversion — pot grown legally in Oregon then shipped out of state.

Gov. Brown’s Salem office did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the Juneau office of Gov. Walker.

Sessions asked both Inslee and Hickenlooper — using the same language in separate letters — to prove that “all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws,” and told them the impact reports raise “serious questions about the efficacy of marijuana ‘regulatory structures’ in your state.”

The attorney general was, in part, responding to a letter sent to him in April co-signed by the four governors urging the administration to continue the Obama administration approach to state marijuana sales — regulate but don’t raid. The governors’ letter also asked “the Trump administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.”

Inslee, who is worried about getting into a drug battle with the other Washington, reacted coolly to Sessions’ letter, saying it relied on “incomplete and unreliable data that does not provide the most accurate snapshot of our efforts since the marketplace opened in 2014.”

Washington state Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson said he was disappointed by Sessions’ letter, and “also disappointed that [Sessions] has yet to accept my repeated invitations to meet in person to discuss this critical issue face to face.”

Colorado’s Hickenlooper, however, did meet recently with Sessions and told reporters he didn’t think a crackdown was in the works, partly because Sessions has too many other government balls to juggle.

Patrick Rosenstiel, spokesman for the New Federalism Fund — a collection of cannabis firms opposed to federal intervention of the state systems — saw an upside to Sessions’ letters. The letters suggest a willingness to work with the states, he said in a statement to The Times, “but there is still a need for congressional action to provide clarity for officials at the local, state and federal levels.”

Sessions had formed an anti-crime task force this year to study the legal marijuana issue. Last week, citing documents obtained from the task force, the Associated Press reported the study group is recommending the U.S. maintain sales oversight but keep its distance.

Critics speculated that was bad news for Sessions, since it would effectively continue the policy instituted under President Obama, guided by standards written by former Deputy Atty. Gen. James M. Cole. The 2013 Cole Memo, as the provisions are referred to, lists rules the states should follow to avoid federal intervention.

They include preventing distribution of cannabis to minors; blocking gangs, cartels or criminal enterprises from worming into the state system; and preventing marijuana shipments to states that haven’t legalized such sales.

Sessions asked Inslee to outline steps his state is taking “to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors.”

Washington weed has been sent to 43 other states, Sessions said, referring to a 2016 impact report’s finding on intercepted mail shipments. More than a dozen THC labs (which extract the compound that gives cannabis its euphoric effect) literally exploded in one year alone, Sessions noted, and marijuana-related calls to poison centers soared.

Inslee and Ferguson said, contrary to Sessions’ claim that 17 THC extraction labs exploded in Washington state in 2014, “no licensed extraction business has exploded” in three years of sales. “The incidents referred to in Sessions’ letter were black- or gray-market facilities, often using butane in an enclosed space rather than a lab.”

In his letter to Hickenlooper, Sessions said interdicted shipments of Colorado weed were headed for 34 other states, and he noted that marijuana-related traffic accidents and deaths were on the rise in Colorado.

“Although youth marijuana use declined at the national level for the time period after Colorado enacted ‘recreational marijuana’ laws, youth use in Colorado ‘increased 20%,’” Sessions wrote, quoting from an impact report done in conjunction with the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Feds to Study Medical Marijuana’s Effect on Opioid Use

Leafly/August 11, 2017

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded a five-year, $3.8 million grant to researchers for the first long-term investigation to see if medical marijuana reduces opioid use among adults with chronic pain.

The federal grant, given to scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System, could provide peer-reviewed evidence of the widespread but anecdotal phenomenon of chronic pain patients stepping down from opioid use to a safer reliance on medical cannabis to manage and alleviate their pain. Notably, the study will use real medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries in New York State, not the lower-quality “research grade” cannabis grown by federal contractors in Mississippi.

“There is a lack of information about the impact of medical marijuana on opioid use in those with chronic pain,” Chinazo Cunningham, associate chief of general internal medicine at Einstein and Montefiore and principal investigator on the grant, said in a media release. “We hope this study will fill in the gaps and provide doctors and patients with some much needed guidance.”

The study will have a special focus on chronic pain patients with HIV. Cunningham plans to enroll 250 HIV-positive and HIV-negative adults with chronic pain who use opioids and who have received certification from their physicians to use medical marijuana, which is provided through approved dispensaries in New York State.

Over 18 months, the study subjects will complete web-based questionnaires every two weeks, which will focus on pain levels and the medical and illicit use of marijuana and opioids. They’ll also provide urine and blood samples at in-person research visits every three months. In addition, in-depth interviews with a select group of these participants will explore their perceptions of how medical marijuana use affects the use of opioids.

Compared to the general population, chronic pain and opioid use is even more common in people with HIV. Between 25 and 90 percent of adults with HIV suffer from chronic pain. Previous studies have reported that despite the high risk for misuse of opioid pain relievers, adults with HIV are likely to receive opioids to help manage their pain. In recent years, medical marijuana has gained recognition as a treatment option. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized its use; in those states, chronic pain and/or HIV/AIDS are qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use.

Researchers have never studied—in any population—if the use of medical marijuana over time reduces the use of opioids. Additionally, there are no studies on how the specific chemical compounds of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), affect health outcomes, like pain, function, and quality of life. Most studies that have reported negative effects of long-term marijuana use have focused on illicit, rather than medical, marijuana.

“As state and federal governments grapple with the complex issues surrounding opioids and medical marijuana, we hope to provide evidence-based recommendations that will help shape responsible and effective healthcare practices and public policies,” Cunningham said.

 

Struggling L.A. County cities are hoping to cash in on California’s relaxed marijuana laws — and facing push back

LA Times/August 11, 2017/Leila Miller

As California braces for the impact of relaxed marijuana laws that allow recreational use for adults, several small, financially strapped cities in southeast Los Angeles County and elsewhere are at the forefront of efforts to seize business opportunities — despite pushback from some residents.

In Los Angeles County, cities like Maywood are approving marijuana licenses in anticipation of boosting local economies, creating jobs and filling commercial lots. Huntington Park has issued three permits, and Lynwood is negotiating development agreements with 13 applicants for marijuana businesses.

Elsewhere, the desert town of Adelanto has tried to sell itself as a place for growers with a 30-acre industrial park divided into units that will be sold to marijuana cultivators for $7.5 million each. And in Northern California, Oakland has received more than 100 applications for marijuana businesses under a city program where at least half of available permits will be granted to applicants that include individuals with marijuana-related convictions.

In contrast, under a proposed plan for Los Angeles, marijuana growers and sellers would receive a “certificate of compliance” instead of a business license or permit. Marijuana businesses in L.A. would remain illegal but could operate with “limited immunity” from criminal prosecution

Maywood has already collected more than $90,000 in license application fees for its medical marijuana businesses, including cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary use, according to city spokesman Robert Alaniz.

“A small jurisdiction like that could raise tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of revenue each year by having marijuana dispensaries within their jurisdiction,” said Patrick Murphy, research director of the Public Policy Institute of California, adding that much depends on competition with neighboring cities and the city’s tax on marijuana businesses. “Being first is always good because that means that there’s less competition. You at least have a chance to gain a larger share.”

Murphy said Maywood’s actions could create a domino effect among other small cities.

“Their ability to respond and move pretty quickly is much greater than, of course, a big city like Los Angeles,” he said. “If I’m a small town about the same size and see them do it, that means more to me than knowing that San Jose has done it. That’s not reality to me.”

But Maywood may also be a preview of the challenges for cities small and large of negotiating the contours of a controversial industry without full support from the community. The city has a long history of mismanagement and questionable financial dealings.

A state audit last year said Maywood could face financial collapse, with $16 million in debt that it cannot repay. The predominately working-class city south of downtown Los Angeles came close to bankruptcy in 2010 as well, at a time when it also became involved in a major municipal corruption scandal in the neighboring city of Bell.

Now, many residents and former city officials complain that they’ve had little input in drafting a marijuana ordinance that has undergone several revisions and amendments. They accuse city leaders of failing to address major questions about the costs and benefits of allowing commercial marijuana activities.

Their concerns include the proximity to schools of two businesses approved for marijuana licenses. The property of one of the businesses is owned by the head of the Planning Commission.

Residents also say that the working-class city of 30,000, which stretches just over a square mile, is too small for such enterprises. They have pushed back, collecting hundreds of signatures that sought to force two referendums.

“We have fought hard,” said Elizabeth Bibiano, who gathered petitions at a local school. “I can’t understand how this has gone on, on, on and now we have the permits.

In an Oct. 25 letter to Maywood’s City Hall, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey admonished the city for failing to provide adequate notice of an August 2016 meeting at which officials discussed repealing a ban on marijuana dispensaries and demanded that it withdraw any recommendations approved at the session. She noted that the meeting was held two weeks before its scheduled date and that notice was not posted until 3:25 p.m. the same day.

The city subsequently revoked the ordinance it passed following the Planning Commission meeting but approved virtually the same plan in December.

Controversy has also swirled around the City Council’s decision in late October to terminate two planning commissioners who had opposed allowing marijuana businesses.

Former commissioners Cindy Lara and Heber Marquez said they believe their dismissals were related to their resistance.

“I kept on requesting by emails and by phone calls why I’m not part of it,” Lara said. “I kind of know it has to do with the marijuana. We were the only two people who got kicked out of the planning commission.”

Marquez said he had received few answers about how closely businesses would be allowed to operate near schools, parks and churches.

“My whole argument was, ‘provide this for us so we can see if it’s feasible and possible for Maywood to even proceed with this,’” he said. “They never saw that as a reason to stop and actually look into it.”

Mayor Ramon Medina responded that replacing commissioners was not unusual in a new city government.

“The two former planning commissioners were appointed under the former mayor and council majority and the current council majority wanted to align the planning commission with the vision of the current city council majority,” he wrote in an email.

The property owner of one of the approved businesses, Corona Sky Inc., is Ignacio Flores, chairman of the Maywood Planning Commission, according to the business application. Corona Sky is on Atlantic Boulevard, about three blocks from a new middle and high school opening in August, and has been approved for commercial cannabis manufacturing.

The property owner of an approved pot business, Corona Sky Inc., is Ignacio Flores, chairman of the Maywood Planning Commission, according to the business application. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In an email, Flores wrote that “anyone who knows anything about financial and building security for your family knows that real estate is a wise investment,” and added that he purchased the property more than 20 years ago.

The second business, Maywood L’Chaim, located on Maywood Avenue across the street from a residential neighborhood and a block from Loma Vista Elementary School, was approved for licenses to cultivate, manufacture and dispense marijuana.

Maywood’s marijuana businesses must receive a conditional use permit to begin operating, said City Atty. Mike Montgomery, who added that Flores will have to recuse himself when the matter goes to the Planning Commission.

Like other residents, Bibiano said she’s concerned about Corona Sky’s proximity to Maywood Elementary School, which is two blocks away.

“It’s an elementary school where parents walk by with their children,” she said. “We already battled drug problems in schools years ago…Now I’m even more worried because it’ll be within reach.”

Mary Mariscal, a former planning commissioner, knocked on doors with other community members on two occasions to gather hundreds of signatures for a referendum on the ordinance. The city told Mariscal that the first petitions were “moot” because it had revoked its previous ordinance. The second time, however, residents couldn’t gather enough petitions by the deadline.

“I’m not against cannabis. I’m not against marijuana. But it doesn’t fit here — our city is very small,” Mariscal said.

Medina said a review of business license applicants was conducted by an independent consulting group before city staff made their recommendations.

Councilman Eduardo De La Riva, who has voted against the marijuana ordinance, said he received no information about companies that submitted applications other than the two that received licenses.

“I didn’t get to see the application for these two companies that were approved,” he said. “I made that clear to staff — ‘you’re asking us to make a decision with incomplete information.’ I don’t know anything about these companies.”

City officials have touted the potential benefits of the businesses for a city that has long been riddled with — and criticized for — financial mismanagement.

“It means a new revenue stream to the city of Maywood and it means good paying jobs,” Councilman Sergio Calderon said. “If you look at the city of Maywood, you will notice that the commercial lots… are not deep enough to attract national chains. There’s no way we’re going to get a Target, there’s no way we’re going to get a Best Buy.”

In an email, the mayor wrote that those who oppose the ordinance “are not attuned or sympathetic to needs of our residents who are suffering from various afflictions,” and said that the marijuana business’ revenue would help the city recover from a dire budget shortfall.

In November, voters approved Proposition 64, a statewide initiative legalizing recreational use of pot for adults beginning in 2018. The measure permits cities to assess local taxes on marijuana businesses, but Maywood interim City Administrator Reuben Martinez said that the city has made no revenue projections or determined how it would collect any returns. Calls to the independent consulting group were not returned.

The city’s current ordinance seeks to regulate medical marijuana businesses, despite a June 28 news release touting the new ordinance and that fact the majority of Maywood voters approved Proposition 64.

“With voter-approved Proposition 64, local government has a duty and obligation to regulate this new business economy,” Medina said in the release. “It’s important that we attract the right kind of operators to ensure adherence to city codes and regulations, and to operate in a way that is responsible and respectful of the community.”

Before Maywood adopted its current policy, Marc O’Hara, founder of the political consulting firm Precision Politics who was then a director of a marijuana trade group, met with then-Mayor Oscar Magaña in 2014 to ask him to support overturning an ordinance then in effect that banned marijuana businesses.

O’Hara said he represented a client interested in starting a business in Maywood, and as an incentive, offered to help create a city-controlled nonprofit that would receive $150,000 a year from his client.

“I told him (repealing the ordinance) needs to go before the city council,” Magaña said. “There’s a process that needs to be followed.”

O’Hara acknowledged that the mayor seemed uncomfortable with his offer.

“After my meeting with Oscar, I met with my client and said, ‘this is too hard,’” O’Hara said.

News that the city had approved marijuana licenses surprised some residents, including Manuel Hernandez, who runs Maywood Mini Market across the street from Maywood L’Chaim.

“If they only come to buy the product and then leave there won’t be problems,” he said. “If it becomes a place where they’re hanging out to get the product, like at a bar, it can become a problem.”

Roberto Perez, 35, runs a shop that sells smoking equipment on Slauson Ave. He favors the marijuana ordinance, explaining that the closest dispensaries are several miles away.

“That would be nice,” he said. “A lot of the community has been asking for a dispensary or regular usage place… I haven’t inquired because I wasn’t aware that the city allowed it.”

At a July 12 city council meeting two weeks after the city announced its approval of both businesses, the city amended its latest ordinance, adding detailed guidelines for cultivation, manufacturing and commercial cannabis activity.

At that meeting, some expressed puzzlement over why guidelines were being added after the licenses had been approved.

“You guys are doing things reverse,” said resident Ricardo Lara.

Lara also drew attention to something that was missing from the city council’s website before the meeting: a copy of the proposed amended ordinance.

“It’s kind of hard for the public to do the public hearing when you don’t have any of this material available for us to speak on,” he said.

The cannabis industry has a clear favorite in the race to be California’s next governor

the race to be California’s next governor

LA Times/July 27, 2017/Ryan Menezes and Maloy Moore

he fundraising dinner for Gavin Newsom in Salinas was in most ways a typical night for a political candidate. Local business leaders paid up to $5,000 for a chance to talk with the man aiming to be California’s next governor over cauliflower bisque, strip steak and Meyer lemon pudding cake.

The hosts that March evening were in the agriculture business, in a region known for its lettuce, grapes and strawberries. But they left their signature dish off the menu: candy infused with marijuana.

California will soon have open sales of recreational marijuana, and it needs to decide how to regulate its newest cash crop. Hoping to influence those decisions, the cannabis industry is seeking access to the state’s political leaders.

One candidate in 2018’s open race for governor is actively inviting their support. The industry is responding by following a conventional political playbook and pouring money into the lieutenant governor’s campaign to replace Gov. Jerry Brown.

Cultivators, retailers and others have given Newsom’s campaign more than $300,000, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of public records. As part of his aggressive fundraising drive, Newsom has become the first California gubernatorial candidate to solicit large sums from the cannabis industry — far eclipsing his rivals.

Though pot businesses’ contributions are only a fraction of Newsom’s $14-million war chest, the cannabis industry’s open pursuit of political influence shows how a once-underground business is becoming a part of the establishment. So far, donors with a tie to the plant have given more to candidates for governor than all other farmers in the state’s agriculture industry combined.

“In other industries there’s an expectation that you’re at the table before legislation is passed,” said Elizabeth Ashford, a former aide to Brown and Sen. Kamala Harris who founded a political consulting service for cannabis firms. “These businesses have evolved to that point.”

California’s next governor will dictate how much those businesses, which produce a good the federal government still considers illegal, can flourish.

Some in the industry see Newsom as a candidate who listens to their concerns and will stick up for them. Although Newsom says he has never smoked marijuana himself, he was one of the first statewide officeholders to support legalization of recreational use.

The host of the Salinas fundraiser on March 3 was Indus Holding Company, maker of cannabis confections such as Toasted Rooster and Crispy Kraken chocolate bars.

Dinner gave way to a roundtable discussion among the 20 or so guests, who raised with Newsom some of the issues affecting their nascent businesses, according to interviews with multiple attendees.

Banking was a major topic that night, they said. Currently, the vast majority of banks and credit unions will not work with cannabis companies, because the federal government considers their revenue illegal. Some operate on an all-cash basis, and most lack the ability to find traditional financing.

A proposal discussed that night would have the state create a special bank that would serve the cannabis industry. Newsom has not taken a public position, but he expressed interest in the idea of a pot bank, three attendees said.

Newsom declined to be interviewed for this story. His spokesman Dan Newman said while there are “hundreds” of creative banking ideas being discussed, the lieutenant governor “had not endorsed any one concept.” Newman added that his boss “never discusses” specific or pending legislation with donors.

Valentia Piccinini came away reassured that Newsom could find a solution. As an investor in cannabis businesses, she said her bank accounts have been frozen in the past. She fears it could happen again.

“All of us feel confident that Gavin will push us through,” said Piccinini, who has donated $20,000 to Newsom’s campaign. “I think he really passionately believes in what we’re doing.”

Newsom didn’t say much at the fundraiser, attendees said, but he listened to donors’ concerns on topics ranging from licensing requirements limiting who can distribute the product to restrictions on the size of marijuana farms.

Grant Palmer, 40, owner of a Santa Cruz dispensary, complained that the state’s new 15% marijuana tax is too high, especially after it is combined with other local tariffs. The tax was created when voters approved Proposition 64 last November and legalized all marijuana sales. Newsom was an enthusiastic supporter of the measure and the new tax.

“He heard me, but I don’t know that he’ll do anything about it,” said Palmer, whose business contributed $5,000 to Newsom’s gubernatorial bid.

Newsom’s campaign committee reported at least $50,000 in cannabis-related donations soon after the fundraiser. In the last year, he’s gathered thousands more, some of it from at least three other fundraising events with the industry.

Donors at those gatherings say they see a parallel between Newsom’s early support for the legalization of marijuana and his stance on gay marriage, which he allowed as mayor of San Francisco in 2004 even though it violated state law at the time. The city issued marriage licenses for two months before the state Supreme Court ordered a halt, and the dispute led to a later court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in California.

“He has this history of being a catalyst,” Palmer said.

Grant Palmer, owner of a Santa Cruz medical marijuana dispensary, contributed to Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign. (Video by David Royal / For The Times)

Newsom further endeared himself to marijuana advocates by touting their cause as the state’s lieutenant governor, a largely ceremonial position with no legislative authority.

In 2015, as he ramped up his campaign for governor, Newsom organized public hearings with a commission of law enforcement, public health officials and academics to develop policy supporting legalization. The commission’s work served as the basis for Proposition 64 and legalizing recreational pot.

That measure, which passed with 57% support, had the financial backing of billionaires such as George Soros and former Facebook President Sean Parker. The campaign for a yes vote pitched the proposition as a safe, progressive reform of the criminal justice system that would raise billions in revenue for government services. Newsom spoke about the need to end the war on drugs as a civil rights issue as he campaigned for the measure.

With those moral questions now settled, state policymakers are set to make a crucial round of commercial decisions. There is a thicket of regulatory proposals working its way through the legislative process and likely facing the next governor. The choices made will help determine who strikes it rich after the recreational marketplace opens in 2018.

Despite his success raising money from companies interested in influencing those outcomes, Newsom doesn’t have the unanimous support of the pot industry.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Assn., said the donations to Newsom come from large companies and wealthy individuals hoping to cash in, not the small growers he represents in the “Emerald Triangle” of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties in the north of the state.

Allen said he worries Newsom will allow large companies to cut out small operators who served the medical marijuana market prior to full-scale legalization.

“There are fierce and cutthroat business practices coming,” said Allen, who supports one of Newsom’s rivals in the race, state Treasurer John Chiang. “We’re pushing to keep craft growers in business.”

Chiang is leading an effort to reform cannabis banking and has likened the current system to the Wild West.

Allen is part of Chiang’s working group debating reforms that could give cannabis companies full access to banks. Despite Chiang’s desire to assist those businesses, he hasn’t received much money from the industry. Nor has Antonio Villaraigosa, who sought to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries during his time as L.A. mayor but endorsed the recreational legalization effort shortly before the vote last year.

In its analysis, The Times identified contributions from cannabis companies and individuals who listed a marijuana-related business as their employer. All but $5,100 went to Newsom, the analysis found.

Among the checks Newsom’s campaign cashed were those from proponents of consolidating the industry. The chief executive of one such corporation, Terra Tech, hosted a Newsom fundraiser. Employees of the company, which aims to scale up cannabis production, have given the candidate $71,000.

Newsom raked in more at an Oakland event organized by Steve DeAngelo, a longtime proponent of medical marijuana and chairman of FLRish Inc, a newly formed company buying up greenhouses and opening dispensaries in a bid to compete more broadly in the market.

Marijuana for sale at CannaCruz medical cannabis dispensary in Santa Cruz, Calif. The company gave $5,000 to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor. (David Royal / For The Times)

There are other signs the cannabis sector is maturing into a traditional lobby.

The Coastal Pacific Political Action Committee was formed in December to fund candidates who support cannabis businesses. Last month, the group held its first fundraiser at a banquet hall in Hollywood.

Nearly 200 people attended the $500-per-plate dinner that feted Newsom along with Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer and former state Sen. Isadore Hall. Six days later, the PAC gave Newsom $40,000.

Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat who represents South L.A., attended the dinner to promote legislation he wrote that would prevent local police from helping federal agents raid marijuana operations that are legal under state law, similar to how some local governments avoid aiding immigration enforcement.

Jones-Sawyer said the attendees included former stockbrokers, lawyers and financiers, many of whom were unfamiliar with the habits and routines of politics.

“Right now, the industry is learning not only what you can or can’t do, or can or can’t say at a fundraiser, but also how to interact with a politician,” Jones-Sawyer said. “This is a brand-new industry. We don’t know where it’s going.”

The invitation to the fundraiser called it a can’t-miss event providing an opportunity for cannabis owners, operators and investors a chance to meet elected officials who “will be shaping our industry for years to come.”

Beneath a portrait of Newsom, the invitation contained a single instruction for attendees: No marijuana allowed.

Cannabis Tech Company Purchases California Town of Nipton

MG Retailer/August 10, 2017/Joanne Cachapero

Cannabis technology company American Green, Inc., announced today the purchase of Nipton, California, a 120-acre town located in San Bernardino County. At the gateway to the Mojave National Preserve, American Green envisions developing the area into a cannabis-friendly, sustainable, eco-conscious destination for curious and cannabis-cultured tourists.

“We would describe it as the country’s first energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination,” said Mike Rosati, director of marketing for American Green. “And yes, American Green has a list of services and offerings in the works. Initially, we will focus on the bottling of fresh CBD-infused water direct from a nearby aquifer that the company will then seek to distribute throughout California.

“Ultimately, the company would like to offer a variety of commercial and recreational attractions,” Rosati added, “including CBD and mineral baths, cannabis-product retail outposts, artists-in-residence programs, culinary events, outdoor activities, and bed-and-breakfast lodging to complete the charming small town experience.”

In line with what may become an ethos for progressive cannabis brands in legal states–especially where there is a surplus of available acreage and abandoned industrial facilities–American Green also plans an environmentally conscious strategy for their tranquil oasis. If successful, it could serve as a model for other communities, as well as generating jobs, revenue, and increased tax base for the state of California.

“Nipton’s future plans include setting the standard for energy efficiency and environmentally responsible tourism. American Green intends to expand the existing solar farm, moving Nipton toward becoming a completely energy-independent town,” Rosati said, “ [and] also developing the town’s existing aquifer system for water supply. American Green anticipates job creation will occur naturally in building and development, as well as tourism, agriculture, entertainment, transportation, retail and more, presenting new opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

A Google search for Nipton brings up Western images out of HBO’s Westworld minus the resort’s robotic hosts (featured in the futuristic thriller). Located near the California-Nevada border, south of Las Vegas, “Nippeno Camp” was a gold mining outpost at the turn of the 20th century, and eventually a stagecoach and train stop. Renamed Nipton in 1910, the town boasted a hotel for miners and visitors traveling on the line between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Stagecoach service continued though 1926. Nipton’s first full-time resident and homesteader, Harry Trehearne, was officially recorded in 1922. At one time, ‘20s silent movie actress and “It Girl” Clara Bow owned a ranch nearby.

“Keeping the historic charm of one-hundred-plus-year-old town is important to American Green,” Rosati explained. “There are several structures on site that we will maintain, such as the historic adobe hotel, a restaurant, a general store, the former school-house-turned-community-center, and a couple housing structures. We will also explore expanding the existing camping facilities, RV park, four EcoLodge tent cabins, and rest facilities on the grounds.”

Though Sin City isn’t far, Nipton isn’t trying to compete with the iconic, world-class destination–yet. But they do hope to offer patients and tourists an alternative to glitz and conspicuous excess (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Think less neon and more solar panels.

The town last received media attention in 2014 from the New York Times, when Nipton’s former owner, a Southern Californian gold miner named Gerald Freeman, also attempted a green, sustainable community in Nipton. At that time, the town had a fluctuating population of between thirty and seventy residents.

American Green’s purchase of Nipton follows real estate purchases by other cannabis conglomerates, including Los Angeles-based MedMen and Orange County, California-based GPharmaLabs. Last year, both companies bought acreage in Desert Hot Springs, California, with plans for grow facility and retail expansion. If the trend continues, eco-friendly cannabis tourism and destinations could become a robust sector for the industry, while innovating conservation efforts for many small towns in legal states.

“The location sits on the northeast border of the Mojave National Preserve so we will continue to offer provisions and rest to those exploring the region,” Rosati said. “Being just minutes off of Interstate 15, as well as having an active rail line–both connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas­–we do look to offer a convenient alternative to those looking to get out of the big cities, and enjoy responsible cannabis consumption in a beautiful, peaceful space.”

Nevada approves opening up marijuana distribution rights

Las Vegas Review Journal/August 10, 2017/Sean Whaley

CARSON CITY — The Department of Taxation decided Thursday that there are an inadequate number of liquor distributors interested in transporting marijuana to Nevada’s retail establishments, opening up the business to others.

The decision came after a telephone conference hearing bringing the industry, agency officials and the public up to date on whether the alcohol industry alone is sufficient to distribute pot to points of sale around the state.

Deonne Contine, executive director of the tax department, said her goal has been to make the program work, not to include or exclude anyone.

“The capacity of only liquor wholesalers to serve the market seems lacking,” Contine said after more than two hours of testimony.

The agency will begin processing distribution licenses to marijuana licensees, Contine said.

“I think the evidence is fairly clear today that this market needs to be opened up,” she said.

The alcohol industry was given the exclusive right for 18 months to distribute recreational marijuana under the ballot measure that legalized sales. But that exclusivity was based on having enough distributors to fill the need to the state’s 50 licensed retail stores.

The Independent Alcohol Distributors twice went to court in Carson City to challenge Tax Department decisions to open the distribution process because of a perceived lack of interest from liquor wholesalers.

Contine said nine applications from alcohol distributors have been received by the agency, with four now licensed and two pending. There were 17 completed responses from 61 licensed wholesale dealers.

One liquor licensee is distributing in Clark County, according to the agency.

A Las Vegas city representative said there were three licensed within the city with one pending.