Friday, January 26, 2018

Law School Offers Conference on Cannabis Law and Investment

by John Geluardi
Fri, Jan 26, 2018 at 10:01 AM

marijuana-justice-scales-courtroom-illustration.jpg

Recreational cannabis has been legal in California for less than a month, and it's already clear that the one thing growing faster than pot plants is legal battles. Battle lines are being drawn over burdensome tax policies, state law, laws favoring Walmart-size growing operations, and restrictive local laws and outright bans.

And there is still an information deficit for investors. What are the risks of starting a cannabis business? How are federal anti-pot laws going to affect new businesses? What are the insurance risks? Can new regulations be challenged?

To answer some of these questions and introduce lawyers and potential business investors to California's new legal environment, the University of Pacific School of Law is offering a one-day workshop on Feb. 2.

The state's new cannabis industry is expected to exceed $20 billion annually, and when such a powerful force exists in a conflicting legal environment, it means one thing, lots of legal battles. "There is confusion, as things get settled," said McGeorge Professor Francis Mootz III. "Lawyers are poring over this, figuring out how it works. Cannabis is going from state illegal to heavily state regulated, so it's this whole culture shift that has to take place."

McGeorge is one of several law schools offering courses, conferences, and workshops on pot law and regulations. The University of Denver Strum College of Law held a two-day conference that was co-sponsored by the Cannabis Law Institute, and the Seattle University School of Law has held the Northwest Marijuana Law Conference for the past five years.

McGeorge has broadened its workshop to include valuable information for insurance brokers, real estate agents, and accountants, which makes in unique among existing law school education events.

The workshop has been tailored to include possible repercussions from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Jan. 4 announcement that the Department of Justice plans to be crack down on the thriving new cannabis industry.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sessions' Betrayal

by John Geluardi
Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 3:28 PM

Even Savonarola would roll his eyes at Jeff Sessions.
  • Even Savonarola would roll his eyes at Jeff Sessions.

There are few who would deny the Trump administration’s policies are perhaps the most retrograde since 1497 when the mad Florentine friar Girolamo Savonarola failed in his attempt to roll back the vital cultural advancements driven by The Renaissance by ceremoniously burning secular temptations such as books, paintings, playing cards, cosmetics, and fine clothing.

But even Savonarola would roll his eyes U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ misguided attempt to restrict the burgeoning cannabis industry, by unleashing federal prosecutors on the multibillion-dollar industry that has made astonishing advancements in the treatment of medical aliments, created thousands of jobs, and is expected to generate billions in revenue. In his memo to U.S. attorneys, Sessions’ tone is reminiscent of the first federal drug czar Harry J. Anslinger’s baseless rants against cannabis in the 1930s and 1940s. Sessions’ memo undid the polices of President Barack Obama, which allowed the new industry to gain public support and establish a foothold in the U.S. economy.

“It’s the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law,” Sessions states in his Jan. 4 memo. Sessions’ called for enforcement that “reflect Congress’ determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug that marijuana activity is a serious crime.”

It was no surprise that Sessions’ backward policy drew fire most notably from fellow Republicans who felt betrayed by him, because he said during his confirmation hearings that he would not change the Justice Department’s policies towards the cannabis industry.

One of the loudest detractors was GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, a state where voters approved a ballot measure that legalized recreational use of cannabis and created a billion-dollar industry. Gardner, who has rarely broken ranks with President Trump, said Sessions’ memo was tantamount to a betrayal of his state. “I am obligated to the people of Colorado to take all steps necessary to protect the state of Colorado and their rights,” Gardner said.

As if a dam burst, other Republicans chimed in to criticize the policy. Sen. Lisa Murkowsky of Alaska called the memo “unfortunate and disruptive.” Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a staunch Trump ally, said the decision would be harmful to cancer patients, some of them children, in his state. Gaetz said Mr. Sessions was “heartless and cold, and shows his desire to pursue an antiquated, disproved dogma instead of the will of the American people. He should focus his energies on prosecuting criminals, not patients.”

When backwards leaders, such as Sessions and Savonarola, attempt to roll the public back into darkness and ignorance, they usually fail, and they themselves end up on a scrap heap or are otherwise defenestrated. Savonarola failed to roll back the Renaissance and instead found himself excommunicated and burned at the stake in Florence's Piazza della Signoria. Sessions won’t face that kind of public anger, but one thing is clear, his outdated attempt to suppress the cannabis industry will no doubt fail just as the larger drug war has been a disaster that made government look incompetent and cost taxpayers billions in treasure while achieving nothing.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Era Dawns At Country’s Oldest Cannabis Dispensary

Happy customers lined up at BPG in Berkeley to become among the first to buy legal weed in California.

by John Geluardi
Mon, Jan 1, 2018 at 3:16 PM

Customers lined up at BPG in the predawn darkness on Jan. 1 - PHOTOS BY JOHN GELUARDI
  • Photos by John Geluardi
  • Customers lined up at BPG in the predawn darkness on Jan. 1

In the predawn darkness of New Year’s Day, a long line of newly sanctioned customers formed down San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. And as the sun began to rise on 2018, the eager customers began to file into the country’s oldest dispensary to make their first purchase of recreational cannabis.

On hand for the event was California state Sen. Nancy Skinner and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin who commemorated a new era of adult cannabis use by cutting a green ribbon strung across the front door of Berkeley Patient’s Group (BPG), which opened in 1999 and has the honor of being the oldest operating dispensary in the United States.

Mayor Arreguin.
  • Mayor Arreguin.
For many, the dawn celebration was the culmination of decades of activism that has transformed cannabis from an illegal and demonized drug responsible for a decline in the country’s moral values into a vital medicine and finally into a safe recreational drug that is driving a new industry and is expected to create thousands of jobs and millions in state and local revenue.

“I don’t look at this as the finish line, I look at it as the starting line,” said Sean Luse, BPG’s Chief Operating Officer. “There’s still a lot of work to do with tax rates and regulations.”

But it was time for celebration and at the front of the line to make the first legal pot purchase was Mikki Norris, who with her husband Chris Conrad, have been longtime activists for legalization. In 1996, Norris and Conrad were instrumental in the passage of Proposition 215, which legalized medical cannabis in California. And Conrad, a prolific pot author, became the state’s pre-eminent cannabis expert witness and has testified in numerous court cases.

Mikki Norris made the first legal pot purchase at BPG.
  • Mikki Norris made the first legal pot purchase at BPG.

Norris purchased three Jack Herer Cone pre-rolls and an infused Kiva dark chocolate bar, which she uses as a sleep aid. Her total purchase price was $45.63 including a senior discount. Norris let out a bit of a gasp when she noticed the city sales tax of 26.75 percent, which added $9.63 to her total.

Skinner noted Berkeley’s long history of supporting cannabis going back to 1979 when as a student at UC Berkeley she worked on a successful citizens initiative that put pot busts as one of the lowest priorities for the city’s police department. The initiative was the first of its kind and became a model for dozens of other cities across the country.

Skinner added that she wants to make sure that as California settles into cannabis legalization the small farmers and those who have been convicted of pot related crimes are not forgotten. “For all these years, they were the backbone of this industry,” She said. “They took all the risks and for those who were incarcerated, we need to make right something that created devastation to their lives and to their families.”

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