Thursday, February 1, 2018

San Francisco Takes Back Cannabis Convictions

by John Geluardi
Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 11:14 AM

George Gasćon.
  • George Gasćon.
Now that cannabis is legal in California, state district attorneys are doing some serious reflection on the enforcement of drug laws. For decades, Californians were arrested, harassed, and imprisoned for the possession and use of a drug that is now legal and expected to generate thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenue for the Golden State.

So, it's only natural, or just, some might say, to reevaluate decades of cannabis convictions. San Francisco took the lead on this issue this week when District Attorney George Gasćon announced that starting immediately all cannabis related arrests and misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1975 will be wiped clean.

The action will expunge thousands of misdemeanors and take another look at felony convictions for possible charge reductions. Gasćon's action is founded on a little-known provision in the California law that allows the expungement of some cannabis crimes.

"We want to address the wrongs that were caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country and begin to fix some of the harm that was done not only to the entire nation but specifically to communities of color," Gascón said at a news conference Wednesday.

Gasćon estimated that 3,000 misdemeanors will be dismissed automatically, and as many as 5,000 felonies will be reviewed for possible charge reductions.

The Drug Policy Alliance claims there have been 500,000 cannabis arrests in California over the past 10 years and that up to a million people have convictions worthy of review.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Law School Offers Conference on Cannabis Law and Investment

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


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.”

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fires Threaten California’s First Legal Pot Crop

Growers are already talking about christening various strains of the 2017 harvest with names like “campfire pot,” “hickory kush,” and “beef jerky.”

by John Geluardi
Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 2:52 PM

  • Photo courtesy of CalFire

As if there isn’t enough uncertainty right now for Northern California weed farmers, this week's fires are threatening the 2017 harvest. That is for those farmers who are lucky enough to have a harvest.

Fires are raging in 14 counties, according to the California Department of Forestry, and an estimated 1,500 residential and commercial structures have been destroyed. Since late Sunday night, 57,000 acres have burned and tens of thousands people have been evacuated. And that’s just the past few days. The National Interagency Fire Center claims a total of 3,692 Northern California fires have burned 411,742 acres in 2017.

While the scope of these life altering tragedies is still being calculated, cannabis farmers have begun to assess the toll on this year’s outdoor harvest and the outlook is grim.

On various cultivation websites, the state’s cannabis farmers are already decrying crops being tainted by the smell of smoke, which weed consumers across the county will readily be able to detect. California grows an estimated 13 million pounds of pot annually and four of every five pounds is shipped to other states. Growers, in an attempt to embrace the catastrophe, have be christening various strains of the 2017 harvest with names like “campfire pot,” “hickory kush,” and “beef jerky.”

In addition to unsavory odors, cannabis exposed to smoke and ash is more vulnerable to disease, which can result in high levels of molds, mildews, and fungus, creating potential health risks such as lung infections. Medical cannabis users with preexisting conditions such as lung or cardiovascular disease should be particularly careful about the condition of their cannabis.

Many farmers are now predicting that pot tainted by the scent of fire will lose value due to poor flavor and the uncertainty of the plant’s health, according Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Cannabis Association.

“Several of our members have lost farms and homes; these fires are going to have an impact on our community,” Allen said. “The growers who lost their crops will suffer catastrophic impacts. The overall marketplace in the state is robust and will likely see much more modest effect. A lot of cannabis will be tainted with smoke. It is pretty easy to identify smoky bud by the smell. It will lose a lot of value. Contaminated products may be able to be remediated in manufacturing process.”

The potential fire damage comes at a time when California’s Office of Cannabis Control is establishing tough new regulations for the new recreational and medical marijuana markets. All cannabis sold under the new legal framework will have to be tested for wholesomeness.

The question now looming over the new market is how much of the Northern California outdoor harvest will make it past the rigorous testing standards.

Monday, July 10, 2017

City of Alameda Allows Pot Businesses on Island

by Nate Sheidlower
Mon, Jul 10, 2017 at 1:54 PM

For seven years, Alameda has held in place a city-wide ban on commercial cannabis businesses. But that is about to change.

In May 2010, the City Council enacted a prohibition on all medical-marijuana dispensaries or cannabis cultivation. But last week, the council voted 4-1 to draft a new ordinance to overturn the ban and allow cannabis businesses to open up shop on the island.

“At this point, many of us are or know someone with serious health issues and they’re not able to purchase [medicinal cannabis] here, they have to go to Oakland or San Francisco to talk to someone in person and be able to purchase,” said Mayor Trish Spencer at last Wednesday's meeting.

While the potential tax benefits for the city are high, the council, and the members of the public who spoke at the meeting, were more concerned with keeping the Alameda industry on the island.

Sharon Golden, founder of the Alameda Island Cannabis Community, spoke at the meeting about the need for direction as January approaches and state regulations will soon take effect.

“We’re here to make sure that our local residents are given the opportunity to open a business or have access to their medicine on the island,” Golden said.

It is not yet known how many or what types of businesses Alameda will permit, but talk of repealing the ban began nine months ago and is now coming to fruition. The council asked their staff to bring  a new ordinance to the council's first meeting in September.

The city manager said there would be a survey coming out soon to see how city residents feel about cannabis businesses, and there was talk of Alameda residents getting preference when it came time to issue business licenses.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

California Took a Big Step Closer to Regulating the Cannabis Industry

by Nate Sheidlower
Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 10:19 AM

It has happened: Last Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the bill that regulates legal cannabis in the state.

Known as the Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), the bill consolidates the two laws that regulated legal cannabis to create one set of rules to cover both medicinal and adult use.

Yes, Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), legalized cannabis for recreational adult use when it was passed by the voters in November. And, yes, it outlined a regulatory structure for the adult-use market.

But there is another side to legal cannabis, one that’s been present and unregulated for much longer: the medical side.

In 2015, three state bills were enacted to create a regulatory system for medical cannabis. Together, they are known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA).

Both AUMA and MCRSA call for state regulations to be in place by 2018. This bill resolves any conflicts between the two.

There are many technical changes introduced by the bill, such as requiring that all products leave dispensaries in opaque packages, giving control over industrial hemp back to the Department of Food and Agriculture, and declaring that all legislation refer to the plant in question as cannabis instead of marijuana.

But there are also some significant updates that will affect any adult-use consumer or medicinal patient, the many state agencies that either regulate or interact with the cannabis industry, and the industry itself.

MAUCRSA takes into account some of the needs of the industry, like requiring the establishment of an office in Northern California to collect taxes and fees from the counties of Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino in cash.

Now, non-residents can apply for cannabis business licenses, delivery-only businesses can be licensed at the state level, and businesses can cater to both the medicinal and recreational markets.

“I think the biggest things we really got out of this new bill are we’re going to have the ability to co-locate these licenses, so there’ll really be one system, and you won’t have medical marijuana over here and then adult use over there,” explained Sean Luse, the chief operating officer of Berkeley Patients Group. “Also removing the mandatory distributor requirement is a big step in the right direction.”

The new bill includes one list of license types, and says that each license be marked to distinguish if it is for medicinal or adult use. That said, licensees are allowed to hold both a medicinal and adult-use permit, allowing businesses to service both markets. Medicinal patients will still receive state tax breaks at the register.

Additionally, MCRSA required everyone in the industry to go through licensed distributors to sell or buy cannabis.

“That would have added unnecessary costs and kept many players out of the market,” Luse said.

But MAUCRSA allows for vertical integration, or the ability for licensees to hold licenses in more than one category. This means businesses can self-distribute and not have to go through independent distributors, saving significant startup costs, but incurring others.

“Vertical integration is great for the small business when they start because they’ll have a tough time hiring other people to do all these different aspects for them,” said Nate Bradley, policy advocate and co-founder of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “Manufacturers shouldn’t have to go through an independent distributor to get their product to market, a lot of these guys are going to need to hustle their product themselves, so it gives them an opportunity to launch and to start a new business.”

Bradley also said that vertical integration is expensive. Holding multiple licenses requires multiple locations, and multiple compliance officers to ensure everything is copacetic. He said Colorado originally mandated vertical integration, but when they opened it up and allowed people to divest and focus on one business, most of the industry took that route.

And in general, starting a cannabis business requires a lot of capital. That’s why, by allowing for delivery-only licenses, the State is welcoming people to enter the industry without tons of investors or start-up funds.

“For someone who is trying to get into an industry such as cannabis, if you don’t have unlimited amounts of money or investors to buy the real estate, or a brick and mortar or the license, how do you get into the industry at an entry level,” said Nurit Raphael, founder of the Marin-based delivery service ONA life, and president of the Marin County Couriers Association.

Anyone applying for a business license must have a physical address to put on the application. But MAUCRSA allows delivery-only businesses to have a storefront that is not open to the public, decreasing start-up costs.

Raphael said her group worked with other delivery advocate groups throughout the state to spread awareness that delivery companies were not included in previously proposed legislation. She said there is still work to be done but this was a big step forward.

“It’s also really good for [patient] access, because those people who need it the most need to get deliveries,” Raphael said.

But this bill also covers the inside of personal vehicles.

Previously, it was an infraction to drive around with more than an ounce of cannabis. But this bill establishes an open container law similar to how driving with alcohol is regulated. Now, the weight limit is gone, but all cannabis must be in a sealed package or container, unless it’s in the trunk.

Driving while impaired by cannabis is still illegal, but unlike with alcohol, there is far less known about how cannabis impairs driving and how to measure that impairment. There is work underway to develop a THC-detecting breathalyzer that would measure the level of THC in someone’s breath. But even that does not say how impaired the person is, and there are still many other unanswered questions.

Under this new law, the California Highway Patrol must create a task force to study impaired driving and report back to the state by 2021 with their recommendations for best practices and protocols that address the issue.

That’s not the only 2021 deadline in this bill though. The California Department of Agriculture is now tasked with establishing a program for organic pot that conforms with state and federal organic food programs—that is, unless the federal National Organic Program does it first, of course.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

The 'Green Rush' Went Next Level at Last Week's Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in Oakland

by Nate Sheidlower
Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:18 PM

Hydroponics tables with marigolds belonging to Aessence Grows. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Hydroponics tables with marigolds belonging to Aessence Grows.

The cannabis industry most people know consists of two people: the buyer and the seller. To a certain extent, that hasn’t changed. But, as the industry becomes legitimate through regulation and legalization, there is a lot more than just marijuana being bought and sold.

Last week, Oakland was host to the fourth annual National Cannabis Industry Association Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, and it’s 4,500 attendees. The grand ballroom at downtown’s Marriot City Center brimmed with almost 250 businesses, each posted up for two days to convince business owners and consumers that they can contribute to the rapidly expanding industry.

Child-proof packaging producers set up booths next to potency-testing lab companies, light manufactures, insurance agents, real-estate brokers, law firms, soil salesmen, and even point-of-sale and business-management software engineers. And there was very little actual cannabis on display or available.

In fact, all the samples that edibles companies gave out were non-infused, meaning they included zero THC or CBD. A demo of a hydroponic-growing tank sprayed water on the suspended roots of Marigolds, not pot plants. And even the industrial vacuum sealer demonstration included a bag of moss instead of bud.

“I’m from Humboldt, and we used to be a small group of businesses catering to the growers, everyone knew everyone,” explained Kelly Nicholson, the North America sales director of Autogrow, a company that’s been selling nutrient-dosing machines for agriculture for more than twenty years. “Now, there’s tons of new people — and I know maybe six booths.”

This is one of the many side effects of taking the cannabis industry out of the shadows and putting it in the hands of the government. Cova, for example, is a company that launched last week. They sell software to dispensaries so that they can ring up customers with a point-of-sale program on touch-screen tablets. Its parent company, iQmetrix, has its software powering 19,000 wireless retail locations.

Brendan Carroll explaining how the Yofumo curing box removes the mold, yeast, and bacteria from flowers. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Brendan Carroll explaining how the Yofumo curing box removes the mold, yeast, and bacteria from flowers.

“Legalization and regulation are really legitimizing the industry, and that is attracting talent from other industries,” said Brandon Carroll, co-founder of Yofumo, a company that sells curing boxes for already-harvested cannabis.

Carroll’s product is an example of how Prop. 64 is expanding the scope of the cannabis industry. He and his business partner, Yofumo CEO Alfonso Campalans, both came from a background in financial-management software. The chief engineering officer, Alex Grey, built satellites before joining the company.

His actual product is a gun safe-sized box, which starts at $5,000 and can hold up to six pounds of cannabis for curing, or drying. The boxes remove all of the yeast, mold, and bacteria, leaving only the plant matter, cannabinoids, and terpenes. But he says it also creates a more aromatic marijuana flower: he opened a Harborside bag which he called “the control” and it smelled like good pot, but it was nothing too special. Then, he opened a jar of nugs that had been cured in the Yofumo box — they smelled like a fresh cherry blossom.

“Crazy, right?” he asked. “That’s cherry kush.”

Campalans first had the idea for the box some four years ago, when he saw a need in the industry: Everyone focused on the growing process, and no one was looking at how the cannabis is treated before it reaches the consumer. Work to design the boxes began two years later, and the company launched nationally this week, selling every machine they brought to the summit.

Evan Andrea stands next to the model of Bella Toka Grow Box he used to demo at the summit. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Evan Andrea stands next to the model of Bella Toka Grow Box he used to demo at the summit.
Recognizing a void and working to fill it seemed to be a common theme for businesses at the conference. Mike Newton used to grow his own cannabis, to help with his back pain, until he realized six months of work only yielded him one month’s supply. He became determined to maximize yield, while at the same time making the growing process fluid and easy. Newton founded Bella Toka and began manufacturing the Grow Box last week, a tool that can hold up to seven plants and is designed for that very purpose.

Simply put, the grow box is two pots of soil stacked on top of each other with a screen in between, and a rack on top of the pots similar to a cage used with tomato plants. The screen removes the hassle that normally comes with growing marijuana of transferring the plant to a bigger pot for the flowering process.

“When it’s time to begin flowering, you just pull this out,” Newton’s business partner Evan Andrea explained as he removed the screen, allowing for the roots to extend down into more soil.

But even though many of the exhibits featured products that would interact with cannabis in some way, there was one company that had nothing to do with tangible pot.

Mentor Capital is a group that invests in cannabis businesses and works to help take them public. CEO Chet Billingsley founded the company in 1985. Before entering the cannabis world in mid-2013, he invested in cancer research and treatment companies.

“In the world of cancer, cannabis is a godsend,” Billingsley told the Express. He said by bringing his Wall Street background to the cannabis industry he feels he can do more good than previously.

But investing in cannabis businesses is a little bit different than other types of companies. Mentor Capital acquires an interest in larger, private cannabis companies, provides them with funding, and helps them prepare their accounting and board structure so that they can eventually be spun off as a stand-alone public company.

Cannabis companies could also remain with Mentor Capital, who asks for 5 percent of the company’s equity, which Billingsley said is about half what it costs to go public through other methods, such as a reverse merger.

He said now is the perfect time for smaller companies like his to get in to the industry, because it is not yet clear exactly how the federal government, under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will act with regards to cannabis businesses.

“The big guys and the medium guys have got too much to lose,” he said.

Throughout the two-day summit, discussion of Trump was sporadic. Kayla Bertsch, a horticultural engineer for Solexx, a company that’s sold plastic greenhouse coverings for over two decades, said she feels “scared about the sustainability and the future of the industry” because of the current administration.

Indeed, a lot is unknown when it comes cannabis and Trump. But another president came to the NCIA summit last week, and he was not silent about his view of the future of the industry.

Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox delivering the keynote address at the NCIA summit. - COURTESY OF NCIA
  • Courtesy of NCIA
  • Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox delivering the keynote address at the NCIA summit.
Former president of Mexico Vicente Fox was the keynote speaker, introduced by NCIA executive director Aaron Smith as “the first world leader to address the cannabis industry.”

Throughout Fox’s 45-minute speech, he spoke about how much pain people in Mexico have experienced because of the war on drugs, and how legalization is the road to ending crime that causes this pain. He acknowledged the work it took to get the cannabis industry to where it is today, and the industry’s potential.

“You’ve been striving, you’ve been struggling to open things, to change laws, to change behavior, to change image and perception. You’re doing that every day, and you will keep on doing it.” Fox told the audience. “Each of you can start with a small business in California or Oregon or Colorado, but you’re dreaming to become global and you are going to.”

And a moment before Fox’s speech, during a press conference, indicated how far marijuana truly has come: A man stood up and questioned the president’s choice of language. “Why do you call cannabis a drug?” he asked. “It’s an herb, it has flowers, and there are many herbs that have been used in naturopathic healing for millennia that are not called drugs.”

“I’m also ignorant sometimes, as Trump,” Fox responded. “I’m going to call it a flower now, a plant, no problem.”

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

City of Richmond to Feds: We Won’t Help You Bust Our Residents for Pot

by Nate Sheidlower
Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Last night, Richmond City Council declared that it won’t use city resources to help the federal government apprehend people for marijuana.

The council adopted a resolution in solidarity with a state bill that would prohibit state and local agencies from assisting the feds in any efforts to bust individuals for marijuana offenses legal under state law (unless directed to do so by a court order). Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, an L.A.-based Democrat, introduced the bill in late February, and it passed the Assembly last Thursday by a vote of 41 to 32.

Richmond is the second East Bay city, after Oakland, to support this bill, and the third in the state, with the West Hollywood also sending in a letter of support. The California Growers Association also has a petition on its website in favor of the bill with more than 300 signatures.

Former President Barak Obama’s administration assured states that lawful marijuana would not be subject to harassment or arrest by the federal government. According to an Assembly analysis, A.B. 1578 was drafted because the Trump administration has swayed the other direction, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinting at a possible crackdown on cannabis offenders.

“Considering Proposition 64 just passed in California, and here in Richmond we have a cultivation tax on the books, I don’t think it makes sense for us to be supporting the federal government with our local resources to go after any of these actors,” Councilmember Melvin Willis, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said at the June 6 meeting.

While Californians legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and recreational adult use last November, cannabis remains on the federal controlled substances list, and is therefore illegal at the federal level. A.B. 1578 would not stop state or local agencies from assisting the feds to go after anyone operating outside of state law, i.e. those in possession of large amounts or cultivating, processing, or distributing without the proper license.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

City of Albany Expands Ban on Marijuana Businesses, Outdoor Growing

by Nate Sheidlower
Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM

The Albany City Council voted unanimously last night to add commercial recreational businesses and general outdoor cultivation — whether commercial or personal — to the city’s list of prohibited activities related to marijuana.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial cultivation sites are already banned in Albany, since 2011, and now councilmembers have directed their staff to expand the ordinance.

Councilmembers debated whether the potential financial benefits from both local and state taxes outweighed the potential increase in crime, and the unknown effect that allowing marijuana business to operate within city limits would have on the community. They decided to continue with prohibition, and wait to see what happens in other cities in 2018, before deciding the best course for Albany.

This action by the Council is in stark contrast with Albany’s neighboring city of El Cerrito, which voted in April to instigate a public process to remove its city-wide ban on marijuana businesses after the passage of California Proposition 64 last November.

Under Prop. 64, each local municipality has the authority to set its own regulations with regards to marijuana consumption in public places, marijuana business operation and taxation, and home and commercial cultivation. Cities such as Albany have the power to completely shut out the legal marijuana industry, the only thing they can’t do is prohibit indoor home cultivation.

But no matter how much control each city wishes to have, they’ve only got until January 1 to get their laws on the books before the State starts issuing business licenses.

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