December 13, 2017

Amber Iris Langston, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Amber Iris Langston

Amber Iris Langston is a well-known and long-spoken advocate for cannabis and drug policy reform. She has grown from her roots in rural southern Missouri to positively impact social justice across the country, working to change local and state cannabis laws in places where she has lived including California, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon and Washington, DC.

Deadline Approaches in Oregon as the Fight for Good Cannabis Laws Continues

cannabis plant

Ask any patient or medical cannabis grower in Oregon, and they will agree – navigating the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) is a bugaboo. Now, the governing body over OMMP, Oregon Health Authority (OHA), has notified all medical growers in the state of impending changes in compliance and reporting, including increased fees (and migraines).

Anthony Johnson breaks down the new rules:

Some important things to pay attention to. First of all, as the latest OHA update makes clear, the $480 CTS fee is NOT due by December 1st. The state needs time to set up the system for all of the OMMP cardholders first. Tentatively, OHA has stated that OMMP participants will need to sign up with CTS and pay the fee by July 1, 2018. The fee is a yearly fee and should be pro-rated, so it shouldn’t cost a full $480 to comply with the requirement for the rest of your licensed year.

Also, if you wish to remain a patient, you can still grow more than 12 plants at your qualified residence, so long as you, or your caregiver, are NOT registered as the grower for your grow site at your home. I explained how patients can properly set up their grow site to continue to cultivate more than 12 total mature plants in a previous blog. It can be costly changing around OMMP paperwork, but thankfully, the state is waiving change and grow site fees for qualified growers until the first of the year.

Finally, and most importantly, none of the rules and regulations that are imposing unnecessary burdens on growers, mom-and-pop businesses and patients, are set in stone. We have the opportunity to change laws and amend rules in the coming months and years. State Senator Floyd Prozanski, the strongest ally of the medical cannabis community, will be taking questions at the upcoming Oregon Marijuana Business Conference in Ashland on November 19th.

For good or for ill, fighting for good cannabis policies is nothing new for the Oregon activist community. While it is frustrating to see the continued effort to backslide on progress, we should never forget the fight for social justice and equitable business practices will always remain ongoing.

If you are in the Oregon cannabis industry, or are thinking of joining, the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference is a must-attend event this November 19th. Network with other professionals and activists to take your business to the next level and work to protect and improve Oregon’s cannabis laws. 

Oregon Cannabis Revenue Disburses $85 Million for Government Services

marijuana on money

Schools, police, public health and safety officials and local government administrators in Oregon are all smiling big this week.

Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian reported that the Oregon Department of Revenue will be disbursing a weighty sum for a number of important state programs this week – $85 million – from taxes generated by the legal recreational cannabis industry. The $85 million represents the first payout these services have seen since implementation of legal, adult-use sales, a number that is only going to flourish in the coming years.

And all we had to do was stop putting people in jail for a plant!

Well, that and create a regulatory infrastructure for a previously illegal, informal market – not to understate the ugly and tedious process of rule-making. But mostly the policy of prohibition had to end (and has to end) in order for states to enjoy the public bounty that cannabis provides. After living in a legal cannabis state, many of us wonder why it is taking the rest of the country so long to figure this out.

From The Oregonian:

“Oregon collected a total of $108.6 million in state and local taxes between Jan. 4, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017. The state put $9.56 million toward the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s “start-up costs” for regulating the industry and toward the Department of Revenue’s work to collect the taxes.

“The rest was divvied up according to a formula spelled out by law: The state school fund gets 40 percent, or $34 million; mental health, alcoholism and drug services get 20 percent, or $17 million; Oregon State Police get 15 percent, or $12.75 million, and the Oregon Health Authority gets 5 percent, which comes to $4.25 million.

“…Ninety-five Oregon local governments impose a local sales tax of up to 3 percent; the Department of Revenue collects those taxes on behalf of 71 local communities, including Portland.”

I am hopeful that other states, such as my own home of Missouri, will hear the message from states like Oregon which are seeing the real financial impact of changing cannabis laws. I’m watching closely as my colleagues from Show-Me Cannabis and New Approach Missouri fight one of the country’s last ballot initiative battles for medical cannabis.

To be clear, I don’t want to confuse medical and recreational use. I just think many of the more conservative states are slower to admit to themselves they do, in fact, support legalization. It may take a hot minute for those legislators to hear the message that total repeal of prohibition is the answer, but fortunately (at least in this case), money talks. $85 million talks a lot.

To stay up-to-date on all things Oregon cannabis, be sure to attend the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference on November 18-19th in Ashland. To learn from and network with cannabis industry entrepreneurs, political advocates and investors from around the United States and the globe, you should check out the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai, Hawaii, December 1st thru the 3rd or the ICBC in San Francisco February 1-2, 2018. 

Does Social Media Love or Hate the Cannabis Community?

social media icons

To say that cannabis entrepreneurs face unique changes in the marketplace could be an understatement. (It definitely is an understatement.) But the truth is, until we fix federal prohibition cannabis businesses are going to subject to arbitrary decisions from major companies in the “legal” marketplace.

Btw, “legal” is not a meaningful term in this context.

If the name of your organization has letters that fit together like so (“c-a-n-n-a-b-i-s” or “m-a-r-i-j-u-a-n-a”) you might be a non-specific threat to the gentle sensibilities of this great nation, not to mention the minds and hearts of our innocent children.

For years, activists have battled the moral ethical codes of various social media platforms to advertise about political activities that support legalization including Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Sometimes our ads will go for weeks unnoticed. Sometimes they get shut down immediately. While there may  have been some base of reasoning behind this censorship five or ten years ago, with nearly 90% of the country in support of medical cannabis and a majority of states with some kind of legal cannabis, this really makes no sense. It’s a very unfriendly variable for social change agents in the middle of a campaign, or for entrepreneurs in the middle of a business launch.

Apparently, last week my good friends at MJToday Daily had a run-in with the mail service provider Mailchimp, when their content was flagged and shut down. Shea Gunther, a co-founder of my own advocacy alma mater, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, heads up that project, and pointed to the ridiculous nature of Mailchimp’s action in an interview last week with Forbes:

“As the marijuana industry continues to grow, the federal-state conflict in cannabis laws is causing marketing problems for companies within the industry. Marijuana businesses routinely have their Facebook ads rejected and their Instagram accounts shut down ― ostensibly for violating the services’ policies against promoting illicit drugs.

“But the marketing headaches affect even businesses that don’t deal directly with the drug. ‘We don’t do illegal stuff,’ said Gunther, whose newsletter features marijuana-related headlines from around the web. ‘It sounds like their system … is not tuned to handle marijuana content. Everything we do is in compliance.’

“Perhaps one of the most aggravating aspects of the industry’s social media challenges is the arbitrary nature of how such policies are enforced. It can be particularly frustrating for companies that spend resources on building up their social media followers, only to have their accounts shut down. Meanwhile, they watch their competitors continue to use the platforms with no consequences.”

Unfortunately, this happens over and over in the cannabis space will little consistency across companies, and I am afraid that it will continue to happen until we can see some significant national-level policy change.

How do we make national-level policy change happen? I am so glad you asked! The answer is GET INVOLVED. If you are a business, become a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association which is working in Washington, DC to repeal federal prohibition. If you are a student or have young people in your life, support Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

And of course, if you want to be informed of the latest political, technological, and other challenges for businesses in the cannabis industry, go to the International Cannabis Business Conference! Our next stop is paradise on December 1-3 in Kauai, Hawaii, followed by San Francisco in February, Berlin in April and Vancouver, BC, set for next June. Tickets are on sale now!

Photo courtesy of Blogtrepreneur via flikr

Case Settled in Landmark Cannabis Intellectual Property Dispute

Purple Kush marijuana bud

Beginning in December, getting high on Gorilla Glue is going to be a really terrible idea.

This week, The Gorilla Glue Co. and GG Strains LLC reached a settlement for a major lawsuit claiming trademark infringement against a Nevada-based cannabis company. The long-established global adhesives manufacturing company, The Gorilla Glue Co., initiated the lawsuit in March, arguing brand confusion between the adhesive company and the purveyors of cannabis.

From The Cannabist:

“By licensing and marketing products under the ‘confusingly similar’ names of Gorilla Glue #4, Gorilla Glue #1 and Gorilla Glue, #5, GG Strains is trading on — and profiting from — the reputation and goodwill the Gorilla Glue Co. built during its 23 years of business, the firm alleged in the March 24 complaint.

“Gorilla Glue Co.’s initial claims for relief included having GG Strains stop using the Gorilla Glue names, logos and imagery; deliver up for destruction any advertisements, signs, clothing or other materials containing the alleged infringing marks; disable the gorillaglue4.com website and transfer the domain to Gorilla Glue Co.; withdraw and cancel any applications or trademarks containing the words “Gorilla Glue”; and pay any and all profits arising from the alleged unlawful acts.

“GG Strains officials denied the infringement claims, arguing that the two brands could coexist — akin to the Deltas (faucets and airlines) and Doves (soaps and chocolates) of the world. GG Strains executives and founders also said they started a rebranding effort to change the ‘Gorilla Glue’ numbered strains to ‘GG4,’ ‘GG1,’ and ‘GG5.’”

If GG Strains truly is infringing on the intellectual property of The Gorilla Glue Company, the courts won’t be deciding. Though no money was exchanged in the settlement, GG Strains acknowledged lawyers’ fees and court costs have already forced about $250,000 out of their coffers.

I think it’s safe to say that we can expect more of these lawsuits mucking up entrepreneurship as the cannabis industry matures into the larger business space. The continuing illegal status of cannabis at the federal level puts it in a strange playing field when it comes to patent and copyright laws. As growth in the market accelerates, we can expect to see more of these lawsuits. No court handed down any decision on this particular dispute, but I’ll be keeping an eye open for future legal precedent.

Want to learn more about IP law in the cannabis industry? Join the International Cannabis Business Conference for the Finance Investor Forum this December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii, where experts will be discussing intellectual property rights and cannabis brands, among many other timely topics of importance for the canna-business professional. Get your tickets today!

California Announces Cannabis Advisory Committee

Cannabis leaf

The California Department of Consumer Affairs has announced a total of 22 appointments to a new committee created under the State’s Bureau of Cannabis Control. The committee will assist in the development of rules and regulations for the 2018 roll-out of a legal adult-use cannabis market in the Golden State, emphasizing public health and safety, and reduction of illegal commerce.

“The department received hundreds of qualified applications for the committee and reviewed all of them during the selection process,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Director Dean R. Grafilo. “These individuals represent the diverse backgrounds of California and the cannabis industry and have the necessary experience to make the committee successful.”

It’s a long and robust list of advisors, and it appears to cover a broad base. I personally recognize a few names that I know Californians will feel good about:

Tamar Todd of the Drug Policy Alliance has been integral in many state-based initiative cannabis and drug policy changes, including California, Oregon, and Missouri, the three states I have done the bulk of my own activism for.

Alice Huffman has been a champion for the African-American community for years. Alice was running the California chapter of the NAACP when I worked on Prop 19 in Oakland in 2010. She secured the first major minority group endorsement for cannabis legalization that year.

Kristin Nevedal is another force to be reckoned with; among her achievements, Kristin led the effort to create the Patient-Focused Certification (PFC) program in conjunction with Americans for Safe Access – an important cannabis patient advocacy organization I have also been lucky to work for. PFC standards are currently being employed by many state and international governments developing legal cannabis schemes.

While I see many names and titles on the list which look impressive, I cannot directly speak to their achievements. Suffice to say, there are at least three rockstars there who I trust to keep the industry real, so I am feeling good about this committee.

From the California Cannabis Portal press release:

“Committee members serve at the pleasure of the Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Members will not be paid, but will be reimbursed for any necessary travel for approved advisory committee meetings.

“BCC will work with the new members to set a date for the first meeting of the advisory committee. Additional information and meeting agendas will soon be posted at www.bcc.ca.gov, and on the Cannabis Web Portal, www.cannabis.ca.gov.”

There will be much work ahead for this California advisory committee and many other stakeholders. While there will be ups and downs and a multitude of regulatory changes, it is clear that the California cannabis industry will be the world’s biggest, and the future is bright for the Golden State.

Stay informed of the latest in California regulations at the International Cannabis Business Conference on February 1 & 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California! If you want to get a leg up on the competition, and visit beautiful Hawaii in December, the ICBC Kauai event is being held December 1st thru the 3rd. 

Prohibitionists Sputter to Final Defeat in Alaska

cannabis plant

Take note America – cannabis is here to stay.

Last night Alaskan voters in small communities reaffirmed at the ballot box a number of strong American values – civil liberties, social justice, economic pragmatism, and plain old common sense. Citizens in the city of Fairbanks, its neighbor Fairbanks North Star Borough and areas on the Kanai Peninsula voted down measures which would have banned adult-use cannabis businesses within their local political boundaries. In the Kanai Peninsula, 64% rejected the ban, with the number rising to 70% for the Fairbanks’ communities, making prohibitionists now only a limp 36% and 30% of the population.

Much like other medical and adult-use legalization laws across the country, the 2014 law passed in Alaska allows localities to ban cannabis business from their communities. Had these bans passed, companies already operating would have been forced to close within 90 days, though personal use and home-growing would still have been allowed, cutting jobs and significant tax revenues.

From the Times Colonist:

“The election was held the same day the Alaska Department of Revenue released its monthly marijuana tax receipts from cultivators. The state collected nearly $700,000 in August, which was the highest monthly amount since collections began last October. Ten new cultivators began paying taxes in August, and half are from areas where votes were being held Tuesday.

“Since October 2016, cultivators in the greater Fairbanks area have paid nearly $1.2 million in taxes, while those on the Kenai Peninsula have paid more than $655,000. The state doesn’t have tax figures for retails stores since those taxes are paid to local governments only.”

James Ostend, who represented the antiquated ideologues in the Fairbanks region, did his best to save face on the loss. “We’re disappointed, but at the same time our purpose for these initiatives on the ballot was to give the voters a chance to make this decision and not have it made by our local government. So in that sense, it’s a success,” he said.

Ostend continued his Reefer Madness insanity, stating, “If the marijuana industry starts to cause more damage to a community than they do good, then people will stand up and they’ll want to do something about it.”

Sorry, Mr. Ostend. Cannabis legalization is here to stay. The people have already stood up, and we are not sitting back down. Prohibition and the lies it has perpetuated over the decades has reaped far more damage than this plant or its industry ever will.

Stay informed on politics local, national and international at the International Cannabis Business Conference! Our next events will be happening on December 1-3, 2017, in Kauai, Hawaii, and on February 1-2, 2018, in San Francisco, California. Tickets are on sale now!

Canada Losing Out on Emerging Cannabis Oil Market

Canada Flag Map

Onerous regulations appear to be negatively impacting the cannabis business growth in Canada.

Specifically, current organizational structures may be too strict to allow production to meet demand for cannabis oils and extracts. While the number of applications for cannabis licensing continues to climb, many entrepreneurs are skipping the step of extraction, presumably in a move to limit potential liabilities by keeping initial operations to the basics of production and distribution.

Tyler Nvquvest of Business Vancouver cited a recent Health Canada report which shows a growth in the cannabis oil sector of more than 871% between April 2016 and March 2017, and pointed out the overall lack of cannabis oil production licenses – only 18 of the 51 licenses granted by Canadian authorities include a plan to produce and sell oil:

“The regulatory system is not structured to solely license companies exclusively focused on oil extraction, said Rosy Mondin, executive director at the Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada. Oil extraction carries extra restrictions and regulations governing dosage and application.

“‘The way the system is set up is that it is a complete seed-to-sale license,’ said Mondin. ‘If you want to process oils, you are forced to cultivate [marijuana].’

“…’When you look at consumption trends in the U.S. and use [them] as predicators to Canada, the prediction is that consumption of extracted oil and oil-based products is going to increase 198,000% over the next five years,’ Mondin said.”

While Canada is currently losing out on the cannabis oil market due to regulatory hurdles, that will likely change in the near future. Over regulation and supply chain bottlenecks have temporarily plagued other marijuana markets, but the cannabis community is creative and persistent and elected officials like tax dollars. We can expect advocates and politicians to work out some common sense solutions, especially as legalization becomes more mainstream in Canada.

Keep up with the latest in Canada’s cannabis business development! Join the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai, Hawaii on December 1-3, 2017, and Vancouver, British Columbia in June 24 and 25, 2018.

California Insurance Commissioner Announces Major Cannabis Commercial Carrier

marijuana on money

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones takes his job very seriously. Purportedly, he is one of only two persons at the state capitol building in Sacramento who is allowed to carry a gun.

I’m not exactly sure why the insurance commissioner needs a gun, so let’s just go with “he takes his job very seriously.”

In any case, Jones has been in the role since 2011, watching the cannabis industry accelerate into a growing behemoth. In that time, business owners and entrepreneurs have been kicked around in every imaginable way – and the inability to access quality insurance coverage has most definitely done some of the kicking. While niche insurance firms have come forward to fill in the role, no major carrier has been willing to step out and take their own risks.

That’s about to change. Then the dominoes start to fall.

From Leafly:

“While a number of niche, so-called surplus-lines insurers currently do offer insurance products to the cannabis industry, the plans tend to be expensive and available only to certain elements of the cannabis industry. ‘It means that there is some coverage available, but it’s not as competitive as it could be if the major commercial carriers come in, too,’ Jones said, naming Farmers, State Farm, Nationwide, AIG, and others as examples.

“To that end, Jones’ office has been soliciting filings from more mainstream insurers. ‘We’re very aggressively sitting down with senior executives of these companies and educating them about the cannabis industry,’ he said. ‘I’m calling the CEOs of major commercial insurance companies personally as the regulator of the largest market in the United States.’”

His efforts seemed to have paid off, and Jones has something to smile about. (It’s quite the smile.) Jones informed an auditorium full of cannabis industry players at the National Cannabis Industry Association‘s Cannabis Business Conference in Anaheim last week that “we actually have one admitted commercial carrier that has filed a commercial product in California.” While he wasn’t yet ready to announce which carrier has made the agreement, the formal announcement will be coming in a few weeks, and more are sure to follow.

“We’re also hopeful you’ll stayed tuned, because we think others are going to file as well,” he added. “Once one does it, oftentimes the others will then say, “Gee, we can do the same thing.’”

Hopefully we will soon all be smiling like Dave Jones.

Seriously, though, check out that smile. It’s a smile that says, “I just made a deal with a major national carrier of insurance. And also, I’m running for California Attorney General in 2018.” Bully for him!

Stay on top of the latest in California cannabis in 2018 and join the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 1 & 2, 2018! You also may be interested in networking with entrepreneurs, investors and advocates from around the globe at the ICBC in beautiful Kauai, Hawaii, December 1st thru the 3rd. 

Canadian Cannabis Giants May Get Some Competition

canadian cannabis flag

Jodie Giesz-Ramsay, known to many as Jodie Emery, co-owner of Cannabis Culture magazine and its associated businesses based in Vancouver, BC, is mounting an effort to challenge some of the provisions in Canada’s new adult-legalization law, known as The Cannabis Act, which is scheduled to go into effect in July 2018. Specifically, Giesz-Ramsay alleges that tight restrictions on production and distribution in the new law will result in a monopoly over the nascent industry which essentially serves to choke off dispensaries, licensed producers, and mail-order distributors already serving patient and consumer needs in Canada. The Cannabis Act will currently allow Canadian territories and provinces to create their own regulatory structure to oversee production, distribution, and sales.

The group is seeking to intervene in an upcoming case being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, in order to bring these grievances to the legal system. In its intervention, Cannabis Culture is representing 28 other corporations. The case involves a man who was arrested and charged for transporting too large a quantity of alcohol from one Canadian province to another, and is being watched closely by small and large producers of beer and wine, and multiple business and consumer organizations.

The two provinces embroiled in the case include Ontario, which has stated an intention to make the Liquor Control Board of Ontario the sole provider for adult-use cannabis in that province, and New Brunswick, which announced a new Crown corporation (quasi governmental agency) partnering with private companies Organigram and Canopy Growth for the same purpose.

The Court has yet to decide if it will accept the application for intervention, but there appears to be an openness to discussing its relevance.

From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

“The court has expressed a willingness to revisit issues ‘should a sea change in the legal, political, or social landscape occur,’ Cannabis Culture points out.

“’The legalization of cannabis and the emergence of an entirely new industry are precisely the type of sea change which needs to be heard in this case because of the effects interprovincial trade barriers have on the extant and emergent cannabis industry,’ it says.

“Cannabis Culture is representing 28 other entities that collectively operate about 100 cannabis dispensaries, several of which also operate mail-order distribution models.”

The Canada Supreme Court is scheduled to hold hearings on the case December 5 and 6. The people of Canada support private cannabis retailers. If Canadian courts agree that cannabis should be treated similarly to alcohol, then consumers will have the option of both private and government-connected retailers to choose from.

The International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) keeps you on top of the latest in Canada’s cannabis scene. Join ICBC next June 24-25, 2018 in Vancouver, BC, as the new Canadian market begins its launch. If you want to know what’s happening sooner, join ICBC this December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii!

Photo credit: abdallahh/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

Study Warns Against Heating Dabs Too High

shatter

Concentrates, extractions, infusions – call them what you will – many entrepreneurs in the cannabis space are hedging their bets to play in, if not dominate, that sector of the new market. For decades Americans developed a history of consuming cannabis almost entirely in flower form. But with the liberalization of the plant from prohibition status, innovation is flourishing and imbibing has found new forms. New takes on old themes include edibles, tinctures, lotions, and other products requiring some sort of process of extraction. Perhaps most intriguing is the relatively new form of ingestion – dabs.

In the past five years, I have personally witnessed a giant shift in many under and above-ground members of the cannabis culture to smoking highly concentrated cannabis oils and resins out of “rigs” operating at extremely high temperatures. Likewise I have seen a move toward vape pens, particularly in populations aiming to be discreet in their use (let me take this moment to stereotype soccer moms.)

There is a solid argument to be made that dangers exist with respect to these extractions in terms of unknown quantities of pesticides potentially lurking in concentrated amounts. This is why we legalize and regulate! One difference between the pen and the rig, however, is that with the pen we have a corollary in e-cigarettes and therefore some semblance of understanding its effects on human physiology. But with traditional dabbing, each person is an experiment in their own home.

An article published this week by the Portland State University Department of Chemistry suggests that heating butane hash oil (BHO) at extremely high temperatures can result in toxic, carcinogenic byproducts which are not seen at lower levels of combustion, such as with a vape pen.

From Genengnews.com:

“Many of the terpenes that the researchers discovered in the vaporized hash oil are also used in e-cigarette liquids. Moreover, previous experiments by Dr. Strongin and his colleagues found similar toxic chemicals in e-cigarette vapor when the devices were used at high-temperature settings. The dabbing experiments in the current study produced benzene—a known carcinogen—at levels many times higher than the ambient air, the researchers noted. It also produced high levels of methacrolein, a chemical similar to acrolein, another carcinogen.

“‘The results of these studies clearly indicate that dabbing, although considered a form of vaporization, may, in fact, deliver significant amounts of toxic degradation products,’ the authors concluded. ‘The difficulty users find in controlling the nail temperature put[s] users at risk of exposing themselves to not only methacrolein but also benzene. Additionally, the heavy focus on terpenes as additives seen as of late in the cannabis industry is of great concern due to the oxidative liability of these compounds when heated. This research also has significant implications for flavored e-cigarette products due to the extensive use of terpenes as flavorings.’”

According to the study, potentially cancer causing chemicals are released when the oil is heated above 750 degrees and that benzene, a known carcinogen, is emitted when the heat goes over 932 degrees. Thus, it is  important to keep those temperatures as low as possible if you prefer dabbing. The cannabis community is extremely innovative and it is imperative that we allow scientific studies to determine the safety of each and every new product that emerges.

Of course, scientific studies are easier for researchers to conduct when scientists aren’t restricted by prohibitionist policies. As more states legalize and regulate cannabis, the cannabis community can be better informed and, hopefully, the federal government will soon stop putting up so many roadblocks that prevent important scientific research.

Stay informed on the latest in extraction technologies, science and regulations from the experts at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai, Hawaii, on December 1-3, 2017. Get your tickets now! After Kauai, the ICBC heads to San Francisco, California, on February 1st and 2nd.

California Cannabis Czar Outlines Initial Rollout of Commercial Applications

California

Lori Ajax, head of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control – also known as “The Marijuana Czar” of California – spoke about expectations to new licensing rules for the Golden State to a group of industry professionals at the California Cannabis Business Summit hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) in Anaheim last week.

Ajax outlined a pragmatic approach the Bureau is taking over the course of the next few months to roll-out applications, stating the Bureau, along with the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Public Health, will open applications for temporary licenses beginning toward the end of November. However, no licenses will actually be issued before the set date of January 1st, 2018.

In her presentation, Ajax emphasized the importance of stakeholder engagement in creation of the process. Ajax repeated how significantly public input had influenced writing and re-writing of procedures thus far, and encouraged continued public dialogue. The “Czar” indicated the Bureau, along with the corresponding Departments just mentioned, will be holding licensing workshops beginning in October arounds the state to prep interested entrepreneurs on the process. Reflexively, Ajax points out the key to the evolving permitting process will rest on community involvement.

From our friends at Leafly:

“With nearly 500 cities in California, Ajax explained, her office isn’t adopting a one-size-fits-all definition. ‘We’re really relying on the locals to specify what that local authorization is,’ she said, adding that the ultimate goal is simply to ‘confirm with the locals that that applicant is authorized by the locals to conduct commercial cannabis activity for that specified jurisdiction.’”

As for the issuance of licenses, Ajax acknowledges the need for flexibility and assured the crowd the agencies will work with businesses to prevent disruption of those operating in good faith:

“While no licenses, temporary or otherwise, will be granted before Jan. 1, Ajax pledged that the office will work to issue the licenses as quickly as possible. Approvals will be sent via email, with the appropriate documentation attached, she said. ‘You’re just going to print out your license.’

“Temporary licenses will be valid for four months from the issue date, Ajax said, although they can be extended for 90 days. And if the Bureau of Cannabis Control somehow lags on issuing permanent licenses, the temporary ones can be extended further. ‘If it’s on us,’ Ajax pledged, ‘we will continue to give extensions so you can keep operating.’”

When California does roll out full legalization at the beginning of the year, we know that the market will be massive and the potential astronomical. It is also apparent that staying engaged politically at both the local and state level will be of extreme importance. There will be a lot of paperwork, rules, regulations and laws to deal with, but due diligence could be a small price to pay to flourish in the sixth largest economy in the world.

Stay on top of the latest in California cannabis in 2018 and join the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 1 & 2, 2018! You also may be interested in networking with entrepreneurs, investors and advocates from around the globe at the ICBC in beautiful Kauai, Hawaii, December 1st thru the 3rd. 

Canadian Cannabis Heads to Germany

flags of Canada and Germany

The Land of Ideas (Germany), is getting a creative boost – legal cannabis from overseas.

Canadian cannabis colossus Aurora, based in Alberta, announced their first shipment of the medicine to German markets this week in to help meet the enormous demand for the plant. Earlier this year, German legislators significantly liberalized policies surrounding medical cannabis, giving much greater authority to physicians to prescribe it, as well as allowing federal health insurance to cover its costs.

From the Edmonton Sun:

“The company shipped 50 kilograms of dried cannabis flower from its central Alberta facility in Mountain View County to Germany’s leading medical cannabis distributor Berlin-based Pedanios after receiving an export permit from Health Canada as well as provisional import status from the German Federal Narcotics Bureau.

“Pedanios will distribute the cannabis through a network of more than 1,500 pharmacies across Germany, the company said, but Aurora also hopes to become a top producer and supplier of medical cannabis in other European Union markets.”

As more nations enact federal cannabis legalization laws, medical or adult use, exporting across borders will only increase. Nations that embrace legalization will have a leg up on the competition and will benefit from securing large market shares. Hopefully, the United States will wise up sooner than later as we are letting other nations like Canada advance in a commercial market that the U.S. should dominate. It will be very interesting to see how the international market develops over the years, but it is obvious that the momentum is at the back of reformers working to end the failed policy of prohibition.

Want to know about all the major competitors in the growing German cannabis market? Join the International Business Cannabis Conference in Berlin, Germany, on April 12-13, 2018! Can’t make it to Germany? Events will also be happening in Kauai, Hawaii; San Francisco, California; and Vancouver, British Columbia. Get tickets for all of ICBC’s events online today!

Cost of Cannabis Regulation Too High for California Growers?

California Flag

The world is watching as California comes into the main fold this next year with a full adult legalization policy. The enormity of the market, matched with global regional brand recognition, and California’s propensity for bureaucracy make an interesting confluence for cannabis. Farmers have been operating, some for decades, in remote corners of northern California. Some farmers have been operating just a year or two, pushing aggressively into a US market formerly dominated by Mexican ditch weed.

Now that legalization has moved to the political forefront, all the freedom and transparency of an above-ground business will alleviate the stress which has weighed down illegal operators toiling in the fields for years! State regulation will show the world that cannabis is nothing to fear! Finally we can save large swaths of the environment by planting this miracle crop! All the dreams of backwoods marijuana growers have wished to have for years will finally come to fruition! And we shall all move forward in a new age of enlightenment, solving all the problems of capitalism with a new paradigm!

Or maybe not.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, California growers are slow to sign up for the new system. Fears abound that failure to buy in to the new legal system will lead to loss of profit and consumer base, and no one is arguing with the suggestion that California exports, and will continue to export, large swaths of cannabis on the black market:

“Based on data from various state and county agencies, Mr. (Hezekiah) Allen, of the (Emerald Growers Association), estimates that about 11 percent of growers — about 3,500 of 32,000 farmers in the Emerald Triangle, which covers Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — have applied for permits. Most have been deterred by the voluminous paperwork to obtain a permit, the fees and the taxes, he said.

“Critics said the framers of the law might have also miscalculated because many growers say there is little upside from getting a permit. If they stay out of the system, they face lighter punishments and avoid paying taxes, fees and the cost of meeting environmental standards.

“…Small-scale growers have planted marijuana in the backwoods of the Emerald Triangle for decades. But in recent years Northern California has seen what has been called a ‘green rush’ of entrepreneurs with a more laser-focused profit motive and often little regard for forests famous for their giant redwood trees.”

The article mentions numerous outside “investors” who have flooded into the California cannabis market space, both legally and illegally, from Bulgarians and Russians, to Chinese and Hmong, to Jamaicans and Mexicans.

All eyes are on California in the coming year to see how the new legal structure plays out. Let’s hope the red tape doesn’t hold up good players while supporting a robust system of illegal regimes. It is important that local growers, patients, consumers and advocates speak out early and often to ensure that local farmers and mom-and-pop shops have a foothold in the new commercial market.

Want to stay informed about California’s cannabis laws? Join the International Cannabis Business Conference February 1 and 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Get your tickets today! Can’t make it to San Francisco or want to get a jump on learning important information about the industry? Then join us December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii!

“Impossible! Naive!” Cannabis Prohibitionists Cry Foul in Canada

Canada Global Cannabis March

Members of the Canadian House of Commons health committee have been hearing testimony this week about the planned roll-out for Canada’s cannabis legalization program, which is set to go into effect in July 2018 – not a long time from now, for those familiar with the cannabis industry. Investors and entrepreneurs interested in the Canadian market are making their moves now, and paying close attention to how things transpire this week in Ottawa.

Major takeaways so far include the usual rabble-rabble from opponents to cannabis legalization, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and good ol’ Kevin Sabet from from the U.S. organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

Rick Barnum of the OPP laments that police simply won’t be able to adjust to new policy by July 1, 2018, calling such feats of fantasy “impossible”. I somehow doubt there is much Rick would admit to that would make his police force sound so weak under other circumstances, but that rapacious nature of the cannabis plant – it’s just too much, people!

Joanne Crampton, the RCMP assistant commissioner for federal policing criminal operations, testified that legalization won’t solve issues of the criminal market, and that thinking so is “naive”. While I don’t disagree that there will continue to be an underground market until the new regulatory structures have had time to take effect, the fear-mongering from the law enforcement community on this issue seems far more likely to continue far into the future.

And of course, United States’ most ardent adversary, Kevin Sabet of SAM, whose years-long campaign of rhetoric against cannabis legalization has been reduced to “slow down.”

“The only people that benefit from speed in this issue are the business people that are really waiting to get rich. There is no benefit to going fast on this issue at all,” said Sabet. “I understand it may be too late, but I still think that forgoing legalization in favour of reducing criminal sanctions and deterring marijuana use is the best way from public health.”

Thankfully, the ruling Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, understands that cannabis prohibition is a failed and harmful policy. Despite the hysterical assurances from legalization opponents that the sky will fall, the Canadian government seems bound and determined to move forward on rolling out their new policy by July 2018.

Want to find out more about how Canada’s market will look post-prohibition? Join the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) next June 24 and 25, 2018 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Want to find out how other international markets are looking? Join all of ICBC’s events in Kauai, Hawaii; San Francisco, California; and Berlin, Germany.

Photo courtesy of Cannabis Culture via Creative Commons license on flikr.

Did Hawaii Find a Cannabis Banking Solution?

Diamond Head beach Hawaii

Yesterday, Governor David Ige and state Financial Institutions Commissioner Iris Ikea of Hawaii, made a public announcement yesterday, Sept 12, which is sure to please the dispensary owners in his state. Governor Ige announced a plan for the first state-authorized financial institution which allow cannabis businesses to operate without cash and access electronic financial services which are normal to every other industry in the United States.

One of the most pressing and difficult issues for cannabis operators across the country has been dealing with continuously closing bank accounts, due to the discomfort financial institutions feel under FDIC oversight and federal money-laundering laws.

The program is a first of its kind – although credit unions have come and gone in states such as Colorado and California, ll eight of Hawaii’s dispensaries have agreed to participate in the new program, starting on October 1st, 2017.

From Governor Ige’s press release:

“While determining a banking solution, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Division of Financial Institutions focused on safety—for patients, employees, dispensaries, as well as the wider community. The department sought a cashless solution to address concerns about increased crimes committed against cash-based operations.

“‘This solution for the dispensaries to conduct banking services in an entirely cashless method would directly address many concerns we have and problems encountered by the dispensaries,’ said Iris Ikeda, Hawai‘i Financial Institutions Commissioner. ‘This will establish a safe environment for medical cannabis-using patients and businesses to operate. It is our hope that a Hawai‘i-based financial institution opens accounts in the future. For now, we are appreciative of the mainland credit union for stepping in,’ added Ikeda.

“Hawai‘i’s cashless system will allow cannabis dispensaries to use traditional financial services to legally conduct financial transactions. In addition, dispensaries will be capable of setting up direct deposit for employee payroll, collect and remit taxes, and make payments to vendors.”

Of course, I believe the only true solution to the banking problem is removing cannabis completely from the federal Controlled Substances list. But incremental steps are helpful, and legalization is moving in the right direction! It’s encouraging to see Hawaii’s political leadership step up to address such an important problem for his state’s new businesses.

Come see how this banking solution is working on the ground in Kauai, Hawaii, this December for the International Cannabis Business Conference Finance Investor Forum. We’ll be talking about all the most important topics for the cannabis business person, from leading global experts in the industry. December will be here quickly, so make your plans now!