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Who Will Speak Up? Social Justice, Cannabis, And The 2020 Presidential Race

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The Democratic presidential race is jam-packed with pro-legalization candidates. The field of contenders reflects the public’s evolving opinion toward recreational marijuana use. This is itself a reflection of California’s ability to influence the American mindset as a leader of the legal cannabis industry.

For many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates who promote equal treatment to drive criminal justice reform, address over-policing, and contend with economic equality. Convincing voters they are serious about racial justice goes hand-in-hand with being outspoken about cannabis legalization and recreational use.

Racial justice is a priority for Democrats in the 2020 election race. They can’t truly provide an equitible platform unless they get on board with cannabis legalization and sponsorship to heal wounds brought on by decades of prohibition. 

Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge past convictions. “The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Booker said. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.” Candidates in the Senate such as Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren also signed on.

People of color are often imprisoned for drug offenses at questionable rates. Beto O’Rourke, one presidential candidate that often refrains from commenting on contentious policy issues, has endorsed the federal legalization of marijuana without question. He defended his position as serious and practical considering arrests rates and the need for racial justice as African Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians, even though use is the same.

Other Democratic senators like Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sherrod Brown of Ohio oppose legalizing marijuana at the federal level and appeal to moderate voters by supporting the rights of states to decide if they want legalization. For example, in 2015, Ohio voters overwhelmingly defeated a referendum toward recreational use. Midwestern battleground states like Ohio are less progressive than the coastal states that lead the way with initiatives for cannabis reform.Many of the centrist midwestern states have been devasted by opioid abuse and overdoses. Recreational cannabis supporters argue that its use would be of benefit to addressing the crisis as the majority of marijuana users do not progress to harder drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last year, a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that prescriptions for opioids dropped nearly 15 percent after states legalized marijuana for medical use. Additionally, national polling shows a rapid increase in support for legal recreational marijuana use since 2000 with bipartisan support and little regional variation. Sixty-six percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization according to the latest Gallup Poll, a figure which has increased for three consecutive years. Cannabis legalization is most popular with adults under 35, with four out of five in favor. This is a motivating factor for Democrats who wish to rally millennial voters who disapprove of President Donald Trump.

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The Confusion Between Hemp and Pot

Although they have different functions, cultivation and application, our lawmakers seem to still be confusing the two; causing serious issues for farmers and transporters.

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How does the confusion between hemp and marijuana affect both markets? 

The lack of education and differentiation between hemp and marijuana in the U.S. causes a lot of misunderstandings and inconsistencies in public behavior and purchasing patterns; mostly affecting the hemp market. Consumers simply do not have the confidence in what they are buying in the hemp market due primarily to inconsistencies in production and testing.

With hemp producers and transporters being arrested, and California hemp crops actually growing as THC, how are both markets affected by the ongoing confusion? 

Anyone who grows hemp understands that they are growing something very profitable if you know what you are doing. It can also be a risky business. The current regulations do not allow for the hemp plants to be in the possession of farmers if they exceed the state and mandated levels of THC.  That can put an owner of such a crop in direct violation of the local laws.

When you grow a plant with the intent to meet all state regulations, that will not guarantee that the plant will not grow defective. There’s still a chance that the hemp will test at 4 percent THC by value which is 1 percent more than the state allows. Now the livelihood in the field including the nutrients and the time that was put into the harvesting and producing of this plant is gone. By law, it needs to be fixed or the crop will be destroyed. As the laws are written currently, farmers are in violation if they are caught with plants testing above 3 percent. Some advocate allowing for hemp at a 1 percent legal dose. Anything below will be less, anything more will get destroyed. That will allow for more species of the plant and also allow farmers to grow it safely with more open parameters, rather than locking themselves into the 3 percent.

The bottom line is what the government is currently asking from farmers, they are not able to do themselves. The way the law is written, it’s written one-sided without a deep understanding of what the reality of manufacturing and supply chain is.

How can lawmakers determine what Is hemp and what is marijuana?

By federal definition, whatever has less than 3 percent THC is hemp and whatever has more than that amount is marijuana. Distinguishing them is not really difficult. You just have to look at the testing results.

Are there any solutions?

Constant consumer education to bring the public’s attention to the topic is the only way we know how to educate the consumer. The rest is going to take time. The different regulating agencies need to figure out their conversations among themselves and realize that maybe there’s a better way. 

Bio:

Serge Chistov is a cannabis industry expert and Chief Financial Partner with Honest Marijuana Co. Honest Marijuana has been a leader in cannabis innovation since it’s inception with an organic approach to the growth, production and packaging of cannabis, the launch of the first ever organic hemp wrapped machine rolled blunts, the invention of the now patented Nanobidiol Technology, and the first company to bring THC-O-Acetate technology and products to market. 

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Honest Answers: 2020 Election

Serge Chistov discusses the impact 2020 Election might have on legalization, his thoughts on the 2019 cannabis stock plunge, technological and product innovations we can expect in 2020.

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How do you see the 2020 election playing out for the cannabis industry?

“I believe that if Trump serves a second term, we will see a federal legalization of cannabis, perhaps, though, at the end of his second term. Even if he is not re-elected, I believe that he will sign off on it before leaving office. Trump is going to make it happen because it makes financial sense. It creates jobs, and it brings more money to local residents and local community while being done safe and responsibly.

In terms of Biden, he was always opposed to the full legalization of marijuana during the Obama and post-Obama administration. He is now looking to possibly decriminalize cannabis and expunge some cannabis-related records, giving states more opportunities for more research. The only thing he did help to create during that administration was the Cole Memorandum, which protects marijuana-legal states from federal prosecution. During the Obama era, they agreed to disagree with the states on a federal level but let them make their own decision regarding the legalization of cannabis. If he were to become president, I don’t know that he would do anything differently.”

Cannabis and the stock market. 2019 saw a plunge in cannabis stocks, why did it happen and what’s ahead.

“Like anything else, cannabis stocks came out of left field. Those are not standard issued stocks like we would use to describe AT&T, IBM, Google, or even Tesla. Cannabis stocks were running on sheer excitement and enthusiasm. Oftentimes, when something like that happens, stocks become overvalued. The consumer was buying them, not because they made sense as a business at that time, but rather because a). They loved the idea- it was a topic of conversation and b). they were afraid not to make it in time- in the sense that the stock prices would start to go through the roof. Cannabis has been in the media for the past three or four years as the talk of the town, so more and more people were familiar with both the concept and the product.

Speaking from an investor standpoint, last year we went through the excitement, the plateau and then the reality of Wall Street which says we only run companies that actually present value as a business. Since the profits weren’t there, I believe that is what caused stocks to be depressed and sold out. As an active investor, you have to pay attention to the people who were selling them at the end of 2019. Running them from the heights of 45-50 stocks to 18 down 75 cents. When you start to see the rapid motion of stocks, this is an extreme.

Originally they were being run up, now, they are running them down because they start to think it’s never going to happen, there are too many regulations, it’s not going anywhere, let me cut my losses and move on. Both of these extremes present value to the active investor. My advice would be to be careful, review the major players, and see how their value is related to their extended history. Today, it’s a more favorable stock for investor dollars because they can get some bargains and we have a little more history within a specific company to show what can happen with upswings and downswings, what’s happening with their management, are they utilizing their capital, etc..”

What might we see from the cannabis industry in 2020 in terms of product and technology?

“I think we will see more consolidation. More products coming into the market. Larger companies taking out the smaller ones. More competition, thus bringing the price of cannabis lower in the wholesale side and hopefully in the consumer market. Specific technology in terms of the fast acting, easily delivered, non-smoking experiences will become a bigger piece of the pot market. Consumers are getting more educated and are demanding quality, price, and consistency. The consumer wants to feel something sooner- like within three to five minutes. They don’t want to pay a high retail price. And slowly but surely, on the industry level, we are becoming more developed. Quality of packaging, quality of the materials, quality of the manufacturers- all of that is improving. So that’s a win-win for the consumer.” 

How about in five years?

“I see cannabinoids being more widely incorporated in day-to-day food. We might be able to see hemp derivatives be a part of the diet. I believe that smoking in the general sense will become less of an item. The consumer will treat smoking cannabis similar to that of smoking tobacco- they are looking for different alternatives to smoking with the same benefits but limited downsides.”


How has the average cannabis consumer changed over the last couple of years  and how does the industry/companies need to adapt?

“Today’s cannabis consumer knows two numbers: The content of THC and the price. Originally, the consumer only wanted to know one thing: Is it available? There was no interest in the potency, varietals, it was more about the availability at the local level. So the consumer has become a little bit more educated and right now is trying to treat cannabis flower as a commodity. They are looking to find a bargain, they are learning about new consumption methods, forming their opinions by trying different delivery mechanisms, and finding their favorites. There is more tendency for the consumer to want to be slightly elevated during exercise and/or working hours. Consumers are trying to consume better and for less money. 

We are going to start seeing industry leaders become more consistent in their offerings, acquiring smaller companies, consolidating their resources, and trying to maintain the pricing along with new offerings.”

States with pending legalization, where might it pass and what are the hurdles for those where it likely won’t?

“This is pure speculation on my part- approving anything new in states like New Jersey will come down to the attitudes of the state or its special operations, who is going to receive the licenses, and who is going to be awarded the stuff. This state is going to be a challenge as will New York for it, too, is a big politics state. It is more about deciding who is going to grow it, where are we going to grow it, who will make the money and when.

South Dakota’s legalization should go through easily. They experience such tough winters and they are in a distant location from normal sources of legal cannabis. Arizona, Missouri and Alaska all have medical programs so there should be a smooth transition into legalization in 2020.

The decision is not to decide whether to legalize cannabis or not. It’s more about trying to decide who’s going to do it, who’s going to make the money, who knows who and when will they be ready to supply one of the largest markets in the nation. I am reasonably optimistic about what will play out in 2020.”

How is the industry doing in the more recently legalized states

“It’s a new market with newly legalized states, which typically brings new excitement, higher prices, small offerings. As the market develops a little bit more, capitalism comes in to play. Regarding the licensing of cannabis- any new market right now is great if you’re in and a challenge if you’re out.”

About Serge Chistov and Honest Marijuana Co.:

Serge Chistov is Chief Financial Partner for the Honest Marijuana Co. and an industry expert.  Honest Marijuana has been a leader in cannabis innovation since it’s inception with an organic approach to the growth, production and packaging of cannabis, the launch of the first-ever organic hemp wrapped the machine rolled blunts, the invention of the now patented Nanobidiol Technology, and the first company to bring THC-O-Acetate technology and products to market. Learn more at https://honestmarijuana.com or @honestmarijuanaco.

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Compassion Over Destruction: Promoting Compassionate Care And Sustainability For Cannabis Trade Shows

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An idea formulated at this year’s Hall of Flowers came to fruition over Veteran’s Day week. Compassion Over Destruction was spearheaded by cannabis industry leader Eden Enterprises/Garden of Eden, with the help of its partners the Hall of Flowers, Sweetleaf Collective, and the many vendors who participated. Typically, unsold cannabis goods at the end of a permitted cannabis trade show, such as the Hall of Flowers, have been destroyed, due to regulations that prevent them from returning to the supply chain, and burdensome taxes that have made it impractical or unaffordable to give the products to the compassion programs that the recent passage of SB-34 is intended to protect and reinstitute. The Compassion Over Destruction event transferred over $30,000 worth of cannabis products to low income and terminally ill patients via their very worthwhile partners at Operation Evac, Rossmoor Senior Center, and Sweetleaf Collective

Some of the $30,000+ of high quality cannabis products saved from destruction and redistributed to those in most desperate need by Compassion over Destruction; Eden Enterprise’s Post-Cannabis Events Zero-Waste Initiative
Photo: La Osa

Shareef El-Sissi, CEO of Eden Enterprises, was inspired by the heartbreaking scene at the prior iteration of the Hall of Flowers event, when clean and tested product was forcibly destroyed, in order to maintain compliance with overly complex and unforgiving California cannabis regulations. Compassion Over Destruction was born out of the principles that Garden of Eden was founded on in 2003, and he told NUGL why he and the Eden team are honored to continue the tradition of compassionate giving after 16 years. “Witnessing the destruction of hundreds of units of clean tested cannabis (after the previous Hall of Flowers) was heartbreaking, and from that moment it became our mission to find an alternative pathway, and the idea of the Compassion Over Destruction initiative was born.” Shareef hopes that the leadership shown will spread as a model through the industry. “Ultimately, the goal of this program is to lift up the entire cannabis community and strive for better industry-wide sustainability. No product should be going to waste, regardless of what dispensary or supplier it is coming from when there are those in need that can directly benefit, but may not have the resources to obtain it.”

Under this new program, Garden of Eden is providing compassion cannabis to residents of Rossmore, the Sweetleaf Collective, which has been providing medical cannabis to HIV/AIDS & Cancer patients since 1996, and Operation EVAC, which works with military veterans through community service.
Photo: La Osa

Joe Airone of Sweetleaf Collective has been involved in compassion programs for over 20 years, since they were the basis for medical marijuana’s legalization with Proposition 215 in 1996. He has fought for measure like The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act (SB-34), which was passed by the California state senate and signed into law in late 2019. SB-34 was intended to correct the oversight in Proposition 64 (the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative) which taxed almost all of the compassion programs in the state to the point that nearly all had to shut down completely, or severely cut back on their giving. Though the effects of SB-34 have not yet been fully implemented, Joe hopes that this program is a sign of the return of compassion and common sense to cannabis culture and community. “Before Prop 64, products like these could be restocked and sold. Now with the changes in regulations to the supply chain because of proposition 64, products that go to events cannot go back to distribution to be sold. The state wants them destroyed.” Joe hopes to continue to work with Garden of Eden and Hall of Flowers to encourage vendors at HOF and other cannabis events and trade shows to similarly pass along the overflow to those in desperate need. 

Bringing back cannabis compassion with the remaining product from Hall of Flowers Season 4
Photo: La Osa

For the team at Eden Enterprises, they believe they’ve found a successful model for incorporating compassion and sustainability into an industry that has at times ignored or misregulated those crucial elements. Pamela Epstein, Chief Regulatory and Licensing Officer for Eden Enterprises says, “True sustainability in cannabis is more than just recyclable packaging and solar panels, it has to be a holistic approach that fundamentally touches all aspects of operations and engagement, which is why this is such an exciting opportunity to be involved in this new category of cannabis waste reduction.” Shareef El-Sissi also pointed out how the wasteful elements of destroying unsold or used trade show designated cannabis goes beyond just the high quality product being intentionally destroyed. “It is extremely wasteful and not environmentally friendly, especially when taking into account the considerable amount of required packaging materials that must also be destroyed.”    

Pointing out some of the top quality medicine available for free to those in need.
Photo: La Osa

For the immediate future, Compassion Over Destruction will continue to work with Hall of Flowers and other trade shows, and all of the participants are optimistic that as the effects of SB-34 are implemented, more compassion programs will be formed or re-instituted. Joe Airone of Sweetleaf urges NUGL readers and cannabis community members to support compassion programs by encouraging and pressuring trade shows and events they attend or work with to keep the medicinal benefits of California cannabis compassionately provided to those who need them most. 

To get involved with supporting Cannabis Compassion programs, please contact Sweetleaf Collective: https://www.sweetleafcollective.org/

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Cannabis Compassion Vs. Hyper-Regulation: The Struggle For Medical And Charitable Care Programs Continues in California

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When the movement for medical marijuana gained mainstream traction in California in the ’90s, the basis was apparent; suffering people – particularly with debilitating, life-threatening, and life-ending conditions such as AIDS and cancer – should be able to legally and freely access the healing that cannabis was already providing many of them through heroes like Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary. The Compassionate Care programs, which provide free or extremely low-cost medicinal cannabis to people in need, became able to operate more openly after the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. After serving as a critical healthcare source in the state for over twenty years, the vast majority of Compassionate Care programs have shut down in California in the past year, the victims of the overburdening and inflexible regulations, and short-sighted tax structure of Proposition 64. The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act (SB-34), which was introduced by Senator Scott Weiner and quickly passed the state legislature, was signed into law on October 12, 2019, by California Governor Gavin Newsom. The goal of SB-34 is to remove the oversight in the regulations instituted by legalization in 2018 that taxes compassion programs at the same rate as for-profit businesses, which raised costs by over 500% in some cases, effectively forcing almost all of them to shut down. Nugl will regularly be reporting on the battles for a system in California, and throughout the country, that prioritizes the needs of some of the most vulnerable and desperate members of the population. 

Zach Kuchera is the CEO of Circadian farm in Mendocino County and has provided “literally tons” of cannabis to compassion programs, according to his longtime collaborator, Compassionate Cannabis hero and provider Joe Airone of Sweetleaf Collective. He and other compassion providers had to halt their programs when Proposition 64 passed with no regulations or tax exemption in place to sustain them. “When Prop 64 passed, it came to a complete halt, and medical marijuana and compassion programs – which are really one and the same – were all left in the dust. Nothing was really there to go by, let alone do because there was no protection written into any of the laws for the programs.” The lack of any regulatory loopholes for his and other programs meant that there was no way to legally run them without prohibitive costs, so they unfortunately closed. Now that SB-34 has passed, he says the mood among farmers who had previously supported the programs has grown optimistic, as they hope to get medicine back into the hands of the suffering and needy as soon as possible. “ Everybody is super ecstatic about the fact that the bill passed, and that Governor Newsom was willing to do what Governor Brown wasn’t, despite being on his way out of office.” He is referring to previous Governor Jerry Brown, who vetoed an earlier version of SB-34 before leaving office, claiming it left open too many potential tax loopholes for bad actors. “Things are definitely looking on the up and up, and everyone is excited that we’re not looking at just for-profit cannabis; that we can start treating it as a medicine again, as it was when legalization started in 1996.”

Tons of cannabis has been donated to those in need from Circadian Farms in Mendocino County, California. CEO Zach Kuchera hopes the state makes it easier for him to donate tons more.

Zach notes that the struggles of the compassion program have not been covered regularly in media around the state. He suggests that members of the cannabis community who want to be sure that the programs are being re-implemented and maintained should pay attention to updates directly from those who directly operate and fight for them. “A bunch of people got left in the dust, and you don’t hear anything about it in even local media, let alone national publications.” Reliable news can be easier to find on social media accounts of direct providers, such as his old friends and collaborators at Sweetleaf Collective, who regularly update their feeds with important news. Donations to Sweetleaf also go entirely to the costs of providing cannabis to patients. We’ll explore a bit more of the history and future of Sweetleaf Collective in our next report on Cannabis Compassion.

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Bernie Sanders 4:20 Announcement: The Progressive Icon Unveils His Presidential Plan For Cannabis Legalization

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Vermont Senator and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced his anticipated plan for full legalization of cannabis at 4:20 P.M. Eastern Time (yes, really) on Thursday, October 24, 2019, via a statement on his campaign website and social media. Sanders has been a stalwart supporter of issues that are important to the cannabis community since entering the national political consciousness as the ‘Democratic Socialist’ mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981. The eventual congressman and senator was also the first major presidential candidate to support legalization, in 2016. He has spoken out in the halls of D.C. power loudly and often since the Reagan era for legislation and causes that have included  reforming or ending the military industrial complex and Drug War. Many expected Sanders plan for cannabis to be reflective of his progressive and social justice credentials, and he did not disappoint. 

“We will legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions.” immediately announces the newly launched section on his campaign site dedicated to ‘Legalizing Marijuana’, and in describing the details, clearly and immediately addresses the systemic issues he seeks to redress. “When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending institutional racism in America, we are talking about ending the disastrous war on drugs, which has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.” He elaborates on that point further in the campaign statement; “It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for communities of color, and allow those most impacted to move forward with their lives. Our job now is to legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.” 

Sanders commits in his plan to immediately issue an executive order directing the Attorney General to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance, completely de-scheduling it as cannabis and health advocates have been suggesting, demanding, and pleading for years. His campaign is clear about the need for immediate executive action; “While Congress must aggressively move to end the war on drugs and undo its damage, as president Bernie will not wait for Congress to act.” Further in the plan for his first 100 days, Sanders and his campaign flesh out how they will release, vacate and expunge past pot convictions and current prisoners. Included are details of how the process of release and expungement will work, with some parts based on California’s system with Code for America, and others incorporated into the Senator’s previously released Justice and Safety for All plan.

Another section focuses on how as President, Sanders would “ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, especially African-American and other communities of color”’ Included in the specific outline for that reinvestment is a $20 billion investment into a grant program within the Minority Business Development Agency to provide grants to entrepreneurs of color, another $10 billion grant program to focus on businesses that are at least 51% owned or controlled by those in disproportionately impacted areas or individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses, and a further targeted $10 billion USDA grant program to help disproportionately impacted areas and individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses to start urban and rural farms and growing operations, to ensure people impacted by the war on drugs have access to the entire marijuana industry. The funds for the grant programs would come from new cannabis tax revenue.  Other highlights of the program include eliminating drug testing requirements and restrictions on public benefits for convicts, and allocating funds from cannabis revenue to address the opioid crisis.

Finally, the Sanders campaign directly addresses how they will keep cannabis from becoming Big Tobacco. Legal states and media commentators have been wary and increasingly critical of the rise in companies and business tactics they feel veer into an unethical and socially harmful side of cannabis capitalism. An outright ban on tobacco and cigarette companies participating in cannabis, and a commitment to “provide resources for people to start cooperatives and collective nonprofits as marijuana businesses that will create jobs and economic growth in local communities” are likely to be met with approval by cannabis growers, entrepreneurs and activists, while the language around taxes and regulations – which include “partner(ing) with USDA to establish safety inspection and quality control processes” may trigger skepticism and even concern. In many states the burdensome taxes and regulations of  recreational adult legalization have many pining for previous days of relatively simple medically based decriminalization. In California, which led the charge on medical cannabis, the state passed legalization with Proposition 64 in 2018. The overly restrictive system of taxation and regulation instituted in the last year in CA includes taxes at every point of transfer and up to 30 percent to the retail consumer, and effectively destroyed the compassion programs the movement is based on. California’s legal cannabis industry was recently  described as “a mess” by the LA Times, and many others.
There is an unmistakable feeling in the cannabis community of battle weariness from past politician promises and optimistic legislative goals, and some will surely see room for skepticism and improvement. Candidate Sanders has put out what will surely be considered by many to be the most progressive plan for legalization and addressing the impacts of criminalization in the election cycle thus far. Of course, no politician should be trusted to independently or singlehandedly implement the legislation or reforms they claim to support, but with decades of activism from within and without the political establishment on his record, it is realistic to hope and expect that the cannabis and justice communities would have an ally in President Bernie Sanders.

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California State Legislature Holds an Emergency Recess Session on Vaping Illnesses and Deaths

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The California Legislature – despite ending session for the year in late September – reconvened for a Joint Informational Hearing held by the Assembly Committees on Governmental Organization, Business & Professions and Health on October 16th for an intimate discussion with department leaders and health experts, officially called the Assembly Committees on Governmental Organization, Business & Professions, and Health Joint Informational Hearing: Vaping Tobacco and Cannabis Products: Health Effects and Deficiencies in Regulation and Current Law.

Thus far in what the CDC is calling an “outbreak”, at least 1,100 people have been sickened and approximately 3 dozen have now died, including a 17-year-old from New York, the youngest death yet.

The 4 hour hearing, chaired by Assembly Members Adam Gray, Evan Low and Jim Cooper, listened to testimony from three panels who dove into elements of the problem, and some of the solutions to it that can be enacted upon once the Legislature reconvenes in January, in order to be prompt and proactive in addressing the outbreak.

The panels featured the likes of Dr Elisa Tong, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UC Davis, Nicolas Maduros, Director of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, Lori Ajax Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control , and Dr. Charity Dean, the Assistant Director of the Department of Public Health. 

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the cause of the outbreak, and impactful solutions moving forward.

The very morning of the hearing, the reported number of fatalities rose again, and in addressing the first panel Assembly Member Robert Rivas stated; “This seems to be a race against the clock” as he referenced the announcement of the increase by Center of Disease Control.

In his elaboration, Assemblyperson Rivas affirmed his position that outright bans on vaping won’t work, and the legislature must look to a more strategic approach. Mr. Rivas pointed out that he represents a rural district where access to basic healthcare services are inaccessible to many, let alone the funds for education and treatment, and that enforcing a ban would simply not work there.

Assemblyman Gray noted  in questions directed at the Bureau that  language used in flavors and marketing names can appeal to minors, giving examples such as Wedding Cake, Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Breath and Banana Split, as seen in his visit to a licensed retailer.

“We talk here in this legislature about local control and upholding the promise of Proposition 64 in regards to that (local) control,” stated Assemblymember Low, the Chair of the Business & Professions Committee, “Right now they have no control of the situation.” further elaborating on the fact that it has been among the most contentious issue in both houses, and a primary problem in allowing for access to quell the illicit market.

This compounds issues facing the Bureau in regards to licensing and resources to efficiently operate, and as Assemblyman Cooper stated; “In my 5 years I have never seen a department head say they do not have sufficient resources.” – indicating that it has clearly been a massive detriment to the integrity of the regulated market

Low suggested creating a more uniform approach including consolidation of department resources with a proactive plan of action to address local control and even asset forfeitures.

One of the most profound statements made during the Public Comments, was from a gentleman that admitted to being an illicit market operator, saying; “I work, I’m doing my best to get through licensing and becoming a compliant participant and just trying to feed my family.” He pointed out that when the Legislature and BCC – referring to them as “the powers that be” – are focused on enforcement instead of creating more opportunities for licensing, it makes it difficult  for those who really are trying their hardest to transition to the legal market while still making a living. He posited that a great faction of companies currently operating legally were previously in the “gray market”, and that there needs to be focus on more of the activity necessary to the supply chain besides enforcement.

The majority of other public commenters seemed to hold the position that more regulations and laws are needed, and to create more funding for enforcement, to “crack down” on the illegal market, with a minority amplifying the lack of opportunities for licensing, local bans, and the need to deregulate barriers to entry.

There was no mention of creating more efforts to enhance outreach and education to the public.

CDPH’s Dr. Dean disclosed data in her testimony from private interviews held with 78 patients suffering Vaping Pulmonary Lung Injury (VPLI) finding that of those patients, 72% of patients reported use of THC vape products, 38% CBD vape products and a mere 10% of them had used nicotine vape products. Only 1 person disclosed that theirs originated from a product purchased at a licensed retailer. Dr. Dean further explained that in the epidemiology they found that Vitamin E acetate was found in some but not all products, leaving many unanswered questions as to the primary culprit behind the lung injuries and deaths.

Many on the dais noted how vaping is not at all new and perhaps this outbreak is in direct relation to the illicit market, which has exponentially grown. Towards the end of the hearing, Dr. Dean affirmed to  Assemblyman Wood when asked, how surprising it is that this is all of a sudden happening, many years after the rise in popularity of vaping. A similar question came from Assemblyman Gray to the Dr. about how “odd” it is that there are only a handful of cases in Canada, with the vast majority being isolated to just the states and nowhere else in the world. Dr. Dean responded that “It is interesting.”

Due to the Legislative Session being on recess, the legislature cannot motion any actions but made it clear that this would be more than just discussion and intend to act with “a great sense of urgency.”

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The Secret War Against Cannabis Prohibition

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By Joseph Chicas & Amanda Carrillo

After decades of wars and domestic service, our U.S. Veterans stand strong as our nation’s pillars of hope, resiliency and patriotism. Over 19 million veterans currently live in the U.S. and are leaders various facets of political, social and economic life.

Nevertheless, physical and psychological injuries of service have been well documented and have led to significant national efforts to heal our all of our veterans and their families.

Our most recent generation of Post 9/11 veterans returned home, they were met with positive reception. Welcome home parades, veterans hiring fairs, and increased VA/community resources were existent across the nation. But underneath it all, service members who were lucky enough to return home came home with significant wounds –both visible and invisible. Physical injuries were rampant, due to unique war tactics such as suicide bombers and IED’s at unprecedented scale. Thousands lost limbs and many suffered from traumatic brain injuries not just through combat, but during training exercises.

Though up to one-third of veterans returned with such wounds, the vast majority have shown tremendous resiliency in their transition home and have made powerful assets to their community and local economies.

But for those who needed that extra support and more intensive services, unfortunately, our nation has failed on delivering its promises to our heroes. Despite strong efforts, the primary system set up to assist with veteran transition, the Veterans Affairs administration, has been ill equipped to serve our post-9/11 veteran community. The embattled agency has struggled meeting the unique needs, resulting in well-documented challenges plaguing the system: exorbitantly long wait-times, inability to prevent high suicide rates and inadequate mental health treatments. Gaps exposed have also adversely affected veterans other eras.

To tackle the physical and psychological needs of the veterans, the VA, like other health care systems, has primarily relied on harsh drugs such as opioid prescriptions. In a 2012 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was found that veterans with PTSD were two times more likely to receive an opioid prescription, and also at higher more frequent doses. Taken at scale this contributed to a generation of veterans hooked on pills. Eventually the VA changes its practices to significantly reduce its reliance on opioids. But for many veterans it was too late.

As this surge happened, recognition that these methods were doing more harm than good led to many veterans turning to other alternatives such as cannabis for natural healing. The Weed for Warriors story embodies this shift in our veterans’ consciousness as they coped with the harsh realities of transitioning from the military back to civilian life.

Why and How Was WFWP Founded?

Weed for Warriors was founded in 2014 by Kevin Richardson who turned to cannabis after attempting to commit suicide and leaning on the plant to alleviate the pain felt by him and millions of others. In a span of 30 days, Kevin was off opioids and alcohol. Cannabis offered a healthy alternative for him and he couldn’t wait to share the healing effects of the plant with others. But he knew fellowship was key. After-all, military service was about camaraderie and fellowship—something most veterans find missing when they return home. So he opened the first chapter of WFWP in San Jose and there the story began. With 8 chapters in California, 3 in Florida and “friendlies” near and as far as the UK and Australia, WFWP is leading the charge in providing veterans access to medical cannabis.

The mission was propelled when Kevin met Sean Kiernan at a Denver cannabis event in 2015. Kevin and Sean immediately clicked and aligned themselves on this vital mission. Sean, the current CEO, served in the U.S. Army and is a UC Berkeley graduate. He also worked as a Hedge Fund Manager on Wall Street before the white collar hypocrisy pushed him too far and his own service related injuries began to wear him down. Sean began working with the organization to fight for the rights of veterans and give a voice to the voiceless. He feels that although WFWP began primarily as a cannabis organization, it is also their duty as a group to bring awareness to the judicial and poverty issues surrounding veterans and the Veterans Administration.

Mark Carrillo, COO and Director of Chapters, began giving away cannabis from a personal garden in January 2015 under the name Meds4Vets. After joining the United States Marine Corps at age 17, Mark completed his enlistment in 2007 and found cannabis again after experiencing serious side-effects from alcoholism. When he realized how expensive and often unreliable the availability of medicine was, he eventually began to grow his own in order to ensure he was never without it. What started as helping himself and a few brothers, eventually encouraged him to help more in his community. He held his first gathering at a local dispensary and within 90 days of having meetings in Sacramento, CA, the group had outgrown the location; and as Kevin had seen, he realized the camaraderie was what brought veterans back over and over. After meeting Founder Kevin Richardson in 2015, the two began working together and Mark officially changed his Meds4Vets group to WFWProject Sacramento. Together, Kevin and Mark organized other veterans to develop all of the California chapters and then the additional Florida and Wisconsin chapters.

The Weed for Warriors moniker might seem playful and even ironic; after-all its providing weed for warriors! But make no mistake, this group means business. WFWP is operating at multiple levels to ensure that veterans get access to cannabis to alleviate the physical and psychological pain that affects them. They have closed a gap that an agency like that VA simply cant fill. Through their support networks, advocacy and entrepreneurial initiatives they lead by example. And they are well respected for their authentic approach to service –there is no question their mission on the home-front is as serious as their military battles. In fact, as it was in the battlefield, it’s still a matter of life or death.

As a Support Network

One on Sunday afternoon, we had the opportunity to drive up to the Stockton WFWP monthly meet-up alongside NUGL President, Ali Ganji. Veterans of all eras and of all ages were united together as they enjoyed some delicious prime rib fresh off the grill and their cannabis of choice. There was no judgment, just love. Veterans had traveled for hours to come down and join other vets to share war stories, vent about life circumstances and get lifted.

While hanging out and catching the magic, the NUGL team had the chance to meet several WFWP members. Without much hesitation, many went on to say how tough life had been post transition. Nobody understood what they had gone through and their relationships were just not the same. Several had lost a fellow patriot. All battled with substance abuse as the VA over -prescribed them pills (mainly for chronic pain) and struggled to curve their drinking. Most surprisingly, many said they seriously considered killing themselves because of the rampant PTSD, TBI, depression, substance abuse or other issues they experienced upon their transition home.

And yet throughout their battles, you couldn’t even tell. Cannabis, according to everyone we spoke to, was their life saver. Claims of cannabis normalizing their emotions and calming them down were made throughout conversations. In one instance, we had a profound conversation with a wife and veteran, Kim Yarbrough, where she even stated that “cannabis helped bring her husband back.” Till that point, he was not the same.

Kim’s husband Neil Yarbrough had been prescribed up to 28 pills at one point. His military service took an immense tool on his mind and body. After this transition home, his world was turned upside down. And he hit rock bottom when he attempted suicide. But cannabis saved him and once he turned to cannabis, things changed. He changed and for the better. He has a tattoo of the numbers “22” to remind him that he has 22 brothers and sisters that commit suicide everyday and he could have been one of them. But his strength and the love and support around him allow him to be here today. And now he is a success story and gets to enjoy fellowship with his WFWP members and of course his wife is happy to have her husband back.

Amanda Carillo, Mark’s wife and caregiver, also echoed similar sentiments when it came to her husband’s transition: “Cannabis is just a tool in the toolbox during the journey through wellness; you could have vitamins, exercises, hobbies… all as tools too. It’s a journey because influences around you shift, both slightly and drastically, and so you must adjust as well. There’s a misconception that cannabis patients are lazy or avoiding their issues, when in fact they’re using this tool to face them head on and get back to living.” says Mrs. Carrillo, who’s grandfathers, father, and brother are also veterans and members of WFWP.

Therein lies the special magic with WFWP. They are creating a space and sharing acceptance for a plant that had saved them. And for them, that sense of unity, of team, of family once felt in the military, they found at home. It’s on this front that Mark get’s most excited. For him its about providing veterans and their families “something to look forward to every month.

That space is sacred too – Mark ensures chapters and chapter leaders are prepared for the challenges they will face as they cultivate this space in other cities and stay true to the WFWP Mission.

As a Policy Advocate Powerhouse

At the macro level, WFWP is a force to be reckoned with. WFWP were strong advocates of the California Prop 215 system that allows them and others to provide free cannabis to patients who may be in need, but don’t have the economic means to purchase their medicine. For WFWP, providing access to cannabis for veterans is a social, economic and health equity issue.

When California voters passed Prop 64, WFWP came out in strong opposition against the initiative because they anticipated barriers to access medicine would increase exponentially. They were right. The costs of cannabis products has increased over 35% and 80 % of cities still do not allow for dispensary retail sales. While such issues are common pain points in the industry, WFWP wasn’t concerned about the financial bottom line. To them, their bottom line is that that veterans can no longer access affordable or free medicine to help with their ailments. It’s a health justice matter; as opiate and barbiturates statistics climb, veterans are demanding better options.

And for WFWP the passage of Prop 64 also meant they couldn’t legally provide free cannabis to their members who may need it. And though providing free cannabis might sound like a light mission for some; the gravity of this gift cannot be understated. The medicinal benefits of cannabis are well documented in international research and even in Dr. Sue Sisley, a renown researcher, suggests that cannabis may be able to offset symptoms of PTSD.

WFWP has also been on the front-lines in advocating for more research on the efficacy of medical cannabis. Sean knows this battle well and is working alongside researchers like Dr. Sisley to advance medical cannabis research. Research is key to eventually obtaining FDA approval for medical cannabis, which may be the final piece (besides descheduling) that will allow for veterans to get reimbursed by the VA for medical cannabis prescriptions. Doing so would bring significant health and financial relief to the millions of veterans that reportedly use medical cannabis to treat their service related injuries.

Furthermore, for WFWP Prop 64 exacerbated issues for veterans. In a letter addressed to Governor Gavin Newsom, Sean wrote: Prop 64… “created two California’s for Cannabis. One for those with resources who will be able to afford the tremendous cost increases associated with consumption or production that AUMA will entail; and the other, the black market where the sick, poor and disenfranchised will be forced to turn to.”

Nevertheless, WFWP has fought hard to advocate for the passage of California Senate Bill 34, also known as the Dennis Perone and Brownie Mary Act. Once passed, this bill would allow for licensed retailers to partner with organizations such as Weed for Warriors to offer free medical cannabis to patients. The significance of this measure could not be understated and WFWP is unwavering in seeing this happen. Sean travels to Sacramento frequently to speak and advocate for the passage of this bill and thanks to his effort and the support of other advocates SB 34 has strong bi-partisan support and looks on track to heading to Governor Newsom’s desk to be signed. This feat would be a huge victory for WFWP and for veterans across the state.

As an Engine Fueling Veteran Entrepreneurship

Besides support and advocacy, WFWP is looking expand their for profit arm to develop a vertically integrated cannabis operation. Doing so will allow them to build out the WFWP cannabis brand and provide economic opportunities for other veterans and ensure products are made “For Vets by Vets.” This ambitious mission is coming to fruition quickly. The organization has secured multiple cannabis licenses, has secured some capital investments and is building strong relationships with reputable brands across the supply chain. Cannabis will not be the only market the brand will touch: apparel, media – both documentaries and series, health, housing… the list goes on.

Ultimately, there is no stopping WFWP from embarking on their mission. Their commitment to each other is evident as their commitment to their country. Their mission is beyond cannabis and really leads to healing. Their physical and psychological scars may be present, but it’s clear that’s in their rear view mirror as they look to the future and plant their seeds in the cannabis industry.

The Road Ahead

As the future of federal legalization remains uncertain, its evident that the veteran community carries the key to the eventual passage. There is no denying the damage of pain we’ve inflicted on a generation of veterans who were harmed by overprescription of harsh pain pills who are now healing through cannabis. Bipartisan support in Congress and the Executive Branch shows support for more research on the medical benefits of cannabis — and that’s a good sign. But it’s nowhere near enough and we can no longer wait as we don’t want to hold back our veterans from access to a plant who can bring them much healing.

States with cannabis legislation have seen a decrease in suicides, overdoses, and DUIs. Evidence suggests that healing is happening in those areas at exponential numbers. It’s only a matter of time before we follow suit too. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been. And something tells us WFWP will be there at the forefront, leading the way and creating the next generation of healed and resilient veterans.

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8 Key Updates on the L.A. City Licensing Process

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The wait for further adequate regulation will soon be over, as Los Angeles is preparing to launch what will be the largest cannabis licensing program in the world. Government, community, and business leaders eagerly anticipated this moment. Excitement and nervousness are peaking as applicants prepare for this monumental opportunity. For individuals most affected by the War on Drugs, this moment is especially significant, given that they are prioritized for licensing and job opportunities in the largest cannabis retail market in the world. 

Just last week the LA City Department of Cannabis Regulation held their final briefing before retail licensing opens on September 3rd, 2019. Below are some key takeaways from this briefing as well as other points to assist others in the process. Information here may be useful to a diverse range of stakeholders interested in what’s happening in Los Angeles.

1. Licensing cycle – LA’s initial licensing phase is broken down into three parts: Phase 1 launched in 2017 and was focused on medical cannabis operations that met certain criteria to be grandfathered into the new recreational program. About 180 Phase 1 retail locations have already been approved. LA has a soft cap of 400 retail licenses and the remaining licenses will be issued to social equity applicants.  Phase 2 licensing launched in Early 2018 and allowed for social equity non-retail applicants to pursue licensing in cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, etc. Roughly 400 Phase 2 operators currently exist. 

The much-anticipated Phase 3 licensing rounds are set to start September 3rd, 2019 and are broken down into two rounds: Round 1 will allow for 100 new retail businesses to be approved. This will be on a first come first serve basis. Assuming these 100 applicants have compliant property and submit all requested forms, then they will be approved without much scrutiny. Moreover, this round will prioritize Tier 1 social equity applicants. 75 applications will be earmarked for Tier 1 applicants while 25 will be earmarked for Tier 2 applicants (assuming enough tier 1 applicants are part of the first 100 eligible applicants). Pre-vetting deadlines for social equity applicants has passed and hundreds are still awaiting their eligibility verification from the city. More on this below. To learn more about these tiers and how they are broken down visit the city website. 

2. First come first serve – As indicated above, licensing decisions will be made on a first come first serve basis. Meaning that each ‘completed’ application will be time stamped and the first 100 that meets the criteria will be temporarily approved and moved into the next phase of the vetting process. Most notably, applicants must ensure their property is fully compliant and that agreements between social equity partners follow guidelines of the city. If applicants meet every requirement but fall short on these last two items they will be incomplete essentially bumping applicants out of the running to be the first 100. You can find more detailed instructions here

3. Round 2 – Given the hurdles to acquiring property and securing social equity partnerships, it is likely that a vast majority of applicants will go into Round 2. The timeline of Round 2 is unclear but may happen quarter one of 2020. Round 2 will allow for 150 more retail locations and will also be for social equity businesses. No preference will be given in this round for social equity tier 1 versus tier 2. Moreover, property is not required to apply for round 2; though it remains to be seen whether having property will be weighted more heavily. More guidelines for Round 2 will be coming out later this year and we will keep you abreast of what’s happening on this front. 

4. No fees  – you can apply for Round 1 without paying an application fee. And you will only be charged the application fee (roughly $9,000) if you are part of the 100 applicants. Not a bad deal, especially given that most cities charge these exorbitant fees regardless of whether your application is approved. 

5. Social equity protection – implementing the social equity program has been a monumental and unprecedented task for city, community and business leaders. Thus, implementation challenges are present. Without technical support for social equity applicants, individuals have had to rely on incubators, consulting firms, or other resources to ensure they are set up for success. While well-intentioned, these efforts have sometimes fallen short while others have developed proven models for success. 

Within this context, social equity applicants are advised to reach out to their own attorneys to ensure that their contracts and agreements protect their equity interests and follow city guidelines. DCR has issued guidelines to assist in constructing these agreements. 

Legal resources, however, are out there. For instance, the California State Bar asks attorneys to complete 50 pro bono hours annually; thus the pool of pro bono attorneys is out there to provide support. 

6. City hires new Social Equity Director, Dr. Imani Brown — during the city briefing, officials also announced the hiring of a new Social Equity Director, Dr. Imani Brown, who brings a wealth experience to shore up needed resources for social equity programming. Dr. Brown is an urban policy and planning expert that will bring immense leadership to the table. More info on Dr. Brown and the city press release can be found here

7. Pre-vetting is over for now – for the meantime, pre-vetting to determine eligibility for the social equity program is closed. Thus, only the approximately 2000 social equity applicants that applied to be verified by the city may be eligible to apply for Round 1 of Phase 3. Pre-vetting may open up again, as changes to social equity criteria (i.e. expansion of eligible zip codes) are voted on by the LA City Council. More updates will be shared as they become available. 

8. Delivery pilot – the city announced that it will launch a pilot program for delivery licenses before 2020. This is great news for aspiring or current delivery operators in Los Angeles. Again, the program will prioritize social equity applicants: of the total 60 delivery applications, 40 will be allocated for social equity applicants.

As Phase 3 licensing comes online, there is much anticipation to see how this all shakes out. Exciting times are ahead and the tips suggested above are pointers to help ease pathways for everyone. More updates on LA licensing will be shared as we receive them.  

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Are We There Yet? Stability For The Cannabis Industry

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California AB 1420 And Why Cannabis Licensing Fees Should Be Standardized

It’s important to us at NUGL that our readers are updated on the most current and pressing policy issues affecting the cannabis industry. Cannabis legislation in California has kept the industry in limbo as regulators promise to iron out wrinkles in state laws created by Proposition 64. Although Proposition 64 legalized recreational cannabis consumption in California, there are still roadblocks for businesses to overcome if they want to thrive in the legal market. 

Current policy efforts aimed at addressing the underlying issues facing cannabis businesses reside in Assembly Bill 1420, which was introduced by Assemblymember Obernolte (R – 33 High Desert) in February 2019. Once passed, this bill would effectively fix licensee fees at a set cost and require either the State Department, Department of Consumer Affairs, or Department of Agriculture to provide justification to the legislature for fee increases on Commercial Cannabis Operators — a safeguard that all industries, except cannabis, already enjoy. 

Although AB 1420 has largely flown under the public’s radar, the bill represents a seismic shift for cannabis operators in the state. In fact, it’s a big part of ensuring accountability by forcing our state agencies and departments to reign in governmental overregulation and encroachment on economic freedoms. 

The need for a bill like AB 1420 could not be more clear, as cities have taken full advantage of the exorbitant licensing fees, often exceeding $10,000 to attain. When coupled with the massive startup fees required to get a new cannabis operation off the ground, licensing fees can actually debilitate small business owners seeking to enter the market. 

Legislators intend the bill to offer operators and business owners in the industry some stability in the face of excessive and unforeseen expenses, such as increased fees and ill-conceived changes to regulations. 

The bill was ordered by the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations to be suspended following opposition from the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Food and Agriculture. Why is the bill facing opposition at a time like this — particularly when it’s clear that more oversight and fee standardization can be good for both business owners and consumers? 

Across the board, cannabis operators are taxed up to 500 times higher than even the alcohol industry, which is at 40-78 percent on a state level. Cannabis businesses are left to struggle with overhead expenses that, due to IRS 280 E, are not deductible and are taxed at a national rate of 80 percent. 

At the end of the day, uncontrolled licensing costs hurts owners and the patients they serve. For owners, this may mean bearing a heavier financial burden and it also means transferring the costs to patients via price hikes. Consequently, this may further fuel the illegal market. 

If we cannot get a regulatory fix to this issue passed this year, we are failing not only ourselves, but we are also failing cannabis consumers and the California cannabis market as a whole. 

When citing problems with California’s legal market, some point the finger at legislators for their slow and piecemeal attempts to balance the cannabis industry ecosystem. The reality is that the burden does not fall on the state legislature alone! 

As a matter of fact, the legislature is doing its best to get a grip on the situation while trying the find remedies and solutions that provide the best oversight. No singular department is to blame, either. They’ve done what others in the past have failed to do — rally together and work to finally take a position. 

Industry leaders are weighing on the issue. 

“From our unique position in the cannabis industry, Naturetrak has witnessed the carnage of smaller boutique operators due to licensing fees first hand,” stated by Ron Brandon Chief of Staff for Naturetrak. As an all in one compliance platform, Naturetrak can observe the ordeals in detail. As Brandon says, “these smaller operators who once created jobs for locals in their area are now scaling back operations costs by laying off those same people just to turn a profit. I have friends who haven’t paid themselves in over a year.” In their letter of support for AB 1420 they further declared through these observations that “this can all be fixed by lowering licensing, and associated fees. As an operator myself, I understand the pain of running a cannabis business shorthanded, both financially and understaffed.”

What has actually become the crippling pain point of the situation is the lack of collaboration and communication across the community, industry, and government. 

“We have done a lot in ten years but, as is the case now, more than ever, it takes a village. And as it stands, we have everything we need. But we are starving ourselves,” stated Ryan Bacchas, Chairman and President of the California Cannabis Coalition. 

“As many know, we were one of the only organizations to say ‘No’ on Proposition 64, just as we did with Proposition 19 in 2010. This is exactly why. 

“Clearly, regulations in California have been known to go against the interests of citizens and business owners in the past years — hence the gas, soda, and tampon taxes that exist in our State. There was no way Cannabis [was] going to be any different. Now we have to protect our operators from expense increases just to obtain and renew licenses when they do [expire].”

Together, we can protect the interests of patients and business owners. We can make a huge impact by taking the small step of standardizing licensing fees and providing a big lift to operators across the state. 


For information, or to sign and send in your Letter of Support, contact the California Cannabis Coalition at (424) 290-9908 or email them at globaleliteadvocacy16@gmail.com.

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Rep. Ilhan Omar calls for marijuana legalization at the federal level

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The congresswoman says states shouldn’t get to “pick and choose” on the issue.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, is throwing her support behind a movement to legalize marijuana nationwide.

In an interview with Black Entertainment Television (BET) on Wednesday, the Democratic congresswoman said “it’s important for us to (legalize) it federally and not allow for the states to pick and choose.”

So far, 11 U.S. states have made recreational marijuana legal; earlier this year, a bill that would have made Minnesota number 12 failed to go anywhere in the state legislature. 

In the BET interview, Omar suggests it’s inherently unfair when weed policy differs from state to state:

“Because what happens is you will have a state where someone is publicly and professionally allowed to profit and the next state someone could be sentenced to life for it, so we want to make sure there is equality in our laws.”

As the Star Tribune points out, Omar is a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, which would amend federal law to remove pot from the list of “Schedule 1” controlled substances

The bill and its Senate companion are still in the “committee” stage of legislation, which means they haven’t gone up for a full vote yet. 

This article originally appeared on bringmethenews.com

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Keeping Cannabis Safe: A Call for Standardization

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Sit down, because you will likely find this shocking: The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 69 percent percent of all untested CBD products fail to live up to the claims their labels make. Some have less CBD than claimed; some include toxic solvents, corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, and miscellaneous contaminants; others don’t have CBD in them at all!

Only about one-eighth of the cannabis industry is compliant to state testing regulations — leaving 87.5 percent non-compliant. Clearly, there is significantly more work to be done on the industry level to make sure cannabis products are safe and contain what is advertised.

Unfortunately, because the specific parameters of legality of the cannabis industry are evolving and still somewhat ambiguous, testing labs are operating mostly on their own, without the benefit of collaboration with, or guidance from, federal authorities, like the FDA. This leaves each lab to develop its own methods, definitions and thresholds for analyzing the quality and safety of cannabis products — which means there is no reliable, universal standard backing up product claims.

As the CEO of CannaSafe, the first accredited and licensed lab in the cannabis industry, I am advocating aggressively for standardization in cannabis testing, both for marijuana and hemp products. In fact, CannaSafe provided testimony to the FDA during its recent hearings on the safety of CBD about the need for analytical testing to be mandated in order to ensure standardized product safety, high manufacturing quality and consistency of products across the country.

What, exactly, are cannabis labs testing for?

First, as you can imagine, they’re testing for potency. Both THC and CBD are used for medical purposes, and potency is crucial for correct dosing. While both have psychoactive properties, CBD is a non-intoxicating, analgesic component.

Second, labs are testing for contamination. Cannabis can become contaminated with microbes — such as mold, mildew, bacteria, yeast — pesticides and heavy metals throughout the process of growing, cultivation and processing. Contamination is especially concerning because many medical marijuana patients are immunosuppressed and cannot fight off potentially dangerous infections and illnesses arising from these contaminants. But even for the general population, cannabis contamination can cause serious health issues. Molds and bacteria such as aspergillus, salmonella and E coli present safety risks and toxicity from sustained exposure to heavy metals can lead to high blood pressure, heart issues and kidney failure, among other issues.

In our home state of California, 30 percent of all cannabis products come through CannaSafe’s lab for testing. We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that testing has on cannabis crops. The upshot: Failure rates for safety testing trend downwards as requirements increase. For example, failure rates for pesticides decreased from 20 percent to less than 3 percent of samples since pesticide testing was required in July 2018. We’ve seen similar results for heavy metal contamination since testing became law on December 31, 2018. These numbers demonstrate that enacting and enforcing regulations around testing has made cannabis products safer in California.

Standardizing such regulations and tests on a federal level would broaden those results across the country, ensuring the safety and transparency consumers need to make informed decisions. Both cannabis businesses and consumers should demand nothing less.

It’s up to the cannabis businesses that care about the future of our industry to ensure we’re providing verifiably safe, integrity-based products to our consumers.

This article originally appeared on greenentrepreneur.com

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