Tag: California

California’s Legal Cannabis Countdown: What’s Coming by Jan. 1

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California has published the rules that will govern its legal marijuana economy in 2018, giving businesses and consumers a glimpse into the future.

But there are important steps before legal recreational sales kick off on Jan. 1, and even more uncertainties about how the marketplace will function. Warning: Don’t count on being able to stroll into your local dispensary on New Year’s Day to celebrate with an infused cookie or a joint.


California Releases Emergency Cannabis Regulations

Why Are the Regulations Important?

They form the framework of the new cannabis economy, estimated to be worth $7 billion. Can you make animal-shaped edibles? No. Transport products in a drone? No. But retailers can be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’s a dense stack of rules that includes fees for licensing (nearly $80,000 annually for a large grower), how cannabis will be traced from seed to sale and testing requirements to ensure customers get what they pay for.

Can I Buy Legal, Adult-Use Cannabis on Jan. 1?

For most people, probably not. It will vary place to place, but many cities are not prepared. Even though the state regulations went out Thursday, the Bureau of Cannabis Control is still developing an online system for businesses to apply for operating licenses. California is working out technical bugs and hopes it will be ready in early December.


San Francisco Almost Certainly Won’t Be Selling Cannabis on Jan. 1

“There certainly will be licenses issued on Jan. 1,” said Alex Traverso of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

“The state dropped the ball big time. This should have been done by June, July.”

Donnie Anderson, Los Angeles grower and retailer

But there’s a snag: To apply for a state license, a grower or seller first needs a local permit, and many cities are struggling to establish those rules, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, two of the biggest markets.

“I think the state dropped the ball big time. This should have been done by June, July,” said Los Angeles grower and retailer Donnie Anderson. “I don’t think this is going to be ready.”

Other places, like Kern County, have banned commercial cannabis activity. At the same time, San Diego is among the cities that have local rules in place and are ready for legal sales. Palm Springs is planning for cannabis lounges, where recreational marijuana can be smoked on site.

A Gradual Start

For six months, the state is allowing businesses to bend the rules a bit, recognizing it will take time for the new system to take hold. During that period, businesses can sell products that do not meet new packaging requirements. Retailers can sell inventory that does not meet new rules for ingredients or appearance.

At an industry conference in September, California’s top marijuana regulator sought to ease concerns that the state would move quickly on enforcement against operations without licenses. If authorities are aware a business has applied for a license “I don’t want you to have anxiety that we’re out there and we’re going to be enforcing everything right away,” said Lori Ajax, who heads the state cannabis bureau.


California Unveils Temporary Licenses to Allow Early 2018 Retail Sales

Everything Is Temporary

Even if you get a license, it will be temporary — good for 120 days. In some cases, there can be a 90-day extension on top of that. During that time, the state will review a business’ credentials and information submitted in the license application, such as financial records and investors in the business.

The regulations issued by the state this week are temporary, too.

Many Challenges Remain

Key pieces of the legal cannabis system are still in the works. A massive tracking system that will follow plants from seed to sale is in development, but officials say it will be ready at the start of the new year. It’s not clear if enough distributors will be available to move cannabis from fields to testing labs and eventually to retail shops, possibly creating a bottleneck between growers and store shelves.


Confusion Coming With California’s Legal Cannabis

The Looming Illicit Market

No one knows how many operators will apply for licenses. While medical marijuana has been legal in California for over two decades, most growing and selling occurs in the black market. Come Jan. 1, officials hope those growers and sellers will join the legal pot economy.

But there are concerns many might continue business as usual to avoid new taxes, which could hit 45 percent in the recreational market in some cases, according to a recent study by Fitch Ratings.

“The existing black market for cannabis may prove a formidable competitor” if taxes send legal retail prices soaring, the report said.

Can The Standard Hotel Really Open a Cannabis Shop in Its Lobby?

Less than 24 hours after California’s Board of Cannabis Control released the state’s cannabis regulations, The Standard Hotel has announced the coming of the world’s first hotel lobby cannabis shop.

“The Standard and Lord Jones, makers of the world’s finest cannabis and CBD infused products, today announce a multifaceted brand partnership, which includes the opening of the nation’s first cannabis retail location inside of a hotel,” said a media release that came across the Leafly news desk this morning. “Lord Jones plans to launch its retail flagship within The Standard, Hollywood, in early 2018*.”

That asterisk there? It’s important. It reminds fine-print readers that the hotel lobby boutique is “subject to approval from regulatory authorities in California.” In other words, Lord Jones will have to obtain a California cannabis license before opening the doors. And that won’t be an easy task for anyone.


Video: Lord Jones Throws Cannabis-Infused Sound Bath Events and They’re Incredible

After consulting the hundreds of pages of regulations issued yesterday, our news team could find no specific reg that prohibits a hotel from opening a cannabis boutique within its lobby. The Standard Hollywood, located on LA’s Sunset Strip, is about a half-mile from the nearest school, which is more than legally adequate, although we don’t know if there’s a daycare nearby that might disqualify the location. And of course, the site would still need to obtain authorization from the city.

It’s not a bad idea, though. With its aggressively hip design and Sunset Strip location, The Standard seems a perfect location for the world’s first hotel cannabis shop. Pick up a little something in the lobby, head up to the hotel’s famous blue astroturf pool deck, and enjoy California’s finest product with some friends in the toasty sunshine. Or use the pool deck to host one of Lord Jones’s sound bath events.

Let us know when you get the license, The Standard. We’ll be there for the grand opening.

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California Releases Emergency Cannabis Regulations

California is racing toward the launch of a state-regulated cannabis market, with sales set to begin Jan. 1 despite a number of unanswered questions.


Confusion Coming With California’s Legal Cannabis

On Thursday, with less than a month and a half before the program is slated to be up and running, state regulators unveiled a long-awaited package of emergency rules that will guide the industry through the transition ahead. We’re poring over those documents and will update this page with key takeaways from the newly released guidelines.

Have questions? Let us know in the comment section.


San Francisco Almost Certainly Won’t Be Selling Cannabis on Jan. 1

Emergency Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulations

The Bureau of Cannabis Control released the following package of documents on its website:

This story will be updated.

When California Needs Cannabis Laws, it Calls This Highway Patrolman

During his 28 years with the California Highway Patrol, Tom Lackey spent much of his career on the overnight shift, “working as other people were asleep.”

Tom Lackey is emerging as the go-to Republican on cannabis issues. The former cop is now defending California’s legal, regulated system.

He cruised highways near the Southern California desert communities of Palmdale and Lancaster, responding to accidents and arresting drunken drivers or others impaired by substances ranging from booze to prescription drugs to hard narcotics.

Lackey long opposed marijuana legalization, including California’s adult-use initiative last year. He saw cannabis as just one more intoxicant that could make the roads less safe.

These days, Lackey, 58, is a Republican State Assemblyman, elected in 2014 and lauded by the California Police Chiefs Association two years later as its “Legislator of the Year” for his advocacy of measures to combat drugged driving.

Lackey’s bill would make CHP responsible for keeping cannabis in-state.

He is now sponsoring legislation that would empower his former agency – the California Highway Patrol – to lead state law enforcement efforts against unlicensed cannabis traffickers shipping millions of tons out of California on interstate highways.

But Lackey’s story isn’t just a predicable tale of another tough-on-cannabis cop.

For starters, he’s no die-hard prohibitionist. In fact, Lackey is emerging in Sacramento as the state’s go-to-Republican on cannabis policy in a deep-blue state with America’s largest marijuana economy.

Even as Lackey advances a plan to target illicit traffickers, he’s evolved into an ebullient advocate for a state-regulated cannabis economy.

That’s largely due to an epiphany Lackey experienced a few years ago, when the wife of his longtime CHP patrol partner battled cancer.


Sticker Shock Coming With California’s New Cannabis Market

‘I Became a Believer’

“My perspective changed because I had a personal friend who had her third battle with breast cancer and she had a real need for medical marijuana,” Lackey said in a recent interview. “There are people who have the need for the unique things that cannabis brings. I wasn’t a believer. I became a believer.”

‘Without this structure in place, it’s advantage black marketers. Clearly, we need to wake up.’

Tom Lackey, California state assemblyman

In July, Lackey penned an opinion piece for The Hill, Washington DC’s political outlet, arguing against federal interference in state-regulated cannabis economies.

He touted his work representing law enforcement agencies while helping craft the package of state medical marijuana regulations signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015. Those MMJ regulations, which are being woven into the state’s new regulatory framework, are scheduled to take effect in early 2018. “If done thoughtfully and deliberately, the public safety benefits of a well-regulated cannabis market could work well in states across the nation,” Lackey wrote.

He also endorsed the tax revenue benefits of “sensible cannabis policy reform.”

“Protecting California’s right to regulate a legal cannabis industry within our borders,” he wrote, “is not a ‘red or blue’ issue.”


Recreational Marijuana Rules Rile Cannabis-Friendly San Francisco

Keeping Cannabis in California

In September, at the close of California’s 2017 legislative session, Lackey introduced Assembly Bill 1733. The bill, still light on details and due to be reintroduced in January, is based on Lackey’s belief that California Highway Patrol officers policing interstate highways have a role to play in protecting intrastate commerce.

Lackey’s bill matters because California grows four times as much cannabis as it consumes. A crackdown on that out-of-state diversion is likely coming.

The measure would direct the CHP and patrol officers operating out of 102 California field offices to coordinate with state and local law enforcement agencies to target out-bound shipments of marijuana from traffickers with little interest in complying with a state-regulated market.

His bill also calls for law enforcement collaboration in identifying potentially illicit transportation of cannabis that crosses county lines in California without state or local license under the regulated industry.

“Without this structure in place,” Lackey said, “it’s advantage black marketers. Clearly, we need to wake up.”


In California, This Candidate Hopes a Cannabis Tax Plan Boosts His Profile

20% Stays, 80% Leaves the State

California’s farms have long been renowned for shipping cannabis across America as illicit operators seek maximum profits from inflated street prices in states with strict marijuana prohibition or tighter restrictions on permitted cannabis sales.

Khurshid Khoja: Shrinking black market helps licensed growers.

In January, an economic study commissioned by the state Department of Food and Agriculture estimated that California residents consume 2.5 million pounds of cannabis annually. The report said that’s less than one-fifth of the state’s estimated 13.5 million pounds in total production, meaning that more than 80 percent may be headed elsewhere.

Lackey said a coordinated law enforcement effort, with the CHP directing efforts to share information between police agencies, is needed to protect legal operators, California’s tax revenues and public safety. He also says he doesn’t want the Justice Department, under anti-cannabis Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to exploit black market trafficking as an excuse to target California’s legal market.

“Unless we can convince the federal government that we’re doing our due diligence, we’re asking for problems,” he said.

Growers Are Considering the Bill

Cannabis advocates are cautiously mulling whether to support his bill on grounds that improving inter-agency police communications could stop wrongful raids on state- and locally-permitted cannabis operators.

Last summer, the California Growers Association industry group complained over the lack of information sharing after armed game wardens for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife raided cannabis farms in the north coast Emerald Triangle that were in the process of obtaining local cultivation and state water permits.

Lackey recognizes that cannabis is not like alcohol, and considers CBD ‘a real blessing’ for medical patients.

“There is nobody really going after this (black market) activity in a strategic manner,” said Hezekiah Allen, a former Humboldt County cannabis farmer who is executive of director of the California Growers Association. “From our perspective there is one word that makes this bill palatable – collaborate – because already this year we have seen people in… permitting programs subjected to paramilitary raids.

“We’re not quite ready to have an opinion on this bill. But we are interested in guidance on what law enforcement may look like in the age of regulation.”

Attorney Khurshid Khoja, a board member for the California Cannabis Industry Association, wants more details on Lackey’s proposal and his organization hasn’t taken a position. But he is also cautiously intrigued.

“Anything that helps to curb the black market is a boon to licensing taxpaying businesses,” Khoja said.

Meanwhile, John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers Association, said the organization supports the bill. He says the CHP-coordinated effort could identify businesses that pose as compliant state operators while secretly diverting cannabis into the illicit market.

“You’re going to have people using the cover of their license to in effect ship out of state,” Lovell warned.


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‘I Want to ID Impairment, Not Use’

For his part, Lackey said, the bill needs to be negotiated and built-out in the upcoming session. It currently provides no additional funding for the black-market enforcement push and lacks details on how police coordination would work.

Last summer, Lackey also introduced legislation that, if resurrected next year, could appoint the state’s highway patrol commissioner to head a task force on identifying field testing techniques to detect drugged driving, including for cannabis.

Lackey supports research into saliva-testing technology that can detect THC. But he also expresses concerns over whether the test results may determine actual impairment, not just residues in the body. He calls for more thorough study.

“Cannabis is different,” Lackey said. “It’s not like alcohol. I want to identify impairment – in bold letters – vs. simple usage.”

On a personal level, Lackey admits he hasn’t a clue as to what impairment may feel like. He neither drinks nor expects to try cannabis anytime soon.

But he has come something of a cannabis student. He says he reads up on the medicinal benefits of non-psychoactive cannabis CBD, “a real blessing,” he calls it. He eagerly shares the story of the wife of his former patrol partner finding relief through marijuana.

And he expects to stay involved in cannabis-related legislation as California’s regulated market matures.

“There are some people who hear the word ‘cannabis’ and want to run away,” Lackey said. “It’s one of those issues we need to understand. So we’ve got work to do.”

“I may never consume it. But it’s kind of habit forming for me in a different way.”


Finding the ‘Green Zone’: How Specialty Realtors Are Cashing in on Cannabis


San Francisco Almost Certainly Won’t Be Selling Cannabis on Jan. 1

SAN FRANCISCO—If you booked a New Year’s trip to San Francisco—the birthplace of medical cannabis in America and the first city in the country to experiment with the concept of retail sales—in order to celebrate the dawn of the recreational marijuana era in California, it’s time to update your itinerary.

“It’s embarrassing that we probably won’t be ready on Jan. 1.”

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors failed to come to terms on regulations for the nascent industry at a meeting Tuesday. Amid criticism and controversy—and bowing at least in part to pressure from vocal neighborhood activists opposed to retail sales—the lawmakers elected to delay further discussion of cannabis rules for two weeks, until Nov. 28.

The move means San Francisco will almost certainly be sitting on the runway Jan. 1, when California’s first state-licensed cannabis stores open for business.

“It’s embarrassing that we probably won’t be ready on Jan. 1,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) told Leafly.


Recreational Marijuana Rules Rile Cannabis-Friendly San Francisco

After a solid majority of California voters legalized adult-use cannabis last November, the onus has shifted to California cities and counties to pass rules for how and where retail marijuana stores and other cannabis businesses would be allowed to operate. Many of the state’s thousand-plus existing medical marijuana dispensaries are eligible for state permits to sell either medical or recreational marijuana under new regulations—but only if they also receive local approval.

The earliest the city could see a licensed store open for business is Jan. 5.

San Francisco lawmakers were scheduled to decide on a pair of proposals Tuesday, including one with zoning controls so strict it would have made it next to impossible for any new cannabis retail outlets to open in the densely populated city.

Barring extreme parliamentarian gymnastics, the very earliest the city could see a licensed store open for business is Jan. 5. Likelier than that, some observers say, is lawmakers passing the buck to voters, who could be asked to approve commercial cannabis rules at the ballot in June’s primary election.

“We’ve already had three … hearings, and we haven’t been able to move anything forward for these past two weeks,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, sponsor of a proposal that would have allowed San Francisco’s roughly three-dozen existing medical dispensaries to start selling cannabis to all adults 21 and over on Jan. 1 under provisional permits.


California Unveils Temporary Licenses to Allow Early 2018 Retail Sales

Concerns over racial and socioeconomic equity scotched that proposal—a competing proposal was just as unpalatable to Sheehy and other supporters of the marijuana industry. That plan included stricter-than-ever land-use restrictions, including prohibitions on placing retail marijuana outlets near day-care centers and as a complicated web of neighborhood carve-outs, local caps on dispensaries, and other various other restrictions.

“We’re still stuck on land use—and we didn’t even talk about it” on Tuesday, an incredulous Sheehy told Leafly News on Tuesday evening. “We have not been able to move anything forward for two weeks, and with Thanksgiving coming, I don’t see how we’re going to move anything forward in the interim.”

“We have the exact situation we were trying to avoid: a fire drill.”

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)

Another possibility: Either the cannabis industry or marijuana-hating agitators collect signatures and put competing referendums before voters next June.

At a press conference prior to the Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors vote, Wiener, the state senator and a former San Francisco lawmaker, threatened a ballot initiative if the restrictive proposal passed the board.

Before Wiener decamped to the state Legislature, he put in place a system to ready San Francisco for legalization, creating a task force responsible for recommending rules to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors on how to regulate recreational sales. The task force presented its findings in January.


Leafly List: The Best Cannabis Dispensaries in Northern California, Fall 2017

“And as far as I can tell, a good eight or nine months went by and nothing happened,” Wiener told Leafly News. “Now we have the exact situation we were trying to avoid: a fire drill.”

It’s a surprising and demoralizing setback for the legal cannabis industry in San Francisco, where 74% of voters supported Prop. 64, last year’s legalization ballot measure. Medical marijuana has been openly sold and dispensed in San Francisco since the early 1990s, years before California first-in-the-nation statewide medical-marijuana initiative passed in 1996.

The city isn’t alone in its slow, reluctant approach to legalization. As of Tuesday, none of California’s major cities have put regulations in place for the first day of sales, although San Diego may be the closest. In the Bay Area, the only dispensaries that say they are guaranteed to sell to all adults 21 and over, no medical-marijuana recommendation required, are in Berkeley.


Confusion Coming With California’s Legal Cannabis

Of the three other states to legalize adult-use last November—Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—only Nevada, where retail dispensaries opened on the Las Vegas Strip in July, has recorded a sale.

Cannabis industry advocates present at Tuesday’s hearings saw the delay as a blessing. No regulations are better than bad regulations, they said—for now, at least.

“At this point, we just need good policy,” said Stephanie Tucker, a consultant active with the San Francisco Cannabis Retail Alliance, a loose organization of medical-cannabis dispensary permit-holders. “If that means we have to go to the ballot, we go to the ballot. This can’t go forward in its current form.”

“We have to be able to grow as an industry,” she added. “We’re not even five minutes old, and all they’re thinking is restriction, restriction, restriction.”


Leslie Bocskor: Nevada ‘Best Regulatory Framework in the World’

Others say the fumble by San Francisco—with its massive 4/20 celebration every year, its cannabis-friendly atmosphere, and a long history of leadership on weed—sets bad precedent in California, where dozens of the state’s 400-plus cities have passed severe restrictions or bans on commercial marijuana activity in advance of the legal market’s launch.

“San Francisco should not be setting a bad example and encouraging more communities to do the same,” Wiener said. “The rest of the state is looking at San Francisco, and if San Francisco is shutting down this industry, why would any other city do differently?”

Recreational Marijuana Rules Rile Cannabis-Friendly San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Famously pro-cannabis San Francisco, where the 4/20 marijuana holiday is celebrated with a group smoke-out on Hippie Hill, is having a surprisingly difficult time establishing regulations for the broad legal market coming to California in January.


Confusion Coming With California’s Legal Cannabis

Writing local rules in the cannabis-friendly city has taken a contentious turn as critics, many of them older Chinese immigrants who oppose marijuana use, try to restrict where products can be sold.

“Cannabis is effectively legal now and the sky hasn’t fallen. A lot of the information people have been given is completely false.”

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy

Divided San Francisco supervisors are scheduled to take up the issue at a board meeting Tuesday, where they may vote on a stop-gap measure to allow the sale of recreational cannabis through existing medical marijuana outlets on Jan. 1 as they continue to figure out where to allow new stores.

The possibility of overly strict regulations has businesses fretting over access and some San Franciscans wondering what happened to the counter-culture, anti-Prohibition city they know and love. The smell of cannabis being smoked is not uncommon in certain neighborhoods and parks.

“Let’s be honest: Cannabis is effectively legal now and the sky hasn’t fallen. A lot of the information people have been given is completely false,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who uses medical marijuana to mitigate pain from older HIV medications.


Leafly List: The Best Cannabis Dispensaries in Northern California, Fall 2017

He and others are calling for keeping recreational retail stores 600 feet (183 meters) away from schools, comparable to the radius required of stores that sell liquor or tobacco. Medical marijuana dispensaries are required to be at least 1,000 feet (305 meters) away from schools and recreation centers that primarily serve minors.

But some Chinese-American organizations have pushed back, calling for an outright prohibition on retail stores in San Francisco’s Chinatown. They want future retail stores to be at least 1,500 feet (460 meters) away from schools, child-care centers and any other place minors gather. Supervisors are considering a 1,000-foot (305-meter) buffer that cannabis advocates say is too restrictive for a city as compact as San Francisco.

“We’re not just legislators. We are group therapists for 850,000 people.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin

Ellen Lee, family social worker at the nonprofit San Francisco Community Empowerment Center, which has helped lead the protests, said most of the people opposed to recreational cannabis are elderly and speak little to no English. She said children are impressionable and must be protected from a drug that remains illegal under federal law, and she is frustrated by elected officials.

“We have been meeting with them and talking to them,” she said, “but they are not listening.”

Chinese-Americans are an integral part of San Francisco’s history and they carry political clout in a city where one-third of its 850,000 residents are Asian and Chinese-Americans are the largest Asian sub-group. The mayor is Chinese-American, as are other elected officials in the city.


6 Ways to Advocate for a Pro-Cannabis Local Government

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said Monday he has a holdover measure that will allow 46 existing medical marijuana facilities to sell to adults while the board takes more time to hash out zoning regulations. He said that would allow people plenty of places to buy cannabis come Jan. 1.

Peskin, who represents the Chinatown district, said he expects the board will come up with a resolution that satisfies most people in the diverse city.

“We’re not just legislators. We are group therapists for 850,000 people and understanding what their concerns are, whether we agree or disagree, and addressing them respectfully is very important in the legislative process,” he said.

6 Ways to Advocate for a Pro-Cannabis Local Government

The clock is ticking in California as months dissolve into weeks leading up to the Jan. 1 launch of an adult-use cannabis market. While the state Bureau of Cannabis Control will impose regulations on the newly legal industry, many of California’s nearly 600 municipalities are scrambling to enact their own guidelines that could mean life or death for local businesses.


Confusion Coming With California’s Legal Cannabis

Rules adopted at the city and county level will, in many ways, shape the face of the state’s cannabis industry—and could make or break a would-be business. Not only do state regulators require local authorization to grant a cannabis business license, but beyond that, local ordinances often dictate crucial elements of business operations, such as zoning restrictions and additional tax requirements.

“We’re going from a culture of hiding to all of a sudden being a culture of inviting.”

Gavin Kogan , Grupo Flor

That’s why legislative advocates, cannabis activists and consultants alike are encouraging everyone in the cannabis business to engage with their local governments.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Gavin Kogan, an attorney and a co-founder of cannabis consortium Grupo Flor. “If you’re in the pot industry, you’re in politics.”

Leafly spoke with industry experts on how to best rally support of local officials as members of an industry that’s long carried social stigma. The first step? Don’t be intimidated.


Leafly List: The Best Cannabis Dispensaries in Northern California, Fall 2017

1 Show Up! Be Visible!

If you’re struggling to find a good place to begin your political career, start small. Make a call to your representative or show up at City Council meeting. Speak up during the appropriate comment period, said Amy Jenkins, a longtime legislative advocate for cannabis in California, or request a meeting to speak one-on-one with the appropriate municipal official. Don’t forget to follow up!

Don’t stop there. Keep writing letters and meeting with community members—especially those who aren’t so sure about cannabis, said Kogan. Be available to share helpful, relatable information—tidbits, he said, like: For every dollar earned in the cannabis industry, ancillary businesses make $5.


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Advocacy takes time and energy, so make sure you’re reaching out to the right local agency. If you’re operating in an unincorporated county area, you’ll want to focus efforts on the Board of Supervisors. If you’re in a city, it’ll be the City Council. (Most local governments have staffers who can help direct you to the appropriate departments.)

2. Build Relationships

Engagement means more than speaking your mind. It also entails doing your homework on politicians and supporting—financially or otherwise—those who favor cannabis causes. Reach out to those officials, community leaders, and others, Jenkins said, to allow them to ask questions and better familiarize themselves with the cannabis space and how you operate.


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3. Know Your Audience

Most government officials will need a good reason to support cannabis-friendly policies. That’s why Jenkins suggests familiarizing yourself with your mayor, City Council members, and/or county supervisors. Learn what their interests are in order to better understand how to speak to their values. For example, a councilmember who puts a priority on public safety may respond more favorably if you’re able to explain how regulating cannabis businesses can reduce risks to the public.

“When you go in and understand what makes a policymaker tick, you’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck,” she said.

In Santa Ana, for example, the city is considering expanding commercial cannabis activity and has also prioritized securing funding for youth and afterschool programs, Jenkins explained. The situation could be an opportunity for cannabis advocates to bring up revenue opportunities presented by the legal cannabis industry, Jenkins said, and highlight its potential benefits to the greater community.


Liberty, Jobs, & Freedom: How Cannabis Became a Conservative Issue

Get to know officials’ staff as well, encouraged Kogan. These behind-the-scenes personnel serve as gatekeepers to the higher ups, he explained, and in many instances will even outlast their bosses.

4. Care About More Than Cannabis

While attending cannabis-related meetings is a no-brainer, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re concerned with the community—not just with issues that impact you directly, said John Kabateck, executive director of Kabateck Strategies.

“The most important thing you can do is get to know the people and the organizations in your surrounding community.”

Kabateck, Kabateck Strategies

From City Council discussions on the success of small businesses to neighborhood hearings around public safety, events are an opportunity to make yourself visible as an advocate for the community. Get involved with groups like the local chamber of commerce, the Boys & Girls Club, or other philanthropic organizations—and do it with a “sincere heart,” said Kabateck.

“Even before getting to know your legislators, your council members … the most important thing you can do is get to know the people and the organizations in your surrounding community,” he said.


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5. School Your Officials

You’ve probably been told that spiders are as afraid of you as you are of them. The same often goes for government officials. While members of cannabis industry may not always know how to navigate bureaucracy or approach local officials, Jenkins said, those officials themselves often don’t know much about marijuana businesses.

Jenkins said she met recently with a Northern California mayor, for example, who didn’t understand even the most fundamental aspects of the trade, from the different license categories to the range of products. “The level of understanding is really alarming,” she said.


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And because many small governments have no incentive to educate themselves on the benefits of cannabis, it’s often up to the cannabis community to teach them. Invite your local representative to tour your grow or witness the extraction process, suggested Kogan, or have the fire department over to see firsthand the safety precautions you’ve put in place.

“We’re going from a culture of hiding,” he said, “to all of a sudden being a culture of inviting.”

6. Form a United Front

Put aside disagreements or business competition and join forces with others in your local cannabis community. Identify a few common goals and meet with lawmakers as a group, said Jenkins. “Don’t make policymakers have to choose amongst you.”

Jenkins said she saw the power of group advocacy firsthand when she formed the Cannabis Caucus, an organization of 13 lobbying firms with cannabis clients that came together to rally for change at the state level in California. Groups in other parts of the state have formed their own industry associations as well, from the Southern California Coalition to the Sonoma County Growers Alliance.


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Even if you don’t form an official organization, there are plenty of other ways to work together. It can be as simple, Kabateck said, as inviting industry members to a roundtable or informal coffee meeting with community members and officials to share experiences and ideas.

While grassroots advocacy isn’t always the sexiest of endeavors, it’s key to securing good policy around legal cannabis. After all, local regulations will affect you whether or not you’re a part of the process. If you care about what the future of California cannabis looks like—or how the industry will impact you—now’s the time to get involved.

In California, This Candidate Hopes a Cannabis Tax Plan Boosts His Profile

California’s “other” pro-cannabis candidate for governor, state Treasurer John Chiang, took to the stage earlier this week before a circle of television cameras at the state capitol.

It was a rare moment in the spotlight for Chiang, 55, the state’s chief numbers cruncher. Bespectacled and cerebral, his demeanor comes across as consistently calm and measured.

‘Cerebral’ and ‘measured’ are great qualities in a treasurer. But are they enough to get John Chiang elected governor?

Those are desired qualities in a treasurer, but it remains to be seen if they work to his benefit in a gubernatorial race against the charismatic, high-profile Gavin Newsom, and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Newsom, the stylishly coiffed lieutenant governor known for his early advocacy of same-sex marriage, gun control and cannabis legalization, hasn’t yet confirmed his candidacy to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown, but all indications point to an announcement sometime in early 2018.

Meanwhile, Chiang is already up and running, with a website that promises “A Different Road for California.” Villaraigosa is also in the game at Antonio for California.

Mr. Charismatic vs. Mr. Technocratic

When it comes to cannabis, Newsom and Chiang have taken on roles that reflect their contrasting leadership styles. Newsom was the highly public face of Amendment 64 during last year’s campaign, while Chiang has worked behind the scenes this year to create a financial infrastructure that will allow the cannabis industry to safely thrive. Former Los Angeles mayor Villaraigosa offered a late endorsement for Proposition 64 but has generally kept a low profile on cannabis issues.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a non-announced candidate for California governor, speaks at a Nov. 9, 2016, news conference after California voters legalized marijuana. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

For the past year, Chiang has headed California’s 18-member Cannabis Working Group, a panel mapping out banking solutions for the Golden State’s legal cannabis sector – a teeming $2.6 billion industry, awash in cash, with limited options for handling financial transactions.

Earlier this week, Chiang delivered the group’s recommendations. He warned of security challenges and public safety risks if California fails to enact remedies to offer banking services for the industry, as well as develop secure measures to collect as much as $1 billion in state taxes.

In California, where the cannabis sector is expected to reach $7 billion once legal adult use sales are in full effect, Chiang said transactions “are expected to exceed movie tickets, potato chips…and eventually girl scout cookies.”

He added: “The simple act of paying taxes can be a nightmare.”


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Idea: A Vast Fleet of Armored Cars

So Chiang’s committee proposed a vast fleet of state-licensed private armored couriers to fan out across California to make secure cash pick-ups at state licensed cannabis dispensaries, farms and manufacturers.

They would deliver hard-cash tax revenue to ‘smart safes’ around the state.

In their vision, the fleet of couriers would safely deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees to secured “smart safes” attached to the city, county, and state agencies that tax and regulate cannabis businesses.

Chiang’s courier plan was one of many proposals presented in a 28-page report released by the treasurer’s cannabis banking group.


Would a ‘Public Cannabis Bank’ Really Work in California?

Idea: A State-Run Public Bank

The report also calls for additional studies on the feasibility of creating a California framework to provide financial services to the industry.

Without committing to a specific plan, the report advises more research into the feasibility of a state-run “public bank” serving cannabis businesses or a state-regulated private credit union or a public-private consortium that would coordinate and expand financial services for those businesses.

Chiang also proposed a multi-state lobbying effort by legal cannabis states for serious financial reforms, including rolling back federal marijuana prohibition to help make them happen.

“Washington has scared off so many banks,” Chiang said. “They fear doing business with cannabis operators will bring down the wrath of the federal government and law enforcement.”

He added: “The reality is that a definite, bullet-proof solution will remain elusive until the federal government removes cannabis from its official list of banned narcotics or Congress approves ‘safe harbor’ legislation protecting banks that serve cannabis businesses from prosecution.”


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Idea: Raise John Chiang’s Profile

Chiang’s effort to bring financial services to California’s cannabis industry is expected to increase his credibility among cannabis advocates in his underdog bid for governor in 2018.

Democratic political consultant Garry South, who represented Newsom before the San Francisco’ mayor abandoned an earlier run for governor in 2010, said Chiang could project fiscal competence to voters as California seeks to regulate its massive cannabis economy.

Fiscal competence is Chiang’s strong card. ‘He obviously has the best background’ on money issues.

Garry South, Democratic political consultant

“He’s a tax attorney, the state controller for eight years and now treasurer,” South said. “I think it is pretty obvious he has the best background on fiscal issues. I think he can play to the marijuana issue on the revenue side, on how we tax it and how we regulate it.”

While Newsom was the public face of the successful 2016 campaign to pass California’s adult use legalization measure, Proposition 64, Chaing was decidedly more cautious during the campaign. He said he leaned in favor of the initiative and supported private legal use of cannabis.


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He also said he wanted to ensure cannabis products were “properly regulated with the appropriate transparency, including adequate disclosure of THC content” and said local governments should be able to impose “appropriate limits” on marijuana sales and where – and whether – to allow them.

Now, with voters having overwhelmingly passed the initiative, Chaing says he wants to help them secure banking and financial services available to other legal businesses.

It Takes 5 Hours to Count $300,000

Because of federal prohibition, and fears of money-laundering laws that may consider cannabis business deposits as illegal transactions, many banks are unwilling to accept industry accounts or provide loans or other routine business services.

In 2014, the United States Treasury Department sought to ease rules for financial institutions wanting to service state-licensed marijuana businesses.  But those efforts, which required financial institutions to file “suspicious activity reports” for cannabis accounts, failed to diminish uncertainty over servicing marijuana businesses.

And for the limited number of banks and credit unions that decided to accept cannabis business deposits, Chaing said, “It can take five hours for bank employees to count $300,000 in cash – and that’s with machinery most banks don’t have.”

Former Los Angeles major Antonio Villaraigosa: Cannabis isn’t his issue. (Photo courtesy ‘Antonio for California’)

Unions Praise the Armored Cars

After six public hearings by the Cannabis Business Group, including state and county officials, industry representatives, law enforcement, banking industry representatives and financial regulators, Chaing’s still-to-be fleshed out courier plan was the closest thing to a concrete proposal.

‘Cannabis workers are moms and dads, members of our community who want to get home safely at the end of each day.’

James Araby, UFCW Official

But the concept drew praise from James Araby, Western States Council executive director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is organizing cannabis industry employees in several legal use states. Araby praised Chaing for taking a leadership role in “thoughtful policy discussions” that can protect workers in cash-heavy businesses that have occasionally faced armed robberies or violence.

“UFCW cannabis workers know first-hand that federal banking prohibitions can make cannabis workplaces targets for crime,” Araby said. “Cannabis workers are moms and dads, members of our community who want to get home safely at the end of each day.”

Public Banks Could Be a Harder Sell

Chaing’s hope to create a cannabis-friendly banking system in California may depend on the outcome of the working group’s other recommendation: a massive lobbying effort to remove federal banking obstacles.

Chaing announced Tuesday that six states – California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Pennsylvania – have signed letters of intent to join a “Cannabis Banking Consortium” to lobby Congress and the Trump administration to open the banking system to state-permitted marijuana businesses.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions “staunchly opposes state cannabis legalization,” Chiang’s report says. “Thus, federal policy on cannabis banking could turn more hawkish.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“The cannabis industry operates chiefly in cash, just as it did when it was in the illegal market,” the report said. “The lack of banking services is not just a California problem – it is a major concern of each of the 29 states the District of Columbia that have broadly legalized medical use or both medical and recreational use of cannabis.”

The report additionally warned of new federal hostility to financial reforms to facilitate state-regulated cannabis industries.

“Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions staunchly opposes state cannabis legalization and has asked Congress to lift restrictions against prosecuting businesses and individuals that comply with state cannabis laws,” it reads. “Thus, federal policy on cannabis banking could turn more hawkish.”

Putting Pressure on Congress

The lobbying effort to influence federal banking policy is to be joined by California cannabis industry groups, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the California Bankers Association, the California and Nevada Union Credit League as well as the California Association of Counties, and the League of California cities.

Many local governments in California raced to ban commercial cannabis businesses after state voters’ approved Proposition 64. But Matt Cate, executive director of association of counties, joined Chiang on Tuesday to applaud the report’s efforts to seek remedies for collecting local taxes where such businesses are permitted.

Chiang is seen as a solid, center-left Democrat in a state that has moved very far to the left.

Attorney Khurshid Khoja, a board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association, said “the lack of fair and equitable access to banking services threatens…to upend the will of California voters” who passed Proposition 64.

While cautious on 64, Chiang is seen as a solid, center-left Democrat in a state that “has moved very far to the left,” South said.

He has lower name recognition than Newsom or Villaraigosa. But may appeal to centrist voters as well as other turned off by the flamboyance of the top contenders – with both Newsom and Villaraigosa having faced criticism over highly-publicized romantic affairs during their political careers.

“I think you have to look at John Chaing as the dark horse,” said South, who is skeptical that many California voters will make their gubernatorial choice based on cannabis issues.

“I don’t think there are points to be scored by any of these candidates as to who was for marijuana first or who is the strongest,” South said. “Californians have already passed legalization with Proposition 64 and medical marijuana. This is a settled issue.”


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One Strain Five Ways: Sour Diesel in California

California loves Sour Diesel, and it shows in the sheer variety of flower, concentrates, and even clones found on the market. Below, meet a classic eighth from Mendocino, a terp-heavy shatter, organically grown clones, a three-pack of half-gram joints, and a solventless whole-plant extract.

Note: Prices may vary by retailer.


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(Courtesy of Flow Kana)

Sustainably grown in small batches in the Emerald Triangle, Flow Kana’s pungent flower displays orange-tinged hairs and begets a clear, creative high. The nugs are packed into gold-lettered amber glass jars, which protect against cannabinoid-degrading UV rays.

Price: $30–$40

Notes: Grown by farmers at Shambhala Ranch in Mendocino County.

When to use it: Afternoon errands.

(Courtesy of Bayflower)

A hoppy, citrus-laden diesel scent and flavor are derived from high levels of the terpenes humulene, caryophyllene, and trans-nerolidol measured in this clear golden gram of high-potency shatter. In concentrated form, Sour Diesel’s energetic, cerebral buzz is intensified in a great way.

Price: $50

Notes: 85.7% THC, 2.9% CBD.

When to use it: Tackling a weekend art project.

(Courtesy of HendRx)

There’s no Sour D like your own Sour D. Grow it in your home garden with a clone from Humboldt County-based HendRx—they specialize in producing pesticide- and chemical-free cannabis plants, which are optimized for reliable cannabinoid and terpene production.

Price: $10

Notes: Grown with organic methods in Arcata, California.

When to use it: Starting your home grow.

(Courtesy of Lola Lola)

Everyone’s favorite whimsical cannabis brand rolls cones of their pungent, limonene-loaded Sour Diesel flower, packaging them up in three-packs with a total of 1.5g euphoria-inducing cannabis flower per pack. They come in their own gorgeous slide-open box that fits perfectly into a purse or back pocket, but are also packaged in individual tubes so you can easily gift them to others.

Price: $20

Notes: 18.2% THC, 0.04% CBD.

When to use it: Post-happy hour, shared around a circle of friends.

(Courtesy of Nasha)

Extracted from whole buds without the use of solvents (cold water does the trick), Nasha’s glittery concentrate displays sour fruit and classic gasoline aromas and flavors when you dab it. The word Nasha means “the state of transformed consciousness; exhilaration or excitement of the mind” in Hindi, and this extract will do exactly that.

Price: $60

Notes: 73.7% THC.

When to use it: Your first dab at home after a long day of work.

California Proposes Armored Cars to Transport Cannabis Tax Money

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California should use armored cars to transport hundreds of millions of dollars in cash tax payments expected next year with the state’s legal marijuana market, the state treasurer said Tuesday.

The state on Jan. 1 will enter a new era with cannabis when recreational sales become legal and join the long-standing medical industry in what will become the largest U.S. legal pot economy.


Confusion Coming With California’s Legal Cannabis

But the new market estimated to grow to $7 billion annually has a troubling flaw: Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, so most banks won’t do business with growers, manufacturers or retailers. That means marijuana companies typically operate only in cash, including their tax payments that will be 15 percent of sales to the state of California.

State Treasurer John Chiang formed a task force to work on a solution for gathering the money because the state expects to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from cannabis sales next year.

The armored car tax collection solution came about amid fears that operators carrying large bags of cash could be targets for theft and create problems for the state workers collecting and counting the money.

In a report based on the findings of the state’s Cannabis Banking Working Group, Chiang also said that changes are needed in Washington to either legalize cannabis in the U.S., or shield financial institutions that serve the cannabis industry from possible prosecution.


Inside a Nerve-Rattling Trip to Pay Cannabis Taxes in Los Angeles

But that seems unlikely anytime soon, so the report recommended:

  • The state should work with banks to contract an armored courier service to collect tax payments made in cash from businesses, and shuttle those payments to a secure counting facility before it’s eventually deposited in state accounts. “Armored courier services would eliminate the need to directly handle large sums of cash at branch offices or open deposit accounts at financial institutions,” the report said. It wasn’t immediately clear who would pay for the service.
  • Conducting a study on the potential to create a public cannabis bank or other financial institution to serve the industry. The report warned that the obstacles to creating a public financial institution are “formidable,” including unknown startup costs, the probability of losses for several years or more that taxpayers would have to cover and trouble obtaining federal regulatory approval.
  • Forming a group of cannabis-friendly states, businesses and banks to push for changes in Washington for improved banking access for the industry that would reduce or eliminate the need for marijuana businesses to use cash.
  • To encourage greater access to banks, state and local governments should create an online portal to collect data on cannabis businesses. It would be designed to help banks assess potential customers and include licensing and regulatory information, data on key personnel, sources of supply and financial records.


Would a ‘Public Cannabis Bank’ Really Work in California?

Chiang warned in a letter accompanying the recommendations that “the clash between state and federal law threatens to cripple legal California cannabis businesses before they even get up and running.”

“The inability of cannabis operations to get banking services means that many of them may remain in the underground economy and not become transparent, regulated, tax-paying businesses, as California voters intended,” he said.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued guidelines to help banks avoid federal prosecution when dealing with marijuana businesses in states where the drug is legal.


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But most banks don’t see those rules as a legal protection against charges that could include aiding drug trafficking. And they say the rules are hard to follow, in effect placing the burden on banks to determine if a business is operating legally.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle cannabis money is growing. But they still represent only a tiny fraction of the industry.

Colorado tried in 2015 to set up a credit union to serve the marijuana industry but was blocked by the Federal Reserve.