Tag: Industry

TechCrunch Asks Cannabis Breathalyzer CEO ‘Why Are You Such a Narc?’

During the latest TechCrunch Disrupt event, one of the premier events for tech startups, TechCrunch Editor-At-Large Josh Constine wasted no time getting right to the point.

As he sat down to interview Mike Lynn, co-founder and CEO of Hound Labs, a startup in the process of developing the first reliable cannabis breathalyzer, Constine pulled no punches, asking, “Why are you such a narc?”

The question got a laugh from both the audience and Lynn, who then launched into an explanation of the benefits of having a reliable breathalyzer on the market.

“What we really try to do at Hound Labs is really be fair, to balance public safety and fairness because we need to have a standard,” he explained. “We don’t want people going around stoned behind the wheel, just like you can’t drive drunk.”


Should Alcohol and Cannabis Have Separate DUI Laws?

“But,” he pointed to the counterargument, “at the same time, you don’t want to start firing people or arresting people who aren’t impaired.”

Hound Labs raised $8.1 million in its latest round of funding, specifically for research related to this cannabis breathalyzer, but how does it work?

The machine is similar to an alcohol breathalyzer (and does calculate alcohol levels as well as THC), but the machine comes with single-use cartridges. When breath enters the cartridge, a chemical reaction separates THC molecules, allowing the calculation of THC levels.


Researchers Are One Step Closer to a THC Breathalyzer

The Hound Labs breathalyzer is currently only available to law enforcement agencies, a contrary point to Lynn’s vehement denial that he is, in fact, a narc. However, he is looking towards marketing the product for employers to help them recognize whether workers are actively impaired, which could save companies millions of dollars in drug tests costs.

So are cannabis breathalyzers for the best or for narcs? Truth be told, TechCrunch misspelled the word “nark” so who knows? Maybe they’re the ones to watch out for.

High Number of Applicants for Arkansas Medical Marijuana

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Would-be growers and distributors of Arkansas’ initial medical marijuana crop flooded a state office building Monday, turning in thousands of pages of paperwork and handing over thousands of dollars in application fees.

Applicants faced a three-hour wait ahead of Monday afternoon’s deadline, as their number greatly exceeded the clerks available to review paperwork to ensure it was complete. Those hoping to grow medical marijuana had to pay a $15,000 application fee, while potential distributors paid $7,500. Unsuccessful applicants will have half their money refunded.


After Weeks of Waiting, Arkansas Receives MMJ Dispensary Applications

Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said about 300 firms or individuals had submitted applications by the close of business Monday. Clerks were staying late to handle applications from those in the office by the deadline. About 100 people or firms sought to grow marijuana, with the others hoping to distribute it.

“If you can beat us at our game, I give you all the credit in the world.”

Chris Stone, Illinois dispensary operator

Arkansas voters last year approved marijuana use by people with certain medical conditions. The new state Medical Marijuana Commission will review applications after the names of companies and individuals have been redacted and then select up to five growers and 32 distributors. The Arkansas Health Department has approved 1,200 people for a medical marijuana registry, making them eligible to obtain the drug.

Applications from the potential growers and distributors were about 1,000 pages long, on average. Several who dropped off applications elected not to identify themselves publicly, while others spoke openly about why they considered their applications worthy.

“If you can beat us at our game, I give you all the credit in the world,” said Chris Stone, who operates two dispensaries in Illinois. He has teamed with a pair of Arkansas pharmacists and wants to grow marijuana in the rich, agricultural lands near Brinkley and distribute marijuana at a dispensary on the east side of Jonesboro.


Arkansas Has Received Zero Applications to Grow or Dispense Medical Cannabis

He said his firm failed in a previous attempt to win a grower’s permit in Illinois, but took the feedback from that loss to fashion a pair of 1,800-page applications in Arkansas.

“Those with successes in other states probably have a leg up on those who are putting together an application for a first time,” he said.

Approval for medical marijuana passed with 53 percent of the vote last November, but the ballot issue lost in nearly half of the state’s 75 counties.

Jerry Cox, the president of the Arkansas Family Council, which opposed the effort, said his group would help leaders in cities and counties that don’t want marijuana operations nearby by suggesting language for local petitions. A provision in the medical marijuana law gives communities a local-option on allowing them — similar to allowing liquor sales in some Arkansas counties (called “wet”) and not in others (called “dry”).


Arkansas Expecting 20,000-40,000 Medical Marijuana Patient Applications

“There have been some communities that have expressed angst about there being a marijuana facility in their community. It’s only fair to give them a chance to opt out,” he said. “We have wet and dry counties. Why shouldn’t it be the same for marijuana?”

Hardin said there is no timetable for when applications must be approved or medical marijuana distributed.

Community Reeling After Washington Budtender Found Deceased

Members of Cheney, Washington’s cannabis community received news on Friday that their worst fears had been confirmed: Cameron Smith, the budtender who was abducted the previous weekend, had been found dead.


Washington Budtender Abducted, Still Missing

Smith’s body was discovered by Spokane County Rescue just off State Route 904 west of Cheney, near Four Lakes, on Sept. 15 around 3 p.m. Cheney PD described the location of Smith’s body as being “concealed in heavy cover” several feet from the roadway, near near where authorities last made contact with his cell phone and just south of where his vehicle was ultimately located, in Airway Heights.

Stacia Shirley, manager at Lucid Cheney, described the dispensary atmosphere upon hearing the news. “We’re just heartbroken,” she said.

The team at Lucid received word about an hour before the news was officially released to the media on Friday.


How a Cannabis Store Manager Foiled Armed Robbers in Seattle

Employees were sent screenshots of a Facebook update written by the suspect, 36-year-old Donovan Culps. “It was essentially a crazy written confession of guilt,” Shirley said. “Basically, ‘Yes, I did it, the two women weren’t involved.’ And the end, about how Cam was gone–‘Ain’t no coming back.’”

“He was a son, a father, a brother, an uncle, and a grandfather. He was a beautiful person doing the best he could do, and he was a good friend.”

Stacia Shirley, Lucid Store Manager

According to Shirley, Culps’ post on his private Facebook profile also indicated that he was ready to take on law enforcement. “He said they had a ‘shoot to kill warrant’ and that he was ready for it,” she explained.

Culps was apprehended on Thursday in Goldendale, 240 miles south of Cheney, near the Washington–Oregon border. The suspect was arrested after leading police on a chase that ended with Culps crashing into a tree. He was booked into Klickitat County Jail awaiting charges of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery. A Cheney police captain said last week that if Smith’s body were to be found, the charges would be upgraded to include first-degree murder.


Was That Seattle Cannabis Shop Robbery an Inside Job?

Law enforcement also apprehended Alisha Jackson, 18, for her presence during the abduction. She was already in police custody for separate charges but faces a federal charge of failing to report a felony. The third suspect, 18-year-old Violetta Culps, niece of Donovan Culps, has not been apprehended.

The team at Lucid has been reeling since Smith’s abduction, but Shirley told Leafly that they’ve all been trying to stay strong for Cam. “We’re just trying to push forward with a strong face, and that just shows what a strong influence he was on us. He would want us to stay strong,” she said.

Lucid has set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Smith’s family and help cover funeral costs. Shirley also asked that members of the cannabis community consider one of Smith’s biggest goals. “He always wanted to be [DOPE Industry Awards’] Budtender of the Year. It’s what he lived for and what he strived for, and now we’re trying to get him nominated.”

Shirley’s words echoed many of the sentiments expressed through the community on Lucid’s social media: “He was a son, a father, a brother, an uncle, and a grandfather. He was a beautiful person doing the best he could do, and he was a good friend.”

New Brunswick Announces $90 Million Cannabis Buy

Among the many questions facing Canadian provinces as the country speeds toward its July 1 cannabis-legalization deadline: Where will all this freshly legal recreational cannabis come from?

Late last week, New Brunswick stepped up with an answer, announcing multimillion-dollar deals with a pair of federally licensed medical marijuana producers. New Brunswick’s Organigram Holdings will supply the province with five million grams of cannabis a year, and Ontario’s Canopy Growth Corp. will provide an additional four million grams per year.

Together, the two producers will sell New Brunswick over $90 million worth of cannabis annually. “As part of their supply agreements with New Brunswick, Canopy and Organigram said they will help fund public education or social programs,” reports the Financial Post. (The Post also notes that shares of both Canopy and Organigram rose on the day of the deal’s announcement, “closing up by 2.09 per cent and 16.74 per cent, respectively.”)


Here’s How Canada Could Decriminalize Marijuana Right Now

Speaking to CBC News, Canopy Growth president Mark Zekulin expressed excitement about “one of the biggest drug deals in Canadian history,” while Organigram CEO Greg Engel noted the deal will require his company to double its number of employees over the next six to eight months.

Along with its humongous cannabis buy, New Brunswick also announced the creation of a new Crown corporation that will oversee—but not conduct—cannabis sales. “[T]he creation of this new provincial Crown corporation provides the flexibility and lays the groundwork for the eventual retail model once final decisions around that have been made,” Provincial Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said in a press release.


Does Cannabis Belong in Liquor Stores? Provinces Tussle Over an Answer

This “Crown corporation” model has already drawn criticism, with Tory MLA Ross Wetmore telling the CBC that such a model requires the government to assume the costs of distribution and all liability for sales. “We don’t know how the sales are going to go, it’s going to be legal all across the country,” he said. “People aren’t going to flock to New Brunswick.”

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Medical Society praised the arrangement as the best approach for regulating recreational cannabis sales. “We reiterate our recommendation that, unlike NB Liquor, the corporation managing the sale of cannabis should not be profit-driven or subject to a profit target established by the provincial government,” said Dr. Dharm Singh, president-elect of the society, in a statement to the CBC.

Stay tuned for specifics on how and where New Brunswick’s $90 million worth of cannabis will be sold (and for how much).

From $600 to $5 Million in Three Years: Smoke Cartel’s Story

Sean Geng and Darby Cox, at only 23 years old, have built Smoke Cartel into one of the most successful online head shops in a growing industry. Smoke Cartel is now a leading online retailer of glass water pipes, vaporizers, and any other smoking accessory you can think of, but it started off a lot smaller.

Smoke Cartel founders holding glass pipesSmoke Cartel’s founders Sean Geng and Darby Cox with some of the site’s wares. (Courtesy of Smoke Cartel)

Smoke Cartel was born in early 2014, when Geng and Cox were both students at Savannah College of Art and Design. The pair scraped together $600, bought some inventory, and started a small online glass business out of their apartment. By 2016, that business had grown to fill a 40,000 square foot warehouse and made $5 million in revenue.

Here are five factors that have helped them succeed along the way—and that they’re counting on to carry them further in the future.

Identify Your Market

“We saw a need in the industry for a clean, well-built, and professional online head shop,” says Cox. “The reaction we’ve gotten from customers shows that many other people saw that need as well.”


Top 10 Glass Brands to Watch for in 2017

Smoke Cartel’s founders feel there are a few things that set them apart from the growing pack of online head shops:  great customer service, fast and dependable shipping, and transparency in an industry that, despite burgeoning legalization efforts across the country, is subject to more than its share of scrutiny.

“Even though Smoke Cartel doesn’t touch the plant itself, our business is closely associated with cannabis, and it’s certainly not something we shrink from,” adds Geng. “That has forced us to confront numerous challenges, such as not being able to rely on advertising tools like Facebook or use Google AdWords.”

Be a Change Agent

Those challenges, though, have forced Smoke Cartel’s founding partners to get creative when it comes to getting the word out about their business. It’s also turned the duo into advocates and educators for the cannabis industry.

“As we were getting Smoke Cartel off the ground, we were turned down for leases because of what we do and encountered plenty of banks that initially didn’t want to do business with us,” says Cox. “We’ve had to do a lot of work to overcome that stigma, but ultimately it’s been really inspiring seeing individuals who originally thought negatively of our industry begin to embrace it.”

Inside Smoke Cartel's warehouseDarby Cox and Sean Geng show off the Smoke Cartel warehouse. (Courtesy of Smoke Cartel)

Sweat the Details

Another factor that has contributed to Smoke Cartel’s rise is a site that’s both user-friendly and analytically minded. Thanks to his experience as a programmer, Geng knew what he had to keep in mind when developing an e-commerce site—fast load times and optimizations that make it easy to find through search—and how to execute those features.


5 Traits to Look for in a Quality, Modern-Day Head Shop

“When you’re selling something on the web—especially something that most customers are accustomed to buying in person—every detail counts,” explains Geng. “From making sure that people can find you to creating a platform that’s easy to use to using data to be sure you have the things people want to buy on hand, you can’t leave anything to chance.”

Hire for Diverse Skillsets

While Geng spent his time focused on infrastructure and analytics, Cox took point on purchasing products, spearheading marketing efforts, and understanding their customers.  Though they now employee dozens of people, the complementary teamwork that shaped the company when it was just a two-person operation still drives their hiring practices.


10 Glass Brands Bubbling to the Top of Your ‘Must Try’ List

“We’ve built the company by finding people with different strengths who could support Smoke Cartel as it grows,” Cox points out.  “It is so key to find a reliable team that you trust, people will grow with you and support the company.”

Don’t Settle

As the industry grows and legalization expands across the country, Geng and Cox expect Smoke Cartel to continue growing with it. They’re always looking for opportunities to expand, but their top priority is always making their first product a little bit better every day.

“You also have to be constantly working to make things better for customers,” advises Geng. “I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with the our platform as-is. There’s always something to improve.”

5 Ways to Avoid Cannabis Stock Investment Scams

Let me tell you about a line I heard a few years ago: “The cannabis industry is so hot that even Warren Buffett is investing in it.”

That was the story penny stock promoters were telling back in 2014, when somebody realized that Cubic Designs, a subsidiary of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, was selling its mezzanine structures to growers to allow them to maximize production space.

If a company doesn’t file with the SEC, don’t take it seriously.

It was, to say the least, a bit of a stretch.

In my last column I shared some tips on investing in cannabis stocks but pointed out the need to watch out for landmines you may encounter, like fake news about Warren Buffett’s investments.

I often share Buffett’s famous quote when describing the quandary novice investors can face when they first jump into cannabis stocks. “If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is,” the Omaha Oracle once said, “you’re the patsy.”

With a goal of helping readers avoid being patsies for cannabis opportunists, I want to offer a few tips.


Investing in Cannabis? Ask These 3 Questions Before You Do

1. Read the Filings

When it comes to cannabis stocks, I have a very easy first rule: If the company doesn’t file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), don’t take it seriously.

Many cannabis stocks file at OTC Markets but not with the SEC, which requires more information.

If you rely only on press releases, you’ll only get positive spin from the companies that issue them.

It surprises many to learn that some of the most actively traded cannabis stocks have never filed with the SEC, including American Green (OTC: ERBB), Hemp, Inc. (OTC: HEMP) and Medical Marijuana, Inc. (MJNA).

If the company does file with the SEC, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t risky or isn’t a scam. Remember: Enron regularly filed with the SEC. But quarterly (10-Q) and annual (10-K) filings, as well as other types of filings are must-reads as part of any investor’s due diligence.
Other forms to know about: 8-Ks are important updates. Form 4s describe insider buying and selling. Proxies (DEF 14A) provide information about matters upon which shareholders vote, including changes in the authorized shares or stock splits or reverse splits, and detail insider ownership and compensation. The S-1 is used to register shares for sale by the company or by outside shareholders.

Too many cannabis stock investors skip this important step and miss out on the most helpful information. If you rely only on press releases, you’ll only get positive spin from the companies that issue them.

2. Verify Basic Facts

When I encounter a new cannabis stock, I visit the corporate website (after reading the filings!). Many of these pretend cannabis companies have terrible websites, which is an obvious red flag. If they look legitimate, I do a few things before continuing my research:

  • Look up the address. A virtual office or UPS store is a red flag.
  • Call the phone number. Does it go straight to voicemail? Not good.
  • Check for stock photos used in place of employees or company operations. Right-click on the image and choose “Search Google for image.” If the images show up all over the internet on different websites, the company may be trying to pull a fast one.

In addition to vetting the website, I like to review historical press releases from the company. What were they saying a year ago? Were they talking about the opportunities in 3-D printing before suddenly shifting into cannabis? Don’t laugh! That’s a true story.

More often than not, opportunists have promised the moon and not delivered. It’s easy to check the record.


How Cannabis Investors Can Confirm a Business License

 3. Research the Executives 

Most cannabis stocks are relatively new companies without extensive histories. That makes it hard to judge the prospects of the company.

Dig into the track records of the people running the company.

To overcome this lack of company-specific information, I dig into the track records of the people running the company.

If the CEO has worked for other penny stock companies, that’s a red flag. I recommend taking a look at the person’s profile on LinkedIn as a starting point. Then do an internet search to see if he or she is someone to trust with your investment. Bonus tip: Try to research the financiers behind the company, too.

4. Check for Stock Promotion

Stock promotion takes many forms, but the most pernicious is when companies (or company investors) pay for positive “news” or blast emails. StockPromoters.com—free but registration required—is a helpful tool to help you find out. But it’s not complete.

In the cannabis space, I recommend avoiding stocks promoted by MarijuanaStocks.com, which takes outrageous sums of money to say good things about bad companies.


Shh! Here’s How Cannabis Companies Are Banking Legally on the Down Low

5. Understand the Financials

This is the most important point. Unfortunately, it can also be the most difficult task for investors.

The number one reason penny stocks fail is their capital structure, as desperate executives take on convertible notes with terrible terms. This debt converts to equity based on a future price and can lead to what’s known as a “death spiral,” where a very small debt can result in the issuance of literally a billion shares, diluting or even wiping out existing shareholders.

Another trick of penny stock fraudsters is to create convertible preferred shares that mask the true equity of the company. Fortunately, savvy investors can read the filings to better understand these capital structure landmines.

The bottom line: Investing in cannabis can be a great opportunity, but a great many opportunists know this too.

Next up: Why cannabis investors need to think globally. Talk with you in two weeks.

Washington Labs Launch Effort to Address Credibility Crisis

In the wake of allegations that Washington state’s top cannabis lab was artificially inflating THC test results and improperly passing samples that should have failed microbial safety screenings, the sector has found itself facing a serious credibility crisis.

Only one lab, Peak Analytics, was alleged to have engaged in questionable lab practices, news first made public in a Leafly investigation. But the fact that the company’s shoddy test results went undetected by regulators for so long has spurred consumers and industry insiders alike to ask who, if anyone, was testing the testers. Some have openly wondered whether cannabinoid levels on product labels are even worth the paper they’re printed on.


Leafly Investigation: Is Washington’s Top Cannabis Lab Inflating THC Numbers?

Now a consortium of Washington state testing laboratories are taking matters into their own hands in an effort to win back trust.

After the initial lab exposé went live, The Cannabis Alliance (TCA), a Washington trade association, invited all the state’s 18 licensed cannabis-testing labs to a meeting. According to Nick Mosely, co-owner of Confidence Analytics, 10 labs attended the meeting, held in the central Washington city of Ellensburg.

“We need the trust of the producer-processors if we’re going to benefit our businesses and our business relationships,” Mosely, Confidence Analytics’ chief science officer and a TCA board member, told me. “Beyond that, obviously the consumers care and are interested in lab testing and what it means for the quality of the product.”

Allegations that Peak Analytics had artificially sweetened THC test results, published as part of a Leafly investigation, have raised questions about reliability of testing data. (Amy Phung/Leafly)

The group of testers arrived at a plan to measure themselves against one another. They settled on a round-robin model, in which each lab would receive blinded, pre-tested samples from one of TCA’s grower members. None of the labs would know which grower the sample came from or what its cannabinoid content was. Each lab would be asked to test the sample to its normal standards using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), a common testing procedure. Results would be publicly available on TCA’s website.

Eight labs ended up participating in the round robin: Analytical 360, Confidence Analytics, Green Grower Labs, Medicine Creek Analytics, Molecular Testing Labs, Steep Hill, Washington Testing Technologies, and Trace Analytics. Each tested two flower strains, a BHO sample, and kief. All the samples were homogenized via a process called freeze-milling, which is a more reliable method than simply grinding up the flower samples in a traditional blender.

The thinking went like this: If the results were to come back in a tight cluster around the sample’s known cannabinoid content, that would be an indication the labs were operating under the same standards. A wide spread, on the other hand, would indicate bigger methodological issues at play.


Leafly Investigation: California Has a Dirty Cannabis Problem

The outcome? The resulting spread of THC percentages was less than three points, according to a report of the findings—relatively good news.

“While the outcomes of this experiment lend credibility to those labs willing to collaborate and show that the variability between them (described as one standard deviation) is less than 1/10th the measurement,” the report says, “there is always room for improvement.”

Labs that reported higher THC values than their peers tended to do so for all samples (likewise with labs that reported lower values), which the report’s authors suggested was most likely due to methodological differences in how each lab performs test procedures. The report also notes that there was disagreement among labs in terms of testing for minor cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG .

Despite the differences, the report commended the eight participating labs for their mutual cooperation. “To have industry leaders, and business competitors, working together toward meaningful improvements to standards of practice is especially needed in a nascent industry where the unknowns are multivariate and the guidelines are still developing,” it said.


To Combat Inconsistency, Washington Testing Labs Turn to Self-Policing

Doing a ton of free testing, of course, isn’t something labs are usually keen on. But Mosely said the aim—to get the state’s testing labs on the same page—was well worth it.

“There obviously is quite a bit of extra effort in order to get that consistency,” he said, adding that “everybody up and down the chain is benefitting. It starts with the labs.”

The round-robin testing, Mosely added, goes above and beyond the standard proficiency testing performed by RJ Lee, the state’s accrediting body for labs. RJ Lee is located out of state and thus can’t handle physical cannabis, which makes their tests less applicable, Mosely said, contending that the round robin, performed completely within the confines of the state’s licensed cannabis system, better addresses the issue.

“The labs know they’re being tested and evaluated, and they presumably put on their best face and do the best that they can.”

Jim MacRae, data scientist

What the round-robin approach doesn’t do, however, is replace enforcement. Washington data scientist Jim MacRae, who has focused much of his work on tracking suspect results by the state’s cannabis labs, pointed out that all the labs involved knew they were participating in a round-robin test, even if they didn’t know the cannabinoid content of the samples they were testing.

“It’s these guys saying, ‘Here’s how good of a job we can do,’” MacRae told Leafly. “It’s certainly a cynic that would say they’re not doing this on a daily basis, but basically that test is an opportunity for them to show how good they can be.”

That fact, MacRae argued, underscores a fundamental problem with existing proficiency testing performed by the state’s designated lab auditor, RJ Lee: The testing is announced in advance.

“The labs know they’re being tested and evaluated, and they presumably put on their best face and do the best that they can,” MacRae said. Which means RJ Lee’s proficiency testing—as well as the round-robin tests performed by TCA—are great at evaluating a lab’s “capability” but not necessarily its “culpability,” as MacRae put it.


How California Lab Testing Could Change the Way We Talk About Cannabis

“Capability shows what they can do when they’re on their best behavior,” he said. “If what they display when they don’t know they’re being evaluated is significantly different than what they display when they know they’re being evaluated, then there’s a problem there.”

Mosely, of Confidence Analytics, agreed. But he said the effort to ensure consistency between testing labs isn’t meant to replace enforcement efforts.

“Proficiency testing is not intended as an enforcement mechanism,” he says. “Neither is round robin. The participants know they are participating. They do it to improve their methodology, not as a gotcha. A good proficiency testing program helps good labs do better.”

But what about labs whose problems have more to do with ethical deficiencies than  methodological ones?

Identifying bad actors among the state’s licensed cannabis labs is a difficult process, one that requires collecting data from labs without letting them know. That responsibility rests with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). And MacRae, for one, doesn’t think the agency is taking the job very seriously.

“The LCB has allowed this to continue on and on and on,” he said. “The bottom line is this: When labs do [this]—giving superior potency results, failing to fail samples—the LCB doesn’t seem to give a shit.”


Understanding Cannabis Testing: A Guide to Cannabinoids and Terpenes

The LCB does indeed operate a secret shopper program for labs, however, and has tested 220 samples since it began in late 2016, according to Brian Smith, the agency’s communications director.  Regulators so far haven’t issued any violations based on those tests and are still reviewing the results, he said.

The LCB did recently suspend Peak Analytics’ testing license, but that action came in response to an audit by RJ Lee, which itself was prompted by an outside complaint against Peak—not by a secret shopper.


Washington’s Top Cannabis Lab Hit With Suspension

As Mosely points out, however, the LCB’s secret-shopping program can be difficult to administer.

“Secret shopping is expensive. You have to pay for the tests. You have to lot the samples in traceability. You have to send someone out undercover. One sample is not enough. You need n-power if you want to stand in court and make a case,” he explained. “Lot’s of ins, lot’s of outs.”

In the meantime,  the question of how to effectively stop labs from cheating remains unanswered. While the round robin represents a significant step forward for lab standardization, it doesn’t replace the type of consumer assurance that government oversight provides. Whether the LCB’s program will develop into something that does is anyone’s guess.

Uruguay Setting up New Cannabis Shops After Challenge by Banks

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Uruguay’s government announced Wednesday that it is changing its retail system for legalized marijuana because banks are making it difficult for pharmacies to sell cannabis as planned.

At least three pharmacies have decided not to sell cannabis after warnings by banks.

Banks are refusing to deal with companies linked to cannabis in order to follow international financial laws that ban receiving money tied to the drug, pharmacists and officials said.

To avoid the problems faced by pharmacies, Uruguay will set up shops to sell marijuana for cash, said government official Juan Andres Roballo.

In July, marijuana went on sale at 16 pharmacies under a 2013 law that made Uruguay the first nation to legalize a cannabis market covering the entire chain from plants to purchase. Since then, at least three pharmacies have decided not to sell cannabis after warnings by banks.


Ontario Shocker: Province to Restrict Legal Cannabis Sales to 150 Government-Run Stores and One Website

Running a business without being able to bank is tough in Uruguay. Among other things, Uruguayan law bans cash or check payments for employees and requires that salaries be paid by direct deposit.

Some U.S. marijuana retailers in states that have legalized sales have encountered similar banking difficulties as the drug remains illegal on a federal level.

At the Trichome Institute, Students Learn to Predict Cannabis Effects by Aroma

Is Interpening Legit, or Just Difficult?

When students reach Level 2 of the interpening program, they must take a test in which they plot anonymous strains on the indica to sativa spectrum using only their nose–and only about 10 percent of exam takers will pass and achieve their interpening certification. But is the test really that difficult, or is there a problem with the method?

“If there are distinctions between available cannabis ‘strains,’ such phenomena are most likely related to relative terpenoid contents and ratios.”

Dr. Ethan Russo

“I’m super confident in basing strain classification on aroma. I’m 100% solid on that,” Montrose told Leafly. “What I also respect is how hybridized these flower types are.”

Cannabis can contain more than 200 different terpenes, some of which deliver more intense aromas than others.

“Let’s say 150 of them are more sedative terpenes, but you still pick out that strong citrus note because it’s sharp, it’s strong, and you’re familiar with it,” Montrose said. “But maybe there are many more terpenes that have a pharmacy of being more sedative.” In this way, interpening can sometimes be incredibly difficult for the initiate.

Arizona resident Kiley Kane uses a flashlight to observe a flower during a sommelier class at SOHI Art Gallery in Denver, CO. (Daniel Brenner for Leafly)

“Someone else besides me will need to design a test to prove this theory,” Montrose said, when asked how interpening will be fact checked in the future. He mentions using neurological studies someday to bring empirical evidence to the correlations.

Research on cannabis terpenes is already on the rise, thanks in large part to neurologist and psychopharmacologist, Ethan Russo. “If, as many consumers and experts maintain, there are biochemical, pharmacological, and phenomenological distinctions between available cannabis ‘strains,’ such phenomena are most likely related to relative terpenoid contents and ratios,” Russo stated in a paper titled “Taming THC.”


Cannabis’s Entourage Effect: Why Whole Plant Medicine Matters

THC and CBD cannot be solely responsible for all the nuanced effects of cannabis flower, and as educated consumers shift their thinking towards terpenes, it makes sense to teach and engage practices such as interpening.

Montrose gives the example of Banana Kush and Golden Goat, two strains he found with identical cannabinoid profiles. “They were both 22% THC, 1.5% CBD, and 0.5% CBN,” he said. “So why does one flower make you feel like you can clean your whole house while the other makes you feel like you can’t lift a pinky? What’s the difference if their cannabinoids are identical? It’s terpenes. And terpenes are complex.”

Interpening in a Rapidly Changing Industry

Trichome Institute sales and operations manager Rollie Hermoso points out different aspects of a flower during a sommelier class at SOHI Art Gallery in Denver, CO. (Daniel Brenner for Leafly)

While appreciating the nuances of cannabis aroma could be as much of a hobby as coffee, beer, or wine tasting, interpening serves purposes beyond enjoyment or bragging rights. It allows patients and consumers to be more confident in their selection of a product–a product whose label often lacks the real information they need.

“Interpening is important for people today because it helps them select what they are getting in a time period where that’s a challenge in our industry,” Montrose said.


Budtender Resource: How to Help Your Patients Choose the Right Strain

Even in legal, regulated states where lab testing is mandated, consumers typically only know:

  • The strain’s name, according to the grower
  • Its indica, sativa, or hybrid classification, according to the grower
  • The cannabinoid content (THC, CBD, etc.)

It’s become commonplace to rely on just a single facet of a product, such as THC percentage or strain name. For many consumers, that’s enough, especially if they aren’t insistent on a particular experience or therapeutic benefit.

But Montrose thinks we can do better for the wide variety of consumers that exist, like the insomniacs who need to know they’ll be able to sleep at night. The novice consumer looking for a relaxed first time experience. The person treating depression who requires a stimulating strain to stay up and out of bed. We can do better for anyone who just wants more out of their experience, because the world of cannabis is an ever-expanding playground if we take the time to learn more about it.

“Even if you’ve smoked cannabis for 10 years, it still isn’t anywhere close to what you think it is,” Montrose said. “There’s so much more to know about it.”

Washington Budtender Abducted, Still Missing

A well-known budtender from a Eastern Washington cannabis dispensary remains missing this week after being abducted outside the shop Sunday afternoon.

The abduction of Cameron Smith from the Lucid retail store in Cheney, just outside the city of Spokane, has rocked the local cannabis community.

Cameron Smith, who works at Lucid as a budtender, was abducted outside of the dispensary Sunday, Sept. 10, in Cheney, Wash. He is a father of two and a strong advocate for cannabis. (Sofia Jaramillo for Leafly)

According to Dennis Turner, Lucid’s co-owner and Smith’s brother, the encounter started off simply enough.

Two women and one man pulled up to the dispensary in a white Ford F-250 truck, he told Leafly. Turner recalled that one of the female suspects appeared to be watching the dispensary intently. “It looked like she was casing the building, checking out the video cameras, and walking around the building,” he said.

Cameron Smith, pictured left (courtesy of Lucid’s Facebook profile).

The male suspect and one woman attempted to enter the dispensary, but when asked for identification, the male could not provide his ID, saying he had left it behind in Yakima, a city located about 190 miles west of Cheney, Turner said. He was subsequently denied entrance. The woman produced identification that showed her year of birth as 1999, Turner said. “She wasn’t in compliance and she was rejected from the shop.”

A sign dedicated to Cameron Smith sits on a chair outside of Lucid in Cheney, Wash., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Smith, who works at Lucid as a budtender, went missing Sunday, Sept. 10, after being abducted outside of the dispensary. (Sofia Jaramillo for Leafly)

“Our brother, Cam, was working as lead budtender—he’s everyone’s favorite budtender,” Turner told Leafly. “On lunch, he likes to sit in his car and listen to his music while he eats.”

Smith, the 46-year-old barber-turned-budtender from Toledo, Ohio, exited his car for a moment and walked right past the male suspect. He then returned to his vehicle, a 2008 silver Acura SUV, to finish his lunch.

“The gentleman pulled up to Cam’s car and it appeared there was a verbal exchange between them,” Turner explained, referring to video surveillance footage that captured the moment between the two men. “At that point, the dude pulled a gun out and fired two shots into the car. It knocked out the back window. He jumped into the driver’s seat and took off with Cam still in the car.”

The two accompanying women took off in the white Ford truck, which was later reported stolen from the White Swan area of Yakima County.

A poster board is filled with notes to Cameron Smith from community members and friends at Lucid in Cheney, WA, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. “Everyone knew Cam. Even if they didn’t partake in marijuana they appreciated him and they got to know him for who he was,” said store manager Stacia Shirley. (Sofia Jaramillo for Leafly)

“We haven’t seen or heard from him since,” said Turner.

The Cheney Police Department responded to requests saying they have warrants out for two individuals, but neither are currently in custody. Law enforcement have identified the male suspect as Donavon Culps and the woman as his 18-year-old niece, Violetta Culps, both from the White Swan area of Yakima.

Store manager Stacia Shirley holds a picture of Cameron Smith at an office near Lucid in Cheney, Wash., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Smith, who works at Lucid as a budtender, went missing Sunday, Sept. 10, after being abducted outside of the dispensary. “He got along with everybody and he had such a positive presence. There was no way you couldn’t love that man,” said Shirley. (Sofia Jaramillo for Leafly)

The case has expanded to include the nearby Spokane Police Department, Yakama Tribal Police, and the FBI.

Efforts were made to ping Smith’s cell phone, but the signal was lost near Medical Lake, at which point authorities believe the suspect threw Smith’s phone out the window.

Signs and candles are set up outside of Lucid in Cheney, Wash., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. “He embodied Lucid. He loved everybody in this company. He was a light in the shop. When you walk in he was the first thing you seen,” said Smith’s brother Dennis Turner. (Sofia Jaramillo for Leafly)

“They’re treating it as a kidnapping and potential homicide,” Turner said. “This guy has an extensive criminal background.”

The team at Lucid Marijuana has not given up hope. The group planned a vigil seeking Smith’s safe return, and law enforcement has been using all resources to bring him home. There’s been an outpouring of support local community members on social media, as Smith is well-known and well-loved within the small town of Cheney.

A site dedicated to Cameron Smith is set up inside the Lucid store in Cheney, Wash., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (Sofia Jaramillo for Leafly)

“They put out an APB [all-points bulletin] on his vehicle,” Turner said. “They’ve got helicopters searching, they’ve got the dogs out.”

A Cheney Police Department spokesperson told Leafly on Tuesday that Smith’s vehicle had been located in Airway Heights near Medical Lake, which is where authorities last made contact with Smith’s cell phone.

“The Washington state crime lab is still processing the scene,” Cheney PD reported. “We still have not located the victim.”