CVIndependent

Sun02182018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

With the repeal of marijuana prohibition—at least as far as the state of California is concerned—comes lots of choices for those of us who have not been part of the medical-marijuana community.

Yeah, Attorney Jeff Sessions is still speaking out against marijuana. Luckily, the state is fighting the current presidential administration’s reversal of Obama-era protections for recreational use, so we probably don’t have much to worry about—at least for the moment.

How we ingest recreational pot is just as important as what types of pot we choose to consume. Each method comes with pros and cons—and everyone reacts differently, so take it slow at first. After all, you can always have more pot, but once you’ve ingested it, you can’t have less.

The most common and the easiest way to ingest cannabis is the old-fashioned “smoke up Johnny”—most of us first encountered marijuana by joint, bong hit, or a pipe fashioned out of something like an apple. Partially because of the nostalgia, and partially due to the shared experience, this is still my favorite way to consume “leaf.” It’s simple, effective and easy control the dosage—and to come down if you have been a bit overserved.

Although smoking leaf does come with health risks (yes, smoking’s bad for you!) this low-commitment method is the way many people will probably be consuming pot, at least initially. For about $10, you can buy a small glass, wood, metal or stone pipe. Crumble up some leaf; light it on fire; and inhale. You will feel the effects almost immediately … and you will most likely start coughing. Ignore the old axiom—“If you don’t cough, you don’t get off”—as it only takes about three seconds for your body to absorb the THC. If you’re feeling extra-high after a harsh coughing fit, it’s probably because the coughing deprived your brain of oxygen for too long.

I love a joint, and although you can roll your own, the dispensaries have pre-rolled joints available for sale, either in six packs or individually. A joint is also the most forcibly social method of consumption, because one joint is too much for a person to consume alone. For me, there is nothing better than sitting with some friends and passing a joint around as we discuss the meaning of life, or the latest blockbuster movie.

Many people I know are now vaporizing, or “vaping,” their cannabis. This gives a similar consumption experience to smoking, without many of the detrimental side effects. Vaporizers heat pot to a level that releases the THC and cannabinoids, but not so hot that it actually burns the product; the theory is that the toxins and carcinogens that would normally be released in smoke stay in the product. I say “theory,” because more research is needed to confirm this—and the federal government’s hostility toward marijuana also extends to scientific studies.

There are many different vaping methods, from pens that vaporize marijuana concentrates (upper right) to the PAX, which vaporizes leaf. The manufacturers of the various cartridges have luckily decided to make their connectors universal; this means you can easily buy one of the rechargeable “pen” bases and use a variety of different oils. Personally, I find the “Heavy Hitter” brand to be an excellent product with good flavors and lots of different strain options. These pens are easy to use, produce almost no smell and can provide the social interaction that smoking creates—without the time commitment of a joint. One drawback, at least for me, is that the disposable cartridges create quite a bit of waste, in both packaging and the cartridges themselves. That being said, this has become my primary method for cannabis consumption.

The PAX—some call it the iPhone of vaporizers—is sleek and fairly easy to use, plus it doesn’t create as much waste. Just get favorite leaf strain; grind it up; fill the hopper; and you are good to go. It’s more work than the pens and can be a bit messy, but it is a very good option. Plus, if you save the “spent vapes,” you can use them to make your own pot butter and create your own edibles.

We’ll discuss edibles in a minute … but first, let’s talk tinctures. Oral delivery methods are all the rage, and in terms of avoiding lung problems, this is probably the safest way to consume cannabis; in fact, my previous doctor—who helped write the recreational marijuana bill in the state of Washington—advocated for this method of consumption.

Tinctures contain THC that has been dissolved, usually into alcohol (although vinegar and glycerol can also be used); a few drops are placed under the tongue, and you get an immediate effect without the dangers of smoking. However, this is about as non-social as marijuana use can get, and it has never really resonated with me.

Edibles (below) are another safe way to consume cannabis, and they come in just about every snack form you can imagine. From the well-known brownie to goldfish crackers, and from candy ropes to popcorn, it’s all out there for your consumption pleasure. Cannabis has usually been infused into either olive oil or butter; that is then used to make or coat your favorite foods. Dosage guidelines are included on all edible packaging, but keep in mind that effects may vary depending on your tolerance.

Because edibles need to pass through the digestive system, it can take between 20 and 45 minutes for you to start to feel the effects—if not longer. The danger here is that you may think you aren’t experiencing any effects and take another dose—or that you may consume too much in the first place. Once you have consumed edibles, it is difficult to “sober up” quickly—and the high you get from them is much more full-body and less cerebral than the highs from the other ingestion systems. These two factors can lead to some difficulty if you are not careful. Personally, I don’t use edibles; I’ve had one too many experiences that were simply no fun.

No matter how you choose to ingest marijuana, take it slow at first; do it socially; and have fun.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

So with legal recreational marijuana just around the corner, you want to buy a joint … but the last time you bought “the pot,” you were at the crossroads of pimples and AP algebra.

Well, medical marijuana, legal weed and even your old-fashioned pot dealer have all matured since then to compete in an ever-growing market.

Over the last few years, marijuana has become specialized, and pot heads have become cannabis connoisseurs, as exacting as any oenophile. Three basic words—indica, sativa and hybrid—make up the lexicon of the aficionado, with growers creating specialized varietals that vary in strength, taste and affect to satisfy demanding customers.

Let’s explore the difference between the strains—keeping in mind that within each classification, there are hundreds of sub-strains with their own flavor profiles, effects and fans. We have seen these classifications around for a long time, but in the last few years, users have started coming out of their basements and enjoying their herb casually in social situations—in much the same way they enjoy a fine wine or hand-crafted cocktail. Also, remember that your own life experiences and body chemistry will inform the way any strain affects you.

Sativa strains are believed to have originated in temperate growing regions between the equator and the 30th parallel (around the top of the Gulf of Mexico); they grow tall and have a thin leaf. If you are looking to grow your own plants outdoors here in the desert, these are the ones for you.  

Sativas tend to make the user feel more energetic, creative and happy. Going out with friends for the evening, embarking on a hike or taking a painting class? Sativa is the way to go. From personal experience, I can tell you this is what I prefer when I sit down to write during the day or want to be out and about with people. One of my favorite sativa strains is Tangilope, a super-tasty, citrusy strain that really helps me with creativity. But remember: It is always a good idea to test out any new strain in a small amount before making a commitment.

Indicas, on the other hand, originated further north, probably in the area around Afganistan. The plants tend to be short and bushy with a relatively short maturation time. If you are looking to grow inside your home, you will probably want to look for one of these.

Indicas tend to be more relaxing and act as a sedative for their users, while at the same time making a person feel somewhat social. Planning an evening of Netflix and chill? Have a lot on your mind and need to spend some time processing? Or are you planning a quiet evening at home with friends? If so, indicas are a great choice—but they do tend to make you hungry or sleepy, and they just may fuse your tush to the couch. I am fond of the Grape Ape strain of indica; I find its grapey smell and flavor really tasty. If I have had a tough day and just need to relax, I will often reach for some Grape Ape—not too much, though, or I may not move for the rest of the night.

As the name implies, hybrids are cross-bred plants with both indica and sativa genetics. Growers do this for a variety of reasons, including yield and growing time. Of course, they also want to produce plants with the benefits of both parent strains, and they are experimenting with hybrids that will create very specific effects. A grower may, for instance, breed some indica into a sativa to make it better-suited for an indoor grow operation, or decrease some of the associated paranoia; perhaps they’ll add some sativa to an indica to help the consumer stay awake.

Hybrids tend to be broken down into either sativa- or indica-dominant verities. (Truth be told, most strains these days have at least some hybridization in their ancestry.) Depending on what strain you choose, you will find a wide range of differences in both effect and flavor. One of my favorite hybrid strains is the sativa-dominant Blue Dream, a fairly mellow strain that will help you relax while still giving you the creative effects of many sativas. Blue Dream’s ancestry involves the indica Blueberry strain, which carries through to give you a lovely berry flavor.

With so many strains to choose from, it is important to both experiment and get guidance while you are discovering your favorites. Always talk to your friendly neighborhood budtender, as they are sure to keep abreast of the latest and greatest. When figuring out what strains work well for you, consider keeping a notebook with your favorites and how they each make you feel.

Whatever strain you choose … enjoy!

Published in Cannabis in the CV

I lived in Washington state in 2012 when voters passed Initiative 502, making Washington one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and older.

Although the process took a year, Washington was able to implement a well-thought-out system to fairly tax recreational users, ensure public safety and create distribution methods.

Three years later, I moved to Southern California, where recreational prohibition was the law of the land—even though anyone with access to the Internet, $45 or so, a California state driver’s license and the ability to say the words “trouble sleeping” could easily obtain a medical diagnosis via what amounts to a Skype call.

While marijuana does have numerous medical benefits, I find it difficult to believe it is the panacea that many of its proponents suggest it is—and the medical dispensaries don’t do much to maintain the illusion that they are anything like pharmacies. Imagine going to a drugstore … with a happy hour? Would you get 2-for-1 antibiotics to help clear up that rash?

I was relieved when California voters last year followed the lead of Washington (and, by then, three other states) and passed Proposition 64. As a person who tries to lead an honest life, it pained me to participate in this fiction. When Prop 64 fully takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018, California will join the ranks of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and the District of Columbia in acknowledging that marijuana is as safe, if not safer, than alcohol when used by adults.

Of course, California has been at the center of unlawful or semi-lawful marijuana cultivation for decades, and bringing the growers into the legal market will help control quality, eventually bring down prices, take power away from the gangs and cartels, and help influence the movement to end prohibition entirely on a national scale. (Of course, given the state of our federal government as of now, that last part may be delayed a bit.)

California cities have a great deal of leeway in deciding where pot can be sold, and how many licenses to issue. Palm Springs, for instance, is currently expecting to have approximately six shops—the same number of legal medical dispensaries that are now operating in the city; during season, I’m sure this will give locals yet another chance to talk about how long the lines are. (Remember: Wednesday is our slow day here, so you may want to plan your recreational shopping trips accordingly.) The city of Palm Springs also just passed a law that will allow Amsterdam-style cafes. This is particularly important, given the number of tourists we attract; it’s also important for renters, as most hotels and apartments have strict “no smoking” policies. Remember: It is still illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants.

Palm Desert only recently lifted its ban on any sort of dispensaries—and will even be allowing one recreational shop in the tony El Paseo shopping district. On the other end of the spectrum, the city of Coachella maintains an outright ban on the sale of marijuana, although cultivation is OK, and there are at least two churches where congregants can go and, for a donation, receive the sacrament in either brownie, flower or vape form.

Tourists and nonmedical users will need to be aware of a few things before showing up at one of the new recreational shops. Most importantly: As with alcohol, driving while under the influence will be illegal, and if you have anything in the car, it must be in a closed container. The best practice would be to keep it in the trunk so there can be no doubt if you are pulled over.

Also of note is that adults over the age of 21 can carry up to an ounce of marijuana flower, or eight grams of concentrate. That is a lot of pot to have on you. Private citizens can also grow up to six mature plants for their own use; although it will be illegal to sell the pot you grow without a license, you are welcome to give it to friends or perhaps your favorite Independent marijuana columnist. 

Initially, at least, prices will probably rise. Although commercial growers are eagerly preparing for the first post-legalization harvest, demand may surpass supply in those first few months, if what happened in other states is any indication. Also: An additional 15 percent state tax combined with local taxes and other fees virtually ensures that prices will be higher at first. However, as growers get a handle on demand, we should see prices drop.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and our current attorney general, Jeff Sessions (at least he is as of this writing … you never know with the Trump administration) has vowed to crack down on enforcement, so bringing pot into national parks could land you in some real trouble: State and local law enforcement will no longer assist the feds, but you still need to be careful if you want to bring a joint along with you when you, say, go hike in Joshua Tree. Plus, with our long history of drought here in Southern California, you don’t want to risk being responsible for the next round of wild fires. Try vaping or a brownie instead.

Come Jan. 1, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population will be able to use pot in much the same way they currently enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail—and as states and municipalities wrestle with the implications of this brave new world, the Coachella Valley Independent will continue to be here with news, reviews and stories to help you make good, responsible decisions around marijuana use.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Desert Hot Springs has been making headlines for years thanks to the city’s headlong charge into commercial cannabis—so much so that the city has earned the comical moniker of Desert Pot Springs.

But to those developing the industry in DHS, the business of cannabis is no joke.

Some of these people have joined forces to create the Desert Hot Springs Cannabis Alliance Network, a business association meant to provide “a responsible and productive voice for the cannabis industry in Desert Hot Springs through innovative and effective programs in development, operations, regulations and outreach.”

In October, the organization made its first splash with the first DHS CAN Conference. The event was held at Miracle Springs Resort and Spa on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13 and 14.

But this wasn’t a typical cannabis convention. There were no clouds of smoke in the air, no DJ overtaxing a tiny PA in the corner, and no promo models—this was strictly business. Each day featured four panel discussions with titles including “Investing Options and Strategies,” “How to Have a Successful Cannabis Operation in Desert Hot Springs” and “Cannabis Industry Security.” Other topics: how to pitch cannabis business ideas, and a speed-pitch session with investors.

Of note was the utilities panel, featuring representatives from Southern California Edison, the Mission Springs Water District, CV Energy and MSA Consulting Inc., a civil-engineering firm based in the Coachella Valley. It’s well-known that infrastructure will be a major roadblock to getting Desert Hot Springs’ massive commercial grows online. Panel members discussed the realities of such a massive effort, but also talked about ways to use less energy and resources by implementing alternative-energy sources and better equipment. While the cannabis industry is quickly becoming one of the biggest drains on the state’s power grid, it appears the need to keep overhead down and implement solutions faster than utility companies (with their glacial pacing) will be an ongoing impetus for energy innovation—which will have effects inside and outside of the industry. Go weed!

The event ended with a networking “Warp Up” party next door at the Desert Hot Springs Inn. Recognizing the potential for cannabis tourism as DHS takes its place as a leader in the industry, the resort is billing itself as the Coachella Valley’s first cannabis-friendly hotel. Smoking is allowed anywhere outside, and vaping indoors is permitted. Not only is the hotel extremely dog-friendly, but visitors are free to smoke and soak in the pool’s natural hot mineral waters. OK, if you insist ...

Learn more about the Desert Hot Springs Cannabis Alliance Network at www.deserthotspringscan.org.


The Blazers Cup Is Coming!

In stark contrast to the strictly business tone of the DHSCAN event … San Bernardino will play host to the Tommy Chong Blazers Cup, on Saturday and Sunday, December 2-3.

The event—organized by comedian, cannabis legend and activist Tommy Chong—will showcase the very best of medical cannabis in California.

An estimated 25,000 attendees will enjoy live music, free samples and prizes from more than 500 vendors, and eats from more than 40 food vendors—who can satisfy even the most ravenous munchies.

On-site smoking is limited to the Prop 215 Medicated Area. To enter this area, one must be 18 years of age and possess a valid medical cannabis recommendation. If you’re one of the 20 or 30 people in the state who don’t have theirs yet, don’t panic! Medical recommendations will be available onsite at discounted rates. Out-of-state recommendations will be honored, as will out-of-state IDs for new recommendations.

Competition will feature California’s finest growers, chefs, breeders and extracts competing in categories including Best Flower (Sativa, Indica, Hybrid), Best Edibles, Best Concentrates (Indica or Sativa), Best Co2 Concentrates (Non-Solvent—Indica or Sativa), Best Vape, Best Topicals, Highest CBD Product, Highest THC Product, Best New Product and Best Glass. If you’ve ever wanted a true weed legend to try your products … yes, Tommy Chong is one of the judges.

The cannabis industry is evolving rapidly, with new products and variations appearing almost daily. The Blazers Cup is a chance to see the latest and greatest the Golden State has to offer under one roof.

The 2017 Tommy Chong Blazers Cup, an 18-and-older event, will be held at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino. Tickets start at $35. For tickets or more information, visit blazerscup.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Custom-apparel makers across the state exhaled a collective sigh of relief with the apparent death of SB 162 on Sept. 1.

The bill was aimed at limiting the ways in which cannabis businesses could market themselves, including a ban on everything from apparel to billboards. Lawmakers had until Sept. 1 to extend consideration of the bill another two weeks, but opted to let it die instead.

The bill’s sponsor, Santa Monica State Sen. Ben Allen, and other supporters of SB 162—like the California Police Chiefs Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics (California)—claimed the bill was meant to protect kids from marketing that will make them want to smoke weed. Y’know, to protect the kids … like the ban on beer shirts. (Oh, wait …)

These “for the kids”-types of bills are almost impossible to defeat (What politician doesn’t want to at least appear to care about kids?), and its demise came a surprise to its sponsor.

“The Legislature in the past has wisely prohibited advertising with branded merchandise by tobacco companies, expressly because items like hats and T-shirts are known to entice kids to smoke," Allen told the Los Angeles Times in the bill’s defense. “This was a common-sense measure to apply similar restrictions that would help prevent marijuana use by teens.”

One of the measure’s opponents was the California Cannabis Industry Association. The group claimed the limits would place an unfair financial burden on the industry by cutting off valuable revenue streams. Opponents also pointed out that marketing to kids was already sufficiently limited by Proposition 64, which was approved by voters last year.

“It’s not that our members don’t accept and support reasonable solutions to issues that are arising, but on this one, we felt Prop 64 made it pretty clear the cannabis industry could not be marketing to minors,” said CCIA outreach director Josh Drayton to Cannabis Now.

The bill could come up again next year, but the industry and manufacturers are hoping it stays dead. Banning marijuana businesses from branding themselves while generic weed shirts, hats and other merchandise are available in stores everywhere—including Walmart—would be absurdly unfair. And I’ve seen a lot more kids at Walmart than I ever have at a dispensary. (Because, well, it’s illegal for kids to be at dispensaries.)


Sorry, No Weed Deliveries by Drone in California

California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control issued 490 pages of regulations meant to regulate commercial cannabis businesses when recreational sales begin in January. Among the thousands of rules, the BCC has determined you do, in fact, need to have a weed guy—as the agency banned non-human delivery methods. It also said deliveries should be generally kept on the DL, with product kept out of view en route.

“Deliveries may be made only in person by enclosed motor vehicle. Cannabis goods may not be visible to the public during deliveries,” read the regulations.

So, no convertibles …

Delivery drivers are required to have GPS in their vehicles, which seems a little stalker-y: “Vehicles used for delivery must have a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery.”

The rules went on to define exactly what vehicles could and could not be used for transporting cannabis products. In a move that makes perfect sense to me, but surely struck a blow to tech geeks everywhere, drone deliveries have been ruled out. Also: canoes, trains and bikes. No air drops, either: “Cannabis goods will be required to be transported inside commercial vehicles or trailers. Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles.”

For now, at least, this means no weed-bots will be buzzing around California, delivering stashes from the sky while your neighbors try to shoot them down.

While there is no indication that these policies will be changed any time soon, the state may still get blowback from non-cannabis, pro-autonomous-delivery companies like Google and Amazon. Recognizing a threat to a decades-old tradition, San Francisco bike messengers are expected to voice opposition as well.


The IE Gets Its First Licensed Dispensary!

Despite a few municipal bans, Coachella Valley residents are spoiled by the relatively high number of quality dispensaries within a few minutes’ drive. However, this is not the case for our neighbors over the mountains in the Inland Empire, where—until August—no licensed dispensaries existed.

Perris voters decided it was time to change that last November, when 77 percent of them approved Measure K, which removed the city’s ban on cannabis businesses. San Bernardino also voted to allow dispensaries last November, and issued its first permit Aug. 24.

But Perris wins the IE weed race with the opening of Green America, the city’s first licensed dispensary, on Aug. 25.

Perris voters also approved a 10 percent tax on weed businesses. According to the city attorney, that could add up to $1.2 million in new revenue to the city’s coffers each year. This could offer a boost to the struggling city of 76,000 residents, 25 percent of whom are living below the poverty line.

This tax-revenue contribution is in stark contrast to the dozen or so unlicensed shops operating in the city that pay no taxes, nor the $13,008 permit fee. To date, the city has been ineffective in shutting down these illegal shops. One would hope the city will act quickly to change that in order to protect its legit cannabis businesses, and the contributions they’ll make to the community.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The National Conference of State Legislatures, citing the wave of legalization and the explosion of a new industry in its wake, on Aug. 7 passed a resolution urging the federal government to remove cannabis from Controlled Substances Act scheduling completely.

Marijuana’s Schedule I status prohibits marijuana-based businesses from having access to the standard banking practices afforded all other businesses, because FDIC-insured banks can face federal penalties for dealing with businesses related to Schedule I substances. This has resulted in a multi-billion dollar industry that operates almost completely in cash. Aside from the obvious security concerns caused by keeping a ton of cash around, it also means shops can’t take credit debit or credit cards; they can’t have normal real estate mortgages; and they have no access to small business loans. Oh, and state tax collectors are continually faced with cartoonish bags of cash.

The NCSL resolution recognizes this problem with the fifth “whereas.” The important part:

“Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove cannabis from scheduling, thus enabling financial institutions the ability to provide banking services to cannabis related businesses; and be it further resolved, that the National Conference of State Legislatures acknowledges that each of its members will have differing and sometimes conflicting views of cannabis and how to regulate it, but in allowing each state to craft its own regulations, we may increase transparency, public safety, and economic development where it is wanted.”

To nobody’s surprise, the Marijuana Policy Project applauded the move.

“State legislators and the vast majority of voters agree that marijuana policy should be left to the states,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “Legitimate, taxpaying marijuana businesses should not have to face the difficulties of operating on a cash-only basis. Allowing banks to offer them financial services will be good for the industry and benefit public safety. Even more so, states should not have to worry about the federal government interfering with their marijuana policy choices.”

Upon hearing news of the resolution, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly dropped to the ground, pounded his fists, kicked his feet and wailed: “NO! NO! NO! Marijuana BAD BAD BAD!” (OK, not really, but it would not surprise us if that really happened.)


California Growers Prove It’s Possible to Have Too Much Weed

Flying in the face of centuries of pothead orthodoxy, California growers are proving there is indeed such a thing as having too much weed.

With medical marijuana sales on the rise, and the sale of cannabis for recreational use coming to fruition in January, California growers have increased production in preparation for a huge increase in demand. After all, Nevada was completely unprepared for recreational sales, and the whole state ran out of weed. But now it’s coming to light that California growers may have overcompensated just a bit.

Depending on whom you ask, California growers are growing an estimated three to 12 times more bud than California needs, based on current demand and projections. Even the conservative end of the spectrum equates to a ton of extra bud. Add to that further restrictions (and enforcement) on interstate marijuana commerce going into effect Jan. 1, and people in the industry are starting to wonder what to do with all that weed. 

"We are producing too much," said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers' Association, according to the Los Angeles Times. “(Growers) are going to have to scale back. We are on a painful downsizing curve.”

Allen delivered his assessment to the Sacramento Press Club as part of a panel discussion. The panel also included Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s shiny new Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, and Joseph Devlin, chief of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement for city of Sacramento.

This will surely lead to prices dropping across the Golden State. While this is great for the retail customer, it does not bode well for the massive mega-grows popping up around the Coachella Valley and elsewhere. With operations like Sunniva’s Cathedral City campus hoping to produce 90 tons of product in 2018, and Desert Hot Springs licensing millions of square feet for cultivation, let’s hope interstate cannabis commerce can become a reality sooner than later.

Otherwise we’re all going to need to start doing our part to get rid of all that weed, somehow. … Got a light?


Palm Springs Sends Cannabis Tax Measure to Voters

Palm Springs has a pension crisis looming, and the City Council is scrambling to make sure the city’s debts are covered.

In November, not only is the city asking voters for a half-cent sales-tax increase; the City Council voted unanimously to send a marijuana tax measure to ballot.

The measure sets the annual tax for cultivation facilities at $10 per square foot. In preparation for recreational sales going live in January, it would also put a tax structure in place for recreation retail businesses.

Dispensaries and other marijuana businesses would be taxed at a rate of 15 cents per $1 (or 15 percent). This rate would apply to recreational and medical retail sales alike. The City Council could vote to lower this rate, but would require approval of four-fifths of the council to increase the rate.

Drug-prevention programs and public safety are mentioned in the ballot measure, but it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to see the city channeling these funds to help out with the pension crisis on the horizon.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Legalizing marijuana, California voters were told last year, would create a “safe, legal and comprehensive system” allowing adults to consume the drug while keeping it out of the hands of children.

Marijuana would be sold in highly regulated stores, the Proposition 64 campaign promised, and California would gain new tax revenue by bringing the cannabis marketplace “out into the open.”

Voters overwhelmingly bought the message, with 57 percent approving Proposition 64. But as state regulators prepare to begin offering licenses to marijuana businesses on Jan. 1, it turns out that a huge portion of the state’s weed is likely to remain on the black market.

That’s because California grows a lot more pot than its residents consume, and Prop 64 only makes marijuana legal within the state’s borders. It also didn’t give an automatic seal of approval to every cannabis grower: Those who want to sell legally must be licensed by the state and comply with detailed rules that require testing plants, labeling packages and tracking marijuana as it moves from farm to bong.

Exactly how much cannabis circulates in California is unknown, because most marijuana grows—and purchases—have been illegal for so long. But economists hired by the state government estimate that California farms produce about 13.5 million pounds of cannabis each year, while state residents annually consume about 2.5 million pounds. That leaves 11 million pounds of pot that likely flows out of California illegally, according to the economic report commissioned by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which regulates cannabis farmers. Other analyses have similarly found that roughly 80 percent of California-grown marijuana leaves the state.

Even the 2.5 million pounds of marijuana consumed within California won’t all be purchased through state-sanctioned shops when they open; the economists predict about half of it will probably be sold illegally.

“Those sales opportunities will still be there,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, which represents more than 1,000 marijuana businesses in the state.

Allen surveyed his members recently and found that 85 percent hope to get a license to sell marijuana legally under Prop 64. But many fear they won’t be able to, because some local governments limit or ban pot businesses, and because prices could drop too low in the regulated market. If they can’t sell weed legally, 40 percent of the respondents to Allen’s survey said they would continue operating the way they always have: on the black market.

Some long-time cannabis growers will likely go out of business, Allen said. But, “at the end of the day, a lot of businesses in general may stay outside of the regulated market.”

That means that despite the passage of Prop 64, California cops will still have plenty of work going after illicit cannabis operations.

“You’re going to see robust enforcement efforts to prevent California from becoming the staging area for drug trafficking nationwide,” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers Association, which opposed the ballot measure.

A spokesman for the Prop 64 campaign said the measure wasn’t intended to abolish all criminalization of marijuana, but instead to allow opportunities for “operators who want to be responsible and compliant.”

“No one ever promised to completely eliminate the black market—that’s like promising security cameras will completely eliminate shoplifting—but it will be significantly reduced,” spokesman Jason Kinney said by email.

He added that the state’s estimates of marijuana supply and demand are unreliable, because the legal marketplace created by Prop 64 won’t begin to roll out until next year. And he pointed out that some of the tax dollars generated by legal marijuana sales will go toward cracking down on illicit operations.

State officials said they are encouraging marijuana businesses to follow the rules and become part of the regulated system, while also planning how to go after those that remain in the black market.

“We are developing a formal complaint system that will allow anyone to report illegal grows or other concerns, and then we will forward those potential issues to the appropriate (law enforcement) agencies,” said Rebecca Forée, a spokeswoman for the state’s cannabis cultivation licensing office within the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, said her agency is trying to entice marijuana businesses to go legit by crafting rules that aren’t too difficult for them to live by.

“It’s making sure that for those people who want to be in the regulated market … we have made a path for them; we’re not making our regulations so difficult and hard to comply with that you’re discouraging people,” Ajax said.

“First, we’ve got to get those folks in there and … then see what comes after that with enforcement.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. For more analysis by Laurel Rosenhall, go to calmatters.org/articles/category/california/politics.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Dear Mexican: Los Marijuanos played at Seattle Hempfest years ago. Are they the best pro-hemp Mexican band out there? Are there other Mexican hemp-related bands or products out there that I don’t know about?

Inquring Hempsters Want to Know!

Dear Gabacho: Remember Platoon, and how the troops were broken up between the “tweakers”—those who enjoyed the ganga while singing along to “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles—and the angry drunks who were known as “juicers”? The Mexican is definitely the latter: I’m like the old men in the rancho who drink 180-proof sugarcane alcohol and can’t be bothered with herb, so my knowledge of products is limited to whatever my home newspaper plugs on potplus.com.

That said, #respect to those of ustedes who do smoke—Mexican musicians have been on that bit long before “Reefer Man.” “La Cucaracha” has a line about how former President Victoriano Huerta could no longer walk because he lacked marijuana pa’ fumar—to smoke. “El Tírili” (The Reefer Man), by Don Tosti’s Pachuco Boogie Boys, warns people about the dangers of beer, wine and tequila. But el zacatito? The grass? “Ayyyy,” Tosti sighs, before scatting so furiously that he makes Cab Calloway seem as restrained as Paul Robeson.

But the best Mexican musical marijuana masterpiece is “Marihuana Boogie,” by the legendary Lalo Guerrero, who combined the best of Benny Goodman and Cypress Hill to sing about the pleasure of getting lit while dancing your nalgas off. Too bad narcocorridos don’t have as much grace …

Dear Mexican: Do you think legalizing marijuana in Mexico would be a good way to create jobs and better the economy?

Chapo Chupa

Dear Pocho: Mexico just legalized medicinal marijuana nationwide, which will come as news to the abuelitas who have used marijuana-infused alcohol to treat sore joints and muscles for centuries. While the Mexican is in favor of the decriminalization of all drugs everywhere, any economy created by Mexico making marijuana a legal industry will become subservient to the real marijuanos: Americans. And we all know how well NAFTA worked out for Mexico.

Dear Mexican: I’ve heard that marijuana is a made-up name for smokable cannabis. It comes from Maria and Juan. This pejorative term was concocted in the 1930s to stigmatize pot-smoking by linking it with Mexicans in the Southwest. During the 1930s Great Depression, there was a surplus of labor in America, and attempts were made to arrest Mexicans for their smoking habits and then deport them. Any truth to this?

Etymology Edna

Dear Gabacha: Only that there was a Great Depression. No one—not even the Real Academia Española—knows the etymology of “marijuana,” and it’s found in Mexican newspapers going back to the 19th century. Marijuana use in the United States has always been racialized, but gabachos have also stuck the demon weed to Filipinos, blacks and “Hindoos.” As with most illicit, wonderful things, marijuana only became acceptable when white people began using it.

I’d end with a joke, but my marijuana humor begins and ends with a line that once came out in a Cheech and Chong movie: “Hey, that’s a pretty nice car, man. Better get it back to the circus before they find out it’s gone.” Um, yeah …

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Published in Ask a Mexican

No, Jefferson. Let it go …

Our evil elf of a U.S attorney general is whining about pot again, this time in a letter asking Congress not to renew the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which became law in December of 2014, prohibits the Department of Justice from spending any federal funds to interfere with state medical cannabis laws. It must be renewed each year—and Sessions is requesting it not be renewed this time around.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives,” Sessions wrote in the letter, first made public by Tom Angell of MassRoots.com.

This comes at a time when an overwhelming majority of Americans (including 65 percent of police officers!) are in favor of some form of legalization, and more and more states are starting to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

One of the law’s namesakes expressed annoyance with Sessions’ letter.

“Mr. Sessions stands athwart an overwhelming majority of Americans and even, sadly, against veterans and other suffering Americans who we now know conclusively are helped dramatically by medical marijuana.” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who represents parts of Orange County, in a statement to the Washington Post.

Opioids are at the center of the worst drug epidemic facing Americans today—while marijuana is decidedly not. However, to Sessions, there is virtually no difference between opioids and marijuana, considering he recently described pot as just “slightly less awful” than heroin. Of course, the American Journal of Public Health published a study in September 2016 citing evidence that opioid use is lower in states with legal medical marijuana, but what do they know with their “statistics?” Pesky facts …

The DOJ actually challenged the amendment under President Obama, but it was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This ruling leaves it up to Congress to decide whether to remove Rohrabacher-Farr from the yearly appropriations bill—but the amendment has received strong bipartisan support ever since it became law. Conventional wisdom dictates that Congress would be reluctant to go against the clear will of the people, but how often does conventional wisdom come into play in Washington, D.C., these days?

California is having none of this nonsense, and is making moves to become the first sanctuary state for cannabis. In anticipation of a legal showdown with Sessions’ DOJ, the State Assembly passed AB 1578 on June 1; the bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement from helping the feds enforce federal prohibitions against those adhering to California state law. The bill by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat, passed in a close 41-33 vote.

The measure faces stiff opposition by law enforcement and Republicans, for reasons ranging from interference in federal and local interagency cooperation regarding other crimes, to claims that it violates federal law.

“The hubris of California Democrats believing they can flout federal law on immigration and drug policy is beyond words,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) during the floor debate.

Jones-Sawyer’s retort: “AB 1578 ensures that our limited local and state resources are not spent on federal marijuana enforcement against individuals and entities that are in compliance with our laws.”

Rep. Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), a co-author of the bill, said: “People who are compliant with California law and operate within the legal cannabis market should not have to fear that a state or local agency will participate in efforts to punish or incarcerate them for activity that the state and its voters have deemed legal,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.

The Tenth Amendment Center, a constitutional-law and states’ rights advocacy group, claims there is solid legal standing for the measure. “Provisions withdrawing state and local enforcement of federal law in AB 1578 rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program,” founder Michael Boldin said in a post on the group’s website.

Jones-Sawyer said the bill could be edited to make it clear that cooperation in moving against illegal operations according to state law could continue. A Newsweek report estimated that 1,400 dispensaries are operating illegally in Los Angeles alone, and Jones-Sawyer would like those businesses shuttered, while protecting those adhering to local and state law.

The bill faces an uncertain future as it moves to the State Senate.


MEANWHILE, HERE IN THE VALLEY…

The City Council of Cathedral City recently passed a moratorium on new dispensaries south of Interstate 10.

The city of 53,000 has 10 licensed dispensaries operating, with another opening soon—that’s around 4,800 residents per dispensary. By comparison, Palm Springs has six dispensaries servicing 44,552 residents (or 7,452 residents per dispensary). The move is designed to help ensure the continued success of existing dispensaries in what is a comparatively saturated market.

Cathedral City dispensaries may also see fewer customers in the future, as Palm Desert and Coachella are slowly moving toward allowing retail cannabis businesses.

The measure passed 3-2, with Greg Pettis and Shelley Kaplan opposing.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Coachella finally caught on to the craft-beer revolution with the birth of the Craft Beer Barn in 2014. When it comes to weed, however, the festival seems to be further ahead of the game, thanks to this year’s introduction of a WeedMaps-sponsored cannabis lounge for VIP ticket holders—just a few months after legalization was approved by California voters.

Meanwhile, another marijuana event, located just a couple of miles from Empire Polo Club at the corner of 50th Avenue and Calhoun Street in Coachella, could not get off the figurative ground.

Kushella Life was a cannabis festival open to the public, with free admission for Coachella Valley residents, slated for both Coachella weekends and Stagecoach weekend. Organizers worked with the city of Coachella to secure all permits required to enable the legal consumption of marijuana on the festival site. Produced by the Coachella Grow Association and Coachella Ventures, Inc., the festival was a place to purchase and consume cannabis for Coachella attendees and valley residents alike.

However, typical bureaucratic delays prevented permits from being issued until the event date was a mere three weeks away, which left organizers with an unfortunately short amount of time to recruit vendors, promote the event and book musical acts.

“We agreed to meet with the sheriff and a contingent of residents, and we did. Everyone was agreeable to the plan we laid out,” said executive producer Freddie Wyatt via phone from Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 17, after Kushella’s opening weekend. He had already traveled to another event to help Kushella Life organizers cut their losses. “Everyone with the city of Coachella, from the fire marshal right on up to the mayor, was an absolute pleasure to work with. They were on board. They wanted to do it, and they wanted to do it right, which we appreciated.”

Alas, the cooperation was too little, and way too late. Attendance was estimated at around 1,000 on Saturday, April 15, the festival’s biggest day.

“Peak time was Saturday, and next weekend should be bigger. With three weeks to promote, that’s about what we expected,” Wyatt said during that Monday, April 17, phone call.

There were high hopes for the second weekend of the festival, which was slated to start a day early in celebration of 4/20—but it was not meant to be. On Wednesday, April 19, organizers decided to pull the plug and cut their losses.

“Our sincere thanks to the city of Coachella, its mayor, councilmembers and management,” said an announcement on the Kushella Life Facebook page. “Thank you all for your support! Due to circumstances beyond our control, Kushella Life will not move forward as planned, and has been cancelled. We are hopeful that the event will return in late 2017. Once again, thank you, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

Wyatt remained optimistic when I texted him on the day of the cancellation. “Yes, we will retool and be back for next year, for sure!” he said. “We were obviously over-equipped this year, but that’s the plan.”<hr


Canada Moves Toward National Legalization

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation on Thursday, April 13, that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The proposed change would take effect in July 2018. Canadians would then be able to purchase flower, extracts and edibles from licensed shops, and grow up to four plants. While the change would allow Canadians 18 and older to possess up to 30 grams of dried flower, provinces, territories and cities could pass more-restrictive laws, if desired.

If passed, Canada would join Uruguay as the only countries to completely legalize cannabis for recreational use.

The bill’s introduction was the fruition of a campaign promise Trudeau made in 2015 to end the Canadian prohibition of cannabis. In the announcement, the Canadian government said ending prohibition “would mean that possession of small amounts of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offense and would prevent profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.”

Down here in the United States, cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning cannabis-industry finances are excluded from Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protection. This has made investors wary, meaning that billions of dollars could go to Canada and its more-cannabis-friendly banking environment rather than being spent in the U.S.

It remains to be seen if this will happen. We may find out over the next year ...


U.S. Senate Considering ‘Path to Marijuana Reform’ Package of Bills

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be increasingly alone in his quixotic anti-pot crusade.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently went on Meet the Press and said, “Marijuana is not a factor in the Drug War,” and in late March, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, unveiled the “Path to Marijuana Reform,” a bipartisan package of bills to address banking, taxation, civil forfeiture, decriminalization, descheduling, research and regulation of the booming cannabis industry.

The package includes the Small Business Tax Equity Act, which would create “an exception to IRC section 280E to allow businesses operating in compliance with state law to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana like any other legal business.” Section 280E is a 1982 law meant to prevent illicit drug-dealers from claiming deductions related to the sale of narcotics. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is a co-sponsor of Wyden’s bill in the Senate, while Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

The Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act would remove federal penalties and civil-asset forfeiture from individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state marijuana laws. The law would ensure access to banking, bankruptcy protection and advertising for marijuana businesses; expunge criminal records for select marijuana-related offenses; and ease barriers for medical-marijuana research. It would also end drug-testing requirements for federal civil service jobs in states where marijuana has been legalized.

The third bill, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. It would impose a federal tax structure on pot products, define permitting for marijuana businesses, and regulate cannabis much like alcohol has been regulated for decades.

“This is common-sense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement on the organization’s website. “Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up at the federal level. States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it.”

Published in Cannabis in the CV

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