dispensary

Immigrants Can Be Denied Citizenship for Working in Legal Marijuana Industry

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  ROBYN BECK/Getty Images

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

ROBYN BECK/Getty Images


 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance a day before the unofficial marijuana holiday that makes clear working in the marijuana industry, or even just possessing cannabis could be grounds to reject a citizenship application—regardless of whether it is done in a state where it is legal.

Violations of federal marijuana laws “are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” according to the guidance issued Friday. Merely being “involved in certain marijuana-related activities” could be sign that an applicant for citizenship “may lack good moral character” regardless of whether “such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” according to the USCIS statement.

Immigration lawyers who work in states where marijuana is legal say they have been dealing with this issue for a while now, leading Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock to send a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking for clarification about policies that have been affecting immigrants. This isn’t just a theoretical issue either. CNN reports that two immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than two decades were told they were not eligible for naturalization due to their work in the marijuana industry. “I work hard in an industry that offers opportunity and that’s unquestionably legal within the state. For the government to deny my citizenship application because I’m a bad person is devastating,” one affected immigrant tells CNN.

Advocates for legalization say the guidance is more a reflection of the government’s anti-immigrant attitude than about drugs. “I don’t think this is about marijuana at all,” said Michael Collins, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think this is about them using the war on drugs to go after migrant community and that’s what they’ve been doing since Day 1.” A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana while 10 states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.


California state marijuana excise tax could go up July 1

California state marijuana excise tax could go up July 1

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Although the California marijuana industry has hoped for tax relief as it struggles to compete with a thriving illicit market, a tax increase could be on the way.

A tax hike would hit cannabis companies’ bottom line and could drive more consumers into the illicit market in search of cheaper marijuana products.

But an increase isn’t a foregone conclusion. Moreover, a tax cut could occur.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) uses a 60% markup rate, along with the average market price of wholesale marijuana, as a basis for the state’s 15% marijuana excise tax.

That markup rate has to be recalculated every six months, and CDTFA Director Nicolas Maduros told an industry conference this week in Sacramento the excise tax may go up this summer.

“We’re responsible for resetting that markup rate every six months, so it will be reset July 1,” Maduros said, when asked during a panel with other MJ regulators.


“It’s based on market data, and I think particularly once …track-and-traceis more fully utilized, that we’ll have some better pricing data to figure out what that markup rate should be,” Maduros said.


The state track-and-trace system launched in January but is only used by cannabis companies with annual business licenses.

And so far just a fraction of the legal companies have obtained those permits, which means most of the industry isn’t feeding data into the track-and-trace system.

“We’re administrators, so it’s not up to us to sort of use that as a way to lower or increase the tax burden. We’re simply looking at what the facts are. It’s up to the legislature … to determine what the actual tax rate is,” he said.

When asked if the markup rate – and therefore the excise tax – could increase, Maduros said: “It could.”

It’s worth noting, however, that the rate also could either decrease or stay the same.

A CDTFA spokesman said in an email that there’s also no cap on how much the markup rate could increase – or decrease.

What a markup could mean

Maduros said after the panel that any decision on the markup rate and the excise tax will not be made until June at the earliest.

The markup recalculation would not affect the state cultivation tax, which is $9.25 per ounce of flower, $2.75 per ounce of leaves and $1.29 per ounce of fresh plant.

California Cannabis Industry Association Spokesman Josh Drayton said that a tax increase “would only further damage the supply chain as it competes against the illicit market.”

But, Drayton emphasized, it’s possible the excise tax may either stay the same or even decrease, and said it’s too early to tell what will happen with the CDTFA’s recalculation.

“I think we need full implementation of Metrc and track-and-trace before we consider any increase,” Drayton said.

“We have not seen any data that would support an increase in the excise tax for any part of the supply chain.”

Separately, a state bill to temporarily reduce state cannabis taxes is awaiting hearings in the California Legislature.

If successful, Assembly Bill 286 would reduce the excise tax from 15% to 11% and suspend the cultivation tax until 2022.



Employers May Lose Cases for Firing Medical Marijuana Users

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 Health-care worker Katelin Noffsinger told a potential employer that she took medical cannabis to deal with the effects of a car crash, but when a drug test came back positive, the nursing home rescinded her job offer anyway.

A federal judge ruled in September 2018 that the nursing home, which had cited federal laws against cannabis use, violated an anti-discrimination provision of Connecticut‘s medical marijuana law.

It was the latest in a series of clashes between U.S. and state laws around the country that came out in favor of medical cannabis users trying to keep or obtain jobs with drug-testing employers.

The Connecticut decision was the first ruling of its kind in a federal case and followed similar recent rulings against employers by state courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Earlier rulings had gone against medical cannabis users in employment cases by state supreme courts, including those in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, over the past few years.

Advocates hope new the new decisions are a signal of growing acceptance of cannabis’ medicinal value.

“This decision reflects the rapidly changing cultural and legal status of cannabis, and affirms that employers should not be able to discriminate against those who use marijuana responsibly while off the job, in compliance with the laws of their state,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Medical marijuana, like the cannabis cuttings growing in a Sira Naturals cultivation facility in Milford Massachusetts, is reshaping employment law. A U.S. District judge in New Haven, Connecticut, ruled in favor of a woman who alleged a prospective employer discriminated against her when she sought a health-care job and informed the company she used medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from a car crash. The judge found that the nursing home violated Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law protecting medical cannabis users despite marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level. (Associated Press File Photo/Steven Senne)

 

Noffsinger sued Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center in Niantic in 2016. She had been offered, and accepted, a job as recreation therapy director at the nursing home, contingent on her passing a drug test.

She told the nursing home that she took synthetic marijuana pills — legally under state law and only at night — to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she developed after the 2012 car accident. But the company rescinded the job offer after the drug test came back positive for THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high.

As a federal contractor, the nursing home worried that it could be cut off from that revenue if it employed somebody who tested positive for drugs.

On Sept. 5, 2018, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven ruled Bride Brook discriminated against Noffsinger based solely on her medical cannabis use in violation of state law. He denied her request for punitive damages. The case is now heading to a trial on whether Noffsinger should receive compensatory damages for lost wages from not getting the job.

A lawyer for the nursing home, Thomas Blatchley, declined to comment.

Noffsinger’s attorney, Henry Murray, said his client would not comment on the lawsuit. He said Noffsinger has taken another job in the health-care industry that doesn’t pay as much as the Bride Brook job.

In his ruling, Meyer said the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which many employers including federal contractors rely on for policies on drug testing, does not actually require drug testing and does not prohibit federal contractors from employing people who use medical cannabis outside the workplace in accordance with state law.

The decision will likely be used in arguments in similar cases elsewhere, said Fiona Ong, an employment attorney with the Baltimore firm of Shawe Rosenthal.

“This is a very significant case that throws the issue in doubt for many of these federal contractors,” Ong said. “It’s certainly interesting and may be indicative of where the courts are going with this.”

Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam now allow medical marijuana, while 15 others have approved low-THC products for medical reasons in certain cases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only nine states including Connecticut, however, specifically ban employment discrimination against medical marijuana users, who could continue to face difficulties in obtaining or keeping jobs in the 41 other states, employment lawyers say.

In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court ruled in 2017 that a sales and marketing company wrongly fired a worker after her first day on the job after she tested positive for cannabis, which she used under the state’s medical marijuana law to treat her Crohn’s disease. Also in 2017, the Rhode Island state Supreme Court said a college student was wrongly denied an internship at a fabric company where officials refused to hire her after she acknowledged she could not pass a drug test because she used medical marijuana.

In both cases, the two women told the companies during the hiring process that they used medical marijuana, but would not consume it while on the job.

The American Bar Association called the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island cases “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and cautioned employers to consider state medical cannabis laws when analyzing their drug use and testing policies.

Several bills are pending before Congress that would undo marijuana’s Schedule I classification as a controlled substance with no medicinal value. But Armentano of NORML said it is unlikely they will go anywhere while Republicans control Congress.

Some employers, though, have dropped marijuana from the drug tests they require of employees, saying the testing excludes too many potential workers in a challenging hiring environment.

Legal Weed: California Lawmakers Leave Many Marijuana Policies in Suspense

California lawmakers returned from summer recess to a busy week of committee hearings. Seventeen cannabis bills had hearings in Sacramento for the week ending Friday, August 10, 2018. We’ve broken down the status of each bill and what steps are to follow.

AB 1744 — After-school Programs (Placed in suspense file)

AB 1744 would allocate cannabis tax revenues to provide grants for the After-School Education and Safety Program. Qualifying after-school programs are required to provide youth development activities that promote healthful lifestyle choices and behaviors in order to receive funding. AB 1744  was placed in the suspense file with a vote of 7-0 by the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. The suspense file is a holding placing for any bill with an annual cost to the state greater than $150,000. Bills are held in the suspense file before the fiscal deadline to offer each legislative chamber time to allocate funds. Bills that are moved out of the suspense file go to the floor for a final reading and vote, while bills held in suspense die.

AB 1793 — Resentencing for Cannabis Convictions (Placed in Suspense File)

AB 1793 would require the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to review all convictions that could potentially be eligible for resentencing under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 (AUMA), or Proposition 64, before July 1, 2019. The bill would allow prosecutors to challenge convictions that do not fully meet the eligibility requirements. AB 1793 was also placed in the suspense file Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, with a 7-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1863 — Personal Income Tax Deductions (Passed Committee)

AB 1863 would allow California-licensed, state-compliant cannabis businesses to deduct business expenses under the Personal Income Tax Law. If passed, the bill would go into effect immediately. The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 6-0 to pass AB 1863 on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. The bill will proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1996 — California Cannabis Research Program (Placed in Suspense File)

AB 1996 would establish the California Cannabis Research Program to develop studies and conduct cannabis research. The bill proposes to allocate resources from the California Tax Fund to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. The Senate Appropriations Committee placed AB 1996 in the suspense file Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2020 — Temporary Event Licenses for Onsite Sales (Placed in Suspense File proposes a state temporary cannabis event license to be issued to a licensee for events to be held at any venue zoned or approved by a local licensing authority for events. Additionally, the bill would authorize onsite cannabis sales and consumption for adults 21 and older, as long as all participants in the event are licensed under the Medicinal and Adult-use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). AB 2020 was placed in the suspense file following a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2215 — Veterinary Cannabis Medicine Ban (Ordered for Third  Reading)

AB 2215 proposes to prohibit a veterinarian from recommending or administering cannabis to an animal patient. The bill would authorize the Veterinary Medical Board to revoke or suspend a license, or to assess a fine for violating a controlled substances law. AB 2215 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2255 — Transportation Limits (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2255 would prohibit licensed distributors from transporting cannabis that exceeds the amount stated on a shipping manifest. Violations would result in fines. Additionally, the bill would prevent law enforcement officers from seizing cannabis in transport without probable cause. AB 2255 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2402 — Personal Information Privacy (Ordered for Third  Reading)

AB 2402 prohibits a MAUCRSA licensee from sharing a consumer’s personal information to a third party without the consumer’s consent. The bill would also prevent a licensee from denying a consumer a product or service if they do not consent to sharing their information. AB 2402 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2555 — Legal Language of Cannabis (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2555 proposes to amend sections of the California Business and Professions code by adding definitions for the terms “immature cannabis plant,” “mature cannabis plant,” and “plant.” Additionally, instead of requiring a unique identifier to be issued for each cannabis plant, the bill would require a unique identifier for each mature cannabis plant. AB 2555 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2641 — Temporary Event Licenses for Sales (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2641 proposes for the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) to issue a temporary cannabis retailer license to qualified licensees for the transportation and sale of any cannabis products at a licensed temporary cannabis event. The bill would require an application be sent to the BCC, including a list of all licensed participating business. AB 2641 was read a second time, and ordered to a third reading following a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2899 — Cannabis Advertisement Restrictions (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2899 would prohibit a licensee from publishing advertisements or marketing materials for cannabis and cannabis products under a suspended license. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2914 — Cannabis in Alcoholic Beverages (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2914 would prohibit a cannabis licensee from producing or selling cannabis products in alcoholic beverages. Additionally, this bill would prevent any alcoholic beverage licensee from selling, offering, or providing cannabis or cannabis products. AB 2914 would authorize the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to suspend or revoke a license if a violation is found. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered to a third reading.

AB 2980 — Common Areas Shared by Cannabis Businesses (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2980 would require that sections of the MAUCRSA not be misinterpreted in a manner that would prevent two or more licensed premises from sharing common-use areas, as long as all licensees comply with the requirements of the act. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered to a third reading.

AB 924 — Commercial Cannabis Regulation on Native American Tribal Lands (Hearing Postponed by Committee)

AB 924 would establish the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Act for Tribal Entities (CREATE Act). Under the CREATE Act, participating tribes would be required to enter a tribal cannabis regulatory agreement with the governor for the purpose of establishing a tribal cannabis regulatory commission or agency. All tribal cannabis regulatory agreements and subsequent tribal commissions and agencies must be approved by the Legislature. A hearing for AB 924 was rescheduled for Monday, Aug.13, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1459 — County Agricultural Commission Reporting (Passed Committee)

SB 1459 would require county agricultural commissioners to include cannabis among reports of the condition, acreage, production, and value of agricultural products submitted to the secretary of Food and Agriculture. SB 1459 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee 13-4 and has been ordered for a third reading on the Senate floor.

SB 829 — Compassionate-care Licenses (Placed in Suspense File)

SB 829 proposes the BCC issue and regulate compassionate-care licenses, which are issued to donors of medicinal cannabis or marijuana products to qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation. SB 829 was placed in following an Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.   

SB 930 — State-chartered Financial Institutions for Cannabis (Placed in Suspense File)

SB 930 would create a state charter for privately financed banks and credit unions for the purpose of offering banking services to licensed cannabis businesses. Administered by the Commissioner of Business Oversight and the Department of Business Oversight, the program would also create the Cannabis Limited Charter Bank and Credit Union Advisory Board to include the treasurer, the controller and the chief of the BCC as policy directors. SB 930 was placed in the suspense file Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Votes to Legalize Marijuana

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5,871 miles of open Pacific Ocean waters separate the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from the coast of California. But the 15-island chain that makes up the United States’ westernmost territory is poised to do something no U.S. state has ever done.

On Wednesday, 18 of CNMI’s 20 legislators voted to approve a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use. The bill would also legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp. And if CNMI Governor Ralph Torres enacts the bill, the territory will make legalization history—twice.

CNMI Would Be First U.S. Jurisdiction to Go From Total Prohibition to Full Legalization

This isn’t the first time CNMI lawmakers attempted to legalize cannabis. As recently as May, the CNMI Senate approved a piece of legislation nearly identical to the House-approved bill. Procedural issues, however, stymied the bill’s progress.

After another false start in the Senate, the House opted to file its own bill. It took less than a week for the full chamber to vote to approve the proposal.

 

That act alone makes CNMI unique among the 9 U.S. states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. Vermont comes closest, having legalized marijuana through a legislative process rather than a ballot initiative. But unlike CNMI’s proposed legislation, Vermont’s law doesn’t establish a retail market. The Mariana Islands’ legislation would.

There’s a second way CNMI would make legalization history if the bill becomes law. Every U.S. state that has legalized adult-use marijuana did so only after establishing a medical cannabis program. But in CNMI, there is no medical marijuana. The territory would be the first U.S. jurisdiction to go from total prohibition to full legalization.

What’s Next for Legal Cannabis in U.S. Territories?

Despite the tremendous distance between the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the continental United States, the territory has been closely watching legal cannabis unfold there. Indeed, the overwhelming support for the proposal in the House is due to lawmakers’ recognizing the significant benefits of legal weed.

 

The full text of the legislation, SB 20-62, cites how states with regulated markets for marijuana “have observed real and significant benefits to public health, safety and quality of life for all residents,” and goes on to list medical benefits like treatments for pain, epilepsy and PTSD, social benefits like a reduction in overdose deaths and lowered crime and economic benefits like tax revenue and job growth.

But the bill still has a couple more hurdles to clear before it becomes law. The CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 is currently on its way back to the Senate for approval. After that, it will head to the desk of Gov. Ralph Torres, a Republican who has expressed concerns about legalization.

In response to House passage of the bill, Torres stressed the importance of taking “a look at both sides of the coin.” Torres wondered about the crime statistics in states with legal weed and other public safety issues.

 

Whether those reservations would ultimately lead Gov. Torres to veto the legislative effort and oppose the will of CNMI residents, however, remains to be seen. Public hearings about the act had higher attendance than any hearings senators could remember. Initially, legislators had designed the bill as a voter referendum before adopting it in the Senate.

30 Arrested at Washington DC Marijuana Pop-Up Event

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Marijuana pop-up events have been growing in popularity in Washington DC over the past month. That momentum has come to a grinding halt as DC cops crack down on the events. Over the weekend, 30 people were arrested at a marijuana pop-up.

Weekend Arrests

Over the weekend, police officers broke up what was described as a “marijuana pop-up event.” According to local news source WTOP, cops arrived to carry out a search warrant. It’s unclear what, exactly, the warrant was for.

Police quickly moved to break up the event. They seized multiple pounds of weed and other cannabis products containing THC. Additionally, they took around $10,000 in cash. Police also reportedly found three firearms.

Police arrested 30 people in connection with the pop-up. Reports said there were around 28 vendors at the event. It’s still unclear how many people were participating as sellers, vendors, or attendees.

 

DC’s Thriving Pop-Up Scene

Marijuana pop-ups have become pretty popular in the nation’s capital. The pop-ups have typically functioned without being harassed by law enforcement, thanks to a legal loophole.

In the fall of 2014, DC residents voted to legalize cannabis. The new law went into effect in February 2015. Under the new law, it’s legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of cannabis. Adults can also smoke weed in private, but public consumption is not allowed.

Additionally, it’s legal for people 21 and older to give up to one ounce of weed to another adult. Adult DC residents are also allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.

 

Although these laws technically don’t let people sell weed, the marijuana pop-up events function by “gifting” weed rather than selling it.

Vendors will sell non-marijuana products—like stickers, shirts, hats, or juice—and throw in some flower on the side, as a gift.

Since they are technically only selling the non-weed product, and giving the weed away to customers, vendors say they’re not actually violating any laws.

 

The Popularity of Pot Pop-Ups

Marijuana pop-ups have become so popular that DC locals tell High Timesthey’ve become an almost daily event.

Cannabis vendors who “gift” marijuana at pop-ups have established a working network of events and clients. In fact, residents in DC can easily find cannabis pop-ups being advertised on social media, especially Instagram.

Beyond the pop-ups, people have tried other methods for taking advantage of DC’s ambiguous weed laws. For example, some vendors offer home delivery. Of course, the product they’re actually selling is something like artwork, juice, or clothing. And after making a purchase, customers receive a little green on the side as a thank-you gift.

France Opens First Coffee Shops Selling CBD Products

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Among European Union nations, France has some of the toughest laws against cannabis. Yet the country of nearly 67 million people has one of the highest rates of cannabis consumption in Europe. Recognizing the demand, some French companies have figured out a way to satisfy customers’ desire for cannabis, in a way that doesn’t break the law.

Across France, “coffee shops” selling cannabis and hemp products are springing up. But customers won’t find any products with THC in them. Instead, these coffee shops are exclusively selling CBD products.

Paris Is The Latest City To Open CBD Coffee Shops

Tucked away in Paris’ chic 11th arrondissement, curious shoppers are lining up outside CofyShop, a cannabis store selling CBD products.

Everything on the shelves, from tinctures and syrups to vape juice, edibles, topicals and even herbs, contains a negligible amount of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid that produces the euphoric sensations users commonly call a high.

But shoppers won’t find anything containing more than 0.2 percent THC in CofyShop. What they will find is a wide assortment of CBD products, mostly produced from hemp.

Still, the fact that France’s cannabis coffee shops aren’t selling anything that would get users high seems to be lost on some first-time customers.

“I want to find out if the stuff they’re selling gets you stoned,” Marc, a 21-year-old lined up outside the shop told the Telegraph. “In theory, it has less than 0.2 percent THC, but I’ve heard it contains more CBD and that should have an effect, at least to make you feel relaxed.”

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the key therapeutic compounds in cannabis. The wide range of medicinal applications of CBD include its relaxing, anti-anxiety effects.

Researchers around the world are investigating how CBD can treat neurological diseases, reduce seizures, fight cancer and reduce inflammation. Their findings continue to corroborate anecdotal evidence about CBD’s effectiveness as a remedy for a number of ailments.

The availability of CBD products throughout France comes from a loosening of some cannabis laws. A growing awareness of the legality of CBD has also contributed to the coffee shop phenomenon.

French Health Minister Says CBD Products Are Legal

In May 2017, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron appointed Agnès Buzyn to Minister of Solidarity and Health. And in November of that year, Buzyn made a statement regarding the legality of cannabis and hemp-derived CBD products.

Buzyn supports the use of medical cannabis and has re-opened debate about how to expand access to it. France legalized cannabis for medical use in 2013, but the program’s restrictions make it a non-starter for most patients.

But in November, Buzyn announced that CBD was legal for public consumption under two conditions. First, products had to adhere to the 0.2 percent THC limit. And second, producers and retailers had to refrain from making any health claims about the products.

French authorities are also keeping a close eye on the activity of these shops, to make sure no illegal products end up on their shelves.

CBD products are undeniably increasing in popularity across France, drawing criticism from some and support from others. For the most part, however, the public seems to think CBD products are simply “low strength” versions of cannabis containing THC.

Critics are deploying gateway theory to suggest legal CBD will lead people to consuming illicit THC products. Supporters are excited to have access to high quality, potentially therapeutic products.

French cannabis coffee shops import all their CBD products from neighboring Switzerland. On average, shops are selling CBD for about US$15 per gram.

 

 

 

Weed YouTubers Speak Out After Having Their Channels Deleted

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YouTube has been systematically shutting down marijuana-centric channels on its video-sharing site with little-to-no explanation since at least early 2018. Cannabis YouTubers—or WeedTubers—have been dealt channel strikes, suspensions, and restrictions on the same platform that seemingly used to embrace them. In addition to receiving little information about the purge, creators have been left confused by YouTube’s inconsistent enforcement of standards and policies concerning cannabis content.

“As soon as they decided to close all of our channels down, it’s just been radio silence for every single one of us,” said Josh Young, creator of the channel Strain Central.

Young had been a WeedTuber since 2014, even getting a tattoo of YouTube’s iconic red, “play” button logo on his wrist when he hit 100,000 subscribers about two years ago. He had cultivated a following of nearly 500,000 subscribers with educational cannabis content until his channel was shut down in late April. Young still sees the tattoo as a reminder of how he found both his passion and voice in his YouTube videos but is disappointed to see his channel disappear without a clear explanation.

“I think the weirdest part for me is that for a long time, I had been [regularly] in contact with YouTube,” he said. “I wasn’t doing a lot of the big consumption challenges or anything like that, so I felt like they were a little more open with me… It almost seems like once they made that decision, it was an executive decision for everyone.”

 

Preparing for the ‘Adpocalypse’

Setting the scene for the creation of YouTube’s vague content policies, the platform has undergone a wide variety of changes dating back to March of 2017, an era dubbed the ‘Adpocalypse.’

Huge brands including Pepsi, Walmart, and Verizon—in addition to institutions like the U.K. governmentpulled their ads after finding that their spots were featured alongside problematic videos touting political extremist views and hate speech. AT&T issued a statement: “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”  A resounding message heard not only by employees at YouTube, but the creators who relied on the platform for their livelihood.

According to ArsTechnica, YouTube’s response was to place an age restriction on anything that might be objectionable, which demonetized those videos—essentially meaning they were not eligible for ads, and therefore, would generate no revenue for their creators. Brands were also allowed to opt out of advertising on videos based on broad criteria, including “tragedy and conflict” or “sensitive social issues.”

 

As over 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, scouring that content is a huge task—one predominantly carried out by algorithms. Though creators may submit appeals, the process can take several days to complete. This lag upset several creators, who began jumping ship to other platforms, such as Twitch, or soliciting donations via Patreon or PayPal to continue their channels.

The crackdown on content didn’t save YouTube from its next controversy. In December of 2017, YouTuber Logan Paul posted a video depicting a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. Though YouTube condemned the video, Paul, who has 17.5 million subscribers, was not permanently booted from the platform.

Yet the most shocking turn of events came on April 3, when a 38-year-old vlogger shot and wounded three people at YouTube’s San Bruno, CA headquarters before taking her own life. Her videos, whose videos were largely focused on fitness, veganism, and animal rights, had expressed frustration over YouTube’s policies, claiming that many of her videos were demonetized.

 

All of this sets the scene for what cannabis content creators claim is now happening with their channels, over a year from when this so-called “Adpocalypse” hit.

What’s Happening to Cannabis Channels?

WeedTubers’ channel restrictions and deletions seem to follow a similar pattern. First, content creators first receive a strike. According to YouTube’s guidelines, strikes can be issues for a variety of issues, including copyright violations; harmful, dangerous, or hateful content; scams, or “misleading metadata.” One strike can stop the channel from live streaming, while two within a three-month period prevents the posting of any new content for two weeks. Strikes are not permanent, can be appealed, and will expire in three months’ time. However, if a channel receives three strikes in three months, that account will be terminated. It’s this strike-to-deletion pathway that seems common among cannabis channels, regardless of the type of content posted.

Matthias Gast said he racked up three strikes on his channel, Matthias710WRX in February. He typically posted reviews of dabbing products and videos in which he took “massive dabs” for his some 100,000 subscribers.

“It was kind of like a Jackass of weed thing, just trying to make people laugh and show them that cannabis isn’t dangerous,” he said. “You can smoke a whole ton of it, and I’m still standing here just fine.”

The first strike was on one such CBD review, in which Gast took a half-gram dab and gave his thoughts on how he felt.

He admits the second video strike, which featured the inclusion of a psychedelic mushroom, made more sense to remove. Yet his third came minutes after posting a video about a trip to Hawaii containing footage of him taking dabs and smoking, and his account was terminated within the span of a week. Gast said he was sent a generic email which indicated he was not following the platform’s terms and conditions.

 

 

Similarly, Joel Hradecky’s channel boasting 1.5 million subscribers, CustomGrow420, was deleted earlier this year, only to have it reinstated on June 6 without notice. Like Gast, he said he received generic emails from YouTube without specific answers. In one such email, of which he posted a screenshot to his Instagram account, YouTube writes they do not allow content that “encourages or promotes violent or dangerous acts that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death.” Examples included drug abuse, bomb making, and underage drinking or smoking.

“They have lots of alcohol stuff on there” Hradecky pointed out. “It’s just weird because everybody could post [cannabis content] for a long time, and then all of a sudden, everything changed.”

Clark Campbell and Alice Addison, a Los Angeles-based couple who posted cannabis and lifestyle content to their channel, That High Couple, had their channel suspended in April. Campbell works as a digital community manager for a Multi-Channel Network, which means his day job is to work with influencers and content creators on growth strategies. In his experience operating under YouTube’s policies, he sees the rise in strikes and flags as the likely result of an algorithm, not a human monitor.

“Across the board, we’re seeing cannabis tags and cannabis-related titles and topics [being removed]; those are the ones that at least the algorithm, on its basic level, is picking up, flagging, and removing,” Campbell said.

 

Courtesy of That High Couple

The High Couple received their first strike on April 19 on a video explaining how to roll a joint, followed by a channel suspension. When their channel was reinstated, it came back with two strikes; the second strike was on a 360 tour of a dispensary in Vegas. The couple is now afraid to post any new content, for fear of a third and damning strike. So, they intend to move their cannabis content elsewhere and only post lifestyle and travel content to YouTube.

“It hasn’t been anything we, as content creators, have done differently, it’s just that the platform is changing this year,” Campbell said. “It’s a shame because it’s one of the biggest, most radical changes since I’ve started working with YouTubers, and it’s something that they’re just not communicating enough over what it is they’re flagging.”

While some cannabis YouTubers have had their presence wiped out with no clear path to return, Matt Lamb, who posts educational and how-to content to his Ruffhouse Studios channel, has had his channel reinstated, though not without much back and forth.

Lamb found YouTube supportive when he first started his channel in 2011. He enjoyed repeated invitations to YouTube’s space in Los Angeles, where he both produced content and used their equipment. Another time, said he was introduced to various brands like Chipotle and SweeTarts at a party; he was one of about 15 to 20 other creators and the only cannabis creator present at the time.

Yet about a year ago, he began experiencing demonetization, followed by the complete deletion of his channel. When he reached out to YouTube to ask why, he was told he was using spiders or bots that would artificially inflate view counts, generating fake traffic. Lamb denies this, and said YouTube provided no evidence of what he had supposedly done. On May 29, Lamb’s channel was reinstated and he was sent an email indicating the channel did not violate the platform’s policies. Browse his channel today, and you’ll find his over 400,000 subscribers and video content in tact. Lamb still, however, doesn’t know what went wrong in the first place.

Why the Purging of Cannabis Content?

Given the range of reasons provided in YouTube’s vague emails and the absence of personalized communication, many WeedTubers are left wondering why — and, especially, why now. High Times reached out to YouTube for a statement, and have not received a response at the time of this writing.

Without a clear answer, theories abound. One might argue that cannabis is a stigmatized drug that remains federally illegal, but it’s also considered a medicine in 29 states and legal in 9, as well as D.C. Although this would seem to go against the trend of YouTube not only allowing cannabis content, but seemingly encouraging it for quite some time with invites to film in the YouTube Space with studios and equipment or partner managers assigned to WeedTuber accounts prior to the wave of deletions.

Some hypothesize that YouTube is attempting to become more brand-friendly and more appealing to TV advertisers. Lamb notes that some bigger content creators who cover cannabis but already have ties to TV, like Snoop Dogg and VICE, have been permitted to stay on the site.

Others believe the platform is simply still trying to clean up its content after the Logan Paul outrage by bumping off smaller creators. While cannabis seems to be the common denominators among the WeedTubers we spoke with—whose subscriber counts and content styles vary—it’s not the only genre of channels that’s been experiencing strikes, suspensions, and deletions. Following the Parkland shooting, conspiracy theory and firearm channels began complaining of similar treatment. In 2017, LGBTQ creators found their videos were being placed in restricted mode.

It seems the algorithm, blindly flagging and restricting videos containing anything that might be construed controversial in the slightest, is at the core of the confusion leading creators to criticize the lack of transparency at YouTube. And if YouTube is unable to clarify what, exactly, is acceptable on its platform, they could stand to lose a fair amount of creators—which may not matter to them if they’re still getting those advertiser dollars. For creators, it may mean seeking out new, more accepting platforms, or finding niche platforms centered around the communities they love.

All of the Obstacles To Marijuana Legalization in Georgia

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Four months ago, HT writer Chris Roberts asked if Georgia would be the next state to legalize marijuana. As a resident of Greater Atlanta, I hate to break the news but the answer is “no.” Georgia House Bill 645, allowing for “lawful possession or control of certain amounts of low THC oil” for “certain circumstances” did not pass during the most recent legislative session. Neither did HB 865, which would have made possession of certain quantities of herb a misdemeanor. Even before the vote, the law was given a 7 percent chance of passing.

Just a reminder: This is Georgia we’re talking about. There are not many surprises here.

Changes in the State

That doesn’t mean things aren’t changing. Term-limited Georgia governor Nathan Deal did sign HB 65 into law, which added post-traumatic stress disorder and “intractable pain” to the state’s growing list of conditions considered treatable by cannabis oil. And, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, somewhere around 4,000 people are listed in Georgia’s medical marijuana registry and are carriers of the state’s Low THC Oil Registry Card.

Progress is progress, and in the deeply conservative South, it’s easy to be amazed at the giant steps Georgia has taken to legalize medicinal marijuana, particularly over the past eight years under Governor Deal. But progress isn’t the goal, and while it’s great that we’ve moved the ball forward on legal cannabis, the reality of the current situation here in the Peach State is pretty terrible, thanks to all sorts of problematic issues that hover above like a cloud of mids, keeping everyone stuck in a hazy limbo on exactly where we are now and what will happen next.

 

You could be completely colorblind and still know without a doubt that Georgia is a red state. And there’s a chance it could become significantly redder, depending on the outcome of the upcoming 2018 gubernatorial election.

There’s going to be a runoff on the Republican side between Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Between the two, Cagle is seen as the moderate, even though his recent retaliation toward Delta Airlines over the company’s severing of ties with the National Rifle Association shows that he’s not above grandstanding to please his base when it’s voting/fundraising time. Whether you think that’s the lesser of two evils when compared to Kemp’s primary campaign ads, like the one in which he promised to “round up criminal illegals” in his own big truck might depend on what kinda stuff you like to smoke (from the way things appear it might not even be weed).

Politicians and Pot

Assuming history knows best and Georgia elects another Republican, you can expect Cagle to be more open to expanding the state’s legalization efforts (at least according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution), while Kemp will fight any in-state cannabis cultivation in a state with boundless agricultural capability. Neither of these situations point to the sort of systems in place in states like California prior to wide legalization.

 

It’s unclear what motivates Cagle and Kemp, and those who would support them. But it is notable that an AJC poll of 940 Georgia voters (administered by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center) showed that Georgians like weed: 77 percent of participants said the state’s medical marijuana law should be expanded to “allow the harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana with strict controls.” Even when it comes to recreational and miscellaneous marijuana use, those polled voted 50 percent to 46 percent in favor of legalizing it.

On the other hand, Democrat Stacey Abrams, who won a historic primary to become the nation’s first woman of color to become a state’s major party nominee for governor, seems to be clearly in favor of relaxing marijuana policy in Georgia, and quite heavily. She tweeted in February that with the creation of “a strong substance abuse network,” she would back recreational use, and until then she’d continue to be a supporter of decriminalization, medical marijuana, and local cultivation.

There’s also a lot of conflicting information—and, with that, a lot of confused people. I looked into this back in April, before Governor Deal’s recent PTSD and pain inclusion move. It’s definitely worth educating yourself if you plan to use marijuana, particularly since there seems to be no possible way to legally get it right now.

 

And with all the celebration that occurred when former mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council announced the decriminalization of weed, many people don’t seem to realize that you can absolutely still be arrested for having or smoking it anywhere in the city or state.

To look on the bright side, by signing HB 645, Governor Deal has mandated the creation of a 15-member commission, which will look into how cannabis oil is accessed in Georgia, and spend time evaluating elements such as testing, manufacture, dispensing and security of the current controlled substance. And with the state registry continuing to grow, it will certainly be worth watching to see how the governor’s race affects things, and what else other than peaches Georgia residents might one day be able to grow as a result.

Detroit Proposes Limits on Licensed Marijuana Dispensaries

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The City of Detroit may impose limits on the number of licensed marijuana dispensaries it allows. City Councilmember Chris Tate has proposed a new ordinance that caps the number of cannabis dispensaries at 75. The proposal also gives the city authority to regulate businesses involved in cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and distribution.

The measure also encourages potential owners of cannabis businesses to offer community benefits in their permit applications. Tate told local media that the new ordinance will allow medical marijuana patients and the city at large to coexist.

“Approving this ordinance would finally bring some closure to this issue and chart the path to the future of this industry in the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan,” Tate said. “The goal has always been to ensure that we have an industry that is respectful of the neighborhoods, the communities it is located in, but also considerate to individuals seeking safe access to alternative medication. This ordinance balances those two needs with the preservation of neighborhoods being the top priority.”

Amir Makled is an attorney who represents medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit. He believes that city officials should not establish arbitrary limits that can hinder the growth of the cannabis economy.

 

The ordinance goes against “the will of the voters,” Makled said. “I understand the city has an interest in curtailing the amount of dispensaries they have or medical marijuana facilities. But I think they should have allowed the market to determine what was a reasonable amount of facilities to have.”

Can Cannabis be the Economic Boost Detroit Needs?

Makled also said that cannabis is a chance to revitalize Detroit’s depressed economy. But for that to happen, city officials must embrace the new opportunity.

“If Detroit is going to make a comeback and have new industries come into the city, they should welcome this industry,” Makled said. “It can create a tax base and a whole new hub for the industry, so I’m surprised they’re curtailing that growth.”

 

The new ordinance would also clarify “drug-free zones” and zoning and distance requirements for cannabis businesses. Earlier this year, Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. of the Wade County Circuit Court partially overturned Proposal A — which was approved by voters in November 2017, and would have allowed dispensaries within 500 feet of each other. It also allowed dispensaries to locate near liquor stores, child care centers, and other so-called sensitive use establishments.

Judge Colombo also entirely struck down Proposal B, which voters also passed last year. That law established zoning regulations for pot businesses and permitted dispensaries and processors in all business and industrial districts.

Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia said Tate’s proposal will guide the growth of the cannabis industry.

 

“Detroit’s new, proposed ordinance will…resolve some of the confusion created by some of the misguided zoning restrictions that were originally part of the ballot initiative,” Garcia said in a statement. “In short, the new ordinance, if passed, will clarify Detroit’s common-sense regulation on medical marijuana activity and will allow for all five of the legal uses contemplated by state statute.”