san francisco

California bill encourages banks to work with pot businesses

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California legislators considered a plan Monday intended to encourage more banks to do business with marijuana companies that have been frozen out of thousands of financial institutions.

Most Americans live in states where marijuana is legally available in some form. But most financial institutions don't want anything to do with money from the cannabis industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble since the federal government still considers marijuana illegal.

The conflict between state and federal law has left businesses in California's emerging legal pot industry in a legal dilemma, shutting many out of everyday services such as opening a bank account or obtaining a credit card. It also has forced many businesses to operate only in cash — sometimes vast amounts — making them ripe targets for crime.

An Assembly bill would authorize state regulators to share detailed sales, cultivation and shipping information collected from cannabis companies with banks, a step supporters hope will provide additional assurances to financial institutions that a pot shop or grower is operating within the law.

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

But most banks don't see those rules as a shield against charges that could include aiding drug trafficking. And they say the rules are difficult to follow, in effect placing the burden on banks to determine if a pot business is complying with all legal rules.

Cara Martinson of the California State Association of Counties told members of an Assembly committee that the bill represented an incremental step until a solution is reached at the federal level.

"This could help move the ball," she said.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle pot money is growing — it's over 400 nationally — but they still represent only a small fraction of the industry.

California only made half as much on 2018 marijuana taxes as expected

When California, the most populous state in America, legalized recreational marijuana last year, many had high hopes for the industry, writes Joseph Misulonas. But unfortunately, it appears initial projections for the success of the industry were a little off.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration announced that in 2018 the state collected $345.2 million from marijuana taxes. While that is a huge number, it's actually only slightly more than half of the state's initial projections of $643 million in tax revenue that they predicted they would receive in 2018. 

Many have argued why the state didn't make more money off of legal sales. The biggest reason seems to be the tax rate. California has some of the highest cannabis taxes in the nation, and customers can sometimes pay tax rates up to 45 percent on their marijuana purchases. These high prices are forcing many cannabis users to continue purchasing black market marijuana. This would also explain why California cannabis sales actually decreased between 2017 and 2018, despite it being legal recreationally last year.

Despite the fact that almost everyone acknowledges the tax rate is an issue, California legislators continue dragging their feet on the issue and not passing bills to lower the rate, despite several proposals to do so.

Feds Hammer San Francisco Brewer for Making Beer with CBD

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — U.S. officials have ordered a San Francisco brewery to stop producing beers containing cannabidiol, the hemp-derived compound known as CBD.

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is allowing Black Hammer Brewing to sell off the rest of the beer it has produced with CBD, including one called Toke Back Mountain.

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. The beer’s drinkers can’t get high, but users say CBD is calming.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday, May 23, 2018, that the order was not issued because the federal government says marijuana is illegal, but because the trade bureau requires special approval for non-standard beer ingredients.

The brewery’s owners are applying for permission to use hemp and terpenes, the compounds that give cannabis its aroma and flavor.

How Many Dispensaries Are In Each State?

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How many dispensaries are in each state? With 29 states that all have some form of legalized marijuana, the number of dispensaries in the country is rapidly increasing to serve existing and emerging markets. States like California have recently implemented their recreational marijuana laws. As a result, many old dispensaries have shut their doors and new ones have surfaced as companies await their license to sell. We used data from state governments with legalized marijuana to see how many dispensaries are in each state.

Recreational Marijuana State Dispensaries

 

With many states adopting recreational marijuana laws, the number of dispensaries countrywide is rapidly changing.

California

Dispensaries: 261

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana but not the first to go recreational. In 2016, California’s Proposition 64 passed, legalizing the sale of cannabis to adults. There are currently no businesses with full licenses to sell in California. However, temporary licenses are being awarded so retail cannabis is being distributed. According to the Bureau of Cannabis Control, there are currently 261 active temporary retail licenses to sell cannabis for adult use.

 

Nevada

Dispensaries: 61

Nevada had their first medical marijuana dispensaries opened in 2015. Residents voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016. The laws went into effect on January 1st of 2017. Now, weed can be legally acquired at any of the 61 dispensaries listed on the state government’s website.

Alaska

Dispensaries: 93

In 2014, Alaska voted to tax and regulate the legal production, sale and use of marijuana. A license search on the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development website yields 93 results for Oregon dispensaries.

 

Dispensaries: 560+

According to the Oregon government website, the number of approved licenses to marijuana retailers went from 213 in July 2016 to 560 by the end of January.

Washington – 103 retail stores

Dispensaries: 103 retail

Washington has had recreational marijuana for quite some time now so there are now many dispensaries in the state. According to Washington’s Department of Health website, there are currently 103 retail cannabis stores but many more “medically endorsed stores.” This means they have medical marijuana consultants on staff.

Colorado

Dispensaries: 520

 

Colorado has by far, the largest number of dispensaries in any state. The Colorado Department of Revenue has a list of all the licensed recreational and medical marijuana dispensing centers. There are 520 recreational facilities with 505 medical ones as well.

Massachusetts

Dispensaries: 19

On November 8th, 2016 Massachusetts became the first state on the East Coast to legalize cannabis. As of December 31, 2017, Massachusetts has 19 registered marijuana dispensaries around the state.

Medical Marijuana State Dispensaries

 

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, about half of the nation’s states have legalized medical marijuana. In states with strict laws, medical marijuana is limited to patients with truly debilitating conditions. Other states that allow a wider range of patients to register as medical marijuana patients and they have more dispensaries as a result.

Maine

Dispensaries: 8

8 total Medical Use of Marijuana Program Dispensaries

Maine joined Massachusetts in legalizing recreational marijuana on the East Coast. However, retailers currently have no way to get the required licenses. As a result, the only dispensaries in the state are only accessible to medical marijuana patients. There is currently 8 listed medical use of marijuana program dispensaries on the state government’s website.

Arizona

Dispensaries: 100+

Arizona is one of the first states with a drive-thru dispensary. Unfortunately, they are one of the few states that keep their list of dispensaries confidentialto anyone other than registered medical marijuana patients that cannot grow their own marijuana in the state.

However, the number of dispensaries allowed in the state is somewhere between 120 and 126. The number of dispensary agents is public. There are 4,731 individuals that can distribute marijuana on behalf of a dispensary.

New Mexico

Dispensaries: 68

New Mexico’s medical marijuana law was signed in 2007. Since it’s been more than a decade, there are now many dispensaries for the state’s patients to choose from. The state has 12 manufacturers that distribute from their own dispensaries. Recent data shows a total of 68 dispensaries in New Mexico.

Montana

Dispensaries: 50+

Medical marijuana laws in Montana were signed in 2004. Only patients with severely debilitating or terminal conditions qualify for medical marijuana in the state. Despite this, the number of dispensaries in the state has gradually increased over the year. According to the Montana Department of Health, they cannot give information out about dispensaries. However, there are over fifty listed online.

North Dakota

Dispensaries: 0

The North Dakota medical marijuana law was only signed in 2016. The program is not yet operational and there are no current dispensaries. The program was supposed to go into effect on April 18, 2017. The earliest effective date for medical marijuana rules would be on April 1, 2018.

Minnesota

Dispensaries: 8

The Minnesota medical marijuana law was signed in 2014 and it is currently operational. Several state-licensed dispensaries have opened. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Health has eight locations listed on their website.

Michigan

Dispensaries: 100+

Michigan is currently in the process of accepting medical marijuana business license applications but there are over 42,000 caregivers registered to supply cannabis. There are currently well over one hundred dispensaries listed online but they will close soon if they don’t receive a license when they’re distributed later this year.

Illinois

Dispensaries: 53

Illinois is one of the states with a long list of qualifying conditions but they have a decent number of dispensaries. The medical marijuana laws in Illinois were signed in 2013. Since then, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation list 53 licensed dispensaries across the state.

Arkansas

Dispensaries: 0

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has yet to release the list of licensed dispensaries despite the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. There is a delay because the law only came into effect in 2016 and the program is still a work in progress. So far the Department of Finance and Administration has released a list of all the names and proposed locations of applicants.

Louisiana

Dispensaries: 0

The Louisiana medical marijuana program has yet to start. Worst of all, the number of doctors that are approved to issue a “physician recommendation form” can be counted on one hand. If all goes according to plan, the program will begin operating this summer.

Florida

Dispensaries: 27

Florida has medical marijuana laws but they are restrictive like the laws in other states like New York. Medical marijuana treatment center is the term for a dispensary in Florida. These centers are responsible for cultivating and processing the cannabis. Additionally, they sell to qualified medical marijuana patients. There are 27 dispensaries total listed on the state government’s website.

Ohio

Dispensaries: 0

The Ohio medical marijuana laws were signed in 2016 but the program hasn’t started yet. The State Board of Pharmacy may award up to 60 dispensary licenses. So far, the board has received hundreds of applicants. There is no one to sell medical marijuana in the state yet. Unfortunately, patients will have to wait while the program starts handing out licenses to sell.

West Virginia

Dispensaries: 0

West Virginia signed their marijuana laws in 2016. As a result, the program is not yet operational. Therefore, there are no operating dispensaries in the state as of now. The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Program will release the application for dispensaries in the first quarter of 2018.

Pennsylvania

Dispensaries: 6

Six dispensaries received approval to start selling medical marijuana products once they are available. The only dispensary to have a grand opening is in Lehigh Valley. Unfortunately, they have no product. Therefore, patients won’t be able to make purchases until mid-February or later.

Maryland

Dispensaries: 0

A judge temporarily halted the medical marijuana industry in Maryland on the request of a company that alleged state regulators ignored racial diversity when deciding who could grow legal cannabis. A trial in June will determine whether state regulators acted outside of the law when awarding the first fifteen preliminary licenses to grow. So, there will still be some time before Maryland sees its first operational medical marijuana dispensary.

Delaware

Dispensaries: 2

Delaware currently only has two dispensaries owned by the same company. First State Compassion is currently the only provider of medical marijuana in Delaware and more are on the way.

New Jersey

Dispensaries: 5

New Jersey adopted their medical marijuana program rules in 2011. Since then, only a few dispensaries have opened up their doors in the state. In fact, the state currently has five operational medical marijuana dispensaries with more on the way.

New York

Dispensaries: 19

New York has one of the stricter medical marijuana programs for patients with debilitating conditions. In fact, there is no actual smokable cannabis available at dispensaries. However, other cannabis products are available at New York’s 19 registered medical marijuana dispensaries. More are opening soon which will more than double the number of dispensaries in the state.

Vermont

Dispensaries: 4

Vermont has had medical marijuana laws since 2004. Despite the early start date, few dispensaries have opened in the state. More than a decade later, there are only four operational dispensaries located in Montpelier, Brandon, Burlington and Brattleboro.

New Hampshire

Dispensaries: 4

The Therapeutic Cannabis Program passed through the state legislature in 2013 but things have moved slowly since then. In fact, only a few dispensaries have opened up. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services lists 4 dispensaries or “alternative treatment centers.”

Connecticut

Dispensaries: 9

Medical marijuana laws in Connecticut came about in 2012 and not too many dispensaries have opened up since then. According to Connecticut’s official state website, there are 9 total medical marijuana dispensary facilities in the state. That will change soon because the state is looking for more medical marijuana dispensaries.

Rhode Island

Dispensaries: 3

Rhode Island medical marijuana patients can purchase their medicine at compassion centers around the state but there aren’t many. As expected with a small state the Rhode Island Department of Health website lists compassion centers in only Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth.

Washington D.C.

Dispensaries: 8

Washington D.C. has legalized recreational marijuana but there are currently only medical marijuana dispensers. There are eight medical dispensaries in the state total but most of them in the North East region.

Final Hit: How Many Dispensaries Are In Each State?

Since marijuana laws in several states have changed in recent years, the online listings of marijuana dispensaries in certain states are unreliable according to research.

“The online listings appear to be inaccurate. We only found 815 out of the listed 2,174 dispensaries were active. This is 37 percent of the listings,” Erick Eschker, co-director of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research stated.

The number of how many dispensaries are in each state will change because a few states are currently working on implementing their programs. Once they are operational, the number of dispensaries nationwide will continue to increase.

Legal Marijuana and Restorative Justice

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Restorative justice is an emerging trend in the implementation of marijuana’s legalization.  In other words, how can society make up for the damage caused by prohibition? San Francisco is taking steps to clear convictions for marijuana offenses, utilizing authority provided by the passage of Prop 64 which legalized marijuana in California.

Equal Opportunity Efforts In The Marijuana Industry Throughout California

 

 

Efforts are underway to ensure that areas hardest hit by marijuana law enforcement receive equitable treatment. Especially, when it comes industry participation and awarding licenses for retail outlets.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, these goals also include consideration of how to invest marijuana tax revenues. The economic infrastructure in areas hard hit by prohibition is one of the main considerations. Giving priority to providing opportunities to people with prior arrest or convictions for marijuana offenses is another consideration.

 

A study of these issues in San Francisco notes that the city has been a leader in legalization efforts and that African-Americans have been hardest hit by arrests.  After a review of arrest, election, local economic and cannabis industry data a city report has identified several key barriers to entry into the adult-use cannabis market.  These include financial barriers such as access to capital and real estate, technical barriers involving business ownership and understanding of legal and regulatory issues, the role of criminal background checks in financial and regulatory procedures, and other problems related to geographic placement of businesses and an overall distrust of government.

The San Francisco study reviewed similar efforts in Oakland, Los Angeles, Colorado and Massachusetts. They arrived at 15 findings with numerous recommendations associated with each one to achieve the objectives identified above.  The priority will be to target populations “disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.” Then, make sure they “are not crowded out by more well-resourced applicants.”  The report promotes incubator programs to provide incentives for entrepreneurs and established vendors.  Another policy goal is to promote equitable employment opportunities, targeting formerly-incarcerated individuals and hiring in neighborhoods with high arrest rates under prohibition.

Oakland

The City of Oakland, California based their equity analysis on the identification of “marginalized communities of color based on poverty, recent cannabis arrests and unemployment rates.”  This involved a comparison of the percentage racial groups in the general population with their percentage of total arrests in an area, along with the unemployment rate and poverty rate for the area.

Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles took a 5-part approach in their equity analysis.  They identified racial disparities, areas with higher cannabis arrests and low-income populations. Then, areas with disproportionate numbers of arrests and high percentages of low-income households were designated as communities eligible for the equity program.

 

The City and County of San Francisco based their equity analysis on a similar comparison.  First, San Francisco compared census and arrest data to identify communities with “disproportionate levels of cannabis arrests.”

Finally, these areas were “cross-referenced . . . with low-income census tracts.”

Massachusetts’ Race-Neutral Approach

Massachusetts has taken a race-neutral approach to restorative justice. Instead, they’re focusing on assessing which communities have had the highest overall arrest rates for both marijuana and drug offenses. Additionally, incorporating local economic data on unemployment and the number of families living under the poverty level. Then, assessing the impact of prohibition in the past. Unemployment is the final factor Massachusetts will use to designate communities for economic development.

Final Hit: Legal Marijuana and Restorative Justice

All of these efforts provide solid models for the rest of the country as more areas legalize marijuana. The country continues to grapple with making up for the past harms created by marijuana prohibition. Restorative justice is a way to make things right instead of kicking people while they’re down.

 

Congress Just Extended Federal Medical Marijuana Protections

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Congress just extended the federal medical marijuana protections known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, or the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. It happened early Friday morning when President Donald Trump signed a huge budget deal that brought a short federal shutdown to an end. But these temporary protections still face some uncertainty in the coming months. The latest spending plan only runs until the end of March. At that time, the medical marijuana community could become more volatile at the hands of the Department of Justice.

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment Keeps Going

 

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prevents Attorney General Sessions from spending tax dollars to prosecute medical marijuana businesses and patients, has been a part of the federal budget for the past few years. In fact, this is the eighth time the rider has been renewed since 2015.

This temporary rider is the only document on the books that protects medical marijuana states. Without it, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would have free rein to investigate, raid and prosecute all connections to statewide medical marijuana programs.

Congress Riding Same Budget Since 2015

This does not mean Congress has been giving medical marijuana serious consideration during budget talks. It has not. Since Rohrabacher-Farr has been a part of the federal budget for the past three years, it has been gliding on the coattails of the renewal process. Basically, since Congress has not approved a new budget since 2015, the federal medical marijuana protections keep living.

Similar riders have been proposed in the past, but none have ever been given the time of day.

 

Sessions Pressures Congress to Eliminate Federal Medical Marijuana Protections

 

It is distinctly possible that the medical marijuana debate will come to a head next month. The current protections are only good until March 23. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment must find its way inside a much larger budget to maintain. If it will survive the next round of negotiations is anyone’s guess. The protections are at risk for elimination. Attorney General Sessions has been pressuring both the House and Senate to ensure this happens.

It was just last year that Sessions sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to abandon support for Rohrabacher-Farr.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and a potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote last June. “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.”

Final Hit: Congress Just Extended Federal Medical Marijuana Protections

Congressional leadership will need to approve the language for inclusion in the new appropriations for the rider to stay intact. Although the Senate has shown some support, the House of Representative has been less than enthusiastic. As NORML political director Justin Strekal pointed out in his analysis, “The provision will now be considered by House and Senate leadership when the two chambers’ appropriations bills are reconciled, should Congress ever set a FY18 budget, of which is already over a third of the way behind us.”

California’s History of Arresting Minorities for Marijuana

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Despite its reputation for being a progressive state, California has a long history of arresting minorities for marijuana. But is there about to be a majors shift in the criminal justice system?

San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascon will begin clearing the record of individuals convicted of marijuana offenses from 1975 to the present, under the authority of Prop 64 which legalized cannabis in the state.

Gascon has acknowledged that marijuana laws were unevenly enforced and that they disproportionately affected minorities.

One objective of this policy is “to address the wrongs that were caused by the failures of the war on drugs … and begin to fix the hard that was done … specifically to communities of color.”

 

The Racial Disparity in Weed Arrests

It is widely recognized that arrests rates for black people have been several times higher than marijuana possession arrest rates for white people throughout the United States.  However, this is not only true of marijuana law enforcement in California as a state, but also in San Francisco.

California decriminalized marijuana in 1975.  However, the Moscone Act did not actually remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession. It instead did away with custodial arrests and jail sentences for the crime of possession of one ounce.

Police began to issue citations for possession offenses, leading to court summons which could be resolved by payment of a $100 fine.   In 2010 State Senate Bill 1440 further reduced possession from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, like a traffic ticket, also subject to a maximum $100 fine.

Throughout the history of the enforcement of these laws, black people were subject to legal sanctions at a much greater rate than white people.  According to data from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the arrest rate for black people in California has consistently been twice the arrest rate for white people.

In 1994 the arrest rate for possession was 192 per 100,000 black residents compared to 108 per 100,000 white residents.  In 2000 the black rate was 365 compared to a white rate of 149.

 

In 2010, the last year before the criminal sanction was replaced by a civil infraction, the black rate was 373 compared to a white rate of 171.  Remember: even though marijuana was decriminalized it was formally a misdemeanor crime and the issuance of a court summons was officially an arrest.

The Statistics in San Francisco

In San Francisco, the disparity was not as great during the late 1990s.  In 1998, for example, the black rate was 255 compared to a white rate of 172.  But this changed, for the worse, in the next decade.

In 2000 the black rate, at 348, was over three times higher than the white arrest rate for possession of 106.  In 2005, the black rate was over 4 times higher at 262 compared to the white rate of 59.  In 2010, the black rate remained nearly 5 times higher at 192 compared to 44 for white people.

After 2010 the numbers of marijuana possession arrests dropped dramatically, as possession of 1 ounce or less was no longer counted as an arrest.  However, possession arrest rates for 1 ounce were still disparate.

In 2015, the arrest rate for black people for marijuana possession was 16, much lower than in the past, but still 8 times higher than the arrest rate for white people, which was 2 per 100,000.

Final Hit: California’s History of Arresting Minorities for Marijuana

California’s Prop 64 sets an important precedent by allowing for clearing the legal record of those arrested for marijuana offenses.  Marijuana is now legal in California, and the state has decided that it should not have been illegal in the past.

San Francisco Attorney General Gascon should be applauded for recognizing the need to address this past injustice, especially in light of the tremendous racial inequity caused by past enforcement practices. Will other cities in the Golden State follow suit? It might just be a matter of time.

San Francisco to clear thousands of marijuana convictions dating back 40 years

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Thousands of San Francisco residents convicted of marijuana offenses since 1975 will see those convictions dismissed or reduced under an effort announced on Wednesday by the city’s district attorney.

California’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational pot use and possession and reduced criminal penalties, allowed people to ask a court to reduce or dismiss past marijuana convictions.

But top San Francisco prosecutor George Gascon said on Wednesday he would not wait and would instead dismiss 3,038 misdemeanors and consider reducing an additional 4,900 felony marijuana charges.

Today's announcement covers effectively all the marijuana convictions adjudicated in San Francisco's courts since 1975. The #WarOnDrugs was a failure, it's time we take action to undo the damage it has done.

  George Gascon (@GeorgeGascon) January 31, 2018

The move is meant to make it easier for people who would otherwise have to retain an attorney to file expungement paperwork for convictions that can scuttle employment and housing opportunities and have disproportionately affected African-Americans, he said.

“Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocket books, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it,” Gascon said in a statement.

Gascon said relatively few Californians had petitioned courts to have convictions expunged since the legalization measure was passed in late 2016.

CA law enforcement made ~ 2.7 million cannabis arrests btwn 1916 & 2016. #Prop64 allows for past marijuana crimes to be petitioned to have convictions reduced or wiped. But only 4,885 Californians have petitioned cts RE #Prop64 cannabis convictions, according to @DrugPolicyOrg

  George Gascon (@GeorgeGascon) January 31, 2018

California Lieutenant Governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom tweeted his support on Wednesday.

 

“This example underscores the true promise of legalization –providing new hope for those whose lives were derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system,” he said.

Nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational use, while dozens of others permit its medicinal use. California finalized its licensing, regulatory and tax structure to allow cannabis shops to open for retail sales this year.

 

Earlier this month, however, the U.S. Justice Department rescinded an Obama administration policy that had eased enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized the drug, instead giving federal prosecutors wide latitude to pursue criminal charges.

“While drug policy on the federal level is going backwards, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country’s disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular,” Gascon said on Wednesday.