CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Casey Bahr, the owner of Revive Wellness Center, Spa and Salon, was notified by his landlord last year that his business would have to vacate the spaces Revive had occupied for 15 years.

Why? A new cannabis dispensary and lounge was moving into the same building—and that meant Revive would need to leave its home at 353 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Bahr had four weeks to find a new location capable of housing the multi-faceted operation he and his team had built since 2003.

“We had about four weeks to vacate, and during that time, it took us every minute to go through all the things that had accumulated, to clean things out and get ready to vacate,” Bahr said. “According to California law, you cannot have a medical practice in the same contiguous space as a salon or a spa. Since we had three separate areas (at 353 S. Palm Canyon), we were able to have the two separate businesses. But (when we were searching for a new location), there wasn’t a suitable space to accommodate both businesses in proximity to each other—so we just had to close the salon-spa, because we had to maintain the patient care from the medical practice.”

That closure meant a loss of income for Bahr—and a loss of jobs for his employees.

“All of our roughly 12 employees (on the spa and salon side) had to find other places to work, and a lot of them had been with us for a number of years,” Bahr said. “It was a big financial loss to us. We bought the business for $320,000 in 2003, and we had done about $100,000 worth of improvements in that facility. We had to leave it all. The furnishings, the cabinetry and the flooring can’t be taken with you. So, from an asset point of view, it was close to a half-million dollars that we lost. Also, the financial income from that business disappeared.”

What did the city of Palm Springs do to help out Revive?

“They were absent—completely absent, and there were no discussions with us, as the current tenants, regarding the new pot business,” said Bahr, who moved Revive’s medical practice to Kaptur Plaza at 650 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. “I don’t know that it’s really their purview to worry about that; they just kind of let the chips fall where they may. But from what I’ve heard, they weren’t considering the impact on (existing) businesses when they took an interest in promoting pot businesses in the city of Palm Springs. Everywhere they allow those places to exist, the impact on the businesses continues today.”

Veronica Goedhart is the director of the Palm Springs Department of Special Program Compliance, which oversees cannabis-related businesses in the city. She said the city has had to make multiple changes to its regulations as the new legal-marijuana business has developed.

“There’s an evolution going on at the state and federal level, as the (industry) is so young and in its infancy,” Goedhart said. “It’s constantly evolving and changing. We saw three sets of state regulations before the final regulations were introduced. We have to make adjustments to make sure that all of our laws are in symmetry with what the state has. There are potentially more changes to come at the federal level, too.”

Amid all the changes, Goedhart said she has made a concerted outreach effort on the city’s behalf.

“We are working with our ONE-PS (coalition of Palm Springs neighborhood groups), and I’ve spoken with them directly,” she said. “Also, I’ve spoken to the (Main Street) Palm Springs merchant association with regard to the impact of the cannabis businesses on our community. We’ve been increasing our communication with them and listening to them and considering their feedback. I think that before that communication was taking place, (there was a) fear of the unknown. But they seem to be very receptive to the communication, and they are very receptive to the changes that will be coming forward with planning and with, potentially, a ‘green zone’ where we can direct cannabis cultivation to eliminate it from being so close to the city.”

However, with several marijuana businesses open in downtown Palm Springs—and more coming—some neighboring businesses have indeed been having issues, especially regarding odor.

I visited a number of shops situated adjacent to the Coachella Valley Green Dragon dispensary, in the former Revive building at 353 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Most of the people in the businesses (other than, of course, Revive) near Coachella Valley Green Dragon—a dispensary which will soon also include a lounge—said the cannabis business has had no noticeable negative impact on them.

Meanwhile, up the street at the recently opened Harvest House of Cannabis dispensary at 312 N. Palm Canyon Drive, staff at some of the surrounding stores and offices expressed uneasiness—and the smell of marijuana was definitely noticeable inside one of them. Most of the staff members and business owners did not want to speak for attribution, but said the odor was worst in the mornings and would dissipate as the day went along. Others commented that the odor was present sometimes on the sidewalk out front. The most positive response came from Scott Jones, vice president of Imagine It! Media, who went on record to say, “Harvest HOC has been a good neighbor—so far.”

When people at nearby businesses were asked if the city had been in touch with them regarding the arrival of Harvest HOC, I was told emphatically that there had been no communication at all. Also, it was pointed out that if an entrepreneur wants to sell alcohol—even just beer and wine—a sign must be posted on the front door or window of the business for 30 days, as per California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control organization. For cannabis, that is not required.

Goedhart conceded that the city has learned some lessons as cannabis businesses have moved into downtown Palm Springs.

“One thing we hadn’t realized was that with the (cannabis) businesses going into existing buildings, we had to make sure that they were taking precautions for odor control,” Goedhart said. “We had to make sure that all of our businesses are operating with plans that ensure there is no odor impact on the surrounding areas. We’re going to be introducing some new laws with regard to odor-control violations, and we’ll be implementing penalties for businesses that aren’t compliant. We’re actively working to ensure that any problems that could arise are addressed even before they happen. We’re working really hard with our community, and we’re working with our cannabis-business owners who are actually very responsive, very open and very helpful.”

Bahr, however, expressed concern about other existing downtown business owners as more marijuana businesses move in.

“It cost us a lot—and it sounds like there are other businesses that are experiencing the same result as we did,” he said. “It costs a lot to set up a building.”

Published in Cannabis in the CV

I am approaching middle age, though I suppose that all depends on how long I end up living for. In any case, I have been smoking and ingesting cannabis since my early teenage years, and I thoroughly enjoy roasting big spliffs, as well as smoking Sherlock-style pipes and making faces like a British intellectual.

That’s not an excerpt from a dating profile. Rather, I am sharing such personal info to provide some context for the discussion I’m about to have with you, dear reader, about dabbing—heating and inhaling concentrated marijuana. Because when it comes to heating concentrates at extremely high temperatures, people basically fall into one of two camps: They have either barely heard of dabbing and would be totally horrified to learn that young people often include blowtorches in their paraphernalia pouches these days; or they hit the pipe for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have a flat-brimmed hat with their stoner handle airbrushed on the crown.

Then there are a few of us in the middle minority, who love to dab but just can’t fit the sessions into our daily routine. In my case, the whole torch element completely freaks the hell out of my partner, and so for the short time I spent using a traditional rig, I had to descend a dark staircase and pull tubes in the uncomfortable confines of my basement. I already felt like a casual meth addict, lighting my shatter (weed concentrate) with a flame-thrower on my living-room coffee table, and my excommunication to the basement stopped my fascination with wax in its tracks. After I cracked the female joint receptor with my banger (look it up—you’ll need to learn the lingo eventually), I quietly retired from the game.

However, I wound up being gifted a few grams of wax and shatter, so I headed to my latest vape shop with eyes on some kind of an affordable—as well as compact, if possible—solution. The answer to my prayers in every way came from Yocan.

Makers of what seems like a new cutting-edge vaporization device every week, the Chinese company is gaining a major foothold in the U.S. head-shop market. Considering that models it produces diligently do every last thing that products that cost literally six times more can do, it’s no surprise they are becoming increasingly ubiquitous.

Of the many Yocan choices in the $29.99 to $59.99 range, I went for the Evolve Plus XL in pink for $49.99. It seems like a freakishly odd vibrator-type item until you pull all the parts off and put them back together again. First, there’s a magnetic hood that serves as the nipple-esque mouthpiece and a barrier between your lips and high temps. Lift that off, and you will find coils housed in a disposable cylindrical metal container with a top that screws off. (This critical part and its lid are roughly the same shape and size of one of those metal keychain pill containers often sold on counters at chain drug stores.)

You simply use whatever dabber tool or scalpel to scoop out no more than about half an average pinkie nail’s worth of your concentrate; drop it on or in between the four adjacent coils; then screw the top back on followed, by the magnetic hat. Then you hold down the button … and let ’er rip. It’s that insanely easy. I have even been wearing my piece as a convenient necklace, or really more like a medallion. According to one friend, it’s the coolest accessory since Matthew McConaughey’s belt buckle bowl in Dazed and Confused.

I know what you’re thinking: No, Yocan didn’t pay us to write nice things about them. This is the Coachella Valley Independent, not High Times. With that said, here’s the company’s own radical description of one of the coil styles you can purchase:

Four times the rods plus four times the coils mean four times the fun. Enjoy big clouds that’s similarly big on flavor. The Yocan Evolve Plus XL Coils is everything but discreet. It was made for occasions where being stealthy is the last thing you want to be. Simply put that the Yocan Evolve Plus XL Coils was made for the loudest and proudest vape enthusiast—the kind who wants to blot out the scene with visible and heavy clouds of vapor. This daunting feat is made possible because of the quad coil technology in every Yocan Evolve Plus XL Coils.

Is there anything not great about these Yocan toys? Honestly, not that I see. There are some consumables—specifically the coil can—that have to be replaced every few weeks or so, depending on how much you indulge. You’ll also want to avoid keeping wax or anything that melts in the built-in storage container in the scorching hot weather, as it will leak out all over your shit. But that’s, of course, the case with virtually anything you’re dealing with on the dab-tastic frontier. The bottom line is that Yocan has developed a line of cheap and easy-to-use dab devices—and you should get your sticky paws on one as soon as possible.

This piece originally appeared in DigBoston.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Last month, I examined the economic boom expected in the city of Desert Hot Springs as a result of its decision to embrace the cannabis industry. It was the first Southern California city to allow legal cultivation—and economic opportunities from the cannabis industry are helping turning the city around.

As for the other eight Coachella Valley cities … almost half of them so far have yet to welcome any sort of marijuana businesses.

The five that have opened the door in some way to the cannabis industry understand that it can help create a diversified economy that is less dependent on tourism and the resulting service-oriented businesses. Anyone who owns a business in the Coachella Valley knows that summers can be tough—but the new cannabis industry offers more year-round business and increased professional opportunities.

Dirk Voss, a lead cannabis consultant for Urban Management Strategies, is a former chairman of the Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission. He was directly involved in the approval processes for many of the cannabis businesses in the city and has watched the industry evolve throughout the valley. Voss said the cannabis industry can offer cities a “multiplier effect,” because the year-round economic stability of cannabis bolsters other business sectors, including entertainment, recreation, housing and more.

Because Coachella Valley cities have each embraced—or eschewed—cannabis in different ways, Voss predicts each city will eventually have its own cannabis “flavor” or “culture.” For example, Palm Springs has approved lounges, which makes sense for the city and its downtown tourist culture. The city is positioning itself to become a cannabis tourist destination based on its distinct assets, much like Desert Hot Springs has by promoting health and its mineral spas.

In contrast, Cathedral City has positioned itself for large-scale cultivation. The city has utilized vacant land and existing yet unoccupied shopping centers for such facilities, helping revitalize portions of Date Palm Drive, Highway 111 and Perez Road. Because Cathedral City had a lot of vacant buildings—with existing utilities and infrastructure—new marijuana businesses were able to save money by locating there. In other words, city leaders found a great way to utilize the city’s specific assets to accommodate the cannabis industry.

The city of Coachella has taken a different approach, mandating that projects have a five-acre minimum and be part of a master-plan development with specific cannabis zoning. Voss said these mandates have presented challenges to some interested cannabis businesses, “especially since power has been an issue. However, the city is evolving and expanding its plan to get the best economic development possible. The city has some catching up to do, but it is also in line to have a culture of major cultivation opportunities in the city.”

Palm Desert, meanwhile, has taken a slow, methodical approach to introducing cannabis businesses to the city—limiting the number of licenses to allow for slow growth. While this means the city may not see the economic windfall that, say, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs will, it also means the cannabis industry can be carefully incorporated into the city culture, thus avoiding over-saturation and allowing for manageable growth while the cannabis industry evolves.

At this point, cannabis businesses are not allowed in the cities of Indio, La Quinta, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage—and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because surrounding or nearby cities have embraced cannabis, residents and visitors can still enjoy the benefits of the cannabis industry without dealing with the hassles and costs of regulating it in their cities.

Because the cannabis industry is so new, it’s also somewhat unstable—meaning there may be growing pains for the cities that have embraced marijuana. Voss cautions some organizations will be bought out; some will close; and others will try to sell their licenses while the industry adjusts. It is crucial, according to Voss, that each city “design their ordinances and codes around their ability to adapt in an industry that is constantly changing.”

There is no doubt that marijuana can help the Coachella Valley evolve from a seasonal tourist-driven economy into an area with a stronger year-round economy.

“Each city will eventually find its fit, which will only lead to an overall economic boom within the entire Coachella Valley,” Voss said. “The industry is naturally designing its own characteristics for each city based on the needs, wants and use of cannabis by its residents.”

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Cannabis, while legal, is heavily regulated in the state of California—as is cannabis advertising.

According to the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control code, any advertising done for cannabis must be to an audience that is at least 71.6 percent 21 or older—and this presents several problems.

First, many advertisers don’t know that this rule exists. Second, advertisers often have no way to confirm the ages of the people who see their ads.

“If a cannabis company advertises in a publication or online and cannot verify that (the audiences) meet the age-safety quota set forth by the BCC, the advertiser is at risk of losing their state license,” said Joan Irvine, co-founder and CEO of ResponsiTech, which helps businesses with youth safety and risk mitigation in cannabis advertising.

Because the industry is in flux and is so new, it’s understandable that these regulations are unfamiliar to many—but it’s important that people understand the seriousness of the matter, since the buck literally stops at the feet of the advertiser, and not the ad agency or publication.

So … how can cannabis companies make sure their advertisements are complying with the law? Irvine recommends taking a close look at applications such as Buoyancy Digital, which allows advertisers to use parental controls and other features that ensure they meet the BCC regulations. For example, Buoyancy Digital requires those coming to a website to verify their birth date.

“There is one easy way of checking, but it is a catch-22, because many people are not aware that there is an age gate they must use that uses data so that parents implementing parental-control settings can ensure their children will be blocked from age-inappropriate sites,” Irvine said. “This requires cooperation between the industry and parents, to ensure everyone is protected.”

She recommends cannabis advertisers do their homework and find a qualified ad agency and/or advertise with publications or sources that practice responsible cannabis-ad practices. She also says advertisers should check publications and other media sources to make sure they meet the audience criteria, and verify as much as possible that the audience is 21 and older.

Annette Said, owner of A|S marketing in La Quinta, works with several cannabis clients, and notes that cannabis advertisers face challenges beyond state regulations. Most social media, for example, prohibit the advertising of cannabis, meaning cannabis retailers must come up with work-arounds—by doing branding and promoting third-party brands or a lifestyle.

“Facebook does not allow promotion of cannabis in their search algorithms, but they are slowly opening up as the industry self corrects and rids itself of illegal cannabis business and advertising,” noted Said.

It is important for cannabis advertisers in the Coachella Valley and throughout the state to be aware of all of these rules and regulations—and to never assume anything. Retailers must fully understand where they are advertising, and who their audiences are, to ensure they don’t risk losing their state license.

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

With the rise of the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley, many would-be investors are wondering whether to jump into the industry—and how/when to do so, if the answer is yes.

If you are entertaining the idea of investing in cannabis—specifically, the growth and cultivation of marijuana—there are a several important things to keep in mind.

How much do you want to invest … and how do you want to invest? The cannabis industry is growing and expanding at a rapid pace, and there are numerous levels and types of investments to consider, but the main question for investors is: Are you going to “touch the plant,” or get in as an “ancillary” business?

“Traditional investors do not want to touch the plant and are looking for ways to get into the industry without actually being in the industry,” said Michael Dickerson of EcoMaster Corporation, which is currently building the Coachillin’ Industrial Cultivation and Ancillary Canna-Business Park in Desert Hot Springs.

Dickerson said these types of investors are generally developers, landlords and builders—basically, investors in any business that helps address the challenges of the grower. He said investing in service industries that are risk-adverse makes for a good rule of thumb—because he predicts that 90 percent of growers will go belly up, while ancillary businesses will be less affected by shifts in the industry.

Why does he think growers are going to have such a tough time? State environmental approvals are difficult to get, and long-term sustainability will be challenged by water resources, water rights and environmental compliance.

Kenny Dickerson, also of EcoMaster, notes that many in the industry are unprepared for regulation; after all, they’re garage-growers who aren’t necessarily experts on business models … making ancillary businesses a wiser place to start for investors.

Greg Rutten, COO of Mochi Holdings Group in Desert Hot Springs, also said that cannabis is risky because it is an emerging industry.

“Most private lenders will only lend 50 percent of a construction (amount), so operators need to raise 50 percent as equity and will (often) give a piece of the company or stock in the company or a preferred investment rate,” Rutten said.

Rutten said potential investors should make sure any grow operator has the necessary licenses from the state and municipality where it’s located, and has landlord approval for cannabis use. As with any business, investors should also fully read the grower’s business plan and make sure the business model clearly addresses all aspects of the business. In other words: Potential investors need to do their homework to make sure they’re making a sound investment.

One final thing to keep in mind when considering investing in the industry is the instability of local and state authorities, who are scrambling to keep up with the new and growing industry. Katherine Dickerson, also of EcoMaster, echoed and emphasized Rutten’s point about making sure any marijuana business has all the necessary permits—because they’re incredibly difficult to get.

“The state is saying they are relying on (permits being issued at) the local level, but there are people at the local level making laws who are not in the industry and do not understand it,” she said. “(Investors need to) do their homework to ensure that what they are investing in is prepared to deal with the red tape as the industry morphs and becomes standardized and becomes more consistent. It is going to be a bumpy ride for the next five years.”

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The California cannabis industry is now in its second year of legalization—and excitement within the industry is building. Experts in the Coachella Valley have been diligently preparing their forecasts for 2019—so we decided to ask them what they’re expecting to happen.

One leader in the industry is predicting great things for 2019. Adrian Sedlin, CEO of Canndescent, which has a large grow facility in Desert Hot Springs, is expecting the industry to boom as legalization spreads globally.

Sedlin notes that in 2018, the adult-use cannabis market tripled in population size, and says that as the industry grows with adult use, so will production. He also thinks the political arena is looking better for legalization, as more political candidates are promoting federal legalization.

“Many critics argue that California made a mess of things in its first year regulating adult-use cannabis,” Sedlin said. “(The year) 2019 will prove far more prosperous for license-holders as operating a cannabis business without a license will finally become a felony.” 

The economic potential in the Coachella Valley is huge, considering the amount of open land and the potential for cannabis-industry growth here. Brent Buhrman, CEO of Nationwide Cannabis Funding and president of the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network, is predicting the industry in the valley “will see an explosion of growth as new cannabis development becomes vertical and operational.” Buhrman also expects real estate in the valley to hold its value, especially with many cannabis investors who were waiting for two things to happen that, well, just happened: the passage of the Farm Bill and the departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. These investors are “ready to play ball,” says Buhrman, “and the watchers are now ready to jump into the game.” Buhrman predicts the Coachella Valley will see a new wave of people and companies come forward as a result.

With the industry starting to mature, Sedlin does expect some—no pun intended—weeding out to occur. He foresees stocks changing drastically, and as a result, the “high-profile sackings” of two or three high-profile CEOs at publicly owned cannabis companies.

Other seasoned cannabis entrepreneurs see different transitions on the horizon. Eric Crowe, of Cathedral City-based Mystic Valley CBD, who has been on the forefront of the Colorado cannabis industry for the last 15 years, predicts Coachella Valley happenings will mirror much of what was seen in Colorado. Crowe is predicting a clearing in the industry, which will lead to legitimacy and credibility as well as a surge in canna-tourism. This surge, Crowe states, “will created unprecedented economic growth in the valley, which will include all ancillary business, such as construction, hospitality and all business trades.”

Crowe cautions that lessons learned from Colorado should be heeded as the Coachella Valley cannabis industry expands.

“All industry in the valley, in some way, will come to depend on the cannabis industry, and as it morphs and grows, oversaturation will happen,” he said.

As happened in Colorado, Crowe anticipates the quality and quantity of the goods in the market will reach capacity, which will result in price reductions and many companies closing as a result. Like Buhrman, he predicts this will allow a new group of players to come to the table. Crowe thinks some of the new business emphasis will be on medicinal uses for hemp, specifically 100 percent certified organic growth and production. He expects that the success of some within the industry will depend on new technology; for example, his company uses reverse-engineered sound-wave technology, which focuses on the DNA of the hemp plant in order to produce the highest level of CBD full-spectrum concentrations.

The economic outlook for the cannabis industry in 2019 and beyond looks very promising—but those in the industry will need to change along with the demands of the industry.

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

As we approach the one-year anniversary of legal cannabis in California, the Coachella Valley has gone through many changes—specifically on the employment front.

As this new industry has evolved, so have the career prospects in the region, with many cannabis employers in the Coachella Valley ramping up to hire in large numbers in 2019. Understandably, many potential employees have questions about careers in the cannabis industry—and there are a few things any prospective employee should know before jumping in.

The job opportunities are numerous and continuing to grow along with the industry, ranging from entry-level jobs, such as budtenders and trimmers, to high-level growers and professional roles, such as human-resource work and executive leadership. While the high-end jobs can pay up to six figures, it is taking some time for the industry to catch up in terms of pay and benefits, although things are beginning to level out.

Remember that the majority of the cannabis companies in the Coachella Valley are ever-evolving, meaning companies are not as stable as many potential employees would like. Some these companies have experienced a level of “sticker shock” at the market rate for qualified employees. Brian Harmsen, CEO of Designworks Talent in Palm Springs, which specializes in cannabis job placement, cautions that although the cannabis industry is catching up, it is still behind the curve because of its infancy. He said it’s critical that any new employee understand the scope of the work—and understand the challenges currently facing the industry. Anyone interested in entering the industry must keep in mind it is an industry in flux, and therefore may not be good for those who are not flexible, he said. As with all startup industries, there are many kinks that will take time to work out. Harmsen said startup cannabis companies are risky, often disorganized, sometimes messy, fast-changing, and lacking in infrastructure. If you don’t have the ability to tolerate the dynamics of the industry in its current state, you may want to consider waiting until the California cannabis industry is more established, he said.

The instability and newness do not mean employees aren’t entitled to the protections afforded to them by U.S. and California labor laws—and many cannabis companies are hiring people without fully understanding the legalities of being an employer, breaking labor laws and thus putting their companies at risk. Jerry Cooksey, director of marketing and employment brand at Designworks Talent, said employees need to know their rights to ensure they are protected, especially as more and more cannabis companies are coming online and ramping up their hiring.

The fact that the industry is new affects both sides on the hiring equation; there are not a lot of people experienced in the cannabis industry for companies to hire. Because of these challenges, cannabis companies must carefully consider how they do their workforce planning in order to recruit the best talent. Cooksey said cannabis companies need to fully understand their brands and who they are, identify their workforce values, determine employee support (such as benefits and compensation packages), clearly define employment needs (including job analyses), and ensure they have legitimized their ability as an employer by understanding labor law and making sure they have all of the required insurance in place.

If you have determined you can tolerate the current state of the industry and are looking to be hired, Harmsen suggested that potential employees consider the size of the company and its culture, ask questions, and look at how the company is branding and marketing itself. Also: Take queues from the interview.

There is no doubt the “green rush” is bringing new employment opportunities to the Coachella Valley. The potential for economic development in cities like Desert Hot Springs, Coachella, Indio and Cathedral City is unprecedented, and each large facility opening can mean between 150 to 300 new jobs. As things level out in the coming years, we can expect to see a solvent and strong workforce in cannabis throughout the Coachella Valley.

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

After California’s legalization of cannabis in January 2018, many people in the Coachella Valley noticed the start of a “Green Rush” of business—and have questions about how it will affect the economics in the valley.

Since this is a new industry in the state, that question can be answered, at least in part, by examining the outcomes in states that already have a history of legalized cannabis, such as Colorado. There is a great deal of data that can be gathered from that state showing the Coachella Valley may be on its way to—pardon the pun—much greener pastures.

In March, The Denver Post reported the results of a landmark study done by Colorado State University-Pueblo in Pueblo County, which found that legalized marijuana had an unprecedented impact on the economy. It found that the cannabis industry contributed $58 million to the local economy of Pueblo County alone in 2016. Once the costs of the industry were deducted—such as additional law enforcement and social services—the county still netted a $35 million economic benefit.

Other positive outcomes have included an increase in jobs, home values and philanthropic contributions, such as school scholarships and other community investments. A September 2017 article in Denver newspaper Westword reported on a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison showing that the average property value for homes within a tenth of a mile of a dispensary increased by $27,000 after legalization. Westword reported that the study “also identified some underlying factors that may have increased property values in vicinities closest to dispensaries, including lower crime rates, additional amenities nearby and a surge in housing demand because of Denver's growing marijuana sector.” The study concluded that the industry had created 23,407 full time jobs in the state by January 2017.

In other words … so far, so good on the economic front. However, newly legal marijuana brings with it more than just business. In 2016, Andrew Freedman, then Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination—often called the state’s “marijuana czar”—told High Times: “At the end of the day, the debate shouldn’t be about tax revenue. ‘Should we lock up fewer people for marijuana?’ vs. ‘Is this going to create more of a burden on public safety?’—that’s where the debate should be.”

Fortunately, the news thus far is good regarding public safety, too. I have seen no data that suggests legalization had any impact on homeless rates or marijuana use among youth—two frequent concerns in communities when marijuana is first legalized—and some peer-reviewed studies show legal marijuana actually decreases crime. A 2017 study published in The Economic Journal concluded: “We show that the introduction of medical marijuana laws leads to a decrease in violent crime in states that border Mexico. The reduction in crime is strongest for counties close to the border … and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking. In addition, we find that MMLs in inland states lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state. Our results are consistent with the theory that decriminalization of the production and distribution of marijuana leads to a reduction in violent crime in markets that are traditionally controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations.”

So … what does all of this mean for the Coachella Valley, as more and more cities began allowing dispensaries and other businesses? The overall outlook is excellent as the one-year anniversary of state legalization approaches. Yes, challenges remain as local governments continue to grapple with what they will allow; however, the economic impact cannot be denied: There’s no doubt there are great financial gains to be had throughout the valley as we go green.

Robin Goins is a business consultant for DR.G Consulting and works extensively in the cannabis industry in the Coachella Valley. For more information, visit www.drrobingoins.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

A new law directing the California Veterinary Medical Board to create guidelines for veterinarians to discuss pets’ use of cannabis was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, and will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Assembly Bill 2215 is surprisingly controversial—for several different reasons. On one hand, it’s a leap forward—as of now, the veterinary board can revoke the license of a veterinarian if he or she even discusses cannabis use for pets. On the other hand, the law still prohibits vets from prescribing cannabis products for their patients.

Again, the longstanding prohibition mentality is standing in the way of real progress. Lawmakers, veterinarians, the veterinary board and pet owners are justifiably concerned, because almost no research has been done regarding the safe and effective uses and dosages of cannabis for pets.

Given humans’ longstanding use of cannabis, it is not surprising that we have also been using it to treat our animals for millennia. Just one example: There is evidence the ancient Greeks used cannabis to treat horse wounds.

When I brought up cannabis use for my dog with our vet, I received a nervous non-answer—which makes sense, given what laws are on the books through the end of the year. Unfortunately, this has led pet-owners to seek information on their own—from the internet, pet stores, budtenders, friends and acquaintances … none of which are the best places to seek medical advice, for you or your pet.

Fortunately, some peer-reviewed scientific studies regarding pets and cannabis are beginning to be released. In July 2018, the first clinical double-blind study treating arthritic dogs with cannabidiol was published in Frontier in Veterinary Science. A team led by Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, of Cornell University, studied how hemp-based CBD products helped dogs with pain and arthritis.

It is important to keep in mind that the research was funded by ElleVet, a maker of hemp oil designed for pets, and ElleVet products were used in the study. Still, the results of the small study of 16 animals were extremely promising: After treatment, more than 80 percent of the dogs saw a significant decrease in pain, and improvement in their ability to move. This is good news for all of us with aging dogs.

Another study, this one at Colorado State University, is looking into treating dogs with epilepsy—and the preliminary results have been called “promising”: A small study of 16 dogs revealed that 89 percent had a reduced frequency of seizures after receiving CBD.

Dosing is a big issue with pets; after all, my three-pound teacup Chihuahua can’t receive the same dose as my 150-pound neapolitan mastiff. Dr. Wakshlag found that with CBD, 2 milligrams per pounds of body weight is generally effective and not cost-prohibitive. The study also found that CBD dissolved in fats had a greater efficacy than other delivery methods.

Take note: THC is believed to be toxic to dogs, so if you choose to experiment with cannabis products on your own pet (something that’s NOT advised), make sure you are using only the purest hemp-based, THC-free products. Signs of THC poisoning include glassy eyes, stumbling and a lack of coordination, vomiting and urinary incontinence. If you think your pet may have ingested THC, get it to the veterinarian ASAP, and be honest with the medical staff. In most cases, even severe THC poisoning can be treated, assuming it is caught quickly.

That said, Dr. Gary Richter, a San Francisco Bay Area veterinarian who spoke at the Palm Springs Cannabis Summit last April, feels that THC may have a greater story to tell. He likes to point out that many drugs, if used improperly, can cause severe harm to both humans and animals. Due to the wide range of uses THC has in human pharmacology, Dr. Richter believes that proper studies may reveal that very small doses of THC can treat pet ailments.

While a few studies are being done on dogs, an even smaller number is being done on cats. I found one being done on anxiety, and one on pain, but I found no studies on cats with any published results yet. I found no research on smaller animals (like parrots or rodents) or larger animals (like horses)—although hemp seeds are safe for parrots, and in fact, parrot breeders often use hemp seed to stimulate breeding behaviors.

In other words … we have a long way to go. Stay tuned.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Pesticides are a problem.

In August, the Environmental Working Group—a nonprofit “dedicated to protecting human health and the environment”—announced the results of a study it commissioned to test foods made with oats. The group found glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer, in nearly all of them. 

Pesticides are a problem when it comes to marijuana, too.

It’s complicated: Pesticides and herbicides are regulated by the federal government. However, the federal government continues to enforce cannabis prohibition. Therefore, there are currently no pesticides and herbicides approved for use on cannabis plants.

To make things even more complicated, marijuana can be used in so many different ways—smoked, eaten, vaporized, as a salve, etc.—and there is no consensus among scientists regarding safe levels of pesticides with cannabis. A chemical might be safe to consume on food—but highly toxic when exposed to the high heat of smoking or vaping. For example, Eagle 20EW, a common fungicide used on grapes and hops, is not approved for use on tobacco. Of course, this problem goes the other way, too; there is little to no research on what may or may not be safe to be used on cannabis that is eaten as opposed to smoked.

Here in the Coachella Valley, we are seeing the creation of massive indoor grow operations. The Cathedral City Sunniva space under construction, along Ramon Road, is going to be about the size of seven or eight football fields, capable of producing almost 10,000 pounds of cannabis per month. It’s likely that operators of such huge operations will need to turn to industrial-strength chemicals to keep away the molds and mites that can easily destroy a cannabis crop—while adhering to California’s strict regulatory climate.

Let’s face it: Almost all of us already consume pesticide-laden foods every day. Unless you are very committed to “clean eating,” you are already devouring a level of pesticides that the government has deemed safe; as that Environmental Working Group study proves, those oat-based breakfast O’s that you and perhaps your kids have been eating have had cancer causing-herbicides in them for longer than we would like to admit … and we all seem fine with this. Again, the problem lies in the vacuum of research that America’s ill-conceived cannabis prohibition created.

However, now we are finally starting to get some data. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control recently revealed that chemicals and molds are indeed finding their way into the cannabis market: Nearly 20 percent of samples in California showed unacceptable levels of pesticides, mold and bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, since mandatory testing began on July 1. Studies in Oregon and Colorado have found similar problems. Of course, this is not simply a post-prohibition problem; illegal and medical marijuana has had these same issues for years. However, with full state legality came regulation and testing, which has drawn back the curtain on the extent of the problem.

What does this all mean for consumers? It’s extremely complicated. On one hand, the testing and the removal of tainted products from shelves is driving prices higher—and dispensary prices are already much higher than the costs on the illegal market. On the other hand, we can go to sleep at night knowing the products we are consuming are much safer than they were in the days of complete prohibition; we can now make informed decisions about what we put in our bodies.

The real losers in all of this are low-income medical-marijuana patients. Some of them are returning to the illegal market for economic reasons—meaning the chances they are consuming tainted product is extremely high. Immunocompromised or other sick individuals who are using cannabis as medication need to be very cautious. The irony is that they may be ingesting cancer-causing chemicals while trying to treat the symptoms of cancer.

It is not just pesticides; mold allergies can be deadly. A friend of mine who cannot even eat blue cheese, much to his chagrin, has been advised to avoid cannabis edibles until we know the real extent of mold contamination throughout the industry.

The good news is the Food and Drug Administration may be finally starting to acknowledge that people are legitimately using cannabis. As more states end prohibition—and there is a strong likelihood that at least seven more states will either move to full legalization or decriminalize medical use in the coming year—better science will come to light. We are already seeing substantial growth in the cannabis-testing industry, which should lead to testing becoming less expensive for growers and producers alike. Hopefully as costs go down, the savings will be passed on to the consumer.

Overall, more testing and more information are good things. Whether a person is using cannabis as medicine or as a recreational drug, nobody should have to guess whether or not the product being consumed is laden with toxins.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

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