CVIndependent

Sun01202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

Finding work in the Coachella Valley is not an easy task—unless you’re looking for a low-paying job without much opportunity for advancement.

Even people with a lot of skills and great work histories have trouble finding satisfying work. I have heard of people with doctorates in Spanish taking jobs as housekeepers just to pay the bills. I came out of the service industry, and taught in the culinary program at a community college for 13 years; I mistakenly assumed my skills would be in high demand when I came to the desert. Instead, I have had to hustle to find meaningful employment.

This is why the jobs the newish and thriving cannabis industry is bringing to the Coachella Valley are needed and welcome.

On Indeed.com alone, at last check, there were 11 local marijuana-industry positions paying $50,000 a year or more listed. It’s estimated that there are approximately 123,000 full-time jobs in the legal cannabis industry in the U.S., with more than a third of those jobs located here in California—and research firm BDS Analytics estimates that number will double in three years.

With all this talk of a “Green Rush,” it is easy to see how people might be drawn to the possibility of stock options and the chance to help build a company—and industry—from the ground floor. However, there are some things to consider when applying for work in the marijuana industry.

First and foremost: Not everyone will be supportive of your new career choice. After 50 years of prohibition, people have built up a lot of prejudices. I have heard stories about people being told that they’re destroying the possibility of future careers outside of the industry, and/or throwing away their current potential. Hopefully, here in California, that will not be the case—but these prejudices do exist and need to be considered. Before I started writing this column for the Independent, I had to take into consideration what friends, family and future employers would think once a Google search of my name turned up regular articles about cannabis.

Since the industry is so new and under development, you should do some research to make sure the company you are applying with is state-licensed. The Bureau of Cannabis Control is working hard to make sure that non-licensed companies are either brought into compliance with state law—or put out of business.

Furthermore, make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the industry—and there are a lot of them. Not only are there a bunch of currently changing state laws; every city has its own set of rules. Knowing the rules will give you a leg up on the competition and show your future employer you’re serious and not just looking for some discount smokes. By the way, it is currently not legal for cannabis companies to give away any product samples. Budtenders are supposed to be paying the same price for the merchandise as any consumer.

As with any job, networking is key. Attending conferences like the recent Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit is a way to get yourself noticed; so, too, are job fairs. Locally, the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network has a monthly networking dinner the first Monday of every month. If you find a company you would like to work for, try to make a connection. If you are looking to be a budtender, go into the dispensary and talk to the current budtenders to make sure it’s a place you would like to work. Alternately, reach out via Linkedin for an informational interview—or to just take someone out for coffee.

Additionally, research the types of jobs that interest you and for which you think you would be qualified. Just because you love smoking pot, that doesn’t mean you are ready to be the CFO of a cannabis company.

Finally—and I would think that this goes without saying, but friends in the industry tell me otherwise—do NOT show up to a job interview stoned. No employer is going to hire someone who comes to an interview impaired.

When it comes to jobs, the cannabis industry is really no different than any other, aside from the rapid rate of expansion and its quickly changing rules and regulations. The industry is becoming less Cheech and Chong and more Harvard Business School every day.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The final few weeks of this year’s session of the California State Legislature are here—and the fates of some important cannabis-related bills hang in the balance.

There are 17 cannabis-related bills, in fact, which must be decided on by the Aug. 31 adjournment, covering everything from after-school program funding to the veterinary use of cannabis. As this new industry continues to evolve, it’s important to pay attention—and speak up to ensure lawmakers in Sacramento know what the people of California think.

Here’s a list of those bills, and where they stand as of this posting on Aug. 14. Click the links to each bill to go to the Legislature’s website for up-to-date information.

AB 1744: This bill would mandate that cannabis-tax revenues be used to fund after-school education and safety programs—specifically programs that encourage healthy choices and improve school retention.

This bill is currently in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It should be a no-brainer; it passed the Assembly 73-0 and has sailed through two Senate committees so far.

AB 1793: This is a social justice bill, requiring the California Department of Justice to review all convictions that are potentially eligible for resentencing under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 and Proposition 64.

This bill would go a long way toward addressing the historical use of marijuana convictions to punish communities of color, although it is a far cry from general amnesty. This bill passed the Assembly in a 43-28 vote and is also in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Legislators should show the wisdom and compassion to address these historic wrongs.

AB 1863: This would personal income-tax deductions for licensed cannabis businesses. It, too, is waiting for a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee after passing the Assembly in a 64-11 vote.

“Canna-preneurs” should have the same tax advantages as any other business owner. This is particularly important for small business owners.

AB 1996: This would create a cannabis research program here in California.

Using cannabis taxes to study cannabis seems perfectly reasonable—especially considering federal prohibition has created a vacuum of research. Without a thorough understanding of cannabis, how can we make informed decisions around its usage?

It is currently making its way through the Senate after a 73-0 vote in the Assembly.

AB 2020 and AB 2641: The former bill would authorize temporary event licenses, while the latter would allow for onsite sales at those events. Both easily passed through the Assembly and are in the hands of the Senate.

Last April, High Times magazine’s Cannabis Cup event in San Bernardino was denied permits for sales … meaning the nation’s largest cannabis convention was held without any cannabis. These bills will hopefully eliminate this sort of snafu in the future.

AB 2215: This bill is a bit confusing. The California Veterinary Medical Board currently does not allow doctors to discuss or prescribe cannabis—and can revoke their license for doing so.

The good news: This bill would prohibit the board from punishing vets for discussing cannabis. The band news: It would still be illegal for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis for pets, while the Veterinary Medical Board comes up with guidelines.

This bill passed the Assembly, 60-10, and is working its way through the Senate

AB 2255: This proposed law would prohibit licensed distributors from transporting amounts of cannabis that exceed the amount on the shipping manifest. It unanimously passed in the Assembly and is expected to easily pass in the Senate.

AB 2402: The bill would prohibit marijuana businesses from sharing your personal information without your consent—and would prohibit them from denying you service for withholding consent. It passed the Assembly unanimously and is working its way through the Senate.

AB 2555: This is a “cleanup” bill that would create definitions for terms in state marijuana codes, including “immature cannabis plant,” “mature cannabis plant” and “plant.” It’s in the Senate’s hands after unanimously passing in the Assembly.

AB 2899: This is also a “cleanup” bill that would prohibit businesses with suspended licenses from advertising. It, too, passed unanimously in the Assembly and is working its way through the Senate.

AB 2914: I have mixed feelings about this one. It prohibits cannabis licensees from producing or selling alcoholic beverages containing cannabis, and would stop alcoholic-beverage licensees from selling or providing cannabis products.

I have had wine with cannabis in it … and let’s just say a little goes a long way. This bill may prevent lots of Californians from getting the spins … but does seem a bit “nanny state.”

It passed through the Assembly unanimously and is working its way through the Senate.

AB 2980: This would allow two or more licensed marijuana business to share common-use areas. Office and warehouse space is expensive, especially for small businesses, as long as they are complying with the law, why should they be treated differently from any other businesses?

It passed the Assembly in a 48-21 vote and is in the Senate’s hands.

AB 924: This would create the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Act for Tribal Entities, forming a process through which the state can interact with sovereign tribes that are producing cannabis products.

It unanimously passed through the Assembly and is awaiting word from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1459: This would allow county agricultural commissioners to include cannabis in its reporting process to the State Secretary of Food and Agriculture.

It unanimously passed through the Senate and is working its way through the Assembly.

SB 829: This bill would establish compassionate-care licenses for donors of medical use cannabis products to patients who are in need.

It was passed unanimously by the Senate and is now working its way through the Assembly.

SB 930: This is probably the piece of legislation that would do the most to reform the cannabis industry, making things better for the legal market and negatively impacting the illegal market.

This bill would create a state-sponsored credit union for licensed marijuana businesses to use. Because of federal prohibition, cannabis businesses can’t use the banking system, meaning most cannabis business deal with vast amounts of cash, making them vulnerable to crime. I have heard of bud-tenders being paid with stacks of $5 bills, landlords receiving thousands of dollars of rent in cash, and so on.

It passed the Senate on a 32-6 vote and is working its way through the Assembly.

It’s great to see so much work being done in Sacramento to reform and strengthen California’s cannabis industry. However, it’s disappointing that not one of these 17 bills was introduced by a Coachella Valley legislator. Considering the blooming importance of cannabis to our economy, it’s disappointing that these state legislators seem indifferent to the needs of their constituents.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

On July 13, California’s three state cannabis-licensing authorities—the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the California Department of Public Health—announced the publication of proposed “non-emergency” regulations that would replace the rules under which the state’s marijuana industry has been operating.

Voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016, legalizing the sale and use of recreational cannabis in California as of Jan. 1, 2018—meaning there was only a little more than a year to create an entire state agency, licensing guidelines and regulatory processes.

Given the size of this task—and the size of this state—it’s no surprise that California has gotten off to a bumpy start. High taxes, both on the state and local level, are a major problem. In Washington, Oregon and Colorado, marijuana consumers saw a drop in the price of cannabis for the recreational user as soon as the supply chain was able to catch up to demand—so much so, in fact, that the black and gray markets were largely put out of business.

In California, this has not been the case. Because of both the incredibly high taxes on legal weed and the big production costs California’s state regulations have created, legal marijuana has remained expensive—so the illegal cannabis market has been able to maintain lower prices and, therefore, flourish. Non-licensed retailers have also thrived, providing customers with much lower prices than the licensed competition. (In some parts of the state, I have heard of regulators not realizing that a shop is unlicensed until they asked to see permits.) On the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s own Facebook page, the day the new regulations were announced, people were bragging and/or complaining that they have returned to the black market. 

Medical-marijuana patients are also suffering under these taxes, and many have had to return to the illegal market in order afford the medicine they need to control their very serious medical issues. Small growers who have been in the cannabis industry for decades have suffered and been driven out of business because of the onerous regulations placed on them—and as of July 1, a number of dispensaries were stuck with inventory that was all of a sudden illegal for them to sell, because it did not meet state standards.

Thankfully, it seems like Lori Ajax, the chief of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), recognizes that there have been problems, and she seems to be interested in fixing them. The proposed regulations, which can be viewed here, are now open to a 45-day public-comment period. State law stipulates that the non-emergency regulations must be in place by the end of the year.

I find some portions of the new regulations to be very encouraging. I am still in the process of digesting the information that the BCC wants to be able to award research funding. One of my biggest beefs with the medical-cannabis industry is its promotion of cannabis as a cure-all for many ailments, when there are so few peer-reviewed studies regarding the medical benefits of marijuana. This is not necessarily the industry’s fault—federal law has essentially prohibited the use of marijuana for all purposes, including scientific ones—so the state’s possible foray into scientific research funding is a step in the right direction.

The new regulations also get rid of the necessity for establishments to have two sets of licenses; as of now, dispensaries need one for medical marijuana, and one for recreational adult use. With only a few differences in the requirements, it seems unnecessary to require businesses to apply for two types of licenses to sell the same product.

I also find the proposed codification of enforcement to be encouraging. Under the emergency regulations, there was no significant list of grounds for disciplinary action, meaning each licensing authority had the ability to discipline on a case-by-case basis—a system that is open to abuses. The proposed regulations will create a framework for licensing authorities to use when initiating or undertaking enforcement.

Unfortunately, the BCC is proposing to keep in place its requirements around packaging. Retailers would still not be able to package product onsite, and would still be required to place cannabis products in a resealable child-resistant opaque package before customers leave the store. This requirement has always seemed rather ridiculous: If the goal is to protect children, why do we not see these same sorts of requirements around tobacco and liquor? Given California’s push for a greener future, adding a new type of plastic waste feels counterproductive.

While I believe the Legislature still needs to step in to make some legal changes to ensure California’s cannabis industry—particularly small and minority-owned businesses—can thrive, these new regulations are a start.

Any interested party is encouraged to participate in the public-comment process—although consider yourself warned that reading through the proposed rule changes is not an easy process. (The Initial Statement of Reasons from the BCC is 567 pages long!) Comments on the proposed regulations are being accepted in both writing (via email or snail mail) and at public hearings throughout the state, comments cannot be made by phone. The closest hearings will be held in Los Angeles and Riverside (find a list here), so written comments may be a Coachella Valley resident’s best bet. Regarding BCC regulations, comments can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; in the subject line, type in the subject of the proposed regulation to which the comments apply. You can make your comment either in the body of the email or as an attached document. Physical mail can be sent to: Lori Ajax, Chief, Bureau of Cannabis Control, P.O. Box 419106, Rancho Cordova, CA, 95741. All information submitted becomes public information—so don’t include anything you want to remain confidential.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

For about 162 years, marijuana and hemp were commonly and legally grown in the United States.

Hemp fiber, although derived from a cannabis varietal, contains little to no THC—0.3 percent or less in both the European Union and Canada—and it cannot get a person high. It has been used for centuries to make things like rope, cloth, paper and food. Our founding fathers grew hemp; the Model T was partially made from hemp, and hemp was even used as animal feed.

In the 1930s, the cultivation of hemp was curtailed in the U.S. A combination of big-money interests, including Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon—a major investor in DuPont—sought to make hemp illegal to make room for the synthetic (plastic) fiber industry—which, of course, also benefited the oil industry. Hemp paper posed a threat to the timber industry, too. However, since hemp was such a part of the American consciousness, it needed to be rebranded and demonized.

Enter the term marihuana (marijuana), then a rather obscure Mexican slang word for cannabis containing THC. The government and its allies in big business were able to use what we would today call “fake news” to create horror stories about cannabis use, including movies like Reefer Madness, a 1936 film that shows “reefer” driving people to become murderers.

In 1937, the Prohibitive Marihuana Tax Law was quickly moved through Congress. Because the public did not understand that hemp and “marihuana” had been looped together as the same thing—this was well before you could fact-check news on the internet—there was virtually no public outcry, despite opposition from the American Medical Association.

In the 1970s, the Controlled Substances Act further criminalized cannabis, even classifying industrial hemp as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal to grow or even research the uses of hemp.

The war on cannabis has now been going on for more than 80 years. For most of this time, the hemp industry has been working to decriminalize the growth of industrial hemp by actively working to decouple it from marijuana. However, that’s changed, as states have legalized medical and recreational cannabis—meaning the hemp industry is now in the process of re-hitching its wagon to a star.

As recently as 2015, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a leading industry trade organization, estimated that retail sales of hemp products in the U.S. totaled $573 million—largely using imported hemp. Hemp can be used not only for food, textiles and personal care, but also car parts, biodiesel, construction materials and many other things. From an environmental prospective, hemp just makes sense: One acre of hemp plants, grown in just three months, can yield as much paper as four acres of trees that have been planted for years. One acre of hemp can also provide as much fabric as two to three acres of cotton—while using a fraction of the pesticides. Hemp can also be carbon-neutral, as carbon that is released from burning hemp as fuel is reabsorbed by the next crop of plants as they grow.

Good news is on the horizon: A provision in the 2018 Farm Bill—legislation totaling more than 1,000 pages dealing with everything from farm subsidies to food stamps—paves the way for the legalization of industrial growth. The bill is due to be voted on by the full Senate before its July 4 recess, and although it would only block federal authorities from punishing hemp farmers and researchers in states where industrial hemp is legal, it is the first meaningful reform we have seen in decades. Even ultra conservatives like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnelll, a Kentucky Republican, are pushing for hemp legalization.

“I know there are farming communities all over the country who are interested in this,” McConnell said about hemp as the bill passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee via a 20-1 vote on June 13. “… Younger farmers in my state are particularly interested in going in this direction. We have a lot of people in my state who are extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities. As we all know, hemp is very diversified.”

This is huge news. America’s attitude toward cannabis production from both an industrial and recreational/medical perspective is rapidly evolving—and we may finally see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the commercial cultivation of hemp.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

I have long proclaimed the greatness of using local produce grown and picked at the height of ripeness—something I learned after working in the restaurant industry.

I visit the farmers’ market in Palm Springs every week. The example I use to justify the extra expense and time it takes to shop at a farmers’ market is a tomato: Imagine those little red bags of water on the shelf of every grocery store. They have almost no smell, very little flavor, and often a mealy texture; they seem barely worth the effort. Now … think about the tomato you can get at the farmers’ market, or better yet, fresh out of a garden: They smell slightly acidic and rich with accumulated sunshine. All you need is that fresh tomato and a little salt, and you have a perfect lunch.

So … why shouldn’t I apply these same values to cannabis? If it makes sense to buy a fresh tomato from a local farmer, why wouldn’t I buy marijuana from a local grower?

Although the Coachella Valley is becoming a hot bed of the cannabis industry, our … shall I say, harsh summers mean most local growing is being done indoors. However, marijuana can be grown outdoors here; after all, plenty of farmers in northern climes have farms that are dormant at least three months of the year, so why can’t we? Cannabis is a hearty plant and has been cultivated by humans for eons, and to grow it commercially with success, one needs hot days, warm nights, lots of sun exposure and low humidity. That sounds like a perfect description of the Coachella Valley to me.

When I was growing up, indoor-grown cannabis was considered vastly superior, in large part due to prohibition: Outdoor growers couldn’t grow in optimal conditions, as they needed to keep their plants shaded to protect them from both the feds and organized crime. (If this sounds familiar, yes, it is the plot to every Cheech and Chong movie.) However, shade-grown cannabis produces lower yields, with lower THC content, than plants grown in the full sun.

With the huge amount of money to be had on the black market, indoor growers developed technologies to grow their crops quickly, with high THC percentages. However, the amount of energy it takes to control indoor-grow operations is phenomenal: Between heating, air conditioning, lighting and fans for airflow, published estimates have said cannabis is responsible for 1 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption—and 3 percent of California’s energy consumption! This means sun-grown cannabis has a much smaller carbon footprint. Even with the marijuana industry taking advantage of solar power and other sustainable technologies, sun-grown plants will always win by comparison.

Pest are another concern for both indoor and outdoor growers, although sun-grown cannabis has a natural resilience to many insects, meaning outdoor grows can be kept healthy with minimal cost or hassle. Indoor grows are also much more susceptible to mites, as well as mildew, which the grower must then control with a variety of chemicals—chemicals I personally do not want to consume. They also must utilize a larger variety of commercial fertilizers to optimize their investment.

Terrior is important, too. Sun-grown cannabis, much like a sun-grown tomato, has a much more complex flavor—and, I think, more interesting effects. After comparing the tastes and smell of indoor versus sun-grown product, I am finding sun-grown to be a much more enjoyable experience.

For these reasons, I am making a conscious choice to seek out sun-grown cannabis for my own consumption. Of course, I will never turn down cannabis when it is offered to me, but I want to use my purchasing power to support a sustainable industry. Unfortunately, since most sun-grown cannabis is coming out of Northern California as of now, there is the associated environmental cost of transportation to think about.

The best solution for me would be to grow my own plants, outdoors in my yard. Proposition 64 allows households to grow up to six plants at any given time. With an approximate three-month growing period, I could probably harvest three times a year. If each plant yields a half-pound of smokable product, that is about 9 pounds per year—plus all the extra bits that can be used to make oils.

There is only problem with this: I have the exact opposite of a green thumb. I have killed every “easy to keep alive” plant I have ever gotten. Luckily for me, I have several friends with green thumbs who have offered to give me hand.

As soon as summer ends here in the Coachella Valley, I plan on trying to cultivate a few plants. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

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