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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Canada Moves Toward National Legalization

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Cannabis in the CV

Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as the attorney general along party lines, with no Republicans opposing his appointment and only one Democrat in favor. While this understandably makes the cannabis industry a little jittery, thanks to the prospect of the resumption of federal enforcement efforts, there may be some cause for cautious optimism—at least that’s the message put forth in a statement released by the nation’s largest cannabis policy group, the Marijuana Policy Project.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration will refrain from interfering in state marijuana laws,” said the Feb. 9 statement. “When asked about his plans for marijuana enforcement, Attorney General Sessions said he ‘echo(es)’ the position taken by Loretta Lynch during her confirmation hearings. He repeatedly acknowledged the scarcity of enforcement resources, and he said he would ensure they are used as effectively as possible to stop illicit drugs from being trafficked into the country.

“President Trump has consistently said that states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and his spokesperson made it clear that the attorney general will be implementing the Trump agenda. We are hopeful that Mr. Sessions will follow the president’s lead and respect states’ rights on marijuana policy.

“A strong and growing majority of Americans think marijuana should be made legal, and an even stronger majority think(s) the federal government should respect state marijuana laws. Eight states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana for adult use, and 28 states now have laws that regulate marijuana for medical use. It would be shocking if the Trump administration attempted to steamroll the citizens and governments in these states to enforce an increasingly unpopular federal policy.”

The MPP’s view seems to be somewhat optimistic. Sessions’ distaste for legalization is well-documented, and when asked about enforcing the federal ban in states that have legalized weed, he’s said it is not his place to choose which laws to enforce, before adding: “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able.” Many took this as an indication that federal enforcement could resume in the absence of action by Congress. However, parts of his oral testimony did indicate that a lack of resources might keep federal enforcement of pot laws in check, and he avoided committing to enforcement in states where marijuana is legal.

On the same day as Sessions’ confirmation, Orange County-area Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher reintroduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, H.R. 975. First introduced in April 2013, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities acting in compliance with state marijuana laws from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill.

“I happen to believe that the federal government shouldn’t be locking up anyone for making a decision on what he or she should privately consume, whether that person is rich or poor, and we should never be giving people the excuse, especially federal authorities, that they have a right to stop people or intrude into their lives in order to prevent them and prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming something they personally want to consume,” Rohrabacher said during his speech introducing the bill. A solid Trump supporter and devout state’s rights advocate, Rohrabacher added: “My bill would then make sure that federal law is aligned with the states’ (laws), and the people in those states’ desires, so that the residents and businesses wouldn’t have to worry about federal prosecution. For those few states that have thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would change nothing. I think that this is a reasonable compromise that places the primary responsibility of police powers back in the states and the local communities that are most directly affected.”

Not surprisingly, the MPP supports the bill.

“Nine out of 10 Americans now live in states that have rejected federal marijuana prohibition by adopting some sort of marijuana policy reform,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This legislation would ease the tension between state and federal laws to ensure these state-level reforms are successful. It would also help states address the public health and safety priorities shared by state and federal authorities.”

The last time the bill was introduced in 2015, it received neither a hearing nor a vote, so it’s still a big maybe in a GOP-controlled Congress. Therefore, legal-weed proponents have much to fear—and are not taking “maybe” for an answer.

Washington, one of the first states to legalize adult recreational use of cannabis, is leading the resistance against federal interference. State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Seattle Democrat, has been involved with shaping Washington state’s cannabis policy since legalization in 2012.

“It is extremely difficult for anyone to pretend we can predict what the Trump administration is going to do,” Carlyle told The News Tribune in Tacoma.

Washington is preparing for the worst with a bill that would prevent local officials from cooperating with the feds in enforcement of marijuana laws that contradict state law. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he would do anything he can to sway White House opinion in favor of at least allowing states to continue down their own paths without federal interference.

“I think it would be a really big mistake for them to pick this fight, and I hope it will not occur,” Inslee said in that aforementioned article in The News Tribune.


Cannabis sprouts in Coachella

Del-Gro, the city of Coachella’s first commercial cannabis-cultivation facility, held a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 9. The facility rents turn-key grow spaces to growers, and will provide cannabis-business support including extract production, financial services, consulting, lab testing and onsite distribution.

“Opening the first cultivation operation in Coachella is an incredible opportunity for us and our partner cultivators”, said Ben Levine, founder and CEO of Del-Gro, in a news release. “We forecast that our operation will ultimately bring in over $100 million in annual revenue for us and the independent growers we work with. But greater than that, we’re thrilled that the residents of Coachella have trusted us to be industry trailblazers in their city.”

All available spaces have been rented, and Del-Gro will be open for business later this year on the property that used to be the home Ajax Auto Wrecking. Del-Gro estimates the facility could produce $3 million in annual tax revenue for the city of Coachella.

Published in Cannabis in the CV