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Rhode Island Cannabis Legalization Bill Under Consideration

Rhode Island Cannabis Legalization Bill Under Consideration

rhode island cannabis legalization being considered by house

On Tuesday, the RI House of Representatives Committee on Finance examined legislation that would legalize recreational cannabis use for adults, with legislators and the public showing strong support for the bill and contemplating how it could be improved. The proposal in the House differs from the Senate’s recently passed, similar legislation in a number of key areas, including automatic expungement for past cannabis offenses and oversight and impact fees to be paid to municipalities where retail stores open.

“I try to take input from a lot of the stakeholders in the cannabis world,” said sponsoring representative Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence). “Patients, caregivers, cultivators, existing compassion centers and the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns. I try to take everyone’s input and compromise the best piece of legislation that I can for a legal, adult-use, recreational cannabis program.”

 

The legislation, if approved in the House and signed into law, would legalize cannabis in the state, allowing possession up to one ounce by individuals over the age of 21. It also allows for home grow comparable to neighboring Massachusetts, with adults being able to grow up to 12 plants, with six active plants at any given time.

Fifteen recreational cannabis licenses would be made available if the legislation is approved, with five of those being designated for equity applicants. Three of the licenses would go to the state’s three existing compassion centers and seven new licenses would be up for grabs, with one of those slots set aside for a co-op business.

“We can work on the number of retail [licenses],” said Slater. “I’m open to adjusting that number. I think it’s important.”

“What I’ve found is that we have people, small businesses, our constituents, investing their money and there was no market for them,” he continued, speaking to the state’s expansion of medical marijuana access in recent years. “They got their licenses, they paid their fees, they did all the right things and I feel that we oversaturated the market and I don’t want to do that again.”

Last week, the RI Senate passed similar legislation, though Slater said his bill bears some significant differences.

The first, said Slater, is that past cannabis-related offenses, both misdemeanors and felonies, would be automatically expunged if the legislation is approved. The Senate bill also offers expungement for past cannabis offenses, though that bill lays out a process to apply for expungement. Further, Slater’s bill would not create a five-member cannabis control commission as in the Senate’s version, but would leave oversight to the state’s Department of Business Regulation.

“My bill leaves the regulation to DBR, which has been doing a good job to authorize and promulgate regulations to effectuate the legislation,” said Slater.

Missouri Medical Marijuana Sales Set Record in June

Missouri Medical Marijuana Sales Set Record in June

missouri medical marijuana sets new sales record

Missouri’s medical marijuana industry topped $70 million in cumulative sales, including nearly $16.4 million in June, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Eight months after the state’s first dispensary opened in October 2020, 126 dispensaries operate throughout the state. Those dispensaries, plus manufacturers, transporters, and laboratories, total 201 medical marijuana facilities in the state.

“This is essentially Missouri’s newest twenty-first century industry,” Alan Zagier, a representative from the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said. “Now we’re really at the moment when rubber hits the road, and we’re really starting to see the results of all this hard work our members have put in.”

Zaiger said the industry contributes to a post-COVID economy.

“The benefit extends to not just cannabis patients but also to the workforce,” he said. “This is a real shot in the arm for lots of communities across the state. These are real, tangible jobs.”

A total of 375 facilities have been licensed to handle medical marijuana by DHSS.

“We’re not just talking about dispensaries in our urban centers in St. Louis and Kansas City, and even there in mid-Missouri,” Zaiger said. “We’re talking about dispensaries in places like Hayti and Caruthersville.”

Shangri-La Dispensaries is one of those facilities, with dispensaries in Columbia and Jefferson City.

“Business is phenomenal,” Michael Lafrieda, the Chief Operating Officer for Shangri-La, said. The dispensary sees “several hundred [customers] a day. On some of the longer holiday weekends, a couple thousand people.”

Lafrieda said his customers range in age from teens to eighties. Zaiger said that nearly 121,000 Missourians have been approved as medical marijuana patients, with many more applications.

“For the sake of comparison,” Zaiger said. “Illinois has about 12.6 million residents, so that’s more than double of Missouri. And even now, several years into their program, they currently only have 55 licensed retail outlets open, so that’s less than half of the number that we have open in less than a year’s time.”

California Lawmakers Approve Bill To Legalize Psychedelics Possession

California Lawmakers Approve Bill To Legalize Psychedelics Possession

California psychedelics possession has been legalized by legislators

A California Assembly committee on Tuesday approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of psychedelics, clearing its first major hurdle in the chamber.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee advanced the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), in a 5-3 vote.

This comes one day after the senator held a rally with military veterans, law enforcement and health officials to build support for the proposal.

SB 519 would remove criminal penalties for possessing or sharing numerous psychedelics—including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA—for adults 21 and older.

The sponsor supported a committee amendment that removed ketamine from the list of psychedelics included in the reform. That’s in addition to a series of technical revisions that were made to the legislation.

The full Senate approved the bill earlier this month, and it still has two more Assembly panel stops—the Public Health and Appropriations Committees—before moving to the floor and then, potentially, to the governor’s desk.

“Under SB 519, we will no longer arrest people and incarcerate them for the simple personal possession of psychedelics for personal or shared use,” Wiener told the committee on Tuesday. “That’s really the question here: Do we believe that we should be arresting someone because they possess psychedelics for personal use? I don’t think we should. Frankly, I think most people don’t think we should be doing that.”

A California Assembly committee on Tuesday approved a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of psychedelics, clearing its first major hurdle in the chamber.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee advanced the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), in a 5-3 vote.

This comes one day after the senator held a rally with military veterans, law enforcement and health officials to build support for the proposal.

SB 519 would remove criminal penalties for possessing or sharing numerous psychedelics—including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA—for adults 21 and older.

The sponsor supported a committee amendment that removed ketamine from the list of psychedelics included in the reform. That’s in addition to a series of technical revisions that were made to the legislation.

The full Senate approved the bill earlier this month, and it still has two more Assembly panel stops—the Public Health and Appropriations Committees—before moving to the floor and then, potentially, to the governor’s desk.

“Under SB 519, we will no longer arrest people and incarcerate them for the simple personal possession of psychedelics for personal or shared use,” Wiener told the committee on Tuesday. “That’s really the question here: Do we believe that we should be arresting someone because they possess psychedelics for personal use? I don’t think we should. Frankly, I think most people don’t think we should be doing that.”

Wiener has described its prospects going forward as “very challenging,” but he made the case at Monday’s press event that it is a necessary policy change to advance mental health reform and end criminalization.

Under the measure, the state Department of Public Health would be required to establish a working group “to study and make recommendations regarding possible regulatory systems that California could adopt to promote safe and equitable access to certain substances in permitted legal contexts.” Those recommendations would be due by January 1, 2024.

For psilocybin specifically, the legislation would repeal provisions in California statute that prohibit the cultivation or transportation of “any spores or mycelium capable of producing mushrooms or other material” that contain the psychoactive ingredient.

The bill originally included record sealing and resentencing provisions for people previously convicted of psychedelics possession offenses, but that language was removed in its last committee stop prior to the Senate floor vote as part of an amendment from the sponsor.

The Most Common Cannabis Compliance Issues

The Most Common Cannabis Compliance Issues

top 5 cannabis compliance

Operating in a legal cannabis industry, whether recreational or medical, comes with strict regulations that requires compliance for businesses. Underestimating the level of cannabis compliance has led to the downfall of many new cannabis businesses.

Cannabis compliance is more than just meeting required plant counts or ensuring safe working conditions for employees. Every industry is regulated in some form, however the cannabis industry lacks any form of federal regulations.

Without any federal oversight, states are left to create their own regulations and cannabis compliance requirements. These requirements vary widely by state, making operating in multiple states more challenging.

There are some common cannabis compliance requirements that any business owner will have dealt with at some point. However there are others that a new business owner may overlook. This can have drastic consequences, such as removal of an operating license, extreme fines, or even being shut down completely.

Licensing

Cannabis licensing is typically the first step any would-be business owner takes. Each state varies in how they handle licensing, from application fees and financial requirements to how many total licenses are given out.

Pricing alone is large barrier to entry for many, with some states like California charging higher and higher license fees the larger a business’ revenue. Others may just charge a flat fee for all licenses, but the fee is also high, and recurs annually.

Common licenses include manufacturing, retail, dispensary, and cultivation. Cannabis businesses need to know what’s required in their state and when to get their licenses and permits renewed. Having an expired or illegitimate license or permit can result in hefty fines and a risk of closure.

It isn’t just the business that has to be licensed either in many states. Employees are typically also required to have specific licensing to work in a cannabis business.

Cultivation

From plant limits to seed to sale tracking, every state can implement different cannabis compliance requirements for cultivation facilities and farms. This can include mandatory reporting of water usage and run-off, pesticide restrictions, limited employees permitted in the grow, and tracking such as METRC.

Justin Jones from Greener Consulting Group opened the first recreational cannabis dispensary in Denver, Colorado. He was also one of the first growers in the country to implement METRC tracking in his grow.

In the past, growers just grew. Today’s growers need real management skills in the highly regulated legal markets and just as much time is spent meeting compliance requirements as is spent growing the plants themselves. It is a complete turn around from the past. Programs like METRC that were resisted at first, have now become tools for improving your business and collecting data on production, potency, testing and more.

Justin Jones

There is no worse feeling for a grower than going through an entire season and having it thrown out or being fined an exorbitant amount for failing to adhere to cultivation compliance requirements.

Cannabis Testing

Testing requirements for cannabis cultivators and processors has been a hot button issue in the legal cannabis industry. Due to lack to federal regulation there is no federal guidance or requirements for cannabis products, again leaving the decision to the states.

While every state will have testing requirements in order to prove the potency and safety of cannabis products, the requirements can vary and the labs that do the testing can vary as well. One lab might only test for cannabinoids, while another may test for terpenes and heavy metals as well.

The majority of the time, these labs are not state-run either, which can lead to some shady business transactions between labs trying to make some money and a grower who wants their harvest to pass. Real Dirt host and Greener Consulting Group founder Chip Baker has plenty of experience dealing with cannabis testing in a variety of states.

He knows first hand how difficult it can be to find an affordable and reliable testing facility for a wide range of cannabis products.

Keeping up with the different testing regulations throughout the US is pretty much an impossible task. Every state is similar but different. Every lab is similar but different. Every state has different microbial and pesticide determinations. Some are lax and others are bordering on impossible to follow. You really have to be careful about the products you use on a plant. One day it could be legal and the next day not, literally. There needs to be a standardization of COAs (certificate of authenticity).

Chip Baker

Real Estate Cannabis Compliance

Real estate and zoning for cannabis businesses is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Not only do states create their own zoning requirements for cannabis businesses (e.g. distance from schools, parks, etc.), land owners can restrict cannabis businesses on their land as well.

Additionally, local governments and neighborhood groups who lobby them can also implement more restrictions. Cannabis businesses often face special zoning restrictions including security, lighting, crowd control, delivery traffic, parking, and drainage.

It can be a very time consuming process planning out a building design to meet the various strict requirements set by state and local governments. In turn, cannabis compliance in real estate can become more difficult dependent on the state.

Security and Surveillance

Any potential cannabis business owner will implement some form of security and surveillance out of necessity. So while it isn’t an aspect of cannabis compliance that is likely to slip the mind, states can still set specific requirements for security and surveillance that must be met.

These requirements will almost always include cameras and some sort of ID verification at the entrance. Other requirements may be hired security at the entrance, alarm systems, and even security patrols at cannabis cultivation facilities. Luckily security is something most cannabis business owners take very seriously, which makes cannabis compliance in this regard rather easy.

However like other state requirements placed on cannabis businesses, the costs of meeting security requirements can prevent smaller businesses from complying.

Sales and Reporting

Beside the age limit placed on medical and recreational cannabis purchases, states can add additional requirements when it comes to reporting. States may require an up to date record of inventory at all times, seed to sale tracking, purchase limits for consumers and more.

It isn’t uncommon for a cannabis business to try and skirt cannabis compliance in some of these aspects, and some have paid the price for it. Sales and reporting is a major aspect of cannabis compliance that will vary by state, and should be taken seriously.

More cannabis compliance requirements

The requirements listed above may be some of the most important for any cannabis business owner, but cannabis compliance is more broad than just a few key aspects.

Taxes, consumer privacy, employee hiring and practices, health and safety are just a few more that should never be overlooked, and can vary by state. If a cannabis business operates in a state with delivery options, that adds a whole new tier of cannabis compliance that must be met as well.

Similar to any business in any industry, the larger you are the more it costs to operate. The larger you are, more difficult it will be to maintain compliance in an ever changing industry with regulatory updates happening frequently.

Owning a business is no easy task. However owning a cannabis business is a challenge many won’t be able to handle.

Mexico top court decriminalizes recreational marijuana use

Mexico top court decriminalizes recreational marijuana use

Mexico cannabis legalization has been passed in the supreme court
Mexico’s Supreme Court on Monday decriminalized recreational marijuana use for adults, drawing a cautious welcome from activists who said users face a “legal vacuum” until lawmakers pass a stalled legalization bill.

“Today is a historic day for liberties,” court president Arturo Zaldivar said, after eight of the 11 judges backed the decision declaring the drug’s prohibition under the health law to be unconstitutional.

The ruling comes after Congress failed to enact legislation allowing recreational marijuana use by an April 30 deadline set by the country’s highest court. The landmark bill was approved by the lower house in March but still needs final approval by the upper house, the Senate.

In April, the ruling majority in the Senate said it was considering postponing the final discussion on the law until September. The Supreme Court urged Congress to issue the necessary legislation “in order to generate legal certainty.”

Legal obstacles

Pro-legalization campaigners said the Supreme Court ruling left cannabis users facing many uncertainties. Mexico United Against Crime, a non-governmental organization, said the decision “does not decriminalize the activities necessary to carry out consumption” such as production, possession and transportation of marijuana.

The ruling “leaves a legal vacuum with respect to the consumption, cultivation and distribution of cannabis,” it added, calling on Congress to issue the necessary legislation. Veteran pot legalization activist Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, who is part of the Mexican Association of Cannabis Studies, was also skeptical about the announcement.

“They do not dare to go further,” he said, adding that recreational users still faced legal obstacles to possessing marijuana.

​Massive market

One consequence of the court ruling is that recreational users will be able to obtain a permit from national health regulator Cofepris more easily, said Adriana Muro, director of rights group Elementa.

“What had happened on previous occasions was that Cofepris denied those permits,” she told AFP.

“Now that permission has to be given automatically,” she added.

But that does not open the door to commercialization or personal possession of more than the five grams already allowed, said Francisco Burgoa, a constitutional lawyer and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

“Congress urgently needs to legislate, but I think that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not personally in favor,” he told AFP.

The legislation would make Mexico, home to 126 million people, one of just a few countries, including Uruguay and Canada, to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Cannabis use for medicinal purposes has been decriminalized in Mexico since June 2017. Experts say the legal recreational market could be worth billions of dollars in Mexico, where authorities seized 244 tons of marijuana in 2020.

The legalization push is partly aimed at curbing drug-related violence that claims thousands of lives each year in the Latin American nation. More than 300,000 people have been murdered since the government deployed the army to fight the drug cartels in 2006.

Denver opens applications for cannabis delivery licenses, consumption lounges

Denver opens applications for cannabis delivery licenses, consumption lounges

Denver cannabis delivery licenses are being accepted now

Applications are now open for marijuana delivery and transporter licenses in Denver for the first time in the city’s history, the Department of Excise and Licenses announced.

The city is also accepting applications for new marijuana store locations for the first time since 2016, in addition to applications for marijuana cultivation and manufacturing licenses.

This comes two months after Denver changed its marijuana policy to allow for social equity delivery and hospitality businesses where patrons can consume marijuana on the premises. Applications for the hospitality business licenses are expected to open in November, the department said.

“This is a big part of the biggest overhaul in marijuana rules and regulations since initial legalization that the mayor signed into law on 4/20,” said Eric Escudero, spokesman for the Department of Excise and Licenses.

Under Denver’s new marijuana policy, there is no cap on the number of licenses and permits available, and there is no deadline to apply.

Social equity applicants are defined as Colorado residents who have never had a marijuana license revoked and meet one of the following social equity criteria:

  • Applicant lived in an opportunity zone or a disproportionately impacted area between 1980 and 2010
  • Applicant or immediate family was arrested, convicted or suffered civil asset forfeiture due to a marijuana offense
  • Applicant’s household income doesn’t exceed 50% of the state median income

By providing exclusivity to social equity applicants, Denver officials say they are trying to make up for the damage caused by the War on Drugs and the unequal persecution of disadvantaged communities for marijuana offenses.

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