Cannabis Industry Daily News

Massachusetts DAs ask regulators to nix home delivery, cannabis cafes

District attorneys are asking Massachusetts marijuana regulators to hold off on the licensing of certain types of businesses, including so-called cannabis cafes and home delivery services.

In a letter to the five-member Cannabis Control Commission, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association says draft regulations that would allow for such businesses go beyond the scope of the state’s recreational MJ law and greatly increase “the risks to public safety.”

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The DAs cited impaired driving, theft and access to marijuana by minors as among their worries.

The letter echoes concerns recently expressed to the commission by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who also took issue with the licensing of social consumption establishments and mixed-use settings such as movie theaters.

The commission has said it will consider all input before finalizing its marijuana regulations.

– Associated Press

Illinois appeals judge’s decision to add pain to medical marijuana conditions list

The Illinois Department of Public Health has appealed a decision to add severe pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in a case that could greatly expand access to the drug in the state.

The appeal comes weeks after a Cook County judge ordered the health department to add “intractable pain,” or severe and constant pain with no cure, to the state’s list of more than 40 qualifying medical conditions.

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The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Ann Mednick of Rolling Meadows.

The 58-year-old petitioned the agency to add the condition, saying medical marijuana would have fewer side effects to treat pain for sacroiliac joint dysfunction and osteoarthritis than that opioids she’s been prescribed.

Public Health Director Nirav Shah denied Mednick’s request last year, saying there was a “lack of high-quality data” from clinical trials to add the condition to the list.

But Cook County Circuit Judge Raymond Mitchell called Nirav’s reasoning “clearly erroneous,” citing medical journals that reviewed 45 clinical studies looking at MMJ’s effect on treating chronic pain.

Health Department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold declined comment, citing pending litigation.

Shah’s office has been a reliable opponent of expanding the MMJ condition list the past several years.

– Associated Press

Denver gets second cannabis consumption application; first candidate awaits decision

(This story has been updated from an earlier version.)

Denver is finally seeing some movement on the public marijuana consumption front.

The city’s first applicant for a cannabis consumption license had a hearing Friday with Denver regulators, and a second business has applied for a permit.

The Coffee Joint applied for a Cannabis Consumption Establishment license in early December but will have to wait a few more weeks for the hearing officer’s recommendation, Denver alt-weekly Westword reported.

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Meanwhile, the city has received a second consumption application from Utopia All Natural Wellness Spa and Lounge.

Plans for the adults-only spa include marijuana-infused yoga classes and massage, a couple of cannabis consumption areas and MJ events, according to The Cannabist.

The spa is proposed for a historic Denver mansion that’s partially owned by marijuana-focused law firm Vicente Sederberg. The firm previously had offices there, The Cannabist reported.

Denver voters OK’d public consumption in 2016, but it took regulators about six months to finalize rules that some cannabis businesses have said are too burdensome.

Two medical marijuana dispensaries open in Baltimore

Baltimore’s first two medical marijuana dispensaries have opened their doors.

Maggie’s in Hampden became the first dispensary to begin sales in Maryland’s largest city when it opened Jan. 31, and Pure Life Wellness in Federal Hill opened Wednesday, The Baltimore Sun reported.

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The two dispensaries are among 11 expected to open in Baltimore, according to the newspaper.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Maryland’s first dispensaries opened in December 2017.
  • The 2017 opening hoopla was short-lived, however, as the dispensaries quickly ran out of product.
  • At the end of last year, 14 cultivators had been approved to grow medical cannabis and the growers were in different stages of production.
  • Maryland has licensed 102 MMJ shops, but only 30 have been approved to open.
  • The Sun cited a 2017 Goucher Poll that determined that 58% of Marylanders support legalizing recreational marijuana.

Washington state marijuana traceability glitches stem from MJ Freeway hack

By Bart Schaneman , Editor

A hack of MJ Freeway’s seed-to-sale tracking system led to Washington state’s recent problems with its marijuana traceability program, regulators told licensed marijuana businesses on Thursday.

Peter Antolin, deputy director of the Washington State Liquor and Control Board, wrote in a letter to business owners – including cultivators, processors and retailers – that a “computer vulnerability” in MJ Freeway’s Leaf Data tracking system took place Feb. 3.

“An intruder downloaded a copy of the traceability database and took action that caused issues with inventory transfers for some users,” according to the letter.

The regulator blames the hack – and theft of some cannabis companies’ information – for the inability of the state’s cannabis producers/processors to make transfers to retailers Feb. 1-3.

MJ Freeway discovered the “transfer abnormality” on Feb. 3 and determined two days later there was a “potential security incident,” the state said.

The Denver-based software company was asked Wednesday by Marijuana Business Daily about the issues with Washington state’s traceability system, but a spokeswoman did not mention the security breach.

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According to the state, the stolen information doesn’t include personally identifiable data like names or social security numbers.

But the “intruder” accessed route information of manifests filed Feb. 1-4 and transporter vehicle information, including license plate numbers and VIN numbers.

“Because there is no personally identifiable information, there is nothing that licensees need to do at this time,” according to the letter.

MJ Freeway was awarded the Washington state account in June 2017, and Leaf Data was scheduled to be up and running Oct. 31, 2017.

However, Leaf Data was not functioning by then, and the state was forced to implement a stopgap traceability system.

MJ Freeway is no stranger to cyberattacks, having experience several system breaches in 2017 and as far back as 2016.

Federal medical cannabis protection extended again

By John Schroyer , Senior Reporter

The only federal law formally preventing the U.S. Department of Justice from prosecuting medical marijuana businesses has once more been given a new lease on life.

This time, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – formerly known as Rohrabacher-Farr – has been extended until March 23 under the budget deal passed by Congress and signed Friday morning by President Donald Trump.

This is the eighth time the amendment has been temporarily extended by a continuing resolution from Congress, which hasn’t passed a new federal budget since 2015.

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer prohibits the DOJ from using federal funds to interfere with state-legal MMJ laws and companies.

The measure does not protect recreational marijuana businesses.

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Because Rohrabacher-Blumenauer has been approved in the past only as an amendment to the federal budget, the law’s life span is tied to annual renewal by Congress.

The GOP-controlled Congress has not approved a new budget since 2015, instead having repeatedly delayed negotiations over a longer-term budget until recently, so the longer-term fate of the amendment is still uncertain.

It’s possible the amendment will be included in a larger spending package that is expected to be approved by March 23.

But there’s no guarantee at this point, given a change in procedural rules in the House of Representatives last year that has prevented amendments like Rohrabacher-Blumenauer from being added to the budget.

A glimmer of hope came from the Senate Appropriations Committee last year, however, when Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy got the amendment added to a Senate version of the spending bill.

Proponents of the amendment note that it has overwhelming popular support in the House as well.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com

First marijuana retailer in Tacoma, Washington, shuttered for not paying taxes

A nearly 4-year-old cannabis retail operation in Tacoma has been closed down because it had an unpaid state tax bill of $1.4 million.

The Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board revoked the business license of Rainier on Pine and also seized all cannabis products at the shop, The News Tribune reported.

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The company, also known as Xander’s Green Goods, has received “multiple administrative violation notices” from the state regarding its tax bill since 2016, according to the newspaper.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board began license revocation proceedings last March because the company hadn’t paid $768,000 in back excise taxes at that time.

Since then, the tax bill has nearly doubled.

An administrative law judge granted a summary judgment against Rainier on Pine last fall, and the Liquor and Cannabis Board adopted it in early January, which led to the retailer’s license renewal being denied.

Ranier on Pine, Tacoma’s first cannabis retailer, is attempting to get a stay on the agency’s closure order. A hearing is slated for Feb. 16.

If the revocation stands, the seized cannabis products will be destroyed.

The shop first opened for business in August 2014, according to The News Tribune.

Oregon audit: Cannabis tracking system vulnerable to compromise

By Omar Sacirbey , Reporter

An audit of Oregon’s top marijuana regulatory agency found that the state’s marijuana tracking system lacked proper safeguards, making it easier for cannabis businesses to hide violations such as illegal sales.

The findings come less than a week after Oregon’s top federal prosecutor said the state has a “formidable” problem with marijuana overproduction that winds up on the black market.

The Secretary of State’s office said in September it planned to audit the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

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The OLCC oversees the state’s marijuana industry, which was expected to generate $550 million-$580 million in medical and recreational cannabis sales last year, according to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017.

The audit pinpointed five specific issues that compromise tracking reliability:

  • Reliance on self-reported data from marijuana businesses.
  • Inconsistent weight measurement systems.
  • Allowing untracked marijuana inventory in the first 90 days of licensure.
  • Poor or insufficient data quality in the cannabis tracking system, Metric.
  • An insufficient number of trained inspectors for onsite investigations.

The report proposed 17 fixes the Oregon Liquor Control Commission could make, including:

  • Develop and implement standards and protocols for onsite inspections and investigations.
  • Evaluate the need for and supply an adequate number of trained OLCC inspectors commensurate with the number of licensed marijuana businesses.
  • Perform risk-based, onsite monitoring and inspections to ensure licensees are reporting accurate information in Metrc and maintaining compliance with applicable laws.
  • Implement change management processes in line with industry-best practices, including measures that ensure test data remains segregated from the production environment.

Omar Sacirbey can be reached at omars@mjbizdaily.com

Cannabis data firm New Frontier buys Hemp Business Journal

New Frontier Data, a market-analysis firm that caters to the marijuana industry, is expanding its focus to hemp with the purchase of Hemp Business Journal.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

New Frontier is headquartered in Washington DC but has a Denver office. Hemp Business Journal is based in Denver.

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New Frontier CEO Giadha Aguirre de Carcer said in a statement that adding hemp analysis to the company’s portfolio opens the door for new business opportunities, not just for analysis of the plant itself but for its industrial uses, from bioplastics to personal-care products.

“The activation of hemp markets in the U.S. and around the world represents an opportunity for tremendous economic impact,” Aguirre de Carcer said.

Sean Murphy, founder of Hemp Business Journal, said New Frontier’s expansion into hemp will “help investors, entrepreneurs and governments better understand the opportunities created by this unique plant.”

To sign up for our weekly hemp business newsletter, click here.

Grower could be first in New Mexico to lose medical marijuana license

The New Mexico health department is alleging that a medical marijuana grower submitted falsified audits and is taking steps to revoke the company’s license.

Mother Earth Herbs denies it falsified audit reports and has requested a hearing to challenge the revocation, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

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If Mother Earth loses the challenge, it would be the first MMJ grower in New Mexico to lose its license since the state’s medical cannabis program launched in 2007, the New Mexican reported.

A revocation would also mean that Mother Earth’s executive director, Vivian Moore, would be prohibited from working for any other licensed medical marijuana business in the state.

New Mexico’s medical cannabis program requires licensed growers to provide regulators with yearly audits that must be completed by independent certified public accountants.

The state’s MMJ program director said his office received a complaint alleging that an audit submitted by Moore in 2015 was falsified.

The CPA who was identified as the author of the audit said he didn’t conduct the audit or sign it, the New Mexican reported.

An attorney for the company, which launched in 2010 with a dispensary in Las Cruces and then expanded to Albuquerque last year, declined comment on the matter but cautioned against rushing to judgment, according to the newspaper.

Vermont hemp legal dispute snags processor

By Kristen Nichols , Hemp Editor

Hemp may be easy to grow, but raising a profitable crop is no slam dunk.

That’s what a Vermont hemp processor is learning after a landowner sued him for not delivering thousands of dollars she was hoping would save her mother’s home.

A lawsuit filed in a state court in Burlington accuses Vermont Hemp Co. CEO Joel Bedard of stealing profits from about 6 acres worth of hemp grain grown under contract last year.

Bedard insists the crop – intended for seed production – was damaged by heavy rains and that the landowner signed a contract with no guaranteed payout.

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The lawsuit – first reported by Seven Days, a weekly newspaper in Burlington – underscores the need for new farmers looking for a sure-thing paycheck from newly legal cannabis to consider risk, Bedard said.

“The lesson here is that we need to be more careful about the business decisions we make,” Bedard told Marijuana Business Daily.

The landowner, Cynthea Hausman, said she was hoping her first hemp crop would raise at least $45,000 to pay for her mother’s mortgage, according to a GoFundMe page set up to pay for the case.

She did not immediately return a call from Marijuana Business Daily about the lawsuit.

Bedard says he has offered to return any sellable grain to Hausman and denies making any money from her land.

Vermont Hemp Co. grew about 200 aces of hemp last year, mostly seed and fiber varieties.

To sign up for our weekly hemp business newsletter, click here.

Job growth in marijuana industry is skyrocketing

The total number of job postings for the U.S. cannabis industry increased by 445% in 2017, a study by job search website ZipRecruiter shows.

The online job platform noted the spike is dramatically higher than the 18% increase in cannabis-related job postings in 2016, according to Business Insider.

ZipRecruiter’s chief economist, Cathy Barrera, said the pace of job growth in the marijuana industry increased throughout 2017 as businesses in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and other states prepared for the rollout of new recreational and medical marijuana programs.

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According to ZipRecruiter data, cannabis jobs are mostly clustered in industry hubs like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver and some places in Florida, which legalized medical marijuana in 2016.

Cannabis industry job growth is stronger than job growth in some of the fastest-growing fields in the US, including tech and healthcare, Business Insider reported.

For example, health industry job postings rose 70% in 2017 while tech job openings rose by 254%, ZipRecruiter data shows.

According to the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017, the U.S. cannabis industry employs 165,000-230,000 full- and part-time workers.

In fact, businesses in the cannabis sector “employ more people than there are dental hygienists and bakers in the United States and will soon surpass the number of telemarketers and pharmacists,” Marijuana Business Daily wrote in June.