Cannabis Industry Daily News

First Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensary gets green light to begin sales

Pennsylvania regulators have given their first approval for a dispensary to begin providing medical marijuana once product becomes available from a licensed grower.

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The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the health department’s authorization Thursday, a major milestone for Pennsylvania’s nascent MMJ program.

Regulators last week approved eight of 12 licensed companies to begin growing medical marijuana, and products are expected to be available to patients in the next four months.

A 2016 state law legalized medical marijuana for people suffering from one of 17 qualifying conditions.

More than a thousand Pennsylvania patients have been certified by a doctor to use medical marijuana.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily

Canadian hemp company inks California distribution deal

A Canadian hemp company clinched a California distribution deal that will see its CBD-infused foods and waters on shelves in 550 dispensaries.

Phivida Holdings of Vancouver, British Columbia, said it struck the agreement Wednesday with Green Reef Distribution, a company in Santa Monica, California, that distributes cannabis products.

The Green Reef deal gives Phivida its first CBD presence in the U.S. market. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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Phivida adds hemp-derived CBD to foods, juices and tinctures. The company’s stock is traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the ticker symbol VIDA.

California is the world’s largest cannabis market, but the state does not yet allow hemp production.

A California hemp law passed in 2016 allowed interested farmers to grow hemp under limited conditions.

But two years later the program is yet to be implemented. The result is that many CBD products for sale in California are imported from out of state.

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Maryland community bank accepting marijuana business accounts

A local bank in Maryland is helping medical marijuana businesses alleviate a major headache in the cannabis industry.

According to The Washington Post, two marijuana dispensaries and two cultivators have opened accounts with Severn Savings Bank, an Annapolis community bank owned by publicly traded Severn Bancorp.

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This is an operational boon for any cannabis business, given that many must deal strictly in cash – a situation that can trigger logistical issues and security concerns.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Severn requires “hefty” fees. One cannabis client pays $1,750 a month to use the bank.
  • Account holders aren’t allowed to write checks or take out loans.
  • Cannabis businesses using the bank’s services are allowed to pay employees via an automatic debit system and purchase supplies with a debit card.
  • Licensed businesses with Severn accounts include: SunMed Growers, a cultivator in Cecil County; Allegany Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Cumberland; Time for Healing dispensary in Prince George’s County, and Green Leaf Medical in Frederick.
  • Maryland’s medical marijuana dispensaries began legal sales to customers last month.

Multistate marijuana testing lab company announces acquisition in California

Oregon-based cannabis testing firm Evio Labs said it’s acquiring competitor C3 Labs in Berkeley, California, which will give it a presence in the Bay Area to go with its labs in Southern California and north of Sacramento.

Evio operates 10 testing labs in five states: four in Oregon, two in California, two in Florida and one apiece in Colorado and Massachusetts, according to the company’s website. C3 in Berkeley will be its 11th.

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Under the terms of the deal, Evio acquired a 60% stake in C3, with an option to purchase the remaining ownership stakes, according to a news release. A final price will be determined at a later date.

The C3 lab has also already been granted a temporary business license for California effective Jan. 1, meaning the lab will be able to continue operations uninterrupted, despite the launch of the new California regulated market on New Year’s Day.

Evio CEO William Waldrop called the acquisition “a tremendous milestone” for the company as it continues its push for national expansion, and noted that the Berkeley C3 lab had racked up $1 million in revenues over the last two years.

Mandatory cannabis product testing will kick in starting in July for California MJ businesses, which means demand for testing services will ramp up throughout 2018.

Utah launches CBD probe, but some retailers unfazed

CBD chaos has spread to Utah, where state authorities have launched an investigation of the nascent cannabidiol industry even as business owners are risking expansion into the hot market.

The confusion started in late December, when the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing seized about $400 worth of CBD products from an antiques store southeast of Salt Lake City.

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Authorities did not charge the store owner with a crime, but they issued an administrative subpoena telling him that CBD cannot be sold, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“It’s not legal,” Lt. Todd Royce, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, told the newspaper.

Utah is among the states that have authorized CBD use, but only for people with certain medical conditions.

However, it’s unclear whether hemp-derived CBD is legal if the plant is grown under federal authorization.

Similar CBD confusion has bedeviled other states that carved out CBD-only laws.

It’s legal to grow hemp under 0.3% THC in any state that allows it.

But the CBD-only states have no way of knowing whether products on shelves were derived from legal hemp, or if retailers are selling marijuana-derived CBD to people who don’t qualify.

Some Utah retailers are undaunted by the legal confusion, according to the Tribune.

“If you’re getting CBD oil from the hemp plant, you are legally fine,” said Michael Bowen, who co-owns the Salt Lake City-based apothecary Natural Law and plans to sell CBD.

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Florida recreational marijuana legalization groups say they won’t make 2018 ballot

It looks as if Florida’s bid to legalize recreational cannabis will have to wait until at least 2020.

Two separate campaigns trying to gather the requisite 766,000 voter signatures to place initiatives on the November 2018 ballot told the Naples Daily News that they won’t make the threshold.

And that means there almost certainly won’t be a rec ballot measure for voters to weigh in on this year.

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The deadline for the two campaigns to submit their petitions to the state is Feb. 1.

But, according to the newspaper, the two groups – Regulate Florida and Floridians for Freedom – collected only about 40,000 signatures and 30,000 signatures, respectively.

Public support would likely be behind legalization advocates, with recent polling showing that 64% of voters support full legalization.

But as the Daily News noted, it takes millions of dollars to run a successful statewide political campaign.

A Florida bid to legalize medical marijuana failed the first time it was on the ballot, in 2014.

A second campaign arguably was successful in 2016 only because millionaire benefactor and Orlando attorney John Morgan threw $9 million of his own money into the movement over the course of the two political cycles.

By contrast, no wealthy philanthropists are bankrolling the rec legalization bid. And the two campaigns raised less than $300,000 between them, the Daily News reported.

Ex-boxing champ Mike Tyson breaks ground on 40-acre cannabis facility in California

Former boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is looking to capitalize on the launch of legal recreational marijuana sales in California.

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According to The Blast, Tyson broke ground on a 40-acre plot of land in California City, a small desert town 60 miles southwest of Death Valley National Park.

The facility, Tyson Ranch, was unveiled Monday, the same day the Golden State began legal adult-use sales.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Twenty acres of land will be dedicated to controlled-climate cultivation.
  •  A “cultivation school” will offer classes on state-of-the-art growing techniques.
  • The operation will include an extraction facility, an edibles factory and a plant and supply store.
  • The ranch will carry out research for the medicinal uses of cannabis.
  • The operating company, Tyson Holistic, supports former members of the armed forces by employing mainly veterans.
  • The facility hasn’t said when it will open to the public.

Court ruling puts black farmer closer to Florida medical cannabis license

By MJBizDaily Staff

A Florida judge has issued an injunction blocking the state’s health department from awarding a medical marijuana cultivation license that had been earmarked for members of a black farmers association.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s injunction essentially agrees with a lawsuit filed last September, the Panama City News Herald reported.

The state’s attorney in the case and the lawyer representing a black farmer must now draft a judgment for Dodson to sign.

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The document would allow 82-year-old Columbus Smith to join roughly 12 other applicants for one of Florida’s 17 MMJ cultivation licenses, according to the newspaper.

In his lawsuit, Smith claims that a portion of Florida’s MMJ law was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

At issue is a stipulation in the law that one medical cannabis license be set aside for a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association who was involved in a 1981 lawsuit that accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of discriminating against them.

The lawmakers’ intent was to atone for the first version of the state’s medical marijuana law, which essentially shut out black farmers.

However, most of the farmers from the 1981 lawsuit have died, leaving fewer than 20 farmers who met both requirements.

Smith participated in the 1981 lawsuit – Pigford v. Glickman – but wasn’t a member of the black farmers association. And the group quit accepting new members before the state set aside an MMJ license for black farmers last June.

MassRoots creates blockchain subsidiary in bid to increase marijuana efficiencies

By Bart Schaneman , Editor

Colorado-based cannabis technology company MassRoots on Friday announced it has formed a subsidiary that will focus on blockchain-based digital ledgers.

The new division, MassRoots Blockchain Technologies, will employ the same staffers as the parent company, MassRoots CEO and founder Isaac Dietrich told Marijuana Business Daily.

Blockchain technology is a digital ledger, or database, that continuously stores financial transactions and data records.

“We think blockchain allows the cannabis industry to operate more efficiently and with a greater degree of transparency,” Dietrich told MJBizDaily.

“I think the market is speaking very strongly that it likes companies who are interested in exploring blockchain technology.”

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The forward-looking announcement comes after a tumultuous 2017 in which Dietrich was ousted from MassRoots’ board and replaced as CEO, only to be reinstated weeks later.

Blockchain will be integrated into MassRoots’ existing platform, including its social network app.

Existing clients won’t see much of a change, Dietrich said, but he hopes it will improve the back-end experience for users and businesses in the cannabis industry.

Dietrich said MassRoots raised $545,000 in its last quarterly filing for a cryptocurrency, which is the most well-known application for blockchain technology.

“That’s something we’re still exploring. Cryptocurrencies are taking off,” Dietrich said.

“We think there’s significant potential for cryptocurrencies, especially in solving problems faced by cannabis-related businesses.”

International technology giant IBM displayed similar thinking in November when it recommended blockchain to British Columbia, Canada, as a possible supply-management tool for its marijuana industry.

Charges for 10 budtenders at Colorado retail cannabis chain Sweet Leaf

Ten employees of a legal Colorado marijuana retail chain shut down by Denver authorities earlier this month face charges for allegedly selling too much cannabis in repeated sales to the same people.

Sweet Leaf is one of the largest marijuana retail chains in the industry.

Police raided the company’s stores Dec. 14, suspending all 26 of the vertically integrated business’ licenses and closing all its Denver shops.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said that five Sweet Leaf budtenders were charged with felony distribution of marijuana and five were charged with misdemeanors based on the amount sold.

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Thirteen budtenders were initially arrested. The remaining three have yet to be charged.

Adults are allowed to possess only up to an ounce of marijuana in Colorado.

Police began investigating Sweet Leaf in 2016 after a neighbor reported seeing numerous people entering and leaving one of the chain’s shops multiple times a day.

Police say they initiated undercover purchases after arresting several repeat customers, most from out-of-state, in possession of pounds of cannabis.

The case brought to light the need for more precise language in Colorado’s marijuana enforcement regulations.

New rules go into effect Jan. 1 that stipulate a retail marijuana store and its employees are barred from transferring more than 1 ounce of flower in a single transaction to a consumer.

An email and telephone call seeking comment from Sweet Leaf’s owners weren’t returned.

Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily

Marijuana ETF begins trading on US exchange

By Bart Schaneman , Editor

Marijuana investors have a new fund to watch as the new year approaches.

ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF – a cannabis-focused exchange-traded fund – made its debut on NYSE Arca this week with 31 holdings.

NYSE Arca investors trade both stocks and options. An ETF owns and tracks certain assets and, unlike a mutual fund, can be traded like a regular stock.

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ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF – whose ticker symbol is MJX – was created by New Jersey-based ETF Managers Group, which filed plans with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February.

The fund’s underlying index is the Prime Alternative Harvest Index, which follows companies that might benefit from the growing mainstream acceptance of marijuana.

The Alternative Harvest ETF is believed to be one of the first of its kind aimed at U.S. investors.

A Canadian marijuana-centric ETF, Horizons Medical Marijuana Life Sciences, began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April.

Alternative Harvest ETF’s holdings are largely focused on the consumer staples and health-care sector in the marijuana industry.

Its main holdings are Canadian cannabis companies, including Cronos Group (MJN), a medical marijuana supplier; CannTrust Holdings (TRST), which also deals in the MMJ sector, and Canopy Growth Corp. (WEED), a marijuana production and distribution company.

Another of the fund’s significant holdings is GW Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Eight Pennsylvania cultivators approved to begin growing medical cannabis

Pennsylvania regulators have given the go-ahead to eight cultivators to begin growing medical marijuana, putting sales on track to begin in 2018.

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Once the product is ready, dispensaries should have plenty of customers to buy it, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The governor’s office said that more than 10,000 patients have signed up for the program, according to the newspaper.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Nearly 1,200 of the total registered patients have been certified by a doctor to receive a recommendation for MMJ.
  • No Pennsylvania dispensaries have opened yet.
  • 250 doctors have been approved to recommend MMJ.
  • Smokable products are not allowed in Pennsylvania, but the state’s growers are permitted to manufacture oils, pills, vapor and tinctures.

The eight cultivators approved to begin growing:

  • Cresco Yeltrah (Jefferson County)
  • Franklin Labs (Berks)
  • GTI Pennsylvania (Montour)
  • Ilera Healthcare (Fulton)
  • Pennsylvania Medical Solutions (Lackawanna)
  • PurePenn LLC (Allegheny)
  • Standard Farms (Luzerne)
  • Terrapin Investment Fund (Clinton)

Additional cultivators are expected to be approved by mid-March, The Inquirer reported.

Four growers/processors are in the final stage of the approval process, a state regulators told the newspaper.