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Licensed vs. Unlicensed Dispensaries in San Diego

The legalization of cannabis in California brought with it many changes in the industry including higher taxes, updated rules and regulations, new mandatory three-stage product testing, and plenty of confusion as to what is and is not allowed in the industry.

California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control is now heading up the organization of the state’s cannabis market by regulating and monitoring the production and sale of cannabis products. The Bureau is also responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing labs, microbusinesses, and temporary cannabis events. This means that they are also in charge, along with the DOI-CEU and its other constituents, of figuring out what to do about manufacturers and retailers who continue to operate without licenses and refuse to conform to the modern laws and regulations of 2019.

In San Diego alone, there are still hundreds of delivery-only dispensaries, and dozens of storefronts alike operating illegally, so what exactly are the differences between licensed and unlicensed shops? Lets discuss two important areas!

TESTING

Licensed retail cannabis storefronts in San Diego may only sell products which have passed through the three stages of BCC required testing.

Stage One includes Cannabinoid Testing, Moisture Content Testing, Category II Residual Solvents and Processing Chemicals Testing, Category I Residual Pesticides Testing, Microbial Impurities Testing (A. fumigatus, A. flavus, A. niger, A. terreus), Microbial Impurities Testing (Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp.), Homogeneity Testing of Edible Cannabis Products. To summarize, this stage of tests is mainly to determine exact levels of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.) as well as to make sure there are no known harmful molds or other microbial contaminants in the products.

Stage Two includes Category I Residual Solvents and Processing Chemicals Testing, Category II Residual Pesticides Testing, and Foreign Material Testing. To summarize, these tests help to determine whether harmful and poisonous pesticides or additives were used in the process of producing the cannabis products.

Stage Three includes Terpenoids Testing, Mycotoxins Testing, Heavy Metals Testing, and Water Activity Testing of Solid or Semi-Solid Edibles. This stage is crucial regarding vape cartridges, as testing laboratories around the state are reporting the finding of toxic metals in some cartridges, which are then rejected and sent back to the manufacturer.

These standards of testing are extremely important to ensure that cannabis consumers are getting the safest possible products. Since unlicensed dispensaries do not follow all of the processes required by those which are licensed, the products you purchase from them could contain pesticides, molds, and other harmful contaminants which can damage the brain and body.

Additionally, stage I of testing is instrumental to finding out the true cannabinoid percentages of the products you’re consuming. Advertised percentages of cannabis products from unlicensed shops are nearly always inaccurate, because they aren’t required to test per batch of products. In other words, if an unlicensed shop says their Banana OG is testing at 30% THC, there’s really no way to tell if that’s true because there’s no way to show accountability. Licensed shops must be provided with certificates of analysis proving full testing has been completed on each batch of products which comes into the store.

 

TAXES

Licensed shops in San Diego are now required to collect a 27.75% total tax on all products in the store, including paraphernalia and accessories. Broken down, 15% goes to the California excise tax, 7.75% goes to the state sales tax, and San Diego takes a city tax of 5%. Although nobody likes to pay more for things, other states have shown us what sort of positive impact cannabis taxes can have on the economy!

For example, in Aurora, CO over $1,500,000 in cannabis tax revenue has been invested directly into combatting homelessness by providing shelters, meals, an basic essentials. In Pueblo County, CO local marijuana taxes have paid for over $600,000 student scholarships for the past three years. Colorado as a state voted on amendment 64, which allocated the first $40,000,000 collected in excise taxes directly towards the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) program.

Washington has focused most of their tax dollars on public health. Financial assistance has partly been aimed at substance abuse programs, and mainly allocated towards paying the state’s share of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to roughly 1.8 million low-income residents of the state. They are also in the process of creating a plan to divide portions of cannabis tax towards k-12 schools, in an effort to hire more faculty and provide supplies for classrooms!

Here in California, Governor Jerry Brown estimated that in 2018 California would bring in an estimated $645 million in cannabis tax revenues, when actually we fell short earning nearly half that at $345 million. So why is that? A large chunk of that has to do with unlicensed storefronts absorbing much of the local cannabis business due to their low prices and tax free visits. If they aren’t paying taxes, all of the money goes into the pockets of the owners rather than being redistributed into state and county funding.

Another key element to the missing revenue is the lack of licenses being distributed for potentially lucrative businesses and events like smoke lounges and festivals. Some cities around California have locations where cannabis users can go to safely and comfortably consume, which is huge for out of state visitors. Tourists and visitors come from other states to San Diego to vacation and experience cannabis while they visit, but if they purchase something to smoke, finding a legal place to smoke it can be difficult. Public consumption is still illegal, most hotels forbid smoking (especially weed), if you smoke in your vehicle you risk a ticket or worse. San Diego city officials have discussed plans to offer designated places to consume, but haven’t released any official notice of permission as of yet.

In the end we can agree the start for recreational cannabis in California has been a bit rough, but what truly matters to most is getting clean, safe products to enjoy! Cannabis still has so much to offer the community economically, socially, and medicinally, and we’ve only just begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits of Marijuana Delivery

delivery

The benefits of weed delivery are many. Keeping stoned people from getting behind the wheel of a car is the most obvious. There is also the privacy factor, as well as convenience, but for medical patients who are homebound, delivery services are a genuine lifeline. Just ask “Tyrone,” a homebound vet who lost one leg to the Vietnam War and the other to diabetes brought on by alcoholism he suffered after coming home. He regrets not turning to cannabis to cope with his PTSD back in the 1970s. Now he medicates with a variety of concentrates and edibles to cope with stress, depression, and insomnia. That he can anonymously place an order and receive a dosage “without having to deal with the world” makes cannabis delivery an easy decision for him. “My guy knows me,” he says with a chuckle. “Sometimes I just say hello and he answers with ‘One Tyrone special, comin’ up!’ ”

Read original article from the Seattle Weekly here by  May 3, 2017 1:30AM

Marijuana Is Shaping Up to Be a Defining Election Issue Across the County

defining

 

California voters may have spoken on recreational marijuana in November, but rather than settling the issue, that vote has set the stage for several local battles over whether to allow marijuana operations.

Because Proposition 64 passed last fall, state licensing to marijuana businesses is slated to begin Jan. 1, 2018 — though local jurisdictions have the power to forbid them in their boundaries.

That has teed up a new set of pot-related efforts, from a group seeking to overturn the County Board of Supervisors’ ban to cities softening their stances on marijuana in the face of voter petition drives.

In March, the County Board of Supervisors banned new recreational and medical cannabis operations in unincorporated areas of the county, while phasing out existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Yet the matter could be headed for a public vote.

The Southern California Responsible Growers Council is exploring a 2018 ballot initiative that would give the green light to pot farms and medical marijuana dispensaries. Specifics are still being hammered out, said Adrian Kwiatkowski, the executive director of the group, which includes farmers feeling the pinch of rising labor and water costs.

“You have the voters of the county saying one thing, and the supervisors saying something else,” Kwiatkowski said. Recreational marijuana shops aren’t part of the initiative because they’re more likely to be targeted should the federal government crack down on cannabis, he said.

In the county, only San Diego, Lemon Grove and La Mesa have ordinances allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. San Diego is alone in having cleared a path for recreational cannabis sales.

Prop. 64 pertained to recreational marijuana, but its broad voter support has also prompted a renewed push in recent months for medical cannabis dispensaries. That includes in Vista, where the medical marijuana industry and the City Council have dueling dispensary plans.

The group Vistans for Better Community Access will soon gather signatures for a ballot measure that would allow up to 10 medical marijuana dispensaries. An alternative proposal from the council would permit a maximum of two dispensaries and place tighter restrictions on where they can open.

The Council, which was staunchly opposed to dispensaries until the petition came along, has argued it put forth a plan to retain local control.

Vince Duffy, a Sacramento-based campaign consultant who’s leading the initiative campaign, said two dispensaries aren’t enough to meet patient demand.

This will be the group’s second time collecting signatures. More than 7,000 signatures submitted earlier this year — enough to qualify for the ballot — were invalidated because of a paperwork error. Now, the group is aiming to put the measure before voters in four to five months, said Duffy.

Craig Balben, president of North Coastal Prevention Coalition — a nonprofit that educates on drug and alcohol abuse — said the marijuana industry too often turns to the ballot box instead of compromising on regulations.

“My experience has shown me that the industry is not necessarily willing to work on any regulations. They want to force their will on cities,” Balben said. He also expressed concern over dispensaries increasing teen access.

“We don’t want to be against marijuana for the sake of being against marijuana. It has nothing to do with just being prohibitionists,” he said. “We want to collaborate and work together and figure out what are good public health policies and what are good regulations.”

Scott Chipman, head of the anti-legalization group San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said residents are increasingly concerned over marijuana and want to lend the group a hand.

But Chipman fears that the message of groups against cannabis will be drowned out by a marijuana industry that appears to be growing more powerful.

“We will try to inform by showing up at city council meetings, county supervisor meetings and planning group meetings,” he said.

Oceanside, too, is re-evaluating its stance on cannabis after facing a medical marijuana ballot measure, which is on hold. Last month, the Council set up an ad hoc committee to study cultivation, distribution and sales of marijuana. The committee will report back to the full Council in five months with options for regulations.

Councilman Jerry Kern sits on the ad hoc committee and suggested forming it, even though he voted against Prop 64.

Kern said given Oceanside’s support of Prop 64, maintaining the city ban runs the risk of a ballot initiative that would limit the city’s say on the number of dispensaries and their locations.

“The problem with ballot-box initiatives or ballot-box zoning is that the city loses all control,” Kern said. “We want to get out ahead of this.”

Kern said he’s also heard from struggling farmers who are interested in growing cannabis. It’s a similar story in Encinitas, where a council subcommittee is exploring marijuana cultivation in hopes of saving what’s left of the flower industry.

The local group Oceanside for a Safer Community earlier this year planned a measure to potentially allow up to 10 dispensaries. David Newman of the group said it hit the pause button on the initiative to work with the ad-hoc committee on regulations. He added that the group is prepared to resume the initiative if the Council again denies medical dispensaries.

Hezekiah Allen is the executive director of the California Growers Association, which also wants to end the Board of Supervisors’ ban on cultivation. Allen said ballot measures tend to be costly and divisive, but an initiative may be the only route given the board’s repeated opposition.

“Whenever you see an imbalance between the voters and the elected officials, I think that ballot measures become much more practical and likely, and I think we’ve reached that point in San Diego,” Allen said.

While the potential measure from the Southern California Responsible Growers Council only covers the unincorporated areas, it would go before the entire county for a vote. That seemingly bodes well for the initiative’s chances, considering that more than 57 percent of county residents backed Prop 64.

“Looking at the voter data, it’s a sea change in cultural attitudes and public opinion,” said Vince Vasquez, an independent elections analyst, regarding Prop. 64 versus a failed 2010 state ballot measure to legalize marijuana.

Beyond local initiatives, the medical marijuana industry plans to flex its muscle in other races.

Phil Rath, executive director of United Medical Marijuana Coalition in San Diego, said the group plans to fundraise for marijuana-friendly candidates in the city of San Diego. The group has yet to determine which candidates it will endorse.

Although San Diego allows dispensaries, Rath said there’s still much to be decided. For instance, the coalition is advocating at the local and state levels that dispensaries be able to sell both medical and recreational marijuana, instead of picking one.

“Our view is that the regulation of the industry is going to be an ongoing conversation,” Rath said.

Read original article from the LA Times here by  May 16, 2017

San Diego legalizes recreational pot dispensaries, might allow pot farms, testing labs

San Diego legalized recreational

 

San Diego legalized recreational pot dispensaries on Tuesday and the city also opened up the possibility it will allow pot farms, manufacturing facilities and testing labs.

San Diego is the first city in San Diego County to approve recreational marijuana sales since state voters approved Proposition 64 in November, and no other cities in the county have indicated they intend to follow suit.

Sales of recreational pot will begin when statewide regulations being crafted in Sacramento are completed sometime before January 2018. Dispensaries along the coast may have to wait for Coastal Commission approval, but city officials said that’s expected by October.

The San Diego City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to allow the sale of recreational marijuana at 15 dispensaries approved by the city to sell medical marijuana, pending the state action.

Council members also agreed to consider later this year approving regulations for commercial cultivation, testing and distribution of marijuana in bud and other forms, such as edibles.

Specific regulations for those activities weren’t available for the council to approve on Tuesday because city staff and the San Diego Police Department had recommended the city ban them based on concerns about crime and other potential problems.

Council members said they were partly motivated by the November election, when 62% of city voters approved Proposition 64.

“They told us what they expect us to do,” said Councilman Chris Ward, noting that Proposition 64 also allows local governments to legalize cultivation, manufacturing and testing.

Read original article from the LA Times here by David Garrick February 1, 2017, 8:50AM

Looking at the future of cannabis – Meadow interview with A Green Alternative

A Green Alternative: Leading the Change in San Diego’s Transforming Cannabis Industry

aga-leading-the-future

 

A Green Alternative is the first permitted dispensary in San Diego County, and also the first in San Diego to partner

with Meadow. They deliver all over the city and set themselves apart by the high quality of their products, their

concern for patients, and their focus on customer service. We sat down with AGA’s COO Zach Lazarus to talk about

our favorite plant and the future of the cannabis industry.

 

Meadow: Hey Zach, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Let’s jump right in: can you tell us a bit about how

you got started in the industry? Why cannabis?

 

Zach: After I met my partners, I saw the good they were providing in the community and wanted to participate in

that. I got to see first hand how they were helping people, especially cancer patients, and I wanted to get involved.


“I got to see first hand how cannabis was

helping people, especially cancer patients.”

 

Meadow: So what were some of the challenges that you faced while building and growing your dispensary?

 

Zach: One of the biggest was definitely the lack of traditional banking. There are no small loans to help grow

operations or smooth cash flow. Then there are the issues with taxation: the unfairness around 280E and not

letting businesses claim their expenses means we get taxed multiple times on the same dollar. Also there are

concerns about safety when serving our community. Unlike pharmacies, we have an armed guard to make sure

our patients are protected.


There is a big split between the operators of lawful and unlawful dispensaries: on issues of safety, taxation, and

serving the community the differences are huge. We have to consider issues of general liability and workers comp

insurance, while unlicensed dispensaries cut corners and pay employees under the table. This has made the

market pretty saturated, but it’s just a matter of time before municipalities, counties and the state are all

aggressively closing unlawful dispensaries. This has already started happening in Chula Vista, where they are

switching from civil to criminal penalties. 


“There is a big split between the operators of lawful

and unlawful dispensaries: on issues of safety, taxation,

and serving the community the differences are huge.”

Looking at the future of cannabis

 

Meadow: Big changes are under way. Can you tell us a little bit about how you found Meadow?

 

Zach: Well, [Meadow CEO David] Hua gets it. Meadow is educating people about cannabis, and their founders have

the vision for a medicinal revolution of cannabis. Others will try to copy and fail, but Meadow’s platform and

business model will set them up to be like the General Electric of cannabis, the go-to provider for licensed

dispensaries and delivery services serving patients.

 

Meadow: That’s very flattering! We do have a big vision, but so do our partners, exceptional people like you. So

what advice would you give budding cannabis entrepreneurs? What does it take to be successful in the cannabis

industry?

 

Zach: Look at all the future licensing opportunities, and find one that fits your mold or where you believe you could

pursue a business model that would be successful. Next, operate legitimately at the municipal level, and be ready

for state licensing by 2018. There are opportunities out there, you just have to find them. I think Humboldt may be

saturated right now, but we’ll have to wait and see.

 

“Meadow’s founders have the vision for a medicinal

revolution of cannabis… [They will be] the go-to provider

for licensed dispensaries and delivery services.”

 

Meadow: That’s an interesting thought. Right now land prices there are rising quickly, and possibly unsustainably.

What do you see as the future of cannabis, say in the next 5–10 years?

 

Zach: My personal take is that Proposition 64 [the Adult Use of Marijuana Act] will pass in November. After that

happens we have a year of compliance before recreational sales start. I expect that prices will spike, leading to

bubble, and we may see a typical gram go up to $40 even. This will lead to a a larger black market forming, until it all

comes crashing down to maybe as low as $6 a gram once new facilities are licensed and come online. This will make

cannabis far more accessible than under prohibition.

 

“Proposition 64 will pass in November. After that happens

we have a year of compliance before recreational sales start.”

 

Meadow: Well, it sounds like we have an interesting time ahead of us! Thank so much for taking the time to speak

with us Zach.

 

Zach: Thank you! Looking forward to continuing our partnership to bring cannabis to the world.


meadow-logo

Meadow builds software for the medical cannabis industry in California.

To learn more about turnkey software for your storefront, delivery, and back office, visit www.meadowplatform.com

 

 

 

 

Article reposted from:

The Dandelion

Musings from the Meadow

on Medium.com here