San Francisco will remove more than 9,300 marijuana-related crimes from people’s records

Marijuana smokingSan Francisco prosecutors announced Monday they would move to expunge 9,300 marijuana-related convictions dating back decades, part of a sweeping effort to rethink “the war on drugs” now that pot is legal in California.

The announcement culminated a year-long review of marijuana convictions in San Francisco, which critics say disproportionately punished minority communities and made it more difficult for those with criminal records to get jobs and other essentials.

Other California counties, including Los Angeles, are considering similar efforts, though none have gone as far as San Francisco. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office estimates there have been 40,000 felony convictions involving pot-related offenses since 1993, but prosecutors have not said how many of those could be eligible for being expunged. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Gov. Newsom Shifts National Guard to Fighting Marijuana Black Market

Marijuana1Gov. Gavin Newsom is shifting the California National Guard from border enforcement to cracking down on the illegal marijuana industry — even though he was an advocate for the legalization of the drug.

After announcing earlier this month that he was scaling down the National Guard presence near the border, Newsom shifted resources to fighting illegal marijuana farms, which are maintaining a black market that makes it difficult for legal suppliers to thrive, and that deprives the state of tax revenues that it expected legalization would provide.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday:

ast week, Newsom announced an expansion of efforts by the California National Guard to work with federal officials to target the black market, including illegal drug grows in Northern California operated by international drug cartels.

The governor proposed that at least 150 California National Guard troops would be redeployed from the U.S.-Mexico border to join a federally funded Counterdrug Task Force. The new forces would focus on illicit cannabis activity in Northern California.

As much as 80% of the marijuana sold in California comes from the black market, according to an estimate by New Frontier Data, a firm that tracks cannabis sales and trends. Analysts also found that California’s illicit pot market was valued at an estimated $3.7 billion last year, more than four times the size of the legal market.

In addition to black market woes, marijuana entrepreneurs in California are frustrated at the slow pace of local permitting processes for dispensaries.

California voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana by passing Proposition 64 in 2016.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Will tax breaks and banks help California’s struggling marijuana industry?

marijuanaUnfriendly banks, high taxes and black-market competitors are some of the obstacles that licensed cannabis companies say hold them back as they try to cultivate a new industry in California.

Some California lawmakers want to give them a hand, and they’re considering a set of bills that would in ways great and small fine tune the law governing recreational marijuana.

“We’re all in this for the long haul,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said at a press conference Monday. “It’s incumbent on us to continue to monitor what’s happening and course correct if necessary.”

Some of the bills aim to give cannabis businesses the same opportunities as others — such as access to state tax deductions or the ability to bank — while others look to provide relief to legitimate businesses locked in a losing battle with the black market. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

California Cannabis Delivery in Headed Toward Legal Battle

Marijuana StoreIn 2016, many California police chiefs and sheriffs opposed to legalized recreational marijuana use were placated by a provision in Proposition 64 that said local governments would have the right to block recreational sales.

The Ballotpedia overview of Proposition 64 reflected the conventional wisdom at the time it passed: “Local governments were also allowed to completely ban the sale of marijuana from their jurisdictions.” The text of the ballot measure stated: “Allows local regulation and taxation of marijuana.”

And as CalWatchdog has reported, 80 percent of local governments have declined to authorize the opening of local pot stores.

But last week, the state Office of Administrative Law approved rules crafted by the state Bureau of Cannabis Control that say marijuana sales by delivery services can operate in any community – even if local governments object.

This led to an immediate backlash – and strong hints that the rules will lead to a court fight.

“This decision puts the public safety needs of communities across the state at risk,” Carolyn Coleman, executive director of the League of California Cities, said in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned with the adoption of the new cannabis regulations, which allow for the delivery of cannabis anywhere in the state. We are already having trouble enforcing a new and complex industry, and this allowance will only make enforcement even more difficult,” California Police Chiefs Association President David Swing told the Sacramento Bee.

Marijuana industry officials disputed the idea that the deliver-anywhere ruling went against the spirit of Proposition 64 or its language. They said the ruling reflected the will of Californians, who approved the measure 57 percent to 43 percent – a 2 million vote cushion.

But even some supporters of Proposition 64 appeared unsure if the cannabis bureau’s ruling squared with what the ballot measure said. Assemblyman Ron Bonta, D-Oakland, told the Associated Press that he thought only medicinal marijuana deliveries should be allowed. Bonta thinks clarifying new legislation may be in order.

Even with such legislation, lawsuits over the state regulations appear inevitable. California has decades of history of courts being asked to interpret poorly or vaguely written ballot measures approved by voters.

City attorney says Sonoma should defy state

The city of Sonoma could also be a flash point for local defiance of the state. After the cannabis bureau concluded that there should be no limits on recreational marijuana deliveries, the Sonoma Index-Tribune reported last month that Sonoma City Attorney Jeff Walter recommended to City Council members that they maintain their ban on recreational pot deliveries.

Walter criticized the rules as being “very vague” and said he did not consider them a legally binding “statute.”

“I think we should stay that course [of banning recreational deliveries] pending outcome of that regulation and the challenges that are likely to be against it,” he said.

Questions about the legality of marijuana deliveries are also coming from other quarters. On Monday, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Highway Patrol officers continue to arrest drivers and seize cannabis that they find during traffic stops of vehicles used for deliveries.

A CHP spokesperson told the Bee that “in order to legally transport cannabis in California for commercial purposes, a person must possess the appropriate [state] license and comply with [cannabis bureau] administrative regulations.”

Two licensed marijuana distributors who had $257,000 seized from them by the CHP have filed a lawsuit to try to get the money back. They insist that they had the proper credentials when the money was taken.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Legal Cannabis Industry Struggling in California

Marijuana StoreCalifornia’s first year with legal recreational sales of marijuana is wrapping up with a series of downbeat reports on a new industry struggling to find its footing.

An Associated Press analysis posted Sunday said estimated legal sales of cannabis would total just $2.5 billion in 2018 – in a state of 40 million people in which 13 percent of adults admit to use, significantly higher than in most states. State officials will be lucky if they receive half the $630 million in pot taxes anticipated in the 2018 state budget.

When tax revenue goals went unmet early last year, one assumption was that this was primarily the result of resistance to legal cannabis. An estimated 80 percent of local governments have not authorized recreational sales, as is their right under Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot measure that cleared the way for such sales. And in some of the cities that have issued permits, only a handful have been issued.

But as the year wore on – and costly state regulations kicked in mandating careful testing and child-resistant packaging of marijuana and marijuana products, such as edibles – reporting on the California pot beat increasingly focused on the huge price advantage that illegal sellers have.

Medical marijuana law led to sales networks

A recent Southern California News Group article pointed out that with voters’ approval of medicinal marijuana in 1996, growers and sellers had a 20-year head start in establishing sales and distribution networks that were poised to fill demand when cannabis possession and use became legal on Jan. 1, 2018. These networks are able to sell marijuana that is up to 50 percent cheaper than the marijuana available in licensed stores.

These growers and sellers don’t just balk at going the legal route because of fees, regulations and paperwork. They’re emboldened by the weakening of criminal penalties related to marijuana in recent years, according to the Southern California News Group analysis.

A San Francisco Chronicle report published last week quoted Steve DeAngelo, a co-founder of Oakland’s huge Harborside marijuana dispensary, as saying “the unrolling of legal adult-use cannabis has reinvigorated the underground market rather than curtailed it.”

“Because we are up against high taxes and the proliferation of illegal shops, it is difficult right now,” pot shop owner Javier Montes told the Los Angeles Times last week. “We expected lines out of our doors, but unfortunately the underground market was already conducting commercial cannabis activity and are continuing to do so.”

Shop owners in the Los Angeles and Bay areas have urged authorities to crack down on illegal storefront and delivery sellers. But while state regulators say that is a priority in 2019, it’s unclear how much of a priority it will be for local law enforcement agencies who are strapped by pension costs and often have difficulty maintaining police staffing because of recruiting woes.

Among those who anticipated that legal California sellers were going to be seriously undercut by illegal sellers is Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who led the Proposition 64 push.

Newsom: Addressing black market to take ‘5 to 7 years’

While on the campaign trail in May, Newsom said he thought it would take “five to seven years to substantively address the black market” issue.

As governor, Newsom could order stepped-up efforts to target growers and sellers, as well as seek new funding for such enforcement.

But the legal marijuana industry also wants help on another front. The Chronicle reported there is a huge backlog at the state office processing permits to legally grow marijuana, with no action yet on about 90 percent of applicants.

Most California Cities Not Embracing Legal Marijuana Sales

Marijuana StoreSix-plus months into the beginning of California’s experiment with legal recreational marijuana, a review of Proposition 64’s effects shows a mixed and complicated record. Here’s a look at four broad categories:

Availability of legal pot stores: Even though local governments had nearly 14 months from when Proposition 64 was adopted in November 2016 and when it took effect this Jan. 1, local officials have been in no hurry to implement the law – either because of continuing disdain for recreational marijuana or sluggish bureaucracies.

The most recent Southern California News Group study, updated June 11, found that just 30 percent of cities (144 of 482) had permitted any recreational or medicinal marijuana sales and just 30 percent of counties (18 or 58) allowed such sales in their unincorporated areas.

The assumption that many budget-stressed cities would eagerly embrace recreational marijuana sales because of lucrative tax revenue – a source of funds not available with untaxed medicinal marijuana sales – has not been borne out. The Southern California News Group reports that fewer than one in seven cities have licensed recreational pot shops.

Marijuana supplies: Even in cities and counties which allow pot sales, availability of cannabis has reportedly been tight in many areas since July 1. That’s when provisions of state law went into effect requiring legal sellers to use new child-proof packaging and to test their products for the presence of mold and pesticides.

The Fox News team serving Sacramento and Central Valley TV markets reported last week that several dispensaries in the region “have empty shelves and have had to turn away customers and lay off staff.” The pot shortages could last, Fox reported, because of another shortage: in state labs certified to test marijuana for purity and healthfulness.

Criminal justice: A report issued earlier this month by the state Attorney General’s Office showed the number of marijuana-related arrested in 2017 in California had plunged 56 percent – going from about 14,000 in 2016 to a little more than 6,000.

Why didn’t the numbers drop even more? Because while possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is now legal, possession of larger amounts and growing cannabis is not. Selling pot without a license and using it in restricted areas or before driving remain crimes.

Elsewhere on the criminal justice front, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has won praise from social justice activists for using a provision in Proposition 64 to reduce or dismiss old marijuana convictions that are no longer classified as crimes under the measure’s weakened rules.

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Bretón has praised Schubert – long seen as something of a strict law-and-order conservative – for her policy.

The Bee reported that San Francisco and San Diego counties have similar efforts under way.

State pot tax revenue: In May, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reported total state tax revenue from the first quarter of the year was running more than 60 percent below expectations.

But the LAO remains optimistic that revenue from cannabis will rebound.

As reported by The Motley Fool website – which is keeping close tabs on the emerging legal marijuana industry as a possible lucrative investment niche – the LAO recently adjusted downward its forecast of how much the state would get from from its 15 percent excise tax on legal marijuana sales during fiscal 2018-19. But the reduction was only a modest 2 percent – going from $643 million to $630 million.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

New pot regulations hurt supply at some California dispensaries

Marijuana smokingIn the days following new regulations for marijuana packaging and testing, some pot shops have fewer products in their display cases.

At All About Wellness in Midtown, some shelves were nearly empty Tuesday.

“I would say we’re down at least, I’m going to say, 60 to 75 percent of what we would normally have in there — but every day, it’s increasing,” owner Philip Blurton said.

Blurton attributes the short supply to the state’s labs, which he said are having trouble keeping up with the influx of product needed to fill his shelves.

“Even if people have the proper packaging and the proper labeling and everything, the problem is it’s a backlog at the test labs,” he said. “That’s what’s starting to have the product slow down at getting in here — but every day, it’s better.”

Click here to read the full article from KCRA News

California to experience “weed drought” this summer

Marijuana StoreOut with the old, in with the new is the mantra of many California marijuana retailers this weekend. In case you missed it in a haze of smoke, California dispensaries are scrambling to dispose of their noncompliant bud — slashing prices in fire sales in what is likely to be the biggest marijuana sale the Golden State has ever seen.

“Walk into any dispensary right now, and you will see some of the most incredible sales you will ever witness,” Jamie Warm, CEO of Henry’s Original, a boutique cannabis cultivator and distributor, told Salon.

If dispensaries fail to get rid of their non-compliant flower, they must record its destruction on video.

The weed sale is happening because on July 1, the state’s new safety and regulation requirements go into effect. While legalization technically took effect on January 1, industry players were given six months to make the necessary changes to operate their businesses legally. Starting on Sunday, marijuana packaging must be child-proof, in addition to now resembling traditional food packaging. All the products must implement a process that tracks current and past locations. And, the amount of THC in any product must be clearly marked, in addition to all businesses acquiring the proper licenses to operate. …

Click here to read the full article from Salon

Cannabis DUI kills three – two kids

Three people have been killed in a multi-car crash in Fremont near the Stevenson offramp. Officials say the driver who caused the crash was under the influence of cannabis. Two of those deceased are juveniles.

CHP officials say the driver, who has not been identified, was driving recklessly and at high speeds when the crash occurred. The driver was not injured.

Five others, including an infant, involved in the crash were transported to local hospitals.

Officials rushed to the scene to tend to injuries and making sure no further damage is done on the highway, which was closed on the northbound side.

Debris from the vehicles covered a long stretch of the highway as paramedics, several fire trucks, and emergency personnel rushed to those in need of help Tuesday night. Two vehicles have been decimated, their exteriors shredded by the crash. …

Click here to read the full article from ABC7 News

San Luis Obispo prepares marijuana business tax measure

Marijuana StoreThe San Luis Obispo City Council formally adopted an ordinance allowing marijuana businesses on Tuesday and then proceeded with preparations to place a cannabis business tax measure on the November ballot. [Cal Coast Times]

San Luis Obispo’s new ordinance allows up to three brick and mortar pot shops to open in the city. The ordinance, a first of its kind in SLO County, permits both medical and recreational marijuana businesses, which include delivery services and some types of pot manufacturing, in addition to brick and mortar shops.

However, the ordinance contains a provision stating marijuana business operations will not be allowed in the city until voters approve a cannabis business tax. The city’s proposed tax initiative would consist of a gross receipts tax of up to 10 percent and a cultivation tax of up to $10 per canopy square foot.

Gross receipts pot taxes are assessed at every stage of marijuana production, including retail sales, testing, manufacturing and distribution. Cultivation taxes are assessed based on the size of the pot canopy or the growers’ license issued by the state.

The city’s proposed rates reflect the maximum allowable pot tax rates under California’s new marijuana regulatory scheme. At least initially, San Luis Obispo officials plan to keep the rates lower than the maximums.

Under the proposed initiative, the city council would hold the power to adjust the city’s pot business tax rates. City staff estimates the proposed taxes could raise an estimated $1.5 million a year.

If the city voters approve the initiative, the two taxes would be levied on top of an existing state gross receipts tax of 15 percent and a cultivation tax of up to $9.25 an ounce. …

Click here to read the full article from calcoastnews.com