Posts tagged cannabis news
Thousands of cannabis licenses are set to expire in California. 'Some of them won’t be able to survive.'

Amy DiPierro, Palm Springs Desert SunPublished 4:19 p.m. PT March 20, 2019 | Updated 4:57 p.m. PT March 20, 2019

The clock is ticking for thousands of legal cannabis licenses set to expire over the coming months.

More than 10,000 licenses are due to lapse over the next six months, according to a Desert Sun analysis of state licensing data downloaded March 14. The anticipated expirations complicate the efforts of legal cannabis companies to follow the letter of state law, which requires all businesses touching the marijuana plant to have a valid license. Without a license, operators face a choice to either close their doors or slip into the black market.

California regulators awarded thousands of temporary licenses in 2018, each lasting 120 days plus additional 90-day extensions.

To transition the industry to a permanent licensing system, state rules prohibit the renewal of the temporary licenses in 2019. But the operators of cannabis companies that have opened for business with temporary licenses worry their current paperwork will expire before state regulators award them annual licenses.

The number of active and inactive cannabis licenses fluctuates each day, as state agencies award new licenses and existing licenses expire.  

An analysis of cannabis licensing data from the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) also found:

  • The number of temporary licenses awarded by the CDFA and the BCC, minus the expired licenses, spiked in the final months of 2018 before the agencies had to stop awarding temporary licenses under state rules.

  • Many licenses awarded by the CDFA and the CDPH, which oversees the manufacturers of products like edibles and tinctures, will start to expire before the bulk of licenses awarded by the BCC, which regulates retailers, distributors and laboratories.

  • More than 6,000 licenses awarded by the CDFA, which regulates cultivators, are due to expire in the six months ending Sept. 14 if they do not receive replacement licenses, the most expirations of the three agencies.

  • As of March 20, the three agencies had awarded a total of 124 annual licenses, a figure dwarfed by thousands of temporary licenses expected to expire.

Lawmakers have already created one avenue to tide over temporary licensees: A non-renewable provisional license meant to bridge the gap between temporary and annual licenses, which agencies can issue through Jan. 1.

A statement from CDPH said the agency "is working diligently to process license applications before the temporary license expires," adding that applicants can speed up the review process by responding to questions quickly. 

The expirations are a less pressing concern at the Bureau of Cannabis Control, where most temporary licenses won't start expiring until June. The agency plans to issue provisional licenses to qualifying temporary licensees and annual licenses to companies that don't have a temporary license, said Alex Traverso, a spokesperson for the Bureau.

California lawmakers are also contemplating an additional fix, SB-67, which would extend all temporary license expiration dates until the end of 2019 and allow regulators to issue provisional licenses through July 1, 2020. The bill, which has garnered support from cannabis growers and industry groups, was last amended March 4.

Coachella Valley cannabis insiders said they have been keeping in touch with the three state licensing authorities in the hopes of getting annual licenses before their temporary ones run out, but most are hopeful that SB-67 will reform the rules so that companies trying to stay compliant aren’t forced out of the legal business.

Jeff Homolya examines marijuana plants at Canndescent in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., where he works as the Cultivation Manager, March 7, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

Canndescent, a 200-person company that grows, manufactures and distributes cannabis in Desert Hot Springs, has reassigned an employee from her usual job to have her focus on licensing, said Tom DiGiovanni, the company’s chief financial officer. Canndescent has 13 licenses in California, and it needs to convert all of them to annual licenses, he said, so staying in contact with regulators and sending them additional information as requested is a full-time job.  

DiGiovanni said he’s optimistic that lawmakers will devise a stopgap measure to extend temporary licenses. But Canndescent could face serious pipeline problems if not, he added. If one of Canndescent’s cultivation licenses lapses, the growers can’t simply transfer the crop to another Canndescent license that’s still valid under state rules. And Canndescent could face a shrinking list of customers if the retailers that buy its products lose their temporary licenses.

“Some of them won’t be able to survive. They won’t come back,” DiGiovanni said. “That supports the illegal market, so it doesn’t do anybody good.”

Canndescent has capital reserves to fall back on, but tapping into those funds “would not be ideal by any stretch of the imagination,” DiGiovanni said, because it would divert money away from investing in the company's growth. Canndescent's leaders aim to quadruple annual revenue and hit $40 million in 2019, he said.

Rod McClelland trims marijuana at Canndescent in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., March 7, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

Licensing deadlines are also approaching for another big player, MedMen, which operates in five states. MedMen’s manufacturing license in Desert Hot Springs, for example, will expire on April 8. The expiration date won’t interfere with MedMen operations, since the facility is still under construction, according to Daniel Yi, the company’s senior vice president of corporate communications.

Yi said MedMen employees are in the process of applying for annual licenses. He said he doesn’t foresee that the company’s retail licenses, which won't expire until July and August, will be interrupted by licensing hiccups either.

“We’re trying to legalize cannabis,” Yi said. “I hope nobody thought it was going to be simple.”

In this Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, file photo pedestrians walk past one of the MedMen marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. (Photo: Richard Vogel, AP file)

But for smaller operations, the uncertainty is hard to stomach. James Montoya, the owner of GGMP Veterans Corporation, a startup in Desert Hot Springs that only has one cultivation license, hasn’t harvested its first crop. The company's temporary license expires March 27, so Montoya has been calling state regulators regularly to ask if his annual license is ready. He first submitted paperwork for the license in September.

“It’s like you finished high school, you turned everything in, you took your finals, but no one can tell you when you’re going to graduate,” he said. “A half a year later and we’re still in the same place where we began.”

Montoya is worried that if he doesn’t get an annual license before the temporary one lapses, he’ll be forced to lay off his four employees and lose thousands of dollars.

Still, Brent Buhrman, the president of the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network, a trade group, said the consensus among his organization's members is decidedly chill.

“Where you would think there’d be a level of concern, it’s more of a wait-and-see attitude,” he said. “I can’t see the state letting this entire thing get this far and then basically implode on itself.”

Buhrman said he and his staff haven’t fielded a phone call from so much as one concerned member.

Laurie Holcomb, the founder of BlackStar Industrial Properties, is developing a 620,000-square-foot campus in Desert Hot Springs for growing, manufacturing and distributing cannabis. So far, BlackStar has tenants in the process of moving into their spaces, but none of the tenants will be open for another 6 to 8 weeks.

Holcomb said she thinks regulators will grant provisional licenses to businesses that have applied for an annual license but haven’t been awarded one yet.

“From our viewpoint, it’s been a fair process,” she said.

But Holcomb sees a bigger issue on the horizon. If the state doesn’t start issuing more annual licenses to cultivators, where will manufacturers and retailers get their weed?  

“There’s going to be a supply and demand problem,” she said.

Amy DiPierro covers real estate and business at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs. Reach her at amy.dipierro@desertsun.com or 760-218-2359.

Summary of Major Changes of the Recently Amended Article 4 of Chapter X City of Los Angeles Ordinance

The most significant updates to Article 4 include a revised definition of “Undue Concentration” to increase the number of the number of cannabis businesses and define ownership concentration.  In addition, a tiered system of “Social Equity Applicants” was permitted to allow for economically disadvantaged persons to apply for cannabis licenses.

  • The definition of undue concentration was updated to allow for additional business licenses according to population density and applicable zoning laws.  This includes:

    • One Store Front Retail (Type 10 license) for every 10,000 residents.

    • One Microbusiness (Type 12 license) for every 7,500 residents.  A Microbusiness is an entity that engages in cultivation on less than 10,000 square feet.

    • One square foot (1 sq. ft.) of cultivation space for every 350 square feet of zoned land.

    • One license to manufacturer (Type7) for every 7,500 residents.

    • Existing dispensaries (EMMD) and processors (as defined under Section 104.08) are not subject to this new rule.

    • Additional rules, including calendar days, for how applications are submitted, accepted, processed, approved and denied was also clarified. Some limits pertaining to zoning (i.e. M1-M3, MR1, MR2), as well as limits on the number of licenses (i.e. 1 cultivation license per every 2,500 square feet of cultivation space) were also delineated.

    • The Undue Concentration provisions may be waived if the City Council believes doing so would serve “public convenience or necessity.”

  • Ownership & Percentages was also updated to clarify and limit the number of individuals that may own cannabis businesses

    • A person may own or have a maximum 20% profit share in up to three Storefront retail (Type 10) or Delivery (Type 9) businesses. 

  • Three types of Social Equity Applications (Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3, each which must be approved by DCR), were introduced:

    • Tier 1 applicants are reserved for those with low income AND a prior California Cannabis Arrest or Conviction; OR Low income and a minimum of 5 years California residency. 

      • Restrictions, including a minimum ownership requirement (51%), as well as benefits including expedited renewal processing, fee deferrals are also detailed.

    • A “Tier 2 Social Equity Applicant” was also defined to include anyone with a Low Income & 5 years' residency or 10 years residency and no less than a 33.3% ownership.

    • A “Tier 3 Social Equity Applicant” was also defined to essentially include those entities that support Tier 1 & Tier 2 applicants and regulates the price per square foot of property, in certain instances.

  • Finally, this ordinance also requires a completed financial statement for the “most recently completed fiscal year” for any cannabis businesses applying for a renewal license.


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Pay Attention to These 6 Cannabis Industry Trends


Scott McGovern

CONTRIBUTOR

Founder of crypto site Blocklr & Growth Nuts, an organic growth co.

Cannabis industry trends evolve faster than most markets. Not only haven’t regulations been finalized, but methods of consumption, investment and the geography of the market itself are in constant flux.

Though all the noise, these are the top six cannabis industry trends that entrepreneurs should pay attention to.

1. Cannabis industry trends indicate higher sales than ever.

The biggest evolution within the cannabis industry is that sales will be higher this year than they were in 2018, and investors, consumers and entrepreneurs alike should expect to see legal weed sales blossom for the next few years as the market grows annually.

The biggest of all cannabis industry trends for the next few years is the national and global expansion of the legal weed market. Despite a grinding legislative product that has gone much slower than advocates hoped or expected, both New Jersey and New York weed legalization is anticipated this year, along with states in Midwest (particularly Illinois) and other East Coast states. The global recreational cannabis market is projected to reach $31 billion by 2021. The CBD market alone could reach $22 billion by 2022 according to a Brightfield Group report.

The weed consumer demographic is growing ever more diverse. The average cannabis consumer is now middle-aged, with more women and seniors consuming weed in its various forms. This means that the market is growing and demand within the market is shifting to alternative products.

2. Products other than flower are gaining market share.

Like many trends that spread from California eastward, vaping in 2018 outpaced flower as the most popular method of consumption in California. Similarly, people curious to try marijuana but unwilling to smoke it are turning to edibles. Expect one of the most significant cannabis industry trends to be the continued shift away from flower and towards other methods of consumption.

Vapes: Vapes are one of the hottest cannabis products in 2019. In the first quarter of 2018, vape sales grew 69 percent total, according to BDA Analytics. CBD vape sales alone rose 105 percent over the same period.

Edibles: Regardless if we're talking chef-prepared cuisine, the humble gummy or anything in between, edibles of either the CBD and THC variety are also booming in popularity across all legal states. Here are a few statistics to show how much demand for these products increased in 2018:

  • CBD gummy sales grew 925 percent.

  • Chocolate edible sales increased 166 percent.

  • CBD chocolate sales are up 530 percent.

Beverages: Though classified as edibles, consumers and investors are giving infused beverages more attention than ever. The following trends indicate that beverages will become bigger in the next few years:

  • Big investors including Anheiser Bush and Coca Cola have entered into talks to invest in infused beverages.

  • Weed companies are already manufacturing products like hangover proof beerinfused with THC.

  • Beverages containing CBD for medicinal benefits are also increasingly popular, like lattes and smoothies infused with cannabis oil.

3. Massive CBD market growth.

2018 saw the rise of CBD products ranging from tinctures to gummies. In 2019, expect the rapid expansion of the CBD market to be among the most notable cannabis industry trends. With an annual growth rate of over 140 percent, the CBD market could eclipse the adult-use marijuana market by 2022. This is largely due to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized hemp farming nationally.

With its new legal status, hemp and the CBD derived from it are now legal and lucrative to produce. Compound that with CBD’s reputed health benefits and the CBD industry is set for impressive growth.

In addition to promoting general well-being, CBD can help with difficult medical conditions according to research.

4. A flood of investment.

One of the cannabis industry trends shaping the entire market is growing investment from all sides. Large non-weed-related corporations are increasingly likely to invest in legal cannabis in the form of distribution deals, product design or investment in producers.

It's not just corporate players who are investing. Individuals looking for a way to cash in on the cannabis boom can simply purchase stocks. With eye-catching growth over the course of 2018 that has continued into 2019, weed stocks are attracting investor and media attention. This is especially true for large Canadian weed producer stocks.

Both plant-touching and non-plant touching weed businesses are listed on Canadian and American stock exchanges. This means more access to capital and bigger operations than ever.

5. Product variety and branding.

Above all, the cannabis industry trends towards a more sophisticated customer base that wants a variety of products with different effects, potency levels and prices. One manifestation is the growing demand for luxury products in both wellness-focused CBD products and a larger-than-ever adult-use market. These include items like luxury skincare products, high-quality edibles, and organic options, all of which is driving an ever sharper focus on branding. Brand ambassador is one of the most in-demand cannabis jobs right now.

The two best-known cannabinoids, CBD and THC, aren’t the only aspects of the plant attracting attention from producers and consumers alike. Terpenes, which are organic compounds that give weed its flavor and odor, are a growing focal point. Wonder why a certain strain tastes like blueberries or pineapple? These scents and tastes come from terpenes.

As the market grows in size and product diversity, people want access to products with a variety of flavors. Terpenes are easier to taste and therefore more important than ever with the rise of concentrates.

6. Legal weed spreads eastward.

The one cannabis industry trend that encompasses all the others is the expanding geography of the legal marijuana industry. Every state that legalizes instantly creates a major new industry. For example, socially conservative Oklahoma, ranked just 28th in population among the 50 states with slightly fewer than four million residents, legalized medical marijuana in 2018. Within a few months the demand for medical marijuana cards swamped state regulators, who have registered more than 3,000 marijuana related businesses.

The likeliest states to legalize in 2019,  including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois and Minnesota, are much larger. Most other states at least considering legalizing medical marijuana, if they have not done so already, or expanding existing programs. For weed businesses, this means shifting their attention from the West to the East Coast as opportunities emerge in untapped markets.

When New York legalizes it will be the single largest recreational market in the country. This will translate to big dividends for the businesses who capture even a small part of that market first. Keep in mind, starting a cannabis dispensary can be more profitable in newer markets than in already saturated ones.

Above all, the most significant among all cannabis industry trends are continued growth and change. Prepare for more shifts, and more opportunities, in legal weed.

In a first, L.A. sues unlicensed cannabis dispensary, seeking millions

By JAMES QUEALLY

APR 17, 2019 | 5:10 PM

The city of Los Angeles is seeking millions in civil penalties from an unlicensed South L.A. cannabis dispensary accused of selling marijuana contaminated with pesticides, a move officials said Wednesday is intended to crack down on widespread illegal pot sales.

The dispensary, Kush Club 20, was selling cannabis tainted with paclobutrazol, a fungicide frequently used to make golf turf more dense and verdant, which is classified as a Type II toxic chemical by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is not approved for use on cannabis in California, a lawsuit filed Monday by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office said.

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“Customers patronize illegal shops at their peril, and undermine businesses who play by the rules — and whose product is tested to protect buyers’ health,” City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.

Only 181 dispensaries have temporary city approval to sell marijuana in Los Angeles,according to the Department of Cannabis Regulation. But hundreds of illegal dispensaries have popped up across the city as an attractive option for those looking to buy marijuana while skirting the state’s 15% tax on legal marijuana sales. Regulators, however, have warned that those shops might traffic in unsafe wares or counterfeit versions of popular marijuana brands and cultivators.

“We apparently as a community care a lot about whether our romaine lettuce is contaminated, and we should. We care a lot about whether we can safely eat at Chipotle,” Feuer said at a downtown news conference. “Marijuana buyers should at least exercise that same degree of caution.”

In addition to shutting down the Kush Club 20 dispensary, the lawsuit seeks a civil penalty of $20,000 for each day that illegal activity occurred at the property in the 5500 block of Central Avenue in South L.A. Feuer said the business had been operating for about a year, meaning the city could seek up to $7.5 million. The daily civil penalty has yet to be “tested in court,” Feuer said. The city has used criminal statutes to punish illegal dispensaries in the past because they often result in quicker resolutions.

But some city leaders hope the overwhelming financial burden the suit could bring will deter bad actors from setting up shop without a license.

“We are sharpening our tools and we’re laying the basis to deliver what the voters expect from us ... a legal regulated market with appropriate built-in controls,” City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include High Spirits Enterprises, LLC; its “organizer,” James Smith; Kush Club 20; Amy Sahadi Diaz; and Michael Lerner, who is described as the CEO of the limited liability corporation tied to the property. None of those named could immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. The suit also marks the first targeting of real-estate brokers and property owners linked to illegal cannabis sales who are alleged to have known that the land was being used for an illegal purpose.

“We’ve alleged the brokers and the business operators and the property owners knowingly omitted the true use of the property from the lease,” Feuer said. “In this case, the lease says that the use is for a church.”

In the last year, the city attorney’s office said it has filed 217 criminal cases involving illegal marijuana dispensaries or delivery services, naming more than 800 defendants. At least 113 illegal storefronts have been closed, officials said.

The decision to seek the civil penalties from Kush Club 20 marks the first attempt to reach into an illegal vendor’s pocket. During a contentious discussion at last week’s City Council meeting, several council members expressed frustration with what they saw as inadequate enforcement of the city’s cannabis regulations.

Asst. City. Atty. David Michaelson said seeking monetary penalties against those charged with operating an illegal dispensary is often “time intensive.” Winning a judgment and the target’s ability to pay the fine is also uncertain, he said. Michaelson said last week that the city had not sought to recoup civil penalties against any of the more than 800 defendants it had brought illegal marijuana cases against in the last year.

Los Angeles Police Department officials said they had also cracked down on illegal dispensaries recently. After the City Council passed an ordinance last month that allows the Department of Water and Power to shut off utilities at unlicensed dispensaries, detectives moved to shut down more than 20 locations in the San Fernando Valley, said LAPD Det. Vito Ceccia of the Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Bureau.

Similar actions are expected in South L.A. later this month, he said at the council meeting.

High Spirits Enterprises was incorporated on April 4, just four days before the city attorney alleges Kush Club 20 began its illegal operation, according to filings with the California Secretary of State. State records show that another limited liability corporation linked to the address, 5527 S. Central, LLC., was formed in December 2016.

The United Cannabis Business Association, which advocates on behalf of legal marijuana business operators and has been vocal in pushing the city attorney’s office to step up enforcement against unlicensed dispensaries, issued a statement Wednesday praising the lawsuit.

“The UCBA and the City Council have been urging the City Attorney about the potential dangers of pesticides in untested products (including Paclobutrazol) and the reckless behavior of landlords who indulge in fraudulent leasing schemes,” executive director Ruben Honig said in a statement.

Honig said that he expects the “lawsuits will deter other illegal enterprises that endanger the public and poison the community.”

Times staff writer Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.