Looking for Black Market Bud in Southern California? Yelp Can Point the Way

Looking for Black Market Bud in Southern California? Yelp Can Point the Way

Original Post: Merry Jane: Looking for Black Market Bud in Southern California? Yelp Can Point the Way

[Canniseur: Not surprising. California has botched its legal cannabis market from the beginning. So have a lot of other states. Whether black market cannabis is better than what’s in the stores, is a different topic, but in the meantime, it appears that those looking for black market weed have to look no farther than YELP! for the nearest dealer. The problem with this is it’s illegal, but YELP! can’t police each and every comment made on their site…black market weed or legal weed…YELP! cannot have the staff to police this.]

Two years into adult-use cannabis legalization, California cannabis regulators are still stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the state’s prolific black market. And as SoCal cops continue to raid illicit dispensaries and wood chip their way through unlicensed grow sites, a new tool has emerged to help underground operators get the word out about their wares: Yelp.

Yes, the DIY food critic website has now evolved into a directory for Southern California’s vast network of black market dispensaries. According to a new investigation from NBC News, unlicensed pot shops across the Southland have profiles on the community review site, with location pins, posted hours, and countless reviews recommending unregulated flower, vape cartridges, edibles, and more.

“This is a clear public health threat that needs to be addressed,” Raphael Cuomo, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, where he is researching the vape crisis, told NBC. Cuomo said that companies like Yelp are rarely held accountable for their part in the cannabis black market because posts on the site come from community members, and not the website itself.

“We haven’t seen strong evidence that [Yelp is] going to suffer a great deal of backlash, whether from the public or legislators,” Cuomo added.

Previously, the Irvine-based website Weedmaps has served as the industry’s most visible dispensary directory, for both fully licensed and off-book pot shops. But at the turn of 2020, Weedmaps said that it would take steps to remove unlicensed listings and require state license verification from dispensaries.

“It simply isn’t true that unlicensed operators have an easy path to list on Weedmaps,” Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals told NBC about the site’s updated policies. “Between the vetting processes in place for our suite of products, internal reviews, and responses to reports from users, licensed shop owners, regulators, and law enforcement, Weedmaps has a robust process in place to ensure the cannabis operators on the site are licensed.”

In a direct response to the NBC investigation, Yelp officials said that they would begin implementing a license verification process of their own, but would not remove listings for unlicensed dispensaries. Instead, Yelp will place large red warnings on listings for dispensaries that have not provided the site with proof of their licenses.

“Removing local businesses from Yelp could hurt consumers as they would no longer have that resource for information, whether positive or negative, about the business,” a Yelp spokesperson told NBC. “Consumers have a right to speak their minds about all businesses, irrespective of licensing status.”

As of September 2019, California regulators estimated that the state had more than three times as many unregulated pot shops as fully licensed dispensaries. But no matter how many raids state and local cops make, the Golden State is still struggling to make a dent in the underground market. And with mainstream websites like Yelp leading the way for unscrupulous buyers, there might not be an end in sight.

“We are trying very hard to make it as difficult as possible for them to operate,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “But they continue to try to find ways around the system.”

Follow Zach Harris on Twitter

Original Post: Merry Jane: Looking for Black Market Bud in Southern California? Yelp Can Point the Way

Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Sales Reach Almost $40 Million in January

Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Sales Reach Almost $40 Million in January

Original Article: Marijuana Times: Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Sales Reach Almost $40 Million in January

[Canniseur: $40 million is a surprising number mostly because of the incredibly high taxes (over 40%) in Illinois. I’d bet that of that $40 million, over $35 million of that came from Chicago and the suburbs. The article states that $8 million was from out-of-state sales, but I’d also bet that it was much higher than that, if for no other reason that Indiana is right next to Illinois and Indiana has the most regressive legislature in the U.S.]

Cannabis dispensaries in Illinois sold more than $1 million in sales per day in January, to a total of almost $40 million in the first month. Adult-use sales of cannabis took effect on New Year’s Day this year after Illinois became the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational cannabis last June. And the first month of sales totaled $39,247,840.83, with over $8 million of those sales coming from out of state customers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The near $40 million in sales is despite the fact that Illinois has the second-highest tax rate among the 11 states with legal adult-use cannabis. Additionally, Illinois has been dubbed the least tax-friendly state in the nation. Consumers in Chicago pay a tax of over 40%, which doesn’t even include a 7% state wholesale tax. Even though taxes are sky-high and experts have been predicting that the black market would thrive because of that, Illinois lawmakers think that the cannabis market will only continue to grow.

“The successful launch of the Illinois legal cannabis industry represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the very communities that have historically been harmed by the failed war on drugs,” Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s senior advisor for cannabis control, said in a press release.

Customers waited in line outside of dispensaries in Chicago for hours at the beginning of the year for their chance to purchase legal cannabis. Cannabis sales for January would have likely surpassed $40 million, had it not been for the fact that retail locations were running out of product after only a week of sales.

The lull in recreational sales is also due to the fact that dispensaries are required by law to maintain a 30-day supply in order to meet the needs of medical patients. In order to comply with the state law, dispensaries temporarily suspended sales to recreational customers so that patients could have proper access to the medicine they need.

But, even the limits placed on recreational sales were not enough to avoid product shortages. This is because cultivators had to wait until they got the confirmation that the governor would sign the bill to start growing at the level that would satisfy customer demand. Even as 2019 was a significant downturn for many publicly-traded cannabis stocks, this high demand in a market that is taxed at an extremely high rate should serve as proof that the cannabis industry as a whole will only continue to turn profits at record highs.

Original Article: Marijuana Times: Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Sales Reach Almost $40 Million in January

What It’s Like to Buy Recreational Cannabis in Michigan

What It’s Like to Buy Recreational Cannabis in Michigan

Purchasing Cannabis in Michigan: A Personal Story

Last Saturday I went to replenish my supply of medical cannabis. It was my first time at a dispensary since the adult-use stores opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I like to visit different dispensaries, and today I went to “Exclusive Provisioners” a large dispensary on the south side of Ann Arbor. It’s located in a small office and industrial park. In December, we published a story about the sad state of the Michigan adult-use rollout. I wanted to see what was going on with my own eyes. I was in need of some supplies, so it was an easy thing to do. I was shocked at what I saw.

Cold, Cold Rain and Long, Long Lines!

Saturday dawned. It didn’t exactly dawn it just got lighter…it was about 40 degrees and a hard rain was pelting down. As I turned onto the street where this shop is located, I was astonished to find the street filled with cars on a Saturday morning. This was an office and light industry area! Approaching, I saw there were tents set up. Finding a parking space, I walked toward one of the tents. There were at least 100 people inside and there were about 20 people waiting in line outside, getting very wet.

Medical Gets a Pass

I thought I’d just have to get in line with everyone else. Wrong. “Medical” patients, i.e., those with medical cannabis cards get to bypass the line. Not just at Exclusive, but every dispensary in Michigan. It’s a state regulation. All those people were waiting to buy recreational cannabis!! Holy Smoke!! Literally. 🙂 I couldn’t figure out why so many people were there, standing in the line in the cold rain for weed. But they were. And I got to walk right in. Also, the variety of strains available to me in the store was immeasurably greater than the ‘adult-use’ strains. I had a choice. The recreational customers had almost no choice.

Newbies Might be Driving the Market

I stayed in the ‘holding’ tent for a while and talked to several people. I was completely surprised at what I found out. All of them were newbies. Two had consumed cannabis in the past, but they were wanting to try it again now that it’s legal. My ‘n’ was small and I was shocked at first, but then realized it makes a certain kind of sense. When cannabis was ‘illegal’ it was; a) harder to find and b) you could get in trouble for using it. So, many people opted out. But now…it’s legal and everyone is wanting to give cannabis consumption a go or another go if they’ve had it long ago.

Cannabis Price Appears to be the Top Priority

While it isn’t surprising to find so many people wanting to experiment with legal cannabis, I discovered most people were interested in the price. As in, finding out what was the least expensive cannabis they could buy. The price of cannabis is the price of cannabis. And yes, there’s an analog in the wine business. In today’s market, Two Buck Chuck and Barefoot dominate sales in groceries and wine stores. The wines sell at decent, but not great margins, but they sell in volume. Why would cannabis be any different? I don’t know what margins are like in this business, but I’m beginning see there’s a lot of room to discount and make deals. And there are lots deals out there.

Michigan: At the End of the Day it’s the Black Market

So far, for consumers purchasing adult use cannabis products it’s not that easy. In Michigan, the medical cannabis community gets the cannabis products first. Adult-use cannabis sales can happen once the product has been in the store for 30 days. I’m sure that most dispensaries would gladly let anyone in over the legal age for purchasing cannabis products. It’s so hard to actually purchase adult-use cannabis that the real bottom line is this; I know a black market dealer who only sells cannabis. He told me his business has never been better!

Cannabis Supply Shortages Abound In Newly Established Recreational Markets

Cannabis Supply Shortages Abound In Newly Established Recreational Markets

Original Post: 420 Intel Business: Cannabis Supply Shortages Abound In Newly Established Recreational Markets

[Canniseur: Why are bureaucrats always wrong about how much product will be needed for an adult-use cannabis market. This describes what’s going on in each and every state that has legalized cannabis for adult use. When there’s no product in an adult legal state, where does the money go? Why the black market, of course. Are the regulators idiots or just unaware of the consequences of their actions? I do not believe they’re idiots, but in many ways, they’re behaving like they don’t understand what’s going on in their own states.]

It seems that whenever a new recreational cannabis market rolls out, reports of exaggerated lines, product shortages, and store closures never seem to be far behind.

The primary cause of these cannabis shortages is a lack of production capacity, although that in itself is quite vague. Business owners in states that have an existing medical cannabis market often find themselves overwhelmed when it’s time to make the necessary changes required to transition into the recreational scene. These often include additional licensing, which can be financially prohibitive, as well as possibly having to relocate due to certain zoning issues, hire and train new staff, and a number of other changes.

Regardless of the reasons, cannabis shortages put additional stress on business owners and consumers alike. That said, let’s take a closer look at what’s been going on in North America, with Illinois being our key sample area.

Midwestern States

The newest recreational program to launch in the United States is Illinois, with legal sales starting on January 1, 2020. Almost immediately, reports of long lines began popping up online, with people claiming to wait hours in cold temperatures as lines to get into dispensaries wrapped around the buildings and through parking lots.

After only one week, many businesses had already run out of cannabis, and these shortages are expected to last six months to a year or more. The reason for this? Despite having planned this launch for quite some time, and despite the fact that cannabis use is becoming increasingly mainstream, Illinois only authorized 21 cultivation centers to supply the state. This is far fewer than most other states with legal cannabis.

This problem was seen in just one month prior in neighboring Michigan, when legal sales opened up on December 1, 2019. The limitations on the number of growers is partially based on the assumption that existing medical growers in both states could supply the new recreational market – although studies from older markets predicted that would not be the case.

For now, some retail owners are delaying recreational sales until they can guarantee a reliable supply, a move that can have a devastating impact on their bottom lines.

West Coast

The West Coast is home to the largest cannabis market in the world, California, as well as one the first adult-use markets, Washington. The region has a long history with progressive cannabis reform and lenient views on recreational use.

However, that doesn’t mean that these areas are immune to cannabis shortages. The problem hit California when the state changed their laws and required growers and dispensary owners to meet a number of new standards (mostly lab testing and licensing). Reports of increased testing wait times and testing failures caused widespread product shortages. This lasted until labs were able to expand capacity and growers were able to meet the new requirements, which for some meant waiting until their next harvest.

California struggled with supply issues when farmers were forced to adhere to new testing standards

When Washington began selling recreational cannabis in 2014, there were only about 20 stores and 80 growers licensed to serve the entire state. This led to statewide flower shortages and prices skyrocketed as consumers tried to get their hands on the minimal supply that existed.

Many were convinced that Washington’s program had failed, but after a thorough expansion, the state now has 1,100 and close to 500 stores. Prices have been steadily dropping since 2014 and they seem to have leveled out at around $150 for an ounce.

Canada

Our neighbors to the North struggled with this dilemma after their October 2018 launch as well, with some stores running out of buds within hours of opening. Also stemming from cultivation issues, the Canadian shortages lasted over a year and are just now beginning to level out.

Many licensed growers ‘over-estimated their ability to produce cannabis at scale’. For example, some may have promised 1,000 kilos but were only able to deliver 200-300 that was good enough quality to sell in dispensaries.

This was a very common problem across the industry as top shelf cannabis – the quality that many consumers have begun to expect – is very difficult to grow to scale. Many also just didn’t expect it to be as popular as it turned out to be. The demand was tremendous and it wasn’t from the anticipated demographic. More women, parents, and elderly people are using cannabis for a variety of different reasons – something officials in Canada were just not ready for.

Growing Pains

Many supply problems start at the root of the operation

As you may have noticed, most of these delays start at the level of cultivation. Although not necessarily the fault of the growers themselves, there are a lot of factors at play that can make it difficult to produce large amounts of high-quality, legally-compliant flowers.

For example, it took Illinois growers months to get permission to expand their cultivation centers. Many didn’t get their licenses approved until December 23rd, only one week before recreational sales were slated to begin. Experienced growers note that it can take over a year to go through the entire process of getting permits, building or expanding a warehouse, and actually producing a crop.

According to Beau Whitney, senior economist at New Frontier Data, Illinois other new markets aren’t expected to reach full supply for around two years. “You fix it by issuing additional licenses,“ he said. Until then, he added, “look for continued constraints on supply, higher-than-market prices and a robust illicit market.”

Another problem is the amount of space issued to new applicants. Many were limited to only 5,000 square feet of growing space, while existing growers could utilize up to 210,000 square feet. Smaller growing operations – or microgrows – are known to produce much higher quality cannabis. Canndescent in Desert Hot Springs, CA, is one company that’s capitalized on this discovery.

However, farmers wanting to produce larger amounts of boutique-style cannabis should opt for an expansive warehouse broken up into smaller, microgrowing areas. Until then, growers will just have to make do (and get a bit creative) with the limited amount of space the currently have.

Skyrocketing Demands Hit A Brick Wall

Demand for legal cannabis during Illinois’ first recreational week was among the highest of any state, with a total of $20 million worth of product sold in the first 12 days. Even before adult-use sales started on new year’s day, medical cannabis patients were stocking up and buy most if not all of the inventory at local dispensaries, in anticipation for the coming wave of shoppers.

It’s important to note that these inventory shortages only applies to recreational cannabis. Illinois marijuana czar Toi Hutchinson pointed out that dispensaries are required to have a one-month reserve of inventory for medical cannabis patients, to ease their growing concerns about not being able to find the products they want.

To maintain supply and keep the doors open, recreational stores are limiting the amount of cannabis customers can buy each day or week. Take Chicago’s Mission Dispensary, for instance, which imposed a $200 maximum spending limited, broken down to 4.5 grams of edibles, up to 100 milligrams total in edibles, and two vaping cartridges.

Expert Opinions

One of the chief sponsors of the law, Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans, said these shortages come as no surprise, based on similar patterns in other states. “Hopefully, within six months or a year or two, the supply gets ramped up so you’re not having the same challenges,” Steans said. “There’s an initial burst of excitement from the public, so some of it is the nature of the beast.”

Some people are more optimistic though, like executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, Pam Althoff. She expects legal growers to meet demand and level out the market by May. “There’s always bumps with new things, but I think it’s going extraordinarily well,” she said.

Other states that have seen these scarcities, also saw the market regulate fairly quickly – sometimes in just a matter of weeks. Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board noted that, “There were a lot of people overreacting to how we got started,” indicated that the problem of shortages wasn’t nearly as bad as the media made it seem.

In The Meantime…

For now, there isn’t much that can be done to mitigate supply issues, long wait times, and fluctuating prices. For consumers, many would advise shopping on Monday and Tuesday afternoons to avoid wait times, although there’s no guarantee that they will actually find what they’re looking for, even if they get into the shop quickly.

“You definitely get a little grumbling, ‘I waited in line for an hour and all I could buy was this much,’ ” says Kris Krane, co-founder and president of 4Front Ventures. “But most people are just happy they can come into a store and buy legally. They’re willing to abide by these minor pains. People might be more upset three or four months from now (if cannabis shortages continue). But we can’t grow the plants any faster.”

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Original Post: 420 Intel Business: Cannabis Supply Shortages Abound In Newly Established Recreational Markets

Cannabis Crops Could Be Straining New Mexico’s Water Supplies

Cannabis Crops Could Be Straining New Mexico’s Water Supplies

Original Post: High Times: Cannabis Crops Could Be Straining New Mexico’s Water Supplies

[Canniseur: In New Mexico water is a major issue, especially in the south. Cannabis is an agricultural product and as such must be grown on land zoned for agricultural uses. Although water isn’t currently a major issue in New Mexico, cannabis is a water intensive crop … mostly. Mostly is because there’s a method called dry farming. Dry farming is more difficult and somewhat more labor intensive. Maybe dry farming makes better cannabis, but I don’t know this for a fact. As cannabis becomes legal through out the U.S. the industry will need to find a better way to make the best use of agricultural water and resources.]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More medical marijuana plants are being grown in New Mexico than ever, and the crop could be straining local water supplies.

Two rural water systems in Sandoval County say the crop may be depleting local water supplies, and they say they have been left powerless to stop it, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District and Sile Mutual Domestic Water and Sewer Association sent a letter last month to state agencies and legislators describing their concerns over their disappearing water resources.

The water system representatives say New Mexico’s patchwork of medical marijuana regulations has not kept up with the increased strain on rural water supplies.

“The (cannabis) companies may think that the water rights were already taken care of when they purchased the property,” Peña Blanca district president John Gurule said. “We see the potential for these farms to bring economic growth to a rural community, so how do we support that growth while bringing water to our residents?”

The groups are asking that all producers applying for a medical cannabis license prove a valid water right for commercial agriculture with the Office of the State Engineer.

The Sile water system serves 154 people west of the Rio Grande between Cochiti and Kewa pueblos. The Peña Blanca system is responsible for delivering water to 448 people on the east side of the river between the same pueblos.

An average household in the Peña Blanca system uses about 3,000 gallons of water a month, president John Gurule said.

A cannabis farm with greenhouses in Peña Blanca that began operating last year is logging 20,000 gallons of domestic water use per month.

The board members say the increases could point to treated drinking water being used for cannabis irrigation.

New Mexico legalized medical cannabis in 2007. Domestic well water may not be used for agriculture in the state. Farmers must irrigate cannabis or other crops with another water source by acquiring a valid water right.

John Romero, director of the Water Rights Division and the Resources Allocation Program for the Office of the State Engineer, said the affected mutual domestic water systems have a history of poor infrastructure, limited revenue, too many connections, and water overuse. The increase in cannabis production and alleged improper water use may be exacerbating those issues.

“Cannabis hasn’t helped this situation. It is illegal to use domestic well water for agriculture, but it is up to (Sile and Peña Blanca) to enforce that,” Romero said. “We can’t police every mutual domestic water association, but we will work with them and help to see if these properties have a valid water right for what they want to do.”

Cannabis Crops Could Be Straining New Mexico’s Water Supplies was posted on High Times.

Recreational marijuana rollout in Michigan could be national model for how not to do it, industry insider says

Recreational marijuana rollout in Michigan could be national model for how not to do it, industry insider says

[Canniseur: The cannabis industry in Michigan been plagued by issues going back to the medical-only cannabis market. Lack of supply is the first issue. Second, the commission charged with the task of running Michigan’s cannabis programs shows their incompetence. Michigan is not ready to sell recreational cannabis. There aren’t enough outlets and there isn’t enough inventory to supply the state. The saddest part is there are several good models and one that’s already in Michigan; alcoholic beverages. There are some successful state adult-use cannabis programs as well that can easily contain elements in Michigan.  Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington state all have programs with many good features. Why the commission won’t look at these programs and copy the best parts is beyond us. Maybe it’s a NIMBY thing. Maybe it’s self-righteousness. Perhaps it’s arrogance. Who knows? The commission needs people who aren’t afraid to look at what works elsewhere and implement it. Right now Michigan is a mess. My prediction? In the near long-term, the black market will be the winner.]

Michigan’s rollout of legal adult-use recreational marijuana this month was “not well thought out” and will likely further exacerbate an ongoing shortage in legal marijuana product, the executive director of a group representing nearly 200 licensed medical marijuana businesses said Friday.

During an interview on WKAR’s Off the Record Friday morning, Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Robin Schneider said the Marijuana Regulatory Agency’s decision to move up retail recreational market sales from spring 2020 to Dec. 1 was an unwelcome surprise for many in the industry.

“Unfortunately, I think Michigan is going to become the national model of how not to roll out an adult-use program,” she said on the show.

The state licensing agency had previously planned to require product destined for the recreational market be grown from scratch, meaning it would take at least one grow cycle — until March or April — before harvested marijuana could be sold at retail locations.

That changed when the Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued a rule making it possible for businesses that already have marijuana product grown or acquired under its medical licence to transfer it to the recreational side beginning Dec. 1.

Schneider said due to initial roadblocks in approving growing licenses and ongoing bottlenecks in the testing process, the state is 10 times behind where it needs to be for production to fulfill the needs of the market. That could become an even bigger problem soon, especially for medical marijuana patients, she said.

“We have such a shortage of product right now – our state is already at risk of running out of cannabis completely due to the early rec sales,” she said, later adding: “We might be sending patients back to the illicit market before this is over.”

Had the state stuck to the original schedule, Schneider said the industry would have been better prepared for the demand, and likely would have brought in more than the $1.6 million in sales posted during the first week of recreational marijuana in Michigan.

“We should have done much better than that,” she said. “That’s not anything that will give us bragging rights…it was not rational, it was not well thought out, it was not well prepared.”

Agency spokesperson David Harns said the state has to balance the need to make sure patients have their medicine and implementing the will of the voters.

He said the initial rollout was meant to be a small, measured soft opening, and noted marijuana businesses are not required to move medical product over to recreational: “It’s just an option for those who want to take advantage of it.”

Harns said the influx of demand for adult-use marijuana was expected, and said the state continues to license growers for both medical and adult use.

“Whenever the adult-use market turned on, there was always going to be a shortage,” he said. “It will be a matter of time until the market stabilizes.”

State budget officials are projecting recreational marijuana to become a $1.5 billion-per-year industry by late 2021. The $1.63 million in sales that came in during the first week translates to nearly $270,414 in tax revenue for Michigan between Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, including a 10 percent excise and 6 percent sales tax.

Since recreational sales became legal Dec. 1, heavy demand has led many marijuana shops around the state to institute purchase limits, and one shop ran out of product after serving 750 customers in two days.

See where marijuana businesses are licensed in Michigan:

 

San Francisco’s First Black-Owned Dispensary To Open This Month

San Francisco’s First Black-Owned Dispensary To Open This Month

Original Post: High Times: San Francisco’s First Black-Owned Dispensary To Open This Month

[Canniseur: Given all the talk about creating chances for equality in the cannabis market, it’s kind of surprising it took this long to get a black-owned dispensary in San Francisco. In an ironic twist, it’s opening in The Haight, as in Haight Ashbury, ground-zero for the hippies in the 1960s and 1970s.]

Growing up, San Francisco’s first Black dispensary owner Shawn Richard sold marijuana on the streets of the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. He was far from the first person to do so. The Haight gave birth to the 1960s hippie movement and cannabis has long been a cornerstone of the area’s culture.

But now, on December 21, Richard will open the doors of Berner on Haight, the neighborhood’s very first legal marijuana dispensary.

Speaking of pioneer moves, Richard is also the city’s first business owner to emerge from its cannabis equity program. His success is an encouraging sign that San Francisco is taking some action to reverse the long-running injustices of the Drug War, and in so doing, support a Black community that has dwindled dramatically over the last decade.

“This is going to be a store like no other store,” Richard told High Times in a phone interview. “It’s going to be real up to date, real modern, but it gives you that Haight Street feeling when you walk in.”

Richard is partnering with San Francisco-born rapper Cookies a.k.a. Gilbert Milam, already a cannabis industry pro who opened his fifth eponymous marijuana store earlier this month in Oakland. But the two hit a snag when they went to name their Haight Street location. San Francisco regulations prohibit dispensaries from marketing themselves with kid-friendly language, and apparently “Cookies” didn’t cut it as an appropriate cannabis store name in the eyes of the authorities. The two opted to dub the project Berner’s, after Cookies’ alias.

That’s not to say that city bureaucracy hasn’t assisted the project in other ways. Richard is the first graduate of the San Francisco Office of Cannabis’ equity program, which prioritizes and gives financial support to businesses led by entrepreneurs who have been previously impacted by the War on Drugs; low income would-be business owners; longtime city residents; and those who live in low income neighborhoods.

The city also requires all prospective cannabis business owners to demonstrate how they will support equity partners to take part in the industry. But the equity program remains largely undefined, notwithstanding a series of six-week educational workshops that have been offered for potential entrepreneurs.

With his history of activism in the community, Richard was a natural choice for the program’s first equity partner. He started a 501(c)3 named Brothers Against Violence over 25 years ago.

He also spent three years at Folsom State Prison for selling cocaine. He first started dealing at 13, and found it hard to leave the illegal industry. He returned to selling drugs after his incarceration, and really only got out of the game in 1995 when his little brother died as a result of gun violence.

Since founding Brothers Against Violence, Richard has been working to keep his community members safe. But when the opportunity arose to open a cannabis dispensary with assistance from the city government, Richard knew he had to take it.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m not getting any younger,’” he remembers. “I need to start chapters in my life. Now, not only can I put together a retirement plan for myself, I can put together money for my family, and this could rekindle multi-generational wealth.”

And the chance to become the Haight’s first legal dispensary owner, after all the world famous neighborhood’s decades of smoke-filled street corners, seemed too good to be true.

“When the opportunity came and I heard that everybody was trying to get up on Haight — me and my dude, we just work smarter,” says Richard. “Just put it into play.”

Richard’s family has lived in the nearby Fillmore neighborhood for generations — his grandfather ran a Mexican restaurant on Haight Street back in the day. The entrepreneur moved to the Bayview neighborhood after his mother passed away.

Richard is far from the only Black San Franciscan who has moved out of the central neighborhoods. In a city where the average house now sells for $1.4 million, communities of color have been largely displaced. In 1970, 13 percent of San Franciscans identified as Black. Today, that number stands at only five percent.

City Has History Of Targeting Black Individuals

In 2018, a report was published that found that San Francisco’s law enforcement was targeting its Black residents in the policing of drug-related offenses. The investigation was released two years after the city’s police chief was forced to resign after a string of fatal shootings by law enforcement of San Franciscans of color.

Given this backdrop, the city’s previously slow-moving cannabis social equity program seems crucial. A handful of equity partners have been approved, though Richard’s Cole Ashbury Group was the first, and will be the first to open their business.

Local politicians hailed Berner’s on Haight as an overdue sign of social justice.

“Cannabis legalization isn’t coming to the Haight-Ashbury; no, the laws are finally coming to the Haight-Ashbury’s way of thinking, of valuing healing, freedom of expression, and social equity,” said member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Vallie Brown. “It’s exciting and fitting that San Francisco’s first social equity cannabis store will be right here in the Haight, and that it will be led by a man like Shawn Richard who has spent decades in selfless service to our community.”

Richard says SF’s cannabis equity program has a long way to go. In his experience, the Office of Cannabis is understaffed and greater financial assistance would be helpful for those hoping to open their own marijuana brand.

But hopefully, entrepreneurs like himself will soon play their own role in supporting their peers in the cannabis business. “That’s my goal,” says Richard. “To generate enough income to be able to put it in play for them, for other equity partners who are coming after me.”

San Francisco’s First Black-Owned Dispensary To Open This Month was posted on High Times.

MLB Set to Stop Testing Players for Marijuana

MLB Set to Stop Testing Players for Marijuana

Original Post: Cannabis Now: MLB Set to Stop Testing Players for Marijuana

[Canniseur: I can’t say enough about this huge change of policy for Major League Baseball. It’s about time. MLB has been vocally and adamantly against drugs of any sort. Now the league is going to test for opiates only. In an odd way, this reminds me of the time that Doc Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched a no-hitter against San Diego while tripping on acid. This cannabis policy change is overdue. It will help create a change in the perception of cannabis and athletics and was made by one of the most powerful sports agencies in the U.S. Mike Adams story about the change is terrific. This change is happening in both the major and minor leagues.]

America’s favorite pastime is about to get a lot more interesting, at least for players who like to hit weed as much as they do home runs. The MLB (Major League Baseball) and the MLB Players Association have decided that it is a detriment to the health of those who play the sport to test for marijuana. The organizations have determined, instead, that it would be more advantageous to implement a new set of drug testing protocols aimed at keeping players from striking out on opioids. But as far as marijuana goes, it is no longer going to be cause for disciplinary action.

In the latest agreement, the MLB is moving to eliminate the cannabis plant from its list of banned substances. It means Minor leaguers will no longer be subjected to drug testing for the herb, which puts them right in line with the Majors. MLB players have not been tested for pot in almost 20 years. Nope, back in 2002, the MLB put the kibosh on those shenanigans. The league is more concerned these days about players using performance-enhancing drugs and painkillers than it is with them showing up to play with THC in their system.

Still, it took a minute for the Minors to catch up with this progressive drug policy. Until now, these players were at risk of a 25-game suspension if they got nailed for pot even once. They faced a 50-game suspension for testing positive a second time and 100 games the third time around. Players who couldn’t get their act together after that were at risk of getting banned for life. So, you know, the MLB used to take all of that “three-strikes and you’re out” stuff pretty seriously.

But not for much longer.

“As part of a new agreement on opioids being negotiated between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, MLB will remove marijuana from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers, sources tell The Athletic. Major leaguers have not been subject to testing for marijuana,” MLB insider Ken Rosenthal wrote in a Twitter post earlier this week.

Marijuana is still struggling, however, to find acceptance in all sports. The National Football League (NFL) doesn’t allow players to use it, not even for medicinal purposes, and neither does the National Basketball Association (NBA). There are some stiff penalties, too, for those players who break the rules. It was just last month that Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters was suspended for 10 games after he suffered a cannabis-induced panic attack on a flight from Phoenix to Las Angeles. This suspension is reportedly going to cost Waiters $834,483 in forfeited salary. He also misses out on a $1.2 million bonus that was set to come after he completed 70 games during the regular season.

As it stands, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the only professional sports organization that doesn’t give two-flying squirts if their players test positive for marijuana. They still check for it, but they do not impose any punishments — no suspensions or fines — for those who get popped. The only stipulation is if a player shows up to a game stoned and disrespects his team and the sport.

But other than that, weed isn’t a big deal in the eyes of the NHL. In fact, parts of the organization believe that marijuana could benefit players. The NHL Alumni Association is presently involved with a research program to see if cannabis medicine might help players suffering from brain injuries. Other sports organizations are still on the fence about medicinal use.

report from TMZ Sports suggests that the MLB’s policy change on marijuana and opioids could be a reaction to Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs suffering a fatal opioid overdose earlier this year. Skaggs tested positive for Oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol at the time of his death.

The MLB’s drug policy change is not quite a done deal, not yet. Tony Clark, MLB players’ union chief, believes the agreement will be finalized before the end of the year. It will be in place before the start of the next season. So, don’t be surprised if you start seeing hotdog vendors hanging around in the dugouts. Baseball players are getting ready to be hella hungry come summer 2020.

MLB Set to Stop Testing Players for Marijuana was posted on Cannabis Now.

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