Orange County Fairgrounds Ban Cannabis Events

The last election not only saw the approval of Proposition 64, it also saw the authorization of several cannabis-friendly laws on the local level. Costa Mesa, for instance, saw the implementation of Measure X, an ordinance allowing for the manufacturing, distribution, and testing of cannabis. Although the cultivation and sale of cannabis was (and is) still prohibited, the fact some commercial cannabis activities are legally allowed in the city is a big deal for the otherwise anti-cannabis town. But under the Medicinal Adult Use Cannabis Regulatory Safety Act (MAUCRSA), legal cannabis events are only to be held at county fairgrounds. And on January 25, the Orange County Fair Board voted 7-0 to ban all cannabis-related events and sales from their premises.

Apartment complexes, Costa Mesa High School, Davis Magnet School, Orange Coast College, Vanguard University and TeWinkle Park are all located within walking distance of the fairgrounds, giving the fair board a reason to be concerned with how such events might affect the area and conflict with the organization's mission.

"Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do something," board member Ashleigh Aitken told the Daily Pilot in an interview. "And I don't feel that this is part … of how we're trying to present ourselves to not just the Costa Mesa community but the larger community."

Fairgrounds throughout California can host cannabis-related events at their discretion, but the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Bureau of Cannabis Control have outlined guidelines all events and event organizers must adhere to. Much like any other cannabis business, cannabis events must abide by the laws prohibiting cannabis use within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, youth center, or recreational area where minors congregate. Attendees of such events where marijuana products are sold must also be at least 21-years-old. Additionally, no alcohol or tobacco sales are allowed on the premises, either.

Board members pointed out that the fairgrounds also contain venues such as Centennial Farm and the Heroes Hall veterans museum, which regularly host youth educational programs and field trips. According to board member Douglas La Belle, these facilities have events happening year round. Hosting a cannabis event would likely impact already scheduled arrangements.

But cannabis-event businesses—especially those based in California—are struggling to figure out how to stay afloat in the era of new regulation. According to Susan Soares, the CEO of C.A.R.E—a Long Beach-based non-profit event company, prohibiting cannabis at the Orange County fairgrounds is detrimental to her business. In the last three years, Soares held the State of Cannabis in Long Beach: a well organized, professional, multiple-day panel event that hosted cannabis industry experts, giving them a platform to relay their expertise to those curious and wanting to learn about the mysterious realm of cannabis. Dana Rohrabacher and Lori Ajax were a few of the industry’s heavy hitters who spoke at the event.

“There are very few fairgrounds in SoCal where the big industry is,” says Soares, who knew the OC Fairgrounds was going to be an issue because of the schools in the area. “Until the laws permit events to happen at other locations aside from fairgrounds, there are a lot of businesses and people in the industry who have no source of income anymore.”

For the past three years, Soares also hosted the Green Oasis, a private three-day pool bash during the second weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. The high-end event hosted many of the artists who performed at the festival, giving them a place to kick up their feet, and enjoy the sunshine, gourmet food, delicious herb and good vibes. Members from the band the Weekend; Haim—the all-girl rockers from LA; and The Head and The Heart were among the performers who attended Soares’ Green Oasis.

Soares is now unable to produce events the way she previously did. And thanks to the OC fairgrounds prohibiting cannabis events, she and many who are in the same boat are stuck navigating the new legal waters of cannabis events, which have proven to be extremely limiting. The closest fairgrounds to Orange County, Long Beach and Los Angeles that could be available to Soares are the Pomona Fairplex, the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Of those event spaces, the only one that’s confirmed to host cannabis events is the NOS Events Center—the home to the High Times Cannabis Cup.

Until Costa Mesa decides to open the doors to more commercial marijuana activities than that of Measure X, cannabis events are prohibited in Orange County. As of now, the only way this can change is if the state revises the law to allow canna-events in more places than fairgrounds—similar to the way events were circa 2018. Until then, however, cannabis-gatherings as we’ve known them are a thing of the past. “There are a lot of people working on this issue,” says Soares. “A lot of peoples lives depend on it.”

Labor Unions: Bringing Stability To An Unstable Industry

The industry that blossomed from the Proposition 215 movement of 1996 didn’t incorporate language regarding pay and labor for dispensary workers, trimmers or other canna-employees. Thus, it was up to the business owners and payroll managers to ensure the employees were adequately paid. As one might guess, that didn’t always happen. Thankfully, the MAUCRSA—California’s new law permitting commercial and adult-use cannabis—has wording to help rectify those issues.

 

But since 2010, California cannabis workers found another way to ensure their time and labor were accounted for. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) brought structure to black market shops, helping the industry take its first steps toward legitimacy. And in an industry tainted by stigma, gaining authority and respect as a real business has been painfully difficult.

 

The Orange County cannabis industry leveled up in terms of legitimacy on March 3, 2016. Santa Ana’s South Coast Safe Access (SCSA) medical cannabis dispensary and UFCW negotiated the first dispensary-labor agreement in OC. The contract grants workers paid holidays, paid sick leave, employer-paid health insurance, pension retirement plan, paid vacation, grievance procedure, and livable wages. These benefits are legions ahead of what most budtenders in non-union dispensaries receive for doing the same work.

 

SCSA made history being the first unionized dispensary in Orange County. And it raised the bar for other dispensaries in the area by not only planting the seeds for growth, but it also creates competition in terms of what businesses offer better work environments.

 

The Orange County Labor Federation’s UFCW Union Local 324 represents pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy clerks. So, serving retail cannabis employees aligns well with the healthcare and pharma employees UFCW also represent. Furthermore, it adds credibility to the cannabis business to allow their workers the opportunity to learn about their rights and be repped by such a union.

 

But UFCW isn’t limited to Orange County. In fact, UCFW is one of the largest unions for dispensary employees in Southern California. In Los Angeles, the UFCW Union Local 770 represents many dispensary employees throughout LA County and the surrounding areas. Golden State Collective and UFD Apothecary in Pasadena, Melrose Herbal Collective near Huntington Park, B.E.A.C.H Center in Gardena and California Caregivers Alliance on Sunset Blvd. are some of the unionized retailers in LA.

 

What’s interesting about UFCW is the fact they’ve also taken on advocacy roles in cities, too. In Pasadena, for instance, UFCW’s helped organize efforts to sway the city council to remove the ban on cannabis. Although the ban remains in place, UFCW hasn’t stopped with public outreach in hopes to change the city regulations over time.

 

Unionizing is a fascinating trend among workers in the cannabis industry because, since the early ‘80s, unions have been in decline across America. But tapping into the canna-world could help counteract declining union memberships nationally and statewide. Union membership, according to the Cannabist, has fallen from 20.1 percent of the U.S. workforce in 1983 to 11.1 percent in 2015. The drop has been less severe in California, however. 15.9 percent of businesses had union memberships in 2015, which is down from 18.9 percent in 1989.

 

The ever-changing laws of the cannabis industry have created an overwhelming sense of chaos for those working in the cannabis industry. Thankfully, however, the MAUCRSA requires cannabis businesses with over 20 employees to enter into a “Labor Peace Agreement” with a legitimate labor group, like UFCW. But city governments have the power to alter the number of employees necessary to require a union. For instance, the Labor Peace requirement for the City of Los Angeles applies to cannabis businesses with 10 or more employees.

 

In sum, unions have become an integral part of the cannabis industry by providing workers with benefits and ultimately legitimizing cannabis workplace environments. In a time when the industry’s transitioning from an unregulated to a regulated market, the stability of a union has never been so necessary.

Cannabis and Corruption: The Financial Tragedy of Calaveras County

The rollout of legal cannabis in California has been anything but smooth. Between the complicated laws throwing the industry into a tizzy, the high application expenses to run a legitimate cannabis business and the lack of financial services, the cannabis industry in California isn’t just experiencing growing pains—it’s going through a transformation. But there’s a rural county in Northern California that’s made this chaotic time substantially messier. After passing laws in 2016 for commercial cannabis cultivation, Calaveras County Board of Supervisors reversed its decision on Jan. 10, 2018—after taking more than $5,000 from more than 700 applicants.

 

A whole new set of officials replaced the previous Board of Supervisors who put Measure C—the ordinance to regulate commercial cannabis—on the ballot. Two members of the previous board retired, and the other three didn't receive enough votes to be elected back into office. Little did residents know how badly the changing of the guard would affect the local cannabis community.

 

According to reports across news outlets, such as the SacBee, Leafly, Calaveras Enterprise and Mercury News, the current Board of Supervisors isn’t planning to return the $7.5 million acquired in registration fees to the applicants. The ordinance reversal doesn’t just effect cultivators, either. While the previous Board of Supervisors was in office, the county hired additional police and staff with the expectation of additional cannabis tax revenues.

 

Considering Calaveras County is a rural, agriculture-oriented community with a population of 45,515, this financial blow is beyond devastating. Most applicants already invested and began building-out their cultivations sites. Residents who applied aren’t only worried about what their next move is—they’re trying to figure out how to survive.

 

Calaveras resident Burch Shufeldt dropped out of school in 2006 to grow in the rural Northern California community to supply a Santa Cruz dispensary. After Measure C passed in 2016, he invested $1 million for two properties at a total of 220 acres, while the landowner financed the location, according to Leafly. Shufeldt paid $88,000 in cultivation taxes, $15,000 in fees in 2016 and 2017 for two permitted outdoor sites, with one renewal permit fee. He’s not getting any of that money back and is struggling to find ways to avoid living in poverty.

 

“[The Board of Supervisors] pulled a bait and switch,” says Jina Kim, a Santa Ana-based cannabis attorney who represents several clients in Calaveras County. “People have cumulatively spent millions of dollars on their cultivation sites. Their livelihoods are now on the line because of the Board of Supervisors’ blatant corruption.”

 

The county planning department estimated that nearly 1,600 commercial cannabis growers were operating in the region by mid-2017—most of who were already licensed by the county thanks to the voter-approved Measure C, an ordinance passed in Nov. 2016 allowing for commercial cultivation. The move to ban cannabis businesses means every grower must halt all operations by May 1.

 

 

Kim explains that families of cannabis growers live in Calaveras County. In other words, generations of cannabis cultivators have made their living from this for decades. Commercial cultivation is what tons of residents dreamed of for years. The ordinance reversal, Kim explains, makes these people criminals in the eyes of the law.

 

“These peoples are not criminals,” she contends. “They have families and work just like you and me to provide for them… What this does is create space for the black market to grow.”

 

Most longtime Calaveras resident cultivators have only grown black market cannabis because, until Jan. 1, 2018, that’s what the cannabis landscape was. Thus, it’s likely many will do that again when and if finances allow; with the hope of not getting shut down by law enforcement.

 

In the late summer of 2015, Calaveras suffered the wrath of the Butte Fire, which destroyed over 850 homes. It’s considered the most significant natural disaster in the county’s history. But it’s what lead to the county’s cultivation boom. The following spring, marijuana farms began to bloom throughout the hills and among the scorched trees, as cannabis speculators saw the charred land an opportunity to purchase cheap properties devalued by the fire.

 

Calaveras still isn’t fully recovered from the devastation. But the income commercial cannabis would have brought to the region was a means of lifting the community out of economic anguish. Nearly 2,000 cultivators are now dealing with an entirely different tragedy—one that’s affecting a significant portion of the 45,000 person population.

 

“People are moving out of Calaveras, the county is going to be in debt, and they’re going to get sued,” says Kim. “This all could’ve been avoided.”

 

 

The Virtual Relationship Between Cannabis and Cryptocurrencies

Cannabis and money have a complicated relationship. Despite the fact they’re both green in color, cannabis companies cannot work with banks because the herb is still considered federally illegal. Even in California’s new legal landscape, canna-businesses face the burden of handling gigantic sums of cash, which isn’t only frustrating to manage; it’s also a public safety issue. Think about it this way: the industry’s estimated to bring in $7 billion—in cash-- in the first year. Let that sink in for a second.

 

One way cannabis companies have dealt with the lack of banking is through cryptocurrencies, or virtual money designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure its transactions, to control the creation of additional units, and to verify the transfer of assets. Cryptocurrency also removes banks from the equation, and thus, the government. In other words, a transaction takes place solely between two people, whereas when we transfer money to someone—via Venmo, wire transfers or taking money out of an ATM—the bank is the middleman. Additionally, cryptocurrency is created and held electronically and has no restrictions on what you can purchase, unlike mainstream financial institutions. So the concept of “dirty” or “illegal” money doesn’t exist.

 

The end of 2017 saw the explosion of Bitcoin, launching the underground world of cryptocurrency into the spotlight. The value of one Bitcoin rapidly rose to $10,000 and in less than two weeks hiked to nearly $20,000, catching the attention of the media and luring millions of people to invest in the digital currency in hopes of cashing in. According to the Chicago Tribune, if you purchased $100 of Bitcoin in 2010—a time when the cryptocurrency never topped more than $1—your Bitcoins would be worth $75 million today. As of Feb. 21, 2018, one Bitcoin is valued at $10, 385.72.

 

But cryptocurrency is nothing new to cannabis-folk. Whether purchasing cannabis for self-consumption or moving the plant for business, cryptocurrency’s provided a less traceable means for marijuana transactions to occur. And Bitcoin isn’t the only type of cryptocurrency, either. In fact, there are digital-currency networks designed for the sole purpose of providing financial support to the cannabis sector—I mean, obviously, this is 2018. In no particular order, here’s a list of the seven most popular cryptocurrencies in the new age of marijuana.

 

1) PotCoin:

Launched on Jan. 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm (of course), PotCoin was ahead of the curve by anticipating the cannabis industry’s need for banking. It was created specifically for the legal marijuana industry, particularly Colorado’s canna-world. PotCoin ATM's popped up in a few Colorado dispensaries and at Denver’s 420 Festival in Civic Park. But the cryptocurrency never quite caught on.

 

That is, until, the summer of 2017. A press release and a video of NBA star Dennis Rodman wearing a potcoin.com shirt in North Korea thrust the cryptocurrency into the media spotlight again, causing the value to spike 76 percent in just one day, according to Coinmarketcap.com. Its current market cap is close to $66.7 million, a considerable increase from $81,547 in February 2014. It currently sits at #200 in market cap ranking for crypto.

 

2) Ethereum:

Ethereum is the second most popular platform in the crypto community. It's thus considered Bitcoin’s main rival. Ethereum, however, was created as a “world computer” super-network for the decentralized development of apps, which would (in theory) do away with third-party companies like Google and Apple. To compare to Bitcoin, which eliminates banks (the middleman) from the transaction process, Ethereum eliminates companies (the middle man), like Google and Apple, from the equation. So, Google and Apple are to Ethereum what banks are to Bitcoin.

 

 With Ethereum, thousands of "nodes" run by volunteers from across the globe (thus where the idea of a "world computer" comes in) replace servers and clouds. The vision is that Ethereum would enable people to compete to offer services on top of this infrastructure. For example, scrolling through a typical app store, you’ll find a plethora of downloadable applications. These apps rely on a company (or another third-party service) to store credit card information, purchase history, and other personal data.

 

Third parties also govern the apps presented to you. Apple and Google curate—and, apparently, sometimes censor—which apps you're able to download. In theory, Ethereum combines the control people had over their information in the past with the easy-to-access information we have in the digital age.

 

Knowing that net neutrality is potentially coming down the pipeline, being a part of Ethereum seems like a smart idea. Additionally, most cannabis apps are shunned by both Google and Apple—except Weedmaps, oddly. In Ethereum, cannabis apps are fair play.

 

3) CannabisCoin:

CannabisCoin is another currency that came into existence in 2014, just a few months after Potcoin. CannabisCoin is a proof-of-work, peer-to-peer open source currency, and like Potcoin, was aimed at making transactions for medical marijuana dispensaries easier. Although each coin isn’t nearly as valuable as, say, Potcoin or Bitcoin, what’s interesting about CannabisCoin is what a token yields. Instead of cashing out your coins for money, CannabisCoin converts its currency directly into marijuana. Under the name “CANNdy” there’s a line of medicines and marijuana strains specifically grown to exchange at the rate of one CannabisCoin to one gram of medication. There are 91.8 million CannabisCoins with over 77 million in circulation. The currency has a market cap of $25.8 million.

 

4) HempCoin:

This is another cryptocurrency that came into existence in 2014. But instead of focusing on individuals utilizing it to purchase flower and other canna-products, HempCoin is designed for the farming industry and medical/recreational dispensaries. HempCoin's website claims that the currency can be used to "facilitate transactions between marijuana farmers and the local dispensary shops," and purchasing gear and tools used for farming marijuana.

 

What’s perhaps the most interesting about HempCoin is it’s used in all areas of agriculture—not just the cultivation and retail sectors of the cannabis supply chain. As of Jan. 2018, HempCoin’s priced at 0.55USD, a market cap of more than $127 million. Of all the cryptocurrencies, it’s the 148th largest.

 

5) Ripple:

Ripple is known for its digital payment protocol rather than its cryptocurrency. Ripple operates on an open source and decentralized peer-to-peer platform, allowing for the seamless transfer of money in any form: USD, Yen, Litecoin, Bitcoin, etc. It’s easy to see how Ripple can benefit the cannabis industry, given the fact you can transact with any currency. Money sent on the Ripple network is converted into an XRP token on one end and then back into the currency of choice at the other end.

 

According to numerous forums on Reddit, Ripple is one of the more popular cryptos in Canada. Hydroponic stores across the northern border are now accepting Ripple as a form of currency to purchase lights and grow tents. In other words, cultivators are using Ripple to buy grow lights. As of 2018, Ripple’s overall value is around $52 billion

 

 

6) Litecoin:

Litecoin is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that's earned the nickname of "Bitcoin’s little brother.” the most notable differences are Litecoin’s much faster transaction speeds, and 84 million token limit.

 

But Litecoin works similarly to Bitcoin. You use a wallet to store, manage and send coins (or payment) to anyone around the world—as long as they also have a Litecoin wallet. It’s entirely anonymous, ultimately preventing banks or anyone who might be watching from knowing how or where you're spending money.

 

As of 2017, there are seed banks that urge customers to purchase with Litecoin because it’s more secure for both parties. As an incentive, they’re willing to give customers 20 percent off their purchase if they use the cryptocurrency.

 

Litecoin was touted in 2011 as the “silver” to Bitcoin’s “gold” and at the time was the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap. Today, Litecoin’s market cap stands at just over $10 billion.

 

7) Bitcoin:

Last, but certainly not least, is Bitcoin: the cryptocurrency darling. As stated in the intro, Bitcoin is the reason cryptocurrency is even on the radar. Released in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, an anonymous figure no one knows—even to this day to this day his identity remains unknown, the currency is the essence of secretive. In fact, it’s given new life to the term because it not only removes banks from the transaction equation, it also eliminates paper trails.

 

Although started by "Nakamoto," Bitcoin isn’t owned by a single entity or person, unlike mainstream financial institutions. Instead, Bitcoin is maintained by a group of volunteer coders, and run by an open network of dedicated computers spread around the world. This is what attracts individuals and groups to use the currency: it erases the unease people have with the control banks or government institutions have over their money.

 

Bitcoin has the most significant market cap to date around $10billion, overshadowing all other cryptocurrencies combined.

 

 

Who Is The Department Of Cannabis Regulation?

With nearly 80 percent approval, residents in the City of Los Angeles voted massively in favor of Proposition M; a new ordinance that not only regulates cannabis, but also replaces the city’s previous attempt at regulation, Proposition D. The new city-regs give the Los Angeles Mayor and City Council total oversight of commercial cannabis. While Prop. D created a confusing legal landscape in LA, Prop. M aims to rectify the previous ordinance—hopefully the second time’s the charm. Here’s what you need to know about Los Angeles’ new legal terrain.

 

The City of Los Angeles has a new legislative body:

This new division is called the Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR), and their roll is to license and regulate legal cannabis businesses in the area. The DCR is also responsible for administering the Rules and Regulations adopted by the Council for licensed commercial cannabis businesses within the City of Los Angeles. The DCR administers the business application process in conjunction with the Cannabis Regulation Commission, makes determinations related to non-retail cannabis licensing, administers and coordinates the audit and inspection processes for licensed cannabis-related businesses, and enforcing regulatory compliance of licensed businesses engaged in commercial cannabis activity.

 

The DCR is lead by a woman:

Cat Parker is the woman Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed as Executive Director of the DCR. Prior to joining the City of Los Angeles, Packer served as California Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she worked to ensure the successful and equitable implementation of various cannabis policy reforms.

 

Who is the Cannabis Regulation Commission?:

The DCR also makes decisions with the Cannabis Regulation Commission (CRC), a regulatory body that consists of: Robert Ahn, Victor Narro, Philip D. Mercado, Rita Villa and Misty Wilks. The DCR and the CRC will host public hearings in regards to their roll in the city and compliance in the City of Los Angeles.

 

If you live in LA, stay up to date with the DCR

 Their website has a wealth of information. They have a list of all the current licensed dispensaries—there are 98 of them, to be exact. They have a checklist of tips explaining how you can tell if a dispensary is legal or not (for instance, a temporary approval or license must be prominently displayed at the business premises, and it is appropriate as patient or customer to ask to see it!). They will also continue to update the list of legal dispensaries in the area and post when they will host public hearings. Here is the DCR’s email: cannabis@lacity.org . Don’t be afraid to reach out.

 

Stay safe as a consumer and know what to look out for:

There are things you can do as a consumer of cannabis to not only help the new legal market move along, but also keep yourself out of trouble with the law (we’re officially in raid season!).

·         The first thing to look for, like we stated above, is a prominent display of temporary approval or license.

·         The second is a prominent display of neighborhood liaison. Business must identify and assign an employee as the official “neighborhood liaison” to receive and address complaints 24-hours a day. The name, contact number and email address of the neighborhood liaison must be prominently displayed at the business premises in a manner that makes it readable from the exterior of the business.

·         In terms of the hours of operation: retailers may only sell and deliver cannabis goods between the hours of 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time and 10:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

·         A retailer can’t sell more than the following amounts to a single adult-use cannabis customer in a single day:

o   28.5 grams of non-concentrated cannabis

o   8 grams of concentrated cannabis, including concentrated cannabis contained in cannabis products

o   6 immature cannabis plants

·         A retailer cannot sell more than the following amounts to a single medicinal cannabis patient, or to a patient’s primary caregiver purchasing medicinal cannabis on behalf of the patient, in a single day:

o   8 ounces of medicinal cannabis

o   12 immature cannabis plants

·         A medicinal cannabis customer may purchase an amount of medicinal cannabis consistent with the patient's needs as recommended and evidenced by a valid physician’s recommendation.

·         The following activities are prohibited at the business premises of a legal cannabis business:

    • The Sale of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Products
    • The Consumption of Cannabis and Alcohol
    • The Issuance of Physician Recommendations or Approvals
    • Free Samples

 

The DCR has begun accepting applications for Proposition M priority processing:

If you’re trying to become a legal cannabis business in LA, get your applications in now. If you do, your application will have priority. The last day to get the application in to the city for priority consideration is March 4, 2018. You can download the application form here.

 

 

The DCR will process applications for commercial cannabis activity in 3 phases:

In order to transition current operators to a regulated market, the DCR will issue temporary approval licenses to qualified applicants. Temporary approvals will give qualified applicants “local authorization,” allowing qualified applicants to continue to operate with limited-immunity until the applicant receives final approval or denial of a license, and has exhausted all administrative appeals. For more information about DCR’s application and licensing process please review Los Angeles’ Cannabis Ordinances.

 

Phase One:

  • DCR will accept and process applications for “Proposition M Priority Processing” as described in Section 104.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code. Priority processing will start at the discretion of DCR and end 60 days after it begins.
  • DCR will process applications for applicants seeking to engage in Testing.

 

Phase Two:

·         DCR will accept and process applications for “Non-Retailer Commercial Cannabis Activity Prior to January 1, 2016 Processing” as described in Section 104.08 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code“Non-Retail Commercial Cannabis Activity Prior to January 1, 2016 Processing” will start at the discretion of DCR and end on April 1, 2018.

 

Phase Three:

·         DCR will accept and process applications for Commercial Cannabis Activity for the general public