annabis Equity Applicants Still Face Barriers

The image has become familiar: presented by floor-to-ceiling shiny windows and a smiling, iPad-holding greeter, dispensaries in California look far more like an Apple Store than the smelly back alleys and strip mall parking lots where we used to buy our weed.

No longer the “devils lettuce,” cannabis is now a feature of “wellness,” and “plant medicine.” If Don Draper were real and working today, he’d certainly be pushing pot.

However, as more money has flowed into the recreational cannabis sector, the industry has predictably presented the same kind of bias found across the business world. Legal weed is overwhelmingly white — with white owners making up 80-90 percent of cannabis business owners nationwide. San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program was supposed to address exactly that problem by uplifting the mostly Black and brown communities hardest hit by the War on Drugs.

Shawn M. Richards is an equity program success story. By fall of 2019, the sterile-looking marijuana dispensaries emblematic of legal weed had not yet materialized in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, San Francisco’s hub of pot-smoking hippiedom. Known for illicit sales of herb and psychedelics, Richards once ran his own hustle here; he was selling drugs at 12 years old on the streets of the Haight. Now, he owns a dispensary three blocks from where he grew up — a hip, music-blasting, bright blue storefront called Berner’s on Haight.

Richards thought he would be the first in a long succession of similar businesses. However, two-and-a-half years since the program’s inception, his is still one of only three equity dispensaries to open in the city. As of December 2019, 133 equity storefronts were “in queue” for permits by the city, though obtaining a permit is only one item in a long list of hurdles equity partners must overcome before they can open their store. A total of 277 applications are being reviewed by the city, including those for delivery, manufacturing, and distribution.

So, what’s the hold up? The problem boils down to money and access to information. The equity program, which pledges to “foster equitable participation in the cannabis industry and create business opportunities for those negatively impacted by the War on Drugs,” gives qualified applicants a pass on their introductory $5,000 permit as well as access to industry incubators and technical assistance. However, most equity applicants cannot cover startup costs on their own, and many are still discouraged by a long, bureaucratic process they don’t always have the institutional know-how to tackle.

“There’s been a lot of people who have been getting rich, and getting paid, benefiting off the backs of people like myself that have been affected by the War on Drugs,” says Richards.

Richards believes that the arduous process makes it easy for his peers to get taken advantage of — especially when it comes to finding an investor partner to cover costs. “They’re preying on equity applicants, trying to give them a lump sum pay, or pay them monthly,” he says. San Francisco currently only allows equity partners to apply for a cannabis permit to give equity applicants a well-deserved advantage. However, this policy also encourages San Francisco vulture investors to find equity applicants they can partner with in name, but ultimately exclude from business operations and long-term financial profits.

Amber Senter is an Oakland-based cannabis activist and entrepreneur who is also concerned about these investors. “You could easily have a straw man as your equity partner,” Senter says. She says these cases are frequent and easy to identify, because oftentimes vulture investors all flock to the same vulnerable candidate. “You’ve got equity applicants who are on 12 different applications,” she says.

Even without the threat of vulture investors, the process applicants must navigate is complex, and full of fire, police, and safety inspections, piles of permitting paperwork, and several layers of review by bodies including the Office of Cannabis, City Planning, and the Cannabis Oversight Committee. It took Richards nearly three years to complete, and city requirements included that he have ownership of his retail space the entire time. If his store had ultimately not passed the approval process, he said his team would have lost over $200,000 on rent alone.

After making it through the legal gauntlet of opening his dispensary, Richards and eight others founded a coalition of professionals called the San Francisco Equity Group to help future equity partners navigate the process.

To qualify for San Francisco’s program, an equity applicant must have below a certain threshold of household assets. For example, a family of two must have less than $73,800 in savings, checking, or investment accounts. This makes sense — after all, social equity programs like San Francisco’s are meant to give disadvantaged business owners a leg-up. But because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 substance at the federal level, most cannabis businesses don’t have access to banking, nor can they write-off many business expenses on their yearly taxes. Add that to the fact that startup costs to open a marijuana dispensary in San Francisco range from $1.5 million to $3 million, and equity applicants are essentially forced to partner with someone who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for the equity program.

In Richards’ case, he insists that Cookies and their famous CEO, Wiz Khalifa-signed rapper Berner, sat down and entered a fully amicable 50-50 partnership. But other applicants aren’t so lucky.

“More education needs to be out there,” says Cindy De La Vega, who has been working on opening her own store since 2017. After years of setbacks, her store, a partnership with the massive vaping company Stiiizy, will likely open in the next two months. Like Richards, she says this brand partnership was amicable — in fact, she says the partnership with Stiiizy encourages her to succeed because they have Women of Color in many decision-making roles.

De La Vega grew up in the Sunnydale Housing Projects, and says that jargon-filled, bureaucratic processes such as this simply don’t suit people from her community. She is a board member for the San Francisco Equity Group with Richards, and says that, without their support, she likely would have given up on opening a store by now. “You gotta start with where we are from,” she says. This process, she says, “is built for failure, not for success.”

The city’s Office of Cannabis also faces its own budget problems. Applicants face long response times when working with the San Francisco Office of Cannabis, and while the Office of Cannabis has grown from a staff of four to a staff of five in the last year, that’s still not nearly enough people to comb through hundreds of pages of application paperwork. Long wait times can make the process more expensive and thus more discouraging for equity applicants, who are least likely to have funds to burn. “As an individual, you have to stay more active, and more involved,” says Richards. “They want you to bug them so they don’t forget about you.”

However, Richards also adamantly argues that the Office of Cannabis seems to have applicants’ best interests in mind. “They have really been pushing hard and trying to make sure they process all the applications with a limited staff. So you have to give them a clap on the back for that,” he says.

Met with the worsening city-wide financial crisis after COVID-19, it will be difficult for city officials to find the funds to further develop San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program. The city faces a $1.5 billion budget deficit, and, ironically, experts have noted that $831 million is going to pay for the police and sheriff’s departments, alone — the biggest chunk for any one department. While Mayor Breed’s budget proposal last year included the Office of Cannabis in a city-wide hiring increase, funds allocated to uplifting marginalized communities are far outweighed by that spent on public safety initiatives.

De La Vega, who still lives near the housing projects where she grew up, emphasizes that future improvements to the equity program will only help disadvantaged communities like hers. In fact, opening a store under San Francisco’s Equity Program, though it has been difficult, gives her a sense of pride. “It feels so good to know we’re trying, and we have been, doing good for our communities,” she says. “We’re doing all of this for our communities.”

Study: Nearly Thirty Percent of Women Report Having Used Cannabis for Menopause Symptoms

Nearly three-in-ten women have either used or are currently using cannabis to manage menopause symptoms, according to data to be presented at the annual meeting of The North American Menopause Society.

A team of investigators affiliated with the San Francisco VA Medical Center examined patterns of self-reported cannabis use for menopause symptoms in a sample of 232 female veterans (mean age 56 years).

They reported: “Current or ever use of cannabis for menopause symptom management was reported by 27 percent of all participants, while an additional 10 percent expressed interest in future use. In contrast, only 19 percent reported traditional forms of menopause symptom management, including menopausal hormone therapy.”

Cannabis use was most commonly reported among women experiencing hot flashes and night sweats. Some respondents also complained of experiencing insomnia.

Commenting on the study, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “While the therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans is not altogether uncommon, this study is among the first to highlight veterans’ use of marijuana for this particular condition. Given cannabis’ relatively high rate of use among the women in this cohort, scientists and others would be well-advised to further explore its safety, efficacy, and prevalence among women experiencing menopause.”

Authors of the study concluded: “Use of cannabis for menopause symptom management was common in this sample midlife women veterans in Northern California [where marijuana use is legal.] … These findings … highlight the importance of understanding the potential risks, benefits, and effectiveness of cannabis for this indication.”

An abstract of the study, “Cannabis use for menopause symptom management among midlife women veterans,” is available from The North American Menopause Society here. Additional information on cannabis use and veterans is available from the NORML fact sheet here.

Largest California Wildfire Threatens Marijuana-Growing Area

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s largest wildfire is threatening a marijuana-growing enclave, and authorities said many of the locals have refused to evacuate and abandon their maturing crops even as weather forecasters predict more hot, dry and windy conditions that could fan flames.

The wildfire called the August Complex is nearing the small communities of Post Mountain and Trinity Pines, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) northwest of Sacramento, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Law enforcement officers went door to door warning of the encroaching fire danger but could not force residents to evacuate, Trinity County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Nate Trujillo said.

“It’s mainly growers,” Trujillo said. “And a lot of them, they don’t want to leave because that is their livelihood.”

As many as 1,000 people remained in Post Mountain and Trinity Pines, authorities and local residents estimated Thursday.

Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger U.S. wildfires to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, especially because climate change has made California much drier.

A drier California means plants are more flammable.

The threatened marijuana growing area is in the Emerald Triangle, a three-county corner of Northern California that by some estimates is the nation’s largest cannabis-producing region.

People familiar with Trinity Pines said the community has up to 40 legal farms, with more than 10 times that number in hidden, illegal growing areas.

Growers are wary of leaving the plants vulnerable to flames or thieves. Each farm has crops worth half a million dollars or more and many are within days or weeks of harvest.

One estimate put the value of the area’s legal marijuana crop at about $20 million.

“There (are) millions of dollars, millions and millions of dollars of marijuana out there,” Trujillo said. “Some of those plants are 16 feet (5 meters) tall, and they are all in the budding stages of growth right now.”

Gunfire in the region is common. A recent night brought what locals dubbed the “roll call” of cannabis cultivators shooting rounds from pistols and automatic weapons as warnings to outsiders, said Post Mountain volunteer Fire Chief Astrid Dobo, who also manages legal cannabis farms.

Mike McMillan, spokesman for the federal incident command team managing the northern section of the August Complex, said fire officials plan to deliver a clear message that “we are not going to die to save people. That is not our job.”

“We are going to knock door to door and tell them once again,” McMillan said. “However, if they choose to stay and if the fire situation becomes, as we say, very dynamic and very dangerous … we are not going to risk our lives.”

Efforts to extinguish more than two dozen major wildfires across California have benefitted recently from low winds and normal temperatures along with and moist air flowing inland from the Pacific. But forecasters said that weather pattern will reverse during the weekend as a ridge of high pressure boosts temperatures and generates gusty winds flowing from the interior to the coast.

In northern and central areas of the state the strongest winds were forecast to occur from Saturday night into Sunday morning, followed by another burst Sunday night into Monday.

The Pacific Gas & Electric utility was tracking the forecasts to determine if it would be necessary to shut off power to areas where gusts could damage the company’s equipment or hurl debris into lines that can ignite flammable vegetation.

The utility posted a power cut “watch alert” for Saturday evening through Monday morning. If the shutoff happens, about 21,000 customers in portions of northern Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties would lose power, PG&E said.

When heavy winds were predicted earlier this month, PG&E cut power to about 167,000 homes and businesses in central and northern California in a more targeted approach after being criticized last year for acting too broadly when it blacked out 2 million customers to prevent fires.

PG&E equipment has sparked past large wildfires, including the 2018 fire that destroyed much of the Sierra foothills town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

In Southern California, meteorologists anticipate very hot and dry weather conditions with weak to locally moderate Santa Ana winds on Monday.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

California Wildfires Continue to Ravage State Agriculture, Including Cannabis Farms

California Wildfires Continue to Ravage State Agriculture, Including Cannabis Farms

 

Since mid-August, wildfires have burned through more than 1 million acres of California land. It’s another echo of a recurring environmental catastrophe in a state that more than 5,000 licensed cannabis growers call home.

california wildfire cannabis

Ivan Redus
The firebreaks on the Sweet Creek property helped soften the impact of the Lnu Lightning Complex fires.

For Keala Peterson, whose family runs a farmstead in the hills above Santa Rosa, the Lnu Lightning Complex fires have brought swift devastation to her property, Sweet Creek Farm. When we spoke with her on Aug. 25, she said that some 95% of the property had been torched by the fast-moving fires.

At Sweet Creek, Peterson’s family had been growing Hawaiian sativa cultivars and other hybrids (among their many vegetable crops, as well). The cannabis buds hadn’t set when we spoke with Peterson, and she was hopeful that perhaps the smoke and ash of the blaze hadn’t settled on the flowers themselves. “We’re not holding our breath, but that’s a little bit of a silver lining,” she said.

On Aug. 19, Peterson was in Santa Rosa, where she lives with her husband, paying close attention to what was happening up on the ridgelines.

“I was watching the camera that faces kind of directly over the property, and I saw this glowing fire wall,” she said. “It was unbelievable.” She spoke with her mother, who was already packing the bags, and decided to head up the mountain to meet her family.

The property was pretty well safeguarded against certain kinds of fire. Peterson’s father is a retired firefighter and a vocal proponent of good fire safety practices. By nightfall, the scope of the wildfire in the hills was clear.

“We could clearly see the fire coming over the ridgeline and torching 30-ft. pine trees in a flash,” she said. “You could hear the sound of the fire. It creates its own kind of weather, and it sounded like a freight train roaring.”

It seemed like it was going to crash across the farm any second.

Peterson and her family are safe. But she said that they know all too well how pervasive this threat has become in California.

“Historically,” she said, “cannabis culture has always been up in the hills, and now, with a multitude of factors, the wildfires are really putting the whole culture in jeopardy.”

This is a long-term crisis—not only for cannabis growers, of course, but for people and businesses alike. For those cultivating cannabis in wildfire-prone hills of California, however, the concern is acute.

Peterson offered three tips for growers hoping to guard against the oppressive force of wildfire.

Create a defensible space.

This is something that Peterson’s father has constantly discussed on the farmstead. Create firebreaks around your property: gaps in vegetation that force the fire to slow down and settle before advancing into more fields of fuel. “Creating that defensible space is super important,” Peterson said.

In 2017, Sweet Creek was caught in the path of the Tubbs Fire, a very destructive wide-driven wildfire. There’s little to be done about a wildfire moving that fast, Peterson said. But the Lnu Lighting Complex fires

“In this one, it’s a classic kind of wild land fire, where it just creeps and spot fires happen,” she said. “If you create that defensible space around your garden or your home, then it’s more likely that the first responders will be able to actually save your home.”

california wildfire sweet creek farm

Ivan Redus

Rake back your hay.

At Sweet Creek, some of the farmstead’s hay caught fire, which is what led to the burning across the cannabis plants.

“In the future, if we knew a fire was coming in the area, I would do like a prep and I would rake back all my hay and create more defensible space just on the ground like that,” Peterson said. It’s one of those easily overlooked components of a farm’s landscape, but it’s also one that can have a huge impact on how a fire takes to the property.

Bury your infrastructure.

This is important for the days and weeks and months after a fire. “Bury your infrastructure, bury your PVC,” Peterson said “Don’t have it on the ground, because it’s all going to burn. And once you rebuild for the next year, that’s going to create that much more of a challenge instead of just replanting. Then you have hard infrastructure to deal with.”

Even the apparent soft infrastructure, like Sweet Creek’s Hügel hole, is something that Peterson pointed to for wildfire defense.

“There’s a lot of sustainable practices that cannabis farmers use, and one of them is a Hügel hole—like Hügelkultur, which is building wood and natural leaves and stuff over it,” she said. “It’s like a compost pile, sort of, and then you plant on top of that, and our Hügel hole was not buried. So, that was a huge source of heat. It was pretty much like a burn pile.”

As of Sept. 2, more than two weeks since the blaze began, the Lnu Lightning Complex fires are 74% contained, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The remaining structures on our property are now safe, and the danger has passed,” she said, “but in our area—it’s pretty remote—and there are a lot of ridgelines and valleys that the fire is burning in and around, so it’s not safe to go back in yet.”

The Flipside: Positive Effects of Recreational Marijuana

 

 

In the past, Marijuana had such a negative connotation attached to it. It is often depicted as something terrible and should be avoided. It is the most often used illegal substance in the U.S., But as of date, many states are already legalizing the use of Marijuana for recreational and medical purposes.

Marijuana, also known as weed or cannabis is a psychoactive drug derived from the hemp plant. It’s legalization was surrounded with so much controversy and debate because both the judiciary and law enforcement have mixed ideas about it’s legality and effect on the general public.

If you want to try consuming Marijuana for recreational purposes and find out its benefits, you have come to the right place. We have listed below several proven benefits of cannabis use.

Cannabis can Help You Communicate Better

It is a proven fact that Marijuana can help you open up and socialize. It can help you reveal your thoughts and express yourself easier. The fact that you can easily exchange your ideas and socialize is a plus factor to those socially awkward individuals. For all your recreational needs, Hemper has got that covered. Check out their website and enjoy its wide array of recreational equipment.

Heightens Your Senses

Researchers and physicians have been conducting studies and tests on the effects of cannabis use throughout the years. A study conducted in 2014 confirmed that THC, the main cannabinoid caused marijuana users to have heightened senses.

THC achieves this by interacting with specific receptors in your brain. Areas of your brain, such as the olfactory bulb, which is in charge of your sense of smell, tend to bind with THC receptors to heighten your smell perception of your surroundings. As an effect the consumer will see brighter colors, hear louder sounds, and have richer taste buds.

Unlocks Your Creativity

Some users often state that they feel more energetic, artistic, and creative when consuming cannabis. Researchers have confirmed that cannabis use increases the cerebral blood flow of the brain’s frontal lobe. This trigger’s creative output by activating the brain’s nucleus accumbens, which is related to increased creativity.

Helps Relieve Stress and Anxiety

As a general rule, it is essential to have stress-reducing measures in our day to day lives. Not having these said stress relievers will deprive one’s peace of mind, ability to function, and eventually lead to depression. It is a proven fact that cannabis use can help you deal with stress.

It is said that marijuana use can induce a feeling of lightheartedness and a sensation of being carefree. Though we are just merely scratching the surface when it comes to exploring the benefits of this drug. Experts say that micro-dosing or taking Marijuana in low doses is a good way to go when trying to relieve stress as it lessens the feeling of being too high.

Relieves Chronic Pain

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical compounds called cannabinoids that are linked to the relief of chronic pain. This is practically the reason why medical Marijuana is prescribed to patients who suffer from illnesses that produce chronic pain.

Helps the Fight Against Cancer

Recent researches have found that one of the most significant benefits of cannabis consumption is in the fight against cancer. Several studies were conducted, and it was found that Marijuana can slow and stop the spread of cancer cells.

Aids in Controlling ADHD/ADD

Patients with ADHD and ADD tend to have problems with cognitive performance and concentration. They often cannot concentrate and focus on the tasks given to them. Cannabis use has shown a lot of promise in helping patients with ADHD and ADD maintain focus on tasks given to them.

Slows Down Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that leads to trembling and stiffness. People with Parkinson’s also have difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination.

It was found out that the THC in Marijuana controls the seizures and spasm caused by Parkinson’s disease by binding the brain cells responsible for excitability and regulates relaxation, thus controlling the tremors. Cannabis also promotes sleep in Parkinson’s patients.

Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Takeaway

With all of these benefits, it is a mystery as to why Marijuana is still illegal in some states and in some countries. We can just hope that in the near future, concrete evidence will be found that will finally prove that cannabis use in regulation is beneficial to the world’s population.

After all the benefits listed above, it is vital to consume Marijuana in regulation. It is important to remember that anything and everything in excess is also harmful. Cannabis users must educate themselves. Do your research and remember to inhale the good and exhale the bad.

Here Are the California Cannabis Bills That Survived COVID-19 Delays

Greenstop launches its cannabis vending machine in California dispensaries

GreenSTOP

 

Cannabis is now available from vending machines in select California dispensaries. Made by California-based Greenstop, the self-serve kiosks can simultaneously serve four customers while still conforming to local regulations. And they couldn’t come at a better time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis is considered an essential business in California, and the system provides dispensaries with a solution to keep customers and sales associates safe. Plus, as an introvert myself, sometimes I’m not in the mood to talk to a budtender, and I want to get in and out with my weed. The transaction can happen in seconds, Greenstop’s executives tell TechCrunch.

Greenstop calls it the Smart Dispensary, and thinks of these kiosks as the self-service checkout lane at a grocery store. In this case, a clerk, or a budtender, oversees the operation by granting access after checking IDs and assisting customers when needed. By having this clerk as part of the process, dispensaries conform to regulations and can employ these kiosks as part of their operation.

Greenstop was founded and bootstrapped by Timothy Island and James Edwards in 2015; they launched their prototype in 2018. Now, in September of 2020, the company is launching its product, employs 10 people and is looking to raise $5 million to expand the company first in Los Angeles, then throughout California and, finally, expanding nationwide.

The Smart Dispensary units are located in two locations at launch: Marina Caregivers in Marina Del Rey, California, and The Healing Touch, in Encino, California. Because each kiosk serves four people, adding one kiosk to a small dispensary can increase sales capacity without hiring a new budtender.

 

Initially, the Greenstop machines were designed with just speed in mind. Get in and out with weed as fast as a person could buy a six-pack. Co-CEO Timothy Island tells TechCrunch that after developing the machine, the company discovered other benefits.

“[With] the self-service experience, it feels like you’re in the driver’s seat when you’re shopping,” Island said.

The Greenstop machine features a fully interactive display, allowing the dispensary to upload its entire menu with rich media. Consumers can take their time and read information about strains and types of cannabis. And for the first time, this information is available at a dispensary without talking to someone.

Second, the kiosk provides a contact-free shopping experience. The company fitted temporary plexiglass shields to help increase social distancing during the pandemic.

Co-CEOs Island and Edwards say in the future, the company expects to launch a mobile app, allowing customers to research and pre-purchase orders from a mobile device.

Currently, Greenstop is co-branding the machine along with the dispensaries. By featuring both brands, consumers gain confidence in its legitimacy while Greenstop gains increased brand awareness.

The company expects to grow first in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Eventually, they hope to be in dispensaries throughout California and nationwide. The co-CEOs explain that because the company is not operating as a dispensary, but rather as the maker of a retail product, it can move more quickly into other states.

Co-CEO James Edwards said their product is gaining increased attention due to COVID-19. “A lot of people see the need not to have to talk to a budtender because, nationwide, you have to talk to a budtender to buy cannabis.”

He’s right. In some dispensaries, this causes large lines, and space is a premium with social distancing restrictions.

COVID-19 is presenting Greenstop with a unique opportunity. Cannabis is booming during the pandemic. Social distancing is becoming the social requirement, and Greenstop’s product is built and ready to be deployed to make 2020 suck a little bit less.