The series of wildfires ravaging Northern California have inflicted major damage on several marijuana farms, with possibly more outdoor grow operations threatened in the region.

“There are a ton of farms that are located in the fire’s path. No one’s out of the woods yet. This is just starting,” said Keala Peterson, whose small, family-run cannabis operation, Sweet Creek Farms in Sonoma County, was damaged by the fires.

Peterson noted that many of the largest fire complexes were either not contained at all or only slightly contained by firefighters, a situation that exposes cannabis farmers to significant financial losses because the outdoor crops aren’t necessarily insured.

Peterson said Sweet Creek Farms lost about four-fifths of its marijuana crop to the fire on Wednesday but noted that firefighters were able to save part of her family compound.

 

“It looks like a wasteland,” she said. “Pretty much, it’s a total loss.”

 

Peterson said her cannabis crop isn’t insured, and she estimated her family will likely absorb about $150,000 in losses, perhaps more, if they aren’t able to salvage the unburned marijuana that has yet to fully flower.

“We’re guardedly optimistic that those (unburned marijuana plants) could come to term, but with smoke damage, if the bud has set enough, it’ll just be smoky marijuana, and nobody wants to smoke that,” Peterson said.

Still, she’s not too worried about the future of Sweet Creek because her family has a diversified income and doesn’t rely solely on cannabis.

The fires, many caused by lightning and sometimes pushed by strong winds, have burned hundreds of thousands of acres as they chewed through brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest surrounding San Francisco. Fires also burned in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California wild lands.

Another Sonoma County cannabis farmer replied to a call for comment with a text message that said, “I’m evacuating. Sorry I can’t talk now.”

Santa Cruz operations threatened

To the south of San Francisco, in Santa Cruz County, longtime medical cannabis nonprofit WAMM Phytotherapies also likely lost a farm, said founder Valerie Corral. But she’s not even certain of the farm’s status because she had to evacuate Tuesday night.

“We just found out that probably everything burned” at WAMM’s farm in northern Santa Cruz County, she said, adding that a second farm, in southern Santa Cruz, was still untouched.

“It’s pretty awful here in Santa Cruz,” Corral said. “I have to be thankful that no one’s life has been lost.”

The WAMM farm was also uninsured, but Corral said she and her organization have been through worse and they’ll get back on their feet, one way or another.

Yet another series of fires in Yolo County, directly west of Sacramento, is threatening Preferred Gardens, said owner David Polley.

He said Thursday he’ll have to deal with smoke damage to at least 2,000 of his 12,000 plants, which he said might have to be destroyed.

What he’s worried about is the possibility of the winds shifting and that the fires might turn and begin heading south toward his farm.

“If this fire doesn’t get under wraps, then everything is going to go down,” Polley said. ” We’re just going to pray that doesn’t happen.”

If it does, Polley said, it could put his losses in the millions of dollars and potentially put him out of business.

But Polley, like others in the industry, remains stubbornly optimistic, and he pointed out that he’s been in the industry for 15 years.

“I’ve been through all different kinds of hell,” he said. “This is just another day.”

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report

New programs providing seed money for marijuana startups are popping up around the country. Could Bend follow?

New programs in Portland, and other progressive cities across the U.S., offer grants and loans to new cannabis businesses owned by people of color. Historically, arrests and convictions for pot-related crimes have disproportionally affected BIPOC communities.

Some believe investing in Black-owned cannabis business is one way to right the wrongs of decades of discrimination and incarceration for marijuana offenses. Without innovative programs to support undercapitalized entrants into the industry, wealthy people—largely white—will see most of the profits from legalization, the thinking goes. Further, right now most money from pot taxes goes to police departments.

Although their useage rates are similar, Black Americans have been arrested for cannabis offenses nearly four times the rate of white Americans. - PEXELS

  • Pexels
  • Although their useage rates are similar, Black Americans have been arrested for cannabis offenses nearly four times the rate of white Americans.

 

Marijuana taxes fund police

 

As the movement to “defund the police” sweeps the country, some Oregonians are looking more closely at the enormous budgets of state and local law enforcement agencies. Last year, out of the more than $100 million the State brought in from marijuana taxes, it spent more than $30 million on the Oregon State Police. On top of that, it redirected 10% of the funds back to counties for enforcement: Deschutes County received $400,000 from pot taxes last year.

In Bend, the City collected $700,000 in 2019 from an additional 3% tax it charges on top of the state tax which goes straight into the City’s General Fund, whose primary beneficiary is… you guessed it… cops.

One of the most problematic aspects of drug policing historically is that it has often disproportionally targeted communities of color. On a national level, despite marijuana usage rates between whites and non-whites being similar, Black Americans are arrested for cannabis offenses at a rate of nearly four-to-one compared to whites, according to a 2020 report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Oregon is one of the only states that expunged the criminal records of those convicted of marijuana-only crimes. But despite the progress of legalization after 2015, minority communities in Oregon often have little means to start up their own dispensaries or cannabis growing operations.

A 2019 study revealed that in Oregon, marijuana stores are located disproportionally in disadvantaged neighborhoods but, less than 2% of all pot shops are owned by minorities. The same communities that were punished by the criminal justice system before marijuana was legalized now lack capital to benefit from the $725 million (Oregon, 2019) industry.

 

Racial justice provisions

 

The City of Portland is beginning to deliver on some of the racial justice provisions that were promised with the legalization of marijuana back in 2015. Just two months ago, the Portland City Council moved $27 million that was earmarked for the Portland Police Bureau and instead will invest it in restorative justice initiatives.

In 2019, Portland began a cannabis equity program—inspired by those in San Francisco and Oakland—which provides financial and technical assistance to people from communities with high levels of poverty or a history of drug arrests. Portland allocated nearly $500,000 to non-cannabis related business through this program last year, and $210,000 for marijuana businesses.

The City of Bend may bring in close to $1 million in marijuana tax revenues in 2020. Helping minority-owned startups could bring the industry some needed diversity and distribute the benefits more evenly among different communities. - ADOBE STOCK

  • Adobe Stock
  • The City of Bend may bring in close to $1 million in marijuana tax revenues in 2020. Helping minority-owned startups could bring the industry some needed diversity and distribute the benefits more evenly among different communities.

The money is granted through the NuLeaf Project, launched in 2018 to invest in and support business owners of color in the cannabis industry. Besides the grant program, NuLeaf provides mentoring, networking and educational programs to encourage more participation from the BIPOC community.

Adrian Wayman runs Green Box, which curates packages of cannabis, CBD and hemp projects and mails them out to customers on a monthly basis. In 2017, he received a grant from NuLeaf, and his story is one example of how a program like this can improve people’s lives that were once damaged by drug policing.

“I was arrested for cannabis possession, and that was always held over my head with employment and housing,” he told Filter, an online magazine for the cannabis industry. “So the City did exactly what they should have done to fix the wrong for something that should have never been a crime, and invested in my business. This is simply part of restoring the wrongs by giving me the opportunity to make a living, feed my family and have a successful business.”

Is Central Oregon ready to make progressive changes to the way it spends marijuana taxes? Is the additional $400,000 a year to Deschutes County to fund the Sheriff’s Office for pot law enforcement enough, without adding the City of Bend’s own pot tax into the budget of the Bend Police Department? In at least one way, the local area is trending away from more marijuana, with voters voting for a county-wide opt-out on new marijuana farms on November’s ballot. At the same time, Central Oregon hemp farms continue to proliferate.

None of the candidates for Bend City Council were willing to comment on supporting a program like Portland’s. But as the marijuana industry reaches maturity in Oregon, and growers produce way more than they are able to sell in the state, lawmakers have an opportunity to direct growing tax revenue streams into programs that aim to repair the drug crackdowns of earlier eras.

SF gives methadone, alcohol, cannabis to some addicts and homeless isolating from coronavirus in hotels

FILE - In this Thursday, April 2, 2020, file photo, workers in hazardous material suits clean inside the Abigail Hotel in San Francisco. The hotel is one of several private hotels San Francisco has contracted with to take vulnerable people who show symptoms or are awaiting test results for the coronavirus. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who made solving the state's homelessness crisis a priority even before the pandemic struck, announced in mid-March his administration was negotiating with 900 hotels to house the homeless. Two weeks ago he announced Project Roomkey, a program in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75% of costs associated with housing some homeless, including people who test positive or may have been exposed to the virus, and older homeless people and those with underlying health conditions. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

 

Breweries are turning carbon dioxide into liquid gold

CO2 is captured from Denver Beer's fermentation cellar into this CO2 tank and then filtered into a liquid form into the CO2 tank to be utilized in The Clinic's cannabis plants.

an Francisco (CNN Business)Carbon dioxide is a precious commodity in brewing. The gas is what gives beer its fizz.

Although literally tons of it are produced during fermentation, CO2 is not easy or cheap for small brewers to capture, so it’s often vented into the atmosphere. Instead of grabbing that CO2 to carbonate beer, tanks of CO2 are trucked in from across the country to meet brewers’ needs.
Earthly Labs, a startup out of Texas, hopes to change that. The company wants to establish a recycling loop via a fridge-sized machine named CiCi — shorthand for “carbon capture” — that allows small breweries to trap their CO2, use it to carbonate their beers and potentially sell extra gas to others who need it.
Launched in 2016, Earthly Labs, based in Austin, Texas, operates as a public benefit corporation, meaning it’s a for-profit business that prioritizes contributions that are socially good — in this case, targeting one of the main greenhouse gases that contributes to the rapid warming the planet.
Earthly Labs’ goal is to avoid the emission of 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (about 26 billion trees) by making the pricey CO2 capture systems used by large, multinational companies economical enough for craft brewers and other small businesses.
“Our original vision: Breweries capture their waste and reuse it, save money and, in the process, save the planet,” Amy George, Earthly Labs’ founder and chief executive officer, told CNN Business.
But what started as an environmentally focused action is garnering increased attention for its potential economic benefits by some brewers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The closures of taprooms, bars and restaurants have breweries canning and bottling more beer. And looming over those brewers are heightened concerns about CO2 shortages.
Kaitlin Urso (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment), Amy George (Earthly Labs), Brian Cusworth (The Clinic) and Charlie Berger (Denver Beer) checking the valves for Denver Beer's CO2 tank and Earthly Labs' CO2 recovery equipment that will later be used in The Clinic's cannabis plants.
The unit from Earthly Labs costs roughly $100,000, George said. Most brewers see a 2- to 3-year return on investment in normal circumstances; however, rising CO2 prices or supply constraints would accelerate that payback, she said.
Brewers need more CO2 at a time when those supplies and money have grown tighter.
“Our CO2 price doubled per pound,” said David Kroening, co-founder and president of Buoy Beer, a riverside brewery and restaurant in Astoria, Oregon.
Buoy was set to install an Earthly Labs system earlier this year, but those efforts were pushed to the back burner when Covid-19 hit and the brewery had to lay off nearly half of its staff.
“We stopped all capital projects until we saw where the cards were landing,” Kroening told CNN Business. “This one, when you layer in shortages and higher prices for CO2, kind of sped back up.”
Driving sustainability with cannabis and beer, these two tanks will hold 500 pounds of CO2.
CO2 acts like a nutrient for the indoor-grown cannabis. With the added boost, plants can grow larger and more vigorously, said Zach Engel, director of operations for the cannabis cultivator, processor and retailer.
The Clinic uses about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of CO2 per month, and those tanks are trucked to its facilities from the East Coast. The CO2 from Denver Beer came from just 8 miles up the highway.
Engel estimates The Clinic shaved off about 20 cents per pound on its CO2 expenditures by using the Denver Beer product. Plus, tests have shown the brew-produced CO2 is more pure than what is produced during typical gas processing, he said.
How much CO2 is offgassed during the fermentation process varies by brewer and by the beer — brews with higher alcohol content produce more of the gas. Denver Beer estimates it produces about 10 pounds of CO2 per barrel, and the brewery pumped out 21,000 barrels of beer last year. It bought about 140,000 pounds of CO2 for its carbonation needs.
Having a willing customer on the other end could help breweries recoup their investments in the systems more quickly, said Kaitlin Urso, an environmental protection specialist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Urso spearheaded the pilot as means to help brewers and cannabis companies reduce their environmental impacts.
“Breweries produce way more CO2 than what they would actually reuse within their own operations,” she said. “This is a new way for them to think about it as a commodity.”

SF Dispensary Aims to Outsmart the Pandemic

COVID-19 and a string of robberies have the cannabis industry on guard, but SPARC founder Erich Pearson remains optimistic about the future.

Erich Pearson was in the midst of another 16-hour-day working at his company’s Sonoma Valley farm when he took a break to reflect on the past four months.

“It feels like it’s been five years since COVID started,” says Pearson, the CEO of the San Francisco-based dispensary SPARC.

A common sentiment these days, Pearson’s personal mental fog understandably began when San Francisco’s shelter-in-place restrictions went into effect on March 17. After a brief period in which the city’s legal cannabis businesses were told to shutter all operations, pot shops were designated essential services and allowed to continue operations — albeit in a majorly modified form.

For SPARC, the pivot to delivery and curbside pick-up has ensured the lights stay on, but as Pearson explains, the overall volume of retail traffic lost to San Francisco dispensaries is hurting his bottom line.

“We don’t have the population during the day that San Francisco normally has,” he says. “Anybody who was commuting into town — the half a million or so people that come into San Francisco every day to work — they aren’t coming in to work anymore. Plus, anybody who lives in San Francisco who has the ability to work from home is leaving.”

 

SPARC has a large footprint when it comes to Bay Area cannabis brands. In addition to retail locations in the Haight, Mission, and SoMA, the company also has stores in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. According to Pearson, retail sales have been notably stronger for SPARC’s North Bay locations, which is also where the operation’s cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution efforts take place.

That’s because, as a vertical company, SPARC takes cannabis from seed to sale. It also gives Pearson some unique options when it comes to promoting SPARC products.

One way in which Pearson hopes to steer his company through the stormy seas of 2020 is by expanding SPARC’s regional footprint by means of a custom developed e-commerce solution that integrates with the cannabis merchant solutions provider Treez. Based in Oakland, Treez offers an innovative workaround to the banking issues that make it impossible for dispensaries to accept most conventional methods of payment by instead relying on a bank-linked app similar to Venmo or Paypal.

Currently, the software counts roughly half of California’s legal weed retailers as customers. The issue, as Pearson detailed, is that many smaller operations lack the resources to properly customize their e-commerce platforms. That’s where SPARC comes in. By providing other retailers with access to the e-commerce platform SPARC customized for themselves, Pearson’s company in turn benefits by receiving what amounts to digital shelf space at other retailers.

 

“Other retailers can now integrate with our software so we can re-sell their inventory, and our products from our system,” Pearson explained in a follow-up email. “What that allows us to do is to have our website and our delivery available in their jurisdiction.”

By way of example, Pearson suggests how a hypothetical dispensary in Sacramento could leverage SPARC’s e-commerce system to generate orders for their stores from SPARC’s website. Even though the orders would still be filled by the Sacramento store, the trade-off is that SPARC expands their radius of service while also linking their products with a new customer base.

“That’s our shelf space game,” Pearson says. “People are doing everything they can to get their brands onto these retail floors. We’re going to actually offer our technology to other dispensaries and then just send them orders. In exchange for that, we’ll be promoting and selling our own brands. I can’t mention names yet but we’ve got a handful of big, big retail stores that are interested.”

While Pearson puts in long days on SPARC’s Sonoma farmland, he must also keep close tabs on what remains a heightened sense of alert for cannabis operators across the Bay Area.

Following a spree of organized robberies believed to have been timed to overlap with initial protests over the killing of George Floyd, there have been few arrests and even fewer assurances from local law enforcement that such crimes are a priority. While the tumultuous nature of legal cannabis makes the entire situation difficult to truncate, there’s a level of violence at play that’s become impossible to ignore.

Pearson admitted that, at least in terms of SPARC, the situation remains very uncertain.

“There was just a murder in Oakland on Friday night,” he said, referencing a shooting at a cannabis facility that left one employee dead and other injured. “Whether it’s the illicit market growing more cannabis up in the woods or robbers looking to rob, I think people are just feeling that law enforcement and resources are elsewhere.”

 

One small part of the future where Pearson did express optimism was the concept of cannabis appellations.

Long an integral component of the wine industry, outdoor growers like Pearson are eager to see action on this front. For him, qualifying sun-grown, outdoor cannabis from a specific geographic region is a huge opportunity to differentiate what SPARC does from the weed produced by indoor grows.

“It’s not the same to have a warehouse in Sonoma as it is to have a plant in the ground in Sonoma,” Pearson says. “I think a lot of the market still tends towards really frothy-looking indoor cannabis, but, over time, I believe consumers will start to understand that outdoor, organically-grown marijuana is not only healthier for you, it’s healthier for the environment too.”

In addition, Pearson argues, appellations can offer legitimacy and prestige to smaller outdoor cultivators desperate to make their pot stand apart from that produced by mammoth corporate grows.

“As federal law changes,” Pearson says, “I think having appellations that are the same names as appellations from the wine industry will lift those brands even further. You’ll be able to say you’re from Carneros or from Sonoma Valley. We can’t grow cannabis in Napa yet, but should Napa Valley allow that, it’s a brand. Being able to put those brands on your jars and your cannabis will mean something to consumers — and it should.”

This Week in Weed: Kamala Harris’s record on cannabis

Image credit:  manuel m. v.

 

This week, the campaign for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former vice president Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris is a California Senator, and she also served as California Attorney General and district attorney for the city of San Francisco. Some Californians have been critical of her record as a prosecutor in California for a number of issues ranging from inmate releases to anti-truancy programs. David Downs, the California bureau chief for Leafly, says that as a California prosecutor Harris “was no drug warrior, but she didn’t die on the hill for legalization either.”

Downs says that Harris’ stance on cannabis has shifted since she first took public office as the San Francisco DA in 2004, but that the public’s outlook has changed, too. An analysis from Politifact of data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that there were 1,883 admissions to the state prison system on marijuana offenses during the years Harris was attorney general. Those figures decreased throughout her time in the office, dropping to just 137 in her last year.

After coming out in support of legalization in 2018, she went one to become the chief Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act and co-sponsored the SAFE Banking Act, which would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from federal punishment. Legalization support has also doubled nationwide from 31% in 2000 to 67% in 2019. Downs says her outlook is much more favorable than that of her running mate.

“She’s contrasted with Vice President Biden by affirming that cannabis is not a gateway drug and that it should be more than decriminalized; it should be legalized and help those who are harmed by the past failed policy,” he says. “I think a new Biden administration would have a lot of priorities and limited political fuel. But if the voters step on the gas toward legalization at the local, state and federal level, Biden’s not going to get in the way, he’ll ride shotgun.”

California should ban marijuana advertising to protect children and teens

It’s one thing to decriminalize cannabis, but it’s another to encourage use with marketing and advertising that reaches kids.

And that’s the problem: Almost all commercial advertising makes its way to the eyes and ears of children. If we care about public health, we should ban all cannabis ads.

San Diego banned cannabis billboards within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, playgrounds and daycare centers. But kids in cars go everywhere, especially teenagers, which means marijuana messaging is still seeping into young minds, associating pot smoking with fun activities like rollerblading.

When I would fly to Palm Springs for work — as I did routinely before the pandemic — the first thing I saw when I get off the plane was a large, shiny, well-lit picture of cannabis buds advertising the name, address and phone number of a nearby dispensary. Only a few feet later, I saw a similar sign advertising cannabis tours.

At the baggage claim, all eyes were on a large sign for the Cannabis Consumption Lounge: “Smoke It. Eat It. Drink It. Enjoy It.” Cannabis advertising is everywhere these days, just like the pot shops themselves, including the rather baffling drive-through dispensary I saw on my last trip to the Golden State, and the cannabis delivery services that have surged in popularity amid the pandemic.

In Colorado, cannabis companies are forbidden to buy billboards. So, instead, they are “adopting highways” to get their brands on roadway signs throughout the state. This is to be expected with commercialized cannabis. Companies are driven by profit, and profits require more people to use, and existing users to use more. Cannabis companies are incentivized to market in every way possible, which inevitably affects public health.

We don’t need to see cannabis ads on TV, in newspapers or magazines or online. We don’t need to hear ads on the radio or drive by cannabis signs and billboards. If people want to find cannabis, they can look it up easily enough. Let’s not allow corporations to target people and drive even more use.

We already know from many studies that advertising is a risk factor for substance use, with several also showing that more exposure to advertising increases consumption. One recent study found that one in three youth engaged with cannabis promotions on social media and that adolescents who engaged with such promotions had five times higher odds of cannabis use.

Another new study found that exposure to alcohol advertising changes teens’ attitudes about alcohol and can cause them to start drinking. A 2012 Surgeon General’s Report reached a similar conclusion regarding tobacco ads. Indeed, significant restrictions on tobacco marketing — starting with the 1971 ban on TV and radio ads — have helped improve public health. Yet a new study of all 539 California cities and counties found that few have adopted lessons from tobacco control in devising their cannabis regulations.

The entire point of advertising is to motivate people to want, and then purchase, a product, and to shape public perceptions about the product. We also know companies that market addictive substances benefit from reaching young people. The younger that people begin using, the more they purchase over a lifetime, the more profits they generate, and — unfortunately — the greater their risk for developing addiction.

In the end, people with substance use disorders buy the most. For example, a small minority of the population —people who consume 10 or more drinks a day on average — buy the lion’s share of alcohol in the United States.We don’t need cannabis ads on our billboards. If anything, we need cannabis warnings.

By Marvin D. Seppala Special to The Sacramento Bee

Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/article244560297.html#storylink=cpy

Study Finds Consumers Have Positive Views Of Legal Cannabis

Study Finds Consumers Have Positive Views Of Legal Cannabis

A study of consumer attitudes released recently found that residents of states with legal cannabis have a positive view of the regulated marketplace. Results of the research, “Consumer perceptions of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ cannabis in US states with legal cannabis sales,” were released online last month ahead of the publication of the study in the journal Addictive Behaviors early next year.

To conduct the study, researchers with the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health in Canada surveyed adult consumers in states with legal cannabis and asked them about their views of the regulated marketplace. Investigators surveyed 5,530 respondents residing in Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

The study examined consumer perceptions of quality, price, convenience, and safety of use and purchasing cannabis from legal versus illegal sources in U.S. states with legal retail sales. The study also attempted to examine associations between cannabis use, length of time since legal sales began, and perceptions of legal cannabis.

 

Well over half (59.2%) of the survey participants reported that, compared to an illicit supplier, cannabis was more convenient to obtain from a licensed source and 56.1% said it was a safer way to purchase cannabis. Additionally, 37.6% of consumers said that they believed the quality of the cannabis offered at licensed businesses was superior to what can be purchased from unlicensed sellers, although more than 30% of respondents said that legal cannabis is more expensive. Less than 15% of respondents in any state reported that legal cannabis was less expensive than that purchased from unlicensed sources. The study also found that 40.3% of those surveyed felt that cannabis purchased from legal sources was safer to use than unregulated products.

Better Over Time

Researchers also found that consumer perceptions varied according to the length of time since legal cannabis sales began. Respondents living in more mature legal markets that had legalized marijuana earlier were more likely to perceive legal cannabis as being of higher quality. The survey also found that consumers in mature markets were less likely to say that legal pot was more expensive.

“The current findings suggest generally positive perceptions of the legal cannabis market. Most respondents, including frequent cannabis consumers, perceived legal cannabis to be of equal or greater quality and convenience, and as safer to buy and use than cannabis from illegal sources,” the authors of the new study wrote.

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), noted in a statement about the research that no state that has approved the medicinal use of marijuana or cannabis for use by adults has ever repealed its legalization measures.

Written By

A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based writer and photographer covering cannabis and the environment.

Cannabis business gets the green light in San Leandro

SAN LEANDRO — A cannabis manufacturing business is on track to open on Catalina Street, where workers will roll joints, fill vape cartridges with cannabis oil, manufacture resin and make edibles.

What will not be taking place at the location, however, is the highly dangerous and illegal process of removing the “honey oil” extract from marijuana with butane gas, which was what authorities said was taking place on Timothy Drive in May and caused an explosion, injuring two people and resulting in four arrests.

The blast blew off the building’s roof and sent debris flying over a four-block area.

Eric Hughes of ASHA Pharmaceuticals, which is behind the business, told the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments on Aug. 6 that it will respect the law.

 

“ASHA has spent a considerable amount of time developing a cannabis business model that complies with the city of San Leandro’s ordinance regarding cannabis and also complies with state regulations,” Hughes said.

He also addressed the explosion before board members voted unanimously to grant the business a conditional use permit.

“We do not want the actions of illegal operators in this unfortunate situation to take away from ASHA’s mission,” Hughes said.

ASHA Pharmaceuticals initially planned to use what is called a “volatile” process, which calls for the use of butane, hexane or pentane to extract the potent oil from the plant that can be then used in a variety of ways, such as for vaping or as an ingredient in edibles.

But the business removed the request from its application following the explosion in the 1700 block of Timothy Drive.

 

The cannabis facility will open at 14505 and 14509 Catalina St. in what previously housed a food manufacturing, research and development company, city Planner Brianne Reyes said.

It will initially have 10 employees, but the company anticipates adding six more when fully operational, Reyes said.

ASHA Pharmaceuticals will take up about 4,800 square feet of the building, she said, while offices of other businesses will continue within the building’s remaining 2,700 square feet.

City officials recommended the board allow the manufacturing business to go forward.

The board’s decision is final. But appeals, which will be heard by the City Council, can be filed within 15 days of the Aug. 6 decision.

 

By | phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

Entrepreneurs of color make way for racial equity in cannabis industry

The legalization of recreational cannabis opened doors for people around the country to get their foot into the growing industry, but still faces issues with accessibility.

Since the March shelter-in-place order in California, cannabis has been declared an essential business by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Not just brick and mortars, but farmers, cultivators, distributors and manufacturers as well. While the economic burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the cannabis industry intact, and has even increased sales at volumes 40% higher than 2019, the industry is not immune to the demands of those calling for racial equity across the nation.

The cannabis industry is a mostly white, male-dominated space. According to a 2017 study by Marijuana Business Daily, 81% of people who own and run a cannabis business are white, whereas 19% of cannabis businesses nationwide are run by people of color. Disparities in arrests remain prevalent as the cannabis industry becomes more diverse. Nationwide, the arrests of Black people remain higher than those of white people according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

To increase the diversity in this industry, Black people, people of color and women have started organizations to help more entrepreneurs get into owning their own stores and spaces, allowing people of diverse backgrounds to get into cannabis.

Amber Senter, co-founder and executive director of the Oakland cannabis collective Supernova Women, said that being a Black queer woman in the business of cannabis is a difficult task.

“It’s hard,” Senter said. “Cannabis is no different than tech, no different than construction, it’s all the same. We’re constantly the minority. We face the same racism and the same issues as any other industry.”

Cannabis becomes a more lucrative business as time goes on. According to a Marijuana Business Daily study, the number of women executives in the cannabis industry increased in 2019 to nearly 37%– nearly 10% higher than what it was for 2018 at 26.8%.

Reese Benton, the owner of Posh Green Collective located in Bayview-Hunters Point, is one of the 37% of women who are executives in the cannabis industry. Benton noted that being in spaces and industries where Black people are the minority is the norm.

While 19% of cannabis businesses may be run by a person of color, that does not necessarily mean the business is owned by people of color.

“Being a Black woman in cannabis is not easy because people don’t want to give you money,” Senter said. “Most of these folks with money don’t identify with you, they like to give money to people who remind them of themselves, and that’s often not me.”

According to an ACLU “Marijuana In Black and White” study, which took place from 2001 to 2010, both Black people and white people used marijuana at the same rate but Black people were arrested four times more than their white counterparts for possession.

“We do advocate on behalf of Black and Brown folks for programs that make it easier for us to get into the industry and sustain our businesses,” Senter said. “We did work very closely with the city of Oakland to develop the world’s first cannabis social equity program. We did advocate very heavily to get the cannabis taxes lower for social equity businesses.”

Oakland’s Cannabis Equity Program emerged from a 2016 race and equity analysis on medical cannabis regulations conducted by the Oakland City Council. The analysis identified disparities within the industry and places for revision in the city’s ordinances. The analysis recommended a $3.4 million investment in forthcoming cannabis business tax revenue. Actions such as this are intended to “lay an equitable foundation for the cannabis industry at a pivotal moment given the rapid pace of the industry and the eve of implementation of state medical cannabis and adult use laws.”

According to the 2017 NPR podcast Code Switch, around one-third of Oakland’s population was Black, yet made up nearly 80% of those arrested for cannabis-related offenses.

“When you look at disparities, which is comparing the rates of arrests of, let’s say, whites versus blacks, it generally has very little effect on that so that you see that disparities either remain the same or actually will increase,” Ezekiel Edwards, co-author of the ACLU study, said on podcast.

Benton said that for Black people, the ratio of incarceration compared to the 4% of Black-owned cannabis businesses is disrespectful to the Black community.

“For us to be incarcerated for cannabis and for us to not be majority owners, it’s like a slap in the face,” Benton said. “With people still being in jail for this, we have to think, people are coming home, but how are we fixing their lives?”

The war on drugs, which started in 1971, altered America’s perception of the distribution and the use of drugs. President Nixon described drugs as “public enemy number one.”

By 1982, the Reagan administration focused on the war on drugs with a very specific campaign. It included cracking down on the sale, distribution and consumption of all drugs. This stricter policy heavily disenfranchised Black people and other people of color.

In a Harper’s Magazine interview, former Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman said that they could not start a war on Black people, but they could associate hippies with marijuana and Black people with drugs like heroin and crack-cocaine.Heavy criminalization on those drugs would become the mechanism used to eradicate those two communities.

“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news,” Ehrilchman said. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The impact the war on drugs has had on Black and Brown communities is still prevalent today. According to the Center for American Progress, about one-fifth of the American federal prison population is serving time for drug charges.

 

Despite the odds being stacked against the Black and Brown community when it comes to safely using and selling marijuana, Benton believes that “It doesn’t matter what background you come from. There is a way to make things happen and to make your dreams come true.”
Organizations like Supernova Women, Cannaclusive and the Floret Coalition are working around the barriers that the war on drugs has set in place, preventing Black and Brown people from accessing cannabis spaces.
The Floret Coalition is a branch off of Broccoli Magazine, a publication that encourages the appreciation of cannabis through different mediums like art, fashion and music. Floret is described as an anti-racist collective of small businesses that help raise money and awareness for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.
Kassia Graham, a board member of the Floret Coalition, said that the Floret Coalition started nearly two months ago with the purpose to increase the monetary assistance that smaller organizations in the cannabis space and outside oftentimes need.
“The coalition is focused on giving back to organizations that assist Black, Indeginous, Latinx and other people of color groups, but with an emphasis on the Black, Indeginous and Latinx folks,” Graham said. “Because we have been the most impacted by the war on drugs in the United States.”
A 2016 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found nearly 15% of people in San Francisco over the age of 12 consumed cannabis within the past month– almost double the national 7.7%.
Cannabis companies have been able to turn a hobby into a flourishing business. Yet Black business owners and Black cannabis consumers do not always get this chance. Black people are still faced with the fact that they are still more likely to be arrested for cannabis than their white counterparts, according to the Center for American Progress.
Increasing diversity in the cannabis industry is happening slowly but surely. With the rise in political activism and the Black Lives Matter-inspired movement, people have been seeking ways to meet their needs of getting or being high, but more responsibly. Posts like ‘Oh, You Like Weed?’ via The Emerald Magazine Instagram page highlights cannabis retail stores, brands, organizations, delivery services, cultivators, food services, media spaces and even CBD services all owned and operated by Black people.
“It is beyond the Black and white. Inclusion means that we are looking at gender, sexuality, ability. It’s about people who have been incarcerated, people who may have a generational history of hemp farming,” Graham said.