California Legislative Panel Approves Bill for Cannabis Farmers Markets

A California legislative committee this week gave its approval to a bill that would permit small cannabis growers the ability to sell their harvest directly to consumers at farmers markets. The measure, Assembly Bill 2691, was approved on Tuesday by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee by a vote of 10-1.

The bill was introduced in February by Democratic Assemblymember Jim Wood, who represents a large swath of California’s famed Emerald Triangle cannabis growing region. Under the measure, the state’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) would be authorized to issue temporary event retail licenses to licensed cannabis growers with no more than one acre of land under cultivation. 

The special event retail licenses would only be valid at events including cannabis farmers markets operating in compliance with existing law. Under current regulations, growers can participate in cannabis special events but are not permitted to sell directly to consumers, who must instead make purchases from licensed dispensaries. In a statement about the legislation to local media, Wood said that the bill would give small growers a new revenue stream many desperately need.

“It is no secret that cannabis businesses throughout the state are struggling, whether it’s taxes, compliance costs, competing with the illicit market or other challenges, but the focus of AB 2691 is to help legal cannabis farmers who grow less than one acre of cannabis get consumer recognition for their unique products, much as has been done for craft beer, artisanal wine and other family farm agricultural products,” Wood said.

“Giving these smaller farmers opportunities at locally approved events to expose the public to their products increases consumer choice and offers farmers a better chance to reach retail shelves which is their ultimate goal,” he continued. “This is not about circumventing retailers, but growing the industry overall.”

Small Growers Only

To qualify for a special event retail license, a cultivator must be licensed to grow cannabis by the DCC and local authorities. The cultivator also may not have more than one acre of cannabis under cultivation, a cap that includes all licenses held by the grower. Licenses are issued for specific special events only, with a limit of 12 licenses issued per grower each year.

AB 2691 is supported by craft growers groups including the Origins Council, which represents about 900 growers in California’s historic cannabis cultivation areas. Genine Coleman, executive director of the advocacy group, said that the legislation would benefit most of the Origins Council’s members.

“The vast majority of them are producing half an acre or less of cannabis, so this is definitely a huge potential opportunity for our membership,” Coleman said. “For small-scale producers to have direct marketing and sales opportunities with consumers is really critical.”

Drew Barber, owner-operator of East Mill Creek Farms and co-founder of Uplift Co-op, said that the legislation would give cannabis growers a chance to share their stories with consumers, who in turn would be given an opportunity to establish a connection with their favorite brands.

“This bill could patch up a really needed missing piece to the puzzle for us as cultivators of high-end cannabis,” Barber told the Lost Coast Outpost. “The ability to connect with our consumers in this day and age seems like one of the major assets that could and should come along with regulation, right? The consumer should know who is growing their weed. We feel like our stories say a lot about both the quality of the product as well as the types of farming that we do.”

Ross Gordon, policy director at the Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA) and policy chair at the Origins Council, said that AB 2691 would help the cannabis industry receive the recognition as a legitimate agricultural enterprise it deserves.

“For us, this bill is a major step forward in recognizing that cannabis farmers are farmers, and we need access to the same types of sales opportunities that allow other small farmers to sustain a livelihood,” he said. “Every step towards normalization, whether it’s the conversation around cultivation taxes or farmer’s markets, brings us closer to a point where cannabis is treated at parity with other agriculture.”

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Mississippi Lawmakers Propose Expanded Medical Cannabis Rules

After months of debate and back-and-forth, lawmakers in Mississippi have finally produced a bill to implement a new medical cannabis law in the state.

Republican state Senator Kevin Blackwell filed a 445-page bill on Tuesday, according to the Clarion Ledger newspaper, and the legislation was promptly referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for review by Lieutenant. Governor Delbert Hosemann.

The Clarion Ledger reported that the chair of that committee, Democratic state Senator Hob Bryan, has said that he intends to bring the bill up for a debate before the panel on Wednesday. 

So Blackwell’s bill must effectively clear four more hurdles in order to become law: gain approval from the public health committee; pass out of the state Senate; pass out of the state House; and be signed by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.

In other words: sit tight. 

Still, the mere filing of the bill is itself a breakthrough after a year of disagreement and delay surrounding the law.

Almost 70 percent of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis in the state for patients with qualifying conditions that include cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, among others.

But despite such resounding public approval, the proposal has been met with resistance ever since. In May of last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the initiative, ruling it unconstitutional on a technicality. 

Following that decision, state lawmakers have been engaged in months of negotiations with Reeves to produce a medical cannabis bill in place of the one that was nullified by the court.

In August, Blackwell expressed confidence that lawmakers could get a medical cannabis bill over the line.

“Well, I kind of get tired of saying this, but we’re getting very close,” Blackwell told Mississippi Today.” And I’m sure the folks who are out there who are wanting to use these products for medical needs and certainly for the kids with some of their seizure disorders (that are) frustrating for them. But we are working every day on this trying to advance to get to the point where we can present something to the governor.”

In September, legislators produced a draft of a bill, but Reeves never called a special session to consider the legislation, citing concerns with the drafted proposal.

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at a press conference in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

In November, Reeves cited one part of the proposal that “forbid the Department of Public Safety from having a role in the state’s potential medical marijuana industry” as a major area of disagreement. 

“Clearly, I wasn’t going to agree to that, so we’ve made some necessary improvements to the bill, but we haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable yet in ensuring that we have a program that is truly ‘medical mariuana’ that has strict rules in place,” Reeves said, as quoted by Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

The governor has also raised concerns about the amount of pot a patient can purchase at one time. Now, with the Mississippi legislature officially convening last week, lawmakers will look to pass the bill in a regular session.
The Clarion Ledger reported that the new bill filed this week “allows for medical marijuana card holders to purchase 3.5 grams of the substance a day,” even though Reeves has said that he “would like to see that number lowered to 2.7 grams in most circumstances.”

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Rhode Island Legalization Bill Set for Early 2022 Introduction

A legalization bill for Rhode Island is expected to be ready sometime during quarter one of 2022.

Last week, Rhode Island Representative and House Speaker Joe Shekarchi mentioned the progress of a cannabis legalization bill for his state, which is almost ready to be introduced.

Shekarchi was featured in an interview with WPRI to discuss the anticipation of a fall session and cannabis legalization, which has come and gone without a mention. In response, he elaborated about the delay and what’s left to accomplish. 

“We’re still not there. We’ve worked very hard and continue to work. There were a lot of differences in the versions between the House version, the Senate version, the Governor’s version,” Shekarchi said. “I am happy to report that we’ve worked down to almost one issue that’s left, but it’s not there yet.” He confirmed that through a meeting he will attend this week, he intends to wrap up that loose end so that he might introduce legislation in the first quarter of 2022.

The issue he refers to is in regard to which agency will be responsible for state regulation. Currently, the responsibility will lie with either an independent cannabis commission, the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR) or possible some hybrid between the two. 

“We’re studying other states. But the marijuana bill in general is a very complicated piece of legislation,” he said. “People just say ‘legalize it.’ It touches very different areas of the law. It touches taxation. We have to make sure that we’re doing it right.” 

Courtesy of wpri.com

Between the DBR, the Department of Health and other agencies, Shekarchi also noted that legislators are looking into a proper expungement plan to include in the bill. “It’s a very thick bill. And it’s in a lot of different areas of law, and I want to make sure we do it right. I don’t necessarily want to be the first, I want to be the best.”

In July, Shekarchi stated that a cannabis legislation bill was just a “workable” possibility. “Unfairly, sometimes I have or the House gets blamed for stopping the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, when in reality there is no consensus,” he said

“If we can come to some closeness, in the several different proposals, then we’ll move some kind of legislation. But if not, it just needs more work—and it’s very workable, so it’s very much something that can happen, we just have to put the effort in and make it happen.” Fortunately, legislators have helped to bring legalization in Rhode Island much closer to reality, with Shekarchi making good on a promise of a legalization bill that he announced in November 2020.

In June, the Rhode Island Senate also introduced a legalization bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Health & Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller. “Cannabis legalization is as much about reconciliation as it is revenue,” McCaffrey shared in a press release.

“The Justice Reinvestment prison reform initiative showed that policies of prohibition have disproportionately impacted communities of color, and I believe we must ensure any effort to legalize cannabis recognizes and rectifies those wrongs,” McCaffrey continued. “Low barriers to entry, expungement reform, and broad access to programs designed to increase access for individuals and communities impacted by the failed War on Drugs are an important and necessary component.”

The state’s medical cannabis program has been met with a few setbacks recently, however. A lawsuit delayed the lottery planned in August, due to an appeal from a rejected applicant, Atlas Enterprises Inc. It wasn’t until October that the lottery was able to move forward, with five new applicants chosen. 
However, the sixth and last dispensary license is still available, as Atlas Enterprises Inc. withdrew the appeal in November. These new medical cannabis dispensary applicants are expected to open sometime in 2022; however, there are three dispensaries open right now in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth. A total of nine dispensaries are allowed in the state, as of 2019.

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Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

Costa Rica is one step closer to legalizing its domestic cannabis industry. On December 1, the country’s constitutional court, known as “Sala IV,” found nothing in the legislation that was originally passed on October 21 that would prevent it from becoming law. The bill was initially approved by the Legislative Assembly with a vote of 33 votes for and 13 against.

This is a big step. Costa Rica’s law project 21.388, entitled the “Law on Cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic use and Hemp for industrial use” was first approved in late October by the legislative assembly. Rather than advancing directly to a second vote at this time, however, a group of 10 deputies sent the pending statute to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court for a legal review, mainly to stall its passage.

Just the day before the bill was initially passed, on October 20, Panama, the country’s neighbour to the south, finally legalized medical cannabis too. It is very likely that this move prompted Costa Rica’s brief sidestep.

What Happens Next in Costa Rica

Legislator Zoila Volio has already asked President Carlos Alvarado to convene the initiative to the Legislative Assembly. The Minister of the Presidency, Geannina Dinarte has already said publicly that the bill would be summoned to an “extraordinary session” for a vote now that the court ruling has been passed down.

Reform has been pending here for two years.

As of August of this year, only one company has been granted the right to study the viability of cannabis.

A Costa Rica Cannabis Tourist Trade in the Offing?

The average tourist who has spent any time in Costa Rica knows that cannabis is essentially decriminalized and easily obtainable. While the production of cannabis products remains illegal, personal possession has been effectively decriminalized. That said, the actual Narcotic Drug law of Costa Rica calls for a prison sentence of eight to 15 years for possession along with cultivation and manufacturing.

This central American country of just under five million people and bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the South, has long been a destination for those who sought a life off the beaten path as well as increasingly American retirees who are drawn both by the weather and the overall quality of life.

The country abolished its army in 1948. As of 1949, all budgeted funds that would have been allocated to the country’s defense were rerouted to providing health care services and education. Costa Rica, as a result, is known for its stable democracy and progressive social policies.

A regulated medical cannabis industry here would not only provide jobs and income for the locals, but it would also turn the country into one of the most interesting medical cannabis vacation countries in the world.

Costa Rica is bounded by both the Caribbean and Pacific. Lush rainforests cover much of the country. It is already the most popular destination in Central America, visited by people who are drawn both by the biodiversity of the environment and those on the hunt for an exotic ecotourism experience.

Add cannabis to the mix, and the results are likely to be very positive.

Indeed, the opportunities for the ecological development of the sector may get a boost from cultivation in this part of the world.

Sustainable Cannabis

The discussion about what constitutes “sustainable” practices in this industry are an ongoing debate. There are many ways to approach this idea—from efficient grow and processing operations to labor relations.

However, when competing in a global medical market, countries must produce cannabis to a much higher, pharmaceutical standard (GMP) than most other agricultural crops are cultivated under. Such crops must be produced indoors. As a result, at least from a real estate perspective, the development of the industry in places like Central and South America might develop in highly destructive ways. See Brazil for starters.

In Costa Rica, with its liberal approach to rainforest preservation, however, this model might be given a chance to thrive, and further in a non-first world environment.

No matter the difficulties of tomorrow as the industry develops, one thing is very clear with the forward motion of Costa Rica’s legalization of cannabis. Another “green domino” has fallen.

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How Cannabis in the Workplace is Becoming Increasingly Complicated

Cannabis in the workplace is now becoming increasingly complicated. With legalization, more Canadians now use cannabis, but employers remain cautious. Several years have passed since cannabis has been legalized, but policies around using weed in the workplace remain unclear. In Canada, employers must ensure the safety of employees in their work environment. And in turn, […]

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Could Cannabis Be The Best Cure for PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been around for generations as being the most researched mental illness. Psychiatrists in the late 1800s studied trauma victims from a psychological perspective to gain more knowledge of PTSD. Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we witnessed military combat soldiers returning from war experience symptoms of PTSD. But what exactly […]

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Fact Check: Is Luxembourg the First European Country to Legalize Cannabis?

Has Luxembourg become the first to legalize cannabis in Europe? Reports are circulating that the country of 600,000 recently became the first country in Europe to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. However, news of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Despite growing movements for cannabis reform in Europe, many countries […]

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Harry Aslinger and the War on Drugs: A History of Politicking and Racism

For decades, cannabis users have struggled with criminalization and stigma. However, not all of us know about Harry Aslinger, the War on Drugs, and how his politicking and racism are at the root of anti-drug policies globally. Harry Aslinger was a United States government official who served under one of the most repressive regimes in […]

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Getting Busted Around The World – The Consequences Of Cannabis Cultivation Crossword Puzzle

There are a lot of plants that only grow in certain places around the world, but thankfully, cannabis is not one of them. Certain strains thrive in particular climates and we often recognize it in the name, for example, Durban Poison or Afghan Kush. They call it weed for a reason; basically, this plant can […]

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“Weed isn’t a drug” — A brief history of the war on drugs

“Weed isn’t a drug, it’s a plant.” It’s something many of us have heard or even said at some point in our relationship with cannabis. Usually, following an epiphany that everything politicians and the media told us about cannabis is wrong. A few natural conclusions follow: if they lied to us about cannabis, what other […]

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