CannaBeat is a curated biweekly selection of top news stories impacting business, research, and culture in the cannabis industry, crafted by Emerge Law Group.
Emerge’s Hot Take
Emerald Triangle Communities Were Built On Cannabis. Legalization Has Pushed Them To the Brink
Legalization in California seemed like a dream come true for the cannabis industry, home of the Emerald Triangle. Abide by the rules and regulations in exchange for the opportunity to have a legal business. Six years later, and the price of cannabis is unbelievably low, businesses are closing, and the illegal market is flourishing. According to coverage by HighTimes and Forbes, cannabis sales declined in 2022, and many believe it wasn’t because people were consuming less.
The Emerald Tringle seems to be hit the hardest as cannabis is a base for much the community’s economy. Farmers in Humboldt reported that even though they sold all their product, they come in at loss for the year. Farm closures reverberate throughout Trinity County. Local businesses that depended on the patronage of the famers and their employees are laying people off and cutting hours. Some have lost so much revenue that they may close. In Mendocino, it is estimated that nearly 70% of operators might not remain in the legal market.
Besides overregulation, two major culprits are said to be the roots of the larger issues within the industry: high taxes and lack of shelf space. In attempt to fix the first problem, the State eliminated the cultivation tax in July of 2022. As for shelf space, 56% (302/539) of California jurisdictions still do not allow any type of commercial cannabis operations. There are only about 1000 licensed dispensaries serving 40 million residents. Delia Rojas of Emerge Law Group says that “the power local jurisdictions hold is frustrating, especially when residents of communities where a majority voted in favor of prop 64 haven’t experienced the product of their vote. Fear still runs rampant in much of the state. Education and advocacy continue to be important to wipe away the stigma surrounding this plant.”
Other Noteworthy News
Mendocino Growers Ask California To Address County’s Cannabis Licensing
A trade association representing cannabis growers in California’s Mendocino County has asked the state government for an “urgent intervention” in the county’s licensing process, citing concerns that many farmers’ license applications won’t be processed by a July 1, 2023, deadline. The Mendocino Cannabis Department and local government have failed to “establish a process capable of moving good-faith cannabis operators towards state annual licensure,” the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (MCA) claims in a Feb. 8 letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Department of Cannabis Control Director Nicole Elliott. The letter charges that by the July deadline, the Mendocino Cannabis Department (MCD) will have licensed only 256 “prioritized” marijuana operators in the county, “implying that nearly 70% of Mendocino’s 841 current operators have no path forward to remain in the legal market,” according to an accompanying news release. “Further, among over 500 ‘deprioritized’ operators, MCA has found that a substantial number have been deprioritized incorrectly based on demonstrably false claims of tax delinquency or lack of state licensure.” MCA Executive Director Michael Katz said Mendocino County has “no functional permit program in Mendocino, and no plan to create one.”
Oklahoma Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative
Oklahoma voters have rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana for adult use in the state on Tuesday. For most counties across the state, the cannabis reform measure—State Question 820—was the only proposal on the ballot, a unique scenario in the history of the legalization movement. Advocates tried to put the reform on the November 2022 ballot, but delays in signature verification by officials and the state Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in litigation meant that it missed the window to qualify for that cycle. In October, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) called a special election for the cannabis measure that took place on Tuesday.
UConn Launches New Cannabis Cultivation Minor
The University of Connecticut announced a new minor in Cannabis Cultivation for students receiving specialized training in this growing field. “Since we launched the nation’s first cannabis horticulture course, UConn has been a leader in cannabis education and research,” says Indrajeet Chaubey, dean of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. “We are thrilled to add another mechanism for students to formalize the skills, knowledge, and expertise in cannabis studies that they gain while at UConn.” Led by professors of plant science Gerald Berkowitz and Matthew DeBacco, the 15-credit minor was formalized in the spring 2023 semester. It provides training in the propagation, cultivation, commercial production, maintenance, processing, and potential markets for and uses of one species of cannabis, Cannabis sativa. As part of the minor, students can receive credit for approved internships with growers and companies to provide students with experiential learning opportunities and exposure to jobs.
Justice Department Website Opens Portal For Those Seeking Presidential Pardon Certificates
After a several month delay, the Justice Department has opened the online application process for those persons eligible to receive certificates indicating that their marijuana-related convictions have been pardoned by the President. The website began accepting applications hours after a notice published in the Federal Register stated that the Office of the Pardon Attorney had “developed the subject form to collect information from potential pardon recipients.” In its notice, the Office estimated that as many as 20,000 people may apply to receive pardon certificates.
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CannaBeat by Emerge Law Group
CannaBeat is a weekly brief on news, business, and culture in the cannabis industry curated by members of Emerge Law Group's distinguished Cannabis Industry Group.