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Colorado: Proposed Ballot Initiative Would Eliminate 80% of Cannabis Products

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A proposed initiative to install a new cannabis-related measure into the Colorado Constitution would effectively end Colorado’s successful first-in-the-nation effort to permit the sale of recreational cannabis to adults, according to industry experts BDS Analytics.

The initiative would impose limits on cannabis product format and would restrict all cannabis products to a maximum 16 percent THC content. Drawing from its database of more than 10,000 products in Colorado and its wealth of data analysis professionals, BDS Analytics concludes that products on the market today that generate more than 80 percent of cannabis revenue would be banned.

In addition, almost every edible product (which account for 11.5 percent of sales) would have to be repackaged, according to the company.

“When we first encountered the proposed language we quickly understood it would have a dramatic effect on the market, and so we immediately began a meticulous analysis of how it might change the landscape for commercial cannabis,” said BDS Analytics CEO Roy Bingham. “Unfortunately, our instincts were correct.

"Should the initiative become a part of the Colorado Constitution, it would hobble Colorado’s fastest-growing industry,” Bingham said.

Oregon: Marijuana Shoppers Adjust To 25% Sales Tax

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Recreational marijuana shoppers in Oregon are taking a new 25 percent sales tax in stride, according to many dispensary owners and industry observers.

The state on January 1, after a three-month tax holiday, imposed the tax on recreational cannabis sales, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The tax will eventually be replaced with a 17 percent sales tax, once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes control of the new recreational marijuana industry later this year.

While some customers have shrugged off the tax, "we have people that say they would rather go back to their 'guy,' so to speak, and walk out," said Matt Price, who owns the Cannabliss chain of dispensaries.

General manager Nathan Krytenberg at Glisan Buds and Foster Buds took the unusual step of absorbing the tax. He says his "strategic decision" should generate enough additional sales to cover the 25 percent hit.

Krytenberg said he hopes his move generates customer loyalty. More than 100 shops compete for cannabis customers in Portland, and there's a well-established black market, as well.

"To be quite honest with you, if we even take a small hit, I believe the fact that we are doing this will put us in a better market position," said Krytenberg. His Glisan Buds and Foster Buds shops sell marijuana for $9 and $15 a gram.

Oregon: Recreational Marijuana Sales Tax Begins Jan. 4

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

All good things must come to an end, it seems, and it's the same with the Oregon weed tax holiday. Recreational marijuana consumers in the state will have to pay a 25 percent sales tax starting Monday, January 4.

The Oregon Legislature earlier this year approved allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational pot to adults 21 and older, tax-free, starting on Oct. 1, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. But tax-free sales end on Monday, when the state imposes a tax that will last until the end of 2016.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission isn't expected to open state-licensed recreational marijuana stores until late 2016; once that program is up and running, the 25 percent tax at dispensaries will be replaced with permanent 17 percent sales tax at recreational pot stores.

The Oregon Department of Revenue on Tuesday said they are prepared to deal with large sums of cash from dispensaries paying the new tax. Cameras have been added, employees have gotten security training, and a new "cash handling location" has been set up to accept large payments, according to the agency.

Marijuana's Schedule I classification under federal law has kept most traditional banks away from the business, fearing conspiracy charges and money laundering investigations. That means most marijuana transactions must be handled in cash.

Colorado: Marijuana Sales Top $100 Million In August

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Cannabis sales surpassed the $100 million mark in August for the first time ever in Colorado, according to recreational and medical marijuana sales data released on Friday by the state Department of Revenue.

Marijuana sales once again eclipsed the previous month's numbers, with recreational cannabis racking up $59.2 million in sales and medical marijuana getting $41.4 million, reports Elizabeth Hernandez at The Denver Post.

The combined $100.6 million in cannabis sales continues the 2015 trend of month-to-month record-setting.

"It means that $100 million is going to licensed, taxpaying businesses, creating jobs and helping to build new schools, instead of going to cartels and drug dealers -- as is the case in the 46 states that don't regulate marijuana," said Dan Riffle, director of federal polices for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Legal recreational cannabis sales began on January 1, 2014, in Colorado, which was the first state to launch a retail cannabis program. There were $46.4 million in total sales that month, with $14.7 million in recreational and $32.2 million in medicinal sales. August 2014 was the first month when recreational sales exceeded medical sales.

Colorado: Cannabis Chamber Warns Against Overregulation of Edible Products

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The Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday urged against a culture of dangerous potential overregulation of legal cannabis edibles in Colorado.

At the HB13-1361 and HB14-1366 Work Group Meeting on August 11, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) of the Department of Revenue (DOR) discussed with various stakeholders the creation of new rules surrounding all edible cannabis products.

The Chamber also stands behind the consensus at the meeting regarding standard measurement procedures and the need for public education to always be the number one priority.

However, many proposed new regulations on edible products could create a strong negative impact not only on legal, licensed, compliant marijuana business throughout Colorado, but also on public safety for adults and children alike, according to the Chamber.

“The more we encourage overregulation, the more we risk pushing marijuana activity back onto the black market and into home kitchens without oversight or any regulation whatsoever,” said Tyler Henson, president of the Cannabis Chamber.

Furthermore the Chamber announced it is "disappointed in the letter that was signed by many of our state legislators that asked MED to ignore the rule of law and create rules based on false propaganda that has been perpetuated by prohibitionists."

“The letter that was signed by 85 state legislators is troubling," Henson said. "The letter is riddled with misleading information and asks the MED to create rules based off intent rather than what the bill mandates the state to enact.”

Washington: Spokane Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Wins Fight Over Taxes, For Now

ClubCompassionSpokane

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Spokane woman who owned a medical marijuana dispensary has, for now, come out on top in a long fight with the Department of Revenue over taxes.

Rhonda Duncan, who owned Club Compassion, was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration four years ago. They warned her to shut down, but she refused, reports Shawn Chitnis at KREM.

Duncan then became embroiled in a struggle with the Department of Revenue over whether she owed the agency sales tax from her dispensary.

"It's been rough; my bank accounts have been seized, I can't have a bank account until this has been resolved," Duncan said.

The agency said that medical marijuana needed to be taxed; Duncan believes it shouldn't be taxed because it is medicine. She said she had lost $60,000 in the fight, and has struggled to make ends meet.

"It was just a witch hunt and it put me through so much stress," she said.

But a Superior Court ruling said medical marijuana sales are exempt from retail sales tax, reversing what the Department of Revenue had told her for years.

Duncan hopes to get back into the medical marijuana business, and she's hoping other dispensaries can make the same argument when also faced with tax challenges from the Department of Revenue.

The Department of Revenue is expected to appeal the decision.

Massachusetts: Legislature Considers Repealing Cannabis Prohibition

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Last week the Associated Press reported on the introduction of H. 1561 in the Massachusetts Legislature; the bill would legalize recreational cannabis consumption and sales.

"Bay State Repeal, the ballot-initiative committee aiming to draft the least restrictive citizen initiative repealing marijuana prohibition in 2016, is pleased 15 legislators are seriously considering marijuana law reform," the organization announced in a Wednesday press release.

"We are also pleased the bill permits home cultivation in any amount as long as minors have no access to the cultivation site and there is no intent to sell," the statement reads. "For Bay State Repeal, the right to grow cannabis at home is a key provision of any meaningful reform, both as a matter of civil rights and protection from overzealous law enforcement and as a check on excessive prices.

"We are less pleased to see that the proposed law creates a 'Cannabis Commission' to regulate cultivation and commerce in marijuana for profit," the release reads. "A new bureaucracy is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a mandate for overregulation. A better solution is to assign any needed licensing authority to the Department of Revenue. In addition, the proposed tax on recreational cannabis is excessive and becomes more so over the first four years.

Colorado: New Company Offers Compliance and Inventory Tracking For Marijuana Industry

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Adherence Colorado, a regulatory compliance and inventory management company for the marijuana industry, has announced its formal launch of operations and proprietary software that allows auditors to ensure that licensed marijuana businesses are in compliance with state and local laws.

"We're thrilled to be open in Colorado," said Steve Owens, founder and CEO of Adherence Colorado. "By delivering compliance audit results in hours, compared to days or often weeks, we provide our clients with unprecedented value at an industry leading price.

"If a license is not within compliance limits, the underlying business's value can be reduced significantly," Owens said. "For license owners, investors, and financial services and banking experts, it's imperative to know where the business stands in terms of risk and value. Our state-of-the-art process does this and more."

According to Adherence Colorado, this is the first enterprise risk management (ERM) platform designed specifically for licensed medical and retail (recreational) marijuana businesses, providing license owners, banks and investors with valuable information about where the business is most at risk. Adherence Colorado says its software is scalable and can be customized to any state's regulatory compliance and inventory tracking system.

Colorado: These Are The Good Old Days - Things About To Change In Marijuana Market

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

This may be the golden age of marijuana in Colorado, and things are about to change.

Supply-and-demand is ever-so-slowly leading to lower prices on the recreational front, and legislative changes are in the offing that could make it more difficult for doctors to authorize medicinal cannabis for severe pain, reports Jeremy P. Mayer at The Denver Post. Voters could be asked to add a special tax onto medical marijuana, and there's even been some reckless talk about discontinuing medicinal cannabis altogether, lumping all cannabis sales into the recreational market.

"It is fluid," said Samn Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver. "Everyone knew this was going to happen.

"This is the first-of-its-kind regulation," Kamin said. "We knew we weren't going to get everything right the first time."

Medical marijuana caregivers in Colorado may grow up to six plants for up to five patients, for a total of 30 plants, but some get a waiver to grow more. As of May, the state had about 5,000 registered caregivers.

A bill will be introduced in the Colorado Legislature next session to reduce the number of plants that caregivers can grow for their patients, and require the caregivers to go through a much more stringent approval process with state health officials.

Colorado Considers New Rules For Marijuana Edibles

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A panel of marijuana producers and industry watchdogs started work on Friday to figure out how to make edible cannabis products more identifiable to children even when removed from packaging -- a challenge some edible pot makers say can't be achieved.

Colorado currently requires edible marijuana to be sold in child-safe packages which note that the contents contain marijuana, that the product can make consumers sick, and that it shouldn't be consumed before driving, reports Kristen Wyatt at The Associated Press.

But the Colorado Legislature tightened the rules earlier this year after reports of children accidentally ingesting marijuana treats. Lawmakers passed around platters of chocolate chip cookies, noting with alarm that those infused with marijuana looked just like regular cookies.

"We've heard so many stories of people consuming marijuana not knowing it was marijuana," claimed Rachel O'Bryan, an attorney and leader of Smart Colorado, an anti-marijuana group. "Without a stamp or clearly visible difference, these products are deceptive."

Edibles makers said they aren't trying to fool anybody, but that actually requiring the products themselves not to look like other foods is taking it too far.

"It works for some products, but others, it's going to be extremely hard and more than likely impracticable," said Julie Berliner, owner of SweetGrass Kitchens, which makes cannabis cookies.

New Hampshire: MPP Predicts House Approval of Marijuana Legalization Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana legalization is on the move in the New Hampshire Legislature, with the House Ways and Means Committee reviewing HB 492, which gained initial approval from the House on a 170-162 vote last month.

A report, including expected revenues and regulatory expenses, is expected from the committee as soon as next month, reports John Toole at the Eagle Tribune.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said he expects HB 492 to have smooth sailing in the House, but not the Senate. "We think it will pass in the House," he said. "We have no illusions about it passing the Senate or becoming law this year."

But, either way, Simon said, it's advancing the ball down the field. "This sets us up well in a year or two to pass something like that," he said.

The House passed a similar bill last year, which then died in the Senate. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who opposes legalization, would likely veto any such bill that reached her desk, in any event.

"Legalizing marijuana won't help us address out substance use challenge," Hassan said in her State of the State address this month. "Experience and data suggests it will do just the opposite," she claimed.

"The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health," Hassan claimed.

Washington: State Tries To Collect More In Medical Marijuana Taxes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Washington state is trying to get more taxes from Washington's medical marijuana system, even as the Legislature considers whether to completely shut dispensaries down, as has been recommended to them by the Liquor Control Board.

The Washington Department of Revenue on Tuesday said it plans to mail letters later this week to several hundred dispensaries and collective gardens; officials say the shops should be registered and paying taxes, reports The Associated Press.

The department is asking the shops to comply by January 24, and says some of them might owe back taxes.

Some Washington dispensaries are already paying business-and-occupation (B&O) and sales taxes. But some attorneys have argued that the shops don't have to pay taxes, because they believe medical cannabis authorizations are equivalent to pharmaceutical prescriptions, which aren't taxed.

Sales of heavily taxed recreational marijuana are scheduled to begin in state-licensed stores later this year. The Legislature is considering requiring recreational marijuana stores to also sell medical cannabis at similar tax rates.

(Photo: Cannabis Fantastic)

Colorado: Location Set For First Modern Legal Marijuana Sales To Adults

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Denver Issuing Marijuana Retail Store Licenses

Amendment 64 campaign leaders to hold January 1 news conference at 3-D in Denver — a licensed marijuana retail store with on-site cultivation facility

Leaders of the campaign that made marijuana legal in Colorado will gather January 1 at 3-D (Denver’s Discreet Dispensary) — a licensed retail marijuana store with on-site cultivation facility — to recognize the first-ever legal marijuana sales to adults.

A news conference with the owner of 3-D will be held at 7:30 a.m. MT on Wednesday, and the first sale will take place at 8 a.m. MT. The store is located at 4305 Brighton Boulevard in Denver.

The Denver Department of Excise and Licensing began issuing the first local marijuana business licenses on Friday, December 27, and 3-D is set to receive one. It received its state license earlier this week from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The first customer in January will be Sean Azzariti, a Denver-based Iraq war veteran who can now legally use marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Azzariti appeared in a Yes on 64 campaign television ad last year in which he discussed how legalization would benefit those suffering from PTSD — a condition that is not covered under Colorado's medical marijuana law despite repeated efforts to add it.

WHAT: First-ever retail marijuana sales to adults and news conference with leaders of the campaign that made marijuana legal in Colorado

Colorado: First Marijuana Business Licenses Issued; Legal Cannabis Sales For Adults To Begin January 1

ComeVisitUsMarijuanaIsNowLegalized

Amendment 64 campaign leaders will hold a news conference on the morning of January 1 at a Denver marijuana store — with an on-site cultivation facility — to recognize first-ever adult marijuana retail sales

First customer will be a Denver-based veteran with PTSD who uses marijuana to alleviate his symptoms; the former Marine appeared in a Yes on 64 television ad discussing how legalization would benefit Coloradans with PTSD — a condition not covered by the state's medical marijuana law

The Colorado State Department of Revenue issued the first licenses to marijuana businesses in Colorado on Monday, December 23. Retail marijuana stores will begin selling marijuana to adults 21 and older on January 1.

The state approved 348 total licenses, including 136 for retail stores, 178 for cultivation facilities, 31 for product manufacturing facilities, and three for testing facilities.

Leaders of the campaign in support of Amendment 64, the successful ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol approved in November 2012, will hold a news conference at 7:30 a.m. on January 1 at a Denver marijuana retail store that includes an on-site marijuana cultivation facility. The specific store will be announced later this week.

Colorado: State Faces Backlog In Marijuana Employee Licensing

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado's legal marijuana stores are supposed to open on January 1, but there's a backlog in licensing the employees who will staff the shops, with dozens or hundreds of people showing up each morning at a small state office hoping for an appointment.

State officials said they are taking steps to speed up the licensing process, reports Eric Gorski at The Denver Post, but business owners want to know why Colorado wasn't ready for the crush. They are worried about having adequate staffing when the new shops open at the beginning of the year.

Employees are required to be fingerprinted before getting a state badge to work in the marijuana industry; they must clear criminal and financial background checks to qualify.

The state has been snowed under with applications in the past month as businesses preparing for recreational cannabis sales hire their staffs.

On a recent weekday morning at the Marijuana Enforcement Division office in Denver, the only would-be marijuana store employees guaranteed to have their license applications processed were the ones who had already come back 11 times. Those who hadn't yet made 11 visits to the office had to enter a lottery, drawing poker chips out of a Folger's coffee jar.

Washington: Board Reverses Itself; Recommends Medical Marijuana Patients Can Grow At Home

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a major victory for the medical marijuana community, the Washington State Liquor Control Board, under heavy patient pressure, on Wednesday reversed itself, signaling they will recommend to lawmakers that medical marijuana patients continue to be allowed to grow cannabis in their homes.

The LCB's previous recommendation that home growing be outlawed, in order to force patients to conform to recreational legalization measure I-502, had produced outrage in Washington's medical marijuana community. I-502 is the recreational cannabis legalization measure approved last year by state voters.

Board members now say they recommend that patients, or their designated providers, be allowed to grow up to six plants, three flowering and three nonflowering, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times. Currently, patients are allowed to grow up to 15 plants at any stage of growth. Unexplained was why the 15-plant limit -- reached by the Legislature after extensive discussion -- was abandoned.

"We're all in agreement on home grows," said chair Sharon Foster of the three-member board. Members on Wednesday worked on changes they'd like to make to their recommendations, but didn't take formal action.

Washington: State Gets More Applications For Growing Marijuana Than For Selling It

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Based on the first week's worth of applications, Washington state has more than enough people interested in getting licenses to grow marijuana. But so far there are applications for fewer than half the number of cannabis stores allowed by state regulations.

The application period for those who want to grow, process or sell marijuana in Washington state under the implementation of legalization measure Initiative 502 began on November 18, reports Jim Camden at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Applications are filed with the state Department of Revenue, which processes the requests before sending them on to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

The LCB is in charge of implementing and regulating recreational marijuana sales. On Tuesday, it released the names and locations from the 922 applications filed during the first week (for the list, click "Marijuana License Applicants" on this page. The Board said it will grant up to 334 retail licenses statewide, with limits in each county. So far 158 applications have been received for retail licenses; no applications have been received so far from 14 counties.

The amount of space allowed to be devoted to growing marijuana, statewide, has been limited to 2 million feet by the Board. Submitted applications from the first week alone for growing licenses total almost 6.8 million square feet.

Colorado: International Delegation Visits To Learn About Regulating Marijuana

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Government Officials and Legislators from Uruguay, México, and Canada will be briefed by Colorado and Washington officials on Regulations Being Put in Place in the States

With Colorado and Washington State launching the regulated marijuana markets approved by the voters in 2012, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Drug Policy Alliance are hosting an international delegation in Denver this week to learn first hand from Colorado’s experience in regulating marijuana through enacting and implementing Amendment 64.

Comprised of government officials and legislators from Uruguay, México, and Canada, the delegation will be briefed by Colorado and Washington officials on the regulations being put in place in the states. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the delegation will visit cultivation facilities and dispensaries.

As Uruguay moves toward passage of legislation to regulate its domestic marijuana market and the debate over marijuana policy picks up pace in México and Canada, the pioneering steps being taken in Colorado and Washington are being watched closely.

A press conference featuring Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper, and Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, as well as members of the international delegation to discuss the visit and their findings, will be at RiverRock dispensary at 4935 York Street, Denver, on Wednesday, October 23 at 3 p.m.

Colorado: Report Finds 'Devastating' Problems With Denver's Regulation of Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An audit released on Thursday found serious problems with how Denver licenses, tracks and manages the medical marijuana industry.

Denver has the most medicinal cannabis dispensaries in the state, but the city's management of the industry has been "ineffective" and "inefficient" and even poses "substantive risks to the city," according to the report, which Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher called "devastating," reports Jeremy P. Meyer at The Denver Post.

The problems potentially cost Denver millions of dollars in tax revenues, and one member of the audit committee even claimed the oversights put neighborhoods and citizens at risk.

According to the report, city officials didn't even know how many dispensaries were open in Denver, and could not provide a map of their locations. The audit report offered 20 recommendations for Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses to fix the system.

Several problems, including incomplete, inaccurate or inaccessible records, were identified in the report. Other problem areas were lack of formal processes or policies for licensing; bad coordination between the city and the state Department of Revenue; unenforced deadlines for key steps in the licensing process; and poor management and staffing, according to the audit.

Colorado: Retail Marijuana Labels Must Include Potency, Expiration Dates, Safety Warning

ComeVisitUsMarijuanaIsNowLegalized

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado has announced extensive rules regulating how recreational marijuana should be grown and sold starting next year under the legalization measure approved last November by voters.

The state department responsible for cannabis regulation on Monday released more than 60 pages of rules for how marijuana retailers will be licensed and regulated, reports The Denver Channel.

The rules require labels to include potency, expiration dates, and a disclaimer that marijuana isn't legal outside Colorado and hasn't been safety-tested.

The Colorado Legislature set broad rules earlier this year, but the details were left to the state Department of Revenue.

Last year's voter-approved cannabis legalization measure, Amendment 64, required the department to release rules by July 1. Retail recreational marijuana sales won't start until January 2014.

The new recreational marijuana rules don't apply to medical marijuana dispensaries.

(Graphic: Ma'ayan Rosenzweig/ABC News)

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