Tag: California

California Bill Would Ban Cannabis-Branded Hats, T-Shirts, Other Merchandise

Go to a California cannabis event and you’re likely to walk away with a free hat—or a bumper sticker, or a t-shirt, or tote bag emblazoned with a cannabis company’s logo. But under a bill being considered in the state Legislature, all that branded merchandise would go up in smoke.

Senate Bill 162, by state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), would prohibit state-licensed cannabis businesses from advertising “through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product.” It’s a measure aimed at reducing children’s exposure to cannabis ads, but some in the industry say it amounts to legislative overreach and could end up doing more harm than good.

Last month the Senate passed the measure unanimously, 40–0, and it’s now parked in an Assembly committee.

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Advertising has been a thorny issue as the Golden State works to bring its multibillion-dollar cannabis industry out of the shadows and into a legal, regulated marketplace. Concerns over advertisements that might appeal to minors have already led to restrictions on the use of certain music, language, shapes, cartoon characters, and other content known to capture kids’ attention. In addition to staying away from schools, daycares, and youth centers, advertisements can be served only to audiences that are at least 71.6% composed of adults 21 and over.

“SB 162’s restriction on ‘advertising’ generally would give enforcement authorities the ability to shut down all cannabis merchandising.”

Rebecca Stamey-White, attorney

Branded merchandise is also currently restricted, with distribution allowed only at “an industry trade show or other similar venue where the attendees are required to be 21 years of age or older.” SB 162 would remove that allowance, barring branded merchandise completely.

As written, the law would apply only to commercial speech by state-licensed cannabis companies. Nonprofits and noncommercial speech would be exempt.

The proposal, as LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero reports, has some cannabis businesses up in arms:

The Southern California Coalition, the largest trade group of marijuana businesses in Los Angeles, is … opposed to the proposal. “To ban small businesses from advertising, marketing and branding is ridiculous,” the organization’s executive director, Adam Spiker, said via email.

“The bill would materially hamstring small business owners’ ability to grow in the land of opportunity,” Spiker said. “We are firmly against it, and will work to ensure lawmakers are aware of the harmful ramifications it would have.”

A letter sent to Sen. Allen by the California arm of the American Academy of Pediatrics says the bill “would ensure that children and youth are exposed to a minimal amount of marijuana advertising,” according to the LA Weekly report. “This would help protect children from the dangerous health effects of marijuana use in a manner consistent with tobacco regulations.”

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The limits of the bill’s restrictions on merchandise aren’t immediately clear. In other legal states, employees of cannabis businesses regularly wear branded apparel and other merchandise. But because the law is phrased so broadly—”advertise through the use of”—it’s conceivable that even branded bags or employee t-shirts could run afoul of the proposed law.

“SB 162 is broad enough in its language that it could cover branded merchandise worn by employees or even merchandise produced by an unlicensed third party if it was done so for the licensee,” Rebecca Stamey-White, a San Francisco-based lawyer who works with the cannabis and alcohol industries.

Other states, such as Washington, have similar restrictions on branded merchandise, although the details are more clearly defined. According to a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board FAQ page, licensees may create branded merchandise such as apparel for internal or employee use. Those items can’t be sold or given away directly to consumers, but they can be sold by the licensee’s parent company or a separate-but-related business. Strangely enough, branded paraphernalia—such as pipes, bongs, and storage containers—is not considered “branded merchandise” in Washington and may be sold by licensees.

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“The [California] bill does not have the appropriate limitations that Washington has on their restrictions, which only prevent licensees from selling or giving away branded products from their licensed premises or on their website, but makes no attempt to regulate non-licensees producing or selling these products,” Stamey-White said. “SB 162’s restriction on ‘advertising’ generally would give enforcement authorities the ability to shut down all cannabis merchandising, including all kinds of branded products that do not contain cannabis, so this is a bill the industry should be actively opposing or working toward more precise language here.

In Colorado, cannabis laws don’t discuss branded products specifically. Instead, restrictions on advertising focus on “mass market campaigns that have a high likelihood of reaching” minors, including internet and in-app advertising.

Restrictions on alcohol, which is directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of youth deaths every year, are allowed considerably more leeway. “Restrictions on consumer alcohol merchandising are limited to what products may be given away to consumers, but there are not blanket prohibitions on the sale of branded products or restrictions on where these products can be sold as advertising,” Stamey-White said.

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“This bill is an attempt to restrict commercial free speech without a substantial state interest in doing so,” she added. “I believe in restrictions on overly aggressive marketing (which is the constraint on giveaways) and marketing that is appealing to minors, but I think this goes too far.”

The full text of SB 162 is available on the California Legislature’s website.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

In California, Many Growers Will Stay Underground

Real Talk: Some Growers Will Remain Illicit

He's not an illicit grower, but he understands their dilemma: Hezekiah Allen works to create an easier pathway into the legal industry as a lobbyist for the California Growers Association.He’s not an illicit grower, but he understands their dilemma: Hezekiah Allen works to create an easier pathway into the legal industry as a lobbyist for the California Growers Association. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Editor’s note: This week (June 19, 2017), Leafly launches a four-part series on California cannabis farming by Paul Roberts, author of “The End of Food.” Roberts examines the choices California cannabis growers face as the state enters the legal era: Scale up, build a craft brand, join a cooperative, or go deeper underground. Today: What happens to those who choose to go deeper underground?

Here’s an unhappy fact about California’s newly legalized cannabis market that reform advocates don’t talk much about: Most of the state’s existing cannabis farmers probably won’t be going legal.

There are an estimated 50,000 growers in California. Not all will go legal.

In some cases that decision will be an act of rebellion. After decades defying prohibition and dodging arrest, some long-time growers have no interest in submitting to a world of regulations, testing, and taxes.

But for other farmers, skipping the legal market will be more an act of desperation: these farmers will try to make the transition to licensed production—either by scaling up, going the craft route, or joining a co-op—only to be thwarted by the tough new realities of farming in a time of rising regulation and ever-thinner margins.

Whatever the cause, with the arrival of a state-licensed medical and adult use market in 2018, these frustrated farmers will likely to do one of two things.

Many will probably retire from farming, or perhaps shift to other, non-farming roles in the new legal cannabis sector. But a not-insignificant number of them will probably keep growing for the illegal market. And while some of that off-the-books weed may stay in California, most will enter the national black market.

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Just how many of the state’s current population of farmers, estimated at between 50,000 to 80,000  by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will opt for the black market is impossible to know. But anecdotal accounts, by law enforcement officials, industry consultants and many farmers themselves, suggest that the number could be quite high.

And if that’s the case, it could create serious headaches for everyone from law enforcement officials to, especially, advocates for national legalization efforts, for whom California was supposed to be a shining example of legalization success. If the state’s cannabis goes “all over the country,” warns Hezekiah Allen, a cannabis farmer-turned-lobbyist for the California Growers Association, “the DEA and Jeff Sessions will rightfully start putting the pieces together.”

California Grows More Than It Consumes

Seat of Power: The California State Capitol in Sacramento, where lawmakers will set the regulations that shape the legal cannabis industry. Seat of Power: The California State Capitol in Sacramento, where lawmakers will set the regulations that shape the legal cannabis industry. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

In some respects, the export scenario was inevitable, given that California has always produced more cannabis than state residents can legally consume. For every pound of cannabis that California growers produce and sell legally, another four pounds are produced for the black market, according a February analysis by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center for the California Bureau of Marijuana Control. Much of that surplus currently goes out of state.

One-fifth of existing cannabis farms could meet the entire state’s market demand.

And, paradoxically, legalization will only worsen that over-supply dynamic. As those California farmers who now export try to go legal and sell their product at home, the state’s already well-supplied legal market will become even more saturated. That will drive wholesale prices even further below the break-even point for small farmers, and lead even more of them to consider staying in the black market.

Of course, there are factors that could disrupt this self-feeding death spiral. Legalization will spur more consumer demand, which will absorb some of that oversupply. But judging by the experience from other adult-use states, that post-legalization demand growth simply won’t be sufficient to absorb all the cannabis that will be coming from older farms as well as the new mega-scale factory farms.

The implications are significant. Allen, the California Growers Association lobbyist, estimates that when legalization has been fully implemented in California, the state’s legal market could be supplied by perhaps 8,000 smallish farms. That’s perhaps one-fifth of the number thought to be operating today. “Best case, seventy percent of my community goes out of business,” says Allen.

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The ramifications of that kind of reduction haven’t gone unnoticed by California’s political establishment. Lawmakers and regulators are deeply worried by the prospect of massive unemployment. Small-scale cannabis farmers employ as many as 250,000 full- and part-time workers, according to the California Growers Association. An investigation by Leafly News earlier this year estimated that California’s current medical cannabis industry (which does not include the illicit market) supports more than 43,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

But, again, the real downside may be how California’s continued exports tilt the legalization debate in other states and at the federal level. As Lauren Michaels, a cannabis policy expert with California Police Chiefs Association, puts it, “when you have other states, and a nation as a whole, that are still skeptical of legal cannabis,” a huge amount of oversupply from California doesn’t create the “best optics” for national reform.

Coaxing Growers to Go Legal

Hezekiah Allen's pin hints at his cause: Growing a legal industry with room for legacy growers. Hezekiah Allen’s lapel pin hints at his cause: Growing a legal industry with room for legacy growers. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

So, that’s the bad news about the fourth pathway for California’s existing cannabis farmers. The good news is that this dire scenario has led lawmakers in Sacramento to consider measures to help small farmers go legal—or at least slow the process of attrition so that existing farmers can make less problematic exits.

Last fall, for example, the state created a “cottage farm” license for smaller growers. The license is cheaper and easier to get. Because it caps production at 2,500 square feet of greenhouse space or 25 mature plants (half the scale of the next-biggest license type), the cottage license may help allay the anxieties that many local governments have about larger cannabis farms—anxieties that have delayed licenses and frustrated small farmers.

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The cottage law “sent a signal to local governments,” says Max Mikalonis, a former legislative staffer who helped draft the state’s medical cannabis law for California Assemblyman Tom Bonta. (Mikalonis now lobbies for cannabis firms at K Street Consulting in Sacramento.) “A county that might not be comfortable with having, say 50 plants on a one-acre lot, might be more comfortable with 25 plants or less.”

Another bit of state help: A so-called appellation law will protect the brand value of geographic locations by prohibiting cannabis producers from using place names in their marketing unless the products actually come from those locations.

These sorts of regulatory moves can help ensure that the regulated marketplace provides opportunities for existent growers. But ultimately, says Allen, state lawmakers must embrace the idea that California’s legal cannabis market has room for producers of all scales and business models. Such a marketplace, he says, will provide more jobs and offer more diverse and higher-quality products.

But to make that happen, Allen says, lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders can’t get carried away by the idea that scaling-up is the only path to survival. “There is no reason why a price crash is inevitable,” Allen says. “These well-capitalized [cannabis producers] have every incentive to pretend it’s inevitable, but that’s actually just [a reflection] of their agenda.”

The agenda of the state and the public, Allen argues, is very different: a diverse, unconsolidated cannabis marketplace with room for all scales and production models. “Commoditization, quantity over quality—it is not an inevitability, nor is it a desired outcome,” Allen says. “Except for the people who stand to benefit from that kind of consolidation.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Emerald Triangle Growers Scale Up Together in Co-Ops

‘Run By the Farmers, For the Farmers’

Amber and Casey O'Neil, founders of the 40-member Emerald Grown cooperative, help independent farmers lower their costs by working together. Amber and Casey O’Neil, founders of the 40-member Emerald Grown cooperative, help independent farmers lower their costs by working together. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Editor’s note: This week (June 19, 2017), Leafly launches a four-part series on California cannabis farming by Paul Roberts, author of “The End of Food.” Roberts examines the choices California cannabis growers face as the state enters the legal era: Scale up, build a craft brand, join a cooperative, or go deeper underground. Today: Independent farmers find a safe haven in agricultural cooperatives.

Markets, like ecosystems, respond to massive disruption with a wave of experimentation and adaptation—and that’s certainly been the story in California’s cannabis sector. Ever since legalization upended the decades-old status quo, players have scrambled to develop new business strategies to exploit the chaos—or simply survive it.

By coordinating harvests and pooling crops, co-op members can deliver the bulk shipments that wholesalers increasingly demand.

Some, like Jai Malloy, have scaled up. Others, like Sam Edwards in Sonoma, have moved to the other end of the scale continuum with a “craft” strategy.

Yet the reality is that many existing cannabis farmers lack the resources or expertise to carry off either of these strategies—or, at least, carry it off all on their own. For many of these growers, the solution has been a strategy that borrows from both large- and small-scale producers—the cannabis co-operative.

A case in point is Emerald Grown, a forty-member co-operative located in the town of Laytonville, in the Emerald Triangle’s Mendocino County. Founded three years ago by farmers Amber and Casey O’Neill, the co-operative follows a strategy of adaptive mimicry: using collective action to achieve the scale efficiencies of larger operators. By sharing seeds, expertise, and other resources, for example, co-op members can significantly boost their individual yields.

By pooling their cash, they can afford attorneys and consultants to navigate local regulations. And, most significantly, by coordinating harvests and pooling their crops, co-op members can deliver the large bulk shipments that California’s cannabis wholesalers increasingly demand.

Most of Emerald Grown’s members farm on less than 5,000 square feet, says Casey, which makes it very hard for an individual farmer “to deliver the kind of consistently large volumes that big buyers now want.” But collectively, says Casey, they can play in the big leagues.

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Teaming Up to Compete

That sort of collective muscle is essential at a time when small farmers must not only compete with much bigger producers, but must also deal with a cannabis “downstream” – distributors, wholesalers, and retailers—that is becoming just as big scale.

Like Washington and Colorado before it, California is seeing signs of retail sector consolidation and the emergence of mega-retailers and dispensary chains with enough market share to squeeze cannabis suppliers, much as big-box grocery chains squeeze their own suppliers. In fact, some big urban dispensaries want to compete directly with cannabis producers by building their own cultivation operations. (Oakland’s iconic Harborside medical dispensary, for example, is launching an industrial-scale greenhouse operation in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley.)

Meanwhile, there will be further price pressure from a new generation of distributors and “platforms,” such as delivery services like Eaze, an app-based service that is using rapid service and big-data analytics to dominate California’s medical cannabis delivery market.

For all these reasons, says Amber O’Neill, eventually, “every producing community is going to need a cooperative serving it–something run by the farmers and for the farmers.”

Gaining Popularity in the Emerald Triangle

Hard work, smart growing, and the local co-op have allowed Amber and Casey O’Neil to create an idyllic farming life in Laytonville, Calif. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

The O’Neils say there are at least half a dozen similar organizations across the three counties of the Emerald Triangle. Some have emerged from the informal, self-governing collectives that have loosely coordinated cannabis production since the state decriminalized medical cannabis in 1995. Other organizations are coalescing around specific geographies or communities.  In neighboring Humboldt County, for example, a growers alliance called Humboldt’s Finest has been launched to market five local sun-grown flower lines developed jointly by botanists and “maverick growers”.

The structure and methods of these new collective organizations will likely vary. Where Emerald Growers follows strict state guidelines for member-owned agricultural co-operatives, others have morphed toward more commercial entities, such as limited liability corporations or “mutual benefit” corporations.

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Yet whatever the structure, these organizations will perform broadly similar functions—pooling members’ output, resources, and skills in order to boost scale and efficiency while preserving and enhancing whatever makes their product unique. Some co-operatives, for example, will centralize their processing by leasing or even building space for joint processing and for storage.

Cooperatives will also play a consultative role, helping smaller farmers deal with the complexities of licensing and testing, or improving their growing methods to ensure better price premiums. And, importantly, co-operatives will give growers more negotiating leverage with wholesalers, retailers, distributors and other market intermediates that want to control growers’ access to consumers. In fact, in some cases, co-operatives themselves are getting into the retail space: Emerald Grown is considering applying for a state license that would allow it to open several storefronts.

Adapting, Surviving Means Sacrificing

Nature’s pest control at work on the O’Neils’ cannabis leaves. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Yet these very strategies point to another inescapable reality: many smaller scale cannabis farmers may not want to make the kind of adaptations that may be essential to survival. Case in point: to get the volumes that wholesale buyers now demand, Emerald Grown has had to push some members to focus on a smaller number of popular strains—a strategy that has resulted in commercially viable volumes but has irked some long-time farmers.

Some farmers ‘are having to give up the strains that they really love’ to survive in the market.

Casey O’Neil, farmer and co-op founder

“It’s bittersweet,” Casey says, “because people are having to give up the strains that they really love just because there’s not enough of it to really compete in the marketplace.”

Similarly, some farmers are reluctant to embrace the sort of rule-dominated operations that legalization will require—a reluctance Amber says deserves careful attention. “One of the things I say to folks is, ‘you’ve got to prepare yourself to be more professional than you’ve ever been in your life, as far as being a really good bookkeeper and running your business fully transparently and paying all of your taxes,” she says.

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Compliance with the regulations “is like a whole other job to add to the farming,” she adds. “So if folks don’t feel like they are going to follow through with all of those steps, I don’t recommend it, because there is not going to be any ‘half-way’ legal. If you’re not prepared to go the full distance, you should really re-evaluate whether this is what you want to be doing.”

That may seem like a deeply personal decision—yet it’s one whose impact will go well beyond the lives and livelihoods of individual farmers.

The reality of California’s cannabis market is that most small farmers simply won’t be able to make the transition to legal operations. Some will try and fail. Others, put off by the bureaucracy and sharp competition, won’t even try. Amber says some of the older farmers she and Casey know are simply going to retire. But others will likely take a different path and will continue to sell their product in the black market. Just how many of California’s tens of thousands of small farmers will end up taking this fourth option is impossible to know right now. But if the numbers are as large as some industry observers fear, it could have a huge, and not entirely positive, effect on the success of legalization in California and beyond.

Background image by James Tensuan


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

California Growers: How to Thrive at Craft Scale

Small, Sustainable…and Profitable?

Sam Edwards poses for a phtograph on one of his properties in Sonoma County, Calif. on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.Sam Edwards poses next to cannabis grow pots on one of his properties in Sonoma County, California. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Editor’s note: This week (June 19, 2017), Leafly launches a four-part series on California cannabis farming by Paul Roberts, author of “The End of Food.” Roberts examines the choices California cannabis growers face as the state enters the legal era: Scale up, build a craft brand, join a cooperative, or go deeper underground. Today: Can independent farmers survive by building craft-scale brands? 

On a small outdoor cannabis farm on the Sonoma coast, a few hours west of Jai Malloy’s mega greenhouse, Sam Edwards is nurturing a business model that all but mocks the current trend toward factory volumes, low prices, and optimized shelf-readiness.

You’ve got to answer the question: Why should a consumer pay a premium for your product?

Take, for example, the climate around his farm. The high humidity and frequent sun-blocking fog yield a product that most industrial producers would scorn as a failure—a loose, “airy” cannabis bud that even Edwards admits has little value in the mass-market flower sector.

But, says Edwards proudly, “it’s absolutely great for extracts.”

More precisely, the Sonoma coast climate yields a terpene profile “that is much more fragrant” than most factory-farmed cannabis. When that aromatic bud is crushed and run through Edwards’ small-batch, low-temperature extraction process, it results in a vape cartridge that draws a very high-end customer. Marketed under the brand Aya, Edward’s half-gram cartridge retails for around $50, a premium price above the typical $25-$40 cartridge range. “It’s hard to get on shelves at that price,” Edward says. “But once we’re there, we stay there.”

And stay in business: The premium that Edwards can charge is one of the reasons his company, Sonoma Cannabis, is thriving in a cannabis market increasingly dominated by large-scale producers. Indeed, his products—everything from high-end cannabis nectars to multi-course meals with cannabis-infused entrees—are about as far from Walmart-style factory farm output as it’s possible to get.

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Small is Beautiful

Edwards, a 30-year-old Sonoma native, isn’t alone in thinking small is beautiful. Across northern California especially, thousands of smaller cannabis farmers are experimenting with small-batch cultivation methods that target discerning, higher-end consumers with what Humboldt Chrystal growers Crystal Ortiz-Beck and Noah Beck call “connoisseur cannabis.”

Small-batch cultivation methods target discerning, higher-end consumers with ‘connoisseur cannabis.’

The motivation behind this strategy isn’t a mystery: as industrial efficiencies drive down wholesale prices for conventional bud, smaller players that can’t compete on quantity are fighting back with quality—or, more precisely, with strains and production methods that benefit from a smaller scale and slower time frame.

It’s a strategy straight out of the craft food and beverage space. In fact, Edwards himself used to work in the wine industry, and it was there that he saw how niche wineries have survived the onslaught of mass-produced wine by developing high-end specialty products that emphasize local character.

The high humidity and sun-blocking fog around Edwards’ outdoor grows yield a loose, airy bud that’s fantastic for extracts. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

That boutique model, Edwards realized, offered a viable pathway for small-scale cannabis producers—not least because it demonstrated how small-scale production could actually be an advantage. Where mass-production grape farmers sought to maximize their tonnage, Edwards says, estate wineries instead used their small-batch skills to maximize the quality of their grapes, which then allowed them to command “the highest price per bottle.” It was a strategy with obvious applications among smaller cannabis farmers, many of whom had spent years laboriously cultivating unique strains.

Location as a Premium Brand

The boutique wine business also demonstrated the value of location. Where large-scale cannabis producers wanted the flexibility to grow cannabis anywhere, the boutique model goes the other way, exploiting the complex links between product and place. “Every valley and micro-climate has cannabis farmers who have learned what works best in their areas and what doesn’t,” says Edwards. Ultimately, he says, California could see a cannabis variant of terroir, the French concept that links specific agricultural specialties to specific locations.

And, indeed, California legislators are helping that idea become reality. Early this year, lawmakers proposed a so-called appellation law will protect the brand value of geographic locations by prohibiting cannabis producers from using place names in their marketing unless the products actually come from those locations. That’s key in an industry whose iconic place names, like “Humboldt” and “Mendocino”, are at risk of brand “dilution” by less-than-accurate labeling. Or as Edwards puts it, “It’s fraud to say a product is from Mendo if it’s not from Mendo.”

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Although the craft-scale business model is still quite new in the cannabis world, it seems to be gaining momentum. Marketing experts and dispensary owners now routinely refer to “craft cannabis”. Even flinty-eyed industry analysts see the niche as potentially promising, especially as the consuming public becomes aware of the growing role of factory farms. Tom Adams, editor in chief of Arcview Research, thinks California’s small farmers can capitalize on, among other things, consumer anxiety over the state’s rich cannabis heritage being displaced by cannabis monoculture. Adams envisions a boutique California cannabis sector that specializes in unique, high-end strains that play up the state’s pre-industrial cannabis culture and geography—a purebred Hindu Kush  grown in Humboldt County, maybe, or Acapulco Gold  grown in Big Sur from imported seeds.

It Pays to Diversify

Sam Edwards poses for a phtograph on one of his properties in Sonoma County, Calif. on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.Sam Edwards’ half-gram cartridge retails for a premium. “It’s hard to get on shelves,” Edward says. “But once we’re there, we stay there.” (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Success in this niche market will require more than cleverly named brands. Operations like Sonoma Cannabis thrive in large part because they’re just as disciplined, methodical, and strategic as their mega-rivals. For example, rather than relying on a single line of business, such as extracts, Sonoma Cannabis has diversified. They operate a crush facility where other cannabis farmers can grind their own plants for processing. Their consulting arm offers agricultural expertise.

‘Use the scientific method and be really diligent in your data collection.’

Sam Edwards, craft-scale cannabis farmer

More fundamentally, successful small-scale cannabis farmers understand exactly what value they are bringing consumers, and how to deliver that value as efficiently as possible. Developing a classy terpene profile that can justify a top price doesn’t happen by accident. Companies like Sonoma Cannabis spend many hours and dollars testing cannabis strains in numerous microclimates and soils. They carefully monitor how terpene profiles change with everything from location to fog cover to frequency of sun breaks. “It all comes back to using the scientific method,” says Edwards, who studied systems engineering in college. “And being really diligent in your data collection, which I think the cannabis industry has not been good enough at so far.”

Edwards advises small-scale farmers to adopt a big-picture strategy, and balance quick, near-term successes with longer-term opportunity. Case in point: where some small-scale farmers rely on pesticides to ensure a super-attractive flower that can win retail shelf space, Sonoma Cannabis has made the opposite bet and sought out varieties that could be grown without pesticides. Edwards’ logic? Pesticide-free cannabis would appeal to high-end consumers and give the company a huge advantage when the state’s strict new testing requirements came online.

The wisdom of that bet was confirmed recently after the Steep Hill testing lab found pesticide on 41 of 44 commercial cannabis products. Demand for Sonoma Cannabis’s products has been so strong, Edward says, that the company had to temporarily stop taking orders until it could ramp up supplies. “People talk about market share and shelf space,” he says, “but really, at the end of the day, unless you can pass all your tests, you’re not going to be on anyone’s shelf.”

Attractive as craft-farm model is, it also has prerequisites, in terms of capital and expertise, that may be hard for some smaller cannabis farmers to tackle—at least, on their own. For these would-be crafters, yet another business model exists—one that uses the power of collective action to give even smaller players enough market muscle to survive into today’s rapidly industrializing cannabis sector.

Background image by James Tensuan

Next in the series: Cooperatives allow independent cannabis farmers to band together for economies of scale.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Grow Big or Go Home?

What’s a California Grower to Do?

Amber and Casey O'Neil, California cannabis farmers, organized the Emerald Grown cannabis cooperative three years ago in Mendocino County.Amber and Casey O’Neil, California cannabis farmers, organized the Emerald Grown cannabis cooperative three years ago in Mendocino County. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

When Jai Malloy started working in cannabis a decade ago, as a trimmer on a farm in Northern California’s famed Emerald Triangle, “state of the art” meant a 10,000 square-foot cold-frame greenhouse with manually operated blackout tarps. In a good year, a skilled grower could get three harvests and a total yield of two-and-a-half ounces for every square foot of growing area.

Since then, the state of the art has evolved. So has Jai Malloy. He now co-owns his own brand, Phinest Cannabis, and a parent company, Green Coast Industrial, that has become a prime example of the industry’s new business model. This year Green Coast is breaking ground on a $9 million, 108,000 square-foot greenhouse with a full acre of plant canopy—the maximum allowed under the state’s evolving cannabis laws.

Do California growers have to scale up? Or can they survive and thrive at craft level?

Located in Yolo County, a few hours east of the Emerald Triangle, the vast structure will feature fully automated blackout covers, central cooling, CO2 enrichment, and a positive-air pressure system to keep out pollen and other contaminants. Sensors will continually monitor sunlight strength and, when necessary, supplement the solar rays with more than 1,000 high-pressure sodium bulbs. The high-tech setup will allow five-and-a-half crops a year, staggered for continuous harvest, and its total annual per-foot yield will come in at eight ounces, or nearly quadruple that of the old Mendocino operation.

All told, the project is expected to produce around 12 to 15 tons a year, much of which Green Coast will process into a line of edibles, waxes, and other concentrates to be sold their own branded storefronts, beginning with outlets in Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles.

Malloy himself seems almost shocked by how far things have come in a short time. “What we were doing then and what we’re doing now,” says Malloy, pausing. “It’s apples and bowling balls.”

1m Square Feet Under Production

Malloy’s metaphor captures the radical change in the California cannabis sector over the past decade. And it also gets at a question that may determine the winners and losers in the state’s $8 billion cannabis industry: Does size matter?

Jai Malloy poses for a photograph in his greenhouse in Santa Cruz County, Calif. on Thursday, June 8, 2017.Cannabis farmer Jai Malloy in his greenhouse in Santa Cruz County. Malloy’s next facility will be a $9 million, 108,000 square foot greenhouse in Yolo County, east of Sacramento. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Since 2015, when the California legislature passed a sweeping medical cannabis regulation act, the state’s marijuana farming sector has experienced a period of frenzied growth. That excitement was supercharged when voters passed adult-use legalization last November. Now, as Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature labor to turn those laws into on-the-ground regulations, Californians of all stripes have struggled to answer the question: What will—or should—the post-2018 cannabis farming landscape look like? Will only big operators, who invest millions of dollars to scale up, survive in the coming market? Or will there also be room for traditional craft-scale growers?

California’s cannabis market already accounts for 27% of the national total. And that’s before adult-use legalization.

The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. To judge by media coverage, large-scale operations like Green Coast Industrial are the future. Up and down the state, from Yolo and Monterey counties in the north to Desert Hot Springs and Needles in the south, investors are pouring tens of millions of dollars into a fleet of large-scale, high-tech, ultra-efficient cannabis operations engineered to generate very large volumes of super-consistent product.

In Monterey County alone, as much as one million square feet of cannabis production is either planned or already under development. This industrial-scale efficiency, many observers say, will allow the Golden State’s legal cannabis market, which already accounts for 27% of the US total, to more than triple by 2021, to $5.8 billion, according to the latest estimate from Arcview Research.

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But appearances can be deceiving. California’s cannabis landscape will be heavily influenced by regulation—and, in particular, by the way lawmakers reconcile the state’s 2015 medical cannabis law with more recent, and quite different, adult-use law. For example, the medical cannabis law tends to favor smaller farms and would cap state-licensed growers to no more than one acre of outdoor cultivation or 22,000 square feet of indoor canopy. Under Prop 64, however, that cap would disappear by 2023—which means that what seems huge by today’s standards may someday look small.

California’s 80,000 Cannabis Farms

More to the point, for all the focus on the dozens of mega-grows being developed, nearly all of the cannabis that Californians consume today comes from small farms not so different from the place where Malloy learned his craft. And not just a few: The state Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that California already has between 50,000 to 80,000 cannabis farms. These operations are generally small and low-tech—the antithesis of the modern factory farms. They are also, in many cases, not entirely legal.

A flowering cannabis plant in Jai Malloy's greenhouse in Santa Cruz County, Calif.A flowering cannabis plant in Jai Malloy’s greenhouse in Santa Cruz County, Calif. (James Tensuan for Leafly)

Tucked away in remote places like the Emerald Triangle’s north coast hills, some of them run by second- and third-generation farmers, many of these operations have spent decades producing cannabis for the state’s vast and nebulous medical market—or exporting it into the national illicit market. In 2016, according to Arcview, sales of illicit California cannabis, much of it from small-scale producers, amounted to $5.1 billion, or almost triple the value of the state’s legal production. Of course, many of those small operators want to come out of the shadows—a potential mass migration that will affect both the shape and scale of the state’s cannabis market.

From what we’ve seen in California’s medical market, as well as in the four adult-use states, California’s cannabis farmers will have to choose one of four potential career paths. They can:

  • Scale up to industrial-size commodity production
  • Build a high-end craft-scale niche brand
  • Form or join an agricultural cooperative
  • Retire or remain underground and feed the illicit market in non-legal states.

The choices California’s farmer make will reverberate across the national cannabis industry. They will shape everything from wholesale prices to future legalization campaigns.

In the coming week, Leafly will examine these four options that California cannabis farmers will likely need to choose from—and what that’s likely to mean for them, and for the rest of us.

First up: Grow big or go home.

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‘Get Big or Get Out’

Back in the 1970s, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz famously told America’s struggling grain farmers to “get big or get out” – by which he meant, “Either gain the scale necessary to survive in a low-price, low-margin market, or find some other line of work.”

Today, California cannabis farmers are hearing the same message, in part because the economics of cannabis have undergone the same low-price, low margin transformation. Consider: less than a decade ago, a California indoor grower spent around $300 to produce a pound of cannabis that could be wholesaled for around $4,000. That fat margin reflected the “risk premium” of illicit production and distribution.

Going legal could add $520 to the production cost of each pound of dried flower.

Today margins aren’t nearly so fat. On the cost side, legal producers face a raft of new outlays. There will be taxes and the costs of complying with new state regulations on things like product testing, traceability, and 24-hour security. According the California Bureau of Marijuana Control, going legal could add $520 to the production cost of each pound of “marketable dried-flower equivalent”—with $400 of that coming from testing alone.

Meanwhile, the risk premium has vanished as a flood of legal supply has entered the state’s market. The result is what any economist would expect: Prices have plummeted.

Here are the states with the most and least expensive cannabis in the United States. It’s no accident that the least expensive product sells in legal states. The risk premium has vanished.

America’s Most Expensive Cannabis

State Price (1 oz.) Adult Use Cannabis Medical Cannabis Penalty for Possession of 1 oz. Cannabis
Maryland $420 Illegal Legal, not yet available 1 year incarceration
Louisiana $400 Illegal Illegal 6 months incarceration (first offense only)
New York $380 Illegal Legal $100 fine
Alabama $360 Illegal Illegal 1 year incarceration
Georgia $360 Illegal Illegal 1 year incarceration
Source: Trans High Market Quotations, June 2017

America’s Least Expensive Cannabis

State Price (1 oz.) Adult Use Cannabis Medical Cannabis Penalty for Possession of 1 oz. Cannabis
Nevada $200 Legal, not yet regulated Legal $600 fine
California $155 Legal, not yet regulated Legal $100 fine
Colorado $140 Legal Legal None
Oregon $139 Legal Legal None
Washington $110 Legal Legal None
Source: Leafly.com

Indoor-grown California cannabis now wholesales for around $1,550 a pound. Prices for sun-grown and greenhouse have also fallen. Margins for California’s producers have narrowed considerably, and are likely to get skinnier still, judging by data from Colorado (where wholesale prices are down by half since legalization), and Washington state (by nearly two thirds).

Steady Downward Pressure on Price

Since adult-use legalization in Colorado, “we’ve had to continually adjust price expectations lower and lower and lower,” says Erik Romero, director of data & finance at the Cannabase, a Denver-based B2B “platform” where retailers, cultivators, and processors buy and sell wholesale inventory. Every time growers are sure that “this is the bottom, it can’t go any further down than this—it does,” Romero adds.

Some farmers are counting on greater volume to make up for smaller margins.

Sure, there’s some argument over how much further California wholesale prices will fall, given that the state’s medical market is already so oversaturated. But no one disputes that as the adult-use market matures, cannabis retailers, eager to woo consumers with daily price specials, will press their suppliers for ever-larger discounts.

In Washington State, for example, the adult-use retail market opened in July 2014 with $25 grams. The high price was driven by a combination of extreme demand and pinched supply, as most growers hadn’t gotten their state licenses in time to harvest when the market opened. As the state industry matured, prices fell and stabilized. Today a $5 gram is a common bottom-shelf product at most Washington retail stores. BDS Analytics charted the state’s volume rise and price fall like this:

Washington State sales, 2014-2016. As volume increased, price per gram fell. (Chart by BDS Analytics) Washington State sales, 2014-2016. As volume increased, price per gram fell. (Chart by BDS Analytics)

For cannabis farmers trying to survive this Walmart-like dynamic, the logic of large-scale production extremely persuasive.

First, by producing cannabis (or anything) in great volumes, you can reduce your per-pound production costs by spreading your expenses (the cost of a greenhouse, say) over a greater number of pounds. These per-pound savings mean you can wholesale each pound at a lower price, which keeps your retailers happy. Second, because you’re turning out such a high volume, you can actually cut your prices even further: even as your profit margin on every pound gets smaller, you’re multiplying that margin over a greater number of pounds. Or as Jai Malloy says of his soon-to-be built farm, “our margins might be smaller than they used to be, but our production will be much, much greater.”

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Scaling Up Requires Big Money

There’s catch, of course: achieving that sort of scale efficiency takes some serious bank. Malloy’s $9 million venture is actually on the small side; the cost of other mega-grows underway in California top $15 million. But for farmers like Malloy who can assemble the investment, the advantages go beyond simple scale efficiencies.

For starters, there’s a huge technological edge. Having a multimillion budget means you can also afford the sort of high-end agricultural technologies that can generate even greater efficiencies. Leading-edge genetics, automated irrigation, light deprivation, and even robots that mix soil and seedlings: upgrades like these let producers cut costs while optimizing the market value of their cannabis—by, for example, growing plants with the best aesthetics and the highest possible THC content.

In mature markets like Colorado and Washington, hitting that cost-quality sweet spot has been essential, says Romero. Wholesalers and retailers increasingly treat cannabis as a commodity whose price is determined by shelf-readiness— “that is, how well it’s been trimmed, how it looks individually, and how it’s testing THC-wise. That’s pretty much what it boils down to.”

The Rise of SoCal, Where Land is Cheap

Big budgets can also mean freedom from cannabis’s traditional geographic limits. Gone are the days when Northern California, with its soil and climate advantages, and, especially, its isolated, hide-a-farm terrain, dominated the cannabis trade. With today’s powerful climate control technologies, large-scale growers can move into previously untenable environments such as Southern California’s arid, rural interior, where real estate is cheap. That means growers can spend less of their capital on land and more of it on production enhancements. The result: clusters of industrial-scale cannabis factories in places like Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs (where outside groups are building, among other ventures, a 380,000-square-foot cannabis “business park.”)

The future of large-scale farming may look like the clustered mega-grows in Adelanto and Desert Hot Springs.

From these vast cannabis hubs, operators will be well positioned to feed large volumes of low-cost, biochemically-optimized cannabis to a long-underserved Southern California consumer market. The sales potential of that SoCal market has investors salivating. Cannabis sales in Los Angeles alone, by some accounts, are already topping a billion dollars a year—as much as the entire state of Colorado.

And this may be only the beginning. Because industrial cannabis cultivation is still relatively immature, even the massive grow operations Southern California deserts “are going to appear tiny compared to what is going to happen with legalization,” predicts Tom Adams, editor in chief of Arcview Research. Humans have had decades to perfect the use of industrial scale farming technologies “on everything else that is grown for human consumption,” Adams says, “and that is about to happen to cannabis.”

And yet, it’s just as clear that this large-scale cannabis model won’t be for everyone. Beyond the requirement for huge sums of money, the factory-farm model, as some call it, leaves little room for the quirky variety of California’s legacy cannabis sector – an absence that, as we’ll see, has led to a new opportunity—and a new business model—for a small army of cannabis entrepreneurs.

Background image by James Tensuan

Next in the series: Growing quality cannabis at craft scale.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

California Lawmakers to Consider Cannabis Rules Thursday

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California would set standards for organic marijuana, allow samples at county fairs and permit home deliveries under legislation set to be considered by lawmakers Thursday as the state prepares for next year’s start of legal marijuana sales.

Lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration are working to merge California’s new voter-approved adult-use cannabis law with the state’s longstanding medical marijuana program. They have settled on an array of regulations to protect consumers and public safety while ensuring taxes are collected.

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The provisions were tucked into the state budget agreement between Brown and top legislative Democrats announced this week following months of negotiations with businesses operating illegally or in the legal medical marijuana field and investors who want to enter the nation’s largest legal marijuana market.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is taking a multi-billion-dollar industry out of the dark and now into the light,” said Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat whose district includes much of Northern California’s prime marijuana growing region.

By 2018, state officials must have crafted regulations and rules governing the emerging legal marijuana market with an estimated annual sales value of $7 billion — ranging from where and how plants can be grown to setting guidelines to track the buds from fields to stores. Full legal sales are expected to roll out later in the year.

“There are thousands of businesses currently engaged in this type of commerce.”

Hezekiah Allen , California Growers Association

In general, the state will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow six marijuana plants at home.

The budget agreement includes $118 million to pay for startup costs for the newly regulated industry, including technology and staff to work on regulations and issue licenses. The state will open a tax office in the remote region north of San Francisco so marijuana businesses can pay their taxes in cash without having to drive long distances with thousands of dollars.

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, cannabis businesses generally cannot open bank accounts, conduct credit card transactions or otherwise use the federally regulated banking system.

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The legislation outlines baseline rules for marijuana businesses and was crafted to promote a new artisanal industry in a state that has embraced craft beer and small wineries.

It would require state regulators to come up with rules for marijuana producers to call their goods organic — an important designation for California consumers that cannot be used on cannabis under federal rules. The state would also create standards for official marijuana varietals and growing regions, known as appellations, so craft producers can distinguish their products based on the unique strain and growing conditions like winemakers do.

With temporary licenses from the state, businesses would be allowed to sell cannabis and provide samples at county fairs, regional agricultural associations and cannabis festivals.

Growers would be allowed to form agricultural cooperatives without running afoul of antitrust laws. Businesses would be able to legally grow, distribute and sell their own product, though firms performing safety tests will have to be independent, with no financial ties to growers or retailers.

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Keeping an open container of marijuana in a vehicle would be illegal like it is for alcohol in California, except for people with a medical card or doctor’s note.

Brown and lawmakers agreed to allow sellers with no public storefronts to deliver marijuana directly to customers.

“There are thousands of businesses currently engaged in this type of commerce,” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association. “The more of them that can get licensed, the better off the state is going to be, the faster we’ll be able to get rid of the criminal element and the faster we’ll be able to make sure the product is safe and tested.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Remembering the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the Nation’s First Dispensary

In the 80s and early 90s, the scariest news reports were not about terrorism, or climate change, or nuclear war—but rather, about AIDS.

As I was pretty young, I don’t remember those news reports personally, and nor will most Millennials, but for many in the LGBT community at that time, they’re hard to forget. Jackie Strano, executive vice-president of San Francisco adult retailer Good Vibrations, can recall seeing scores of friends in The Castro fall victim to the AIDS epidemic. Pictures of the victims of the plague (to use Jackie’s words) papered the walls at the intersection of 18th and Castro. Those pictures are gone now, and the intersection has a Bank of America and a Walgreens to go with its rainbow flags and crosswalks, but the memory of those harrowing times lingers.

As painful as these memories are to the many who lived them, what stands out against the pain is the compassion and care that so many offered—and for innumerable AIDS patients at the time, compassion and care came in the form of cannabis. It is possible that no effort was more integral to the legalization of medical cannabis in California than the founding of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the nation’s first public cannabis dispensary. The efforts its founder and allies put towards legalization have helped shape the state of cannabis in California and the whole country ever since.

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What Was the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club?

The San Francisco Buyers Club came into existence in 1992 at 194 Church Street, the location of a previously existing cannabis collective run by Thomas O’Malley, who died in 1992. Dennis Peron, with the help of Brownie Mary (Mary Jane Rathbun), successfully fought for the 1991 passage of Proposition P, which recommended that the state of California embrace medical cannabis. Peron, his husband John Entwistle, and Brownie Mary were also among the co-authors of Proposition 215, the act that ultimately made medical cannabis legal in California in 1996.

Like Jackie Strano, Dr. Robert Morgan Lawrence of the Center for Sex and Culture remembers watching the victims of the AIDS epidemic “waste away,” and credits Brownie Mary and the SF Buyers Club with providing necessary care to those in need and being “the root of legal marijuana in the US.” He also speaks of the many other members of the community, himself included, who did whatever they could to help those in need; this often included storing “unknown vegetable matter” for pick-up by patients or others. He describes this period of time as “very exciting and quite scary for all involved,” and notes that while the community remembers those who offered help, these volunteer caregivers did not do it to receive accolades.

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The Legacy of the Nation’s First Dispensary

As has always been the case for those involved in the cannabis community in the United States and elsewhere, the dangers of involvement cannot go without comment, and this is doubly true for the brave souls who founded the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and fought for the passage of Prop 215 regardless of the consequences—of which there were plenty. Just weeks before California voted on the proposition, state narcotics officers arrested Dennis Peron and had warrants for others involved—a move that is widely considered an attempt to demonize those involved with the Buyers Club and kill the proposition. This, of course, is in addition to the incessant arrests of Peron’s compatriots—Brownie Mary was arrested on three occasions as a result of her lobbying and efforts to provide medical cannabis to those in need.

Now, over 20 years later, that pivotal piece of legislation has paved the way for the slow and steady march of legalization to continue across the country. It is not hyperbole to say that if you are able to enjoy legal cannabis where you live or, more importantly, are able to use cannabis to help manage pain or treat any number of conditions, you owe a great deal of thanks to the LGBT community and its supporters who fought for compassion for all. To quote Dr. Lawrence: “So thank Brownie Mary—and the tens of thousands of LGBT folk who have passed—next time you pass a smoke.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

California Lawmakers Rush to Put Cannabis Regulations in Place

As the launch of California’s adult-use cannabis market looms—sales are set to begin Jan. 2, 2018—lawmakers are scrambling to put in place rules to regulate the industry and ensure it functions smoothly.

On Tuesday afternoon, a California Senate committee took the latest step toward that goal, voting 16–1 in support of Assembly Bill 110. It’s an enormous bill of provisions to govern the state’s medical and adult-use programs, covering everything from environmental and licensing matters to the exemption of cannabutter from the Milk and Milk Products Act of 1947.

“We are building the airplane as we’re flying it. And we are going to make some mistakes.”

Sen. Mike McGuire

While the measure earned broad bipartisan praise from members of the Senate Budget Committee, even some supporters questioned the quickness with which the changes are being pushed through the Legislature. Pointing out a typo where “cannabis” had been misspelled “cannibals,” Sen. John Moorlach said at the hearing that the error “indicates the pace” at which the bill is progressing.

“We are moving awfully fast,” he said.

But as committee chair Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) pointed out, the alacrity of the bill—and its wide-ranging nature—are the product of nearing deadline.

“We go live on Jan. 2, 2018, regardless,” agreed Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) at Tuesday’s hearing. “We are building the airplane as we’re flying it. And we are going to make some mistakes.”

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The bill has earned the support of many cannabis industry associations, labor unions, and even the California Police Chiefs Association, which has only recently come to support legal cannabis.

The full text of AB 110 is available online. If you plan on reading it all, though, clear your schedule. The state Legislative Counsel’s “digest” version of the bill is itself more than 6,000 words. The full text is nearly 10 times that.

We at Leafly digested the AB 110 a bit further. Here some key takeaways:

Merging Medical and Adult-Use Systems

Perhaps the biggest change that AB 110 would make is to eliminate California’s medical marijuana law, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). It’s part of a plan to merge the state’s medical and adult-use programs into one, which would be overseen by the Bureau of Cannabis Control. While separate rules and regulations would still apply for medical and adult-use cannabis, both would be regulated under a new law, the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA, for those of you who like acronyms).

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To that end, AB 110 would iron out some differences in license types between the state’s current medical and adult-use laws. With some exceptions, it would also “generally impose the same requirements on both commercial medicinal and commercial adult-use cannabis activity,” a fix aimed at regulatory efficiency.

Testing laboratories would be able to test both medical and adult-use cannabis under AB 110, but it’s less clear how it would affect dispensaries. A Los Angeles Times report on Monday noted that recent changes to the bill “would allow pot shops to sell both medical and recreational weed”—but on Tuesday, observers quickly pointed out that it still includes language requiring “separate and distinct” premises for businesses that hold multiple licenses.

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Lab Testing Cannabis

Beginning next year, California will for the first time require that cannabis be tested for pesticides, mold, mildew, and other contaminants. We knew that part already, but AB 110 begins to flesh out how the system will work.

To ensure consumers know what they’re getting, the bill explicitly prohibits the use of banned pesticides and creates a state program to certify organic cannabis products. It also sets up protocols designed to ensure products are tested fairly and accurately.

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Under AB 110, cannabis distributors would store cannabis on their premises. From there, testing lab employees would be required to obtain samples and transport those samples back to the lab. The bill would also create a quality assurance monitor, who would be employed or contracted by the Bureau of Cannabis Regulation.

Even after testing begins, some untested products would still be able to be sold under the bill. Those products would need to be labeled as “untested,” and sales would only be allowed for a period determined by the bureau. It’s a move designed to prevent delays or interruptions in product availability, which has occurred in some other states after imposing new testing standards.

Environmental Safeguards

Many estimates peg cannabis as California’s top cash crop. But historically that yield has come with environmental consequences, including clear-cutting forests and polluting surface and groundwater. Provisions in AB 110 aim to minimize those impacts.

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Under the bill, all cultivators would be required to identify the source of water they use. And if the state Department of Food and Agriculture determines there to be adverse impacts related to cultivation, it would have the authority to limit the issuance of unique identifying tags, which are required for all legally grown plants.

The measure would also make it a felony to grow or process cannabis “where that activity results in a violation of specified laws relating to the unlawful taking of fish and wildlife.”

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Other Changes

The bill would also:

  • Require infused edibles to carry a universal symbol to ensure easy identification
  • Require that cannabis and cannabis products be placed in an opaque package before leaving a retailer’s premises
  • Establish that an open package of cannabis in a vehicle qualifies as an “open container” infraction
  • Allow for special events and public consumption permits, issued at the discretion of the bureau
  • Redefine “volatile solvent” under the law to mean “a solvent that is or produces a flammable gas or vapor that, when present in the air in sufficient quantities, will create explosive or ignitable mixtures.” (California law makes it a crime to manufacture cannabis concentrates using volatile chemicals without a state license, but some had questioned whether carbon dioxide (CO2) fell under that definition.)

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  • Require cannabis ads on the internet include the licensee’s license number
  • Remove a provision that currently limits the issuance of state cannabis licenses to California residents only
  • Require retailers to notify officials within 24 hours of a security breach
  • Require that public safety—as opposed to patient or economic interests—be the first priority in regulatory decisions
  • Define information on a doctor’s recommendation as medical information under the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, which applies to state agencies
  • Authorize three or more “natural persons” with Type 1 or 2 licenses—which are granted to small-scale growers—to form a cooperative to cultivate, sell, and market cannabis products

Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

5 Ways to Improve California MMJ

Nearing the end of its 45-day review period, California’s proposed licensing regulations for medical marijuana were dissected and debated in downtown Los Angeles recently as part of a series of public hearings being held throughout the state. The room was packed with a mix of usual suspects—patients, business owners, industry veterans—and a surprising array of new voices, from a former aide for Kamala Harris (now a U.S. Senator), to a pharmacist and people from as far away as Palm Springs and San Diego. There was also a parade of California cannabis heavyweights, including representatives from Weedmaps and Kiva Confections.

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The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation released its 58-page licensing proposal at the end of April, outlining practices and policies applicable to all types of marijuana licenses, from dispensaries to testing labs and distributors. The recent forum was the second of its kind to be held in L.A., with the goal of finalizing medical marijuana licensing regulations by the start of 2018.

At the meeting, speakers touted an array of agendas but were overall vociferously supportive of each other’s comments—cheering, clapping and filling each break with card-swapping and networking. The unpredictability and occasional belligerence present at most cannabis-related meetings at L.A. City Hall were notably absent. Although many aspects of California’s regulations were addressed and critiqued, there were a few central issues that coalesced into a veritable to-do list for medical marijuana in the Golden State:

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1. GREENLIGHT INDEPENDENT DELIVERY – Under California’s proposed regulations, cannabis delivery is legal only when executed by a delivery employee of a licensed dispensary. This employee must be at least 21 years old, carry a copy of the dispensary’s license, and deliver the products to a “physical address” of the patient or a primary caregiver. At Thursday’s meeting, there were quite a few impassioned pleas to allow for independent delivery, giving businesses the legal right to deliver without being affiliated with a dispensary. While some speakers proposed allowing dispensaries to operate without a storefront and advocated for the creation of a “non-storefront retail license,” others claimed that without connection to a dispensary the service was just “a glorified pager.”

2. EXPAND HOURS OF OPERATION – Proposed regulations dictate that all cannabis operations must occur between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Multiple speakers berated these limitations, claiming many of their patients battle debilitating diseases and are receiving end-of-life care, requiring round-the-clock access to medication. Another added that these operating hours shouldn’t be set at the state level at all, and should be dictated by local, city and county controls. Restricting the availability of licensed marijuana in this way will also feed the need for a black market, one speaker said.

3. LICENSE PUBLIC CONSUMPTION – While current California policy bars public consumption of cannabis, many at the hearing emphasized the need to license marijuana use as the state does alcohol. For instance, California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control has 86 different liquor-related licenses, from instructional tastings to special events, and cannabis should have comparable options, one speaker pointed out. Another stressed the demand for a safe place to both buy and consume marijuana, especially for those without access to a home base, including tourists, the homeless, and parents wishing to keep their weed use separate from their family.

4. LOOSEN LAB PERSONNEL AND TESTING REQUIREMENTS – While the first part of the hearing was focused on general feedback related to all aspects of licensing, the second portion was focused solely on cannabis lab and testing requirements. Testimony during this stage came largely from lab operators and scientists, and offered a strong critique of the high bar set for lab facilities (which must have ISO accreditation) and their directors, who are required to not only have a PhD but also years of experience in an accredited lab. Some speakers also stated that California’s proposed limits for pesticides were too strict and would cause the cost of testing to go up, suggesting instead the state follows Oregon’s lead for pesticide standards. Testing for heavy metals was another operational point under contention, as one expert stated that this screening is only needed for cannabis products that come from the soil, not for weed that goes through extraction or hydroponics.

5. GIVE EDIBLES A CHANCE – Multiple issues were raised related to regulation, testing, and packaging of cannabis edibles and other products. Under California’s preliminary policies, a sample batch of cannabis product that fails lab testing will have to be destroyed (on camera). A representative from Kiva Confections disputed this requirement, claiming that it racks up unnecessary costs for the manufacturer and citing the many ways around it that pose no danger to the public.

If it ain't up to snuff, it gets melted down.If it ain’t up to snuff, it gets melted down.

At Kiva for example, if a chocolate is not up to snuff, they simply melt down the product, remix it, add the necessary THC and re-test. Another speaker took issue with the state’s banning of free samples at dispensaries, which would apply to representatives from cannabis companies as well. Dispensary owners argued that patients don’t have the money to buy what they need, and they’d like the freedom to provide cannabis products to them at no cost if they choose.

California’s 45-day review period is up on June 13 and the deadline for comments on testing labs is June 20. Stay tuned.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Elevation Gain: Cannabis and the Pacific Crest Trail

Welcome to Elevation Gain, where we’ll pair cannabis with hiking, backpacking, camping, and all the greatest aspects of the great outdoors … all summer long. Check out all Elevation Gain articles here.


According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, 4,879 people in total have completed the mammoth 2,600-mile hike across the West Coast. Finishing the PCT is usually a feat that stays firmly unchecked on many people’s bucket lists, and for good reason. There are some sections that take months to surmount, and each and every day brings its own pains and obstacles. So while the PCT isn’t necessarily a pipe dream, it is quite a challenge.

However, it’s not completely impossible, and those who have finished it walk away with a new understanding of their own physical and mental strengths. Furthermore, cannabis can prove to be a welcome source of herbal companionship along the way, soothing sore muscles, sparking friendships, banishing boredom mile after mile, and elevating your mental state and overall experience throughout the trip.

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In order to see what the Pacific Crest Trail is like for a dedicated cannabis consumer, Leafly got in touch with Hadley Krenkel, a bona-fide trail blazer with a deep love for the outdoors, and a flair for pairing nature with cannabis. He finished the trail in 2016 with plenty of stories to share and tips to pass along to other cannabis-consuming hikers. Here’s what Krenkel had to say.

(Courtesy of Hadley)(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

Leafly: How did you first get into hiking?

Krenkel: I don’t even remember how I got into hiking—probably through my dad, he worked for the forest services, so I kind of grew up in the woods and outdoors in Eastern Washington. I’m from Spokane and grew up about 15 minutes from Mt. Spokane on the east side there. My parents took me out when I was in diapers—out in the woods and stuff—and I really started getting into it about four or five years ago on my own. I stopped when I was a teenager and running amuck, but had to eventually start doing something productive so I started pushing to hike again. I just recently got into sport climbing, so I’m getting into that now.

How long did it take you to complete the Pacific Crest Trail?

It took me just under six months. I left April 25th and finished October 9th.

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

Were you able to stop at cannabis shops along the way?

The only shop I was able to stop at was in Oregon—kind of just outside of Hood River. Wait, I also made a stop on the Washington side. Outside of the Cascades around the dam. Unfortunately, I forget the names of them; but there are one or two around Washington and they’re the only ones for miles.

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Since there wasn’t much in way of dispensaries while on the trail, how were you able to keep up your supply when it got low?

It was definitely a panic area in California. The good weed I got out of California was through the PCT Team Green, which is kind of like a secret handshake or club. They have people along the way in certain towns. I got some really good edibles off a guy and they’re just basically weed-friendly trail angels that sell weed or will help you out.

They were also a great help because everyone had heard that the water path was dry. Coming out of Cajon Pass, which is a decent climb after the desert, there was no water at the top. It was a 27 mile stretch of desert with no water. A guy heard us talking and we were smoking weed at a hot tub in a Best Western (I had hurt my ankle and we were staying the night so I could heal). The guy, who was also in the hot tub, just happened to be a trail angel for the PCT Team Green and he was like, “Oh man, I can go up there and make sure you guys have water!” So that was very cool of him—he got us water and edibles.

Everybody takes care of everybody out there, it’s almost like a different society that most people aren’t really used to—everyone has that “we’re all in this together” attitude. More of a hippie-commune attitude I guess. That was the most amazing part for me. You would be worried about running out of this or that, and the fears from it ended up being unfounded because it always worked itself out.

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pct-cannabis-7(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

What strains and products did you use?

I’m mostly an indica smoker because I’ve got ADHD so bad that when I smoke indicas it’s almost like the average person’s sativa. So I mostly smoked a lot of indicas. Not exactly sure what strains, but there was a mix.

How were you consuming your cannabis? Pipes? Vapes?

I mostly smoked regular flower out of a glass pipe and then I had some dabs too—I had a little mini dab rig. Through the Sierras dabs mostly helped with the altitude and nausea that comes with it. I was mostly smoking concentrates like wax and shatter then.

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(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

In your opinion, what was the best part of the trail?

Definitely the Sierras. The best part in Washington would have been the Goat Rock area—that was probably the most scenic.

There are some parts of the trail that usually include hitchhiking—is that something you did? If so, any memorable experiences?

Well I was traveling with a friend and most of the time we got a ride real quick because, you know—he’s a blonde with curls, so.

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

Were you ever wary of consuming cannabis on the trail?

No, I’m a pretty big risk taker when it comes to that. I did get a little worried around Yosemite just because of the feds [Yosemite is not state run since it is a national park]. So, that was a little questionable. In the start, nobody had weed and of course that makes you nervous and wondering what you got yourself into. I had to bring weed down with me to San Diego and I probably went through an eighth on that first day—on every corner I just stopped and smoked to enjoy the scenery. There were a lot of people that stopped and smoked with me.

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It sounds like you ran into quite a few other cannabis consumers. How was that?

Yeah, I think my look and everything had people look at me and think, “This guy definitely smokes weed,” which could be a positive or negative depending on where you’re at. But people were pretty cool about it. It was a mix of short sessions and actually spending time smoking with people. There was one guy named Daniel—known as “Frogman” on the trail—he was about the only guy there that was as prepared as I was, cannabis-wise. So we smoked a lot and he was a cool guy and we kind of kept each other well-supplied. 

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

What would have been different about doing the trail without cannabis?

Honestly, the trail is such a mental game that I think cannabis helps with the mental aspects and the pain. I’m not gonna lie—you’re in pain the whole way. It’s a battle of how much your body can really handle. Cannabis helped calm those nerves and the anxiety of being out there. It also had a great social aspect too. I mean, you’re out there and there’s people around, but sometimes you’re not really socializing in a personal way since everyone is focused on the end goal and end destination.

They’re really not ones to sit and socialize during the day, but I found that the weed really helped bring out the social aspect—I did meet a lot of great people along the way and created lifelong relationships all over the world. There was even a girl from Belgium that I hiked with for a while. It was really cool—she smoked weed too. I mean, most of the people you would never suspect of smoking weed finally felt that they were free enough and weren’t going to be judged about smoking cannabis.

No one is going to know what really happens so the whole stigma of “weed is bad” and “I’m going to get in trouble for smoking weed” and everything else kind of goes out the window when you get out there.

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Any tips for others thinking about attempting the trail?

I think my biggest suggestion is to plan ahead. If you’re a weed smoker you should have a plan just like you would with your food. I wouldn’t guarantee you’re going to find anything while you’re out there along the way. I mean, there is stuff like PCT Team Green that will help you, but those towns are few and far between.

Personally, I probably went through about a pound and a half of flower and close to an ounce of dabs on the entire trail—there pretty much wasn’t a day that I went without weed so that’s something to think about.

Have you ever hiked the PCT? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.