<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Local News - [Bay Area Feature] In the Weeds]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/localen-usWed, 12 Dec 2018 05:34:14 -0800Wed, 12 Dec 2018 05:34:14 -0800NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Top Stories]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:05:25 -0800]]><![CDATA[Weed Rush]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:21:29 -0800]]><![CDATA[Featured Video: Drive-Thru Pot Dispensary]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:26:16 -0800]]><![CDATA[National Marijuana Stories]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:06:02 -0800]]><![CDATA[]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:06:12 -0800]]><![CDATA[California Police Are Fighting Statewide Marijuana Deliveries]]>Fri, 31 Aug 2018 19:39:14 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Marijuana+Delivery.jpg

A growing dispute over where legal marijuana can be delivered in California is unsettling the nation's largest pot market.

Police chiefs on Friday lined up against a proposed state rule that critics say would allow unchecked home marijuana deliveries anywhere in California — even in communities that have banned cannabis sales.

The California Police Chiefs Association, League of California Cities and United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council have set up a website that depicts wide-eyed children gesturing toward a pot delivery van outside a school. They are asking opponents to sign an online petition.

"Regulated marijuana dispensaries have tough security, checks for identity and legal age and strictly licensed workers. If marijuana can be delivered anywhere with virtually no regulation, California will lose these safeguards," council executive director James Araby said in a statement.

The proposal has become a major issue as the state considers a series of changes to rules governing the legal marketplace that launched in January. The dispute could end up in court.

There are strikingly different assessments of what the proposal would mean.

Because vast stretches of the state have prohibited local cannabis sales, supporters say it would allow legal deliveries by licensed companies into those so-called pot deserts.

They argue that sick and frail people in those areas who depend on marijuana to relieve pain or anxiety cannot make a lengthy drive to make a purchase, so they are being shut out of the legal market.

On the other side, police chiefs and other critics say it would create an unruly gray market of largely hidden pot transactions, opening the way for criminal activity.

At issue is apparently conflicting fine print in the maze of laws and regulations.

Proposition 64, the law approved by voters in 2016 that opened the way for legal pot sales for adults, says local governments can ban nonmedical pot businesses.

But state regulators point to the business and professions code, which says local governments "shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads" by a licensed operator.

The state Bureau of Cannabis Control, which oversees the market, has said the proposed rule is merely clarifying what has always been the case: A licensed pot delivery can be made to "any jurisdiction within the state."

A proposal in the Legislature intended to clarify that a licensed business can deliver cannabis anywhere in California stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, online directories like Weedmaps advertise delivery services — some legal, some not.

In general, California treats pot like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to 1 ounce of the drug and grow six plants at home.

California's legal market has gotten off to a bumpy start. Illicit sales are still thriving, a shaky supply chain has customers looking at barren shelves in some shops and there have been complaints about testing and hefty taxes.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

<![CDATA[California Bill Would Allow Medical Pot on School Campuses]]>Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:18:30 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1492530661.jpg

Some California parents would be allowed to give their children medical marijuana on school campuses under a bill passed Monday by the state Assembly and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.

State law has allowed minors to access medical marijuana since the 1990s but prohibits it on school campuses. That means parents have to remove their children from school or meet them off campus to give them a dose.

The bill says the marijuana would have to be in non-smoking or vaping form, such as in capsules or oils, and it could only be given to students with a medical marijuana prescription. The bill lets school districts opt-in to the policy; it does not mandate them to allow it.

It was one of dozens of bills passed Monday by the Legislature ahead of a Friday deadline to complete its business for the year.

Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill, who carried the bill, said his legislation would aid children and teenagers with severe medical disabilities.

The bill was inspired in part by a South San Francisco teenager in his district who would have up to 50 seizures a day before he got a medical marijuana prescription, Hill's office said. In Santa Rosa, California, a court has allowed a 5-year-old girl to take cannabis oil with her to kindergarten to treat her rare form of epilepsy. The judge's order is temporary as he weighs a final ruling.

The school district tried to prohibit the child from bringing her medicine to school, which the family argued was a violation of protections for disabled students.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Breathalyzer May Detect Pot Impairment]]>Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:49:47 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/185*120/GettyImages-51802579.jpg

A California company may have developed a game changer for detecting impaired drivers. 

The company Hound Labs created a breathalyzer able to detect the amount of THC in a driver's breath.

“It’s an incredibly challenging scientific problem to ensure the really, really low concentrations,” said Hound Labs CEO Mike Lynn.

“We’re talking parts per trillion in your breath,” Lynn said.

The device uses the breath to measure THC, the psychoactive chemical in pot that makes you high.

Lynn told NBC 7 the breathalyzer can accurately detect if someone has smoked pot in the last few hours.

The Hound breathalyzer could be used by law enforcement and commercial use by winter 2018, said Lynn.

Correlating the level of THC with impairment is not an easy thing to do, according to Tom Marcott, the co-director at the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research with UC San Diego.

“A person can have really high THC levels and be impaired, but within a half hour they can have a low THC level and still be impaired,” Marcott said.

Marcott is heading a three year, state-funded study on the impact of marijuana on driving ability.

The UC San Diego study is one of the first and most comprehensive studies nationwide. The results of the blind study are expected to be released in spring 2019.

The Hound breathalyzer could be used by law enforcement and commercial use by winter 2018, said Lynn.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Surge in Illegal California Pot Shops Undercuts Legal Market]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:33:41 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/AP_18184788939366.jpg

A slight marijuana smell wafted out as a steady stream of customers walked into a warehouse, its doors and windows covered by bars.

Suddenly, police swooped in.

"Sheriff's department! Search warrant!" a Los Angeles County deputy shouted as the team thundered through the front door and began hauling out people in handcuffs.

The Compton 20 Cap Collective just south of Los Angeles that was raided earlier this spring is one of hundreds of illegal marijuana stores operating in LA County, where marijuana is legal for anyone 21 and over and retailers must be licensed to sell to them.

Broad marijuana legalization arrived in California at the start of the year. From the beginning, there was concern the legal market would be undercut by the massive black market that has existed for decades.

And that's what's happening. Nowhere is it a bigger problem than in the state's biggest legal local marijuana market: Los Angeles County.

The number of outlaw dispensaries in the county greatly outnumbers about 150 licensed storefront retailers.

That reality is a buzzkill for those trying to play by the rules.

Legal pot shops are losing customers who can get products more cheaply at illegal outlets that don't charge or pay taxes, said Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Coalition, a trade organization that represents cannabis growers, distributors and dispensary owners.

It's an "unfair competitive situation for licensed businesses," Spiker said.

"I think if you turn the tables and took cannabis out of the equation — if it was another industry that didn't have the stigmas — the government would do everything they could to give those licensed business paying taxes a level playing field."

One of the selling points for legalization was it would generate a tax windfall for state and local governments. However, during the first quarter, the state reported only $34 million from cultivation and excise taxes, putting it on pace to fall well below the $175 million forecast for the first six months.

In April, state regulators sent nearly 1,000 cease-and-desist letters to cannabis businesses they suspected were operating illegally. An analysis by the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily found about 64 percent of the businesses were in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Last month, the Los Angeles city attorney's office charged 142 people as part of a crackdown on illegal dispensaries. It also sent cease-and-desist letters but declined to say how many.

Los Angeles County boasts the nation's largest sheriff's department, but even it has nowhere near the manpower to take down all the illegal pot shops. A task force overseen by Lt. Frank Montez raids an average of one dispensary a week.

However, the voter-approved ballot measure legalizing cannabis in California included a provision that made possessing more than 28.5 grams only a misdemeanor. That means officers can seize businesses' cash and marijuana, but employees and owners rarely face jail, and illegal operations often quickly reopen.

"It's a money-lucrative business so there are people willing to take the risk," said Capt. Holly Francisco, who commands the sheriff's department's narcotics unit.

Montez sees his work as more than code enforcement. Marijuana sold illegally may be tainted with illegal pesticides and other harmful substances. And licensed marijuana shop owners who pay their taxes should have a fair playing field, he said.

"When you have an illegitimate, illegal dispensary operating, that not only hurts the industry as a whole but that really hurts the community," Montez said.

At the Compton store, a sign above a security window says customers must be at least 18 and have a physician's recommendation to buy medical marijuana and be 21 and have a valid photo ID for anything else. Like many others, the shop operated in plain sight and advertised online, including on WeedMaps, a go-to website for people looking to buy cannabis.

Inside, whiteboards on dirt-smudged walls advertised the prices for different types of cannabis and concentrates.

Cartridges for vapor pens and "Shatter," a honey-like oil containing cannabis extract, cost between $15 and $30. Large display cases held jars of branded marijuana strains — 28 grams of "Purple Dragon" sold for $160.

"People out here on the street are thinking it is a legitimate operation and are smoking this cannabis with all these dangerous pesticides, and they are really killing themselves," Montez said.

Some illegal pot shops look so legitimate that customers may not even realize they are illegal unless they figure out they aren't being charged tax. But like any shopper looking for the best deal, plenty know these places are illegal and go because it's cheaper.

While some illegal LA County pot shops grow their own plants, many are supplied by illegal grows in the hills of Northern California, long a major source of all U.S. pot.

Lake County, about 125 miles north of San Francisco, is home to many such grows because of its topography, which allows pot farmers to easily hide large operations. It has an abundance of federal and state forests and land where cartels set up operations.

Like the LA County Sheriff's Department, Lake County lacks the manpower to put much of a dent in illegal operations.

Deputies patrol on the ground and in helicopters, and last year they destroyed about 250,000 plants and arrested 46 people for illegal grows, Sheriff Brian Martin said.

He has no estimate for the number of illegal grows in the county but is confident the hundreds of thousands of plants deputies chop down each year are "just the tip of the iceberg."

Martin said his short-staffed department has assigned a single a detective full-time to marijuana eradication. He counts on help from state and federal agencies, but they too have their priorities.

"It's all about manpower," he said. "No one has enough of it."

Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[San Jose Pot Dispensary Booming Ahead of Likely Shortage]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 17:28:28 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sj_pot_dispensary_0703_3352999.JPG

Weed watchers say Northern California could be seeing a marijuana shortage in the next few weeks due to new regulations that create new challenges and a run on the current crop.

One San Jose dispensary had a very busy day Tuesday as customers tried to get ahead of the expected shortage. The afternoon crowd inside Caliva marijuana dispensary was growing while dispensary employees prepared the product along what's quickly becoming one of the state's more lucrative assembly lines.

But despite the demand, it's a nervous time for both dispensaries and customers because a shortage is likely on the way.

"For many dispensaries, it's gonna be tough to get compliant product," said Vince Bjurman of San Martin. "They're saying I have to wait it out. They don't know when the product will be available for them to purchase it for me."

New regulations that kicked in July 1 have left some dispensaries holding the bag and trying to play catch up.

"Every cannabis flower needs to be tested and approved by the state," Caliva CEO Dennis O'Malley said. "Has to all be in child proof packaging. The labeling has to be correct."

Caliva is ahead of the game for now, largely because of new hardware and software and lots of lab work. Each packet has to be ordered eight weeks in advance from China then the labeling goes on.

"It takes time. It takes investment," O'Malley said.

Some of the larger dispensaries like Caliva are able to sell product to the smaller ones, but nobody knows just how deep the shortage will be as dispensaries try to get approved product out.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[California Pot Shops Offer Discounts as New Standards Near]]>Wed, 27 Jun 2018 11:45:22 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/pot+buds.jpg

Bargain basement bud is on the menu in California, but you need to act fast to cash in on the cheap weed.

Regulations being phased in six months after the state broadly legalized marijuana require that pot sold after Saturday meet strict quality standards, so retailers unloading untested inventory are offering blowout prices.

Deep discounts on everything from edibles to joints reflect the last days of the heady first phase of legal recreational pot. They could be followed by empty shelves as many stores scramble to restock with properly tested and packaged products.

"You can smell it. There's a certain desperation from stores that bought too much and they have to dump it," said John Atari, CEO of Source Cannabis Farms, a licensed cultivator in Los Angeles. "There's going to be a big shortage of clean product come July 1."

At Firehaus, a shop along an LA freeway, a fire sale of sorts unfolded this month with a 50 percent off "summer blowout" sale advertised on a popular marijuana app and texted and emailed to regular customers.

Patrons leaving the brick storefront on a recent day were happy to double their value, but were unaware of the reason behind the bargains.

A half-dozen of those interviewed said they welcomed testing designed to weed out pesticides and contaminants such as solvents and mold, though they were largely unconcerned about the safety of the cannabis they've used for years.

"I smoked pot for 40 years that wasn't tested, from dealers on the street, and it smelled like anything from gasoline to perfume," said Catherine Lanzarotta, who stocked up on "Blue Dream." ''So I've never had that concern."

Testing will also examine concentrations and potency of the ingredient that gives users a buzz.

The change in rules was part of the state's decision to allow the industry in its legal infancy to get a running start at the beginning of the year. Shops were given six months to burn through supplies of grass grown and cookies and other products made without strict testing requirements.

Any marijuana harvested this year or for sale July 1 must meet quality and safety standards or be destroyed.

Before the legalization of recreational marijuana, testing of pot sold for medical purposes was largely done for marketing. Growers could promote the potency of their product or the fact that it was free of contaminants.

Robert Martin, co-founder and CEO of CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, said the voluminous new rules are draconian, with a mandate to test for heavy metals, which he said is unnecessary, and one to keep tested samples 45 days. There are also requirements about what technicians must wear, and lab employees have to pick up test samples directly from suppliers.

"The new regulations have us twisting," Martin said. "We feel like we're trying to do yoga on two mats."

There are concerns that the 28 testing facilities licensed by the state will not be enough, though labs said even with a spike in recent months, they have been able to handle capacity.

A larger concern is a lag in testing as business owners banked on delayed implementation of the new rules. That could put them in a precarious position as they try to push product through a limited pipeline to restock shops with clean weed.

The fear is there will be a repeat of what Oregon experienced two years ago as distributors held out for a rules reprieve that never materialized and held up the supply chain.

The resulting bottleneck at labs meant testing that should have taken days dragged on for weeks, said Lori Glauser, chief operating officer of EVIO Labs, which has locations in California, Oregon, Colorado, Florida and Massachusetts.

Glauser said the recent surge in business she's seen indicates a similar scenario in California that will lead to a temporary shortage of marijuana in dispensaries once they can no longer sell untested product.

Some shops prepared for the new regulations by gradually replacing pot they sold with products that pass the tests.

Jamie Garzot said she reopened her Shasta Lake medical marijuana shop to recreational customers Jan. 1 with the same untested inventory as the day before.

But by February, she estimated, about 15 percent of inventory at 530 Cannabis had been approved by testing labs. In April, that jumped to about 50 percent, and earlier this month Garzot said she figured about 95 percent of her goods passed muster.

"Everyone in the game knew this was coming," she said. "My hope is that everybody has been doing their job getting systems dialed in for an uninterrupted supply chain."

She was waiting until the final days of the month to see what remained in her stockpiles that could go in a limited blowout sale.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Where Pot Is Now Legal, No-Longer-Criminals Seek Forgiveness]]>Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:25:02 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_18169489576250.jpg

Despite its name, hippie reputation and liberal spirit, Vermont hasn't always been kind to pot smokers. Now, as the state moves to legalize weed beyond medical use, those punished in the past for marijuana misdemeanors are seeking forgiveness.

On July 1, Vermont will become the ninth state, along with Washington, D.C., to legalize recreational marijuana. It will not set up a system to tax or regulate production, but adults will be able to possess an ounce of marijuana, two mature plants and four immature plants.

The law also brings an opportunity for those convicted of marijuana transgressions to have them removed from their records.

Past convictions have led to difficulty finding housing or a job. Some were turned away when they applied for a nursing license or federal student loans, attorneys say. Some can't get into neighboring Canada.

So prosecutors across the state are doing what they can to help — just as in many other places that have legalized marijuana, with varying degrees of difficulty.

Glyn Wilkinson, a 70-year-old semi-retired carpenter who ran for the state Senate in 2014 as a Libertarian, and came in last, was among the first to arrive at an "Expungement Day" workshop held last week in Burlington.

He received the first of his two marijuana convictions in 1968 — so far back in the Chittenden County records that the prosecutor's office had a hard time finding it. He has been turned back at the Canadian border, he said, and was disqualified from buying a firearm.

"Can you really get used to it? You can forget about it, but it never really goes away," Wilkinson said. "Today it can actually go away."

Joshua Rowe could not make it to Burlington for the expungement event, but he has been working with Vermont Legal Aid to clear his record. A 31-year-old lighting designer who has worked on tours with Willie Nelson and Trombone Shorty, Rowe said his two misdemeanor convictions have prevented him from taking work in Canada.

"There are jobs I don't even want to attempt to take, because it will look bad on my record with them if I get denied going into Canada for a job," he said. "These old charges are holding me back."

The Canadian Border Services Agency confirmed that people like Rowe will be able to show their record has been cleared and allowed to enter.

Windsor County prosecutor David Cahill, who hosted a workshop similar to Burlington's, estimated there are roughly 2,800 marijuana misdemeanor convictions eligible for expungement across the state.

Other governments have grappled with what to do with those who have criminal convictions for something that is no longer a crime.

Provisions of California's 2016 law that broadly legalized marijuana also allowed for the expungement or reduction from felonies to misdemeanors of some old pot convictions. But there was no mechanism for getting that done.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has been looking at how jurisdictions nationwide are addressing marijuana convictions in the post-legalization world.

San Francisco, she said, stands out for clearing thousands of marijuana convictions without requiring individuals to specifically ask.

"They are wiping convictions off of people's records in one fell swoop, and my hope is that more officials will follow San Francisco," Clarke said.

District attorneys in four other California counties, including San Diego and Alameda — home to Oakland and Berkeley — have also begun expunging old marijuana convictions or reducing felonies to misdemeanors on their own, without the participation of the defendants.

San Diego said it is combing through about 4,000 old cases, and Alameda said as many as 6,000 cases may be eligible for expungement or reduction.

Public defenders throughout California have been hosting legal clinics to help people with convictions fill out the proper forms and file the petitions with the courts.

Colorado last year passed a law that allows those convicted of misdemeanor use or possession to ask to seal, but not erase, criminal records if it is not currently a crime, and the Oregon Legislature passed a similar bill in 2015.

In Vermont, a bill that would have fast-tracked misdemeanor marijuana convictions for expungement died in a legislative committee this year. So the law still requires that the person seeking expungement begin the process, something Sarah George, the lead prosecutor in Chittenden County, said limits who can be helped.

Getting an attorney can be expensive and a deterrent, she said.

A grant from the Pennywise Foundation covered the $90 filing fee for those who came out to the events in Windsor and Chittenden counties, but normally petitioners have to pay that amount for each case.

George and her colleagues in Windsor and Bennington counties said they hope the state moves toward automatic expungement.

"It's taking up time that we could be doing other things," George said, "but from my perspective it's well worth the time."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: David Jordan/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Marijuana Discounts, Possible Shortage With New Rules Coming]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 08:12:19 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-151955716+edited.jpg

A big shake-up is coming in the marijuana business, and that means big discounts on weed here in the Bay Area. But it also might soon lead to a shortfall in product availability.

Customers are already seeing discounts of 30-50 percent on some marijuana items in the Bay Area, and that's likely to last a little while because dispensaries have to make room for newly regulated product.

Starting July 1, all medical and recreational cannabis must adhere to new state guidelines for testing and packaging. So dispensaries like Caliva in San Jose will have to sell all of their existing inventory to make room for newly labeled product.

"There is a lot of discounts that'll be out there over the next two weeks," said Larry Thacker, head of operations at Caliva.

The new labels will indicate where the product came from, when it was tested, the results of testing and a way to access those results online.

The discounts and inventory clearance could lead to a marijuana shortage later in the summer as the new product comes online, and that's especially worrisome for those who depend on medicinal marijuana.

"I have a big pain in my hip that wakes me up at night," said Tim Campisi, who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes.

And sellers aren't sure how long it will take to stock back up.

"It's difficult to know how long it's gonna take for supplies to get back on track," Thacker said. "I think you could see less product on the market, and we are starting to see signs of that already."

Some of the larger dispensaries like Caliva already have started to let customers know about both the coming discounts and possible shortage so people can stock up a now, just in case.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[California Senate Supports State-Backed Bank for Pot Money]]>Wed, 30 May 2018 18:40:20 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Pot+generic1.JPG

California lawmakers moved Wednesday to create a state-backed bank to handle the billions of dollars flowing from the newly legal recreational marijuana market.

The world's largest legal recreational marijuana economy, created under a law that took effect this year, is projected to grow to $7 billion.

The bill approved by a bipartisan 29-6 state Senate vote is designed to help pot entrepreneurs who usually deal in cash because most banks won't accept money from a product that remains illegal under federal law.

SB930 now goes to the Assembly for consideration.

The bill would permit charter banks and credit unions regulated by the state Department of Business Oversight to provide limited banking services to pot-related businesses.

They could use the banks to pay rent, state and local taxes and fees, vendors within California for goods and services related to the cannabis business and to buy state and local bonds and other investments.

"We're not using the federal system, we're not using the federal wire," Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys said of his proposal. "This is a short-term creative approach to deal with this extraordinary problem."

He said the banks would suffice until what proponents hope will be an eventual change in federal law.

Hertzberg said the current system is dangerous because it requires pot dealers to conduct their business using cash, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. He said he's heard of some businesses burying or hiding tens of millions of dollars for lack of an alternative.

State budget officials project California will collect $600 million in cannabis taxes in the upcoming year, but that often requires the businesses to haul duffel bags full of cash to tax agencies.

The cash economy also makes audits and other standard oversight measures difficult.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

<![CDATA[Study: Deadly Pesticide Use Increases at Illegal Pot Farms]]>Tue, 29 May 2018 10:40:44 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/potAP_18130643656414.jpg

Researchers and federal authorities are finding what they say is an alarming increase in the use of a powerful pesticide at illegal marijuana farms hidden on public land in California.

The pesticide residue is showing up in about 30 percent of the plants themselves, researcher Mourad Gabriel told The Associated Press.

Most of the illegally grown California pot is destined for Midwestern and Eastern states, federal prosecutors said. Federal and state authorities are announcing Tuesday that they will target the illegal grows with $2.5 million in federal money.

Researchers found the highly toxic pesticide Carbofuran at 72 percent of grow sites last year, up from 15 percent in 2012, said Gabriel, executive director and senior ecologist at Integral Ecology Research Center and one of the few researchers studying the ecological impact of illicit grow sites.

California has long allowed medicinal marijuana, and this year legalized recreational pot. While U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott will continue to enforce federal marijuana laws, he said he is targeting illicit grows on public land with cooperation from California's attorney general and the state's National Guard.

"What is happening here is illegal for all purposes under anybody's law," he said in an interview before Tuesday's announcement.

One of the dangers before legalization was that users could not be sure what was in the product they were smoking or eating, but authorities say the rise in Carbofuran use poses an increased danger.

The chemical is intended for use as an insecticide but is so powerful that a quarter of a teaspoon can kill a 300-pound bear, Gabriel said. Research by Gabriel and colleagues previously showed that the use of pesticides at illegal marijuana farms is poisoning significant numbers of California's few hundred remaining fishers, a threatened carnivore.

Carbofuran can't legally be used in the United States, and every bottle found at the grow sites since 2012 has been labeled in Spanish, Gabriel said.

Scott said it is being smuggled in from Mexico by drug cartels and the itinerant laborers hired to clear forestland and replant it with marijuana. The laborers have to pack in the plants, fertilizer, irrigation hose and camping supplies for the summer growing season.

Laborers apprehended by authorities tell Gabriel the remoteness of the growing sites is one reason highly toxic Carbofuran is so popular.

"What they are saying to us is this is extremely effective — it takes a little amount to kill a deer or a bear — so we don't need to bring a lot of it to last a season," he said.

At normal levels, a typical bottle containing less than 1 liter should be diluted with up to 5,000 gallons of water, he said. But illegal growers are diluting it with just 3 to 5 gallons of water to spray plants, or using the concentrate directly to kill wildlife.

At that concentration, the chemical takes at least 2 ½ years to dissipate instead of roughly a month if it is used at recommended dilutions.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Women Cite 'Grass Ceiling' in Male-Dominated Weed Industry]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 09:57:02 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/AP_18131745684627.jpg

When Danielle Schumacher attended her first convention of marijuana activists about 15 years ago, she could count on one hand all the women in a room of older men.

The lack of diversity struck the then-college student, who remembers feeling out of place but also determined to make her mark.

"That feeling just really stuck with me that this isn't going to last. This is going to shift in my lifetime, and I want to be part of that," said the San Francisco-based Schumacher, who in 2014 co-founded THC Staffing Group, a recruitment firm that encourages a more diverse cannabis industry workforce.

As marijuana has become more mainstream, Schumacher has seen a gradual shift, with more women working in the industry. Women-centric groups focused on networking or providing a space for women curious about cannabis have proliferated, too.

But cannabis remains a male-dominated industry. How much so is unclear because the legal marijuana industry is so new. Since just nine states have broad legalization, there isn't much data on the so-called grass ceiling for women or minorities in leadership roles.

One of those states, Massachusetts, plans a study breaking down license holders by race and gender and looking at possible barriers to getting into the industry. Licensing in that state is expected to start this summer.

The trade publication Marijuana Business Daily surveyed 567 senior executives, company founders and those with ownership stakes in marijuana businesses, and found the percentage of women in executive roles fell from 36 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2017. One possible reason: the executive structure of more mainstream businesses, where men hold most senior-level positions, is seeping into the industry, said Eli McVey, an analyst with the publication.

One way to boost investment in women- and minority-owned businesses is through more laws like the ones in some communities that reserve a certain number of marijuana licenses for those populations and by expunging criminal records for pot-related offenses, said Windy Borman, a Colorado-based filmmaker whose movie "Mary Janes: The Women of Weed" documents her evolution from skeptic to self-proclaimed "puffragette."

She also advocates training for skills like business-plan writing for those wanting to shift from the black market to legal market, and increased mentorship.

The industry must attract new consumers to expand, she said. Women generally make family decisions on health and wellness, and women have an opportunity to design products that fit with their lifestyle, she said.

"We're not necessarily interested in the largest bong ever built," she said. "We need products that fit into our lifestyle that are more discreet and they're not going to be covered in Jamaican flags and big pot leaves and things like that."

Jane Stinson, a self-described hippy during her 20s, worked for 20 years for an Alaska pipeline company. Her interest in cannabis was reignited when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and the family sought ways to help ease the side effects.

At roughly the same time, Stinson was ready to retire, her son learned how to grow marijuana in California, and voters legalized adult marijuana use in Alaska.

"The stars were aligned," said Stinson, who opened one of Alaska's first retail shops in Anchorage with her son and daughter.

It hasn't been easy getting into the industry: Stinson works up to 14 hours a day. But she now has 15 employees and is looking to expand. There is less of a stigma around marijuana in Alaska than there was five years ago, she said.

Stinson's shop has hosted meetings of Ellementa, an organization that promotes cannabis to women, focusing on wellness. Recent meeting topics have touched on insomnia and sex.

Meeting participants range from their 20s to 70s, said Aliza Sherman, a web entrepreneur and Ellementa CEO, who began using cannabis to ease neck pain and insomnia. Her company holds meetings in 30 cities nationally and is expanding into Canada and Europe.

Sherman, who lives in Anchorage, said women-owned businesses know what appeals to women.

Gia Morn, daughter of a New York City police detective and child of the Just Say No-era, saw great potential in expanding her PR business to include cannabis.

She was apprehensive at first but made the leap, believing she could bring value to the industry. In doing so, she pointed out instances where female representation was lacking, such as in the speaking lineup for Women Grow, a national networking group she now represents.

"Now you're seeing more successful, leading women in this space that are not only making serious inroads, but they're going well beyond the ceiling that's been placed over our heads and saying, `We're more than this, and we deserve to be at the table,"' she said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cancer Docs Feel Unprepared, But Recommend Marijuana Anyway]]>Thu, 10 May 2018 15:18:40 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/potAP_18130643656414.jpg

Nearly half of U.S. cancer doctors who responded to a survey say they've recently recommended medical marijuana to patients, although most say they don't know enough about medicinal use.

The results reflect how marijuana policy in some states has outpaced research, the study authors said. All 29 states with medical marijuana programs allow doctors to recommend it to cancer patients. But no rigorous studies in cancer patients exist. That leaves doctors to make assumptions from other research on similar prescription drugs, or in other types of patients.

"The big takeaway is we need more research, plain and simple," said Dr. Ilana Braun of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who led the study published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Patients want to know what their doctors think about using marijuana. In the new study, cancer doctors said their conversations about marijuana were almost always started by patients and their families, not by the doctors themselves.

Overall, nearly eight in 10 cancer doctors reported having discussed marijuana with patients or their families, with 46 percent recommending it for pain and other cancer-related problems to at least one patient in the past year.

Among those who said they recommended marijuana, 56 percent said they did not have sufficient knowledge to do so.

"They're not as close-minded as you might think, and they also feel they have a lot to learn," Braun said.

The survey was conducted in a random sample of cancer doctors; researchers got completed surveys from 237 doctors, or 63 percent.

Marijuana is considered an illegal drug by federal officials and federal restrictions have limited research. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded the lack of scientific information about marijuana poses a risk to public health.

There's evidence marijuana can treat chronic pain in adults and medications similar to marijuana can ease nausea from chemotherapy.

In the study, 67 percent of cancer doctors said they view marijuana as a useful addition to standard pain therapies, with 75 percent saying it posed less risk of overdose than opioids. About half view marijuana as equal to, or more effective than, standard treatments for cancer-related nausea.

Marijuana isn't harmless. The National Academies report said pot smoking may be linked to higher chances of traffic accidents, chronic bronchitis from long-term use and schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, especially in the most frequent users.

Dr. Steven Pergam of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance answers questions about marijuana's safety from his colleagues at the treatment center.

His responses depend on the patient. A dying patient with cancer that's spread? "Whatever they want to do to make themselves comfortable," said Pergam, who wasn't involved in the new research. A patient with leukemia, however, should be warned of a theoretical possibility of a fungal infection tied to cannabis use.

"If we're not comfortable having these discussions, patients will get information from other sources, and it's not going to be as reliable," he said. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Legal Marijuana Boosts Government Revenue - a Little]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 11:36:49 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Cannabis3.jpg

A new report finds that legalizing and taxing marijuana boosts revenue for state and local governments, but not by much.

The credit rating agency Moody's Investor Service says in a study released Tuesday that legalizing recreational use of marijuana brings governments more money than it costs to regulate it.

Despite high taxes on the legal sales of the drug, the revenue accounts for a small portion of government budgets. In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational use, a marijuana tax brings in the equivalent of about 2 percent of the state budget.

In Washington state, gross revenue from marijuana legalization equaled 1.2 percent of general fund revenue in the 2015-17 state budget.

Most of the states that have legalized marijuana earmark the revenue for law enforcement, drug treatment and other specific programs, which doesn't help the states' financial flexibility.

Likewise, Moody's described the revenue effect as minimal on local governments in states with legalized pot.

Creating revenue for the state is one argument proponents use for legalization in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy, who supports the effort, is planning on having an additional $60 million in taxes from legalized marijuana in the next fiscal year. That's less than 1 percent of the state's annual spending.

Twenty-nine states now allow marijuana for either medicinal or recreational uses, and the business is growing quickly. Moody's cited data from the market research firm Euromonitor International that projects it will grow from a $5.4 billion business in the U.S. in 2015 to $16 billion by 2020.

Meanwhile, illegal marijuana sales are estimated at $40 billion.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP]]>
<![CDATA[More Businesses Mellowing Out Over Hiring Pot Smokers]]>Thu, 03 May 2018 06:38:55 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/NowHiringSignGettyImages-651538652.jpg

FPI Management, a property company in California, wants to hire dozens of people. Factories from New Hampshire to Michigan need workers. Hotels in Las Vegas are desperate to fill jobs.

Those employers and many others are quietly taking what once would have been a radical step: They're dropping marijuana from the drug tests they require of prospective employees. Marijuana testing -- a fixture at large American employers for at least 30 years -- excludes too many potential workers, experts say, at a time when filling jobs is more challenging than it's been in nearly two decades.

"It has come out of nowhere," said Michael Clarkson, head of the drug testing practice at Ogletree Deakins, a law firm. "I have heard from lots of clients things like, 'I can't staff the third shift and test for marijuana.'"

Though still in its early stages, the shift away from marijuana testing appears likely to accelerate. More states are legalizing cannabis for recreational use; Michigan could become the 10th state to do so in November. Missouri appears on track to become the 30th state to allow medical pot use.

And medical marijuana users in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have won lawsuits in the past year against companies that rescinded job offers or fired workers because of positive tests for cannabis. Before last year, courts had always ruled in favor of employers.

The Trump administration also may be softening its resistance to legal marijuana. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta suggested at a congressional hearing last month that employers should take a "step back" on drug testing.

"We have all these Americans that are looking to work," Acosta said. "Are we aligning our ... drug testing policies with what's right for the workforce?"

There is no definitive data on how many companies conduct drug tests, though the Society of Human Resources Management found in a survey that 57 percent do so. Nor is there any recent data on how many have dropped marijuana from mandatory drug testing.

But interviews with hiring executives, employment lawyers and agencies that help employers fill jobs indicate that dropping marijuana testing is among the steps more companies are taking to expand their pool of applicants to fill a near-record level of openings.

Businesses are hiring more people without high school diplomas, for example, to the point where the unemployment rate for non-high school graduates has sunk more than a full percentage point in the past year to 5.5 percent. That's the steepest such drop for any educational group over that time. On Friday, the government is expected to report another robust jobs report for April.

Excluding marijuana from testing marks the first major shift in workplace drug policies since employers began regularly screening applicants in the late 1980s. They did so after a federal law required that government contractors maintain drug-free workplaces. Many private businesses adopted their own mandatory drug testing of applicants.

Most businesses that have dropped marijuana tests continue to screen for cocaine, opiates, heroin and other drugs. But James Reidy, an employment lawyer in New Hampshire, says companies are thinking harder about the types of jobs that should realistically require marijuana tests. If a manufacturing worker, for instance, isn't driving a forklift or operating industrial machinery, employers may deem a marijuana test unnecessary.

"Employers are saying, `We have a thin labor pool,' "Reidy said. " `So are we going to test and exclude a whole group of people? Or can we assume some risks, as long as they're not impaired at work?"'

Yet many companies are reluctant to acknowledge publicly that they've dropped marijuana testing.

"This is going to become the new don't ask, don't tell," Reidy said.

In most states that have legalized marijuana, like Colorado, businesses can still, if they wish, fire workers who test positive. On the other hand, Maine, which also legalized the drug, became the first state to bar companies from firing or refusing to hire someone for using marijuana outside of work.

Companies in labor-intensive industries -- hoteliers and home health care providers and employers with many warehouse and assembly jobs -- are most likely to drop marijuana testing. By contrast, businesses that contract with the government or that are in regulated industries, like air travel, or that have safety concerns involving machinery, are continuing marijuana tests, employment lawyers say. Federal regulations require the testing of pilots, train operators and other key transportation workers.

Dropping marijuana testing is more common among employers in the nine states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized pot for recreational use. An additional 20 states allow marijuana for medical use only. But historically low unemployment is driving change even where pot remains illegal.

After the Drug-Free Workplace Act was enacted in 1988, amid concerns about cocaine use, drug testing spread to most large companies. All Fortune 500 companies now engage in some form of drug testing, according to Barry Sample, a senior director at Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest testing firms.

In Denver, in a state with just 3 percent unemployment, 10 percent of employers that screen for drugs had dropped marijuana as of 2016, according to a survey by the Employers Council, which provides corporate legal and human resources services.

"It's because unemployment is virtually non-existent" in Colorado, said Curtis Graves, a lawyer at the council. "People cannot afford to take a hard line against off-duty marijuana usage if they want to hire."

That's particularly true in Colorado's resort areas, where hotels and ski lifts are heavily staffed with young workers, Graves said: "They can lose their jobs and walk across the street and get another one."

FPI, a property-management firm in San Francisco that employs 2,900 around the country, from leasing managers to groundskeepers, has dozens of jobs listed on online boards. Its ads say applicants must pass a "full background check and drug screening."

But it adds, "As it relates to marijuana use, FPI will consider any applicable state law when dispositioning test results."

FPI didn't respond to requests for comment, which isn't unusual given that companies that have dropped marijuana tests aren't exactly billboarding their decisions. Most still seek to maintain drug-free workplaces and still test for harder drugs.

"They're pretty hush-hush about it," Graves said.

AutoNation, which operates dealerships in 17 states, is one of the few that have gone public. The company stopped testing for marijuana about a year ago. Marc Cannon, a company spokesman, said it did so mostly in response to evolving public attitudes. But it also feared losing prospective employees.

"The labor market has tightened up," Cannon said.

AutoNation heard from other business leaders, Cannon said. They said things like, "'We're doing the same thing; we just didn't want to share it publicly."'

Relaxed attitudes among employers are spreading from states where recreational marijuana is legal to those where it's lawful only for medical use, such as Michigan and New Hampshire.

Janis Petrini, who owns an Express Employment staffing agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says that with the area's unemployment rate below 3 percent, employers are growing desperate. Some are willing to ignore the results of drug tests performed by Express, which still screens for marijuana and won't place workers who test positive.

"We have had companies say to us, 'We don't worry about that as much as we used to,'" Petrini said. "We say, 'OK, well, we are still following our standards.'"

One of Reidy's clients, a manufacturer in New Hampshire, has dropped marijuana testing because it draws some workers from neighboring Massachusetts and Maine, which have legalized pot for recreational use. Another client, which runs assisted living facilities from Florida to Maine, has stopped testing its housekeeping and food service workers for marijuana.

The stigma surrounding marijuana use is eroding, compounding pressure on employers to stop testing. Sixty-four percent of Americans support legalizing pot, a Gallup poll found, the highest percentage in a half-century of surveys.

In Las Vegas, where recreational use is legal, marijuana dispensaries "look almost like Apple stores," said Thoran Towler, CEO of the Nevada Association of Employers.

Many high-tech companies have been moving from California to Nevada to escape California's high costs, and they're seeking workers. Towler says the most common question from his 400 member executives is, "Where do I find employees?"

He estimates that roughly one-tenth of his group's members have stopped testing for marijuana out of frustration.

"They say, 'I have to get people on the casino floor or make the beds, and I can't worry about what they're doing in their spare time,'" Towler said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[20,000 Celebrate First Legal 4/20 at SF's Hippie Hill]]>Sat, 21 Apr 2018 09:42:00 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/420-2010.jpg

Friday marked a 4/20 celebration like never before.

The annual day when thousands take part in the ceremonious marijuana smokeout has a slightly different air about it this year now that recreational pot has been legalized in California.

"The stigma has been lifted," said Andrew Deangelo, the director of operations at Harborside Health Center in Oakland.

Deangelo said the demographic of people who have been coming to the dispensary since the legalization has changed.

"A lot them are your grandmother or you father, a lot of folks over the age of 50, 55 years old are coming in to the dispensary and feeling safe and comfortable," Deangelo explained.

One of the biggest 4/20 celebrations was at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park at Hippie Hill at the east end of the park. Around 20,000 people lit up their marijuana product of choice at 4:20 p.m.

San Francisco Police Department said they made three arrests for DUI involving marijuana usage. Six people were evacuated, while 12 others were transported for medical care, officials said. 

Attendees said the vibe at this year's Hippie Hill was different, being the first year it's celebrated since the legalization of the recreational drug.

"It's better because you don't have to (be) in fear of like someone is going to snitch on you," said Cameron Jenkins from Oakland. "It’s about having a good time and no misconceptions about weed!”

But while marijuana consumption is now legal, the California Highway Patrol is reminding people that it's still illegal to drive under the influence.

"The big message we want to get out is if you're going to partake, then do it responsibly, just like alcohol," CHP spokesman Officer Vu Williams said. "You still can't consume it or be under the influence while you're driving. That's the big thing we're going to be out looking for."

Williams said it's illegal even to smoke pot inside a non-moving vehicle, and if a driver has marijuana in the vehicle, it must be sealed. He said the CHP will have additional patrols during the day and at nighttime Friday.

"We're going to see quite a big increase in use, if you will, and we're concerned, of course, about the amount of impaired driving and collisions that may come with that," he said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Business of Pot: California Still Figuring it Out]]>Sat, 21 Apr 2018 13:52:11 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04202018marijuana_2475664.JPG

Marijuana vendors say their bottom line has been helped by more than just California's new law. But there's still a haze over the business. Some said the legal marijuana industry is going corporate too quickly. Scott Budman reports.]]>
<![CDATA[South Californians Behind New Sales Kiosk for Dispensaries]]>Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:11:45 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GreenSTOPkiosk-2018.jpg

Vending machines can be used to sell everything from beverages to condoms and one Southern California believes their technology could mean fewer lines and more business for recreational marijuana shops.

GreenSTOP has developed what it's labeled as the first four-person kiosk designed specifically for marijuana dispensaries.

Other companies have developed a vending machine using the same technology as those found in a workplace lunchroom but GreenSTOP, run by two men with strong ties to San Diego, is looking at breaking the mold when it comes to how many customers can be served in a neighborhood dispensary.

San Diego native James Edwards, who attended Mission Bay High School, has partnered with former San Diego State University student Tim Island to launch the Manhattan Beach-based company.

He said an average marijuana dispensary will have five to six employees or “budtenders” who answer questions from customers.

However, an issue arises when the time comes to pay. 

“They have bottlenecking,” he explained, meaning multiple customers are in line waiting for one register.

The GreenSTOP technology will create a kiosk that is self-serve and allows multiple users to shop, select and buy from the dispensary’s stash. It can even incorporate reviews of the products from credible sources.

The current business model is to rent the kiosks to dispensaries and take a percentage of sales.

Edwards and Island said they have a large interest list but they’re discussing the company’s potential with investors and their legal team before entering into contracts.

The plan is to launch in Los Angeles by the end of 2018 with the potential of kiosks in San Diego County in 2019, Edwards said.

The kiosks are not affiliated with any dispensaries in San Diego County under the same name.

Photo Credit: GreenSTOP]]>
<![CDATA[Marijuana Trade Show Focuses on High Tech, Soaring Costs]]>Thu, 12 Apr 2018 05:50:54 -0800https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pot_conference_0411_2361291.JPG

Technology has taken center stage at a trade show in Silicon Valley. But the industry of focus is not software, gadgets or the cloud.

It's weed.

The Terpenes and Testing World Conference at San Jose McEnery Convention Center is geared toward the business of buying and selling marijuana, a budding venture in California. It comes as a new report shows legal pot sales in the state aren't meeting expectations while black market pot sales are said to be soaring.

The technology on display at the conference is impressive, from a grow box that can replace a greenhouse to ways for testing the potency of home pot without a lab.

But people in the business of selling pot legally say more efficiency is necessary because operating expenses, and especially high state and local taxes, are driving up costs and driving many consumers away.

"Not many people who used to go to dispensaries are going anymore," one industry rep said. "It seems there’s a lot of newer people who are going, and that’s what is actually helping keep the show going. A lot of people I’m imagining are reverting to the black market."

A new report by BDS Analytics says the first two months of legalized cannabis sales in California fell $44 million short of projections. And the high price of legal pot is benefiting so-called unlicensed retailers who ignore regulations and standards.

"This industry, there is an element where you can be a rat in a wheel, where you have regs and these standards," conference producer Celeste Miranda said. "You get caught up. And tomorrow, it’s completely different."

Marijuana legalization also means lower wholesale prices for local growers and more profit in illegal markets. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office marijuana eradication team points out 80 percent of pot sold in the U.S. comes from California.

"We aren’t concerned so much at the consumer level but more on the cultivation level, those that are growing marijuana and where that marijuana is going," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Richard Glennon said.

The drop in sales and the thriving black market seem to have caught the attention of legislators. Advocates at the conference say there are now some proposals to lower state taxes and with it lower the price for legal pot.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>