<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Local News - [Bay Area Feature] In the Weeds]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/localen-usSat, 17 Mar 2018 19:04:19 -0700Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:04:19 -0700NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Top Stories]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:05:25 -0700]]><![CDATA[Weed Rush]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:21:29 -0700]]><![CDATA[Featured Video: Drive-Thru Pot Dispensary]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:26:16 -0700]]><![CDATA[National Marijuana Stories]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:06:02 -0700]]><![CDATA[]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:06:12 -0700]]><![CDATA[San Francisco Embraces Amsterdam-Style Marijuana Lounges]]>Thu, 15 Mar 2018 09:13:19 -0700https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/san-francisco-pot.jpg

The smoke was thick and business brisk at the Barbary Coast Dispensary's marijuana smoking lounge, a darkened room that resembles a steakhouse or upscale sports tavern with its red leather seats, deep booths with high dividers, and hardwood floors.

"There's nothing like this in Jersey," said grinning Atlantic City resident Rick Thompson, getting high with his cousins in San Francisco.

In fact, there's nothing like the Barbary Coast lounge almost anywhere in the United States, a conundrum confronting many marijuana enthusiasts who find it increasingly easy to buy pot but harder to find legal places to smoke it.

Only California permits marijuana smoking at marijuana retailers with specially designed lounges. But it also allows cities to ban those kids of shops.

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco is the trailblazer. It's the only city in the state to fully embrace Amsterdam-like coffee shops, the iconic tourist stops in the Netherlands where people can buy and smoke marijuana in the same shop.

San Francisco's marijuana "czar" Nicole Elliot said new permits will be issued once city health officials finalize regulations designed to protect workers from secondhand smoke and the neighborhood from unwelcomed odors. The lounges are required to install expensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to prevent the distinct marijuana odor from leaking outside.

Other California cities are warming to the idea. Oakland and South Lake Tahoe each have one smoking lounge.

The city of West Hollywood has approved plans to issue up to eight licenses; the tiny San Francisco Bay Area town of Alameda said it will allow two; and Oakland and South Lake Tahoe each have one lounge. Sacramento, Los Angeles and other cities are discussing the issue but have not authorized any lounges.

Jackie Rocco, the city of Los Angeles' business development manager, said residents and cannabis businesses complain there is "no safe place, no legal place, to use it."

Rocco said Los Angeles officials envision smoking lounges set up like traditional bars, but for now the idea is more concept than plan.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and officials in other states are dithering over the issue.

Massachusetts marijuana regulators considered approval of "cannabis cafes." But the proposal came under withering criticism from Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's administration and law enforcement officials, who claimed among other things that opening such businesses would lead to more dangerously stoned drivers.

The five-member Cannabis Control Commission ultimately yielded to pressure by agreeing to put off a decision on licensing any cafes until after the initial rollout of retail marijuana operations, expected this summer. Members of the panel, however, continue to support the idea.

"Those who wish to consume cannabis are going to do so whether social sites exist or not, and are going to make driving decisions regardless of where they consume," said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Massachusetts chapter of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. "Social sites will simply give cannabis users the same options available to alcohol users."

In Colorado, one of the first states to broadly legalize, lawmakers failed in a close vote to make so-called "tasting rooms" legal. However, cities may do it, and Denver has authorized lounges where consumers bring their own marijuana, issuing a single permit so far.

Nevada has put off a vote on the issue until next year, while lawmakers in Alaska and Oregon have considered and rejected legislation.

San Francisco has allowed medical marijuana patients to smoke in dispensaries for years, though there was uncertainty over whether the practice was authorized when California voters in 1996 made the state the first in the nation to legalize cannabis use with a doctor's recommendation.

The Barbary Coast, which received its state license in January, first opened as a small medical dispensary in 2013. It expanded and opened its smoking lounge to medical users last year. On Jan. 11, the shop opened to all adults when it received its California recreational use license. The state started issuing those on Jan. 1 and continues to approve dozens of applications a month since voters broadly legalized the use and sale of marijuana.

Thompson traveled from Atlantic City to celebrate his 27th birthday with his cousins, who live in Oakland. They decided to celebrate in style, getting as high as they could in San Francisco.

The three 20-somethings bought a variety of buds and the quick-acting "wax," a potent pot concentrate, and settled into a booth with all the accoutrement they needed. After customers purchase at least $40 worth of product, the Barbary Coast will supply bongs, joint rollers, "rigs" for wax smoking and just about any smoking tool desired.

They smoked and debated the merits of smoking buds versus wax. The verdict: There's something innately satisfying about smoking buds, but wax gives a quicker high even if it requires a hotter flame and more elaborate setup to smoke.

Barbary is in a once-rundown neighborhood that is gentrifying. Two other dispensaries with smoke lounges are three blocks away. Three flat-screen televisions tuned to sports hang on the lounge's brick walls. Outside the enclosed room, customers line up at the dispensary's glass counters to buy marijuana.

General manager Jesse Henry said Barbary's owners plan to open a bigger store and smoking lounge about a mile away, across the street from a popular concert hall, after city health officials finalize regulations for on-site consumption.

"This city is built for tourists," Henry said. "We put a lot of work into giving them a San Francisco experience."


Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Berkeley to Consider Sanctuary City for Marijuana Resolution]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 19:49:03 -0700https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Marijuana_Sanctuary_City.jpg

Berkeley could become a sanctuary city for marijuana if the council approves what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind proposal Tuesday.

The resolution would prohibit city agencies and employees from helping authorities enforce federal marijuana laws. Pot may be legal in California, but the federal government still considers it illegal.

And now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions removed guidelines that directed United States attorneys to leave marijuana businesses alone, federal action against cannabis collectives is more likely.

"This is an effort to recriminalize what we voted to decriminalize," Berkeley Councilman Ben Bartlett said.

Bartlett co-authored a resolution that essentially tells the feds if they want to go after pot clubs, they're on their own and will not get help from Berkeley.

"If it passes it sets a tone and policy to protect our industry here and protect patients so they can go forward with some sense of security to operate in Berkeley," Bartlett said.

Berkeley has had a history of shielding its cannabis culture. Back in 1979, the city directed its own police department to make marijuana enforcement its lowest priority. Given that, some question if the city really needs this resolution. But industry insiders said there could be other benefits.

"This mechanism may make people feel safer, especially new industry trying to get a foot hold here in Berkeley," said Jimi Devine with Cannabis Now.

The council also plans to take up the issue of how the cannabis industry should be taxed to remain competitive, but still provide funding for the city.

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<![CDATA[Some Bay Area Pot Retailers Open Early New Year's Day]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 00:35:46 -0700https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pot_openings_1231_1260438.JPG

Just over one dozen dispensaries across the Bay Area on Monday rang in the new year by opening early to finalize some of the first recreational marijuana sales following the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016.

Some dispensaries in Berkeley and Oakland opened as early as 6 a.m. after being licensed by California and their respective cities for recreational sales.

Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, who have both spent the past 29 years fighting for marijuana legalization, were all smiles at 6 a.m. sharp as they made the first purchase at Berkeley Patients Group.

"It's so great to be here," Conrad said. "What a moment for California. One small joint for us, a giant leap for California."

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was in attendance for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Berkeley dispensary located at 2366 San Pablo Ave. Anthony Moraga was also up before the sun in Berkeley to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Anthony Moraga was also up before the sun in Berkeley to celebrate the momentous occasion.
"To me, it's just an exciting time in California's history," Moraga said. "We've been living in the shadows, in the black market and now we can be proud to be a part of a regular industry."

"To me, it's just an exciting time in California's history," Moraga said. "We've been living in the shadows, in the black market and now we can be proud to be a part of a regular industry."

Harborside's location at 1840 Embarcadero in Oakland also opened at 6 a.m., while its San Jose location at 1365 N. 10th St. will open at 9 a.m.

Another Oakland dispensary, Purple Heart Patient Center at 415 Fourth St., opened at 6 a.m. and said it was offering free tacos for early-rising customers.

While Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Jose, Sebastopol and Santa Cruz signed off on various dispensaries to begin recreational sales starting Monday, other cities including San Francisco did not approve legislation for it in time for the start of the new year.

For a dispensary to legally open up shop, it must receive approval from the city it calls home and also receive a retail license from the state.

"Part of the reason there's so few permits is just with the difficulty of staying within the regulations," Alfred Oleson from Berkeley Patients Group said. "They wanted to make sure the people who were getting into it would set a positive example and be a good example to follow going forward."

In San Francisco's case, legislation was not signed until early December following lengthy debates over regulatory issues for the dispensaries.

Ultimately, the board opted for a 600-foot buffer zone around city schools and did not institute bans or caps for the number of dispensaries in each supervisorial district.

The city's existing 45 medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services will be able to begin recreational sales as early as Saturday.

In order to legally purchase recreational marijuana, buyers must be at least 21 years old. Law enforcement officials are also reminding folks that they cannot smoke weed in public and that driving high will result in driving under the influence punishments.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Double Celebration: New Year and Legalized Marijuana]]>Sun, 31 Dec 2017 21:50:04 -0700https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nye_pot_1231_1260209.JPG

At midnight Monday, recreational marijuana becomes legal in California. But not everyone who uses marijuana is cheering it’s new legal status.

Magnolia Wellness Center, a dispensary in Oakland, held a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate 2018 and the pot milestone it brought with it.

While some say marijuana legalization will end the negative stigma around using pot, others say it could also price people out.

Aaron Schleifer of Castro Valley toasted to a new era in California with a tonic infused with cannabis. He has been smoking pot for the past 30 years, but he’s worried about pot’s new legal status.

"The number of regulations and taxes and controls are going to go up - a lot!" he said. "So it’s going to be a lot more expensive to buy. A lot more expensive for people to run a business."

Schleifer is not alone.

Magnolia's Katie Rabinowitz and others at Sunday's double celebration referred to the new marijuana law as the end of Prohibition.

"The end goal has always been ending prohibition. And it’s been a long road," she said.

It also marks the start to a complicated set of new rules and regulations. Rabinowitz said part of Sunday night's party was to help explain some of the changes coming. For example, there will be a 15 percent increase in the excise tax levied on all marijuana products sold. And the state has decreased the amount that is now considered a legal serving size. She argued that could hurt consumers. But she remains optimistic.

"We are celebrating new territory," Rabinowitz said. "This is something we in California have never done before."

Vendors at the party also see it as a positive step. Their issue is how the new laws can vary from city to city, which makes it hard to sell. Especially for mom-and-pop shops.

"It makes it so that only the big cats are getting first, with the most money, the most lawyers, the most everything, which hurts the small guys," said Tiffany Conroy of Emerald Alchemy.

Many vendors also fear the new legal economy could struggle if the black market continues to thrives in the face of regulations. And there could a backlash if people grow their own product at home to keep costs down.

Right now, there about 90 retailers with a license to begin selling recreational marijuana. But people in San Francisco won’t be allowed to buy until Thursday.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[With Legal Pot Coming, Officials Are Concerned About DUIs]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 01:04:37 -0700https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pot_driving_ca_1226_1214044.JPG

The legalization of recreational marijuana in California, which takes effect Jan. 1, comes amidst growing concern for driver safety, heightened by the tragic loss of a California Highway Patrol officer at the hands of an impaired driver.

CHP spokesman Ernie Sanchez said he’s worried about an uptick in impaired driving after the death of Officer Andrew Camilleri on Christmas Eve. Camilleri was sitting inside his CHP vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 880 in Hayward late Sunday night when a suspected drunk and drugged driver slammed into the back of the vehicle.

Indeed, the combination of cars and cannabis is giving some in the transportation industry chills.

Count Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety among those concerned.

"A state with a lot of tourism, like Colorado, they have been promoting their state as a marijuana tourism site," said Rader, senior vice president of communications for IIHS, which conducted a study on insurance claims in states with recreational pot such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

According to the findings, while collisions rose a modest 3 percent for the group, Colorado witnessed a 14 percent spike since 2012.

"The main finding is that the numbers are all moving in the same direction, and it’s a worrisome direction," Rader said.

While an ocean of research on cannabis-related accidents shows mixed findings, a Denver Post investigation using federal data found the following: a 40 percent increase in Colorado drivers involved in fatal crashes since 2013; and a 145 percent leap in drivers found with marijuana in their system.

Legal experts say be careful not to draw conclusions.

"THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the high that impairs the driving, can stay in your bloodstream for up to a month and can stay there on average for 2 to 3 weeks," said Hadar Aviram of UC Hastings law school.

One of the greatest obstacles facing law enforcement right now is finding out when a driver has consumed cannabis and at what level.

Connecting tragedy to marijuana use may ultimately require better technology.

One Oakland group, Hound Labs, says it has developed a breathalyzer-type device for THC. While promising, law enforcement has been restricted by the federal government in this area. It’s been very difficult for law enforcement groups to sponsor tests because marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>