Cannabis Industry Daily News

Boston’s first adult-use marijuana retailer could open in March

Massachusetts regulators on Thursday approved a business license for the first recreational cannabis store in Boston.

The approval means Pure Oasis could open in about a month in Boston’s Dorcester neighborhood, co-owner Kobie Evans said.

The Cannabis Control Commission’s licensing of Pure Oasis is the first for a recreational marijuana retailer under Massachusetts’?social equity program.

Pure Oasis must pass a final inspection and obtain a notice to begin operations before it can start selling adult-use cannabis, the Boston Business Journal reported.

To date, Massachusetts has granted some level of approval to about 280 marijuana businesses.

Of those, only about 10 licenses have gone to companies such as Pure Oasis that are certified under the state’s social equity?program.

Nearly 75% of those who have applied or approved to work in Massachusetts’ legal marijuana industry are white, according to statistics released Thursday by the CCC.

Black and Latino people make up less than 12% of the marijuana workforce in Massachusetts.

– Associated Press

Washington state lifts ban on cannabis vape products

Washington state stores can begin selling flavored vaping products as early as Friday, including those with THC vape products, after lawmakers amended legislation calling for a permanent ban.

The state’s Board of Health ordered a temporary ban last October after a number of vaping-related illnesses and deaths.

Then, in November, Washington state regulators banned the sale and distribution of any products containing vitamin E acetate, an additive in some cannabis vaping products identified as a likely culprit in the vape-related health crisis.

The ban followed an executive order by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee seeking an emergency ban on flavored vaping products, including those containing THC.

The legislation amended Feb. 3, Senate Bill 6254, would have made permanent the emergency ban on flavored vape products that was approved by the Board of Health in October.

However, according to The Seattle Times, the legislation was changed in the Senate and now allows for the sale of such products to those 21 and older – in line with Washington state’s new tobacco and vapor law.

Democratic state Sen. Annette Cleveland said the reversal stemmed from the identification of vitamin E acetate as the likely cause of the vape-related health crisis.

Her amended version of the bill still bans vape products with vitamin E acetate and places a 37% excise tax on flavored vape products.

Opponents of the permanent ban argue that vape-related deaths caused by vitamin E acetate in illicit products have spurred an unfounded hysteria targeting legal products.

– Associated Press

For more of?Marijuana Business Daily’s?ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis,?click here.

Maine enlists Metric as state’s marijuana traceability provider

Maine regulators on Thursday entered a six-year contract?for Florida-based Metrc to provide the state with a marijuana seed-to-sale tracking system.

Metrc replaces BioTrackTHC, a subsidiary of Colorado-based Helix, after BioTrackTHC agreed to end its contract with the state because it couldn’t meet the necessary requirements.

Metrc’s cloud-based software service will be used for Maine’s existing medical marijuana program and a recreational cannabis program that’s expected to launch this spring, according to the state’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

Massachusetts advances bill to better regulate cannabis company fees

The oversight of payments?that Massachusetts marijuana companies?make to the municipalities in which they do business would be tightened under a bill approved Wednesday by the state’s House of Representatives.

The measure now moves to the state Senate.

If the Senate passes the bill and the governor signs it, the new law would?give the state’s Cannabis Control Commission the power to review, regulate and enforce “host community agreements.”

Under Massachusetts law, each marijuana firm must sign an agreement with the community in which it plans to operate before applying for a state license.

Some local officials have used the contracts to demand more money from companies than is allowed under state law, according to some critics.

In fact, a study by a Boston law firm in January 2019 determined that almost four out of five “host community agreements” are illegal.

Under the existing law, fees that communities charge must be related to the costs imposed on the city or town by the operation of the marijuana company and can’t amount to more than 3% of the firm’s gross sales of the business.?The fee remains in effect for five years.

– Associated Press

Portland, Oregon, marijuana program needs work, report says

Portland, Oregon’s cannabis program needs to improve a wide range of “management fundamentals” as well as continue to work on issues such as social equity and conservation, according to a?city auditor’s report.

The findings in the 16-page report about the?Community and Civic Life Office’s oversight of Portland’s marijuana program include:

  • Data for licensing, enforcement and complaints is not reliable.
  • Budgets and fees are not based on strategy or workloads.
  • Complex regulations need to be streamlined.
  • Law enforcement for illegal marijuana sales is lacking.
  • More data is needed to determine whether the city’s social equity efforts are successful.

Community and Civic Life Director Suk Rhee and the agency’s overseer, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, released a joint statement saying they generally agree with the recommendations to improve the program but believe the report “would benefit from additional context and information?regarding our operations,” The Oregonian reported.

Last November, Portland’s marijuana program adopted a strategy focusing on social equity, community involvement, sustainability and “sensible regulation.”

The program currently licenses and regulates 391 cannabis businesses:

  • 193 retailers
  • 71 wholesalers
  • 60 processors
  • 57 producers
  • 10 couriers

Another 120 license applications are pending.

Missouri begins licensing medical cannabis tracking firms

Missouri regulators awarded six permits?to medical marijuana seed-to-sale companies.

The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services also denied license certifications to two companies in the first round of the selection process.

Those receiving licenses:

  • MJ Freeway (now known as Akerna.)
  • Bio-Tech Medical Software.
  • Swin.
  • Artemis Agtech.
  • Validated Housing.
  • Retail Innovations.

The DHSS denied licenses to Leaf Logix Technologies and Canna Botanicals Coop.

Each seed-to-sale tracking system must be able to interface with a statewide system, allowing cannabis to be tracked through the entire process.

Seed-to-sale applications remain open in Missouri, unlike some other license categories in the state.

The DHSS can’t limit the number of certifications in this category, the Jefferson City New Tribune reported.

Whoopi Goldberg exits marijuana products firm after dispute

Whoopi & Maya Medical Cannabis, a California company with MMJ products available in stores in California and Colorado, has ceased operations in the wake of an unresolved dispute between co-founders Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth.

The end of the partnership between actor and comedian Goldberg and marijuana industry veteran Elisabeth is a dramatic departure from 2017, when Goldberg joked during an interview with Marijuana Business Daily?that the next step for the company would be “world domination.”

“We will not be producing products anymore as they were, which is a tragedy because the products themselves were very, very popular with women,” said Rick Cusick, co-founder and board member of Whoopi & Maya.

“The board still has the company, but it’s a much different company without Whoopi’s name on it.”

Founded in 2016, the company built its business around a line of women’s health products designed to relieve menstrual cramps. At the time, celebrity investors in marijuana companies was considered a novelty, while today they are common.

Whoopi & Maya products such as Soak, Relax, Rub and Savor were available in more than 300 marijuana stores in Colorado and California, according to the company’s website.

Cusick said it became clear to people involved with the company about two or three months ago that Goldberg and Elisabeth wanted a business divorce.

The company then started developing a plan that would have kept the equity intact and allowed the company and products to continue.

Goldberg?indicated that the plan might be acceptable, so a board meeting was scheduled, Cusick said.

“About an hour before the call, we got an email and she had resigned from the company,” he added.

“We thought we had a good solution … instead, the divorce became final.”

The board is expected to meet later this week to determine the company’s future.

“I’d like to keep it going – we still have the assets and formulations,” Cusick said. “The company is still intact but has lost a great deal of its power in the marketplace without Whoopi’s name.”

– Margaret Jackson

Dispensaries advance in New Jersey medical cannabis licensing process

Three medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey moved closer to opening their doors.

Regulators?awarded permits to grow medical marijuana to three more companies, the state health department said Tuesday:

  • Columbia Care NJ.
  • MPX NJ.
  • Verano.

The cultivation licensing round advances a process that began more than a year ago?in an effort?to stimulate the state’s MMJ industry.

The three dispensaries, known in New Jersey as?Alternative Treatment Centers, still must be licensed to operate and dispense MMJ products, according to NJ.com.

Columbia Care, MPX and Verano were among six companies that New Jersey regulators?approved in December 2018 to eventually operate in the state.

Since then, two companies received cultivation permits in the past few months, NJ.com reported, and another, Justice Grown, still has not been licensed.

Colorado governor unveils marijuana banking guide

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis released a guide to help state-chartered financial companies better serve and expand banking services to marijuana companies as well as make MJ businesses safer by not forcing them to rely so heavily on cash transactions.

Some areas of focus in the Democratic governor’s “Roadmap to Cannabis Banking” include:

  • Encouraging new and emerging technologies, such as virtual currencies.
  • Providing regulatory guidance on such things as the Bank Secrecy Act and money laundering.
  • Reducing barriers to entry.
  • Demonstrating support by submitting letters with other state bank regulators in support of federal regulation.

Polis’ banking blueprint is intended to provide “guidance, clarity and support to state-chartered, financial-service providers that work with or are interested in working with the state-legal cannabis industry,” Polis said in a statement.

A key proponent of providing cannabis banking services at the federal level threw his support behind Polis’ guide.

“Too many Colorado businesses, employees and communities have been targets of assault, robbery and other crimes due to the conflict between state and federal law when it comes to cannabis banking,” U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado,?said in a statement.

Perlmutter?was one of the sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, which is designed to allow financial institutions to serve cannabis businesses without fear of federal reprisal.

Illinois adult-use cannabis sales hit $40 million in first month

Recreational marijuana stores in Illinois sold almost $40 million worth of product during the state’s first month of legal sales.

That is far more than the $6.5 million in recreational marijuana sold in Michigan, which began sales a month earlier than Illinois’ Jan. 1 launch.

Illinois also sold more marijuana in its first month of rec sales than?Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado or Nevada.

California, by contrast, sold roughly $100.5 million in its first month of recreational marijuana sales in January 2018, according to Headset, a Seattle-based cannabis data and analytical company.

Illinois’ adult-use stores sold more than $30.6 million to residents and $8.6 million to out-of-state visitors in January, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

All told, rec cannabis retailers in Illinois sold more than 970,000 products?since sales began.

More than a third of the month’s total sales occurred in the first few days, with transactions hitting $10.8 million by Jan. 5.

Demand was so strong that rec marijuana stores quickly ran out of product. Some retailers rationed cannabis goods, including those trying to meet an Illinois requirement that adult-use stores must reserve some product for medical marijuana customers.

With only 21 authorized recreational cannabis cultivators in the state, it could take months before supply and demand are in equilibrium.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily

Marijuana Ponzi scheme alleged in Washington state

(This story has been updated to reflect that the accused could not be reached for comment.)

A Washington state cannabis?farm was the focus of a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, an illegal example of the sudden-riches mentality in the legal marijuana industry, according to federal officials.

Investors plowed $4.85 million into the alleged scheme from Green Acres Farms near Anacortes, Washington, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint.

Many of the investors – lured by promises of huge profits – used retirement funds or family loans.

Instead of investing the proceeds into the marijuana farm, Robert Russell, of Duvall, and his California-based executive partner, Guy Scott Griffithe, spent $3.5 million of investors’ money on luxuries such as a 2008 Bentley Continental, a 2012 Mercedes Benz C-Class, a 2015 Porsche Panamera and a yacht, the SEC said.

Neither Russell nor Griffithe could be reached for comment. An attorney who is reportedly representing Robert Russell did not respond to an interview request from the Associated Press.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, charges Russell and Griffithe with civil violations of federal securities law and seeks return of “ill-gotten gains.”

No criminal charges were filed.

“Griffithe and Russell exploited popular interest in the cannabis industry to obtain millions of dollars from investors who thought they were buying into a profitable business,” Melissa R. Hodgman, associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a statement.

The SEC said Green Acres Pharms was never profitable.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has permanently discontinued Green Acres Pharms’ license to produce and process cannabis.

– Associated Press

New Mexico court allows medical cannabis business tax deductions

New Mexico medical marijuana providers?can claim a tax deduction for prescription MMJ, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled, providing dispensary owners with a potential tax break that is unavailable in other states.

Depending on the medical marijuana producer, tax claims could “carry a multimillion-dollar price tag for the state Taxation and Revenue Department,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The agency has until Feb. 27 to appeal the ruling.

In its ruling, the New Mexico Court of Appeals said medical marijuana meets the definition of a prescription drug under the state’s tax code.

That’s because doctors are required to certify that patients have a qualifying condition before they can enroll in the program.

Although it was a state-specific decision, the ruling could serve as a precedent in other U.S. markets.

U.S. courts?have consistently ruled?that because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, so cannabis business owners are?prohibited from deducting operating expenses on their taxes.

In New Mexico, medical marijuana providers pay state business taxes but typically pass the costs on to consumers.

The ruling could eventually lead to New Mexico’s dispensaries lowering prices for consumers and, potentially, spur an increase in medical marijuana sales.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily