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Major Pro-Legalization California Union Sides With Cops Against Marijuana Deliveries

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A major California labor union that’s been an influential player in legalizing marijuana is opposing a change in state law that would allow for increased access to legal, regulated cannabis—and, subsequently, is now drawing criticism for the stance from its own members.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has supported marijuana legalization in California since 2010, when the union endorsed the ultimately unsuccessful statewide initiative Prop. 19.

Cannabis has been seen as a potential growth opportunity for organized labor, membership of which is on the wane in the United States. At the same time, much work in cannabis is high-turnover and low-wage, where workers could benefit from organization.

UFCW’s Western States Council is also a power player at the state Capitol in Sacramento, where it has helped shape and guide statewide marijuana regulations.

But the group is now opposing a proposed change in the state’s marijuana regulations that is supported by many other pro-legalization players.

Under a rule proposed by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), licensed dispensaries and delivery services would be able to deliver cannabis to areas that have banned brick-and-mortar retail dispensaries.

According to the BCC, the rule change clarifies existing law that allows licensed deliveries to “any jurisdiction within the state.”

Supporters of this change point out that the vast majority of California cities and counties have banned marijuana retail sales, forcing cannabis consumers to patronize the unregulated, criminal market—and contradicting the spirit and intent of the state’s 2016 legalization initiative, which was approved with a solid margin by voters.

Joining UFCW in opposing this change are the League of California Cities, which has for years lobbied to allow localities to ban commercial marijuana activity, and the California Police Chiefs Association, which opposed 2016’s Prop. 64.

Just before the Labor Day weekend, thee three entities launched a website called “Stop Wandering Weed.”

The website features a marijuana-delivery vehicle parked outside of a school and enjoins visitors to sign an online petition to oppose the BCC’s changes.

“Protect our children and schools,” the website declares.

The BCC’s changes “will wipe out safety controls allowing marijuana to be delivered anywhere in California – even to your doorstep,” it continues. “Will your children be home?”

Recreational marijuana is legal in California for anyone 21 and up. Legalization repealed most criminal penalties—but significant penalties remain for anyone providing cannabis to a minor. Licensed retailers who broke the law in such fashion would also face loss of their license.

Meanwhile, in areas that are poorly served by brick-and-mortar dispensaries, illegal market activity continues to flourish.

Jim Araby, the executive director of UFCW’s Western States Council, told Marijuana Moment it was clear that the original intent of Prop. 64 was to allow cities to decide for themselves whether or not they would allow commercial cannabis activity.

Increasing California’s retail capacity by convincing more local governments to overturn bans and allow commercial marijuana activity is also in the union’s interest, but in the meantime, governments “should not be forced into something they’re not ready for,” he said.

Observers say that UFCW’s turn towards more restrictions is meant to protect existing retail outlets—particularly in Southern California, where the union represents three dispensaries.

There are also dispensaries organized with UFCW in Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento.

“It’s a bit weird to see them laying down with the lion, don’t you think?” asked Sean Donahoe, an Oakland-based consultant and co-founder of the California Cannabis Business Association.

According to Donahoe, at a marijuana-industry conference last year, UFCW’s Araby “committed to me that he would work” to move forward with local licensing.

“A year ago those promises were made, and since then, we’ve seen very little effort,” Donahoe added. “And now we have this—throwing obstacles in front of what the Bureau would like to do.”

And at least one union dispensary operator is baffled by the UFCW’s move, and says that not only does it hurt her operation’s bottom line, but the union’s move happened without her knowledge or input.

“It’s kinda working against our goals,” said Debby Goldsberry, a longtime marijuana activist who is executive director of Magnolia Oakland, a licensed dispensary near the Oakland waterfront.

“At the very, very, very least, brick and mortar dispensaries should be allowed to deliver everywhere,” she told Marijuana Moment. “How else will we compete?”

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Chris Roberts is a reporter and writer based in San Francisco. He has covered the cannabis industry since 2009, with bylines in the Guardian, Deadspin, Leafly News, The Observer, The Verge, Curbed, Cannabis Now, SF Weekly and others.

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Bank Of America Cancels Account Of Marijuana And Psychedelics Research Institute Registered With DEA

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The second-largest bank in the U.S. is shutting down the account of a research institute that’s federally authorized to cultivate and study Schedule I substances like marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms.

Bank of America (BoA) abruptly notified the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) that it would be closing its accounts last week, without a clear explanation of the reasoning. A letter from the bank that was shared with Marijuana Moment on Monday says the decision was made after “a careful review of your banking relationship” and that the action is “final and won’t be reconsidered.”

SRI has spent years fighting for expanded access to research-grade controlled substances to study their therapeutic potential, in part by litigating against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on issues such as cannabis scheduling. In May, it received preliminary approval from the agency to be one of the first new federally authorized cultivators of cannabis for research, effectively ending a decades-long monopoly on such manufacturing.

The institute is already getting bids from other financial institutions that want to take on the account after chief investigator Sue Sisley shared the news of the BoA closure on social media.

“We just wanted to expose wrongdoing of these big banks,” Sisley told Marijuana Moment, adding that they want to “show the public that even federally legal operations are being unfairly targeted by these large banks who refuse to look at our federal regulatory documents.”

It takes significant resources to obtain and maintain DEA clearance to grow and study Schedule I substances like marijuana. One theory that Sisley floated was that BoA may have decided to end the business relationship after SRI was more recently cleared to cultivate psilocybin for research, but the bank provided “zero justification.”

“Maybe it was the mushrooms that freaked them out?”

Marijuana Moment reached out to BoA for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Sisley said the institute received “no warning,” with “no ability to speak to somebody logical who could review our operating agreement with DEA. We have been plant-touching since our start with Bank of America 10 years ago” and were “always transparent about that.”

“We have a contract with DEA. We are growing cannabis for [Food and Drug Administration] clinical trials and selling it to the DEA,” she said. “It’s unconscionable the way they are behaving—and further proof that the word ‘cannabis’ continues to be completely radioactive even though this is a 100 percent federally legal operation.”

“Fortunately, there are banks that care about the progress of federally regulated and federally legal research and are eager to step up and support us immediately,” Sisley added. “We will be moving our funding from Bank of America and never returning there. Our research continues without harm because other banks that care about scientific freedom were able to step up. Bank of America doesn’t even have the decency to provide an explanation after a decade of banking with an openly plant-touching business.”

SRI has been behind several legal challenges imploring the federal government to remove research barriers for Schedule I drugs like marijuana and psychedelics.

In August, a federal appeals court has dismissed SRI’s petition to require DEA to reevaluate marijuana’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—but one judge said in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the medical value of cannabis.

The lawsuit received oral arguments in June and largely centered on DEA’s 2020 denial of a one-page marijuana rescheduling petition filed by a separate individual. In its response, the agency argued that marijuana has no currently accepted medical value.

The petitioners initially filed their lawsuit, Sisley v. DEA, against the federal agency in May of last year, contending that DEA’s justification for maintaining a Schedule I status for cannabis violates the Constitution on numerous grounds. DEA attempted to dismiss the case, but the Ninth Circuit rejected that request in August.

In a separate case, the institute successfully forced DEA to issue an update on the status of its application to grow cannabis and then got the Justice Department to hand over a “secret” memo that DEA allegedly used to justify a delay in deciding those proposals.

Meanwhile, DEA is taking additional steps to promote research into the potential risks and benefits of marijuana and certain psychedelics. Last week it proposed a dramatic increase in the legal production substances like cannabis, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT to be used in research next year.

DEA had already massively upped its proposed 2021 quota for cannabis and psilocybin last month, but now it’s calling for significantly larger quantities of research-grade marijuana and a broader array of psychedelics to be manufactured in 2022.

But despite these developments and the changing policy landscape surrounding marijuana and psychedelics at the state and local level, many financial institutions remain reluctant to service clients that work with these currently federally illicit products.

The number of banks and credit unions reporting that they work with marijuana businesses ticked up last quarter, according to federal data released last month.

Lawmakers have been working to to enact clear, statutory protections for banks and credit unions that work with the marijuana industry to alleviate remaining hesitation in the financial services industry about working with cannabis businesses. That would be accomplished through House-passed standalone legislationor an amendment that was attached to a defense spending bill last month.

In the meantime, Sisley said SRI could sue BoA over the account cancelation, but it has other things to focus on.

“We have important work to do,” she said. “We need to stay on our path to helping whole plant cannabis flower walk through the entire FDA drug development process.”

States Promote Federal Hemp Survey Being Mailed Out This Week To More Than 20,000 Farmers

Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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Americans Want To Live Where Marijuana Is Legal, Real Estate Survey Finds

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Americans would rather live in states where marijuana is legal than in those that continue to criminalize cannabis consumers. That’s according to a new survey published on Monday by real estate company Redfin.

Among those who recently moved to a new metro area, 46 percent said they prefer to reside somewhere marijuana is “fully legal,” compared to just 22 percent who want to live in a place with prohibition still in effect.

The share of those who like legalized jurisdictions includes more than one in ten respondents—12 percent—who say they would only consider living in places where cannabis can be legally purchased. On the other side, 10 percent said they would rule out moving to areas that have ended criminalization.

Thirty-two percent of people taking the survey said they don’t care about the marijuana issue when it comes to where to live.

Via Redfin.

The survey, which involved 1,023 U.S. residents who moved to a new home during the 18 months prior to answering the questions in August, also asked about other issues such as abortion policy, voting rights and anti-discrimination laws for gender and sexual orientation.

Redfin said that while public policies on cannabis and other issues are important factors in deciding where to move, other considerations often take precedence.

“People take the politics of a place into consideration when deciding where to move, but the truth of the matter is that other factors including housing affordability and access to jobs and schools take priority,” Taylor Marr, the deputy chief economist for the company, said in a press release. “Oftentimes this means someone will move from a blue state to a red state (or vice versa), but choose a home in a neighborhood where most people hold the same political views as they do. Austin—a liberal Texas enclave that’s attracting scores of left-leaning folks from pricier coastal cities—is just one example.”

Prior analyses, including one published this year that uses data from online real estate marketplace Zillow, has shown that marijuana legalization is associated with higher home property values. “Home values increased $6,338 more in states where marijuana is legal in some form, compared to states that haven’t legalized marijuana,” it concluded.

Last year, a separate analysis from economists at the University of Oklahoma similarly found that states that legalize marijuana see a boost in housing prices, with the effect most pronounced once nearby retail outlets open for business.

Research—including a study released this month that was authored by a federal official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—has tied cannabis legalization to lower crime rates, a key factor in home values and neighborhood desirability.

Impact Of Marijuana Legalization On Crime Reduction Is Being Underestimated, New Study Finds

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Nevada Sold More Than $1 Billion In Marijuana In One Year, Officials Report

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Nevada retailers sold more than $1 billion in medical and recreational marijuana over a one-year period, state officials announced on Wednesday.

The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) and the Nevada Department of Taxation released the data, which shows $1,003,467,655 in taxable cannabis purchases in Fiscal Year 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

By contrast, total marijuana sales for the prior 2020 fiscal year amounted to $685 million.

The bulk of the marijuana purchases ($791,100,017) came from Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. Another $135,326,790 of cannabis was sold in Washoe County, with Reno being the major city in that jurisdiction. The $77,040,859 remainder came from other counties.

Ten percent of tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales will support pubic education funding, as prescribed under a bill that Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) previously signed.

“This is what Nevadans expected since the legalization of recreational marijuana,” the governor said in a press release about the new sales data. “Education remains one of my top priorities, and I’m proud to see promised tax revenue from cannabis sales directly funding our students and classrooms.”

Sisolak also signed a bill in June to legalize marijuana consumption lounges in the state.

The new social use license types statewide and giving consumers this option—especially in the tourist-centric state—could further boost marijuana and other tax revenues.

The governor has also committed to promoting equity and justice in the state’s marijuana law. Last year, for example, he pardoned more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level cannabis possession.

That action was made possible under a resolution the governor introduced that was unanimously approved by the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Meanwhile, states across the U.S. have been touting marijuana sales and the resulting tax revenue as markets continue to mature.

For example, Illinois marijuana retailers have sold nearly $1 billion worth of legal recreational cannabis products so far in 2021, officials recently reported.

Maine recreational marijuana sales broke another marijuana sales record in August, exceeding $10 million for the first time since the adult-use market launched in October 2020.

Arizona brought in about $21 million in medical and adult-use marijuana tax revenue in July, state officials reported on a new webpage that enables people to more easily track how the industry is evolving.

California collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, state officials estimated in August. That’s 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the prior fiscal year.

A recent scientific analysis of sales data in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State found that marijuana purchases “have increased more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years.”

In July alone, at least three states saw record-breaking sales for recreational cannabis. The same goes for Missouri’s medical marijuana program.

Michigan marijuana sales broke another record in July with more than $171 million in cannabis transactions, according to data from the state’s regulatory body. There were $128 million in adult-use sales and $43 million in medical cannabis purchases.

Throughout the pandemic, many states allowed cannabis retailers to remain open—with governors and regulators in several markets declaring marijuana businesses to be essential services—and some jurisdictions issued emergency rules allowing curbside pickup, delivery services or other more relaxed policies in order to facilitate social distancing.

Meanwhile, New York officials are projecting that marijuana tax revenue will help keep the state’s budget afloat as cigarette sales continue to decline over the coming years. But retails sales have yet to launch as of now.

Read the marijuana sales data that Nevada officials released below: 

Click to access ccb-dot-cannabis-taxable-sales-data-fy21.pdf

Top Federal Drug Official Gives Maryland Lawmakers Marijuana Legalization Advice At Workgroup Hearing

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