The Shake: Oakland Aids Drug War Victims, Grover Norquist Calls for Cannabis Tax Reform
Oakland offers licensing leg up to applicants jailed for cannabis. Controversial? You bet. But it’s also a bold effort to address some of the racial discrepancies plaguing the cannabis industry. While women have wrangled an appreciable share of the market boom — at least compared to other, stubbornly male-dominated industries — people of color have largely been left out. Much of that is the result of laws that bar people with criminal records from landing local licenses. Those laws grew out of public safety concerns, but they disproportionately exclude people of color: Even in legal states, black people are far more likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites, despite similar rates of use. As David Downs writes in the East Bay Express, “Recent reports show that minorities are both: under-represented among legal cannabusiness owners; and over-represented in the criminal justice system for pot.” That mismatch spurred Oakland’s program, which the City Council said is aimed to reward neighborhoods and individuals hardest hit by the war on drugs. Expect to hear more on this as word makes its way across the country.
Anti-tax icon calls for cannabis to be taxed fairly. Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform are calling for Congress to address some of the disparities still faced by the cannabis industry. One big one: IRS Rule 280E, which prevents cannabis companies from deducting most normal business expenses.
Vancouver issues its first dispensary business license. The Wealth Shop won a license to operate in the city's swank Point Grey neighborhood, The Globe and Mail reports. It's the first business license the city's granted to a dispensary as the city works to reform its local bylaws.
Kids still can’t get medication in Mississippi. Two years ago little Harper Grace Durval, who suffers from Dravet syndrome, became the face of Mississippi’s debate over cannabis oil. Advocates won, and the governor signed a medical legalization bill. Today Harper Grace still awaits her first dose. Her seizures are coming more often and lasting longer, her mom tells local news WAPT, and she now takes seven different medications to keep them at bay.
Portland will rein in cannabis events featuring free samples. Officials in the Oregon city are investigating at least three large-scale gatherings, Noelle Crombie writes in The Oregonian, though they won’t say which ones. Authorities are concerned the events might violate clean-air rules, as well as regulations preventing public consumption and sale.
Pittsburgh NORML hits back against crummy concentrate coverage. “Simply stated, this is absurd ‘reefer madness’ nonsense,” the group said in a blog post this week, referring to a lazily reported story on extracts by local news station WPXI. It’s more mediocre journalism by East Coast outlets more interested in selling salacious stories about shatter than informing their audiences. (We’re looking at you, New York Times.)
The squeeze is on in Michigan. Advocates are running out of time to collect signatures to qualify an adult-use legalization measure for November’s ballot, John Schroyer reports. “We’re in a mad dash and scramble to get as many signatures as we can,” says Jeff Hank, chairman of MILegalize. The group faces a June 1 deadline.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s dispensary crackdown is underway. Twenty-two shops have reportedly closed, and CBS Detroit says officials want to shutter 66 more in the near-term. (City authorities say many are operating in drug-free school zones.) Zoning laws in Detroit are complicated: Just try making sense of this map.
Want tickets to the gun show? Tough luck if you’re in San Francisco. The city’s last remaining gun store is about to become a medical marijuana dispensary. Toodles, High Bridge Arms. Hello, High Bridge Cannabis Club. Not everyone’s happy: “Take a shop that was good for the neighborhood for those of us who actually use guns and have guns,” resident Jo Lein told KTVU. “And now, we have to go all the way to San Mateo."
“Synthetic marijuana” continues to confuse people and piss off cannabis advocates. Luckily the International Business Times knows the difference — a sign of nuance that’s missing from much mainstream media coverage these days. “Spice is not marijuana, but actually a designer drug that emulates its effect,” writes Vittorio Hernandez. (Never heard of spice? Here’s a good primer.)
And you thought cannabis was legal in California. Local cops raided San Diego-based Med-West Distribution back in January. Police had previously claimed the vape-cartridge company’s manufacturing process was illegal, but no charges have been filed yet against the lab or its employees, and the San Diego District Attorney’s office is keeping mum. “We just thought that we were part of the responsible marijuana industry,” CEO James Slatic tells the Huffington Post.
Washington state legislators are short-changing teen drug-prevention programs. Legalization “has, by some measures, been an immediate success,” writes the Seattle Times editorial board. But the state Legislature has been diverting cannabis taxes earmarked for education and steering them into the state’s general fund. C’mon, Olympia.
Washington has "enough" cannabis? It may not be so simple. A recent report suggested the current amount of cultivation would be more than sufficient to cover both medical and recreational demand in the state. But Tobias Coughlin-Bogue talked to patients for The Stranger and reports that many are struggling to track down high-CBD strains. Not all cannabis is created equal, people.
Local attitudes toward cannabis in legal states continue to ebb and flow. In Yakima, Wash., the City Council last night voted to undo the city’s ban on cannabis businesses. As the Yakima Herald reports, the ban has been in place since 2014. It’s an encouraging sign, but it’s a mixed bag across legal states. In Oregon’s election yesterday, Grant and Klamath counties voted down efforts to allow cultivation and sales. The state allows local jurisdictions to opt-out of the regulated state market, and more than 100 cities and counties have done so.
A book on cannabis won an Independent Book Publishers Association award. Congratulations to Jorge Cervantes, whose title, The Cannabis Encyclopedia, picked up the IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Award last month.
And finally, want my job? UC Berkeley now offers a cannabis journalism extension course.