Cannabis stocks, already bolstered by wins in the midterm elections, got an added boost when anti-pot Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon.
Exchange-traded funds that track marijuana stocks, including the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF in Toronto and the U.S.-listed ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, jumped to fresh highs on the news, gaining 7 percent and 6.2 percent respectively.
Tilray Inc. saw the biggest surge, climbing as much as 25 percent in its biggest gain since Sept. 19, when the stock almost doubled before giving back most of the gains in a wild ride for investors. Other cannabis-related stocks in both the U.S. and Canada also gained.
Sessions was a major foe of marijuana legalization, moving last January to rescind an Obama-era policy that allowed states to make their own decisions on cannabis without interference from the federal government. That announcement sent pot shares plunging three days after California became the largest jurisdiction to legalize recreational use.
Cannabis stocks were broadly higher Wednesday after Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana and Missouri approved medical pot. The Democrats’ House of Representatives win was also thought to be a positive catalyst for stocks, making legal reform more likely.
Two marijuana ballot measures were resoundingly rejected by Kern County voters on Tuesday, with another appearing to lose by a narrow margin.
Measure J, which would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of Kern County, fell well short. With all precincts reporting, 62 percent of voters rejected the measure while 38 percent supported it.
Another unincorporated county measure, Measure K, which would have legalized both recreational and medical dispensaries, lost by 54 to 46 percent.
The lone Bakersfield measure, Measure O, also failed to pass muster, 55 percent to 45 percent.
The three ballot measures asked voters to rescind bans on marijuana dispensaries in Kern County and the city of Bakersfield.
Measure J was brought forward by medical marijuana activists Jeff Jarvis and Heather Epps with local group Kern Citizens for Patient Rights, aside from rescinding the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, it would have levied a 7.5 percent business tax to be levied on the dispensaries.
Measure K was largely funded by an industrial real estate investment group from Pacific Palisades-based Industrial Partners Group. It offered slightly more restrictive zoning rules than Measure J, while capping the amount of dispensaries at 35..
It would have created two zones along Interstate 5 for cultivation, processing and distribution facilities, and it would have applied a 5 percent gross receipts tax on any marijuana business including dispensaries.
Measure O was also brought to voters by Jarvis, Epps and the Kern Citizens for Patient Rights. It would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within the city limits, applying a 7.5 percent business tax on dispensaries.
A controversial Half Moon Bay cannabis measure holds a narrow lead, suggesting that the town’s three greenhouse farmers will be allowed grow legal marijuana sprouts in “nurseries” – but residents have rejected other measures that would have expanded cultivation and sales in the traditional coastal town.
The measure – ahead by only 39 votes in a 51 to 48.8 percent tally, with fewer than 1,700 votes counted – would help farmers like 72-year-old “Farmer John” Muller, former mayor and longtime pumpkin farmer, who seeks to rent out his dilapidated greenhouses as a place for the baby plants.
The town, famed for its pumpkins, will not allow the growing of adult psychoactive plants or sale of cannabis products.
Cannabis is fiercely opposed by the town’s Catholic church, a committee of high school parents and others who warned it will change the town’s small-town character.
“I think it was a sympathy vote for Farmer John, who has done a lot of good for the community and is very popular here,” said Rick Southern, a parent on Half Moon Bay High School’s Health and Wellness Committee, who sought to suspend all commercial cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis for two to three years until more research can be done. “People felt that if it was the only way he could stay on his far, they wanted to provide support.”
The defeat of other measures shows that “a lot of people are uncomfortable with having more commercialization in town, whether it be adult plants, retail sales or manufacturing,” said Southern.
The tally only represents electronic votes; all of the mailed, dropped off, provisional and other paper ballots have yet to be counted. The county has 30 days to finalize results.
“It is a beginning,” said farmer Muller on Wednesday morning, as he was feeding his chickens, after a restless night of watching election returns.
It nurseries are approved, “we have to make sure it moves forward in the proper manner, and ensure it is done right,” said Muller, a registered Republican, Vietnam War veteran who was born on a San Gregorio dairy farm and has never used cannabis but needs additional income to sustain his small 18-acre farm. “If done properly, with licensing and permitting, we will look to move in the future with potential new planting.”
In addition to Muller’s Daylight Farms, two other Half Moon Bay businesses — ivy topiary grower Schickenberg Nursery and indoor flower and herb grower Rocket Farms — would be eligible to grow cannabis seedlings.
Opponents fear that nurseries could lead to expansion of large-scale operations — bringing out-of-town workers, perhaps criminals, to the quaint and isolated coast. It was also opposed by some of the town’s Latino residents, who fear that their youth could be lured to cannabis work or that undocumented farm workers would be deported if there’s a bust of a crop that’s still illegal under federal law.
In unincorporated San Mateo County, cannabis cultivation is allowed in existing greenhouses on the coast. But few existing greenhouses meet the standards.
In response, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved amendments that expand where cannabis can be grown. Specifically, the county reduced buffers from 1000 to 600 feet between cannabis growing and schools and homes, eliminated a 100-foot buffer around a cultivator’s property line and gave county officials the discretion to waive or modify security or surveillance requirements where cannabis is grown.
Cannabis tax measures also did well on Election Day, as local government officials rush to get in on what they see as a potential windfall in tax revenue. Even if cities don’t yet allow sales, officials said they wanted the taxes in place.
Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Redwood City, Daly City, South San Francisco, Emeryville, Union City, San Francisco and unincorporated Contra Costa County all passed local cannabis taxes by large margins — despite opponents’ concern that it would boost the price of weed, undermining California’s fledgling legal pot industry and driving consumers underground.
Outside California, Michigan voters approved adult sales of recreational cannabis, making it the 10th U.S. state to legalize marijuana – and the first in the Midwest. Missouri and Utah gave the green light to medical marijuana.
Wednesday’s surprise resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent to all marijuana, also created a buzz in the cannabis community.
“This move by the President opens the door for the marijuana industry,” wrote Nathaniel Geoghegan of CMW Media, representing cannabis businesses, “and begs the question: are we going to see federal legalization sooner than expected?”
Voters approved ballot measures to allow and tax cannabis in every Inland Empire city where it was on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 6, except one.
In San Bernardino County, voters approved measures to allow cannabis, tax it or both in Adelanto, Colton, Hesperia and San Bernardino. In western Riverside County, voters favored such measures in Banning, Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley and Perris. But Hemet bucked the trend by voting to continue a council-backed ban and against allowing and taxing non-retail cannabis.
And in Pomona, voters gave more than 70 percent of the vote to a measure allowing the city to tax future legal cannabis businesses, according to Los Angeles County registrar results posted just before 5 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7.
The San Bernardino County numbers are final but unofficial. Riverside County’s numbers, posted at 7:30 a.m., don’t yet include some vote-by-mail, provisional or damaged ballots.
Prop. 64, which legalized recreational marijuana statewide, also gave cities and counties the power to regulate commercial cannabis within their borders.
Each measure needs a majority to pass. In cities with competing proposals, if both receive more than 50 percent, whichever measure receives more “yes” votes will become law Jan. 1.
San Bernardino County
Adelanto: Measure S took more than 71 percent of more than 2,500 votes cast. It will tax cannabis businesses up to $5 per square foot of space used for cannabis cultivation and nurseries, and up to 5 percent of the gross receipts from the retail sale, delivery, manufacturing, processing, testing and distribution of cannabis and related products.
Colton: Measure U won 69 percent of nearly 6,000 votes cast in Colton. It will put a tax on cannabis businesses of up to $25 per square foot of space utilized for cannabis cultivation/processing, and up to 10 percent of gross receipts from the sale of cannabis and related products.
Hesperia: With more than 60 percent of the vote, Measure T is set to add a tax of between 1 percent and 6 percent on all commercial cannabis businesses except cultivation. Every square foot of space used for commercial cannabis cultivation would be taxed up to $15 per year. Both taxes could increase annually based on the consumer price index.
San Bernardino: The city’s two marijuana measures, both put on the ballot by the City Council, won by commanding margins as the Fourth District Court of Appeal decides whether to uphold or overturn a judge’s invalidation of Measure O, which voters approved in 2016.
Measure W, with nearly 64 percent of the vote, will impose a Cannabis Business Tax of up to $10 per square foot for cultivators and up to 6 percent of gross receipts on other businesses operating in the city.
Measure X had nearly 60 percent and will authorize council members to approve one commercial cannabis business permit per 12,500 residents of the city. With the current population of the city, the council could approve up to 17 permits.
Banning: Two measures, both put on the ballot by the Banning City Council to allow cannabis in the Industrial Zoning District and tax it, both had between 60 and 62 percent of the vote.
Measure N will authorize the city to enact an annual tax of between $15 and $25 per square foot for marijuana cultivation businesses and up to 10 percent of yearly receipts for manufacturing and testing businesses.
Measure O will add a 10 percent yearly tax on the gross receipts of cannabis retail businesses in the city, which the council could raise as high as 15 percent in the future.
Jurupa Valley: Six months after voters shot down their proposal to allow marijuana businesses in parts of Jurupa Valley, the same advocates are narrowly winning in their attempt to pass another ballot measure. This time, there’s one key difference: It would mean tax money the city could spend on other city services.
Measure L took nearly 52 percent of the vote, leading by 345 votes out of 8,903 cast. It would allow up to seven dispensaries and tax them $25 per square foot of space used for retail marijuana sales and $3 per square foot on other commercial cannabis activity.
Moreno Valley: The City Council voted in March to allow dispensaries and other marijuana businesses.
Measure M had more than 72 percent of more than 16,00 votes cast. It will allow a tax on those sales of up to 8 percent per year, along with a maximum of $15 a year per square foot of growing space for commercial growers.
Perris: Measure G, which had 71 percent of more than 4,000 votes, would impose a tax of up to 10 percent on cannabis distribution and manufacturing businesses that the City Council voted in January to allow.
Those operations are in two industrial zones: one in north Perris, and one in the southern part of the city.
Hemet: Nearly two out of every three voters — 65 percent — rejected Measure Y, which sought to allow an unlimited number of non-retail cannabis businesses in manufacturing zones as long as they’re not in residential zones, within 600 feet of schools or within 1,000 feet of three or more cannabis businesses. They would be taxed $10 per square foot.
To counter that measure, the City Council put Measure Z on the ballot, which bans marijuana businesses for at least two years. The continued ban was ahead much more narrowly, with nearly 53 percent of almost 11,000 votes counted.
Canada has a challenger to its status as the pot-stock capital of the world — the scrappy over-the-counter market in the U.S.
There are now 136 cannabis-related securities on OTC Markets Group Inc.’s main and venture market. That compares with 144 companies on Canadian exchanges.
With marijuana illegal at the federal level in the U.S., the big exchanges like the NYSE and the Nasdaq only allow listings from companies that don’t have American operations, including five Canadian producers. Rules on the New York-based OTC markets are less stringent and allow companies on qualified foreign exchanges to trade without registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fees are also lower.
“The exchanges are very risk averse. They’re old, staid institutions,” Jason Paltrowitz, executive vice president of corporate services at OTC Markets, said in a phone interview. “We want to be the market for entrepreneurs.”
The OTC’s growing presence in the cannabis space is aided by a partnership with the Canadian Securities Exchange, jokingly referred to as the Cannabis Securities Exchange for the zeal with which it’s embraced the industry. Formerly focused on junior miners and energy companies, pot stocks now make up about a quarter of the CSE’s approximately 450 listings. Of those, 116 trade on OTC markets, including 13 pot stocks on the top-tier OTCQX.
“For the companies that aren’t in the billion-plus market cap range, the benefit from being listed on an exchange is minimal to non-existent,” Paltrowitz said.
Canadian exchanges have a head start in heft. Those 144 companies listed in Canada have a have a market value of about C$57 billion, including Canopy Growth Corp., which is worth C$12.2 billion and Aphria Inc. at C$4 billion. The 136 cannabis companies on the OTC markets range are worth $16 billion, ranging in size from MedMen Enterprises Inc., which is worth $2.6 billion, to penny stocks like Global Hemp Group Inc., with a market value of about $16.3 million.
Although dual-listing on the NYSE or Nasdaq provides a higher profile than the OTC, it can also draw trading volumes away from the home market. By contrast, a 2017 study commissioned by OTC found that firms listed on Canadian exchanges saw a 35 percent increase in average daily trading volume in their home market after joining OTCQX.
This is because the OTC’s dealer-market structure allows market makers to execute a U.S. investor’s order north of the border, meaning the trade will print on the Canadian exchange, Paltrowitz said. This improves the “overall market quality,” according to Richard Carleton, chief executive officer of the CSE.
“We believe, both anecdotally and now empirically, that it’s accretive to volume,” Carleton said. “We see tighter spreads and the depth of the market improves, as well as volume of stock at each level of the market.”
Cross-listing allows cannabis companies to access U.S. investors while continuing to tap capital markets in Canada, which legalized recreational pot last month and has led deal-making and financing in the global marijuana industry. This has aided growth at U.S.-focused pot companies like MedMen Enterprises Inc., which can’t list at NYSE or Nasdaq. MedMen trades on the CSE and OTCQX.
The CSE listing provided early access to capital and a knowledgeable pool of investors, while OTCQX “provides a number of complementary benefits including an efficient trading platform, increased liquidity and better access to a growing U.S. investor base,” MedMen spokeswoman Briana Chester said in an email.
The legal U.S. cannabis market just got a little greener.
In midterm elections that saw Democrats gain control of the House and reaffirmed Republican control of the Senate, more states also voted to legalize marijuana. The outcome will help expand a U.S. pot market that could be worth $75 billion by 2030, according to an estimate from Cowen & Co. Pot stocks, led by Tilray Inc., surged on the news.
Michigan became the 10th U.S. state — and first in the Midwest — to legalize recreational pot. Sales there, estimated to start in 2020, could grow to as much as $1.7 billion in the coming years, according to the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily. The total legal U.S. market is expected to hit about $11 billion in sales in 2018.
With Michigan voting to legalize adult use, neighbors like Ohio and Illinois could soon follow suit to help build a market in that region, according to Ken Shea, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
“Michigan can act as an anchor,” he said. “You could get a cluster effect.”
Long demonized as a dangerous drug, and still considered an illicit substance with no medical use by the federal government, marijuana is increasingly going mainstream as investors pour billions into the industry. Cannabis is now legal across Canada, and U.S. firms are rushing north of the border for public listings and to access capital markets. In the U.S., meanwhile, the steady creep of legalization has companies buying up licenses and expanding operations.
In addition to the recreational market, more states are embracing medical marijuana. Missouri became the latest state to allow medical use, while a proposition in Utah also appeared poised to pass as of Wednesday morning.
Adding two more states with medicinal marijuana would mean almost 70 percent of Americans could have access to the drug for that purpose. Some in the industry see federal legalization of medical marijuana as the best path to ending prohibition in the U.S., which has held big banks and institutional investors on the sidelines.
Still, not all states were ready to follow Canada’s lead: North Dakota’s ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana failed. More than 60 percent of Americans support making pot legal, but with cannabis still illegal on a federal level, the politics remain fraught.
Cannabis stocks gained Wednesday, led by Tilray and Cronos Group Inc. Tilray, the largest publicly traded pot stock, gained as much as 9.3 percent, while U.S.-listed shares of Cronos rose as much as 6.6 percent. Aurora Cannabis Inc. and Canopy Growth Corp. gained as well.
In the aftermath of the midterm election, attention in the cannabis industry will turn to Congress and, soon enough, the 2020 presidential election. Democrats in the House may hold hearings on marijuana and pursue legislation that would ease banking restrictions or even end federal prohibition.
It’s unclear if marijuana bills could get through the Republican-held Senate. Nonetheless, pressure will continue to mount on lawmakers to ease restrictions, particularly as more countries move forward with medical cannabis, according to Chris Walsh, vice president of Marijuana Business Daily.
“You’ll see immense pressure for them to do something,” he said. “At some point they’ll realize we’re falling behind.”
It has been a big year for marijuana policy in North America. Mexico’s supreme court overturned pot prohibition last week, while Canada’s recreational marijuana market officially opened its doors in October.
Stateside, recreational marijuana use became legal in Vermont on July 1, Oklahoma voters approved one of the country’s most progressive medical marijuana bills in June, the New York Department of Health officially recommended legalization to the governor and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands legalized recreational use.
Now, legalization advocates are hoping to build on these successes with a number of statewide ballot measures up for consideration Tuesday, including full recreational legalization in two states and medical marijuana in two more. Here’s a rundown of what the measures say and where the polling on them currently stands.
–Michigan: Recreational use
Michigan voters will consider a Colorado-style recreational bill that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21. Michigan’s bill is more permissive than the law in other states: It would allow individuals to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at any given time (most other states allow 1 ounce) and would allow them to grow up to 12 individual plants for their own consumption (most other states permit six).
The latest polls all show the measure passing with a comfortable margin. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer supports legalization, while Republican candidate Bill Schuette released a statement saying he does not “personally support legalizing recreational marijuana but as governor he will respect the will of the voters.”
–North Dakota: Recreational use
North Dakota’s ballot measure came out of nowhere, taking much of the marijuana policy world by surprise. The initiative was engineered by local marijuana reform advocates, with no initial assistance from the big national players like NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project.
As a result, the measure doesn’t follow the template for recreational marijuana programs set up in other states. It places no limits on possession, and legalizes the sale and commercialization of the drug without setting up a regulatory structure to govern those sales. Supporters say they expect the legislature to iron out those details if the bill passes. The measure would also expunge the criminal records of individuals with prior marijuana convictions.
The polling on the measure is all over the place, with two surveys fielded at roughly the same time in October yielding opposite, lopsided results: One showed the initiative passing 51 percent to 36 percent, while the other showed it failing with 65 percent opposed. With numbers like those it’s hard to predict how this one will shake out.
–Missouri: Medical use
Missouri voters will consider not one, not two, but three separate medical marijuana initiatives at the polls Tuesday. The measures differ on some details, like how much to tax medical pot and whether patients are allowed to grow their own plants. The one with the broadest range of endorsements from national drug policy groups as well as local newspapers is Amendment 2, which is similar to other states’ medical policies: Doctors would be able to recommend marijuana for a number of specified ailments, and patients would be able to obtain the drug either through a dispensary or by growing it at home.
Polling on the issue has been scant, but a survey in August showed that voters supported, in general terms, an amendment to the state constitution that would legalize medical marijuana. If two or more of the measures pass, it’s likely that the measure that receives the most votes will go into effect.
–Utah: Medical use
Utah voters will weigh in on medical marijuana, but the eventual result is essentially a foregone conclusion. In October, supporters and opponents of the medical marijuana measure struck a compromise: the governor would convene a special session of the legislature immediately after the election to craft a more limited medical marijuana bill, regardless of the ballot item’s outcome.
Backers of the ballot measure agreed to the compromise proposal because in Utah, legislators have the power to overturn statutory ballot initiatives with a majority vote. “If Proposition 2 passed without any agreement on next steps, patients may have been left waiting years to access legal medical cannabis,” said the Marijuana Policy Project’s Matthew Schweich in an October statement. “This compromise eliminates that uncertainty and ensures legislative leaders are committed to making the law work.”
Other medical marijuana supporters are unhappy with the proposed compromise bill, which is more limited in scope than medical marijuana programs in other states. It doesn’t allow patients to grow their own plants, and only allows for smoked marijuana in a few circumstances.
There are also a handful of miscellaneous bills being considered at the local level: Voters in a number of Ohio cities will weigh in on measures to decriminalize marijuana use, which would essentially treat minor infractions like a speeding ticket. Some Wisconsin towns, meanwhile, will hold nonbinding referenda on whether marijuana should be legalized for medical or recreational use. Activists hope the results will help persuade Wisconsin legislators to consider legalization at the state level.
I’m stressed. Revelatory, right? What parent isn’t stressed in 2018? The ’80s and ’90s parenting villages that once lovingly ushered child-minding from one home to another have been replaced with judgmental articles about gluten and screen time. Career-wise, I live a variable freelance life that involves daily pitching and daily rejection. My family is saving for my son’s college education while also paying for his preschool tuition. As I’m writing this, the cat has vomited on my bed. Like I said, I’m stressed.
My husband, Dave, likes to help, and so it was on the eve of my birthday a few weeks ago that he decided to bombard me with feel-good gifts: A weighted blanket, knitting supplies, chocolate and writers’ reference books. “There’s one more thing,” he said before disappearing to retrieve something from his car. Like a man with a dark secret, he returned with a sheepish look and a package clutched behind his back.
“Take this the way it is intended,” he began. “You said that childbirth changed your reaction to alcohol and you don’t like it anymore.”
“Yeah . . .”
“And you can’t turn your brain off when it comes to the baby and work.”
“And sometimes, you wish you could decompress at the end of the day.”
“Well,” he said, “do you want to try this?”
He handed me a package that included three tins of cannabis mints laced with various concentrations of CBD and THC. At age 35, I found myself in the middle of an after-school special.
I grew up around drug users. I never went in search of “the stash,” but it was always there: Behind the breadbox on the deepest kitchen counter, in the back of a closet, in the air that smelled faintly of skunk and pesto sauce. It made me nervous. The secrecy of it, combined with a rocky childhood and the harsh warnings from the local DARE program, formed my early and deep-rooted opinions: Drugs were bad, dangerous and a waste of time. And so too, if only by my direct associations, were the people who used them.
Dave knows this about me, so it was hard to picture him perusing the aisles of a Seattle dispensary for my birthday gift. He decided to appeal to my analytical nature: In true engineer fashion, he launched into a 15-minute scientific presentation about CBD and THC. “That stands for cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol,” he instructed. The CliffsNotes revealed that CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in the marijuana plant.
Often described as “non-psychoactive,” it’s sometimes used to treat anxiety and seizures. THC, like alcohol and other substances, impacts the part of the brain that affects decision-making and motor skills. It also has the benefit of providing that euphoric response that many a stressed parent relies on after a long day.
Before I lost my tolerance for alcohol, I was never opposed to having a glass or two of wine. The concentration of CBD and THC in my gifted mints, my sweet husband told me, were equivalent in terms of intoxication.
As amused and intrigued as I was by the presentation, I had a question.
“Do you think I need to get high?”
“No, not at all,” he said. “I just think you deserve a break.”
Okay, then. Sign me up.
The Saturday following my birthday was the perfect opportunity. I’ll take one during naptime, I thought. My son sleeps for around three hours, about as long as it takes for two glasses of wine to enter and leave my system. One little mint would probably last that long. As he and Dave toddled upstairs to read a book, I popped 10 milligrams of a CBD/THC combo and turned on the TV.
Nothing happened in the first two hours. Maybe weed just doesn’t affect me, I thought. Or maybe years of peripheral exposure built up my tolerance. Those thoughts went away by hour three, when my legs began to grow and the sofa began to sink. Dave looked on with concern.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. You okay?”
“Yes. I just realized my legs are long. Do I seem high?”
“No, you seem like you . . . with long legs. How are you feeling?”
How was I feeling? I couldn’t put a word to it, but I can tell you what I wasn’t feeling. For the first time in about six years, I wasn’t feeling stressed or preoccupied by the familiar pull of my Type-A brain – the one that never shuts off. I wasn’t worried about the kid or my career trajectory or the house or the college fund or the 401(k). I wasn’t feeling much of anything. I was in the moment. I just was.
The buzz that was meant to end with nap time lasted 9 hours, and included playing with my son and watching four consecutive hours of Home Improvement reruns on Hulu. I was enthralled.
“This show is so fun,” I said as my son and I snuggled and munched on handfuls of popcorn.
“We should have two more kids – two more boys!” I told my husband.
“Oh yeah,” Dave said. “You’re definitely high.”
The Lost Saturday ended with dinner as usual, followed by an unplanned nap for me on the sofa. I woke up feeling relaxed and hangover-free. Mine was not a brief high, and I can’t say that I’ll be popping another mint any time soon, especially with my 3-year-old in tow. But for parents with a higher tolerance and more experience, I could see how the occasional lozenge might be a useful alternative to anti-anxiety meds or “wine o’clock,” both of which carry similar effects and – inexplicably – half the stigma.
For now, I have a lifetime supply of edibles stashed on the top shelf of my closet, and I don’t feel like a bad person – or a bad mom. And it is possible that leaving the door open to a therapeutic mint after my son’s bedtime on a Saturday night might lead to a more relaxed Sunday. I could use more of those.
Sarah Szczypinski is a journalist living in Seattle. Find her on Twitter @SarahSz23.
While alcohol-related DUIs remain far more common, last week a case involving a motorist prosecutors say was solely under the influence of marijuana provided a stark example of the danger of driving while stoned.
Prosecutors say John Sebastian Hernandez, 23, smoked pot before getting behind the wheel in June of last year. He veered into the opposite lane on Santa Fe Way and struck a vehicle head-on driven by 40-year-old Gabriela Soto, who was pregnant.
Both Soto and her 28-week-old fetus died. Hernandez, who had no prior record, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and sentenced to two years in prison.
The case is just the second marijuana-only fatal wreck prosecuted in the county, Deputy District Attorney Kim Richardson said. But with the legalization of marijuana in California this year, law enforcement may be handling more such cases.
And, with the way society currently views marijuana, the cases are difficult to prosecute, Richardson said.
“Society looks at drugs like methamphetamine and PCP as the ‘bad’ drugs,” she said. “But now you have this more widely accepted view of marijuana as being less dangerous. The perception is different.”
Hernandez admitted to being addicted to smoking marijuana, but claimed he hadn’t smoked that day.
Nevertheless, an analysis of blood drawn from Hernandez after the crash turned up a high amount of THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — enough that Richardson says it’s impossible that he didn’t smoke that day because marijuana is quickly metabolized by the body.
Hernandez had 14 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. In Colorado and Washington state, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana if you have more than 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood.
But in California, a measurement alone isn’t enough to guarantee a DUI conviction because the state, unlike Washington, Colorado and some others, has no “per se” legal limit in which a driver is presumed to be impaired.
Instead, as with alcohol-related arrests, officers conduct field sobriety tests such as walking in a straight line or standing on one leg for a certain amount of time to determine if someone is impaired. Without an impairment standard, the officer must find other evidence — such as failing those tests or driving behavior — to determine the person is impaired.
Officer Robert Rodriguez, spokesman of the Bakersfield office of the California Highway Patrol, said anything that impairs a person’s ability to safely drive a motor vehicle, whether it’s pot, prescription drugs or illegal drugs, poses dangers to both the motorist and others on the roadway. Despite pot’s legality in California, getting behind the wheel after smoking can result in a DUI conviction or, as in Hernandez’s case, something worse.
And those who combine alcohol and marijuana, or other drugs, are at risk for even more severe impairment, he said. Those combinations can “exaggerate the high or the effects of the alcohol produced.”
In 2015, Bakersfield CHP officers arrested 28 drivers under the influence of both alcohol and drugs, and in 2016 made 26 arrests.
The first pot-only fatal DUI conviction occurred in June 2016 when Rodolfo Contreras was convicted of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired by marijuana in a crash at Gosford Road and Stockdale Highway.
He ran a red light, lost control of his Honda, crossed the center divider and struck a Ford Explorer, killing its driver.
Contreras had smoked marijuana the morning of the crash and had 16 nanograms of THC in his blood. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
Want to open a recreational marijuana bushiness in Pasadena? The city is charging $24,000.
The Pasadena City Council last week approved two fees that will be charged to prospective cannabis businesses. The fees make Pasadena one of the more expensive Southern California cities in which to open up a pot shop.
A first-round application fee of $13,654 will be charged to all applicants when a 30-day application window opens in January. Staff will score those applications and choose the best of the bunch — defined as those very likely to pass Planning Commission review — who will be invited to move forward with the permitting process later next year at an additional cost of $10,639.
That second step is similar in style and cost to the city’s existing conditional use permits, which are required for non-marijuana, large-scope projects that must go before the Planning Commission for approval.
By comparison, application and permitting fees in Long Beach stand at $6,075, while Culver City hopeful marijuana entrepreneurs can be charged nearly $24,000, according to a Pasadena city staff report.
Pasadena has spent a lot of time and money developing its marijuana regulations. Processing applications through multiple city departments and agencies will cost even more. The city’s new fee schedule is meant to recoup those costs, according to Planning Director David Reyes.
“We used an outside consulting firm, we used in-house attorneys, we used outside attorneys. It took a long time to get this thing right — there was a lot of resources expended,” he said. “These are fees that are just cost recovery. There’s no cushion in there.”
Though there are 14 possible slots for marijuana businesses in Pasadena, it’s not a guarantee. No more than one of each type of business — retail, cultivation and testing — will be allowed in any one council district.
Plus there are other state and local rules that limit where cannabis businesses can open up shop. For example, they must be 600 feet away from residential neighborhoods, schools, churches and parks.
Add those restrictions with the array of currently available real estate in the city, and it’s likely the Pasadena might be able to issue only three or four permits, according to Reyes. Still, he’s anticipating as many as 70 applications.
Already, the city has received calls from people interested in doing business in Pasadena, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. The city will hold a workshop going over the application procedures and selection process from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Pasadena Convention Center.