How weed dispensaries fight for higher awareness with tech


The marijuana industry is growing in Las Vegas, much like this plant at Reef Dispensaries. But it still has a strained relationship with tech companies in Silicon Valley.


Sarah Tew/CNET

I glance down at the glass case, encircled by a marble countertop. Large flat-screen displays hang above, showing off the merchandise, but I want a closer look.

As I edge forward, the soft white glow of the undercabinet lights by the gray-tiled floors shines on my Nike sneakers. The mix of marble, stone, glass and wood accents gives the space a serene, almost sterile look.

No, I’m not at an Apple Store eyeing an Apple Watch or iPhone X. I’m actually two and a half miles east of the Las Vegas Convention Center, spending my second day at CES at the Jardin Premium Cannabis Dispensary.

And I’m here for work. I swear.

Jardin and other local marijuana dispensaries were expecting a surge in traffic last week as the more than 180,000 attendees of CES flooded into Las Vegas, where recreational weed is now legal. I wanted to check out where convention goers who smoke marijuana might be getting their pot during the week.

In the midst of my tour, my attention falls to a flat screen mounted on a silver stand. It’s part of a video booth that records a short animation of a given customer and sends it to that person’s email address as a GIF file. There’s even a Jardin background to pose in front of, like the backdrops you find during parties at Vegas nightclubs.

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The video booth at Jardin also helps with its marketing by collecting email addresses.


Alfred Ng/CNET

But the video booth is more than a chance for a silly memento — it’s a way for Jardin to win over a potential new regular customer.

“Now it’s logged their emails and we can use that for our marketing campaign,” said John Kent, Jardin’s inventory curator, as he types in his own info as an example.

Jardin goes to such lengths in part because it, like others in the legal marijuana business, often gets short shrift in Google’s search results or listings on social networks like Facebook or Twitter

It underscores the fine line that tech companies have to navigate with these businesses, since marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government even as it’s gone legit in a number of states. That forces weed businesses like Jardin and neighboring Essence and Reef to take more creative approaches to gain consumer attention.

The online challenge is well documented. Canna Ventures, a marketing firm for marijuana companies, wrote in a blog post last May that marijuana and Google were “a match made in Hell.” Nevada laws make it impossible for marijuana companies to use services like Google’s AdWords and tracking on social media, which have helped startups in other industries boom.

“Google does not allow marijuana ads on either the display or search side [via our AdWords policies] because the product is illegal on the federal level,” said Google spokesman Alex Krasov. “This policy is the same on the publisher side [AdSense].”

Jardin, for its part, gets most of its online traffic from text message blasts and it has a healthy database of numbers. First-time customers at Jardin register a profile with the dispensary, with a name and phone number, similar to signing up for certain website services.

“We just wanted our information to be more available,” Kent said. “We allow ourselves to be exposed and found, and hopefully, like the Steve Jobs‘ philosophy, we want to offer the best product and the best service the marketplace has to offer.”

Banned on Instagram, again and again

Essence, the only dispensary on the Las Vegas strip, similarly features a minimalist design, with white walls and shiny floors. People buy their marijuana while sitting behind a window. It reminds me of how I’d get medicine from my pharmacist, but cleaner.

That appearance offers no hint of one of Essence’s greatest challenges: publicity. The shop has had to rebuild its Instagram account of 20,000 followers six different times. That’s because about every three to six months, it’s banned from the Facebook-owned social network without any warning.

The first time was in 2015, Armen Yemenidjian, the store’s owner, said he was distraught. He pulled together all his store’s licenses, scanned them and sent them over to Instagram’s support team. He wanted to show the social network that the store was operating within the law and that Instagram’s ban was hurting its business.

He never received a response. He created new accounts instead, and each got banned in turn. He never knows if his store’s accounts will be safe and worries each time he looks at Instagram that it could be taken away from him.

“It’s a frustrating experience because no one is there to listen to what we’re saying. No one hears us say, ‘we’re a legitimate business,'” Yemenidjian said. “For all that work to be wiped out with literally the push of a button, it’s disheartening.”

And he’s not alone. Accounts for Jardin and Reef have also been banned, forcing those businesses to create new accounts each time, too. It usually takes Yemenidjian about four months to build his following back up — and that’s if it doesn’t get deleted again in the meantime.

Asked for comment on why it bans accounts like Jardin’s and Essence’s, Instagram responded by deleting their current pages. A spokeswoman said it was because the shops violated Instagram’s Community Guidelines.

Jardin and Essence declined to comment on what happened.

Instagram’s community guidelines prohibit promoting drug sales, even if they’re legal in the state. Marijuana content, though, is allowed, as long as it’s not promoting sales, said a person familiar with Instagram’s rules.

Dispensaries also are not allowed to post their websites, address or any kind of contact information on Instagram.

Getting around

Even with the sudden bans, Instagram is a major part of a dispensary’s outreach. Jardin’s aesthetic makes the store popular among tourists and more importantly, social media influencers. Kent said he sees an Instagram model posting from the store nearly every week, expanding its reach.

Even if the store gets banned on Instagram, people with large followings can post pictures from the store, and with its look, Jardin gives them every reason to.

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The Jardin dispensary was designed with a luxurious look that makes it attractive for social media.


Alfred Ng/CNET

With the drugs displayed under glass in Petri dishes with identifying placards near them, it’s as if I’m at a cannabis museum. A row of succulent plants in glass domes is perched on one wall. They have nothing to do with marijuana, but they provide a hip vibe that Jardin’s founder Adam Cohen favors.

He’s had experience building and selling hotels in the Virgin Islands, and said he wanted to bring a “luxury” appeal to dispensaries. The video booth is in front of one of the store’s most Instagrammed spot, Cohen said, which helps him get more eyes on a network where advertising is forbidden.

Kent showed me a photo on his phone of him hanging out with the rapper Method Man.

“People see Method Man smoking Jardin cannabis, and then they think, ‘Jardin cannabis is probably good,'” Kent said.  

They’ve also taken advantage of the fact that tweets appearing in Google’s search results aren’t subject to as strict a standard as promoted posts on Twitter itself. Google places popular tweets in a prominent spot on the first page of search results. Fake news in tweets have surfaced on Google that way, but that indirect route also provides an opening for the marijuana industry to get more attention.

Kent said the company tries to have useful and informational tweets on its Twitter account so that when people type in questions about marijuana, they will see answers from websites, as well as from the dispensary’s Twitter account.

Until they can advertise like any other business on Google and social media, the dispensary industry is stuck searching for workarounds instead. Many have called for changes from the tech giants, arguing that they are legitimate businesses and shouldn’t be treated like shady drug dealers.

The Reef dispensary features simple wooden tables and strains of marijuana in plastic display cases for customers to get a quick look and smell. Customers flock in on Wednesday in the late afternoon, and I spy many CES badges.

Mike Pizzo, the dispensary’s marketing content manager, hopes Google and Facebook will eventually stand up to the federal government on marijuana.

“I love the Google mantra of ‘don’t be evil,'” Pizzo said. “Let’s subscribe to that and think about how many people are helped by cannabis, how many jobs it’s created, how many people have voted for it to be legalized.”

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

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Cannabis Stock Report: Mixed Day On Marijuana Markets As Panicked Selling Dries Up


Cannabis stocks had a mixed day on Tuesday as U.S. marijuana markets shook off last week’s bottom and panicked selling dried up despite a poor showing in the Canadian sector. MJIC’s North American Marijuana Index posted significant gains on the strength of the U.S. market following Monday’s day off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Other cannabis indices showed marked increases, as well as the presumed market correction, began to shake out as investors showed confidence in the industry. Cannabis stocks did well on Tuesday in spite of a down day on Wall Street and the Canadian exchanges, with the broader markets falling for the first time in days.

Energy and materials sectors took a hit on Tuesday as Wall Street posted early gains before retreating late in the afternoon. Still, as oil prices declined, the healthcare sector rose to keep the market from a complete tumble. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.04 percent, dipping back below 26,000 and the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 posted similar losses. Up north Canada’s S&P/TSX composite index fell 72.93 points to close the day at 16,298.88 as eight of the Index’s main groups posted losses.

In the marijuana markets, cannabis stocks were still shaking out following last week’s dip, with the U.S. posting huge gains while the Canadian sector fell slightly. The marijuana market correction continued, as The North American Marijuana Index gained 25.00 points, climbing 8.17 percent. Splitting the day the U.S Index rose 7.28 percent while across the border the Index dropped .79 percent.

Signals were more stable on cannabis’ other indices as The Cannabis Stock Index climbed 11.94 points, or 7.82 percent to close out the day at 164.61. Meanwhile, Solactive’s North American Medical Marijuana Index climbed 130.77 points, or 7.86 percent to close out the trading day at 1794.73.

The mixed pattern held on marijuana’s two most significant funds, with Horizon’s Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF, which is based mostly on Canadian stocks, falling $0.35 per share for a 1.59 percent loss. The fund ended the trading day at $21.64 per share on a trading volume of 2634953. On the other hand, the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF jumped up $1.65 per share for a 4.91 percent gain to close the day at $35.23 per share.

The fundamentals of the marijuana markets are shaking up to be stronger than expected following last week’s considerable downturn as a predictable correction appears to have bottomed out, at least for the meantime. Investors look more comfortable, and sell-offs seem to have halted for the time being. The market is still volatile, with a big industry consolidation on the horizon, but investors should feel safer this week. The introduction of Representative Barbara Lee’s (D-CA), Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement and Regulations of Cannabis Act (REFER), should start to gain some traction in the markets as well.

Meanwhile, Around The Industry…

To inspire himself, he lit up a marijuana cigarette, excellent Land-O-Smiles brand… Raising capital is The Green Organic Dutchman Holdings Ltd. who announced on Tuesday the closing of over $100 million in financing and an additional $55 million strategic investment from Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB). In regards to the funding, the company issued 67 million shares at a price of $1.65 per unit, with each unit comprising one common share and one-half common share purchase warrant. Similarly, Aurora purchased around 33 million shares of the company also at a price of $q.65 per unit.

Green Organic plans to use the funds for an expansion project for their greenhouse facilities in Ontario and Quebec. Moreover, the agreement with Aurora calls for the two companies to enter into a supply agreement whereby Aurora may exercise an option to buy up to 20 percent of Green Organics cannabis output every year. In return, Aurora subsidiary Aurora Larssen Projects Inc. will lend their expertise to the Green Organic’s greenhouse expansion project.

“Teaming up with Aurora, the industry’s innovation leader, provides us with a stable, supportive shareholder, through whom we have access to best-in-class technologies and industry know-how, “remarked Green Organic President Csaba Reider. “This will significantly accelerate our time to market and establish TGOD as the world’s leading provider of premium organic cannabis.”

Aurora Cannabis was up 15.91 percent on higher than average trading volume on Tuesday, closing the day at $9.62 per share.

Kush Bottles Pops

I was embarrassed. What do you mean, “didn’t inhale?” What the hell do you think we smoke it for… Producing results is overlooked stock pick Kush Bottles, Inc. (OTCQB: KSHB) who announced on Tuesday a 258 percent year-over-year revenue increase in their first quarter 2018 financial results. The results, which were for the period ending November 30, showed increased gains in cash balance and working capital since the previous quarter which ended August 31. Gross margins were reported down 4 percent but attributed to increased business in the vaporizer sector which the company claims has lower margins.

“During the first fiscal quarter of 2018, we saw the release of California’s new temporary regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis sales, which took effect on January 1, 2018,” commented company chairman and CEO Nick Kovacevich. “We consider the legalization of adult-use cannabis sales to be a major opportunity to scale the business throughout 2018 and beyond, and we have made significant headway to establish the Company as a leader in this market.”

Kush Bottles was up 26.72 percent on higher than average trading volume on Tuesday, closing out the day at $8.30 per share.

Friday Night’s Alright For Fighting

And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land… Going fishing is Friday Night Inc. (CNSX:TGIF) (OTCQB:TGIFF) who announced on Tuesday a letter of intent to acquire in whole cannabis cultivation facility Harvest Foundation LLC. Currently licensed for medical and recreational cannabis cultivation in Nevada, Harvest Foundation’s 10,000 square foot facility sits adjoining to Friday Night’s Alternative Medicine Association. A purchase price of $1 million and 10 million common shares of stock was agreed upon by the two companies.

“Integrating the Harvest Foundation license and facility into our business is a huge milestone and this facility effectively doubles our current cultivation capacity,” said Friday Night President and CEO Brayden Sutton in a statement released Monday.

Friday Night shares were up 2.04 percent on Tuesday to close out the day at $1.00 per share.

Other News and Notes

There was no such thing as chances anyway, in the distorted perspective of the weed fumes… Doing paperwork is Harvest One Cannabis Inc. (TSX-V:HVST) who announced on Tuesday the filing of a short form prospectus as part of a $35 million bought deal. Filed in every province save for Quebec, the preliminary prospectus valued at $1.82 per unit. In addition to the bought deal, Harvest One announced the appointment of former Advanced Nutrients Ltd. COO Nick Maltchev as interim COO.

By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death… Always closing is Anandia Laboratories Inc. who announced on Monday a private placement financing deal worth $13.4 million. The company, a licensed dealer in Canada, plans to use the funds for expansion of their testing and research and development facilities. “A partnership with Anandia was important to us given they are the gold standard in quality assurance testing for licensed producers,” commented Tyler Stuart, the Managing Director of the lead investor in the deal Green Acre Capital.

Quick Bites

I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis… Tetra Bio-Pharma (TSX-V:TBP)(OTCQB:TBPMF) received approval from Health Canada to proceed with phase 1 clinical trials of cannabis oil PPP005… MyDx, Inc. (OTCQB: MYDX) will begin clinical trials on a pain management formula derived from data points tracked by its handheld cannabis tester…CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. (TSX:CMED) board member Doug Banzet resigned effective January 15

Until tomorrow…



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Jeff Sessions marijuana decision will help clear air


Nevada was among four states to “legalize” recreational marijuana in November 2016, passing an initiative written and promoted by the commercial marijuana industry.

The Nevada initiative was largely financed by the state’s medical marijuana owners who wrote into the ballot measure their “exclusive right” to be the recreational marijuana retailers.

Their campaign was well-financed as it has been in other states that have legalized recreational marijuana by initiative.

Opponents find themselves badly outspent by pot promoters — most notably by a $5 to $1 margin in Colorado in 2012, and by an overwhelming $11 to $1 in California in 2016. As a result of the huge financial disparity, legalization opponents in initiative campaigns are at a monumental electoral disadvantage — it’s actually a “rigged system.”

Immediately following the election, an alliance of medical marijuana licensees and Nevada politicians joined together in an unprecedented rush to a July 1, 2017 “Early Start” date for recreational marijuana sales.

There were no public hearings and no vote of approval by the commission charged with regulating marijuana.

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Voters had been assured that recreational sales would begin six months later, on Jan. 1, 2018, after permanent regulations were approved. Nevada’s wild ride to “Early Start” resulted in national embarrassment with a self-created “pot emergency” being declared by Gov. Sandoval on July 6 ­— just five days later — as a result of a legal controversy over marijuana distribution rights.

One news outlet described the first 13 days of legalization in Nevada as “total mayhem”.

While Douglas County in northern Nevada has “zoned out” commercial marijuana establishments, economically disadvantaged North Las Vegas in Southern Nevada already has issued 52 commercial marijuana licenses.

Douglas County keeps commercial marijuana away from their county’s young people, while we legitimize it and makes it more accessible to at-risk youth in low income communities like North Las Vegas. Ownership information on the identity of these licensees has been denied to the press by city government officials, citing state Supreme Court case authority.

There is no marijuana ownership identity “transparency” in Nevada. Who are these licensees?

A Nevada recreational marijuana licensee with Reno and Las Vegas retail stores has been implicated in a money laundering felony conviction in California involving their medical marijuana dispensaries.

The country needs to “tap the brakes” on commercialized marijuana.

Marijuana was reaffirmed as a Schedule 1 dangerous drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. That finding was made by the Obama Administration in 2016 after a lengthy, exhaustive review of all relevant scientific and medical evidence by the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the Drug Enforcement Agency.

It’s true that social mores are changing and “legalization” of marijuana is now favored by a majority , i.e. no prison time for small quantity possession.

It is equally true that a strong majority of Americans have grave reservations about “commercialization” of marijuana.

They don’t want pot shops and “grow” operations in their towns and neighborhoods, or near their schools and homes.

An inconvenient truth also needs acknowledgment by the Nevada marijuana industry and state politicians.

Federal marijuana law trumps state law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, and the Supreme Court so ruled in Gonzales v. Raich (2005). It is “settled law” that the feds can prosecute marijuana offenses under the authority of the Commerce Clause through the Controlled Substances Act.

Attorney General Sessions should be commended for upholding the “rule of law” on marijuana as well as putting the scientific and medical evidence on the dangers of marijuana ahead of the politics (and profits) of legalization and commercialization.

Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa, who was president, Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy in 2016.



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Commentary: An argument for amending and extending Elko’s marijuana moratorium | Columnists


In last week’s City Council meeting it was decided in a 4 to 1 vote to move forward with a zoning ordinance that will permanently prohibit the sale of medical and recreational marijuana in the City of Elko. Mine was the lone dissenting vote. I have for a number of years supported access to medical marijuana in the City of Elko. I have also expressed my support for the citizen’s initiative which legalized recreational marijuana in Nevada over a year ago.

It is evident to me by the positions my good friends on the City Council have taken that they presently have no appetite for allowing the sale of marijuana in any form in the city. That is why I will make the following proposal at our next city council meeting.

The city has placed a moratorium on medical marijuana sales in Elko, scheduled to expire later this spring. I am proposing we amend and extend that moratorium. The amendment will impose a moratorium on the sale of recreational marijuana as well. I will propose the moratorium be extended until the Spring of 2022, four years from now.

Some may argue this simply kicks the can down the road. I disagree. Attitudes in our community, our state and our nation continue to evolve in regards to legalized marijuana. It will be unfortunate for Elko to eliminate itself from taking advantage of the many opportunities it provides. A moratorium keeps the door open for our community and future City Councils to abide by the will of the citizens of Nevada.

In my view, the discussions in the council regarding marijuana can be broken down into three main concerns: compliance with federal law; health, safety and community values; and impact on the mining industry. Amending and extending the current moratorium provides a solution to each of those concerns. Let me address them one by one.

Federal Law. Currently the use of marijuana is illegal under federal law. As marijuana became legal in more and more states (now, more than half of the United States and the District of Columbia have legalized either medicinal and/or recreational marijuana) the U.S. Attorney General’s office issued what is known as The Cole Memo. The memo provided direction to U.S. Attorneys across the country. Specifically, the memo directed law enforcement to:

1) Prevent the distribution of marijuana to minors; 2) Prevent revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels; 3) Prevent the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states; 4) Prevent state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity; 5) Prevent violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana; 6) Prevent drugged driving and exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use; 7) Prevent the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and 8) Prevent marijuana possession or use on federal property.

This memo was unequivocal guidance to sworn law enforcement officers. It allowed law enforcement to enforce state laws regarding marijuana within their sworn duty to uphold federal law.

On January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued new guidance regarding federal law enforcement of state marijuana laws. In it he rescinded the provisions listed above. However, he directed U.S. Attorneys to “weigh all relevant considerations, including federal law enforcement priorities set by the Attorney General, the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.” In short, he leaves federal prosecution of state marijuana laws up to the discretion of the state’s U.S. Attorney. De facto: nothing has changed.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt both opposed the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Nevada. They do not condone its use. However, both declared after Sessions issued his memo that they will defend Nevada’s marijuana laws. Almost every other statewide office holder and most federal delegates have made the same declaration. Republican and Democratic leadership in Nevada have sounded their support for Nevada’s marijuana laws and will defend the will of the people of Nevada.

Health, Safety and Community Values. Some argue marijuana presents a significant health and safety concern to our community. I say the health and safety concerns of legal marijuana are no more significant than those already posed by alcohol consumption, opiate use, tobacco use, gambling, and legal prostitution in our community.

Reliable and easily accessible data shows alcohol kills 88,000 Americans each year … opioids kill 42,000 Americans each year, and many patients have found freedom from opioid addiction by turning to cannabis. There are no reported deaths from cannabis overdose … ever.

The Elko City Council permits and regulates legal prostitution. I have said in past council meetings that we are the “Stewards of the Sex Trade.” Each week prostitutes must submit to an examination to assure they are free of sexually transmitted diseases. Elko’s prostitutes regularly test positive for sexually transmitted diseases. More alarming are a significant number of occurrences of Elko prostitutes testing positive for HIV. When any infection is found, prostitutes are removed from “the line,” but perhaps too late. Legal prostitution presents an immediate health and safety concern in our community. A marijuana dispensary simply cannot compare.

In regards to community values, residents of the City of Elko voted against the initiative by a margin of just over one percent … 151 votes out of nearly 10,000 cast. However, if one takes the time to look at the breakdown of voting on the issue in individual Elko precincts, more precincts voted in favor of the initiative than against it. It gives one an excellent idea of what their neighbors think about recreational marijuana. It tells me most of my neighbors do not have a problem with it.

The Mining Industry. Other council members have argued the establishment of marijuana dispensaries in Elko does not support the mining industry. I say the mining industry is well equipped to and has successfully regulated marijuana use among its employees for decades. The industry is proactive, providing huge incentives to their employees, including excellent wages, educational opportunities, support for the community, and activities for their employees, their families and the public at large. Additionally, some mining organizations have made accommodations for their employees with medical marijuana cards.

A reasonably informed person can agree that for the last half century anyone who has wanted to obtain marijuana in Elko (or almost every community in America, for that matter) can readily do so. It has long been easy to obtain marijuana, and business and industry know how to deal with it themselves.

The City of Elko Vision Statement, a document presenting an aspirational view of our community, says we are “a non-intrusive, efficient city government.” Targeting and banning any legal enterprise in Elko discredits that vision statement. Amending and lengthening a moratorium on the establishment of marijuana dispensaries provides everything my friends on the council now desire, and leaves the door open for a future council to fulfill a shared vision for our community.

Please join me in supporting my proposal at the next Elko City Council meeting.

“A moratorium keeps the door open for our community and future City Councils to abide by the will of the citizens of Nevada.”

John Patrick Rice has been an Elko city councilman since 2007.



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Packing pot: How risky is it?: Travel Weekly


As is the case in national parks and on open waters,
possessing cannabis in any form within U.S. airports or on commercial aircraft
falls under federal jurisdiction. As a result, it is illegal, pure and simple.

But the realities of actually traveling with pot or
cannabis-infused substances are not at all simple.

The issue became especially pertinent following Attorney
General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement that he was overturning the Obama
administration’s ban on federal prosecutions of licensed growers and sellers in
states where pot had been legalized. Sessions earlier this month told federal
prosecutors they are now free to prosecute growers and sellers under federal
marijuana laws.

Still, experts said last week, there was no evidence yet that
the ever-expanding legalization of recreational marijuana, already a fact in
nine states, was triggering a spate of drug busts at airports.

As with all things cannabis, the issue of enforcement is a
murky one. While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the most
visible law enforcement at airports, its focus is squarely on security threats,
especially acts of terrorism. TSA agents are looking for many things, but
cannabis simply isn’t one of them — or at the very least, it is not a high priority.

Yet, despite concentrating on their security mission, TSA
agents tend to turn over the more egregious cases of possession to airport
security or local law enforcement.

“Airport law enforcement will be notified if marijuana
is discovered by a TSA officer during the security screening process of
carry-on and checked baggage,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers. “Whether
or not the passenger is allowed to travel with marijuana is up to law
enforcement’s discretion.”

Of course, the likelihood of TSA discovering cannabis
depends largely on the form factor of the drug being packed by the traveler.
Marijuana in its raw form — the stereotypical buds or leaves smoked in pipes
or rolled into joints — is obvious evidence of cannabis possession. But many
users today consume cannabis in more discreet forms, such as with vape pens,
which look the same as e-cigarettes and produce almost no smoke or odor, and
edible products, typically in the form of candies or pastries.

“I don’t think [traveling with cannabis] is a very good
idea,” warned Emily Gant, a lawyer with the Seattle firm Garvey Schubert
Barer, who counsels clients in the alcohol and cannabis industries. “But
if you send a brownie through an [airport] X-ray machine, they’re not going to
necessarily know if it’s got cannabis or if it’s something your grandma made.”

The chances of being stopped, arrested or having one’s
possessions confiscated often depend on the amount of pot a traveler possesses,
said Michael Gordon, CEO and co-founder of Kush Tourism, which serves as a
travel guide for cannabis tours, shops, accommodations and activities in states
where recreational marijuana has been legalized.

Citing conversations he has had with both TSA agents and
travelers, Gordon asserted, “If you’re carrying enough that it looks like
you’re distributing, [TSA] will pass it on to local authorities. If you have
less than an ounce of pot, they won’t even bother you. That seems to be the
rule of thumb.”

Of course, following that rule of thumb is a serious gamble.
In fact, it flies out the window — and some very severe penalties can come
into play — if a pot-possessing passenger is turned over to local authorities
who consider even less than an ounce worthy of prosecution.

The issue continues to gain relevance because of a flurry of
emerging state and federal policies that appear to be moving in opposite
directions.

This month, California, the most populous state, became the
largest of nine U.S. states and jurisdictions to legalize recreational
marijuana. Nevada, which includes the country’s biggest hotel and tourism
market, Las Vegas, made recreational marijuana legal as of last July. Other
recreational-pot places are Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon,
Washington State and Washington, D.C.

With the California and Nevada law changes, Los Angeles, San
Francisco and Las Vegas airports, which are the country’s second-, seventh- and
eighth-busiest, respectively, now operate within marijuana-friendly states.
Prior to the law changes in California and Nevada, Denver and Seattle-Tacoma
were the only airports among the country’s 10 busiest that were located in
recreational-use states.

California’s legalization, in particular, brings the airport
laws front and center. While it’s fairly well known that transporting cannabis
across state lines is illegal, what is less frequently realized is that flying
with marijuana in-state, say between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is also
illegal because of the federal government’s jurisdiction over airports.

Gant allowed that Sessions’ recent statement about federal
enforcement of marijuana possession suggests there is a greater risk for a
potential crackdown at U.S. airports than there would have been under the Obama
administration, but she said she had not yet noted any substantive changes in
enforcement policies.

“We’re hearing anecdotal stories of people being
stopped by the TSA and [cannabis] being held, but we’re not hearing stories
about people being arrested,” Gant said.

As for any concerns that the airport dogs the TSA uses to
sniff out explosives might be used to catch cannabis users, TSA’s Dankers said
that was unlikely.

“The canines are trained to detect explosives and are
used for security purposes,” she said. “They will continue to have
that singular focus.”



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Nevada cannabis industry, amid record sales, poised for massive growth in 2018


The legalization of recreational adult cannabis use in the Silver State has been a real coup thus far for the few marijuana dispensaries scattered around Northern Nevada.

As 2018 rolls in, dispensaries remain bullish on growth prospects for the business in the new year — although not at the frenzied pace it saw after July 1, 2017, when the law took effect.

“I would say demand would continue to grow, although at a slightly slower pace than before,” said Eli Scislowicz, director of operations for NuLeaf Tahoe, a cannabis dispensary that opened last August in Incline Village. “Cannabis is one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation right now, and I think it will continue to remain at a steady pace in our region.”

Scislowicz said NuLeaf is positioned well in the Lake Tahoe region, because at the moment there are few retail outlets even in the Reno-Sparks area, and the nearest competition in California is 30 miles away.

But, as is always the case in the Sierra Nevada, weather can play a factor.

“It depends seasonally with the weather usually between fall and spring, but we like our location,” he said.

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MILLIONS IN REVENUE

In its first month, roughly $27 million in legal marijuana was sold across Nevada, which generated $3.68 million in tax revenue, according to the state Department of Taxation.

Overall August sales topped $33 million, according to the state, while roughly $27.7 million in recreational marijuana was purchased in September.

Sales exploded in October, hitting a record $37.9 million, according to the most recent figures released in December. Reports for November should be released later in January.

“(The state) is looking healthy for marijuana sales, and the demand for medical and recreational use remains steady,” said Stephanie Klapstein, public information officer for the department of taxation.

Revenue is generated from two different taxes: a 15 percent wholesale tax levied to medical and recreational use cultivators; and a 10 percent retail tax applied to retail locations that distribute recreational and/or medical cannabis.

The 15 percent wholesale tax is projected to bring in $23.8 million in the fiscal year from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, with the retail tax bringing in $26.5 million. Further, the state projects that in the first two years of recreational sales, the wholesale tax will pass $56.2 million, while the 10 percent retail tax is anticipated to generate $63.5 million.

RISE, a cannabis dispensary with locations in Spanish Springs and Carson City, previously only offered medical marijuana, but started selling recreational marijuana for the first time on Jan. 1.

The company also operates a cultivation center in Carson City, along with retail cannabis and cultivation facilities in the Midwest and Northeast regions of United States.

“We don’t know quite what to expect,” Anthony Georgiadis, a partner with RISE’s parent company Green Thumb Industries, said. “I would say we’re excited to service customers we’ve seen on the medical side and anticipate they will come to us on the recreational side moving forward.”

DEALING WITH DEMAND

At least at the outset, the high demand for recreational cannabis did create supply concerns among dispensary owners, as cannabis producer’s vendors rushed to keep up.

But those worries should be quelled a bit, business officials said, as plans for more cannabis facilities are starting to come to fruition.

For example, MedMen, a cannabis management and capital firm based out of Los Angeles, is opening a $15 million 45,000-square-foot cultivation compound in McCarran, Nev. (in Washoe County, about 11.5 miles east of Reno), that’s expected to produce 10,000 pounds of cannabis annually. The new facility includes a greenhouse, an extraction facility, and product test lab.

Blüm, a cannabis dispensary located in Midtown Reno, meanwhile, has invested in developing its own cannabis producing capabilities.

“We will be able to increase our product line and allow us to not rely on third-party vendors,” said Travis Burroughs, store manager for Blüm’s Reno storefront.

Burroughs added that being able to cultivate product in-house should add more jobs for the company and boost revenue in 2018. Currently, the company employs 38, but that number should increase above 40 later this year.

Burroughs said Blüm will start a commission-based pay scale and will expand its employee benefits package, including added medical coverage.

GRAND EXPANSION POSSIBLE

The Nevada Department of Taxation reported since the inception of legalized recreational marijuana use, 250 marijuana-related licenses have been issued, including those for retail stores, cultivation compounds, product manufacturing facilities, testing labs, and distributors.

Of those 250, roughly 25 percent were issued through Washoe County and Carson City.

The 2017 Nevada State Legislature transferred the state’s recreational marijuana administration solely to the taxation department, for licensing, regulating, and taxing the industry.

Early on, the state adopted temporary regulations for recreational use patterned after medical marijuana laws, but the state has been drafting permanent regulations for recreational cannabis.

The taxation department is hosting workshops on recreational cannabis and set up a website, marijuana.nv.gov, to provide further information.

“The state has done an excellent job of creating rules and regulations for the recreational marijuana industry that is new to this state,” Georgiadis said.

When recreational marijuana was legalized, the state mandated only existing medical marijuana establishments could apply for a retail cannabis license.

However, beginning in November 2018, under Nevada’s Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, non-medical marijuana licensees may apply for a retail license.

Klapstein indicated that this could turn out to be a game-changer by greatly expanding the marketplace in Northern Nevada.

“It will open it up to just about anyone to get a license,” Klapstein said. “The average Joe Smith down the street could then be able to get a license.”

Duane Johnson is a reporter for the Northern Nevada Business Weekly, a sister publication of The Union based in Reno. Contact him at djohnson@nnbw.biz.



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Jim Hartman: Inconvenient truths for marijuana industry


Nevada was among four states to “legalize” recreational marijuana in November 2016, passing an initiative written and promoted by the commercial marijuana industry. The Nevada initiative was largely financed by the state’s medical marijuana owners who wrote into the ballot measure their “exclusive right” to be the recreational marijuana retailers. Their campaign was well-financed as it has been in other states that have legalized recreational marijuana by initiative.

Opponents find themselves badly outspent by pot promoters — most notably by a $5 to $1 margin in Colorado in 2012, and by an overwhelming $11 to $1 in California in 2016. As a result of the huge financial disparity, legalization opponents in initiative campaigns are at a monumental electoral disadvantage — it’s actually a “rigged system.”

Immediately following the election, an alliance of medical marijuana licensees and Nevada politicians joined together in an unprecedented rush to a July 1, 2017 “Early Start” date for recreational marijuana sales. There were no public hearings and no vote of approval by the commission charged with regulating marijuana. Voters had been assured recreational sales would begin six months later, on Jan. 1, 2018, after permanent regulations were approved.

Nevada’s wild ride to “Early Start” resulted in national embarrassment with a self-created “pot emergency” being declared by Governor Sandoval on July 6 — just five days later — as a result of a legal controversy over marijuana distribution rights. One news outlet described the first 13 days of legalization in Nevada as “total mayhem.”

While Douglas County in Northern Nevada has “zoned out” commercial marijuana establishments, economically disadvantaged North Las Vegas in Southern Nevada already has issued 52 commercial marijuana licenses. Douglas County keeps commercial marijuana away from their county’s young people, while we legitimize it and makes it more accessible to at-risk youth in low-income communities like North Las Vegas.

Ownership information on the identity of these licensees has been denied to the press by city government officials, citing state Supreme Court case authority. There’s no marijuana ownership identity “transparency” in Nevada. Who are these licensees? A Nevada recreational marijuana licensee with Reno and Las Vegas retail stores has been implicated in a money laundering felony conviction in California involving their medical marijuana dispensaries.

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The country needs to “tap the brakes” on commercialized marijuana. Marijuana was reaffirmed as a Schedule 1 dangerous drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. That finding was made by the Obama administration in 2016 after a lengthy, exhaustive review of all relevant scientific and medical evidence by the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the Drug Enforcement Agency. It’s true social mores are changing and “legalization” of marijuana is now favored by a majority, i.e. no prison time for small-quantity possession. It’s equally true a strong majority of Americans have grave reservations about “commercialization” of marijuana. They don’t want pot shops and “grow” operations in their towns and neighborhoods, or near their schools and homes.

An inconvenient truth also needs acknowledgment by the Nevada marijuana industry and state politicians. Federal marijuana law trumps state law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, and the Supreme Court so ruled in Gonzales v. Raich (2005). It’s “settled law” that the feds can prosecute marijuana offenses under the authority of the Commerce Clause through the Controlled Substances Act.

Attorney General Sessions should be commended for upholding the “rule of law” on marijuana as well as putting the scientific and medical evidence on the dangers of marijuana ahead of the politics (and profits) of legalization and commercialization.

Jim Hartman, an attorney residing in Genoa, is the former president of Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy.



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Time for Heller to stand up to Sessions on marijuana


In 2016, Nevada voters overwhelming decided to legalize marijuana. In 2017, recreational sales officially started. The economic impact of this well-regulated industry has so far exceeded expectations, spurring hundreds of new businesses to open here and creating thousands of new jobs. Tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from legal sales are now flowing into the state budget, which will allow us to continue to bolster public school funding. Suffering cancer patients and struggling veterans also have access to medical marijuana in Nevada.

But the Trump administration is now suddenly refusing to recognize our state’s right to grow this industry. Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a controversial decision to rescind the Obama-era Cole Memo. This drastic change in enforcement policy opens the door to the federal government interfering with and possibly going after our small businesses and residents. Our marijuana industry is entirely homegrown, so this would disproportionately and negatively affect Nevadans.

Following the Great Recession, Nevadans answered bipartisan calls to diversify and expand our economy by creating a marijuana industry that includes manufacturing, finance, retail and other sectors. We should be proud that entrepreneurs have created an entirely new industry for Nevadans by Nevadans. It is our industry to grow, and ours to lose. The stakes are clear: We should protect our progress. But, I ask you, where is our senior senator in fighting back against what the Trump administration is trying to do?

So far, Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s response has been a huge disappointment.

While the Democrats in our federal delegation spoke out loudly and clearly against rescinding the Cole Memo, Heller’s reaction was so weak as to raise the question of whether he wants Nevada’s cannabis industry to survive at all. His tepid response defers responsibility and leaves him teetering on the edge of irrelevance, as his noncommittal statement did not even criticize the Justice Department’s actions.

Heller’s empty statement also stood in stark contrast to some of his Republican colleagues — like Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Cory Gardner — who issued harsh rebukes of Sessions. Even Danny Tarkanian, Heller’s GOP primary challenger, forcefully condemned the federal overreach.

In Colorado, Gardner is showing what real leadership looks like. Hours after the news broke, he delivered a fiery Senate floor speech, while Heller has never once spoken out against President Trump on the Senate floor. Gardner plans to hold up every single nomination the Justice Department sends to the Senate; Heller is a rubber stamp for every nominee Trump puts forward.

Nevadans will vote in November to decide who should represent them in the U.S. Senate, and this issue will be on their minds. The antiquated and disproven view of marijuana as a dangerous drug is wrong and out of step with public opinion, which shows nearly two-thirds of Americans support federal legalization of marijuana.

Republican candidates who don’t engage in this fight and offer nothing more than lip service will rightly be seen as out of touch.

Heller publicly opposed Question 2 in 2016. Last year, Heller helped confirm Sessions as attorney general — voting to approve his nomination despite a lengthy record of fringe positions. Heller is the only senator up for re-election in 2018 who is from a state with legalized recreational marijuana and who voted to confirm Sessions.

Democrats have a strong candidate running for Heller’s seat in Rep. Jacky Rosen — a proven community leader who publicly supported Question 2 before it passed. Rosen is working in Congress to support Nevada’s legal marijuana industry. She is an ally on this issue, and I know she won’t waver in that commitment. She is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would effectively ban any potential federal prosecutions against legally operating marijuana businesses in states like ours.

I’ve worked for years to help legalize marijuana in Nevada, and the success of the past six months confirmed that voters made the right call in 2016. Our representatives in Washington need to work with us and do everything possible to protect this industry.

It’s time for Sen. Heller to stop making political calculations and start using his position to stand up to the White House. Call Heller’s office at 202-224-6244 and tell him he needs to fight for these Nevada jobs and businesses.

Tick Segerblom is a native Nevadan who was first elected to the Assembly in 2006, where he served three terms before switching to the state Senate in 2012.



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Las Vegas mother says pot smell is making family sick


Las Vegas (KTNV) – While a lot of people smoke pot to relieve pain, a local mother says the smell is causing health problems for her family. And now that recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada, she says it happens every time her neighbors light up. 

Lucy Pearson says every time her neighbors smoke weed, it’s almost as if she and her family are smoking right along with them. Except instead of getting high, they get sick. 

 “My oldest gets headaches,” Pearson said. “My middle one gets headaches and stomach aches with it, and the youngest usually gets nauseous to her stomach.”

She said the neighbors smoke in their backyard, sometimes twice a day and the unmistakable odor comes wafting through the air and travels into her home through her back door and garage. She admitted she’s never confronted them about the problem.

“We’ve never really been close neighbors,” she said. 

She contacted 13 Action News to find out if there’s anything she can do about it. While Nevada law says you cannot smoke recreational pot in public, there’s nothing that would prohibit someone from consuming marijuana on their property. That’s even if it’s in close proximity or in view of other people. While it may not be courteous, it’s not illegal.

“I want to keep it peaceful obviously because they are my neighbors,” said Pearson. “I want to be able to sit in my home, have my garage doors open and not worry about getting sick from the smell.” 



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