Archive for the ‘Sonoma’ Category

  • Planning to Hire Local? Be Aware of Employment Laws.

    As local authorities begin drafting and, in certain circumstances even finalizing, local ordinances for cannabis licensing, prospective licensees are faced with a number of considerations about how to structure their company so as to optimize the likelihood of obtaining a license. One factor several jurisdictions, such as Sonoma County, have proposed or adopted is giving priority licensing to companies that intend to “hire local.”

    Many cannabis companies instinctively adopt a “local-first” ethos as part of their core values. However, when structuring business operations, companies must keep in mind the myriad local, state, and federal employment laws that affect the way in which it may operate.

    Federal law prohibits companies from denying employment to an individual if the denial is based on certain criteria that are unrelated to one’s ability to perform the job at hand. The federal criteria includes: age, disability, genetic information, harassment, national origin, pregnancy, race or color, religion, and sex.

    However, some states, and even some municipalities, have their own laws that offer even broader protection. California, for example, has additional protected classes upon which an employer may not discriminate in the hiring process. In California, protected categories include: race or color, ancestry or national origin (including language use restrictions), religion or creed, age, mental or physical disabilities, medical condition, genetic information, sex or gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions), marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or military and veteran status.

    While the federal and state lists inevitably overlap to a certain extent, a company must comply with the most restrictive set of laws applicable to its location. Moreover, the intent of the employer is not the deciding factor when determining whether improper discrimination has occurred. Rather, the fact that a particular practice has the effect of discrimination is sufficient to create a legal issue. This means that even a company with the best of intentions can run afoul of employment laws if otherwise valid practices have the effect of discrimination.

    This issue sometimes arises with respect to local-preference hiring practices.  By way of an example, say a company has adopted a hiring practice whereby they give preference to individuals who live in the same city as the company is headquartered in and that city happens to have a population that is skewed to a particular demographic; the applicant pool is therefore also going to be skewed towards that disproportionate demographic. In such a scenario, if that demographic is skewed with regards to race or ethnicity, for example, the company’s hiring practice has the effect of discriminating based on race and ethnicity. This is true, even if done without the intention to discriminate based on race or ethnicity, but rather to simply benefit “locals,” without regard to race or ethnicity.

    For example, according to the 2010 United States Census, 66.1 percent of Sonoma County residents self-identified as “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino”, whereas 40.1 percent of Californians self-identified as “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino.”  On the other hand, 3.8 percent of Sonoma County residents self-identified as “Asian alone”, whereas 13.0 percent of Californians self-identified as “Asian alone.”  Similarly, 1.6 percent of Sonoma County residents self-identified as “Black or African American alone”, whereas 6.2 percent of Californians self-identified as “Black or African American alone.”  In other words, compared to the State of California as a whole, Sonoma County has a greater percentage of individuals self-identifying as  “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino” and a smaller percentage of individuals self-identifying as “Asian alone” or “Black or African American alone.”  Because of these demographic disparities, a hiring plan that favors local applicants (Sonoma County residents) may have the effect of discriminating based on race or ethnicity, even if done without the intention to discriminate.

    When the effect of discrimination arises, an employer may yet avoid liability if it can prove that the hiring criterion was job-related and consistent with business necessity; however, this is a fairly difficult standard of review, especially if reasonable alternatives with a less discriminatory effect exist. As such, companies looking at licensing in areas that have a less-than-varied demographic with regards to any of the protected classes should be wary of a local preference hiring plan and consult with an attorney prior to implementation.

    For more information, visit the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing’s website.

  • Proposed Cultivation Regulations: New License Type “Processor”

     

    The California Department of Food and Agriculture, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, released proposed regulations on April 28, 2017 that would create a new license type, the “Processor” license, for “a cultivation site that conducts only trimming, drying, curing, grading or packaging of cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products.”

    While licensed processors may not cultivate cannabis onsite, according to the Initial Statement of Reasons (ISOR), processors “also may hold other types of cultivation licenses” for off-site cultivation.  This new license category was created to accommodate the medical cannabis industry practice whereby “some cultivators send untrimmed, uncured, or unpackaged cannabis to locations off-site for processing (that is, not where the product is grown.)”

    § 8203. Cultivation License Types. License types include:

    (f) “Processor” a cultivation site that conducts only trimming, drying, curing, grading or packaging of cannabis and nonmanufactured cannabis products.

    The CalCannabis ISOR’s explain the rationale for this new license type:
    “Section 8203 Cultivation License Types

    This section defines the types of cultivation licenses the Department is responsible for issuing. In addition to the cultivation licenses required by BPC Section 19332 (g), the Department has created a processor license, as described below. […]

    Subsection (f) defines the processor license, which was created by the Department. These proposed regulations are added to implement the authority to create new license types in BPC Section 19302.1 (e). During the scoping meetings held in September 2016, it was brought to the Department’s attention that some cultivators send untrimmed, uncured, or unpackaged cannabis to locations off-site for processing (that is, not where the product is grown). Sometimes local ordinances may require processing activities to occur away from cultivation areas. To accommodate these instances, the Department created a license type that will allow a business to be licensed solely for processing cannabis. The processor licensee also may hold other types of cultivation licenses, but would be prohibited from growing cannabis plants at a licensed processing facility. […]

    These proposed regulations are added to clarify the statutory provision in BPC Section 19332 (g) and provides the industry with an additional type of license that is consistent with current industry practices.”

    The above information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  Please contact a lawyer for legal counsel.

    If you would like legal assistance in advocating for changes to the proposed regulations, please get in touch with us.  If you are interested in a legal consultation about the “Processor” license, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), or compliance with California’s cannabis laws, please contact the Law Offices of Omar Figueroa at (707) 829-0215 or at (415) 489-0420.

  • Sonoma State University’s School of Extended & International Education offers Cannabis in California workshop in June

    Blunt Network

    Financial, legal and regulatory experts will address issues vital to the state’s new recreational cannabis market.

    Rohnert Park, California (May 5, 2017) – California is preparing for full recreational cannabis legalization on New Year’s Day, 2018.

    This means the state with one of the oldest and most durable marijuana cultures and economies will soon be home to what is expected to become the world’s largest legal marijuana market.

    Northern California, meanwhile, is the epicenter of California’s cannabis culture; a region where growers, producers and marijuana enthusiasts have worked for decades to craft many of the manufacturing, processing and legal protocols currently in use across the state.

    In an effort to assist those interested in this historic evolution of California’s cannabis market, Sonoma State University’s School of Extended & International Education is offering a Cannabis in California Workshop on Friday, June 9th, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Those attending the day’s workshop will hear lectures from experts on the state’s legal, regulatory and public policy issues regarding the emerging legal cannabis industry, and can seek advice and information on cannabis accounting and tax compliance procedures.

    Among those scheduled to speak at the workshop are attorney Omar Figueroa, an expert in cannabis law, Dale Gieringer, the director of California NORML who also co-authored Proposition 215; the state’s medical marijuana initiative, and Hank Levy, CPA, of The Henry Levy Group, an expert in cannabis accounting and tax compliance.

    Some of the regulatory issues on the agenda for workshop participants are:

    Track and trace programs, compliance and cost, health and safety training for cannabis business employees, managing the risk profile of your cannabis accounts, preparing your cannabis organization for legal compliance audits.

    “In California and more broadly in the United States, the cannabis industry’s multibillion dollar legal footprint in the economy reflects a sea change in societal perceptions of cannabis,” says Robert Eyler, Ph.D, Dean of the School of Extended and International Education.

    Negotiating the financial and regulatory aspects of legal marijuana, as presented in this workshop, are vital in helping the state establish and professionalize its legal cannabis industry.

    “This wave of new enterprise creates the need for educational institutions that teach students to navigate the industry as professionals,” he adds. “There will be a high demand for professional workforce development in the cannabis industry: accounting professionals, human resources management, placement services, regulatory experts, and other skilled professionals as these businesses grow.”

    “The impetus behind the creation of a cannabis program at Sonoma State University is to foster workforce development and to teach legal and accounting principles specific to the industry,” says Jason Snyder, Program Director of Sonoma State University’s Cannabis Program. “Our goal is to professionalize the cannabis workforce here in Sonoma County and beyond.”

    Workshop Details:

    Register online at: Cannabis Workshop 

    Location: Sonoma State University, Stevenson 1002
    1801 East Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

    Date:  Friday, June 9th, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    General Daily Parking: $5.00. Lot E is closest to Stevenson.

    There is an entry fee of $99 per person for the workshop. Check-in begins at 8:00 a.m. –workshop participants are advised to come early. Lunch will be provided and students will be awarded 0.75 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) awarded upon attendance.

    For More Information: http://sonoma.edu/exed/cannabis/

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    About Sonoma State University’s School of Extended & International Education:

    Throughout the year, the School of Extended & International Education offers a wide variety of innovative, high quality professional development courses and certificates. We take pride in creating learning opportunities for career advancement, career change and personal growth. Many courses are scheduled on weekends and evenings, and online for the busy adult.

    Disclaimer:
    Notwithstanding Proposition 64 and other state laws, the possession, use, transport, cultivation, and sale of marijuana remain illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Moreover, as a recipient of federal funds, Sonoma State University is required under federal law to: (1) maintain a drug-free community; (2) prevent illegal drug use; and (3) discipline students and employees who unlawfully possess, use, or distribute illegal drugs on University property or at University-sponsored activities. Accordingly, the use, possession, cultivation, transport, and/or sale of marijuana is prohibited on Sonoma State University campus property, and at University-sponsored activities, whether on- or off-campus.

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  • Press Democrat: North Coast marijuana producers react to California’s draft medical marijuana rules

    Santa Rosa Press Democrat

    North Coast marijuana producers react t…l marijuana rules | The Press Democrat

    JULIE JOHNSON

    THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | May 1, 2017, 7:55PM

    The first draft of rules for California’s medical marijuana industry would establish a highly regulated business environment, with strict limits on the hours of operation and the amount of THC infused into oils, and in turn set standards for cleaner, more consistent products for pot consumers.

    State regulators from three departments released a trove of proposed rules Friday for marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution and sales in a highly anticipated step as the state takes charge of what’s been, for two decades, an unregulated medical cannabis sector. The public has 45 days to give input.

    North Coast cannabis industry players said they are preparing to push the state to fine-tune the rules, which do not address recreational marijuana. The detailed regulations will undergo a series of revisions and are set to take effect in 2018.

    “Honestly our feedback is so positive at this point,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association. “We do have a long list of technical concerns — what does this mean? how does that work? — but the bottom line is they are a very quality set of regulations.”

    The cost of doing business will rise with greater requirements for security, delivery, testing and other aspects of the business. A financial analysis done for the state estimated the total increase in costs at $524 per pound. Marijuana sells wholesale for between $800 and $2,500 per pound, depending on a variety of factors like growing methods and processing.

    Individual plants would be tracked from seeds and flowers to processing facilities. Dispensaries wouldn’t be able to package products or give out free samples, but they would be able to deliver products following certain rules covering everything from the volume of deliveries to types of delivery vehicles.

    Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s, a manufacturer of three cannabis-based medical oils based in Bodega Bay, said the state is setting out to drastically limit the amount of THC in products aimed to treat health conditions, which “shows a lack of understanding of a medical patient’s need.”

    Amounts of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, would be limited to 10 milligrams per serving and 100 milligrams per package. Gordon said those amounts are appropriate for recreational cannabis products but create an unfair burden for people treating serious health conditions.

    A patient with cancer or epilepsy could easily take 200 milligrams of THC per day, which under the proposed rules would require consuming greater volumes of oils or foods, Gordon said.

    “Our products, we call them bio-pharmaceutical products and we think of them as serious medicines for serious diseases,” Gordon said. “It’s all getting lumped together with the self- medicating person who is using a gummy bear.”

    The state is pushing to greatly restrict the types of foods with cannabis, and would ban the infusion of marijuana with alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, dairy and juice. It would also ban perishable or canned cannabis-infused products.

    The rules appear aimed at limiting the industry’s ability to create products that might appeal to children. Additionally, the state issued guidelines for packaging to be opaque, contain a state- designated THC warning symbol and avoid any cartoonish design.

    Santa Rosa manufacturer and distributor CannaCraft would be forced to pull a line of cannabis- infused chocolates called Satori. The line includes some milk chocolate products, which use powdered milk, and a chocolate-covered coffee bean using Sebastopol-based Taylor Maid Farms products.

    Company spokesman Nick Caston said they will push the state to explain any scientific or health reasons for prohibiting certain types of cannabis-infused products.

    “What is the governmental business in preventing those things from being in the same product?” Caston said.

    Santa Rosa cannabis attorney Omar Figueroa said he’s concerned about rules aimed at curbing entrepreneurship in the industry. Figueroa said he’s working with several Sonoma County vintners interested in creating cannabis-infused wines.

    “Nobody thought that would be part of it,” Figueroa said.

    A proposed bill set for a legislative vote in June could supersede the current rules effort. Known as a “trailer bill,” it would redirect the state to create a unified system for regulating both recreational and medical cannabis industries.

    Allen, with the California Growers Association, said his group will push to keep the medical marijuana rules intact and separate because they contain strong protections for small-scale farmers — such as tiered fee structures based on operation size — going up against big production operations.

    He said his trade group’s policy team will spend weeks going over the rules and writing detailed responses he expects will “be as substantive as the proposed rules.”

    “These proposed rules are probably the best possible outcome for cottage and artisanal growers,” Allen said. “The problem would be if this were revoked and replaced with a less protective framework.”

    The proposed regulations can be found here.

    You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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  • Year in Review: North Coast braces for change as marijuana industry stakes out legal future

    The Press Democrat

    EDITOR’S NOTE: The Press Democrat is taking the last 10 days of the year to review the news stories that marked our lives and shaped our region in 2016. For a complete list of the stories, click here.

    California was not first this time, but with a clear majority at the ballot box, Golden State voters in November opted to join the lead wave of states that have legalized recreational marijuana, setting in motion fundamental change for the growing cannabis industry that is likely to transform Sonoma County and the North Coast.

    The approval of Proposition 64 —favored by 59 percent of Sonoma County voters and 57 percent statewide — punctuated a year marked by the clear emergence of cannabis commerce as a local economic force and industry advocates as key players in the contentious discussions shaping regulation of the once-illicit trade.

    “It’s been a fantastic year of transformation and transition,” said Craig Litwin, a Sebastopol consultant to cannabis organizations. The industry is already worth billions of dollars, and Litwin said the California mandate reflects the drug’s wider acceptance, part of what he contends is a global shift in attitude.

    Most people now “see marijuana as a substance they are comfortable with,” he said.

    In Sonoma County, though, that point appears unsettled, as residents and local governments grappled with the industry’s emergence this year in contradictory ways.

    (more…)

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  • Reefer Badass

    Bohemian

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  • Best Of 2015: North Bay Confidential

    Bohemian

    Voted Best Law Firm in Sonoma County.

     

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  • New county bail policy could get costly

    The Press Democrate

    A new approach to bail in Sonoma County Superior Court could soon raise the price of freedom. Judges will start observing strict time limits on how long bail remains in place, requiring new bail to be posted if prosecutors do not bring charges within 15 days of a first court appearance. Those who can’t afford to pay a second time will likely be forced to await a decision from behind bars, straining jail resources and driving up costs for taxpayers.

    “It’s a de facto doubling of the bail schedule,” said Sebastopol defense attorney Omar Figueroa, who was among a group of lawyers who voiced concerns this week at a Sonoma County Bar Association meeting. The change was announced by Judge Shelly Averill, who will be presiding over a special early case resolution court in January. Now, judges allow defendants to post bail just once while prosecutors and police sort out any charges during post- arrest investigations. Such investigations for crimes ranging from drug possession to manslaughter can take months. But that practice does not meet the requirements of the law, Averill said. Bonds guaranteeing a person will return to court are exonerated — or expire — automatically if prosecutors haven’t acted within the two-week period, she said. Beyond that time, bail companies can no longer be held liable if the person becomes a fugitive. Judges realized the lapse and will now correct it, she said. New bail will be required to avoid jail if formal charges are filed later, she said.

    “It’s something we’ve not been doing,” she told lawyers at the bar association meeting. It was not immediately known how many people were awaiting charges on expired bail. The shift could be a boon to the bail company owners, who collect a nonrefundable 10 percent fee for each bond they post. But they worried it could also hurt the industry if bail is perceived as unaffordable. “It could make the process of bail so that it’s no longer relied upon,” said Dale Miller, owner of Santa Rosa-based Romelli Bail Bonds. However, Miller said there are ongoing discussions about making second bails less expensive.

    (more…)

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  • Minister seeks return of peyote seized in Santa Rosa

    The Press Democrat

    A minister in the North Coast chapter of the Native American Church says his right to religious freedom was violated when sheriff’s deputies seized mind-altering peyote from his home during a raid on indoor pot gardens.
    Former Santa Rosa resident David Marbain, 56, is seeking the return of nearly 5 pounds of the dried cactus known for its hallucinogenic effects as well as 27 live plants that were taken in the 2010 sweep.

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