Update on the L.A. Cannabis Social Equity Program

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 29, 2017

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council met to discuss cannabis issues before voting on the final ordinance next month. Our Los Angeles Cannabis attorneys were present and are closely following developments on the path to a final LA Cannabis Ordinance and Social Equity Program. Broadly, the Los Angeles Social Equity Program aims to prioritize applicants who were disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and criminalization of cannabis, and give them an opportunity to participate in the now legal, newly regulated market. 

The discussion yesterday centered around the social equity program and the tier system, which establishes priority to individuals with a criminal history. The social equity program will benefit disadvantaged communities. As a reminder, Tier 1 applicants are those who have a prior cannabis related conviction, a cumulative household income below the federal poverty line and have at least five years residence in an area impacted by the War on Drugs. So the question becomes, should priority be given to individuals with a criminal history? 

Opinions were heard on both sides of the controversial issue. The purpose of the social equity program is to help remove barriers for persons with a criminal history to equitable ownership and employment opportunities. Concerns were raised the criteria for Tier 1 was limited to cannabis only related crimes. The LA Dept. of Cannabis Regulation reasoned the purpose is to provide legitimate business opportunities in a now legalized industry. Oppositions were raised that the tier system did not distinguish between the level of offense such as, a misdemeanor or felony and excludes low income neighborhoods not impacted by the War on Drugs. This suggests person(s) convicted of a minor cannabis crime will have priority over person(s) who have been established in a disproportionately impacted community for many years. Recommendations were made to the Dept. of Cannabis Regulation to define distinct requirements to qualify as a Tier 1 applicant. For more information on the social equity program click here.

In addition to the Social Equity Program, the Council is also considering the revised Location Ordinance which introduces new distancing requirements. An important change to the proposed zoning ordinance is the addition of a 600 foot buffer to sensitive use areas for all activities including cultivation and manufacturing. Make sure you check the location

of your business is compliant with the land use ordinance. The vote is next week so make your voice heard and submit your comments to the City Council by December 4th

If you have questions about the Social Equity Program or the new zoning changes,Contact us to speak with one of our Los Angeles Cannabis Attorneys.

Los Angeles Introduces Cannabis Social Equity Program Criteria

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 20, 2017

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, Los Angeles is one step closer to cannabis licensing. Here is the latest from our Los Angeles cannabis attorneys who attended today's City Council meeting. Today the Council further discussed the Social Equity Program and the 4 Tiers of priority that will be given to eligible applicants. Tier 1 will get the highest priority for Los Angeles cannabis licensing (after Measure M Retail priority which you can read more about here), and Tier 4 will get the lowest of the Social Equity applicants.

Breaking news: California releases emergency cannabis regulations

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 16, 2017

Today, California’s three state cannabis licensing authorities released proposed emergency licensing regulations for commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis. The regulations are intended to reflect the law that was set out in California’s Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), and will replace the draft regulations that were released for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, retail and other activities in April 2017 (you can read more about the prior regulations in our post here).  These regulations will allow the state to start issuing temporary licenses to conduct commercial cannabis activities on January 1. Our San Francisco and Los Angeles cannabis attorneys are analyzing the new regulations and comparing them to the previous draft and we will do a more in depth post on what has changed very soon. 

Ask an LA Cannabis Attorney: A Guide to the City's New Licensing Regulations

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 14, 2017
With Los Angeles on the verge of rolling out new licensing for marijuana businesses, many businesses, both preexisting and new, are wondering what the City's procedure will be. The plethora of meetings and details surrounding the subject might seem daunting, especially since the City has not specified or solidified many aspects of the program. With the January deadline closing in, the City is expected to resolve these discrepancies as clearly as possible before 2018. 
 
So what do we know about cannabis licensing? Right now, what we have to go on is the Draft Requirements for Commercial Cannabis Activity published on  September 22nd, as well as the Cannabis Social Equity Report published on October 18th. Additionally, a motion on the subject was released on October 31st. Although these are all drafts and have not yet been approved, this blog post will attempt to clarify what we know so far. 
 
The City has rolled out three different processing phases, which treat existing and new marijuana business  applicants differently: 
 
Phase 1: Proposition M Priority Licensing (Existing Retail Only) 
 
Applicants for Proposition M Priority Processing can only apply for Retailer Commercial Cannabis Activity (including delivery.) This may include on-site cultivation, as allowed by Prop D. Once applications become available, any business that wants to apply for Prop M Priority Processing must apply within 60 days of when the application period is opened. 
 
Each Prop M Priority Processing candidate  will receive a provisional license once the department has approved its eligibility. If it is not eligible, it must cease all business and reapply under the general processing phase. If it is eligible, then the business will receive a provisional license, granting it limited immunity to operate until its full license is approved or denied by the Commission. In order to receive a permanent license, a Prop M Priority candidate must be approved and provide financial statements proving the business is clear of any tax obligations. 
 
Phase 2: Social Equity Program Processing (Existing NON-Retail Businesses) 
 
The motion passed on October 31st provides a path for priority licensing for "All applicants that were conducting non-retail Businesses in the City of Los Angeles prior to January 1, 2016" and meet various other requirements, including qualifying for the Social Equity Program. 
 
Businesses have 15 business days to apply for priority after the applications become available. Businesses must prove that they provided product to Prop D compliant dispensaries and were in business before January 1, 2016. Moreover, all taxes should be paid. 
 
What is the social equity program? As an existing business, there is only one way to enter the Social Equity program, and that is as a "Tier 4 Applicant." The Social Equity Analysis from October 18th details the following ways in which a Tier 4 Applicant would potential take part in the program: 
 
Tier 4 applicants would potentially include market-rate applicants that provide space, capital or other means of support to a Program participant and those who do not have sufficient floor space or eligible zoning to provide on-site support to a Program partner under the incubator partner program. In lieu of a direct incubator program partnership with a Program, potential Tier 4 applicants could provide business mentoring, training workshops, other non-financial contributions to Program applicants or make direct financial contributions to the Community Reinvestment or Industry Ownership Funds.
 
In other words, Tier 4 applicants under the Social Equity program must either provide space, capital, or time in order to benefit from priority processing. This phase is perhaps the City's attempt to incentivize existing businesses to partake in the Social Equity program. 
 
Phase 2: Social Equity Program Processing (New Businesses - After January 2016) 
 
New businesses can also apply for the Social Equity program. Indeed, the program is geared towards recruiting low-income and otherwise underprivileged entrepreneurs. Tier 1, 2, and 3 applicants are low-income Los Angeles City residents. They will have access to loans, training, and help in managing their business. This is ideal for a low-income individual with a solid plan for a cannabis business. 
 
For an existing business with an operation that isn't older than January 2016, it is also possible to apply for the Social Equity program. However, this does not necessarily include a provisional license. The report does not make clear whether or not existing retail businesses after January 2016 would be eligible for the program. Moreover, membership in the program is at the "discretion of the Executive Director of the Department of Cannabis Regulation and the Cannabis Re gulation Commission. "
 
Phase 3: General Processing (New Businesses - After January 2016) 
 
Finally, there is the General Processing phase. This is the phase in which all business who do not qualify for the other phases will apply. The City has not released information on this processing. Furthermore, there are no provisional licenses or limited immunity available for these types of applicants. That means that if you are a business operating now and do not qualify under Prop M or Social Equity, you must shut down operation until all licenses have been either approved or denied. 
 
It is an exciting time for California and for the City of Los Angeles. As the January deadline inches closer and closer, it is important to keep track of all new drafts and measures adopted by the City in regards to the application process.  For more information on LA cannabis laws, check our FAQ or contact our cannabis attorneys at info@margolinlawrence.com.

Ask an LA Cannabis Attorney: So What's Happening in WeHo?

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 9, 2017

On November 5th, the City Council of West Hollywood put an end to a long period of speculation about the future legal status of cannabis in their jurisdiction, moving to allow recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries, delivery services. In particular, the WeHo City Council approved of allocating 8 licenses per type of cannabis activity (Adult-Use retail, Consumption Areas with On-Site Adult-Use retail, Delivery Services, and Medical-Use dispensary,) and confirmed this decision on the morning of November 8th. These activity types are of interest in themselves: Allowing retail spaces to provide an area for on-site consumption means WeHo might soon be the home of hip, Amsterdam-style marijuana cafés.

While this explains quite a bit about West Hollywood's approach, some aspects of the city's regulations remain unclear. For instance, the exact selection process for the 8 licenses per activity has not been decided by the City Council. Moreover, the zoning regulations for marijuana businesses have also not been finalized by the city. To address these questions, the City Council of West Hollywood will meet again on November 20th to discuss zones and grading criteria for licenses. The City Council has given itself a deadline of December 6th to resolve these issues, which it hopes to meet before the new laws come into effect on January 1st.

As it stands, what our cannabis lawyers know about the future process for license application selection is as follows: The top eight applications will be issued licenses based on merit. Some of the criteria in consideration for "merit" will include compliance with the city's social equity program, operating a pre-existing cannabis business that's in good standing in WeHo, or previous experience with a cannabis business elsewhere in the state. Again, these criteria have been merely discussed and not approved. Once the criteria are fixed, the city will essentially grade each application based on the standards they establish.

Since relatively few licenses will be granted, it is imperative for any marijuana business applicant in West Hollywood to not only meet the criteria set out by City Council, but also to provide adequate reasoning for why its merits qualify it to be chosen over the other applicants. The application period will be open in January 2018 for a period of 30 days; since the timeframe is so short, if you're interested in starting a cannabis business in WeHo, it's important to get started on the application process now.

For more information or to set up a consultation with our Los Angeles cannabis lawyers, take a look at our guide to California's new marijuana laws or email us at info@margolinlawrence.com

How Many Los Angeles Cannabis Licenses Will Be Issued?

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 7, 2017

Last week, our Los Angeles cannabis attorneys were at the City Council meeting where the Council moved to amend the Draft Regulations that were previously released on September 22, 2017. The Los Angeles City Council moved to amend the Draft Regulations released on 9-22-2017 to include a motion that will allow cannabis operators who meet certain requirements to remain open if they file for limited immunity within 15 days of applications opening. You can read more about the Draft Regulations from September in our previous posts here and here.

Ask a Cannabis Trademark Lawyer: What About Trade Dress?

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on November 2, 2017

If you have been looking into protecting your cannabusiness' intellectual property, you may have heard the term “trade dress” tossed around. Trade dress is a legal term for the visual components, design/shape, and packaging of a product. It encompasses the “bells & whistles,” so to speak, and is generally intended to protect the overall visual appearance of a product, minus any elements that are functional. The name comes from its historical origins, i.e., how a product is “dressed up.” And even though trade dress is a commonly forgotten right, it is actually quite important when it comes to cannabis law.

Trade dress protection has been extended to everything from restaurant “atmospheres” (Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763 (1992); Fuddruckers, Inc. v. Doc’s B.R. Others, Inc., 826 F.2d 837, 843 (1987)) to the unique setting of a golf course’s “signature hole.” (Pebble Beach Co. v. Tour 18 I, Ltd., 942 F.Supp. 1513 (S.D.Tex. 1996)). The gist of it is the “dressing” must be distinctive enough that consumers identify the source of your product by looking at its total appearance and packaging.

So can cannabusiness owners get trade dress protection? As with many questions in marijuana law, the answer is yes and no.

Just as with a trademark, you have common law rights to your trade dress that you can assert in bringing a lawsuit against infringers that pass off their products as yours. The basis is section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, which establishes civil liability for false designations of origin. However, trade dress owners asserting common law rights in court have the additional burden of showing that the “dressing” serves a non-functional purpose. For this reason (as well as the statutory damages established in the Lanham Act) it is preferable to obtain trade dress registration beforehand wherever possible.

Here we run into the same issues as with trademark: CSA-based rejections. The USPTO has caught on to the emerging cannabis industry, and currently has four trademark examining attorneys that that look at all of the cannabis-based applications coming in. There are many ways around a CSA refusal, and many of the strategies we have discussed for trademarks apply here as well.  

If you are thinking of trade dress protection already, then good news – you’re already ahead of the game. Speak with our cannabis law attorneys when you’re ready to take the next step!

Ask an LA Cannabis Attorney...at the Freedom of Info Sesh

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on October 26, 2017

Thanks to everyone who came to our first Freedom of Information session about Los Angeles Cannabis Licensing!

Los Angeles Cannabis Community At the Infused Expo this Weekend

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on October 22, 2017

This weekend was the second annual The Edibles List Infused Expo in DTLA. As LA Cannabis lawyers, our firm is tracking the City's development of regulations and also California's. This weekend, the focus was on edibles.

California Dept. of Food & Agriculture Releases Cannabis Cultivation Checklist

Posted by Margolin & Lawrence on October 20, 2017

As California prepares to start issuing cannabis cultivation licenses on January 1, 2018, the state is becoming more transparent regarding the exact requirements for legal cultivation under the new regulatory regime. Our cannabis lawyers are often asked how you can prepare for licensing - here is your answer. The California Department of Food & Agriculture’s just released a full checklist of requirements for the Cal. Cannabis cultivation application, now available in .pdf form on their website.

 

These requirements represent an important shift in the state’s attitude when it comes to cannabis cultivation – in particular, the checklist shows that California plans for far more robust cooperation between state and local regulatory authorities than has existed in the past. As Merry Jane writes in an article about the checklist, “Unlike the current cat and mouse games canna-businesses play with local municipalities under the wild west rules of Prop 215, California’s new system will see increased coordination between state and local governing bodies by requiring licenses for cannabis operations at both levels.” Our Los Angeles cannabis attorneys have witnessed both the wild west and the implementation of the new system as cities and counties around California issue their own permits and licenses. 

This two-level licensing structure also means that the process of applying for a cultivation license will be an arduous one, with applicants required to jump through a long series of bureaucratic hoops in order to attain legal status. The full State requirements, as listed in the checklist, are as follows:

  • An existing local cultivation permit (optional, but recommended)
  • Proof of the applicant’s right to occupy the property used for cultivation
  • Business formation documents filed by the California Secretary of State’s office
  • California State Water Resources Control Board permits and verification of water source
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 1602 permit or a waiver
  • California Department of Toxic Substance’s hazardous materials record search via their EnviroStor data-management system
  • California Department of Fee and Tax Administration’s seller’s permit
  • Labor peace agreement (for operations that will employ more than 20 people)
  • Surety bond valued at $5,000
  • California Department of Justice fingerprinting via its Live Scan service

The checklist also includes a list of local permits that may be required, including those issued by the municipality’s Building Department, Public Works Department, and Sheriff’s Office. The takeaway is clear; while Jan 1, 2018, may seem very soon to aspiring cannabusiness owners, getting a legal license to cultivate cannabis won’t be possible without a lot of paperwork.

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This blog is not intended as legal advice and should not be taken as such. The possession, use, and/or sale of marijuana is illegal under federal law.