Know Your Rights: Understanding State Hemp Regulations
Guest post by Donna Thompson, customlabels.net
Medical marijuana has been legalized in more than half of the states in the U.S. It is used for easing the symptoms of pain, nausea and vomiting, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and epilepsy. Although the number of people that advocate legalization of marijuana for medical purposes is on the rise, not all states in the U.S. have said “yes” to the legalization.
That’s why there is no federal law, and there are variations in medical marijuana laws in different states.
While some states allow the use of medical marijuana extract only, in other states it is allowed to use the whole plant.
When it comes to ways of obtaining medical marijuana, in some states dispensaries are the only place where you can buy it, but in others, like Michigan, you are also allowed to cultivate the plant in your own home.
Also, lists of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment differ from state to state. That means that if you get a medical marijuana card in one state, you can buy a medical marijuana product in some other state only if that state lists your condition as one that can be treated with medical cannabis.
The absence of federal laws affects both consumers and producers of medical marijuana.
Besides all of these differences, states that legalized marijuana usage for medical purposes have different requirements for labeling and packaging medical marijuana products. Thus, when medical marijuana producers want to put their product on the market, they must comply with state specific regulations. For example, when it comes to packaging, products need to be tamper-proof and child-proof. As for labeling, the following infographic shows what common labels for medical marijuana products look like in the states that have legalized marijuana:
Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors in Riverside County approved an ordinance allowing the following commercial activities starting on 26th December: Testing, Manufacturing, Distribution and Wholesale Nurseries. There is now a 60-day deliberative period regarding the cannabis businesses in Riverside based on the newly approved ordinance. The Board also voted to allow a limited number of dispensaries and cultivators to operate in 2019. Up to nineteen dispensaries and fifty grows will be permitted in unincorporated Riverside County as decided by a 3-2 vote following a public hearing that last nearly four hours. The Board also approved an “Implementation Plan for Retail and Cultivation” uses that is scheduled for process in early January 2019. The proposal process will include pre-registration by interested applicants, and the issuance of a Request for Proposals by the Planning Department. However, there are certain conditions that will be enforced regarding additional taxation and fees associated with each of these activities as determined by the Planning Commission.
The logistics of running a legal cannabis operation involve many questions that may seem surprising or daunting to both current and aspiring business owners. As a California cannabis law firm, here are a few of the issues that we’ve seen cannabis businesses need answers for. If you’ve found yourself asking any of these questions about your own operation, our lawyers may be able to help.
How much can I expect to spend?
At present, the capital requirements to start a cannabis business are very high; on top of the normal costs of starting a business, like buying real estate and hiring employees, the industry is very tightly regulated, and it’s not possible to get an outside loan. That means your business has to be privately fundraised, so it’s important to figure out exactly how much money you have and how much you’re willing to spend.
The application fees alone for cannabis licensing are often several thousand dollars, and many jurisdictions require both proof of funding and a detailed business plan before they consider a cannabis licensing application complete. A cannabis lawyer can help you find this information in order to start your licensed operation.
Is my property in an eligible location for cannabis business?
Zoning requirements vary widely based on your jurisdiction and which type of cannabis activity you’re interested in, so it’s not always easy to tell whether a given property or address is eligible for a particular activity. In addition to restrictions on which zones a given activity can be located in (for instance, cannabis cultivation might be banned in commercial zones but allowed in industrial ones), many municipalities have setback restrictions that prevent cannabis businesses from being located within a certain distance of schools, parks, residential areas, or other cannabis businesses.
Interpreting the local zoning regulations to determine for what activities your business is eligible is another service that cannabis lawyers can provide.
What information do I need to apply for a cannabis business license?
Applying for a cannabis business license isn’t just a matter of filling out an application form – most state and local licensing authorities will require a large amount of information about the business and its owners, including a complete operating plan describing how your establishment will meet all legal requirements for cannabis business activity.
On top of this information, you’ll also need to have business documents such as a seller’s permit, federal employer ID number, and certificate of good tax standing in order. On top of that, most applications will require you to provide accurate financial information, insurance documentation, and enough personal documentation for each member of your business to pass a full background check.
Finding these documents and preparing them for your final application is just one service that cannabis lawyers can provide for your business.
Should I get a license for medical-use or adult-use cannabis?
At the present moment, many states and municipalities have separate regulatory regimes for medical-use and adult-use cannabis, often with very different legal requirements. For your cannabis business to succeed, you’ll need to decide which license (or combination of licenses) is best for your business, then master the licensing and compliance processes for the type of cannabis business you choose. A cannabis lawyer can help guide you through this process, from choosing the right activity to applying for a license to remaining in compliance with the law once your business is operational.
What cannabis activity should I apply for?
In addition to medical-use and adult-use, cannabis business licenses are broken down into different activities, such as cultivation, manufacturing, and retail. Additionally, many of these categories are split into subcategories such as indoor and outdoor cultivation or storefront and non-storefront retail. As with medical and adult-use cannabis, these different types of cannabis activities often have very different requirements.
Some jurisdictions also offer boutique categories with special requirements such as Microbusiness, impose restrictions on how many licenses can be granted, or limit which types of licenses a single business can hold simultaneously. For your cannabis business to succeed, you’ll need to optimize which activities to apply for – another task that a cannabis lawyer can help with.
How can I ensure that my business is licensed as quickly as possible?
Given that legal cannabis licensing is a complex, highly regulated bureaucracy currently receiving a large number of applications, it can be difficult for a cannabis business owner to predict how long it will take their business license application to be approved, or to optimize their application in order to be licensed and operational as soon as possible.
Some areas offer a fast track to licensing under their Social Equity Program, in order to ensure that business owners who are disadvantaged or disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs have a quicker path to licensed operation than other applicants. Our cannabis lawyers can help you find out whether you qualify for one of these programs.
Whether or not you qualify for a Social Equity Program, the best way to ensure that you’re licensed as soon as possible is to choose the right license for your business and make sure that the information in your application is complete and correct.
What license should I apply for if I plan to expand my operation?
Especially for new cannabis businesses, the size of a cannabis business at the time of initial licensing might not be the same as the size of the business you hope to run in two or three year’s time. However, cannabis license application fees often vary based on the size of the operation in question, and applications often require businesses to provide details that depend on the size of their operation, including what types of equipment they plan to use, their planned hours of operation, and how many employees they’ll hire (including their labor practices and management structure).
Our cannabis lawyers can help you figure out how to reflect your long-term growth plans in your licensing application, including the multi-year pro forma budgeting and income documents that many municipalities require.
Will I need to apply for additional licenses or permits?
For many businesses, the cannabis license itself is only one of a number of licenses you’ll need for a fully licensed operation. To begin with, new cannabis businesses will need to apply for their tax registrations and seller’s permits. Additionally, depending on your activity, you may need to apply for Conditional Use Permit or Land Use Permit from your local planning department before you can apply for a cannabis business license.
For some activities, like outdoor cultivation, this may require further permits, such as for diversion of water, tree removal, or environmental review. On the other hand, businesses located in cities may be required to apply for enrollment in local Social Equity or community benefits programs. Our cannabis lawyers can help you find out what additional permits you need and help you apply for them.
California’s transition into a regulated market has many operators wondering what the universe of compliance looks like and where they fit into the process. In order to operate legally in California after January 1, 2018, you need both a local authorization and a state license. Temporary licenses from the state of California are sufficient to continue operating, though you will eventually need to obtain an Annual License. To date, 954 cannabis businesses in California have received Cease and Desist letters from the Bureau of Cannabis Control. While some were in error, others were operating without the required licenses for California.
It’s important to understand that licensure is not the end-all-be-all of compliance -- in fact, it is the minimum requirement for your business to operate legally. In addition to having a state license (which requires local authorization), you will need to begin thinking about how to set up your business with compliance processes that facilitate and enable adherence to state regulations for your activities: cannabis microbusiness, retail, manufacturing, cultivation or testing. The below infographic is an overview of the entire licensing/compliance process.
Where does your business fit in?
'Dabbing' and vape pens are some of the newest and most popular methods of consuming cannabis. Instead of smoking marijuana flowers, users ingest cannabis concentrate, otherwise known as wax or oil.
One of the main ways to extract this cannabis concentrate is legally referred to as “volatile manufacturing." "Manufacturing" here refers to all aspects of the cannabis extraction and/or infusion processes, including the processing, preparing, holding, storing, packaging, and/or labeling of cannabis products, as well as the various components and ingredients involved in the production of cannabis. "Volatile," meanwhile, refers to the use of "volatile solvents," which California Senate Bill 94 defines as “volatile organic compounds and dangerous poisons, toxins, or carcinogens."
These types of solvents produce a flammable gas or vapor that, when present in the air in sufficient quantities, will create an explosion or ignite a flame. Of these solvents, the one most commonly used in cannabis extraction is butane. Manufacturing using butane is highly effective for mass production of oil, but it can also be highly dangerous. The major burn treatment centers at two hospitals in Northern California reported in 2015 that nearly 10 percent of severe burn cases were attributed to butane hash oil explosions – more than the amount attributed to car accidents and house fires combined. Due to these hazards, California cannabis manufacturers must obtain a Type 7 / "Manufacturing Level 2" license in order to use volatile solvents. Currently, the cities of Davis, Nevada City, Coachella, Long Beach, and California City are issuing these Type 7 licenses.
In order to further ensure safe manufacturing, each locality is also requiring chemical extractions using volatile solvents to be subject to the following requirements: (a) Hydrocarbon-based solvents shall be at least 99 percent purity, and (b) all extractions shall be performed in a closed loop extraction system. California is very specific about the nature of the closed loop extraction system: it's required to be commercially manufactured, to be certified by a licensed engineer, and to bear a permanently affixed and visible serial number. The certification document must contain the signature and stamp of a professional engineer, and the serial number of the extraction unit must also be certified. Moreover, professional closed loop systems, the equipment used in conjunction with the extraction operation, and the entire manufacturing facility must be approved for use by the local fire code official and meet any additional fire, safety, and building code requirements.