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Hundreds of illegal pot houses close after Sacramento cracks down

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Hundreds of illegal pot houses close after Sacramento cracks down

Sacramento police broke up more than 600 illegal marijuana growing operations over a two-month period this year, arresting 10 people, issuing millions of dollars in fines and seizing nearly 5,000 plants.

In response to concerns from multiple City Council members, a team of SWAT officers conducted a 60-day operation beginning in August aimed at curtailing illegal pot growing inside homes across the city. The sweep touched nearly every corner of the city, from North Natomas to Meadowview.

On Tuesday, the police department will ask the City Council for $850,000 to continue the enforcement action through the first six months of 2018, according to a city staff report. The department wants to dedicate a team of three sergeants and 12 police officers to a specialized pot enforcement team, along with a city staffer tasked with removing marijuana and cultivation equipment from illegal grow houses.

By law, it is illegal to grow more than six marijuana plants inside a home in the city of Sacramento. However, police typically focus enforcement efforts on homes that have been converted into large-scale cultivation operations. Police are often tipped off to grow houses by high electricity bills and neighbor complaints.

The city sent 959 warning letters to homes suspected of having illegal grows. Of those, 614 were shut down after police inspected the homes.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby asked for an update on the city’s enforcement against illegal grow houses over the summer. She said some operations have set up in her North Natomas district in homes larger than 2,000 square feet; 187 warning letters went to property owners in North Natomas during the 60-day enforcement period.

“What I want to do is to prevent a problem from becoming systemic,” Ashby said. “You don’t want to be the illegal marijuana grow corner. I want people to know that if they try (to grow pot illegally), they’re getting a (fine) and they’ll say, ‘It’s too hard in Sacramento’ and they leave.”

The city issued $6.8 million in fines during the 60-day operation, but so far has collected just $25,000, according to a city staff report. Police also served 12 search warrants and seized $15,000 in cash.

The city plans to use money it collects from permitted marijuana cultivation businesses and fines it collects from illegal operations to fund future enforcement, said Councilman Jay Schenirer.

More than 480 warning letters went to homes in City Council District 5, which includes Oak Park and other neighborhoods along Highway 99 in south Sacramento. Schenirer, who represents that area, said he hears “on a weekly basis, if not more” about illegal pot growing operations in his district.

“We know that illegal grows really breed crime in neighborhoods,” he said. “I think, overall, we have a long way to go, but I think (the 60-day enforcement effort) was a significant first step in ridding our neighborhoods of these illegal grows.”

Original Article at http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article185654273.html

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[Winner] November 1, 2018 Giveaway (Episode 2)

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Brady Shepherd wins our 2nd Rate.Review.Win! Giveaway!

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Automatic Weapons to host November CannaMaps Giveaway!

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Automatic Weapons | CannaMaps

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Will mega marijuana deal get approval in New York?

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Will mega marijuana deal get approval in New York?

ALBANY — The planned merger of two of the nation’s largest cannabis companies is being closely watched by industry insiders in New York who are wondering just how state regulators are going to handle an acquisition that, on its face, seems to violate state law.

MedMen Enterprises and PharmaCann announced the $682 million deal to stockholders last week, noting that the acquisition would create the nation’s largest cannabis company with licenses to operate 79 facilities across a dozen states, including two cultivation facilities and eight medical marijuana dispensaries in New York.

The only catch?

New York Public Health Law, which allows marijuana for medical use only, prohibits a registered marijuana organization from owning and operating more than four dispensaries in the state. The provision was designed to prevent market domination, even as some argue it limits access for patients who must travel to far-flung destinations to get their medicine.

In response to that concern, the state last year doubled the number of medical marijuana organizations allowed to operate statewide from five to 10 — a move that also doubled the number of allowed dispensaries statewide from 20 to 40.

The four-dispensary-per-company limit remains, however.

MedMen, a Los Angeles-based company known for its high-end marijuana stores, would acquire the assets and licenses of Illinois-based PharmaCann in the stock deal, though it must gain regulatory approval from local and state authorities in each of the markets where those assets are held.

“We are in talks with the regulators in all of the jurisdictions impacted by this acquisition, including New York,” said MedMen spokesman Daniel Yi. “The first step in any acquisition is for the two parties to agree to the terms and enter into a binding contract. Then you go seek approvals from all the relevant regulators. We have begun that process now.”

New York’s Department of Health, which oversees the state’s still-nascent medical marijuana program, said Monday that any merger proposal submitted to the agency for approval must be in compliance with state law. There are also requirements regarding ownership changes, said department spokeswoman Jill Montag.

“Regulations prohibit a registered organization from changing the composition of its ownership without prior written approval of the Department of Health,” she said. “MedMen and PharmaCann do not have approval from the department to conduct this transaction, and at this time the department has insufficient information to determine if approval can be granted.”

MedMen said it expects the transaction to close within six months to a year. It declined to speculate on its plans should New York reject the deal.

“It would not be proper for us to get ahead of the process,” Yi said. “We are currently in talks with regulators and we feel confident about the outcomes.”

In a news release issued Monday, MedMen said that it will use “commercially reasonable efforts” to transition licenses to a third party if it is unable to gain regulatory approvals within a two-year time span, with proceeds going to the company and its investors.

Founded in 2014 in Oak Park, Ill., PharmaCann was one of the five original organizations registered to operate grow sites and retail stores in New York, which went live with its medical marijuana program in January 2016.

The firm quickly became a major player in the industry, and today is considered one of the nation’s leading providers of medical cannabis with operations in Illinois, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts, and planned expansions in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Its facilities in New York include a cultivation center in Orange County and dispensaries in Albany, the Bronx, and Central and Western New York.

MedMen, meanwhile, had become a major player of its own, primarily out west, selling both recreational and medical marijuana. It entered the New York market last year when it bought out Bloomfield Industries, one of five original organizations licensed to operate in the state.

But it didn’t garner much attention until this past spring, when MedMen opened its first dispensary in Manhattan on pricey Fifth Avenue. The move appeared to be a gamble that New York would soon legalize recreational marijuana, since the state’s tightly regulated medical marijuana program is small by industry standards and unlikely to generate sizable revenues without significant expansion.

Indeed, New York appears poised to jump on the recreational bandwagon. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in January ordered a study into a regulated, adult-use program, and by June the Department of Health concluded such a program would have more positives than negatives.

A task force is currently researching and crafting legislation for consideration in the upcoming 2019 legislative session, and public hearings on the matter are being held statewide.

MedMen said Monday that it has consistently advocated for full legalization of marijuana, as well as an increase in the number of licenses and dispensaries.

“We believe that legal, regulated cannabis leads to safer, healthier and happier communities,” Yi said.

Original Article at https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Will-mega-marijuana-deal-get-approval-in-New-York-13311377.php

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