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San Jose moves to shut down two churches selling marijuana

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San Jose moves to shut down two churches selling marijuana

San Jose is about to crack down on two churches that apparently are selling marijuana despite not having permits to do so, Councilwoman Devora “Dev” Davis said Monday.

In an email, Davis told the Resident that the city attorney’s office “is preparing to take court action to shut down both illegal dispensaries.” She was referring to Coachella Valley Church at 2142 The Alameda and Oklevueha Native American Church of South Bay at 265 Meridian Ave.

“It’s a priority for me, so I will be doing everything I can to shut down illegal pot clubs, regardless of whether they call themselves churches or not,” Davis said. For the past few years, the city has allowed only 16 cannabis clubs to operate as long as they have permits and pay sales and business taxes.

Davis said City Attorney Rick Doyle told her the two churches “have been in the hopper as part of the regular process of shutting down illegal dispensaries as they pop up.”

Staff and members of Coachella Valley Church, which opened in May, previously told the Resident sales and use of cannabis are exempt under the banner of religious freedom. Members use marijuana both in the downstairs chapel and on the church’s rooftop lounge as part of their Rastafari practice, they said.

“It helps me to clarify my own mind, to get to my sense of purpose and start living my truth,” Grant Atwell, a shaman who also goes by his Native American name Star Touches Earth, said in a recent interview. Atwell occasionally speaks at the church’s weekly services and advocates the spiritual and medical use of marijuana.

“The majority of adults have come across it in their lifetime,” Atwell said. “However, we have to use it appropriately, in a good way for medical and sacred ceremony.”

Coachella director Donny Lords previously said the church’s nonprofit status means its marijuana sales are non-taxable.

Oklevueha Native American Church of South Bay also claims the same right to sell non-taxed marijuana products to its members.

Davis said the city can’t do anything about members smoking marijuana on private church property but churches’ nonprofit status don’t give them a loophole or exemption from paying the city’s marijuana business tax.

“The cannabis tax applies whether you are a legal or not-legal dispensary,” Davis said. “They’re basically violating law if they don’t pay taxes on cannabis sales, even if they’re not a dispensary.”

Lords has described the sales as “donations,” but according to the state Board of Equalization, “a seller of any tangible personal property is liable for the sales tax whether they collect the tax reimbursement from their customer or if they don’t collect any tax.”

“When selling items for a ‘suggested donation’, we would consider these sales subject to sales tax,” Paul Cambra, spokesman for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, said in an email.

“A taxpayer could sell these items on a ‘tax-included basis,’ which would make it seem to the purchaser like they aren’t collecting tax,” Cambra added. “But if they are operating without a seller’s permit, then they are not following the law.”

Last year, San Jose collected $10.5 million in marijuana business taxes alone, not counting sales taxes from actual transactions, according to city officials.

Davis said she is also worried about where and how the marijuana sold at the churches is grown and produced. However, some items sold at Coachella were the same brands as those sold at several legal dispensaries that this reporter visited.

“I’m concerned about the product they’re distributing,” she added. “We have regulations about the product itself to keep people safe.”

Coachella, which was recently inspected by code enforcement officials, and Oklevueha Native American Church could both face fines of up to $50,000 for each day they are open.

Davis reminded residents that both medical and recreational users still need to be 21 or older to buy pot in San Jose when Proposition 64, which makes the sale of recreational pot in California legal, goes into effect Jan. 1.

Original Article at http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/11/17/san-jose-city-moves-to-shut-down-two-churches-selling-pot/

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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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