2018 was a monumental year for the cannabis industry and Green Consulting Partners (GCP). This past year GCP has worked with clients to complete over 30 state and local cannabis business licenses. In December GCP’s client, Pleasure Med, was awarded four of the industry’s most highly-sought after and lucrative cannabis licenses in the United States. West Hollywood’s highly competitive licensing process, coupled with the staggering volume of applications submitted, turned out to be a proving ground for Green Consulting Partners – now undeniably one of the premier cannabis business licensing and consulting firms. As the cannabis industry ventures into 2019, we would like to recap industry developments in 2018 and look forward to what the upcoming year has in store for active and prospective cannabis businesses.
Throughout 2018 the cannabis industry saw nations, states, counties, and cities jump on the cannabis bandwagon by passing cannabis legislation allowing for the establishment of some form of regulated cannabis program. The industry has seen countries across the world, including Canada and Thailand, either legalize cannabis for recreational-use or take a more liberal view on regulations governing medical cannabis and its use. As more and more countries begin to look at cannabis favorably, the cannabis industry seems to be heading towards international acceptance. In the upcoming years we are likely to see multi-national trade and health organizations re-evaluate their treatment of cannabis – the anticipated policy reform is encouraging for industry proponents and operators.
Hemp & CBD Update
In the United States, lawmakers passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which expands national Industrial Hemp laws, allowing for States to implement larger Industrial Hemp programs than what was allowed under previous legislation. This new program will provide an opportunity for farmers to produce hemp and its derivative compounds, such as CBD, within states that have introduced an Industrial Hemp program. The bill also allows for interstate commerce of hemp and hemp derivatives, which is a huge win for both the cannabis and industrial hemp industries. For more information on the United States’ 2018 Farm Bill see GCP’s 2018 Farm Bill article.
CBD has served as somewhat of a battering ram for the cannabis industry and has been a hot button issue for several years, but increasingly so with the expansion of legalized cannabis both domestically and internationally. Accordingly, GCP has written a few articles on CBD including the majority of this year’s approved California CBD bills. First, SB 1409 will allow the state to more broadly regulate the Industrial hemp industry in California. The bill will allow more farmers to sign up with state hemp pilot programs to begin producing hemp and its derivatives. AB 2914 prohibits the use of THC and CBD in alcoholic beverages, curbing the buzz around what could’ve been a highly lucrative cannabis infused alcohol market. Lastly, AB 2215 established guidelines on how veterinarians may consult their patient’s owners about the use of CBD in treating animals.
Overall, the Farm Bill and various Hemp-related CBD legislation at the national and state levels offer hope that similar cannabis legislation will be introduced in the coming year. Stay tuned to GCP’s industry news blog for further information on emerging state Hemp and CBD programs.
State Cannabis Market Developments
In 2019 the US cannabis industry will encounter sustained growth and increased momentum. Back in November, our 2018 November Cannabis Ballot Measures provided an overview of a few states and California jurisdictions that will be permitting legal cannabis businesses. As the new year is upon us, we want to provide a snapshot of some prospective states and local jurisdictions that will be moving forward with implementing or broadening their cannabis programs.
Michigan voters approved recreational cannabis back in November 2018. However, the state will need some time before they begin to issue licenses, but Michigan believes it will see recreational products hitting the shelves in 2020.
Missouri voters approved one of three cannabis measures on the ballot in November, which allows the state to implement a medical marijuana program. Missouri is licensing cultivations, manufacturers and dispensaries under its medical marijuana program. Missouri is scheduled to publish its Rules and Regulations in early June, with licenses being accepted as early as August of 2019.
Our firm will be providing updates regarding cannabis licensing in these states and other emergent markets as their programs get set to unfold.
California Cannabis Synopsis
California remains the world’s largest cannabis market and there continues to be considerable enthusiasm surrounding the state’s cannabis business opportunities and regulations.
From a regulatory standpoint, California has passed several bills this past year that introduce new protocols, impose stricter regulations or lighten previous guidelines governing cannabis in California. Two bills passed this year are geared towards licensing. SB 1459 was created in response to the overwhelming number of cannabis cultivation applications the state received in 2018. The bill allows the state to issue provisional licenses until 2020 to deal with the backlog of state annual applications. AB 2020 was created to establish temporary cannabis events within jurisdictions that opt to allow them. The bill imposes regulations on cannabis events similar to those imposed on annual business licensees. Some of these regulations include product testing, distribution of product to the event by distributers only, as well as track and trace requirements.
Furthermore, many California jurisdictions have approved some or all cannabis activities within city and unincorporated county areas beginning in 2019. The following summarizes a few important jurisdictions that will be opening up for application submittals in early 2019.
The City of Pasadena has expressed that they will be accepting screening applications between January 1st and January 31st, 2019. Due to the approaching deadline it is extremely important that any prospective Pasadena applicant has their screening application finalized as soon as possible. We predict that Pasadena will be on par with West Hollywood when it comes to competitive licensing, so it is prudent that prospective applicants partner with a highly experienced and qualified team in order to submit a competitive proposal to the City of Pasadena.
Chula Vista, located in San Diego County, has announced that they will begin accepting cannabis business applications between January 14th and January 18th, 2019. Chula Vista has restrictive owner and managerial requirements that make it difficult for many prospective applicants to be competitive in the licensing process. Due to these requirements it is advised that, if you are seeking a cannabis business license in Chula Vista, you organize a team that will meet the city’s requirements and exceed its expectations.
As many of you already know, Los Angeles finally announced that they will be accepting applications for Phase 3 in Spring of 2019. Phase 3 includes a social equity component, and social equity applicants will be able to verify their Social Equity status in early 2019. Accordingly, any social equity applicant wishing to obtain a license in LA should obtain the necessary records for Social Equity verification prior to the city opening up the screening process. For those who do not qualify for social equity it will be important to find a social equity partner to increase the chances of obtaining a license in the City of Los Angeles – the largest cannabis market in the world.
Unincorporated Riverside County began accepting cannabis business applications for distribution, testing and wholesale nurseries on December 26th, 2018. Additionally, the county has expressed that it will have a pre-registration window for cannabis retail and cultivations that will be open from January 1st to January 14th. The city will approve 50 cultivations and 19 retailers in the first year of licensing, so if you are looking to obtain these licenses in Riverside you will have to make the pre-registration window which closes shortly. Riverside has also voiced that they will be accepting cannabis applications in subsequent years, so if you miss 2019’s window there will be future opportunities.
The City of San Luis Obispo has approved every type of cannabis activity under Ordinance 1647. The city will be accepting applications between January 7th and January 29th, 2019, and the applications will be ranked based on the city’s predetermined rubric. Due to the lengthy requirements for applicants, San Luis Obispo will be a difficult city to acquire a cannabis business license unless an applicant meets all of the requirements set forth in the scoring guidelines. Again, due to the upcoming deadline, if you haven’t started an application, then it is imperative that you get started on it as soon as possible so you can compile a competitive application within the city’s licensing timeline.
As the cannabis industry enters 2019 there are some key takeaways from the developments of this past year. More and more countries are favoring cannabis use for medical and therapeutic benefits, and this trend will continue with further research into the health and wellness benefits of cannabis and its derivatives. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill promises some big changes in 2019 and beyond for the industrial hemp and CBD industries in the United States. Lastly, there are a number of states, counties and cities that will be implementing some form of cannabis licensing program this year. GCP is excited about the trajectory of the cannabis industry, and we look forward to working with cannabis business operators and prospective cannabis businesses towards a successful 2019.