The Chronicles April 2018

State and Local News

State of Oregon sued to restrict commercial marijuana operations

Case stems from disagreements with Josephine County officials

Source: The Associated Press

Officials in an Oregon county who have tried to restrict commercial marijuana production sued the state in federal court, asserting state laws that made pot legal are pre-empted by federal law that criminalize it.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court escalated a long-running battle between the state and the Josephine County Board of Commissioners.

The panel says pot farms are a nuisance. The county is in a prime marijuana-producing region of Southern Oregon.

Voters in the state legalized marijuana with a 2014 ballot measure, prompting a “green rush” as pot entrepreneurs set up shop in the fertile, rainy, mountainous area.

County Commissioner Dan DeYoung has said rural residents, many of them retirees, are fed up with the proliferating farms in areas zoned as rural residential.

“The good people are leaving, and the marijuana people are staying,” DeYoung said, according to the Daily Courier newspaper.

The commission in December tried to ban commercial pot farming on rural residential lots of five acres or less and to drastically reduce the size of some larger grow sites.

But the state Land Use Board of Appeals later put the restrictions on hold, saying the county failed to properly notify land owners.

Pete Gendron, a marijuana grower in the county and president of the Oregon SunGrowers’ Guild advocacy group, said the growers have invested large sums to start operations and were shocked when the county tried to restrict them.

One grower had a letter from the county dating back a year or more stating that cannabis cultivation was farm use and was allowed, Gendron said.

“He invested a half-million dollars in the county,” Gendron said. “He would not have made those investments if not for those assurances.”

The lawsuit by the commission contends the state cannot dictate marijuana regulations over county restrictions because marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Any person in any state who possesses, distributes or manufactures marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, or attempts or conspires to do so, is committing a federal crime,” Wally Hicks, a lawyer for the county, wrote in the lawsuit that names state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum as a defendant, along with the state.

Rosenblum’s spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said she can’t comment on pending litigation but noted in an email: “We will defend the state laws of Oregon related to marijuana.”


Consumer news

Cannabis sales soon may surpass soda

Market research forecasts the switch by 2030

Source: The Washington Post

Pot may be on its way to beating pop.

The U.S. legal cannabis industry is expected to reach $75 billion in sales by 2030, according to research firm Cowen & Co. That’s almost as large as the North American carbonated soft drink market in 2017.

With the industries’ diverging trajectories, weed may be poised to take the mantle as the larger industry. Cannabis is growing rapidly as more states legalize the plant. Nine states and Washington, D.C. now allow for recreational pot use. That means more than one in five American adults can smoke, vape, eat or drink it however they please. Cowen previously predicted that the market, assuming federal legalization, would reach $50 billion by 2026. That seems small now, according to analyst Vivien Azer.

“New forecasts suggest that the market is already that size,” she said in a note Wednesday.

Meanwhile, soda sales are on the decline as increasingly health-conscious consumers eschew sugary drinks. Per capita carbonated soft drink consumption declined to a 31-year low in the U.S. in 2016, according to Beverage-Digest, a trade publication. The market in North America fell to $76.4 billion last year from $78.3 billion in 2016, data from Euromonitor International shows.

While soda may be eclipsed, the industry that’s hearing alarm bells is alcohol. Binge-drinking rates declined in states with legal weed compared with states that allow only medical marijuana and those prohibiting any kind of pot, according to the note.

“We have consistently argued that cannabis and alcohol are substitute social lubricants,” Azer said.

Got THC on tap?

Blue Moon creator plans new brew with weed

Source: The Sacramento Bee

In states with legal marijuana, some Americans might ditch their favorite IPAs later this year for a little THC.

The maker of Blue Moon beer, Keith Villa, is planning three weed-based beverages, containing marijuana formulas intended to give consumers a buzz without containing alcohol, USA Today recently reported.

The weed-beer hybrid will debut in late 2018 in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Villa plans to bring it to other pot-friendly states, including California, soon after, according to ABC7.

The new drinks won’t be released through Blue Moon, but through Villa’s new company called CERIA.

Villa won’t be the first major brewer to introduce marijuana elements to traditionally alcoholic drinks. Lagunitas launched SuperCritical Ale, which contains essential cannabis oils, near the end of 2017. It was available in California, but according to the company website, is currently “all tapped out.”

What distinguishes Villa’s new creations is that they’ll contain marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC. By federal law, brewers can’t put marijuana in beers, part of the reason CERIA’s beverages will be nonalcoholic. For what it’s worth, though, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

Weed-based, alcohol-free beers come with the promise of reducing, if not eliminating, hangovers.

“You can almost dial in the sensations that you want,” Villa told Forbes. He told USA Today that the drinks are designed to impact consumers at the same pace as alcohol kicks in for regular beer drinkers.

Cannabis-alcohol crossovers are a popular concept — popular enough that they were discussed in a seminar at last year’s California Craft Beer Summit in Sacramento, in preparation for the state’s legalization of recreational weed.