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Friday, March 2, 2018

National News for March 2018 - by Dolan F.

Girl Scout sells 300 boxes of cookies outside a California marijuana dispensary

This Girl Scout knows her customers well.

The young entrepreneur set up shop outside of Urbn Leaf, a recreational and medical marijuana dispensary in San Diego. According to local news outlet Fox 4, the girl sold more than 300 boxes in about six hours.

Urbn Leaf posted this photo on Instagram, encouraging its clientele to grab some "Girl Scout Cookies with your GSC." (GSC is a strain of weed named after girl scout cookies, and is known for its "sweet and earthy" flavor.)

"I think our customers loved it," said Savannah Rakofsky, a representative for Urbn Leaf. "They went out and bought boxes."

According to Rakofsky, there was an "added value" to visiting the dispensary and getting the chance to buy Girl Scout cookies. Although it didn't necessarily bring in customers, it did drum up publicity for Urbn Leaf. Rakofsky posted the photo as she was leaving for her lunch break, and there were already news teams at the store when she came back.

Rakofsky also said there's a possibility of this becoming a trend.

"The funny thing is, after the news story ran, we had more Girl Scouts show up over the weekend," Rakofsky said.

Although Girl Scouts are only allowed to sell at "approved sites" — which doesn't include pot shops — this particular scout got around the rule by selling cookies from her wagon, and by moving up and down the sidewalk instead of staying in front of the store. Alison Bushan, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts San Diego, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that this tactic was "gray area."

It wouldn't be the first time a Girl Scout racked in sales in front of a dispensary. In 2014, one savvy scout sold cookies outside of a San Francisco cannabis clinic. Girl Scouts of Northern California actually condoned it, because "the mom decided this was a place she was comfortable with her daughter being at."

With tracking system hobbling, marijuana industry scrambles to keep pot on shelves

Widespread technology issues with the state's new pot-tracking system have kept marijuana growers and sellers scrambling, and store managers say they're beginning to worry about
increasingly sparse shelves.

Washington state requires marijuana products to be tracked from seed-to-sale, or from when its planted to when it’s sold to a pot user, through what it calls a traceability system. Last Thursday, the state switched to a new contractor, MJ Freeway, to provide a new software and data hub for traceability.

The transition to Leaf Data Systems has been anything but smooth, frustrated pot growers and sellers say.

“Right now, it sort of seems like the whole industry is a wreck statewide,” said Steve Lee, who owns two marijuana stores with his wife and is also a city councilman in Kennewick.

“It’s been a rough week so far,” said Lindsay Short, of Db3, a Seattle company that makes cannabis-infused candies and other edibles. “We’ve probably shipped 30 or 40 sales orders and had only five get through the system.”

The traceability system serves as something of a hub for pot transactions. It allows state regulators to watch the entire industry and flag the suspicious movements of plants or products. Every plant grown is supposed to be recorded in the system, documented when processed into an edible product or packaged and then recorded when sold to customers. Wholesale transactions between growers and retailers are also noted, along with shipping information.

The state was supposed to switch to a new data system last November, but that was delayed after the company initially selected for contract negotation by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) withdrew from consideration.

“They [MJ Freeway] only had between July and October 31 to put together their system. It wasn’t ready,” said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the LCB. For the last three months, the state has been using a contingency system in which pot businesses submitted spreadsheet files with their traceability data.

Now, pot proprietors report myriad, different issues with the newly launched seed-to-sale system.

Some have struggled to get logged in at all. Some growers say the system has been scrambling shipping orders, and sometimes automatically changing which store is supposed to receive the marijuana. Some store managers, meanwhile, say they have not been able to receive shipping manifests, and don’t feel comfortable buying wholesale pot without that required documentation. Some reported that the disruption halted business altogether since the first of the month; others reported that it slowed business down or made simple tasks cumbersome.

“By and large, we just can’t get product right now. We’re basically selling off our back stock,” said Jason McKee, the General Manager of Ganja Goddess, a pot shop in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.  He said shelves are beginning to look more sparse, and if the technology issues don’t allow a fully-functioning wholesale market soon, some stores could face shortages.

Alex Cooley, the vice president of Solstice, a marijuana grow, said his company was having to re-label each plant with a new barcode because of technical issues.

She said other problems stem from integration issues with third-party companies whose software connects with the Leaf Data System and is used by marijuana companies for internal tracking and bookkeeping. She said it was a priority to get that third-party software integrated.

Marijuana business owners have flooded both the Liquor and Cannabis Board and MJ Freeway with calls, trying to troubleshoot issues.

Horton acknowledged it could take hours to reach someone at MJ Freeway, but said the company had called “all hands on deck” to answer questions.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill among pot proprietors fueled a feeling of chaos within the industry.

“It’s a nonstop mess of emails, text messages and phone calls, between everyone,” Lee said. “It reminds me a lot of high school kids passing gossip about, like, sex ed … no one knows anything, but maybe one kid, and it’s telephone from there. We’re all feeling around in the dark.”

Joby Sewell, who owns Seattle BubbleWorks, a pot processing company, said smaller companies could face cash flow issues because of the disrupted market.

“Most of us are living sale to sale, and you’re talking about a week where you can’t get any sales,” he said. “I have employees. Now, I’m not sending anybody home yet, but I thought about having people take a few days off.”

Big Money Squares Off with Trump Admin on Cannabis

The wealthy Koch brothers, who have tossed their coveted millions at (mostly) Republican politicians over the years, recently issued a statement on the current administration’s stance on cannabis and states’ rights.

The Koch brothers argue that "citizens have spoken on marijuana" and that the United State Justice Department can "choose to be on the side of individual liberty and states’ rights" by not interfering.  "That Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Republican appointee in a Republican administration, is undoing a Democratic appointee’s work from a Democratic administration is irrelevant," the statement claims. "Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized the decision, and for good reason: It does little to improve the lives of people in our communities."

The Koch’s' public disagreement with the Trump administration over marijuana could offer Republican electives an advantage in supporting legal marijuana at the state level without risking major GOP donor support.

 The statement also branded the war on drugs as "misguided" and advocates a "new, smarter approach to drug policy."

"The administration would be better suited working with members of Congress to reform outdated sentencing laws," the statement reads. "However well-intentioned these laws were upon implementation, they have ruined lives, torn apart families and communities, and have burdened taxpayers, doing little to keep people safe." They have invested heavily into the cannabis and
hemp industry.

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