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Washington Cannabis: What to Watch for in 2021

Because this is the beginning of the year, and because I have had many clients ask me about the status of Washington’s cannabis market lately, I wanted to weigh in on my predictions for Washington cannabis developments in 2021. WSLCB Rules Even though we would consider Washington’s marijuana market quite mature when compared to many

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Because this is the beginning of the year, and because I have had many clients ask me about the status of Washington’s cannabis market lately, I wanted to weigh in on my predictions for Washington cannabis developments in 2021.

WSLCB Rules

Even though we would consider Washington’s marijuana market quite mature when compared to many other states, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) remains vigilant (and in some cases, militant!) and continues to seek input from stakeholders as it refines its policies and procedures. In early January, the WSLCB adopted a slew of rules that will impact licensees in 2021:

     a.     Emergency Rules (WAC 314-55-1055) – Marijuana Product Disclosure Form (Effective January 6, 2021)

This rule requires all manufacturers of THC products to disclose all compounds used in production and processing and is specifically targeted to root out any noncompliance with the Vitamin E Acetate Ban (see below).

     b.     Emergency Rules (WAC 314-55-1065) – LCB Vitamin E Acetate Prohibition (formerly LCB Vitamin E Acetate Ban) (Effective January 6, 2021)

This rule extends the ban on vitamin E acetate.

     c.     Emergency Rules (WAC 314-55-077) – Marijuana Processor License – Privileges, Requirements and Fees (Effective January 6, 2021)

This extends the emergency rule permitting enforcement action against any licensed marijuana processor that fails to comply with the ban on vitamin E acetate.

     d.     Emergency Rules (WAC 314-55-079) – Marijuana Retailer License – Privileges, Requirements and Fees (Effective January 6, 2021)

This extends the emergency rule permitting enforcement action against any licensed marijuana retailer that fails to comply with the ban on vitamin E acetate.

     e.     Adopted Permanent Rule (CR-103P)  Certificate of Compliance (relating to location compliance)

This rule implements legislation requiring the WSLCB to issue a certificate of compliance for a marijuana business (a) applicant and (b) license holder under certain circumstances. For the applicant, the certificate will be issued if the business premises meets the statutory buffer zone requirements at the time the license application was filed. For the license holder, the certificate will be issued if the business premises meets the statutory buffer zone at the time the WSLCB receives the license holder’s application to receive a certificate of compliance.

The certificate provides a safe harbor in that it allows the licensee to operate the business at the location even if an otherwise disqualifying factor later emerges regarding the statutory buffer zone.

WA Task Force on Social Equity

The Washington task force on social equity was born from legislation enacted in 2020 in the wake of the mass social justice protests. The task force is in its infancy, and its developments are being closely covered by the Cannabis Observer.

The task force recently adopted operating principles focusing on anti-racism and will be creating its first working groups to address disproportionate impact areas, technical assistance, and license types in Washington’s marijuana market. Its goal is to address the racial inequity in the initial licensing rounds in part by making up to 34 marijuana retailer licenses available from existing licenses (forfeited, revoked, or canceled) and available licenses not yet issued by WSLCB. $1.1MM has also been appropriated to assist applicants with the licensing process and related business plan assistance.

We can expect to see significant changes in the retail market in 2021 as the task force continues its work and the WSLCB complies with its legislative mandate. We can also expect increased education especially focused on communities and areas that have been historically disproportionately affected by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws.

Cannabis Compliance Consultation

The WSLCB recently announced the composition of its Cannabis Compliance Consulting Team, which allows licensees to request a site visit for help identifying areas of potential non-compliance with an aim toward encouraging voluntary compliance rather than licensees waiting for the WSLCB to discover and initiate some type of formal enforcement. These 11 consultants are spread across the state and are available to help producers, processors, retailers, researchers, and transporters. Even though they cannot issue administrative violations, we expect to see a tepid response during 2021 from most licensees who are loath to invite any governmental or quasi-governmental authorities into their business for compliance related matters.

Enforcement Actions

The WSLCB made a big announcement in late 2020 regarding its shutting down the cannabis testing lab Praxis for falsifying test results. The WSLCB will continue to root out fraud in all aspects of the marketplace. For those interested, there will be dialogue sessions on cannabis testing where you can provide your input.

New Financing Arrangements

In the wake of the social equity program rollout we expect to see increased investment as financiers lend funds and invest in up to a 49% equity stake in new social equity retail licensees. As a reminder, check out this post regarding the difference between a true party of interest and a financier. Different disclosure rules apply to these parties as relates to licensees, and you do not want to be the license holder, the true party of interest, or the financier on the WSLCB’s wrong side.

Industry Consolidation

We have blogged in the past about the WSLCB’s overreaching into license holder qualifications and restrictions, and nowhere is this more relevant than in instances where WSLCB regulations clash with industry consolidation. In the past few months we have been involved in many discussions and deals regarding industry consolidation, where MSOs (multi-state operators) and international cannabis companies (especially Canadian public companies) are trying to buy and sell interests in WSLCB licensees. We can expect more of this in 2021 and more WSLCB resistance to MSOs and foreign funds investing in the Washington cannabis market.

Hemp Program

Washington’s hemp program is quite mature because of the state’s experience with the marijuana industry. The WSLCB continues to hold its ground on CBD products it considers within its purview, which is why food and vapor products containing CBD are only permitted within the state legal marijuana market. No significant changes will happen on this front until the FDA comes out with more guidance on the status of CBD and related cannabinoids.

Litigation and Dispute Resolution

We expect to see an increase in disputes among license holders, owners, financiers, suppliers, and customers in the industry. This is due in part to Covid fallout and part to industry maturity. People who engaged in transactions without a lawyer or without a good lawyer involved will be fighting over both their business relationships and the poor contracts that underpin them (if they even bothered to put a contract down on paper).

We do not expect the WSLCB to let up at all in 2021, but there are many ways for Washington and out-of-state cannabis businesses to thrive within the marketplace this year.

The post Washington Cannabis: What to Watch for in 2021 appeared first on Harris Bricken.

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Growing

How to Identify Pests in Your Cannabis Grow

Experienced and novice cannabis growers alike understand that pests can ruin a crop, no matter how well watered, fed, or tended. One of the keys to making sure that your plants grow into healthy, robust, and consumable cannabis is to keep a close eye o…

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Experienced and novice cannabis growers alike understand that pests can ruin a crop, no matter how well watered, fed, or tended. One of the keys to making sure that your plants grow into healthy, robust, and consumable cannabis is to keep a close eye on any pests that might infiltrate your grow, then take the appropriate steps to eradicate them without ruining your garden. Not only will it help keep the plants alive, thriving plants have more energy to produce trichomes and terpenes, making for better bud

Let’s take a look at some common pests found on cannabis plants, how to identify them, and lastly, get rid of them for good. With just a little maintenance and vigilance, your cannabis garden can be pest-free.

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Common Pests Found on Cannabis Plants

According to the Smithsonian Institution, there are likely more unclassified insects in the world than classified, and the running guess is somewhere between 2 million and 30 million. Thus, this is by no means a definitive list of bugs that feed on cannabis but should serve as a good starting point for most pest problems. 

Caterpillars

Before a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly and flits away, it can be very hazardous to your cannabis plants. You know that book The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Turns out it’s a true story about how caterpillars eat everything in sight, including that tasty cannabis. Caterpillars can be very dangerous because they tend to go unnoticed, especially if they are a borer caterpillar, meaning they burrow into the plant and eat it from the inside out. But even caterpillars on the exterior will nosh away, potentially causing great damage to your plants. 

To figure out if caterpillars are ruining your plants, inspect the leaves weekly for holes from feeding, droppings on the leaves that look like tiny black specks, holes, and damage to the stems, and yellowing on upper leaves.

Natural enemies of caterpillars are wasps and praying mantises, and introducing those to the environment could make a difference. These options are typically easier for outdoor grows, but can also work indoors with some preparation. Other interventions include using a product like Bug Blaster spray or neem oil (which you can make at home).

Neem oil use has been controversial in some cannabis circles, as there is a belief among some that it may play a role in CHS (Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome), however, no definitive statements can be made without more research. The connection between neem oil and cannabis hyperemesis syndrome has yet to be fully explored or verified, but it’s still good to be aware and to be sure to closely follow usage directions.

Aphids

Even house plants have the occasional plague of aphids. Tiny and red, yellow, black, pale, green, or brown, these bugs can be easy to miss because they cling to the underside of leaves, reproduce quickly, and drain your plant of nutrients. Outdoor grows tend to fare a little better in the battle against aphids since natural predators are present, but indoor plants can be decimated quickly by these teensy pests. Not only do they siphon nutrients away from the plant, they leave a sweet substance called “honeydew” that attracts other insects and turns the leaves black and moldy

Aphids and their honeydew on a plant

The honeydew left behind from aphids leads to further damages to the plant by attracting even more pests. photo credit

Because that honeydew attracts other pests, if you begin to notice a lot of ants or ladybugs coming around your plants, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re well into an aphid problem. Aphids can be hard to shake, but wasps and ladybugs are natural predators. Nonetheless, you should visually inspect the underside of plant leaves at least once a week. If introducing predators doesn’t ameliorate the problem, there are a couple of natural solutions to get rid of cannabis pests to try, like garlic or tomato leaf water. 

Spider Mites

Spider mites are like the supervillains of cannabis pests: uber reproductive, zombie-like in their ability to come back from what you thought was death, capable of spinning webs while eating everything in sight then completely disappearing before turning up again – they’re nearly impossible to spot and even harder to eradicate. Spotting spider mites is difficult because they are minuscule, but doing a daily inspection of both sides of your plant leaves could help to prevent a massive infestation.

Signs of spider mites begins with speckles, then a browning or yellowing of leaves, and premature leaf death.

If any parts of your plant are covered in fine webbing, that’s a sure sign you’re in a bad spot. The best way to avoid mites is to stay vigilant with your leaf inspections. If you do notice signs of mites, try introducing a fan into the environment. Strong air currents make it difficult for mites to breed. Spider mites also prefer temperatures of 60-80 degrees, so experimenting with temperature might also slow an infestation down. Since mites are likely to come back, consider a spray like Azamax or Spinosad to get rid of them for good (again, be sure to follow use directions carefully).

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are just as hungry as caterpillars, but their gourmet meal is from the stem and roots of your plants and not the leaves. Beginning at the topsoil level, both larvae and adults will munch their way down into the root system, badly impact plant drainage, and compromise the structural stability of your plants. However, they’re nearly impossible to spot because they are dark in color, as is soil.

Fungus Gnats

Although fungus gnats are small, the damage they leave behind is mighty. photo credit

Seeing swarms of gnats near the base of your plant is one sign you’ve got a fungus gnat problem. Other symptoms are stems that weaken and simply fall over, adult plants that start to droop, wilt, spot, or yellow, or plants that stop growing altogether. 

Fungus gnats love moist conditions, so keeping the top layer of soil dry is a smart preventative measure. Some other hacks to try include placing a cloth on top of the soil to prevent female gnats from laying eggs or laying a sticky pad near the plant’s base to stick larvae. You could also mix some peroxide and water and spray it around the area of gnat infestation. A common-sense tactic for an indoor grow is to put screens on the windows and the doors closed to keep gnats out. 

Why Pests and Bugs Are Attracted to Cannabis

Something to keep in mind about pests, in general, is that they love a monoculture or a space dedicated to growing only one crop. Researchers from the University of California Davis theorize that if an insect makes itself at home in that one crop, it has a large food supply, creating an all-you-can-eat kind of scenario for the pest, making it that much harder to eradicate. As you likely don’t want to introduce other plants into a cannabis garden (for a number of reasons), this issue will always exist to some degree when dealing with weed. 

This is why, as mentioned, another option is to introduce other beneficial insects. Not only do they prey on harmful pests, but they are also an excellent chemical-free pest control option. The bugs already want to be there, you’re just bringing them to the dinner table. 

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The Wrap Up

Identifying pests should be a regular ritual, just like watering and delivering nutrients to your plants. When you keep them pest-free, all that hard growing work will hopefully pay off in healthy and efficacious plants. Once you’ve harvested, you can move on to other fun challenges like doing a proper cure for your cannabis harvest, and how to store your cannabis stash


How do you deal with pests in your cannabis grow? Share your techniques in the comments!

Photo Credit: ilovegrowingmarijuana (license)

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Connecticut

Governor of Connecticut Pushes For Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis In Budget Address

Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont proposed legalizing recreational cannabis in his budget address this week.

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Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont proposed legalizing recreational cannabis in his budget address this week.

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News

South Dakota Governor Delays Implementation of Medical Marijuana Initiative

It seems that Governor Kristi Noem isn’t quite done derailing voter-approved cannabis initiatives.

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It seems that Governor Kristi Noem isn’t quite done derailing voter-approved cannabis initiatives.

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