Cookies Fit for a Claus But Baked with Cannabis

Ed’s note: This story published Dec. 23, 2011 in the Sacramento Bee’s medical marijuana advertising section.

BY ED MURRIETA

In this season of fresh-baked Christmas cookies, the creation story of
Uncle Buck’s new line of medical cannabis edibles — hand-scooped raw
cookie dough that can be purchased at medical cannabis dispensaries
and baked at home — has the ring of holiday renewal.

Founded two years ago this February, Uncle Buck’s is a
Sacramento-based maker of medical cannabis edibles — cookies and
crispy treats — that stand out for their quality and
laboratory-tested potency.
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Magnolia Primes Plasma Pump: Give Blood, Get Baked Good


BY ED MURRIETA

Still not convinced that medical cannabis dispensaries are part of the lifeblood of the communities they serve? Consider that patient members of Orangevale’s Magnolia Wellness Collective gave 25 pints of plasma in last year’s Orangevale Community Blood Drive.

Magnolia, which just became the Sacramento region’s first dispensary to unionized its employees, hopes to double the amount of donated blood this year. To prime the plasma pump, Magnolia will give its registered patients a free medicated edible from Uncle Buck’s Bakery when they donate blood at Friday’s drive. Better than the donuts and orange juice people usually get for donating blood.

Orangevale Community Blood Drive at the
Orangevale Community Center
6826 Hazel Ave., Orangevale
Friday, Oct. 28, 2pm-6pm

Here’s a map for those who want to go from the blood drive location to Magnolia Wellness Collective to get their Uncle Buck baked good.

Pot Parties in Sacramento: A Fund-Raiser, a Farewell, a Fright

BY ED MURRIETA

Two cannabis-themed events with “frightful” overtones are planned for Saturday night at two Sacramento medical cannabis dispensaries. One event is a fund-raiser for a group of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. The other event marks a dispensary’s closure as Sacramento County and the federal government put the scare on the industry.

At Common Roots Collective in south Sacramento, the cannabis activist group Americans for Safe Access hosts “Puff Puff Politics.” According to ASA’s flyer for the event, “It’s like a wine tasting but with cannabis.” Three top medical strains will be tasted, and cannabis activists will lead discussions between tastings. There’ll even be a silent auction of jack o’ lanterns carved in cannabis themes.

Tickets are $50 per person; you can buy them online. Attendees are promised swag bags of goodies. Bhang, the top-tier cannabis chocolatier, is among the sponors. The promoter told me today that other sponors, speakers and tasting panelists won’t be revealed until Friday.

Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. Common Roots is like a farmers market collective, with licensed cannabis growers offering their products directly to patients. No grams over $10. Commom Roots offers art therapy and yoga, and has hosted reggae bands and an African dance troupe in its large warehouse space, which has been blessed by a shamanic healer.

The Farmers Market could use some healing juju. The medical cannabis dispensary on the edge of the old Mather Field in Sacramento County is throwing a party on Saturday night, but instead of raising funds with a frightful holiday event, The Farmers Market, like many medical cannabis dispensaries, is being scared out of operation. Saturday’s customer appreciation party will be The Farmers Market’s last — its last party and its last day of business before it switches to a delivery-only business model.

I had the pleasure of attending The Farmers Market’s two previous customer appreciation parties in the past month. Both were fun and informative, featuring food — grilled hot dogs and polish sausage one night, a do-it-your-self nacho bar the other night — and soft drinks and snacks. One event featured edibles makers who not only offered samples of their products but offered insight into infusing cannabis into water — a simple prodedure with powerful effects. Of course, both nights offered heavy doses of bonhomie — people talking, sharing, enjoying themselves and enjoying each other’s company, the things that happen in clean, comfortable social settings. Many people were enjoying cannabis — in joints, in pipes, and vaporized in elaborate bongs that cried out to be shared, if only for their conversation-piece value.

The Farmers Market bills Saturday’s event as a Harvest Party. But, really, given the cannabis crackdown, the party marks anything but a harvest. What Sacramento County is doing — spitting in the face of a voter-approved state initiative, turning its back on jobs and tax revenue — amounts to burning your fields in the face of famine. What the federal governent is doing — withholding cannabis research approval, threatening to seize property and prosecute landowners, ensuring ever-larger profits for the pharmaceuticals industry — is a fright worth fighting.

Puff Puff Politics, a fund-raiser for Americans for Safe Access: Oct. 29, 7 p.m.-midnight, Common Roots Collective, 3039 52nd Ave., Unit B, Sacramento. Tickets: $50.

The Farmers Market Harvest Party, 7 p.m.-midnight, 3791 Bradview Drive, Sacramento.

Feds Bark and Cities Back Off on Cannabis Dispensary Approvals

One dispensary operator says this US Attorney, Benjamin Walker, scares everybody.

BY ED MURRIETA

The cities of Sacramento and Eureka are cowering as the federal government intensifies its war on medical cannabis. As the 15th anniversary of the passage of the voter-approved ballot initiative that legalized cannabis for medicinal use in California approaches, Sacramento and Eureka retreat.

The city of Sacramento, unnerved by a federal crackdown on dispensaries, abruptly suspended its process for issuing permits to dispensaries, the Sacramento Bee reports.

“As a result of the uncertain climate on medical marijuana, I have directed staff to freeze or halt the processing of applications for medical marijuana,” City Manager John Shirey said in a memo to the City Council. “As of this time, we will not accept any new applications or set future hearing dates until we receive further direction … on the legal viability of the city’s medical marijuana ordinance.”

In a memo, obtained by the Bee, Shirley cited the specter of federal action against dispensaries as a reason for suspending the permitting process. Shirey also noted a recent state appellate court ruling that found a Long Beach ordinance regulating dispensaries runs afoul of federal law, which regards marijuana as an illegal drug, medical or otherwise.

Meantime in Eureka, the largest city in cannabis-producing Humbolt County, the city council is backing down after standing up. Just weeks after opting to stay the course in the face of threatened federal action regarding its medical cannabis ordinance, Eureka is now rethinking its strategy, citing the Long Beach case.

”We will probably talk about a moratorium, at the very least,” Councilman Mike Newman told the Eureka Times-Standard, adding that the legal landscape of medical marijuana cannabis has shifted notably since the council declined to institute a moratorium on the issuance of the permits at its Oct. 4 meeting.

Eureka’s decision to reconsider its ordinance leaves one dispensary’s conditional use permit application in the lurch. In Sacramento, 33 dispensaries are in various stages of the city permit process, and only four dispensaries have been issued operating permits.

As the Bee reports, the city’s “temporary freeze” doesn’t mean that the 38 dispensaries operating in the city will have to close.

Closing the dispensaries would cut off an annual infusion of $1 million the city had counted on from a 4 perccent tax on medical cannabis dispensaries’ receipts. So far, the city has collected $280,000 in voter-approved dispensary taxes.

Even though it’s halting the permitting process, the city will continue to tax medical cannabis dispensaries — not just the four dispensaries that have been issued permits (Fruitridge Health & Wellness, All About Wellness, El Camino Wellness and Unity Non Profit Collective) but all the dispensaries whose long-term business prospects are threatened while their operating permits are in limbo.

Besides uncertainty over federal actions, including threats to seize properties of landlords who lease to dispensaries or medical cannabis cultivators, the Bee notes that cities are concerned about an Oct. 4 ruling by the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal.

The court ruled that Long Beach’s dispensary plan –- with permitting rules similar to Sacramento’s -– was an “obstacle” to federal drug law. The ruling departed from an earlier decision, by the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal, that the city of Anaheim couldn’t simply use federal law as grounds for banning dispensaries.

The Long Beach ruling came down the same day Eureka stood up to a letter from U.S. Northern District Attorney Melinda Haag, who wrote to say that her department was concerned about Eureka’s “creation of a licensing scheme that permits large-scale industrial marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution.” As the Times-Standard reports, the warned that if Eureka were to proceed with licensing dispensaries under the ordinance, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would consider taking action, including pursuing injunctions, fines, criminal prosecutions and forfeitures.

The Eureka city council, in its Oct. 4 vote, said it would stay the course in the face of this threat. The council now says it voted before it heard the news of the Long Beach ruling. Now that it’s heard the news, the city council wants more discussion on the issue.

“Had that information been placed before us (on Oct. 4), the discussion probably would have turned a different way,” councilman Newman said.

Some legal observers say the Long Beach ruling throws many cities’ ordinances into question.

“That damned U.S. attorney,” one Sacramento dispensary operator told the Bee. “He just scares the heck out of these people.”

Dear Landlord: Please Dismiss Your Dispensary, and Maybe Cough Up Your Property. Thanks, The Feds.

BY ED MURRIETA

One of my contacts in Redding sent me a copy of a letter his dispensary’s landlord received from US Attorney Benjamin Wagner, a little reminder that the government can, could and just maybe will seize the property of citizens in the feds’ war on medical cannabis.

My contact said the landlord offered to sell the building to the dispensary. Stay tuned for real estate news.

Here’s the US Attorney’s letter. It appears to be a digital image of a fax. Redactions appear to be Photoshopped, not done with one of the federal government’s brown markers.  Click on the images to view them full size.


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Like Salt for Cannabis: CBD Flavors THC’s Effects


Al Coles samples one of his Alta California tinctures.

BY ED MURRIETA

CBD is like salt.

Add a pinch of cannabidiol to tetrahydrocannabinol and, suddenly, that THC in your system responds like a tomato sprinkled with sodium — richer, balanced, complete.

“It’s a yin-and-yang relationship,” said Al Coles, founder of Alta California, a Stinson Beach company that makes medical cannabis tinctures centered on THC and CBD, two of more than 80 cannabinoids in the plant. “THC is the female: It takes you in and expands the mind. CBD is the male: It takes you out and focuses the mind.”

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that acts as both calmer and catalyst to THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that stimulates (and can over-stimulate) the mind and appetite. While both cannabinoids mitigate many ailments — seizures from MS and Parkinson’s disease, nausea in people with AIDS, cancer and Crohn’s disease, as well as chronic pain and depression in many people — THC is the cannabinoid that “messes with your head.” CBD, meanwhile, is body-centered and moderates the mind-racing and heart-racing effects THC can cause while also enhancing THC’s more pleasurable euphoric effect.

“It’s a better high,” Coles said. “That’s why I don’t do pure THC anymore.”

Holding up half-ounce bottles of tinctures high in THC and high in CBD during an interview last week at Magnolia Wellness, the Orangevale medical cannabis dispensary that carries his line of Alta California tinctures, Coles said, “There’s a whole new world of experience to be had by combining these two. I’ve been able to have a real good high feeling at much lower doses by having a little CBD in my system. A lot of people keep smoking pot while their high is going away. They say the THC is psychoactive but there’s no euphoria. CBD will bring back the euphoria.”

Alta California tinctures come in three versions: 99 percent THC and 1 percent CBD, labeled Euphoria; 80 percent CBD and 20 percent THC, labeled Healing; and 50 percent THC and 50 percent CBD, labeled Tranquility.

Coles said Euphoria works well for patients seeking relief from depression or insomnia and is especially popular with “the cannabis culture and people looking for the THC type of experience.” Healing, he said, is popular with patients who seek pain relief. And because CBD is an appetite suppressant unlike THC, Coles said his Healing product line is popular with women. Tranquility, he said, is popular with MS and Parkinson’s patients who suffer seizures and require the maximum benefits of both cannabinoids.

Recommended dosage, based on body weight, ranges from one-half milliliter (half an eye-dropper) to 6 milliliters. The tincture can be swallowed orally, placed under the tongue or may be infused into your beverage of choice. Each half-ounce bottle of tincture costs $40 — about $2.50 per dose.

As Coles described it, medicating with Alta California tinctures is like being your own alchemist and finding the balance of cannabinoids that work for you.

“High is a subjective assessment,” Coles said. “High is your symptom telling you it feels good, it’s got what it needs.”

Noting that THC in high doses can cause anxiety and paranoia, Coles said CBD is the natural, calming antidote.

“CBD deactivates the mind,” Coles said. “The active mind that people want to go away, it goes away. THC is the one typically that helps you sleep but a lot of people have been finding sleep benefits from CBD because their minds were so active — they’re Facebooked out, they’re always going, they need to shut it up. CBD does.”

Coles offered chemotherapy patients as another example of CBD’s beneficiaries. The memory of a previous chemotherapy treatment, he said, can trigger physical illness in patients en route to appointments. CBD, Coles said, prevents that physical illness by keeping the active mind in check.

“That’s what they call memory extinction,” Coles said. “Some people need just enough to keep that dominant memory, whatever it might be, at bay. And if you go too far with CBD, which is, the active mind is gone completely, you can take THC and it will kick it back.”

Coles said Alta California’s tinctures are made using whole cannabis plants — a version of the Harlequin strain for the high-CBD tincture and an Afghani and OG Kush for the high-THC tincture. Neutral grape spirits — 190-proof ethanol, made from organic grapes grown in Northern California — are used to extract and preserve the active cannabinoids, and to speed up their absorption in a person’s body. Honey and mint oil flavor the tincture, and propylene glycol, a food-safe stabilizer, binds and thickens. While each half-ounce bottle contains an amount of alcohol “equivalent to a quarter-shot of tequila,” Coles said his product doesn’t induce alcohol effects.

“Alcohol speeds up the bio-availability of the cannabinoids into the liver,” Coles said. “That means you get the medicine faster and you can judge if you have it right. If you have to wait an hour, you can’t judge.”


WHERE TO BUY
Alta California tinctures are available at these medical cannabis dispensaries in the Sacramento area. The cost is $40 per half-ounce bottle.

Magnolia Wellness: 9198 Greenback Lane, Orangevale; (916) 865-7351

Unity Non Profit Collective: 1832 Tribute Road, Sacramento; (916) 564-1824

1 Love Wellness:  1841 El Camino Ave., Sacramento; (916) 231-5683

U.S. Atttorney Calls Pot Ads Illegal, Signals Crackdown on Newspapers, Radio and TV

One U.S. Attorney says medical cannabis ads like those in this Sacramento News & Review publication, are illegal.

The federal government’s pot pogrom is about to extend to the Fourth Estate — targeting newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that carry advertisements for medical cannabis dispensaries, California Watch reports.

U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, whose district includes Imperial and San Diego counties, said medical cannabis advertising is the next area she’s “going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California.” Duffy said she could not speak for the three other U.S. attorneys covering the state but noted their efforts have been coordinated so far.

“I’m not just seeing print advertising,” Duffy said. “I’m actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It’s gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate – one has to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our children – it’s against the law.”

Duffy said she could not speak for the three other U.S. attorneys covering the state but noted their efforts have been coordinated so far.

In Northern California, medical cannabis advertising has been a boon to many newspapers, particularly weekly newspapers like Sacramento’s News & Review, which earlier this year launched a special section just for medical cannabis advertising. The region’s leading daily newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, started its own medical cannabis advertising section in September. (Disclosure: Pot Appetit  is a paid content contributor to the Bee’s medical cannabis advertising section.)  Channel 40, a Fox affiliate, runs commercials for medical cannabis dispensaries.

Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in “any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication.” The law could conceivably extend to online ads; the U.S. Department of Justice recently extracted a $500 million settlement from Google for selling illegal ads linking to online Canadian pharmacies.

Duffy said her effort against TV, radio or print outlets would first include “going after these folks with … notification that they are in violation of federal law.” She noted that she also has the power to seize property or prosecute in civil and criminal court.

William G. Panzer, an attorney who specializes in marijuana defense cases, said publishers may have a reason to worry. Federal law singles out anyone who “places” an illegal ad in a newspaper or publication. Nevertheless, Panzer said he is not aware of a single appellate case dealing with this section of the law.

“Technically, if I’m running the newspaper and somebody gives me money and says, ‘Here’s the ad,’ I’m the one who is physically putting the ad in my newspaper,” he said. “I think this could be brought against the actual newspaper. Certainly, it’s arguable, but the statute is not entirely clear on that.”

In the federal law, an exception is made for ads that advocate the use of illegal drugs but don’t explicitly offer them for sale or distribution. Newspapers, Panzer said, could argue that they have a right under the First Amendment to run the ads, and any “prior restraint” before publication is itself illegal.

Duffy said she believes the law gives her the right to prosecute newspaper publishers or TV station owners.

“If I own a newspaper … or I own a TV station, and I’m going to take in your money to place these ads, I’m the person who is placing these ads,” Duffy said. “I am willing to read (the law) expansively and if a court wants to more narrowly define it, that would be up to the court.”

Ngaio Bealum, editor of West Coast Cannabis, said he receives a significant portion of his revenue from dispensary ads. Bealum said it was “misguided for the Department of Justice to come after people who are following state law and doing well for the economy in a recession.”

Jeff vonKaenel, CEO and majority owner of the Sacramento News & Review, said he was “stunned by that interpretation of the First Amendment.” He said his publications “receive quite a bit of revenue from (dispensaries) and it would have a detrimental impact” if he was forced to stop publishing the ads.

What the federal government doesn’t claim, Sacramento County will. Already, nine medical cannabis dispensaries that regularly purchased advertising in Sacramento newspapers have closed and no longer purchase ads – quarter-page ads starting about $500, full-page ads from $1,500 to $2,000 each.

 

‘Straight-up drug dealers’ busted in Sacramento grow opp

BY ED MURRIETA

The federal government’s war on cannabis in California yielded indictments against four Sacramento men accused of operating a cannabis-growing operation “for straight-up drug deals.”

California Department of Justice agents, supported by Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies, raided an industrial building in South Sacramento this morning, Sacramento TV station News 10 reports. A DOJ spokeswoman said seven locations were raided in conjunction with this operation. Agents were also seizing luxury cars and boats.

Four men have been indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this case: Peter Holzmann, Thomas Holzmann, Joseph Andrade and Jonathan Sherman.

State DOJ spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said the suspects were not claiming medical cannabis immunity. “They are straight-up drug dealers,” she said.

The federal government announced last week that’s it’s cracking down on what the U.S. Attorney dubbed pot “profiteers.”

More Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Close in Sacramento County’s Assault on Pot


Auburn Health & Organics on Auburn Boulevard.

BY ED MURRIETA

A former Assistant U.S. Attorney speaking in favor of the federal government’s pot pogrom said recently that a letter from the U.S. Attorney warning medical cannabis dispensaries and the landlords who rent to them is a good thing.

“This letter is the best news that marijuana growers have ever received from the federal government because this letter is a courtesy that most people don’t get,” Bill Portanova said.

In the courtesy vein, but on the opposite side of the battle, Auburn Health & Organics, one of scores of medical cannabis dispensaries operating without the required business and zoning permits that Sacramento County refuses to issue in the first place, is giving its patients (along with the county and federal forces counting scalps) the courtesy of a heads-up: It’ll close Nov. 15, another casualty in the $1 million war that the Board of Supervisors borrows to finance.

So far,  here’s an unofficial tally of confirmed closures:

Sunnyfields.

One Solution.

City of Trees.

California Holistic Care.

Fort Kush.

The Reserve.

Citizen Collective.

PACC Group.

All-Natural Solutions.

PACC Group on Auburn Boulevard.

The sign on the door at Fort Kush on Florin Road.

The sign you see from Florin Road may need updating.

For more pictures, click here.

Owner of Sunnyfields Dispensary, a U.S. Marines Combat Veteran, Cedes a Battle to Sacramento County but Soldiers On

Johnny Zonneveld, a Marines combat veteran who uses medical cannabis to fight post-traumatic stress disorder,addressed the Carmichael planning council in July. Photo by Patch.com

BY ED MURRIETA

With more than $5,000 in code violations and the threatened closure of two adacent businesses, Johnny Zonneveld conceded a skirmish in Sacramento County’s war on medical cannabis dispensaries and closed Sunnyfields Collective on Thursday.

Sunnyfields joins One Solution, City of Trees, California Holistic Care, Citizen Collective, The Reserve, PACC Group and Fort Kush among the confirmed casualties in the $1 million war that Sacramento County is borrowing to wage on medical cannabis dispensaries, jobs and tax revenue be damned.

Now hold on to irony. The case of  Johnny Zonneveld, a U.S. Marine combat veteran who uses medical cannabis to battle post-traumatic stress disorder and the events leading up to the closure of a medical cananbis dispensary that serves more than 200 military veterans who also suffer from PTSD, is about to sound like a 21st century Catch-22:

Zonneveld was fined, on zoning violations, for operating a type of business that Sacramento County does not recognize and will not permit.

“In violation of operating a medical cannabis dispensary,” Zonneveld said. “Non-permitted use, basically. Nusiance.”

Then Zonneveld was fined, on building code violations, when he constructed a wall inside the dispensary without a permit from the county, which would not issue such a permit to a business that does not already have a permit to operate as a legally recognized business.

Zonneveld recalled his trip to Sacramento County’s building department.

“I wanted a permit to construct a wall,” he said.

“The guy from the county said, ‘What’s your use?’

“I told him straight-up what I was doing.

“He said, ‘You’re never gonna get that approved.’

“I said, OK, I’ll take the fines for the walls.”

After fines topped $5,000, Zonneveld retreated.

“I couldn’t pay my employees,” he said. “We just couldn’t stay open.”

The liquor store and the tattoo parlor at this Fair Oaks Boulevard address remain in business. The medical cannabis dispensary closed.

Zonneveld threw his 8-month-old medical cannabis dispensary on a grenade. The survivors include a tattoo parlor and a liquor store in a ramshackle 1950s-era strip mall.

“It’s partially why I decided not to mess with the county,” Zonneveld said. “There are two other businessiness there. Basically, if you have a building code violation in a building, they can close that building down because it’s considered a safety hazard.  The landlord wasn’t willing to fix the different things that are wrong with the building, and the county wouldn’t approve the permit for me to get things up to code.”

Zonneveld, who served in the Marines infantry and performed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2000 to 2004, is preparing a new front:

Sunnyfields Collective, Zonneveld said, will continue to dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients — but only by appointment and only to existing patients or to new patients who are referred by existing patients.

“We have a private location that members can come to,” Zonneveld said. “But we’re not advertising we have a storefront. We’re not advertising as a delivery service either.”

Zonneveld says he’s not deterred by the county’s response.

“I don’t really care what the hell the county thinks of it now,” Zonneveld said. “I’m not doing this for the county. I’m doing this for the people who need cannabis.”

As for the county?

“Basically, they’re telling me what I’m doing is wrong or illegal yet Prop. 215 passed in 1996 and 15 years after the law actually passed they still don’t have an ordinance written. That means they haven’t done their job,” Zonneveld said. “If anybody should get any kind of fine for doing something illegal, it should be the county Board of Supervisors for not doing their jobs, for not doing what the voters actually voted for.”

Sunnyfields Collective
sunnyfieldsgrow.org
916-572-7213

Pictures of Pot Dispensaries Past: Closures in Sacramento County

Closed: The Reserve on Fulton Avenue.

Closed: Citizen Collective on El Camino Avenue. Those cards taped beneath the closed signs at both Citizen Collective and The Reserve are a classy touch touting Touch of Earth, a dispensary on Auburn Boulevard.

Closed: Only one of the businesses at this Fair Oaks Boulevard address closed — Sunnyfields Collective.

Closed: California Holistic Care on Fair Oaks Boulevard, not far from the former Sunnyfields.

Unofficial Body Count: These four dispensaries join  City of Trees, formerly on Fair Oaks Boulevard, and One Solution on Madison Avenue among the casualties on the building code enforcement front in Sacramento County’s war on medical cannabis dispensaries.

Feds Crack Whip at Pot ‘Profiteers’

Photo by: Sacramento Bee

Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney from Los Angeles, photographed by the Sacramento Bee at a news conference Friday in which he displayed a magazine image touting the money involved in California's medical cannabis industry.

BY ED MURRIETA

Four United States Attorneys from major jurisdictions in California announced today in Sacramento that federal prosecutors will now use federal laws and asset forfeitures to target landlords and others who do business with medical cannabis dispensaries and large growing operations.

While saying that they had not yet come up with a unified strategy, US Attorneys from Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego made the federal government’s intention clear: cripple California’s medical marijuana industry, which Melinda Haag, the top federal prosecutor in San Francisco, says has been “hijacked by profiteers…using the cover to make enormous amounts of money.”

“We want to put to rest the notion that large marijuana businesses can shelter themselves under state law,” Haag said at today’s downtown Sacramento news conference, where she was joined U.S Attorneys from Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles.
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Baking with Julia Child: Cannabis Butter Dries the Batter — But Bon Appetit!

Roasted Plum Cake, made with cannabis butter.

BY ED MURRIETA

A great cookbook.

The first sign something was amiss arose when the sugar didn’t cream into the butter in the mixing bowl. I’d chosen to use 2 ounces of cannabis butter and 2 ounces of unsalted butter in the batch of Julia Child’s roasted plum cakes that I hoped would relieve the swelling in my hip and the nerve pain that came with it.

Rather than let botched baking get on my last nerve, I let the Kitchen Aid run, beating in eggs, vanilla, and then, slowly, so as not to toughen the batter, flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk, or in this case half and half spiked with lime juice for similar acidic effect.

I’ve made this recipe scores of times. It’s one of many great recipes in Baking with Julia, a cookbook my mother gave me. I’ve made it at home, in restaurant kitchens, at campsites. It’s always turned out the same: tender, moist, golden-amber brown, barely clinging to itself, much less the roasted fruit it encases.

A well-baked Roasted Plum Cake, sans cannabis.

Baking with Julia and baking with cannabis wasn’t exactly a pairing made in culinary heaven.

I blame the butter, the cannabis butter.

But I should have known, too: The process of making cannabis butter — infusing dried plant into the butter fat as it heats, slowly — removes moisture from the butter. With this recipe, the result was dry, dense cake. Cake that didn’t brown properly. Cake, in fact, baked with a greenish tint.

Sure, perhaps I could have adjusted the recipe, reducing the flour or increasing the milk or quadrupling the brown sugar on top. (Yeah, yeah: baking is science, but, really, there is some leeway.)

But that’s not my point.

My point is: Cannabis butter is not equal to standard creamery butter.

Yes, as a cannabis-medicated edible, 1 4-ounce portion of this modified Julia Child roasted plum cake significantly eased my hip, back and leg pain, not to mention that pain that I am in that condition. As cooking analogies go, this cake went like this: It was like I put a juicy rib-eye steak on the grill only to serve a dried-out pork chop on the plate.

I want to stress: This is just one baking example, with just one cannabis butter product purchased from a dispensary. I also want to stress: I used half cannabis butter and half butter. Imagine if I’d used all cannabis butter?

I’m sure that if I used the same cannabis butter in another recipe from Baking with Julia that I’ve made many times — the Boca Negra Cake, a thick, moist torte fortified with intense amounts of eggs, chocolate and whiskey — it would be a great dessert.

Or, as a budtender who listened to me bitch about my botched roasted plum cakes told me, “That’s why I prefer oil-based recipes when I make my ganja cakes.”

As soon as I can retrieve the recipe from my files, I’ll share with you the best damn carrot cake you’ll ever eat, modified, with cannabis oil, from a recipe I learned in culinary school.

Until then, Pot Appetit.

Ganja Today, Gone Tomorrow: Dispensary Darwinism and Political Pot Pogroms in Sacramento

A sign of things to come? On the door at One Solution in Sacramento.

BY ED MURRIETA

Once upon a time, when I was a restaurant critic in a second city in a bad economy, I chased restaurants — the delayed openings, the quick closures, the inspections in between, the cooks who served good food vs. the operators in it for a buck. It put a taste in my mouth.

Today, in the state capital of medical cannabis in an even worse economy, I spend a lot of time chasing medical cannabis dispensaries — not the ones that advertise themselves openly and regularly in Sacramento’s newspapers, keep regular hours of operation and work hard to make themselves part of the Camellia City’s community, but the ones that don’t advertise themselves to the public, or maybe do once or twice to mark turf and then disappear, maybe belly-up unsuccessful or maybe high-tailed underground; sometimes, there is no telling.

Medical cannabis directories — from online sources like Weedmaps and Sticky Guide to magazines like Kush and West Coast Cannabis, and even some pages of Pot Appetit that need housekeeping — are dotted with the littered listings of dispensaries no longer in operation for reasons legal or extra-legal. After visiting all of the dispensaries in Pot Appetit’s listings at least once to verify that they are in business, I now spend at least one day a week doing drive-bys: As I hear reports of closures, I visit locations. Some days I cruise around looking for “open” signs with the hope of debunking rumors.

The reality is this:

More medical cannabis dispensaries will close, disappear, cease to exist.

The market is saturated in Sacramento — 39 in the city and, depending on which source or rumor or day of the week you can cite, there are anywhere from 50 to 70 dispensaries in Sacramento County.

While the city of Oakland just received $360,000 in tax payments from hugely successful and highly visible Harborside dispensary, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is willing to borrow money in a million-dollar effort to close dispensaries. Already, One Solution and City of Trees have fallen. Wait for more, and more after that if the U.S. Attorney starts seizing property from landlords who rent to dispensaries.

Some medical cannabis dispensaries are fantastic. They offer great medicine at good prices. Some treat their patients as well as Nordstrom and Les Schwab treat their customers. And many, like now-shuttered One Solution, which donated backpacks with classroom supplies to schoolchildren, participate in community events.

In no particular order (and with apologies to any good dispensaries I overlook here in my quest to keep this paragraph pithy), I tip my bong to: The Farmers Market, Grass, El Camino Wellness, Arcade Wellness, Fruitridge Health and Wellness, All About Wellness, 1 Love, Unity, Northstar, River City Wellness, Alternative Medical Source, The Green Door, Magnolia Wellness, Nor-Cali Creations, MediZen and whatever name the former Mary Jane’s Wellness adopts after it was sold after the federal government seized money from its bank account, alleging the dispensary tried to hide profits.

Drug den is a gross overstatement describing the worst dispensaries. However, thug den aptly applies to a handful.

I had a discussion recently with an operator of a dispensary in Midtown Sacramento. We compared his dispensary to another dispensary nearby. That dispensary, he said, serves 5 times the number of patients he serves in a day. That dispensary, we agreed, has a better location — greater visibility, parking, nearby public transportation. Still, he said, he couldn’t understand why the other dispensary is more successful. Then the dispensary operated allowed, “Maybe I need to offer better medicine.”

There you go:

Dispensary Darwinism dawning.

Local politicians and the federal government will pick at the remainder.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a taste in my mouth that the skunkiest sativa can’t cure.

Whack-A-Pot: Feds Threaten Property Seizures; IRS Hounds Harborside; Eureka Snubs Fed Threat; Carnival Vibe in Sacramento County

BY ED MURRIETA

“Kind of like Whack-A-Mole.”

That’s the assessment of Sacramento TV newsman George Warren, who’s on top of medical cannabis law enforcement coverage these days. Last night on News10, Warren reported that the federal government is threatening to seize the property of landlords who rent to medical cannabis dispensaries.

Warren’s report is based on a letter from the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco regarding dispensaries in that city.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento told News10 that the feds intend to contact Sacramento landlords.

This federal action follows asset seizures from the bank accounts of two Sacramento dispensaries that the federal government alleges made suspicious cash deposits in order to elude banking regulations. In an unrelated federal case, the former owners of a South Sacramento dispensary are accused of running a criminal operation, a story News10 broke last month.

News10′s posted video makes brief mention of the tax ups and downs of Harborside, the Oakland dispensary that is arguably the nation’s most successful and highest-profile medical cannabis dispensary. In the same week that Harborside wrote a check that infused $360,483 into the City of Oakland’s tax coffers — the payment was for a 5 percent cannabis tax that was approved by 80 percent of Oakland’s voters last year — the Internal Revenue Service said Harborside cannot claim business deductions that are available to virtually every other business in America — standard-claim things like employee payroll and health care deductions. The IRS will only allow Harborside to deduct the cost of cannabis and the cost of its patient-wellness services, such as yoga. The IRS wants $2.5 million from Harborside.

In denying the standard business deductions, the IRS points to a provision in the tax law intended to kill illegal drug operations. The federal government, of course, recognizes no medical value in cannabis and considers cannabis illegal. Harborside says the deduction denials will kill its business model. California law, as per voter-approved Prop. 215, allows medical cannabis.

Meanwhile in Humboldt County, the Eureka City Council essentially shrugged off federal threats last night and make only minor revisions to its medical marijuana ordinance, rather than approving an emergency moratorium on dispensaries within city limits. This, after the council asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the legality of its medical marijuana ordinance, inviting the feds’ obvious response.

Meanwhile, Sacramento County code-enforcement inspectors are visiting medical cannabis dispensaries. Some dispensaries are now out of business on building code violations. While the county borrows more than $1 million to shut down dispensaries, there’s still a county ordinance kicking around. Dispensaries, their lawyers and their lobbyists have presented their cases to the county in a series of stakeholder meetings. The dispensary discussion has now been dispersed among 14 community action committees throughout the county. Those committees will hear input from the community and dispensaries before making a recommendation to the county board of supervisors, which is busy feeding $1 million into something resembling an arcade game while Oakland collects $360,483 in tax revenue from just one dispensary.

Yes, it is kind of like Whack-A-Mole, wherein no matter how swiftly or righteously the hammer hits, something pops up somewhere else.

The sign on the door at the former One Solution in Sacramento County.

Crackdown: Closure, Asset Seizures, a Dispensary Sold

BY ED MURRIETA

Like the sign says, City of Trees, a medical marijuana dispensary in Carmichael, shut down. Farther down Fair Oaks Boulevard, California Holistic Care is empty, with a for-rent sign in the window. One Solution on Madison shut too.

In addition to closures (and rumors, oh, of course, rumors) of closures, I hear reports of dispensaries that are being fined for code violations, with the county intent on shuttering the 50-plus dispensaries that are operating in a Catch-22: permitted to exist by state law but denied local business permits because the county doesn’t recognize medical marijuana dispensaries and therefore doesn’t issue business licenses for dispensaries.

I visited The Farmers Market, off Bradshaw Road in Sacramento County, on Thursday for a scheduled appointment, which was delayed by a visit from county code enforcement inspectors, who left without any apparent action.

Meanwhile, the federal government seized the bank accounts of 1 Love Wellness in Sacramento and Mary Jane’s Wellness in Gold River, alleging the dispensaries made improper bank deposits to elude federal banking regulations. Following the asset seizure, the owner of Mary Jane’s sold the dispensary, now run with just the sign “Wellness” noting its existence.

Coffee? Wine? Beer? Drink ‘em If You’ve Got ‘em: What to Pair with Pot

BY ED MURRIETA

In the film “Wings of Desire,” the actor Peter Falk, playing the actor Peter Falk, takes a break from the set and visits a Berlin coffee stand, where he muses on simple pleasures — “good things” — to an eavesdropping angel.

“To smoke. Have coffee. And if you do it together, it’s fantastic.”

The smoky-throated actor was speaking of cigarettes and coffee, but the same can be said of cannabis and coffee: Each are smoky, robust and complex complements to the other, best savored in a slow, relaxed fashion.

On their own, good things. Together, fantastic.

In fact, cannabis — whether smoked in a joint, bong or pipe — pairs perfectly with many beverages — coffee, wine, beer — just like cigars and cigarettes are extra enjoyable when consumed with a cup of mellow Guatemalan, a glass of bold Barolo or a malty pint of porter.

Enjoyed responsibly and in moderation — at home, a little smoke, a short drink, without any intention of driving an automobile, for example — drinking wine or beer with medical (or non-medical) marijuana is far safer than swigging booze with prescription medication.

Combining my experience writing about food and beverages and my experience smoking cannabis, here are some thoughts about cannabis and coffee, cannabis and wine, and cannabis and beer. Use these as general guides. Want more specific pairings? Interested in which strains taste best with which specific beverages? Sign up for Pot Appetit’s Email Exclusives and get my reviews and tastings notes in an upcoming edition of the free newsletter.

BREW AND BAKE: COFFEE AND CANNABIS
Everyone knows a cup of coffee in the morning makes you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. For a certain kind of cannabis consumer, the best part of waking up is toking up. The two together — fantastic. Part of the pleasure is waking up to ritual — grinding beans and grinding bud; boiling water for the French press, rolling a joint in French-cut papers. Beyond the buzz — from caffeine in the coffee and THC in the cannabis — much pleasure is derived from the combined savoring of aromas and flavors: the roasty notes of coffee against the pungent perfumes of cannabis; caramel-sweetness and dusty chalkiness of beans bouncing off floral and fruity flavors of well-cured buds. Puff. Sip. Swirl. Hold. Swallow. See?

REDS, WHITES, AND GREEN BUD
Red wine may be the first pour that comes to mind — a spicy Pinot Noir punctuating Granddaddy Purple’s heavy perfume, or a heady Sangiovese slicing through Headband’s haze — but some white wines stand up to cannabis, and not just the over-oaked Chardonnays that taste like buttery stems and seeds. Riesling — not the sweet ones that flirt with dessert, but the refined, drier, German Rieslings like Dr. Loosen — balance fruity and acidity; they don’t blitzkreig the flavors of lighter-tasting cannabis strains; and unlike lighter, more acidic Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios or Vino Verdes, Rieslings’ flavors of apricots and peaches pair well with smoke. Rich, smoky, big-fruit leathery reds (Cabernets, Cab Francs, Zinfandels), not to mention sweet wines like ports, Sauternes and Tokays, match high-grade cannabis in complexity and intensity.

GO FOR THE GANJA GUSTO WITH BEER
Hops, the bittering agent in beer, is the botanical cousin of cannabis. Beyond botany, beer may be the best beverage to drink with cannabis. Oils in coffee and tannins in wine can coat and dull the palate. The carbonation in beer, however, acts like scrubbing bubbles on the tongue — a palate cleanser in every pilsner and porter. (This is why beer often beats wine in head-to-head pairings with cheese.) Just be sure to avoid overly-hopped IPA and ESB-style brews that can have an astringent effect, adding a double dose of cotton mouth to what smoking already performs on the palate. Yeasty Belgian ales and Saisons, the French farmhouse ale with a barnyard aroma, highlight the skunkiness of herbacious sativas. On the heavier end, a complex, spicy kush high in THC stands up to malty darks like porters and stouts, especially the rich but low-alcohol Guinness. Brown ales, unlike brown marijuana, hit the smooth, sweet spot in the middle.

The Farmers Market’s Shake ‘N’ Bake Gives Your Bud More Bang

Coat it with kief: Doing the Shake 'N' Bake at The Farmers Market medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento.

BY ED MURRIETA

The baggie containing brown, powdery cannabis was marked Shake ‘N’ Bake. I asked if that’s the dispensary’s culinary blend — perhaps for a batch of pot-crusted pork chops.

“It’s kief,” the cannabis consultant at The Farmers Market said. “Throw your bud in, coat it with kief. Ten bucks for any eighth, five bucks for any gram you buy.”

The consultant said one patient did the Shake ‘N’ Bake with an eighth of marijuana buds and went home with 6 grams total — 2 grams of Shake ‘N’ Bake kief coating his 4 grams of marijuana bud like cocoa powder clinging to chocolate truffles.

The concept is simple and similar to what bartenders who serve alcohol do: float a shot of liqueur over a cocktail to increase its appeal and potency. Coating marijuana flowers with a concentrated form of marijuana puts more bang in your bud. Continue reading

The Pen is Mightier Than the Bong, or Mini Vaporizers Got the Right Stuff

This story gets a hell of a lot of traffic. So if any of you out there like my work enough to hire me or otherwise pay me money, I’ve got a portfolio of my journalism and my resume here. You can email me directly here: edmurrieta@gmail.com. Thank you. Ed Murrieta.

It's a pen. It's a vaporizer. It's the latest way to inhale.


BY ED MURRIETA

Much like science and technology have fed molecular gastronomy to the point that home cooks can extract not just the flavors of food but the essence of food, advances in medical marijuana paraphernalia help patients extract and enjoy the vaporized essence of cannabis — the cleanest, most effective and least harmful way of “smoking” pot.

Vaporizing is not smoking — it’s vaporizing, extracting pure vapor at a certain temperature range and leaving behind the parts of the plant or plant extract that, when burned, create tar and other toxic compounds. Vaporizing is the preferred method of inhaling cannabis for patients with respiratory issues that prevent them from smoking; for patients who do not want to create detectable smoke when they medicate; and for anyone who wants to get a high percentage of cannabinoids from their cannabis.

Whether the vaporizer is the size of a fountain pen or the size of a kitchen appliance, the principle of vaporization is as easy as A-B-C and produces a substance loaded with THC:

Cannabis — whether in the form of whole or ground flower, or in a concentrated form such as hashish, hashish oil or hashish wax — is vaporized through contact with a heated surface or with forced air, protecting the cannabis from direct flame and releasing the plant’s resinous, essential oils in vapor that’s breathed directly from the vaporizer unit, through a tube connected to the vaporizer or from a balloon filled by the vaporizer. Continue reading

But Carmichael Pot Shops Already Spruce Up ‘Blighted’ Suburban Road

Paradise Wellness is among least ugly businesses fronting Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael.

BY ED MURRIETA

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors have given their unanimous but tentative approval for a plan to beautify a 1-mile stretch of suburban thoroughfare that has the dubious honor of being dubbed the ugliest street in Sacramento (gotcha, Sacramento Tree Foundation), littered with a hodgepodge of discount stores, fast-food outlets and auto lube stations.

“I’m really tired of driving down Fair Oaks Boulevard and seeing so much blight,” one area resident told the board.

I suggest that resident remove her blight blinders and take a closer look at the 1-mile stretch of Fair Oaks Boulevard that everyone wants to spruce up: It’s home to three medical marijuana dispensaries, revenue-generating businesses that the board of supervisors is intent on spending a lot of money to shut down.

Paradise Wellness, City of Trees Compassionate Care and Foothill Wellness are in that 1-mile stretch targeted for a redesign and redevelopment that county planners say will create areas for pedestrians and bicyclists in an area that’s mostly commercial.

Paradise Wellness, in a sleek, 5,000-square-foot glass-front building that’s landscaped just as well as Paradise’s bud’s are trimmed, is located next do a do-it-yourself car wash. Foothill Wellness is near auto repair businesses. City of Trees is across the road in a nondescript strip mall.

Just beyond the 1-mile stretch of Fair Oaks Boulevard are three more dispensaries, California Holistic Collective, Kris’ Corner and Sunnyfields, all of which were deemed bikeable in a recent Pedaling for Pot report on Pot Appetit.

When I ride or drive by any and all of these dispensaries, I don’t see blight — I see bud and the green revenue it brings to a county that’s willing to spend a million dollars to put them and other dispensaries out of business.
View Larger Map

A
Paradise Wellness, 6240 Fair Oaks Blvd.
B
City of Trees Compassionate Care, 6743 Fair Oaks Blvd.
C
Foothill Wellness, 6828 Fair Oaks Blvd.

See Pot Appetit’s complete directory of medical marijuana dispensaries in Carmichael.