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The state has issued $100 million in funding assistance to help bolster legal marijuana businesses in California, an effort aimed to speed up license permitting in areas where it’s stalled. Los Angeles marijuana business attorney

The Department of Cannabis Control, managed by state officials, designated the funds be sent to 17 cities and counties where there are a disparate number of provisional marijuana business licenses (as opposed to full year licenses). As our Los Angeles marijuana business lawyers can explain, those provision licenses were intended to help quickly prop up the adult-use market, but the entire category was set to expire Jan. 1, 2022. That deadline has since been extended, allowing more municipalities time to kick-start the permitting process, while also meeting stringent environmental requirements.

The $100 million in grant money is intended to further accelerate progress – in turn squeezing out black market operators. The thinking goes that the more competitive, state-legal operations there are in a district, the fewer opportunities there will be for underground pot purveyors.

Applications to receive money through the Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program, opened four months ago. Municipalities that were awarded the additional funding were those that had significant license processing backlogs. Funding is also available to implement social equity programs.

Goals for funding were outlined as followed:

  • Hire or designate additional staff to help wade through the sizable workloads necessary to transition businesses into a well-regulated local market.
  • Create streamlined license processing with dedicated IT systems.
  • Complete thorough environmental assessments to ensure water is protected and energy is renewable.

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Our Los Angeles marijuana business lawyers know it’s not only companies selling cannabis that are being caught up in the regulatory quagmire of state and federal marijuana laws. Los Angeles cannabis company attorney

In recent months, there have been numerous reports of technology software companies servicing the cannabis industry facing financial consequences for that partnership. Firms have been dumped by payment processors, classified as “high risk” by credit card brands and banks (requiring higher fees to handle payments), and overall faced difficulty in the course of day-to-day businesses.

As the legalized cannabis market continues to mature, we’re seeing regulatory headaches continue for ancillary businesses like tech companies, particularly when it comes to handling banking and payment processing. This is true even for companies that never touch a single marijuana plant or product. Businesses working with cannabis growers, producers, and retailers at every leg of the supply chain have found themselves suddenly grappling with growing red tape.

The irony for some of these tech companies is that a primary part of the service they provide to the cannabis industry is the ability to more easily maintain and track regulatory compliance. Some of those who are working high up the compliance chain for these firms have literally helped to write the laws for cities across California. And even they are struggling to maintain operations and meet compliance standards. Continue reading

Heading into the new year, California cannabis company tax compliance and banking will continue to be challenges. Marijuana retailers, growers, product makers and others in the industry would be wise to work closely with an experienced Los Angeles cannabis business attorney to help them navigate these ongoing difficulties. Los Angeles marijuana banking and tax attorney

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued tips for cannabis compliance. The federal agency noted that while it’s outside of the agency’s power to resolve many of the unique business predicaments that arise from federal prohibition, it wants to help support cannabis companies in becoming tax compliant. Even though marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule I narcotic by federal authorities, these businesses are still required to shell out federal taxes.

In September, the agency released tips for tax compliance for cannabis businesses. Among those:

  • Know your investors. Thousands of people are fighting to get into the industry, but working with investors may have some tax implications and repercussions for cannabis companies. Unregistered and “silent” financing and ownership arrangements, with investors sometimes being referred to as “beneficial owners,” get the benefits of ownership but avoid having the property title or activity in their name. That creates numerous challenges for the IRS, and it may result in issues for proper tax filing and accurate reporting of gross receipts. Also, cannabis business owners should be wary of nefarious investors who attempt to put their funds into a business like this, but jeopardize the entire operation with allegations of money laundering.
  • Make sure you’re licensed. You can’t get federal licensing, but make sure you have proper state and local licensing for your operation.
  • Timely file and pay your taxes. Even if your business operates with cash, you’re still responsible to file and pay your taxes on time. IRS code doesn’t parse out which income stems from legal vs. illegal sources. All income must be reported. Note that because you’re dealing with a Schedule I narcotic, you must abide by Section 280E – even if your business is 100 percent state legal. That section doesn’t bar you from reducing gross receipts by properly calculating the cost of goods sold to ascertain gross income, though you may not be able to deduct things like selling or advertising expenses. There aren’t any exemptions from employment tax. It may be beneficial to make quarterly payments. Late payments can result in interest and penalties. Non-filers are a priority enforcement for the IRS. So too are those who use cryptocurrency; it’s imperative to use a reputable exchanger.
  • Report cash transactions. Your business may not use traditional banking, but you still need to report all cash transactions. Any company receiving $10,000 or more in cash (which is most California marijuana businesses) need to file Form 8300 within 15 days of receiving that payment. Failure to be diligent about this can cause major headaches for your business.
  • Maintain good records. This is mission critical for a cannabis business. Keeping meticulous records – all receipts, canceled checks, any shred of documentation that can support income, deduction, or credit should be kept in some form. Keep these records even for expenses that aren’t legally deductible because it’s going to make it easier to prepare your returns and also answer a question quickly if one arises.

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It’s been more than two centuries since the New World colonists dumped their tea into the sea to protest unfair taxation. Now, legal proprietors of California’s retail cannabis industry say it may be well past time for a “Weed Party” in response to astronomical taxes imposed on them when they can’t compete with black market operators.cannabis business taxes

However, rather than toss their crops into the ocean, shop owners are floating the notion of not paying state taxes. If the idea where to gain traction statewide, that would amount to roughly $1.3 billion.

Whether the call will lead to real action is questionable, but Los Angeles marijuana business lawyers know there is no doubt retailers are treading water. Steep competition from illicit providers who don’t follow state rules – yet aren’t unequivocally shut down by the state – have cut into the survival odds for these firms. Some call it a clear case of “taxation without representation,” echoing the Revolutionary War grievances.

This is not a new problem. It’s a situation that has been ongoing for the last five years, ever since state voters approved recreational use cannabis for adults. The prospect of bolstered taxes was one that spurred many government leaders to climb aboard. The problem, business owners say, is that while those firms are happy to rake in the tax revenue, they aren’t doing enough to protect the industry from unfair competition.

Beginning first thing next year, taxes on cultivation of cannabis is increasing by 4.5 percent. This comes even as the state is staring down a budget surplus next year of $31 billion.

The “Weed Party” proposal is to put all taxes in an escrow account rather than handing to the state, in an effort to force their hand and bring them to the table. However, as marijuana business attorneys, we would tend to strongly advise against this, as it’s going to violate a myriad of regulations and tax laws and risk state license suspension. The hope is that there will be viable solutions proposed in the coming year.

Why California Marijuana Industry Tax Hikes Are Unique

Of course, no industry is a fan of tax increases, but there is also no other industry (save tobacco) that is taxed at the same sky-high rates as cannabis retailers. And unlike the tobacco industry, legal marijuana retailers are banned in most cities in the state. Plus, legal tobacco retailers aren’t threatened by a behemoth black market. Continue reading

California became the first state in the U.S. to approve marijuana for medicinal use back in 1996. It was also among the first to legalize recreational adult use marijuana in 2016. Los Angeles cannabis retail attorney

However, it would be erroneous to assert that marijuana sales are legal everywhere in the state. As our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers can explain, cannabis still remains widely unavailable in some of the largest cities in the Golden State.

Of the state’s 482 cities, only 174 of them allow some type of licensed, cannabis business to operate within their district. In a number of those jurisdictions, the only allowable businesses are those that are not classified as retail locations. That means that a key piece of the supply chain puzzle is missing. Ultimately, this leaves millions of people without immediate access to retail recreational cannabis.

The one exception is delivery. Having a state license from the California Department of Cannabis Control authorizing delivery allows that company to deliver in any jurisdiction in the state – something that has been affirmed in subsequent court rulings challenging this right. However, those companies might still be subject to local jurisdictional requirements. All cannabis company owners and operators should be working with an experienced marijuana business attorney to help ensure their operation rights are protected.

But the benefit of accessible cannabis for all communities goes beyond the shop owners. It benefits the industry as a whole, as well as citizens. Accessible legal cannabis constricts opportunities for those in the black market to gain a foothold.

So what’s the holdup? Continue reading

Revocation of a cannabis license can prove fatal to a marijuana business, unless one takes swift and decisive legal action. All legal remedies should be discussed with an experienced and highly qualified L.A. cannabis business lawyer. Los Angeles marijuana business lawyer

Recently, it was announced that a marijuana dispensary has filed a lawsuit against the city of South Lake Tahoe after the city council of the California community on the Nevada border revoked its business license for failure to open on time. The delay, according to the plaintiff, was directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, something entirely outside the firm’s control.

According to the Associated Press, the company had been awarded two microbusiness marijuana licenses two years ago. Part of the deal was the firm would open up shop within one year. However, the pandemic created an unforeseen situation that prevented the company from meeting the deadline. The agreement became effective in February 2020, but the world effectively turned upside down with the pandemic, with both business and construction coming to an abrupt halt the following month. When construction picked up again, the demand for construction materials and workers was such that the business couldn’t keep up. Continue reading

Allegations of candy company trademark violations by cannabis companies are leaving sweets makers bitter. Manufacturers of confections are imploring producers of cannabis edibles to avoid creating labels that may closely mirror popular snack and treat products. Los Angeles cannabis trademark lawyers

One of the major concerns, companies say, is that kids might mistake certain cannabis edibles for well-known and loved snacks like Oreos, Sour Patch Kids or Doritos. Numerous law enforcement agencies and even some state attorneys general had issued warnings prior to Halloween warning of similarities of cannabis products that could closely mirror treats.

Concerns about mistakes might be fair where cannabis companies post deceptive packaging on products that contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 2,050 kids under the age of 12 who allegedly ingested cannabis edibles at home, compared to about 130 in 2016.

There were no reported issues with trick-or-treat (it’s highly unlikely anyone is going to intentionally pass out edible marijuana products to kids, as it’s not only dangerous, but such products can be quite expensive), but there is a legitimate concern for accidental ingestion of products that look like snacks. Symptoms of overdose can range from mild to severe, in the most extreme cases resulting in seizures or even a coma. Although there have been no reported deaths, the risks for kids are always heightened compared to adults. Continue reading

An agricultural research and commercial hemp company is attempting to bankroll a civil lawsuit against the state of California through crowdfunding, asking investors to purchase cryptocurrency. The lawsuit alleges state officials unlawfully destroyed more than $1 billion of the hemp crop belonging to Apothio LLC in 2019.Los Angeles marijuana business lawyer

As reported by Reuters, this approach breaks some ground on numerous fronts. Small investors, for the first time, can put up as little as $100 or as much as $500,000 to buy a stake in the outcome of the civil litigation. Although the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has long allowed individuals to invest in litigation finance deals, those individuals had to meet SEC accreditation criteria. This approach of sidestepping those rigorous requirements is allowed under an SEC provision that permits up to $5 million in litigation financing through crowdfunding. Furthermore, to the best of our Los Angeles cannabis attorneys’ knowledge, this is a first for tokenizing litigation funding through blockchain. What that means is if the firm ends up winning the case and getting paid, investors will be paid their share of the verdict in tokens from the company.

Within a day of the request going live, the company had raised more than $156,000 from 85 investors – more than 60 percent of the target minimum of $250,000.

This is an interesting approach that we imagine many California marijuana business lawyers are going to be watching closely, as it may allow a greater number of plaintiffs of all sizes to pursue civil litigation for unfair regulatory action, such as destroying crops or license revocation. Continue reading

A licensed California cannabis company owner has filed a civil lawsuit against the state’s Department of Cannabis Control alleging that outrageously high taxes on lawful distributors and lack of enforcement against illegal operations has made the industry untenable for those trying to do it by-the-book. cannabis business lawyer Los Angeles

As it stands, the state’s excise tax on cannabis is 15 percent. Municipalities can also set their own rates. Plaintiff, Catalyst Cannabis Company, alleges these tax rates are effectively smothering the legal cannabis industry in California. Operators of pot shops throughout the state are “treated as second class” members of the business community, while they burden an unfair share of taxes and receive little protection against the unfair competition of illegal operators.

In a press release, plaintiff told state media outlets the goal of the litigation was partly to glean information about what state regulators know regarding illegal distributors and partly to compel them to participate in reasonable cannabis industry tax reform that would allow legal operators to survive. As our Los Angeles marijuana business lawyers have been made aware, eking out a profit has become increasingly difficult for California pot shops because of high-taxes and the relentless (and growing) underground market. Legalization of marijuana for recreational use has been a positive in many respects, but it’s also reduced penalties for unlawful marijuana sales, allowing black market cannabis outfits to thrive. Continue reading

The cannabis industry’s first anti-trust case to reach trial was decided in favor of pot shop owners who alleged they’d been illegally edged out of the market by a would-be competitor’s unfair business practices. Jurors awarded $5 million (tripled to $15 million under the Cartwright Act) plus attorney’s fees. Los Angeles cannabis business lawyer

In Richmond Compassionate Care Collective v. 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, an independently-owned dispensary, RCCC, in Contra Costa County, sued the owners of the Richmond Patients’ Group (RPG) over allegations of conspiring to block RCCC from opening a new shop. Evidence presented at trial included evidence the defendant impeded access to the finite amount of commercial property zoned for medical marijuana distribution.

Plaintiffs argued the defendant, a potential competitor, intentionally thwarted their opportunities by submitting fraudulent letters of intent, leases, and purchase agreements to landlords of commercial properties, effectively tying up those spaces until RCCC’s permits became expired. (Local ordinance in Richmond, Calif. requires cannabis shop permit holders open up a shop within six months or lose their permit.)  The defendants reportedly even went door-to-door, trying to persuade landlords to avoid leasing to RCCC. Defendants also made efforts to compel a change in city ordinance that would reduce the number of cannabis permits available (in this, they were successful). RPG was also accused of trying to influence city officials to deny RCCC’s licensing permit.

As our Los Angeles cannabis attorneys can explain, trying to compel a change in local ordinance or state law isn’t illegal. But the plaintiffs underscored it as evidence of the defendant’s purpose and intention with regard to the other actions.

RCCC alleged RPG’s efforts ensured they were closed off at every turn by RPG’s actions and eventually lost their permit – and millions of dollars in investments and potential profits. This, they allege, was in direct affront to the California Cartwright Act, the state’s antitrust law prohibiting efforts to block fair competition in the free market. Continue reading

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