Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Blackouts and Tokage Fees


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When darkness cast its PG&E-sized cloud over Humboldt County on Oct. 9, some among us were not willing to go quietly into the night.

"Even though the lights aren't lit, that doesn't mean you can't be," pronounced Ray Markland, company manager at EcoCann dispensary in Old Town as his staff worked to open the shop that morning.

Markland says the dispensary stayed open until about 7 p.m. when he decided it seemed unsafe to operate by candlelight. He said it was a slower day at the shop but customers were appreciative. One man trundling out of the dispensary mid-morning seemed especially pleased.

"Everything else may be closed, but this is Humboldt County!" he exclaimed.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed Senate Bill 305, which unanimously passed both chambers of the Legislature and would have forbidden health care facilities from interfering with terminally ill patients' use of cannabis on site ("Ryan's Law," Oct. 10).

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Chula Vista) and dubbed Ryan's Law, after Ryan James Bartell, a San Diego native who died April 21, 2018, of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The law was pushed by Bartell's father, who says he helped his son transfer to a facility that allowed cannabis during his final weeks of life. There, he escaped the fentanyl-induced stupor he'd been kept in to keep his pain at bay by replacing the narcotic with a cannabis tincture, which reportedly allowed him to pass his final days alert, talkative and relatively pain-free with his family.

Ryan's Law wouldn't have required hospitals and other health care facilities to keep or administer cannabis, but would have prohibited them from interfering with patients acquiring and ingesting it on their own, so long as they weren't smoking or vaping.

In his veto message, Newsom made clear he felt conflicted on the issue but felt the bill would jeopardize federal funding for state hospitals.

"Patients who are hospitalized and facing the end of their days should be provided with relief, compassion and dignity," the governor wrote, adding that California passed its Compassionate Use Act two decades ago and 32 states have since followed suit. "It is inconceivable that the federal government continues to regard cannabis as having no medical value. The federal government's ludicrous stance puts patients and those who care for them in an unconscionable position. Nonetheless, health facilities certified to receive payment from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services must comply with all federal laws in order to receive federal reimbursement for the services they provide. This bill would create significant conflicts between federal and state law that cannot be taken lightly. Therefore, I begrudgingly veto this bill."

Newsom, meanwhile, signed into law a bill allowing cannabis companies to claim state tax deductions or credits for legitimate business expenses.

Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who authored the bill, said the deductions "will play a vital role in leveling the playing field for legal cannabis businesses."

Also this week, Newsom signed a bill into law that will allow licensed retailers to donate cannabis products to medical customers, which state law currently prohibits under a clause that makes it illegal for licensed retailers to give away their products. The bill is expected to bring some relief to the state's seriously ill cannabis users, some of whom were accustomed to getting free medicine from dispensaries prior to new regulations, which not only prohibited shops from giving away products but also made them more expenses through additional regulations and taxes ("Left Behind," Feb. 8, 2018).

It's official: The first restaurant in the United States where you can legally smoke weed has opened in California ("Flower Services Comes Tableside," Aug. 1).

The restaurant, Lowell Cafe in Los Angeles, which rebrands tableside budtenders as "flower hosts," offers a menu of flowers, pre-rolls, vapes and edibles, in addition to food. And those wishing to bring their own bud are welcome, too, so long as they pay a $30 "tokage fee," which includes the flower host rolling it up for them at the table.

Executive Chef Andrea Drummer told USA Today the restaurant is still working out some kinks, however.

"We definitely have to figure out a process of gently getting people to leave," Drummer told the paper. "'I have food. I have cannabis. I'm gonna order more food' ... They just want to hang out."

Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. He prefers he/him pronouns and can be reached at 442-1400, extension 321, or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.


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