California pot shops slash prices ahead of new testing rules

LOS ANGELES — Bargain basement bud is on the menu in California, but you need to act fast to cash in on the cheap weed.


Regulations being phased in six months after the state broadly legalized marijuana require that pot sold after Saturday meet strict quality standards, so retailers unloading untested inventory are offering blowout prices.


Deep discounts on everything from edibles to joints reflect the last days of the heady first phase of legal recreational pot. They could be followed by empty shelves as many stores scramble to restock with properly tested and packaged products.


“You can smell it. There’s a certain desperation from stores that bought too much and they have to dump it,” said John Atari, CEO of Source Cannabis Farms, a licensed cultivator in Los Angeles. “There’s going to be a big shortage of clean product come July 1.”


At Firehaus, a shop along an LA freeway, a fire sale of sorts unfolded this month with a 50 per cent off “summer blowout” sale advertised on a popular marijuana app and texted and emailed to regular customers.


Patrons leaving the brick storefront on a recent day were happy to double their value, but were unaware of the reason behind the bargains.


A half-dozen of those interviewed said they welcomed testing designed to weed out pesticides and contaminants such as solvents and mould, though they were largely unconcerned about the safety of the cannabis they’ve used for years.


“I smoked pot for 40 years that wasn’t tested, from dealers on the street, and it smelled like anything from gasoline to perfume,” said Catherine Lanzarotta, who stocked up on “Blue Dream.” “So I’ve never had that concern.”


Testing will also examine concentrations and potency of the ingredient that gives users a buzz.


The change in rules was part of the state’s decision to allow the industry in its legal infancy to get a running start at the beginning of the year. Shops were given six months to burn through supplies of grass grown and cookies and other products made without strict testing requirements.


Any marijuana harvested this year or for sale July 1 must meet quality and safety standards or be destroyed.


Before the legalization of recreational marijuana, testing of pot sold for medical purposes was largely done for marketing. Growers could promote the potency of their product or the fact that it was free of contaminants.


Robert Martin, co-founder and CEO of CW Analytical Laboratories in Oakland, said the voluminous new rules are draconian, with a mandate to test for heavy metals, which he said is unnecessary, and one to keep tested samples 45 days. There are also requirements about what technicians must wear, and lab employees have to pick up test samples directly from suppliers.


“The new regulations have us twisting,” Martin said. “We feel like we’re trying to do yoga on two mats.”


There are concerns that the 28 testing facilities licensed by the state will not be enough, though labs said even with a spike in recent months, they have been able to handle capacity.


A larger concern is a lag in testing as business owners banked on delayed implementation of the new rules. That could put them in a precarious position as they try to push product through a limited pipeline to restock shops with clean weed.


The fear is there will be a repeat of what Oregon experienced two years ago as distributors held out for a rules reprieve that never materialized and held up the supply chain.


The resulting bottleneck at labs meant testing that should have taken days dragged on for weeks, said Lori Glauser, chief operating officer of EVIO Labs, which has locations in California, Oregon, Colorado, Florida and Massachusetts.


Glauser said the recent surge in business she’s seen indicates a similar scenario in California that will lead to a temporary shortage of marijuana in dispensaries once they can no longer sell untested product.


Some shops prepared for the new regulations by gradually replacing pot they sold with products that pass the tests.


Jamie Garzot said she reopened her Shasta Lake medical marijuana shop to recreational customers Jan. 1 with the same untested inventory as the day before.


But by February, she estimated, about 15 per cent of inventory at 530 Cannabis had been approved by testing labs. In April, that jumped to about 50 per cent, and earlier this month Garzot said she figured about 95 per cent of her goods passed muster.


“Everyone in the game knew this was coming,” she said. “My hope is that everybody has been doing their job getting systems dialed in for an uninterrupted supply chain.”


She was waiting until the final days of the month to see what remained in her stockpiles that could go in a limited blowout sale.


——


Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: http://apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana

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B.C. to release long-awaited money-laundering report by anti-corruption expert

VICTORIA — British Columbia Attorney General David Eby is expected to release an independent report today that examines money laundering in the province’s gambling industry.


Former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German was appointed to do a review after a Vancouver-area casino accepted $13.5 million in $20 bills over a one-month period in 2015, with police saying it could be proceeds of crime.


Eby tasked German to determine whether money laundering is an issue in casinos and to make recommendations.


He also asked German to advise him on provincial laws or policies that may require attention as a result of information he gathers.


Last December, Eby ordered more inspectors at casinos to keep tighter checks on gamblers as a way to prevent money laundering.


He said then that common sense would suggest some kind of problem at a casino if someone walks in with a hockey bag full of $20 bills.

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Transmission link between Labrador and Newfoundland to be energized

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — An historic milestone is expected today on the East Coast: A power link connecting the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject to Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital will be formally “energized” for the first time.


The Soldiers Pond transmission site, located 40 minutes outside of St. John’s, is connected to Labrador by a 1,100-km transmission power line.


The energy will come at a great cost, however — a public inquiry has been appointed to study how Muskrat Falls’ estimated $6.2 billion price tag has more than doubled to $12.7 billion.


The Muskrat Falls hydro generation facility in Labrador is 90 per cent complete.


Stan Marshall, CEO of Muskrat Falls owner Nalcor Energy, will speak to the media during a tour of the now-completed transmission site that will supply full power to the island’s residents by 2020.


Once Soldiers Pond becomes active, electricity rates are expected to double for the island’s consumers by 2022, a burden Premier Dwight Ball has said he is working to mitigate.

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Tokenization under the EU Regulations with Smartlands Will Define the Future of Investment Banking


media


VILNIUS, Lithuania — The volatile nature of the cryptocurrency market is the largest threat that keeps a majority of investors away from the industry, and many businesses from wide adoption of blockchain. The Smartlands Platform solves this challenge by creating the necessary legal framework to enforce assets tokenization in full compliance with the law.


Smartlands is going to employ a crowdfunding platform license to create a solid foundation for the future of assets tokenization within the platform. In order to be fully compliant with the law, the company plans further expansion by launching a new office in Vilnius.


Asset-backed tokens issued on Smartlands, under crowdfunding platform license, will be sold as securities. The tokens will combine the advantages of blockchain technology and classical investment instruments. They will be in compliance with the legislation of the European Union, provide greater protection for investors, and will be a secure tool to attract investments for companies, whilst providing flexibility to a crowdfunding framework.


How Smartlands Can Ensure Stability for the Cryptocurrency-Based Economy


We have carefully chosen Lithuania, because it is one of the few countries with very clear and concise legislation governing crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies, and related institutions. The development of the cryptocurrency market in the country is welcomed by the authorities, while Lithuania is part of the EU so tokens issued in compliance with its legislation gains the full access to the EU, EEA, and other markets.


Next Steps in the Smartlands Platform Expansion


Following this expansion, we have our eyes set on the United Kingdom. The UK is a primary location in our growth roadmap, and we plan to acquire a similar license there, as we are doing in Lithuania.


The UK is a hotbed of FinTech developments, large potential investors, and international investment opportunities. Many of the UK-based real estate assets are potential targets for tokenization, so further expanding into the UK opens up to more opportunities for efficient investments, capital growth and asset synergy to Smartlands.


About Smartlands


Smartlands is a worldwide Platform for tokenization of real economy. Smartlands is built on the Stellar network and employs advanced blockchain technology with fast, secure transactions and extended capabilities.


Smartlands on CoinMarketCap: coinmarketcap.com/currencies/smartlands


Telegram: https://t.me/smartlandschat


Website: www.smartlands.io




logo


Contacts


Victor Yermak (Business Development Director)
Smartlands Platform Foundation Company
[email protected]
+359 895046445 (telegram)


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In Texas, Trump’s steel tariff stirs uncertainty and concern

BAYTOWN, Texas — Joel Johnson examines the shipping labels on 35-ton coils of American-made steel that will be unspooled, bent and welded into rounded sections of pipe.


One’s from Nucor, a mill in Arkansas. Another’s from Steel Dynamics in Mississippi. But much harder to spot in the sprawling factory yard is the imported steel that’s put his company in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s bitter trade dispute with America’s allies and adversaries.


Trump says his tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods will put U.S. companies and workers on stronger footing by winding back the clock of globalization with protectionist trade policies. But the steel tariff — essentially a 25 per cent tax — may backfire on the very people the president is aiming to help. The Commerce Department has been deluged with requests from 20,000 companies seeking exemptions.


Johnson is the CEO of Borusan Mannesmann Pipe US, a company with Turkish roots that manufactures the welded pipe used by energy companies to pull oil and natural gas out of the earth. He has been fighting an uphill battle to get a two-year exemption from Trump’s tariff on steel imports.


Without a waiver, Johnson said, Borusan faces levies of up to $30 million a year — a staggering sum for a business with plans to expand.


“We don’t have any proof we’re being heard,” Johnson said.


Eighty miles southwest, in Bay City, global steel giant Tenaris also is seeking an exemption from the tariffs. The company churns out steel pipe in a $1.8 billion state-of-the-art facility that began operating late last year, using solid rods of steel called billets that are made in its mills in Mexico, Romania, Italy and Argentina. Of the four, only Argentina has agreed to limit steel shipments to the U.S. in exchange for being spared the tariff.


“The decision is out of our hands,” said Luca Zanotti, president of Tenaris’s U.S. operations, while expressing confidence its request would be approved. If it’s not? “We’ll adapt,” he said.


Steelworkers, meanwhile, are cheering the tariff even as they remain skeptical of Trump’s pledge to empower blue-collar Americans. They also worry about the possibility of too many exemptions.


“You put these tariffs (in place) but now you’re going to exclude everybody so they’re kind of pointless,” said Durwin Royal, president of United Steelworkers’ Local 4134 in Lone Star, Texas.


The diverse views illustrate the complexity, confusion and concern lurking behind Trump’s “America First” pledge.


Pipe mills are numerous in Texas, which leads the country in oil and natural gas production. Factories that use imported steel typically do so when they can’t get the exact type or quantity they need from U.S. producers. Many of them are among the thousands of companies that have filed exclusion requests to avoid being hit by the steel tariff.


Most of them are in the dark, unsure if their applications will be approved as the Commerce Department struggles to process a dramatically higher number of requests than it expected to receive.


A denial may torpedo plans to expand a factory. Or a company may have to lay off employees. The stakes are especially high in Texas: Economists Joseph Francois and Laura Baughman have estimated the Trump steel tariff and separate 10 per cent tariff on imported aluminum will trigger the loss of more than 40,000 jobs.


There’s no playbook to guide companies through an exemption process Johnson described as chaotic and unpredictable. He’s hired a lobbyist, former New York Gov. George Pataki. He’s fending off opposition from competitors, including a Tenaris-owned business, who want Borusan’s request denied.


On a sweltering afternoon earlier this month, Johnson assembled dozens of his employees in an air-conditioned room for what amounted to a Hail Mary pass. After lunching on sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, Borusan workers wrote personal messages on oversized postcards to be sent to Trump and other senior officials in Washington and Austin, the Texas capital, pleading for their help in securing the tariff exemption.


“I don’t know what motivates politicians besides votes,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re doing this crazy exercise.”


——


UNION BLUE


Royal is in his third term as the president of Local 4134.


He and the local’s vice-president, Trey Green, are union Democrats in the heart of Trump country. Lone Star is in Morris County, Texas, where Trump received nearly 70 per cent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election. Royal and Green initially backed independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders before casting their votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton.


Their union hall is a mile and a half from the U.S. Steel factory that manufactures welded pipe made from metal produced in the company’s mills in Indiana and Illinois. Like the union, U.S. Steel backed Trump’s tariff, declaring that his action would “level the playing field” by blocking other countries from dumping inexpensive steel in the United States. Much of it comes from China.


Although Royal and Green were heartened by the steel tariff, they said they’re under no illusion Trump is a friend to organized labour. Nor are they convinced his tough talk on trade will lead to a rebuilt U.S. steel industry with more and better jobs. Echoing Sanders, they called for a broader strategy to prevent corporations from sending American jobs to low-wage countries.


“I don’t know that putting tariffs on just one or two particular items are going to be the mainstay that helps us in the future,” Green said.


Royal and Green said they’re still waiting for Trump to follow through on his pledge to empower working-class Americans that he said were “forgotten” by Washington.


“So much money is in politics now it’s kind of drowning people like us out,” Royal said. “We’re not going to take (a congressman) to dinner and buy him a new set of golf clubs or give $250,000 toward his campaign. You can tell who’s got the loudest voice there.”


——


COST OF DOING BUSINESS


The Tenaris factory is a massive, modern facility just off the highway leading into Bay City, 21 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. About 640 people work here, but only a handful come into direct contact with the 50,000 tons of pipe the 1.2 million-square-foot factory is able to manufacture each month. The process is almost entirely automated, watched over by employees huddled in front of computer screens.


The company manufactures seam-free pipe typically used in offshore energy production or for transporting highly corrosive gas.


Tenaris began construction of the Bay City plant five years ago, long before anyone anticipated an American president would slap a tariff on steel. Zanotti declined to say how much Tenaris may have to pay, but he downplayed the expense as a cost of doing business on a global scale. Tenaris operates in 16 countries, including Nigeria, which ranks 145 out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” index.


“Of course we don’t like it,” Zanotti said of the tariff.


But, he added, “we’re used to dealing with moving parts. This is another moving part.”


The company doesn’t have a registered lobbyist in Washington, let alone an office. But Tenaris has deep pockets and is in the U.S. for the long haul.


Zanotti said the company has spent $8 billion over the last decade to expand its foothold in America, a figure he doesn’t think the Commerce Department should overlook. The investment includes the Bay City factory and the acquisition of the Maverick Tube Corporation, based in Houston. Like Borusan and U.S. Steel, Maverick makes pipe with a welded seam.


“We’re positive we’re going to get a good conclusion,” Zanotti said.


——


LET’S MAKE A DEAL


Johnson said he has a proposition for a president who prides himself on being a master dealmaker.


About 60 per cent of Borusan’s welded pipe is manufactured with American-made steel. The rest is shipped from Turkey already in tube form; it’s heat-treated, threaded and inspected in Baytown. Johnson is proposing that Borusan be allowed to bring in 135,000 tons of Turkish pipe each year for the next two years, tariff-free. In return, the company will build a new factory, right next to its existing plant.


That’s a $75 million investment that will allow Borusan to hire 170 new employees, augmenting its existing workforce of 267, according to Johnson. The expanded capacity also will allow Borusan to wean itself from the Turkish imports. He said he’s gotten no reply to his pitch.


The company brought ex-Gov. Pataki, a Republican, on board in March and has paid him $75,000 to drum up support in Washington. But Johnson said he’s unsure if Pataki’s made a difference.


“We’re not politicians. We make pipe,” he said. “We felt like that was a move we had to make because we are so far out of our element.”


Johnson said he had for weeks unsuccessfully sought support from GOP Rep. Brian Babin, whose district includes Baytown. Babin wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday, expressing his strong support for Borusan’s request and urging Ross to give it “your highest consideration.”


“Finally,” Johnson said.


The Commerce Department has been posting the thousands of requests for tariff exemptions online to allow third parties to offer comments and objections — even competitors who have an interest in seeing a rival’s request denied. Several of them, including U.S. Steel and Tenaris-owned Maverick Tube, objected to Borusan’s bid, saying the Turkish pipe it imports is readily available from American suppliers. They added that Turkey has been cited by the Commerce Department for dumping steel pipe in the U.S.


But Johnson said the objections are aimed at undercutting Borusan. He said no U.S. pipe mill is serious about selling to him because he’d want very detailed information about their products — such as the composition of the steel and a history of customer complaints.


“They just don’t want to see another factory go up here,” Johnson said. “They don’t want to see a competitor grow.”


——


Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rplardner

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Growth of low-cost airlines giving boost to Canada’s biggest secondary airports

MONTREAL — Formerly sleepy secondary airports in Canada’s two busiest air markets are in for a new lease on life thanks to the rise of discount airlines and projected growth in travel over coming decade.


Airports in Hamilton, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C., that have traditionally played second fiddle to Vancouver International Airport and Toronto Pearson International Airport, were buzzing last week as low-cost WestJet offshoot Swoop launched service between the two, catering to the country’s most price-sensitive passengers.


“It’s been a crazy week,” says Cathie Puckering, chief executive of John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, which got an additional boost when Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA announced plans last week to enter Canada and offer direct service to Dublin next spring.


After an 80 per cent increase in passengers last year, the airport hopes renewed interest from airlines will help spur a return to its heyday in 2003 when it accommodated one million passengers.


Hamilton, which is also Canada’s top domestic cargo airport, flew nearly 600,000 passengers last year, well short of its capacity to handle more than three million people. Interest waned after WestJet moved its eastern Canadian base of operations to Toronto Pearson following Air Canada’s merger with Canadian Airlines and Globespan Airways ceased operations to Europe.


Established in 1940 as a military flight school, civil flights began in 1964 after military activities ended. Management of the airport changed several times before ownership was transferred in 1996 to the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, which in turn contracted a private company to operate it for 40 years.


Airlines are attracted to Hamilton due to fees that are 30 to 50 per cent lower than Pearson’s. Its smaller size cuts the amount of time required for passengers to get to departure gates and allows planes to spend less time on the ground between flights.


“The emerging carriers are looking for partners that share the same philosophy and the same vision in growing the business opportunities,” Puckering said.


Hamilton airport is not only a convenient alternative for people west of Toronto, it has a large catchment area of its own. More than two million people live within an hour’s drive, and there are nine million Canadians and Americans within two hours drive.


Abbotsford International Airport offers similar advantages, which have allowed the airport to grow especially in the past few years, after the municipality purchased it from the federal government in 1997 for $10, says Mayor Henry Braun.


Traffic increased 38 per cent between 2015 and 2017, reaching 677,000 passengers last year, he said. The airport expects to surpass one million in a year or two, and has the capacity to accommodate more than 2.5 million passengers annually.


Braun said the airport is the lowest cost operation in Canada and likely North America.


The lack of an airport improvement fee alone saves about $3,000 per Swoop flight.


“The welcome mat is out and we’re doing everything from a cost platform basis to make it enticing for the airlines,” he said in an interview.


Braun said the low fares offered by its airlines is stimulating demand from people who don’t typically fly and helping to repatriate some of the millions of travellers who cross the border to depart from Bellingham, Wash.


“We’re not trying to become YVR (Vancouver International Airport),” he said, pointing to Abbotsford’s spartan air terminal. “We are trying to service the region and we have the capacity to take on way more passengers here and we’re happy to do that.”


Canada doesn’t have the same history with secondary airports as Europe and the United States. The country’s low population and proximity to the U.S. have allowed border airports to effectively pick up the slack from larger hubs.


It’s also been only about 25 years since the federal government spun off airports to local operators. Airports have begun to specialize as the country’s largest airports are getting full because of strong traffic growth, said Canadian Airports Council president Daniel-Robert Gooch.


“The airports are starting to work together and saying how can we structure our offering so that we’re able to serve the needs of this region, maybe in a more co-ordinated way.”


Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has expanded its offering of turboprop service, and debate continues on the potential construction of an airport in Pickering, east of Toronto.


There are also nearby airports in the Region of Waterloo and London, Ont., that offer year-round service to cities including Toronto and Calgary and seasonal flights to sun destinations. Among the airlines are WestJet, WestJet Encore, Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing.


Montreal has been primarily served by Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport since the closure of Mirabel as a commercial airport in 2004. However, efforts are underway to expand Montreal’s original airport at St. Hubert on the city’s south shore to accommodate smaller commercial aircraft.


The key to success for secondary gateways is to keep costs contained and attract a variety of airlines to strengthen their positions as airport alternatives, said Rod Hayward, an associate professor of business at University of the Fraser Valley.


“As more ultra low-cost carriers fly into a market you get better schedules, more options and more choices at the airport so it becomes a more credible choice for the consumer.”

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US restaurants host refugee chefs who offer a taste of home

SAN FRANCISCO — At San Francisco’s Tawla restaurant, Muna Anaee powdered her hands with flour and gently broke off a piece of golden dough to prepare bread eaten in Iraq, the country she fled with her family.


Anaee was preparing more than 100 loaves for diners Wednesday night as part of a program that lets refugees aspiring to be chefs work in professional kitchens.


The Refugee Food Festival — a joint initiative of the United Nations Refugee Agency and a French non-profit, Food Sweet Food — started in Paris in 2016 and came to the U.S. for the first time this year, with restaurants in New York participating as well. The establishments’ owners turn over their kitchens to refugee chefs for an evening, allowing them to prepare sampling platters of their country’s cuisine and share a taste of their home.


Restaurants in 12 cities outside the U.S. are taking part in the program this month.


“It’s been a big dream to open a restaurant,” said Anaee, 45, who now has a green card.


Anaee was among five refugees chosen to showcase their food in San Francisco — each at a different restaurant and on a different night, from Tuesday through Saturday. Organizers say the goal is to help the refugees succeed as chefs and raise awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide.


It’s important to “really get to know these refugees and their personal stories,” said Sara Shah, who brought the event to California after seeing it in Belgium.


Anaee and her husband and two children left Baghdad in 2013 over concerns about terrorism and violence. She worked as a kindergarten teacher in Iraq, not a chef, but was urged to pursue cooking as a career by peers in an English class she took in California after they tasted some of her food.


Azhar Hashem, Tawla’s owner, said hosting Anaee was part of the restaurant’s mission to broaden diners’ understanding of the Middle East — a region that inspires some of its dishes.


“Food is the best — and most humanizing — catalyst for having harder conservations,” she said.


The four other aspiring chefs serving food in San Francisco are from Myanmar, Bhutan, Syria and Senegal.


Karen Ferguson, executive director of the Northern California offices of the International Rescue Committee, said San Francisco was a good city for the food festival.


“We have so much diversity, and we see the evidence of that in the culinary expertise in the area,” she said.


The Bay Area has a high concentration of refugees from Afghanistan, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Eritrea and Burma, though exact numbers are unclear, according to the rescue committee. Its Oakland office settled more than 400 refugees in the Bay Area last year, but the number of refugees settling in the region has fallen dramatically since the Trump administration this year placed a cap on arrivals, Ferguson said.


Pa Wah, a 41-year-old refugee from Myanmar, presented dishes at San Francisco’s Hog Island Oyster Co. on Tuesday. She said she didn’t consider a career in cooking until she moved to California in 2011 and got her green card.


Cooking was a means of survival at the Thailand refugee camp where she lived after escaping civil conflict in Myanmar as a child. Participating in the food festival showed her the challenges of running a restaurant, but also helped her realize she was capable of opening her own, she said.

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