Insights from across the cannabis industry
Another week in the books, another week’s worth of big ticket cannabis news headlines. This trend doesn’t show any sign of slowing. Of all the developments, here are five cannabis news nuggets that piqued our interest the most this week. The Garden State will get greener — eventually A much-discussed platform item during New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign was marijuana legalization. And sure enough, the Democrat wasted no time addressing the matter in his Tuesday inauguration speech. %related-post-1% From the podium, Murphy said “a stronger and fairer New Jersey embraces criminal justice reform comprehensively, and that includes a process to legalize marijuana.” And while most have assumed the state will now launch full speed ahead toward legalization, it appears there might be some pushback in the New Jersey legislature — even from fellow Democrats. Netflix goes pro-cannabis with pro football players Let’s be honest, the human body was not built to play football. It’s hard to come up with another sport more physically grueling and debilitating. Given that reality, the chorus of voices arguing that NFL players should have access to MMJ is growing louder, and heading into last weekend Netflix released a video advocating for a change in the NFL substance policy. " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Will there be a California cannabis supply crunch? Legal recreational marijuana sales in California have been celebrated by cannafans since the calendar flipped to 2018. However, some are wondering if the state is heading toward a marijuana shortage. What’s causing the hand-wringing? Local licensing red tape that cultivators and processors are having to cut through in order to get their products on dispensary shelves. Our fingers are crossed this gets sorted out because as the (massive) legal Los Angeles market comes online, the state’s dispensary stockpiles will quickly diminish. Marijuana as a crime deterrent We’re all familiar with the prohibitionist line that marijuana increases violence. Yes, people still say that. But a study — released in late-2017 — made the rounds this week, and it showed the complete opposite. Shocker, we know. According to economist Evelina Gavrilova, when U.S. states along the Mexican border legalized medical marijuana, violent crime (associated heavily with Mexican gangs) decreased an average of 13 percent. Gavrilova said legal "growers are in direct competition with Mexican drug cartels that are smuggling the marijuana into the US. As a result, the cartels get much less business.” Eaze releases more cannabis consumer trends Our friends over at Eaze releazed (get it? ha!) their 2017 State of Cannabis Data Report this week, and it is chalk full of interesting consumer tidbits. As always, folks, we’ll keep our ears to the ground and our eyes peeled with interesting cannabis news to share with you.
The first week of 2018 was a doozy in the world of weed, and this week was no different with plenty of breaking cannabis news. Here are five cannabis news nuggets that caught our attention. Cory Gardner vs. Jeff Session cage match Okay, it wasn’t a battle royale in the WWE sense, but the Colorado senator did stand his ground against every marijuana fan’s favorite Attorney General when they met Wednesday morning. The bad news is that Sessions apparently held firm too. So what does this mean? That’s still to be determined. The Cole Memo — which helped the legal cannabis industry flourish — still resides in the policy trashcan, and Sen. Gardner, like many other elected officials, continues his protest. In his particular case, Gardner vowed to block any Justice Department nominees so long as Sessions keeps his heels dug in. %related-post-1% East Coast legalization efforts speeding ahead West Coast states may have gotten the jump on the rest of the U.S. when it comes to marijuana legalization, but a handful of East Coast states are sprinting to catch up. This week the Vermont Senate gave the final thumbs-up to a bill that will allow adults 21 and older the ability to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and two mature plants at their residence for recreational purposes. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has said he’ll sign the bill into law soon. Over in New Hampshire, a similar bill — this one allows people over 21 years old to possess three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and grow up to three mature cannabis plants at home — advanced out of the House and is heading for the Senate. And in New Jersey, a bill was introduced in the House that would allow the legal possession of recreational marijuana while also establishing the framework for commercial marijuana enterprises in the state. Incoming Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on legalizaition and appears committed to a speedy legislative passage. California recreational sales booming California’s Jan. 1 recreational rollout was the marijuana news of the week last week until Jeff Sessions decided to shred the Cole Memo. But Sessions’ move has not put the slightest dent in Golden State marijuana sales. While total retail numbers won’t be out for a while, anecdotally there’s reason to believe they’ll be massive. So heavy was foot traffic that some California dispensary owners are worried about employee burnout. We’ll keep an eye on how estimates actually pan out, but for now the state’s projections for a million pounds worth of first-year sales doesn’t sound too far-fetched. %related-post-2% Problematic Oregon underage sting results It wasn’t too long ago that legalization advocates were cheering the results of an undercover sting operation in Oregon designed to catch dispensaries selling marijuana to underage customers. The results? A 100% pass rate! But just after we finished spiking that football, news broke this week that multiple dispensaries in a different Oregon sting operation were busted selling pot to people under 21 years old. Talk about a — low note. Who likes poll numbers? We do (at least these, anyway) Not only does marijuana legalization enjoy majority support across the United States, but these two new polls came out reflecting that — by wide margins — Americans oppose federal marijuana intervention in state-based legalization efforts, and they have little faith in the War on Drugs. Take heart, friends, for if politics is indeed downstream from culture, the future of legalization looks bright. We’ll keep our ears to the ground again next week, so we can give you a rundown on more cannabis news highlights.
As tobacco lawsuit settlement revenues dry up in Colorado, cannabis is replacing tobacco as one of the state's social programs benefactors. Back in 1998, Colorado was one of 46 states that agreed to a settlement with the nation’s four largest tobacco companies. As the Denver Post reported at the time, the settlement specified that the companies would make payments to the states in order to help them recoup the costs of medical care associated with smoking-related illnesses. %related-post-1% In the two decades since, that settlement has amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars for Colorado — funds that have been crucial for dozens of public programs. Those funds have been shrinking in recent years, however, leaving state legislators to explore other revenue sources to fill the gap. And just as other states have done, Colorado has turned its attention to marijuana revenue. As the Denver Post notes, payments from 53 tobacco manufacturers have a 25 year lifespan, totaling a minimum of $206 billion dollars. Colorado has already received upwards of $1.7 billion of its allotted share, but a smaller stream of money related to the settlement has already come to an end. As one of the seven states that initiated the 90’s-era lawsuit, Colorado received a decade’s worth of supplemental payments — called strategic contributions payments — designed to repay the state for its legal work. Colorado’s annual payments, which began in 2008, worked out to $15 million. The state received its final payment of $15.5 million in April 2017. On top of that was a guarantee that future tobacco settlement payments would shrink, which would, in turn, negatively impact revenue directed toward numerous social service programs. The fact that smoking is down nationwide has also negatively affected settlement funds — which are based on annual cigarette sales — as well as state sales taxes derived from cigarette and tobacco purchases. Enter marijuana money. %related-post-2% Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012, legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana to adults. The following year, voters passed a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana. The state has created other taxes on cannabis, including sales taxes and so-called “sin” taxes, which have generated a substantial mountain of cash for the state and its social service programs. As we reported previously, taxes on pot netted Colorado more than $105 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year, and more than a half billion dollars since 2014. These funds go largely toward public health programs, housing for at-risk residents, student scholarships, anti-opioid treatment, and the rebuilding of crumbling public schools. Without the revenue from marijuana, officials tell the Post that many social programs would be in serious jeopardy. Other states are taking cues from Colorado when it comes to parlaying legal pot to fund their own social programs. For example, when recreational pot becomes legal for in Massachusetts later this year, a portion of the taxes on the drug will fund substance abuse treatment programs. Connecticut is considering legalizing marijuana in order to pay down its debt and help fund its pension and health-care obligations. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned legal marijuana’s power to help to slow down drug trafficking, reduce drug-related crime, and help countless people deal with myriad health conditions.
California's commercial cannabis rollout was the big New Year's marijuana headline. How did it go, and what have we learned so far? Imagine, after many years of anticipation, you finally receive an invitation to that big party. You’ve been dressed up and ready to go for as long as you can remember. In the interim, you’ve been pregaming, or perhaps pre-celebrating. Then, hey — you discover this invite isn’t for tonight at all. It’s for next week. Is it time to celebrate, or time to just go about your business as usual? If some of the joy and magic of California’s rollout of commercial adult-use cannabis sales feels muted, and more like a somewhat-momentous, mostly functional trip to the store, it’s partially due to this pattern of long, drawn-out anticipation and irregular, somewhat anticlimactic fulfillment. %related-post-1% The first sales of recreational marijuana in California were Jan. 1 — four years after people lined up in the freezing cold and snow in Colorado in order to be the first-first — but this was a limited-engagement fete. Sales weren’t at every dispensary, and not in every city. Though a few San Francisco dispensaries went live on Jan. 6 after sales began in Berkeley and Oakland across the Bay, Los Angeles is still dark. Now, one-by-one, a few more “grand openings” are trickling out, as soon as dispensaries receive the green light from state bureaucrats and print out the permit. How many “first day” parties can you possibly expect to greet with the same enthusiasm? As it turns out—quite a few. Legal marijuana is really popular — and cannabis consumers don’t care about being up early, or first in line You hate to fuel a stereotype, but…legal marijuana consumers are either relaxed enough to feel no sense of urgency, or they have plenty to do in the morning before hitting the dispensary. Or perhaps, as the Sacramento Bee opined, after capital-era dispensaries opened their doors to a few die-hards and some crickets, “Californians are too cool to line up for weed.” As usual, the truth is somewhere in between. While “hundreds” lined up outside Oakland’s Harborside in the predawn dark and cold on Jan. 1, in San Francisco, just a handful of people were queued up outside The Green Cross and The Apothecarium when they opened at 8 and 9 a.m. on Jan. 6, respectively. But then — more came. And more. And more. By lunchtime, lines were stretching longer and longer. At Green Cross, “85 percent” of visitors were new customers. All this long, drawn-out exposition has translated into less need to “be the first,” but there’s no denying legal cannabis is a popular draw. In a state that’s been saturated with marijuana for decades, in a marketplace some feared was already full — “everybody who needs or wants weed already has some” was a common line — there’s still ample room for excitement and novelty. That exhale you just heard was a sigh of relief from entrepreneurs. Legal marijuana is really, really, really expensive. Maybe too expensive There’s just no getting around it. Legal commercial-grade California cannabis is not cheap — just as business leaders and analyst warned us. On Jan. 1, one fellow forked over $100 for four-and-half grams, a price point that could have brought home a half-ounce less than a month prior at The Emerald Cup. %related-post-2% Such is the cost of going legit. State and local sales taxes, excises taxes, and cultivation taxes add an estimated 40 percent to the cost of legal marijuana. This means $70 eighths and $500 ounces — before sales tax — are common sights, even as California is supposedly drowning in a biblical oversupply. (Not all of that cannabis is ready for the legitimate market, you see.) The fear is that legal cannabis will price low-income people, especially sick patients, out of the legal market and drive them back to “their guy” on the street. That may happen, but be honest: Most of us would rather pay more for the convenience and assurance of going to a store rather than deal with all that. Everybody is going to try to make money off of this — everybody Hustlers built what we’ve come to know as modern-day California. Their legacy is still with us. The Gold Rush-era companies still in business made their first mint marketing gear to minors. Their spirit is alive if not eye-rollingly stale in Jack-in-the-Box’s very creative $4.20 “Munchie Meals,” a promotion hatched with Snoop Dogg’s Merry Jane lifestyle brand. Other big corporate types that may have disavowed or eschewed any connection to scary, illegal cannabis will follow suit in their quest to make an ancillary buck off of California’s estimated $7 billion pot market. Isn’t it funny how quickly something can be mainstreamed when there’s money involved? O.G.s will note, accurately, that weed hucksterism isn’t exactly new — it’s just migrating from cheap Venice Beach kitsch to slick Madison Avenue machines. We are drowning in plastic When sales went live on Jan. 1, a bevy of new rules went into effect along with them. Among them is a requirement for all cannabis to be put into a child-proof container. Dispensaries already had stocks of glass jars, pill bottles, plastic bags, and other containers ready to go — how do you lock those up, exactly? The “solution” has been to put everything into an opaque, “child-proof,” harder-than-normal to open plastic bag — and we mean everything, from single-serving edibles and modest grams to large purchases. %related-post-3% Times like these are when California regrettably descends into self-parody. We can see the logic of keeping edibles away from children, but as many others have noted, alcohol and cigarettes aren’t held to the same standards — and raw marijuana, remember, has very little THC. Dispensaries and brands are working on integrating child-proofness into their supply chains, but until then, be prepared for this polyethylene silliness. This is prologue. Everything is moving fast, and everything could change again A few days after legal sales began Jan. 1, a Sacramento-based cannabis compliance company committed a legendary self-own, advertising a party that did not comply with state law. But really, they should be forgiven. Life (and rules) are coming out fast and hard. The state managed to come up with “emergency” regulations only six weeks before the big day. If you didn’t like them, good for you: non-emergency rules will be “finalized” sometime in the next few months. Anyone expecting that to be the final-final is fooling themselves. Haggling over taxes, regulations, packaging, testing will take years. Speaking of testing: Cannabis purity requirements haven’t even come into effect yet, and won’t until the summer! In other words, the market has a few disruptions yet to come, and those are the ones we know about. To return to the metaphor and bash it to bits, this party is still barely in the cocktail and hors d'oeuvres stage.
We kicked off the new year with a lot of celebrating, some interesting new projects, and a cannabis smoke session on live national TV. But there was also some intriguing news, which might impact states where cannabis is legal. Here’s a little recap of the whirlwind-like first few days of cannabis in 2018. California goes recreationally legal People in California didn’t only celebrate the beginning of a new year, but also the legalization of recreational cannabis. Sounds like a great New Year’s party! After Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada, California finally joined the recreational club on January 1. All adults (21 and over) can now buy cannabis and cannabis-based products in dispensaries across the state where municipalities permit recreational cannabis sales. CNN celebrated cannabis on New Year’s Eve...on live national TV CNN reporter Randi Kaye seemed to have a great night while waiting on 2018 to arrive. In Colorado, recreational cannabis can be bought legally, and that’s where the cannabis party took place, on live TV. Even though we’re not really used to seeing people smoke on TV, it was a great way to show that the effects of cannabis are laughter and great fun! Jack in the Box shows it knows the perfect cannabis complement The fast food chain partnered with the website Merry Jane to create a fun promotion which will (unfortunately) only last a week, from January 18 to January 25. The “Merry Munchie Meal” sounds to be the perfect snack for when you’re enjoying a nice joint. Tacos, mini churros, crispy chicken strips, a side composed of curly fries and onion rings, and of course a drink is all you’ll need to kill the munchies. And who knows, maybe other fast food chains or even local restaurants will get inspired by this. Mike Tyson gets in on canna-tourism Mike Tyson has recently started working on a new cannabis project: the “Tyson Ranch.” The 40-acre cannabis-themed resort will have cultivation facilities, a hydro-feed plant and supply store, a factory for edibles, extraction facilities and “glamping” campgrounds and cabins. He hopes his new project will help with medical research on cannabis, as well as give jobs to former armed forces veterans. So basically this place could create new jobs, as well as provide an awesome vacation — that’s a win/win in our book. Record scraaaaaaatch — thanks to Jeff Sessions The first week of the year, unfortunately, also started with some stressful news when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he “will now leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules collide with federal drug law,” by rolling back the Cole Memo, an Obama-era directive that helped pave the way for the growth of the legal cannabis industry in the United States. It’s yet to be seen how much Sessions’ move will impact the industry, but our fingers are crossed for the best. The story of cannabis in 2018 will largely hinge on the downstream impact of this move. Following cannabis in 2018 will likely be a wild ride. And if the first week of the year is any indicator of what's to come, we should all buckle up.
When evaluating projected economic numbers, the marijuana industry appears to be set for liftoff. To start the year, Arcview published some new (positive) predictions. If you follow marijuana industry news then you’re no stranger to industry-related projections. There are forecasts around the total valuation of the market. There are predictions for the number of jobs that will be created. There are estimates for how the taxes collected will benefit society. There are even guesses for how much marijuana sales will … hurt shoe sales. Nope, we didn’t make that last one up. %related-post-1% Of course, we love getting our eyeballs on new projections whenever they come out. And just in time for the New Year, Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics released a new study that is filled with positive numbers for all things marijuana. The report, “US Legal Cannabis: Driving $40 Billion Economic Output,” was released the day after recreational marijuana went legal in California, and that state especially figures to be a key driver of the bullish estimates. Of all the numbers, the most eye-catching reveal that the total economic output of cannabis in the United States will mushroom from $16 billion in 2017 to a staggering $40 billion (okay, $39.6 — but who’s counting?) by 2021. The report suggests that in 2021, $20.8 billion in consumer marijuana spending across the U.S. will drive $40 billion in overall economic impact, while creating 414,000 jobs and more than $4 billion in tax receipts. %related-post-2% Amazing. Also amazing are these additional findings: By 2021, California alone will support 99,000 cannabis-related jobs. 60 percent of the total $40 billion economic output will be experienced in six of the “early mover” recreational states: California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Wholesale, excise, and cannabis-specific sales taxes will hit $1.4 billion when 2017 totals are tallied and $2.8 billion by 2021. Throw on state and local taxes, and total tax receipts could reach $4.7 billion. Most reports tend to be conservative with their projections. Even if these are, they should make the hearts of most everyone involved in the marijuana industry swell. We’ll certainly keep you posted on how these pan out.
Labor union rosters have been shrinking for years, but a new industry might offer a boon. What, exactly, will the future look like between labor unions and marijuana? Not only has the legalization of recreational marijuana in California caused folks to line up by the hundreds to buy pot at the state’s dispensaries, it has also caused some of the nation’s biggest labor unions to line up in order to represent the tens of thousands of weed workers California’s cannabis industry could eventually employ. Big Labor's hope is that the new (legal) industry will provide a favorable backdrop for a partnership between labor unions and marijuana. %related-post-1% California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and voted in November of 2016 to become the sixth state in the nation to allow sales of recreational marijuana. As of January 1, adults 21 and older in California can possess as much as an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. As more cities in the state finalize their licensing procedures, more retail shops are expected to open, driving up the number of planters, rollers, sellers, and other workers that will be needed to staff California’s multi-billion dollar recreational marijuana industry. Those workers will need to be organized, say a few prominent labor unions, and the unions are currently jockeying for position to do just that. According to a report by the Cannabist, organizers with the United Farm Workers, Teamsters, and United Food and Commercial Workers are looking to unionize the roughly 100,000 cannabis industry employees California is expected to need in the coming years. Doing so would be a boon for organized labor, which has seen its membership numbers in the United States drop by nearly half since 1983. %related-post-2% The opportunity for unions to benefit from the state’s weed boom could be compromised by infighting among the groups, however. As the Cannabist notes, the United Farm Workers see themselves as a natural fit for an industry rooted in agriculture, while United Food and Commercial Workers — which represents grocery store employees, meat packers, and retail workers — has registered its intent to organize cannabis workers across the nation. “We would hope they respect our jurisdiction,” UFCW spokesman Jeff Ferro told the site. Teamsters organizer Kristin Heidelbach is tad less confrontational, however, rightly noting that the industry’s eventual shift from small business to large corporations will provide plenty of workers needing representation from all three unions. And what kind of representation might weed workers need? Los Angeles resident Richard Rodriguez told the Cannabist that a police officer pulled him over while delivering a legal shipment of marijuana and detained for 12 hours after he was accused of following too closely behind a semi-truck. He was eventually released without being arrested or even given a ticket when a union lawyer stepped in to help. %related-post-3% Elsewhere, cannabis software platform Eaze, often referred to as the “Uber of marijuana,” is facing a lawsuit from one of its former drivers. According to a report by CannabisNow.com, the former driver, Dakota Quigley, says Eaze failed to pay him daily rates promised to him by a recruiter working for the company. At issue in the lawsuit — which may have been avoided if Quigley had had proper representation — is the question of whether Quigley was working directly for Eaze, or as the company asserts, as an employee of one of its partner dispensaries. As marijuana continues its move from the black market to the mainstream, its workers will undoubtedly continue to deal with similar mainstream issues. And as they do, labor unions and marijuana workers will continue their courtship.
Corn and cannabis: They're both agricultural commodities, but they experience very different market circumstances. What's the difference, and what does that mean for cannabis growers? Take a trip across the United States and you will be bluntly confronted with a major reality: this nation is all cornfields, from sea to shining sea. Understanding the law of supply and demand, and the effects on the cannabis market, one would assume that with such massive production of corn, prices should be rock bottom. They are low, but they aren’t bottoming out and never will, under currently policy. Corn as a commodity provides the perfect insight as to what cannabis should and shouldn’t look like in a future commodity market. %related-post-1% So, what exactly is an agricultural commodity? Let’s break it down. First, a “commodity” is defined as a “raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold; such as copper or coffee.” The markets for copper and coffee are different however. Copper, like oil or gold, is supplied by the earth itself. She isn’t making more of it fast enough for us either, making those resources “finite” or naturally limited by the amount already in existence. Prices for agricultural commodities like coffee fluctuate from harvest to harvest. If coffee prices rise, more farmers joining the market can bring them down. If prices fall too low for coffee, less farmers will be incentivized to grow it. U.S. farmers now produce 32 percent of the world’s corn supply. Corn did not make its way to every corner of America because demand was increasing exponentially, but because the federal government subsidizes production. The reason for this is because governments around the world subsidize the production of agricultural commodities to ensure the stability of food supplies. Farming is tricky business. No matter how dedicated a farmer is or how good his or her produce is, unpredictable weather and uncontrollable external supply production could drop prices so low the farmer goes out of business entirely and stops producing. In order to ensure farmers keep farming their crops year-over-year, despite fluctuating prices, the government pays some farmers of agricultural commodities to ensure they profit enough to keep planting. Corn as a commodity in the United States By definition, however, to be a “commodity” corn needs to be the building block of something else. With Americans growing more corn than they can eat, they have to use it for other purposes. Corn is a food that humans eat as-is, but most of the corn planted in the United States is not meant for eating. According to Scientific American, about 36 percent of U.S. corn harvests are fed to livestock, another 40 percent is converted to ethanol. Much of the rest (about 20 percent) is exported. The remaining few percent are mostly converted straight into high fructose corn syrup and used to sweeten sodas and processed foods (which has a host of negative consequences). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 95 percent of livestock accustomed to eating grass are being fed with corn (which also has some pretty negative consequences). %related-post-2% How is cannabis different, as a commodity, than corn? Cannabis is not corn. As an agricultural commodity, it is closer to coffee or wine grapes. Why? A diverse market of buyers that demand uniqueness and quality. While the price of cannabis, coffee and grapes are also set by supply and demand, quality and genetics also affect prices. Typical commodity markets rely on standardization, but agriculture isn’t naturally standardized. Like humans, plants and every other living biological organism on the planet, plant genetics vary from seed to seed just like human genetics vary from sibling to sibling. Plants, like humans, are constantly evolving and never standardized. That is, unless you clone them. Cloned plants are standardized and grown en masse, converting them into an easier-to-define commodity. This process is referred to as “monocropping.” Bananas are a great example; every yellow Cavendish banana you eat is a clone of every other yellow banana you have eaten. Most banana consumers know no other bananas and do not demand genetic diversity, allowing producers to tightly control and concentrate the market. Clone me not (as much): Cannabis diversity is prized Cannabis, however, is prized as a raw good, and connoisseurs seek out new and rare varieties. The raw produce can be converted into oils, foods and other byproducts, but there is a large and thriving clientele that has come to prize the crop specifically for its genetic diversity. Grapes, coffee and cannabis can be monocropped, mass-produced and priced like a commodity. There will be a low-priced market for the raw produce, but ultimately the cheap stuff will get converted into byproducts. This low-priced market easily exists side-by-side with a connoisseur’s market that values the unique genetics in different varieties of the plant and will pay a premium for these different varieties when great growers coax out their best qualities. So, while there will always be a market for cheap, bulk, Folger’s coffee, it doesn’t take away from the market for small batch, special blends and roasts, which are purchased at a premium. %related-post-3% If you are a grower, especially one who doesn’t plan to specialize in higher-cost higher-value specialized cannabis flowers, it is time to understand how you fit (or don’t) in the commodity market, or you might find yourself outside of it. In the future, there will be more ways for the cannabis farmer to insulate themselves from commodity pricing, such as cash cropping and forward marketing (that’s how Iowa corn farmers do it). But, as long as cannabis remains federally illegal, it is not possible to utilize these strategies. Unlike other commodities, cannabis isn’t sold on one singular market, because it isn’t exactly legal yet. As we move past state-by-state legalization and towards (hopefully) federal decriminalization, descheduling and a commercially regulated industry, cannabis will increasingly be priced by the laws of supply and demand in a commodity market. Best to prepare now.
January 1, 2018 is a big day for cannabis consumers in the Golden State. But exactly where (and when) will you be able to buy California marijuana? California is the largest state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, but, with the first licenses in the state being issued as we speak, a majority of California’s 482 cities still haven’t authorized recreational pot sales — and aren’t likely to do so anytime soon. %related-post-1% As we’ve discussed previously, California was already one of the nation’s biggest pot producers when it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Residents in the Golden State voted to approve the legal sale and possession of an ounce of pot for recreational use in November of 2016, but now, with growers wanting to seize the opportunity to make some bank in the booming industry, most cities and counties won’t be allow commercial cannabis sales by the January 1, 2018 target date. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the November 2016 initiative immediately allowed Californians age 21 and older to possess and transport up to an ounce of marijuana for use for recreational purposes, as well as grow up to six plants for personal use. And sales of recreational cannabis were slated for January 2018. In order to sell recreational California marijuana, the Times explains, retailers must first get approval of their individual cities or counties before they can be licensed by the state. Los Angeles will allow retailers to sell recreational weed in January, joining other major cities like San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland and San Jose. Cities and counties can opt out of allowing commercial cannabis sales, however, and most have, including Riverside, Fresno, Bakersfield, Pasadena and Anaheim. Other cities, like Long Beach, say they will take another look at the issue after they see how the new system works elsewhere. %related-post-2% “It’s going to be months, maybe even a year before a majority of the state has access that is less than a half-hour drive away,” Nate Bradley, a representative of the California Cannabis Industry Association, told the Times. He estimated that only about a third of the state will initially allow the sale of recreational weed. As of the time of this writing, it appears that the 150 medical marijuana dispensaries already in Los Angeles will be the some of the first places that can apply for recreational sales licenses from the state in January. Being able to apply for a license doesn’t mean they will be able to sell pot right away, however. Licensed retailers will still have to deal with delays brought on by a flood of other applicants, staffing issues, and a huge set of new rules for cannabis growers, sellers and distributors. In the interim the state has issued temporary licenses to a short roster of California marijuana dispensaries, and our friends over at Leafly have compiled a running list of these. Click here, to view them. “The first few weeks, the first month, I do think people need to be patient,” Lori Ajax, director of the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, told the Times. Some will need to be more patient than others. Like, way more patient.
Will there be banking? Will there be research? Or raids? These shot-callers will influence marijuana policy in 2018 the most. If 2016 was a year of great, watershed moments in marijuana policy reform — and it was — 2017 was a year of boring, yet more substantive achievement. It was also a year when the power of the minority (read: prohibitionists), and all their arbitrary, contrarian, and obstructionist tyranny, was proven beyond a doubt. %related-post-1% As we explain, this bodes both ill and well for the future. It’s only after voters elect to legalize cannabis for all adults or to allow medical marijuana that the work can be put in — you know, the work to actually provide weed to sick people or all people over 21. Take a look at Maine or Massachusetts, where voters legalized recreational cannabis on the same day they did in California and Nevada, and you’ll see what we mean. As you read this, over-the-counter marijuana sales are happening in Las Vegas. It matters not if you read this at 3AM, since dispensaries there are open 24 hours. In California, retail recreational cannabis stores open(ed) January 1. In the northeast, retail dispensaries will open for business a year after they did in Nevada, at the earliest — and that would be an accelerated deadline we’ll hit if we’re lucky. What’s taking so long, and who’s not getting it done? In the case of those two states, it’s lawmakers and elected executives. Blinded by his zeal to block the voters’ will, Maine Gov. Paul LePage has all but laid his body down on the railroad tracks to block commercial marijuana, and if somebody convinced him that legalization was a tangible entity, like a boulder or a train, he quite possibly would. In 2018, voters will almost certainly have the opportunity to legalize cannabis in more states, chief among them Michigan — but just like in 2017, the real work, the real action around advancing marijuana policy will come later, in governor’s offices, legislative chambers, and on bureaucrats’ desks. A few people wield an inordinate amount of power and can accelerate or obstruct. Who are these people, and what will they do? The Californians As chief of California’s still-new Bureau of Cannabis Control, no one person in the state has more sway over the marijuana industry than Lori Ajax. The regulations promulgated by Ajax and other top California bureaucrats will dictate the size and the shape of the world’s biggest single marijuana market. However: If we wanted to be pedantic, since Ajax answers to Gov. Jerry Brown and serves at his pleasure, technically Brown has more power, and can tell Ajax what to do. %related-post-2% Indeed, indications are that Brown’s office, and possibly the governor himself, is steering the ship, and influencing key world-shaping decisions like California Department of Food and Agriculture’s choice to allow cannabis cultivation operations of unlimited size. But let’s hop off this tangent. The point is that California has an opportunity, now, to decide who’s let in to the industry, who can be big, and how they do business. Emergency regulations released in November will almost certainly be altered between now and the spring. Some California lawmakers are already demanding changes. What they come up with will be foundational, throughout the nation. As much as they might deny it, other states have a California obsession. Onerous medical-marijuana rules that make it very difficult to obtain marijuana were passed in other states in response to what was seen as a “too permissive” atmosphere in the Golden State. The Money Machine It’s a sad fact if you believe in the grassroots, and it’s a convenient one if you have a large bank account. Either way, it’s a demonstrated truth that legalization happens only in the presence of money. Taking California as a convenient, nation-state-sized example again: Legalization initiative Prop. 64 happened only after tech mogul Sean Parker contributed millions of dollars — and Parker’s involvement followed billionaire investor and alt-right bete noire George Soros’s longtime involvement with the Drug Policy Alliance. Their choices of what kind of ballot initiatives to fund directly determines what kind of legalization efforts voters have to choose from. And where money comes, more money follows. Look: Constellation Brands, the multinational mega-brewer, invested in the (Canadian) cannabis industry, and Colorado-based MillerCoors may do the same. If it does, expect other major corporations to follow. On the flip side of this is the negative money. Who will fund the anti-legalization campaigns — and how much will they spend? With an assist from pharmaceutical companies like Insys, which markets a product containing fentanyl (and is also working on a synthetic marijuana product), Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s dump-truck loads of cash helped defeat Arizona’s legalization measure. It’s never a bad time to be a billionaire in America, and it’s even better now. You get a tax cut, and we plebes are subject to your investment whims as always, whether it’s in legalization, stopping legalization, or profiting from it. %related-post-3% The Thought Leaders In response to the opiate crisis, some state lawmakers are allowing the spouses and friends of drug-overdose victims to be charged with murder. Sounds a bit over-the-top, but that’s what happens when drug-induced homicide laws are put on the books. Exposing the callous and heartless efforts like this is one of the aforementioned Drug Policy Alliance’s achievements, and a demonstration of how organizations like DPA, NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and many others can steer the conversation and change minds with cogent arguments based on data — data like the facts weighed by the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, when it declared early in 2017 that cannabis does in fact have medical value. Such findings belie claims that neither science nor medicine has anything good to say about cannabis. Quite the opposite. Speaking of opposites: On the other end of the spectrum from the likes of DPA and MPP are entities like Project SAM, the intellectual basis (such as it is) for drug prohibition. Run by a former Office of National Drug Control Policy staffer, Project SAM has worked overtime to find any reason to convince the Justice Department to crack down on cannabis. Sometimes the reasons don’t add up, but if it’s what certain people want to hear, it matters not if it’s intellectually dishonest misdirection. The Washingtonians About those certain people. A central point of 2018 is that so much is still unclear, because it’s unclear who will be making key decisions. Look at the roster, and its many empty holes. We have no drug czar. We have no full-time, non-interim head of the DEA. We have an acting director of the Department of Health and Human Services. So much of the agenda is set by the feds, and so many of the feds who make these decisions are temporary replacements or still on the way. %related-post-4% As for people who are at work, VA Secretary David Shulkin could, with a dictum, change veterans’ access to cannabis, as Marijuana Moment’s Tom Angell has argued. In this way, he has more sway than a committee head in Congress blocking debate on key bills. National Institutes on Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow also deserves more credit as an influencer on cannabis policy than she receives. Under her tenure, NIDA has updated its website several times — in rational and fact-based ways. Because of this, anti-marijuana forces have had to resort to eccentrics in order to find any kind of “rational” argument — which is why Attorney General Jeff Sessions was welcoming into his office zealots like Robert DuPont, Richard Nixon’s drug czar and the hardest of hardline true believers, who has argued that cannabis’ Schedule 1 classification (and its “official status” as more dangerous than fentanyl) is rational and cool. Which brings us to… The Big, Loud, Online President Much attention has rightly been focused on Sessions and what he will and won’t do on the cannabis question. One theory why he hasn’t done anything yet is that he’s unsure where he stands with his boss — and it’s his boss, the man with the unquenchable appetite for Diet Cokes, Fox News, and sharp-elbowed tweets, who will also appoint a drug czar, a health secretary, a DEA head, and ergo influence so much more of American marijuana policy. Sessions will likely do nothing earth-shattering until the Trump-Russia imbroglio is resolved. Does Donald Trump want Sessions to start a drug crackdown? Sure, whatever, as long as it will fill rally halls and make for good content on Fox and Friends. If it doesn’t, then who cares? All of us, of course, who are captive as always to the moods and whims of a famously moody, grudge-bearing man.
Anyone who keeps up with marijuana headlines couldn’t have missed the Sweet Leaf saga that unfolded earlier this month. The Colorado dispensaries were shuttered when authorities found them in glaring violation of “looping” rules. According to KUSA-TV, 13 employees of Sweet Leaf dispensaries were arrested after undercover police detectives were able to buy as many as 16 ounces of marijuana in a single day from eight of the popular cannabis retailer’s Denver locations. %related-post-1% "The operation is the result of an extensive, year-long criminal investigation into illegal distribution of marijuana at those locations," the Denver Police Department announced in a statement regarding the arrests. The statement goes on to explain that Amendment 64 of Colorado law “allows for the personal use of marijuana, and specifically allows the possession, use, display, purchase, and transport of one ounce or less of marijuana.” The 13 employees who were arrested are accused of selling marijuana in excess of that limit by a practice known as “looping.” What’s looping? As Westword explains, looping occurs when a dispensary customer buys the maximum amount of cannabis allowed — in this case, one ounce for recreational customers and two ounces for medical patients — and then leaves the store, only to return soon after to buy more. While Colorado has a state tracking system in place for medical patients, none exists for recreational purchases, which makes the looping practice easier to exploit. Arrest affidavits indicate that during each undercover buy, a detective carrying a hidden video camera would enter the store and show their ID to an employee behind a glass window in the lobby. The employee would then give the ID to the “budtender,” who would escort the undercover detective to the sales floor. Court documents show that, at some of Sweet Leaf’s locations, the same undercover detectives were able to walk in and buy weed anywhere from seven to 16 times a day. In one case, a budtender sold pot to the same detective nine times in less than two hours — sometimes ringing him up a mere 15 minutes between purchases. %related-post-2% Nine times in less than two hours? Whoa. Five of the 13 arrested face felony charges, as they sold more than four ounces of marijuana to undercover detectives in one day. The rest face misdemeanor charges. None of the chain’s owners were arrested, though all 26 of their licenses to cultivate, process, and dispense pot were suspended by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses. A hearing to decide any additional action is expected in a few weeks. Sweet Leaf has 10 of its Colorado dispensaries in Denver and one in nearby Aurora. While all 11 of their Colorado dispensaries are currently closed, their dispensary in Portland, Oregon is still open. The company had planned to open another location in Thornton, Colorado in 2018, but the city is now reviewing the matter in light of their troubles elsewhere in the state. And so dire is the financial situation facing Sweet Leaf employees, all out of work now, the Colorado marijuana community is holding fundraisers for them. There are lots of lessons in all this.
Similar to most things in the industry, the marijuana business workforce is changing — and the professionalization of the industry is moving at light speed. Not only is the increasing legitimacy of the legal marijuana industry changing public perception about the plant, it is also attracting entrepreneurs and professionals who previously considered the marijuana business taboo. With each passing day, big cannabis is moving away from the black market and into the hands of scientists, software executives, bankers, ex-military personnel, former pro athletes, and other accomplished folks looking for opportunities in this fast-growing industry. %related-post-1% According to cannabis industry tracker, Arcview Market Research, the legal cannabis market is currently worth roughly $8 billion, and will likely hit $22.6 billion in total annual sales by 2021. That kind of value, which could exceed the value of the National Football League, has spurred pot-based businesses to increasingly professionalize their operations by attracting top talent from other industries and billions of investment dollars from Wall Street. (A new commodity index even tracks the going rates for greenhouse and field-grown weed.) While marijuana is still illegal in all forms in 21 states, other states are aggressively marketing cannabis like they would, say, tourism or manufacturing. And new marijuana business professionals are playing a pivotal role in that marketing. Aiming to address lingering questions and concerns about the industry, Oregon has launched a new series of videos highlighting the importance of cannabis consumers and industry members who have chosen to participate in the legal and growing market. The videos, which were spearheaded by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s Recreational Marijuana Program, feature interviews with major players from Oregon’s regulated pot industry. Among those interviewed include a former fishery biologist, a former architect, and a former midshipman with the United States Naval Academy. %related-post-2% “We wanted to help dispel old stereotypes and enable Oregonians to better understand who’s in this industry,” Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the Recreational Marijuana Program, told Civilized. Elsewhere, ex-NBA players Cliff Robinson and Al Harrington have become canna-biz execs, former Google sales team leader Alan Gertner now works for a cannabis firm that sells high-end vaporizers and bongs, and Eric Eslao, founder of an artisanal cannabis-infused chocolate company, was a senior production manager at Apple a little over a year ago. Eslao told Reuters that while he feared the stigma of joining the weed industry, that fear ultimately wasn’t enough to stop him. “The opportunity was too good not to make the jump,” he says. Entire venture capital firms are making the jump, as well. This year has seen at least 27 investments by venture capital funds in cannabis companies, compared with just 10 such deals in 2016 and nine in 2015, according to data from venture capital data provider CB Insights cited by Reuters. Lerer Hippeau Ventures, a New York-based venture capital firm well-known for its investments in Twitter and Buzzfeed, invested $3 million in a business-to-business platform that provides a market for dispensary owners to buy inventory. The Founders Fund, started by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, has invested in a cannabis private equity firm. And prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists 500 Startups, DCM Ventures, along with New York-based Great Oaks Venture Capital, have all backed a medical marijuana delivery app that allows patients to order cannabis on demand. %related-post-3% While Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ prohibitionist mindset and marijuana’s illegality in 21 states (and at the federal level) continue to cloud the cannabis industry’s long-term future, the growth of the industry in the other 29 states — as well as President Trump’s apparent disinterest in rolling back that progress — would seem to indicate that the marijuana marketplace will only continue to flourish. Sessions might not like pot, but the general public’s comfort level with legal marijuana continues to grow. And as the public gets more and more comfortable with legal weed, so will professionals and investors.
Counter to prohibitionist hysteria, marijuana legalization has not led to a surge in teen marijuana use. Ever since marijuana legalization was first discussed in the U.S., anti-cannabis advocates have argued that legalizing marijuana would cause usage among teenagers to explode. According to multiple studies, however, most states where cannabis has been legalized have seen a drop, not an increase, in teen marijuana use. %related-post-1% As Straight.com reports, data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that the percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who used pot in the past year dropped by more than two points between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 in Colorado and Washington, which both legalized cannabis in 2012, as well as the District of Columbia, which legalized cannabis in 2014. The data also shows that a drop of less than one percent in Oregon, as well as an increase of less than one percent in Alaska. Cannabis legalization was implemented in both states in 2014. Further NSDUH data examining cannabis use in the past month showed similar results, with decreases in use among 12- to 17-year-olds in Alaska, Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Washington, and an increase of less than a half-percent in Oregon. Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found that while pot use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders has increased slightly over the course of the past year, it is still generally lower than it was before states began legalizing marijuana in 2012. %related-post-2% According to the latest edition of the university’s annual Monitoring the Future report, the percentage of students surveyed who had used pot in the previous year increased to 24 percent, up 1.3 percent from 2016. However, as CNN notes, the study also shows that the rate of pot usage among students is still far lower than its 1997 peak, when 38.5 percent of 12th-graders had used marijuana in the previous year. In fact, the study points out, the overall use of marijuana among teens has generally been trending downward since 2013. Not only has marijuana usage among teens not skyrocketed, but teens’ opinions about it haven’t changed much, either. Last year, 68.5 percent of 12th-graders disapproved of regular pot use. This year, that percentage fell to 64.7 percent. All told, cannabis use among teens is down by about a half-percent nationwide. Not quite the explosion we were warned about it, is it?
Marijuana prices per pound are steadily falling. As cannabis becomes a legally produced and traded crop, it is becoming an agricultural commodity, and like other agricultural commodities, wholesale prices have rippling effects for producers and consumers. So, why are marijuana prices dropping, and what does it all mean? Legalization Drives Down Prices in the Long Run In a typical agricultural commodity market, prices are determined by the simple economic law of “supply and demand.” Prices are set by the total amount all producers make available for sale coupled with the total demand of all buyers. Lower supply and higher demand results in higher prices because the commodity in question is rare and desired. Higher supply and lower demand results in lower prices because there is an overabundance of the commodity. %related-post-1% When the price of a commodity is low, the buyer holds the power over the producers and the market is referred to as “a buyer’s market.” When the price of a commodity is high, the seller holds all the power over the buyers and that market is called “a seller’s market.” Cannabis has traditionally been bought, sold and priced in a “seller’s market. Before the current “Green Rush” the vast majority of would-be growers avoided the market altogether for fear of losing everything and spending their lives in prison if caught. The risk factor involved in setting a farming operation up and selling an illegal substance discouraged farmers from producing and allowed the market to maintain high prices. I am here to tell you it is time to stop basing your revenue projections off those artificially high prices. Those days are slipping away, despite inaction from the federal government. As western states began to pass medical cannabis legislation, bringing more growers out into the open and encouraging more to join in, local prices started to steadily decline. Under current federal policies (the Ogden and Cole Memos), states are allowed to produce and sell cannabis in-state per their state laws but are required to keep that supply within state limits. Of course, that is impossible. Since when have borders prevented suppliers from meeting demand for anything? Well, never. It’s why prohibition never worked in the first place; demand incentivizes supply. %related-post-2% In the medical era, when legal prices in legal states even for top shelf cannabis started to come down, prices in states without robust markets spiked up. A grower growing for the semi-legal “gray markets” out west were presented two markets’ worth of demand to meet; legal and illegal. Shortly before legalization laws started passing, growers who supplied illegal demand could make between $3,000 and $5,000 a pound if they were willing to illegally shuttle their product to the East Coast or Midwest, or sell it to local legal markets for about half that price. Those higher export prices coupled with laws that allowed growing in the open brought even more Green Rush growers out West, drastically increasing supply. Legal sales to customers over the age of 21 in fives states (and counting) has only served to pile onto the supply glut. Now, thanks to legalization, supply has begun to outweigh demand in both markets, and marijuana prices are plunging as a result. So Prices are Plunging — Is That a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? Well, that depends on who you are and where your interests lie. Some state medical and recreational sales schemes have engineered scarcity in the market or levied such high taxes on product that prices remain artificially higher than the law of supply and demand would dictate. California, for example, has set such high tax rates on growers and consumers that prices could spike to up to 70 percent higher than pre-legalization prices in and fuel the already massive black market. In medical states back east, like Florida, Illinois and Ohio, oligopoly markets have the same effect on prices by forcing the power into the seller’s hands. %related-post-3% Attempts to artificially inflate legal prices will have the effect of fueling the black market. Black market suppliers often are providing higher quality marijuana at better prices than state programs, and supplying that illegal demand has forced the prices down even in legal markets. Going into 2018, and the rollout of California’s legal sales, a lot of farmers and investors are worried about the price of pot. Small farmers who relied on raw cannabis buds alone for their livelihoods are being forced to scale up or get out. Investors are increasingly finding out that despite their sky-high projections, farming a semi-legal agricultural commodity is a “boom and bust” business that takes foresight, passion, dedication and the wherewithal to sustain long-term market fluctuations. So are falling marijuana prices a bad thing or a good thing? If you are a seller, it’s absolutely not a good thing. But if you are a buyer, those prices absolutely are. But as cannabis becomes a legal commodity and is being priced as such, pricing will have to radically change to reflect that variations of not just quantity, but quality, in the market.
As 2017 draws to a close, it's time to cast an eye forward to 2018 and predict which marijuana issues we'll be hearing about frequently. There isn't much new under the sun in the cannabis reform movement. Namely: It should be legal, but it isn't. Should be easy to agree on what to do, but it's not. And as you'll read in our preview of 2018, you should be prepared for discourse that devolves into dispute merely on the size and shape of the negotiating table. %related-post-1% Here are 5 major marijuana issues to watch next year. Medical Marijuana Legalization That Isn’t Merely Symbolic Statistics are great for fooling yourself. You could look at how many states allow medical cannabis and believe that sick people all over the country are easily and safely able to access their preferred medicine. You would be wrong. Medical cannabis programs are not created equal. Both California and Texas “have medical cannabis laws” on the books, in the strictly literal sense — but in Texas, what cannabis there is can be prescribed by one of only eight doctors statewide, and only to someone with intractable epilepsy who has tried at least two other treatments with no success. Marijuana is already illegal. Passing symbolic medical-cannabis access laws that leave the black market as the most reliable and reasonable source of medicine defeats the purpose. If cannabis is going to be legal — and the honest argument to keep it classified as a more deadly and less medically useful alternative to Oxycodone has yet to be made — then it needs to be LEGAL, and not accessible only after navigating an epic Crusades-level quest for healing. If a legalization law arises that’s overly restrictive, or if a medical cannabis bill is introduced that won’t result in anyone obtaining cannabis, then it may be time to take a pause, or a pass, and wait for a better option. Advances in (or at Least Fewer Barriers Towards) Research As a general rule, when something is unlawful, a series of barriers, literal and metaphorical, arise around that thing. That thing becomes harder to obtain. You can’t find that thing in stores. The less corporeal and more mythical that thing becomes, the harder it is to discuss and to know much about it. "What do you know about that thing?" "Well, I’ve never seen it myself, but I hear tell…" You see? This is how rumors start. %related-post-2% Now, cannabis isn’t exactly the Sasquatch, but it would seem clear that marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I controlled substance creates serious difficulties for anyone — a researcher, say — desiring to discover more about it. In case it was unclear, or up to debate, researching cannabis can indeed be “extremely onerous,” as Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Congress. NIH would love to research the connection between legal cannabis and a drop in opiate use, Collins informed a Senate committee, but… well, this whole Controlled Substances Act thing. Even when scientists do, at last, win a hard-fought struggle for research, they can’t always do much with it. The federal government’s official supply of research-grade cannabis is weak and moldy stuff bearing little resemblance to dispensary-grade cannabis. How much longer can this broken status quo continue, especially in the light of recent findings like the World Health Organization’s, that cannabidiol, or CBD, does in fact have health benefits; and mounting pressure from the medical community to allow for more research on marijuana, on people and on pets? Fixing this gaping hole in logic and our knowledge will take a long time — it will require reforming medical school curricula as well as federal law — but there will be more calls for progress, and quickly, in 2018. Banking Reform If you’re in the marijuana industry, you know full well how difficult it is to make payroll, pay the taxman, and set aside enough liquid assets in your operating fund to keep the lights on — because all of that routine business must be conducted without the ease and security of that modern-day innovation, a “bank account.” Cannabis is a cash-only affair, but it’s not that marijuana businesses can’t bank. It’s that banks won’t have them. In 2014, the Obama Administration released guidelines that offered cannabis operations a path to the bank teller line, as long as they were following state law. But since marijuana is still federally illegal, most banks — like, all banks — have elected to stay away rather than absorb a modicum of risk. If you listen to banks, which have for years taken deposits from drug-trafficking organizations and war criminals, doing business with a cannabis dispensary could expose them to a money-laundering or racketeering charge. %related-post-3% Lawmakers in Washington have recognized this absurd state of affairs. But a few weeks before Congress set about the greatest transfer of wealth (aka tax “reform”) in modern American history, Republican leadership blocked debate on legislation that would have allowed marijuana businesses to use banks. Note that, and note it well: They didn’t vote against allowing cannabis retailers, cultivators, and other participants in the billion-dollar legal marijuana trade to use banks — they voted against talking about it. As recreational retail sales begin in California and continue to steadily increase in Colorado and everywhere else marijuana is sold, calls to fix this risky and inefficient method of conducting business will only increase. 2018 might be the year of the checking account. Marijuana Tax Reform Separate but related are the additional hoops marijuana outfits must leap and squeeze through during their annual exercise with the taxman — and the price the marijuana industry must also pay in order to fund the Trump tax cuts. There was brief hope that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) would throw a bone to cannabis entrepreneurs with the Republican tax-cut bill, and include a provision reforming Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code. A cocaine cowboys-era effort to make life harder for the real-life antagonists of Miami Vice, 280E prevents drug sellers from claiming luxury items like yachts and platinum-plated guns on their taxes. It also prevents dispensaries and cultivation operations from claiming common cost-of-doing-business expenses, forcing them to pay an effective tax rate of as much as 70 percent, according to Forbes. %related-post-4% However, at the last moment, Gardner experienced a change of heart and did not offer the 280E reform to his colleagues for a vote — possibly because fixing dispensaries’ tax bills, and drawing a distinction between them and El Chapo’s empire would cost $5 billion. So that’s where the year will end: A tax bill, meant to create jobs and stimulate the economy, will not do anything to relieve pressure on a rapidly expanding segment of the economy, which is creating jobs. This will absolutely be an issue in 2018. The Battle for Facts Here’s our early frontrunner for person (or thing) of the year, in the year 2018: Truth, as in, “What’s real — and what’s not?” Real, accurate data is reportedly a popular thing — everybody wants data! — and yet when we have it, the squabbling begins. Better to seek counsel from trusted sources who won’t challenge your narrative. Just look at the trend in teen marijuana use in Colorado following legalization: Exhibit A, click here. Exhibit B, click here. Here we have two sources, debating a similar release of data, drawing widely divergent conclusions. Seems like youth use of marijuana has declined since legalization, if you believe the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham. But that federal data cited by Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s Kevin Sabet shows that youth weed use has remained constant since the 1990s, which means, as he said, that it’s going up… wait, what? As the country’s ongoing struggles with recognizing reliable information reveal, confirmation bias is a potent cocktail. All the data in the world won’t matter if otherwise sensible human beings act on their motive to deny and obfuscate. Convincing the unwilling of the truth of what’s right in front of them may be the most formidable challenge yet. And there you have them. Five marijuana issues we'll all be hearing plenty about in 2018.
A new study highlights Nevada marijuana industry trends — and compares them to other states — since Silver State recreational marijuana sales began in the summer of 2017. Residents of Nevada have had legal access to medical marijuana since the summer of 2015 and recreational cannabis since July 2017. As a result, a new survey says, more than a quarter of the state’s adults are now buying pot on a regular basis. %related-post-1% While California still produces — and consumes — more pot than anywhere else in the country, the gap is slowly closing, and the trajectory of toking in states like Nevada could provide a glimpse into legalization’s ultimate effects nationwide. When Did Nevada Legalize Marijuana? As we discussed earlier, Nevadans first voted to legalize medical marijuana use in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the state’s legislature voted to allow regulated access to medical cannabis. After the state’s first medical dispensaries opened in the summer of 2015, Nevadans then voted to allow recreational marijuana use for anyone over the age of 21 by approving Question 2 on the state’s ballot in November of 2016. With the vote, Nevada joined Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., in allowing marijuana to be legally purchased for recreational use. Nevadans 21 and older can now possess up to an ounce of marijuana or as much as one-eighth of an ounce of cannabis concentrate. And that’s what many are doing. How Does Nevada Compare? Despite the enormous taxes on cannabis, a limited number of licensed retailers, and strict zoning laws which largely relegate dispensaries to inconvenient locations, Nevada marijuana industry is booming. According to a new survey, 28 percent of Nevada adults over the age of 21 have purchased weed in the past six months. Of those buyers, 28 percent buy weed a few times per month, 19 percent buy it once a week, and 19 percent buy it a few times a week. Another 15 percent of those surveyed are considered “potential users” who plan to buy within the next six months. %related-post-2% The survey studied people in five states — California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada — and while Nevada had the lowest rate of cannabis use among the five, the numbers aren’t very far apart. Oregon (36 percent) and Washington (35 percent) have the highest percentages of adult use among the states studied, but Nevada’s usage rate (28 percent) isn’t far behind, trailing California — the market with the largest overall number of cannabis users in the country — by only three percentage points. Are These Statistics Trustworthy? As the Nevada Independent reports, Ana Hory of the cannabis business consulting firm Enlucem presented the survey at November’s Marijuana Business Conference. Data like that found in the survey can be hard to obtain due to the stigma that still surrounds the drug, as well as the fact that it’s still banned at the federal level and in many states. With that said, the data that is available does more than an adequate job of painting a picture of the pot industry’s progress in the Silver State. While Riana Durrett, head of the Nevada Dispensary Association, couldn’t provide the Independent with exact statistics on how many individuals have purchased recreational pot legally since it hit the market in July, owners of a handful of Nevada’s 50 cannabis retailers say their stores have served between 20,000 and 25,000 unique customers since the drug became legal. %related-post-3% What Are Legalization's Biggest Benefits (and Potential Hangups)? Not only is the legal Nevada marijuana industry providing buyers with a safer supply, helping people deal with medical conditions, creating jobs, and generating tax revenue, it’s also making a dent in the black market. As Durrett notes, the people that are buying cannabis from dispensaries in Nevada — and across the country — “are often people who had been purchasing untested illegal marijuana from the illegal market, which is often connected to crime rings and violent crime.” Durett also warns, however, without further adjustments to current marijuana legislation, legalization could very easily prop up the black market instead of combating it. “Nevada’s retail stores are appreciative there is a significant demand that exists for medical and adult use marijuana in Nevada,” she says, “but caution that taxes, regulatory, and operational costs must be maintained at a level that allows them to compete with the illegal market that does not pay taxes on sales.” Let that be food for thought for the 29 states that have legalized cannabis so far, and the 21 states that may consider doing so in the future.
Where did that product come from? And what exactly is in it? The marijuana industry, and all who are a part of it, would benefit from standardization. What's In the Bag? Never Mind. I'll Take It. Back in the days before marijuana was legal, you were never quite sure what you were getting. Your dealer was at the mercy of a bigger supplier up the food chain who would provide whatever strain was available at the time. Ultimately, what kind of weed you bought or where it was grown wasn’t as important as the fact that you had some weed — any weed. %related-post-1% However, as the marijuana industry has become more mainstream (aka legal), consumers, retailers, farmers, and lawmakers have pushed for increased standardization of the drug. Lawmakers want to make sure the cannabis industry is regulated and taxed. Retailers want to make sure they are dealing in reliable, quality supplies. They also want customers to be able to easily identify and choose their products. Farmers want to be able to grow and market their specific strains without fear of prosecution or without being ripped off by dishonest middlemen. And users want to be able to rely on products that they know have specific benefits or effects while avoiding others with certain side effects. While growers once avoided using distinctive packaging so as to conceal their product from law enforcement and thieves, legalization has caused an explosion of easily identifiable and heavily marketed cannabis brands. But while legalization has made pot easier to get, it’s done little remedy labeling confusion. Quite the opposite, actually. Where Did That Come From? The label on a cannabis product may say that the pot it contains comes from a specific part of the country, but there’s a really good chance it doesn’t. For example, when hmbldt first launched in August 2016, its founders told Amanda Chicago Lewis of Rolling Stone that the hash oil in their popular vape pens came from pot grown in Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties in Northern California. The company’s name is a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Humboldt County, one of the premier regions for cannabis production in the world. Two other cannabis brands — True Humboldt and Humboldt’s Finest — are also capitalizing off of Humboldt’s reputation, but hmbldt isn’t actually run by anyone from Humboldt. (As Lewis notes, one of the company’s co-founders is from Humboldt, but is no longer with the company.) %related-post-2% When hmbldt launched its pens, newly passed medical marijuana regulatory bills implied that only a county’s full name would be protected by the law. There was little guidance regarding using the name of county minus vowels. This past summer, however, California tightened things up, affirming the section of the ballot initiative that forbids licensed businesses from giving any impression that their cannabis comes from somewhere it doesn’t — vowels or not. "People are claiming to be something that they're not," Dani Burkhart, a founding board member of the Humboldt Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, told Rolling Stone. "It's really important when you have a craft product to have something that protects branding rights. In California, you can't call wine that's not from Sonoma, 'Sonoma Valley Wine.’” Leaning on marijuana industry businesses to accurately label their products is a step in the right direction, and growers in places like Humboldt have a right to be angry if other canna-businesses claim the county as their own. As Lewis notes, however, none of California’s marijuana farms have been officially licensed by the state, and the state’s thorough regulatory system won't kick into gear for at least another year. Also, none of the cannabis in the state is being tracked, which means that any claims about where something was grown are impossible to prove. It’s going to take something more than a name or a business owner’s word to verify a product’s origin. It’s going to take something like what’s currently being developed in Oregon. Could a DNA Database Help? As Josh Jardine, Senior Cannabis Correspondent for the Portland Mercury reports, scientists at a firm called Phylos Bioscience have launched a new program called Phylos Certified (PC). PC is a database of cannabis genetics that confirm a plant’s identity. %related-post-3% According to Carolyn White of Phylos, the database is the largest of its kind on the planet. Marijuana industry growers across the country have been submitting their particular strains for the last two years. Scientists sequence and analyze the DNA of each strain that’s submitted, and then compare it to all the other varieties and give it a genetic location. The data is presented via an interactive 3D visualization called the Phylos Galaxy, which is free to access. “Names aren’t reliable, but DNA data is,” White tells the Mercury. “Inconsistency is a major problem when names are the primary way people categorize and find cannabis. For consumers, it’s about repeating a great experience. If you pick up a local variety that’s Phylos Certified, you know that its DNA has been publicly recorded. You can learn more about the farmer who grew it, see pictures, and — most importantly — know that you can find the exact same thing again, even if it’s under a different name elsewhere. It’s bringing transparency to the supply chain.” Not only can the database help consumers know exactly what kinds of products they’re getting — and from where — but it can also help small growers protect the integrity of their products in the face of threats from bigger companies who wouldn’t think twice about wrongfully capitalizing on their reputations. It's a win-win for everyone involved in the marijuana industry.
Appropriately harvested marijuana statistics, specifically related to industry trends, benefit consumers, business folk, policy makers, and many others. And one of the best things about the maturation of the marijuana industry — besides, of course, the availability of high quality legal products — is the prevalence of more trustworthy data. As the industry grows, more data specialists are training their eyes on nuances in marijuana numbers, trying to glean as much information from marijuana statistics as possible in an attempt to forecast where the nascent industry might be headed. %related-post-1% In business and law-crafting especially, being able to anticipate future developments is paramount. Which, is why we’re always excited to get our hands on new analysis and studies. Hot off the presses — or perhaps we should say “fresh to our inboxes” — is Arcview’s mid-year update to their well-traveled publication, “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets.” It’s a hefty update, some 87 pages long. Naturally, we raced through it as quickly as possible, and we thought we’d share with you five (very notable) tidbits that caught our eye. Business is Booming It should come as no surprise to anyone who even remotely follows marijuana statistics that the industry is hot, hot, hot. But just how hot? Check this: the North American marijuana industry is projected to be valued by a third more than its 2016 value by the end of 2017. In dollars, that equals roughly $9.7 billion (yes, with a “b”). In 2016, industry spending hit $7.3 billion. What’s more, according to Arcview, by the year 2021 that total will reach $24.5 billion. California is a Massive Market Another seeming no brainer here, a bunch of people light up in California. But what snagged our attention wasn’t the fact that there are loads of cannabis fans in the Golden State. It was how many there are in relation to other states. Try this statistic on for size: the medical marijuana market in California is bigger than the total (medical and recreational) markets of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington...combined. Insane. With that, just imagine how big the California market will get when it marijuana becomes recreationally legal there. Americans Embrace Marijuana It’s (finally!) starting to look like the days of fearing Reefer Madness are behind us. Few matters have experienced a more rapid pendulum swing in public sentiment than marijuana legalization. According to polling data cited by Arcview, there is now bipartisan majority support to end prohibition. Further, 94 percent of Americans favor the legalization of medical marijuana, and 73 percent oppose the federal government’s meddling in state cannabis laws (cc: Jeff Sessions). Marijuana Taxes Benefit Society In an age of budgetary hand-wringing, tax revenue from legal marijuana sales are helping subsidize from truly noble endeavors. Some examples? Sure. In Colorado, marijuana money is paying to build new schools and staff them with educators. In Oregon, it’s funding schools, substance abuse and mental health services, as well as law enforcement and other line items. And in Washington it’s supporting public health and local government needs, among other things. That’s money well-spent. Investment is Skyrocketing Talk about a banner year for marijuana investing. With reporting complete for only the first three quarters of the year, 2017 has by far been the most lucrative year on record for investments. In the same time span in 2016, there were a combined 238 public and private capital raises. All told, they raked in $720 million at an average of $3 million a piece. Nice! But, 2017 is blowing those numbers out of the water. This year there have been 269 capital raises totaling $1.8 billion (again, with a “b”) at an average of $6.7 million each. Whoa, mama! How about those for some encouraging marijuana statistics? If 2017 has been a banner year, 2018 looks to be downright bullish for the industry. To access the entire Arcview report, click here.
Briteside is fortunate to count among our friends some of the leading canna-advocates for America’s military veterans. Two were recently featured on NBC Nightly News, discussing the first ever FDA-approved veterans marijuana trial for former soldiers suffering from PTSD. If you caught NBC Nightly News on November 30, you might have seen Iraq veteran and longtime veterans health and cannabis advocate — who’s also good friend of Briteside — Roberto Pickering (he even donned a Briteside t-shirt for the spot). " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Pickering was interviewed by NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and how cannabis helped him not only overcome his symptoms, but also eliminated the need for the 14 (fourteen!) drugs he’d been prescribed after coming home from war. “I stopped all pills cold turkey, and I picked up cannabis because, in my opinion, it was either find relief or (commit) suicide,” Pickering says in the interview. Pickering isn’t the only veteran facing a similar crossroads, and he’d love to see more research done on the benefits of cannabis for others battling PTSD — research like the kind being done by scientists in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Sue Sisley — another Briteside friend — site principal investigator with Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), is the administrator of the first FDA-approved trial of its kind. Sisley says Phoenix was chosen as the location of the study because the city’s VA hospital has highest density of U.S. military veteran patients who continue to suffer from PTSD symptoms despite undergoing VA-administered medical treatment and/or therapy. Sisley says that new treatments for PTSD are desperately needed, and that she, like Pickering, believes cannabis “will reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms.” We’ll present the findings of the veterans marijuana study as soon as they become available. In the meantime, you should definitely watch NBC’s full report. Keep fighting the good fight, Sue and Roberto.
Ever since certain states began allowing marijuana ads on billboards, television, the Internet, and in print publications, outspoken members of the anti-legalization crowd have warned that cannabis advertising would create a whole new crop of cannabis customers. But is that the case? The more often people are exposed to ads for weed, opponents warn, the more inclined they’ll be to try it. And that is a worthy concern, especially when it comes comes to children and teens — a demographic that even the staunchest legalization advocates agree have no business using the substance. %related-post-1% The trouble is, there is no evidence that weed ads translate into new cannabis consumers -- regardless of age. In fact, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, people exposed to marijuana ads are not significantly more likely to use marijuana. The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, examines the reach of pot advertising across Oregon. “Exposure to any marijuana advertising in the past month did not significantly differ by participant gender, race/ethnicity, highest level of education completed, home ownership, residence in a metro area, or marijuana use,” the study says. As Marijuana Moment points out, researchers determined that “exposure to advertising was significantly higher among people who said they had a marijuana store in their neighborhood.” And as the site also notes, there was nothing to indicate that the respondents’ increased exposure to those ads meant that they were more likely to shop at those retailers or otherwise consume marijuana. Among respondents who viewed a marijuana ad within the past 30 days, 53 percent said they never consumed cannabis, 54.9 percent described themselves as former users or had “experimented” with the drug, and 57.6 percent were current users. %related-post-2% Not only does the study contradict widely held assumptions about the negative impacts of marijuana advertising, it also suggests that marijuana dispensaries are effective at providing valuable educational information regarding the possible risks of cannabis use — information that might not otherwise reach prospective users. So, if marijuana ads do little to produce new users, what are they good for? As Marijuana Moment suggests, pot ads provide cannabis businesses with an effective method of differentiating “their specific offerings from those of their competitors in the minds of already-active consumers.” In other words, if you aren’t going to buy pot, cannabis advertising isn't going to change your mind. If you already buy pot, however, pot ads could change your mind about whose pot to buy. Marijuana marketers take note.
While they still lag behind other states, southern states in the U.S. are finally softening their hardline marijuana prohibition stance. When it comes to championing legal weed in the United States, the East and West coasts have long led the charge. All states on both coasts have some form of legalization, while other parts of the country like the Midwest and, especially, the South continue to lag far behind. While Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida have legalized medical cannabis, Alabama and Mississippi only allow it for those suffering from severe epileptic conditions. Virginia has had a law on the books for years allowing individuals to possess marijuana if they have prescriptions from doctors, but since federal law prohibits physicians from prescribing cannabis — they can only recommend it — the Virginia law is invalid. Georgia has a limited law that allows people suffering from a small list of condition to use low-THC extracts. Recreational marijuana is illegal in all southern states, while Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina do not permit legal cannabis of any kind. %related-post-1% Things are starting to change, however. With a majority of Americans now favoring legalization for the first time in history, we are now seeing a nationwide shift from marijuana prohibition to progress happening in all 50 states. Here are a few examples of how the push for legal weed is picking up steam down South: Residents of Florida can now get medical marijuana at approved dispensaries. As the Sun Sentinel reports, patients must be suffering from qualifying “debilitating medical conditions” like cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or Crohn’s disease. They also have to wait a while, as they first must be entered into the state’s medical marijuana registry, then wait months for a medical marijuana card. Patients can receive a 70-day supply day at a time, but must then visit their doctor in order to get a refill. They also have to pay out of pocket, too, as insurance can’t cover any part of the process. Medical marijuana is now more popular among residents of Georgia than the governor, the state legislature, Obamacare, or same-sex marriage. According to a new Georgia College survey, 78% of adults support medical cannabis, and while the legislature and governor haven’t moved to expand legalization, some progress had been made. A tiny number of people in Georgia can get low doses of cannabis for a limited number of conditions, and Atlanta recently enacted an ordinance decriminalizing low-level pot possession. Savannah is considering a similar move. Last fall, voters in Arkansas passed a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. And while lawmakers have been working ever since to implement regulations and licensing requirements for the state’s growers and dispensers, a new poll shows that those who voted for it disapprove with the rate of progress to this point. Unsurprisingly, those who didn’t vote for the amendment are happy to see it stumbling out of the gates. %related-post-2% According to FBI data cited by Rep. Jeremy Faison, Co-Chairman of Tennessee’s Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis, Tennessee is one of the Top 5 states in the nation for growing marijuana. Since weed is already there, regardless of the state's marijuana prohibition, Faison reasons he and his fellow committee members plan to file legislation calling for the formation of a commission to be appointed by Governor Bill Haslam and others. The bill would only legalize cannabis oil-based products, and the commission would be in charge of regulating every aspect of licensing, production, research, and distribution. Faison plans to invite officials from the DEA and FBI to provide input at future committee meetings. Things are a bit more urgent in Kentucky, where Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says she wants to see medical marijuana legalized by 2018. She plans to personally lead a task force to iron out implementation and regulation in order to “help Kentuckians who are hurting.” While Governor Matt Bevin has previously rejected any legalization proposals, he has softened to the idea as a means of dealing with Kentucky’s billions of dollars in pension debt. Check back for future updates on marijuana prohibition and legalization efforts across the South and the rest of the nation.
One of the most popular legalization selling points is the possible tax revenues marijuana can haul into state and local coffers. But in the Golden State, could California marijuana taxes be too aggressive? When a formerly prohibitionist politician has a change of heart toward marijuana legalization, it’s typically because he or she gets excited about the potential revenue that can come from taxing the drug. And nowhere in the nation have politicians gotten more excited about taxing pot than in California. California is notorious for super-high tax rates and convoluted tax codes that have, at times, driven people and businesses out of the state. Not surprisingly, the excessive taxes associated with the state’s burgeoning legal marijuana industry could drive an enormous number of California’s cannabis consumers to the black market. %related-post-1% California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November of 2016. And while adult-use weed is projected to bring in an additional $1 billion in California marijuana taxes once pot goes on sale in 2018, the additional taxes that come along with it could also cause many pot purchasers to buy their supplies from less-than-legal suppliers. As the Motley Fool outlines, growers are subject to a state cultivation levy of $9.25 per ounce of cannabis flowers, or $2.75 per ounce of cannabis leaves. There is also a 15 percent excise tax added onto the final product. Both of those taxes are on top of the nation’s highest base sales tax rate of 7.5 percent, as well as local business taxes that range from 7.75 percent to 9.75 percent. According to a report by Fitch Ratings, this stack of state, local, and other taxes could send the aggregate tax on weed to more than 45 percent in some regions of California. "High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets," the report explained, via the Los Angeles Times. Taxes aren’t only thing helping to propel California’s black market, however. As we’ve discussed previously, the number of growers trying to cash in on California’s pot market has resulted in the annual production of some 12.5 million to 14 million more pounds of pot than the state’s buyers need. As a result, the executive director of the California Growers Association says, state-licensed growers “are going to have to scale back” their marijuana surplus. %related-post-2% Since current federal law bans interstate trade of cannabis, and California law will ban the export of pot after January 1, California’s growers can try to reduce their crops — as well as try to compete with other legal growers with similar surpluses — or they can try (like some are already doing) to operate without a license by selling cannabis to buyers in other states via the illegal black market. They could also try, as some have proposed, converting their cannabis into oil. Or they just they could just decide to quit. There is plenty of pot in California, plenty of people who want to sell it, and plenty of people who want to buy it. What seems to be lacking, however, is common sense about dollars and cents when it comes to California marijuana taxes. While California’s lawmakers are just as excited to get their hands on pot profits as the growers are, strangling the industry with excessive taxes and regulations isn’t helping anyone — anyone except the barons of the black market, that is.
While Americans will always love beer, they are drinking a little less of it these days — as the marijuana industry booms. Let's look at how the marijuana industry is influencing big beer. Beer has lost 10 percent of its market share to wine and hard liquor since 2006, and the rapid growth of the legal marijuana industry has further tapped into the profits of the country’s breweries. In 1969, 12 percent of the U.S. population supported the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. According to a recent Gallup poll, that number has now grown to 64 percent. Despite the federal ban, medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states (and the District of Columbia), with recreational marijuana legal in eight states (and, again, the District of Columbia). The legal cannabis industry reached $6 billion in sales last year, with sales expected to grow by 25 percent through 2020 and reach $50 billion by 2026. %related-post-1% So how is the beer industry responding to the news that more and more people are looking to get a buzz elsewhere? Business Insider calls legalized pot “is the new craft beer,” and just as the beer industry giants have made it a habit of buying up small, popular breweries, they’ve now set their sights on getting into the cannabis market. As craft beer sales exploded from just under 10 million barrels in 2009 to nearly 25 million barrels in 2015, sales of big brands like Budweiser and Corona saw their sales drop off. In response, the companies who produced iconic brands started investing in craft beer. The same is now happening in the cannabis space. A few months ago, Heineken began test marketing a marijuana-infused craft beer brand in California. More recently, Constellation Brands — the third-largest beer company in the country — acquired a 9.9% share in Canopy Growth, one of the biggest companies in the legal weed industry. %related-post-2% Chris Burgrave, former marketing chief for Budweiser, is also shifting his attention from beer to pot. Burgrave co-founded Toast, which markets dosed, pre-rolled joints, and has also joined the advisory board of GreenRush Group, a San Francisco-based startup, which says its goal is to become the Amazon of weed. “The same way that craft beer started and, for the longest time, was ignored and then exploded, there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen in this space,” Burgrave told Bloomberg. “There will be part supplementing and part complementing. The jury is out on how and where that will happen.” According to a new report from Cannabiz Consumer Group (C2G), 27 percent of beer drinkers say they have already swapped cannabis for beer or would do so if pot was legal in their state. With lots of states yet to join the legal ranks, there is plenty of room for growth for the marijuana industry and (possibly) plenty to worry about for big beer.
Strict permitting in new medical marijuana states is bad for consumers, but great for the lucky few who become state-ordained marijuana millionaires. Anyone with a combination of money and interest in marijuana has been staring for months at the state of Ohio, where more than 185 groups of entrepreneurs have staked fortunes and their futures on the outcome of a process beyond their control. %related-post-1% This sounds like bad business. Worse — it sounds like straight-up gambling, like stuffing all of your investors’ cash into a slot machine, crossing your fingers, and pulling the handle, leaving the path towards perfidy or fortune up to the one-armed bandit — until you consider that their wager is banking on the promise of government-guaranteed munificence: Membership in an official marijuana millionaires oligopoly. The Ohio model The national bellwether, the decider of presidential contests, Ohio has also been a point of national obsession in cannabis circles since it decided to serve as judge, jury, and award presenter in a high-stakes game of “Who wants to be a guaranteed marijuana millionaire?” You may channel David Byrne for a second and wonder how we got here. It’s like this: Scared straight by the threat of marijuana-friendly voters going too far with a ballot initiative, Ohio lawmakers took the unusual step of legalizing medical marijuana through the legislative process in 2016. (Most states do not do this.) Going that route allowed the state to go slow — the first medical-marijuana dispensaries won’t open for business until September 2018 — and for state authorities to choose the cannabis industry’s entrants carefully, from a large pool of contestants, the best of whom would be selected based on their appearance on paper and granted a license. %related-post-2% Carefully … and selectively. Under the “strictly regulated” medical-marijuana plan Gov. John Kasich signed into law — the same John Kasich who’s dealing with an apocalyptic opiate crisis and believes cannabis has no role in pain management — licenses to grow cannabis will be rarer in Ohio than Jim Harbaugh sympathizers. A total of only 24 licenses to cultivate marijuana throughout the state of Ohio will be issued under the current scheme. And even these chosen few won’t have to worry about competition. Permits are all regional. No more than two dozen companies will receive the right to service a select and discrete portion of a population of more than 11 million. Like loyal feudal lords receiving bounteous fiefdoms from the king, each best-sounding company would be given the right to cultivate for a specific region, without fear or worry of trouble from an unexpected quarter. Winner(s) take all Befitting the high-roller table at Caesar’s Palace, this was a high-stakes game not everyone was invited to play. Non-refundable application fees cost as much as $20,000 — plus the time, energy, and lawyers and consultants required to put the application together. (Just like a casino, the house already won big.) For the winners, that ante will pay itself back many times over. Business publications noted that the competition for the chance at entering a “multi-million dollar industry” was fierce. That only tells part of the story. This wasn’t competition — that’s something that happens on the free market. This was pre-competition, a political and popularity contest, in order to enter a controlled market without much competition. The first 14 winners were announced on Nov. 3. Eleven companies won licensing; one company won the right to grow cannabis exclusively in three regions. They’ll now have nine months to get up and running. %related-post-3% Ohio officials insist the process wasn’t rigged. And they may be right — companies were selected based on how their proposals met certain criteria, a process anyone who’s bid for a public contract would recognize. But not unlike the two-man energy company briefly tasked with rebuilding hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, all these companies have something in common: They’ve never done this before. And unless they commit some terrible crime or fail miserably at delivering their goods, they’ll have plenty of runway. Hard to worry too much about a good product when all the other producers are relegated to the black market. Florida's license stranglehold There is some precedent. In most of the states legalizing medical marijuana in the past decade, authorities have strictly limited the number of permits awarded to some arbitrary number. The results are predictable to anyone familiar with how artificially constricted markets work. Think housing in California. 900-square foot bungalows aren’t going for a $1 million because of the view. Scarcity means speculators are going wild, man. As of August, Florida’s estimated $1 billion medical-marijuana market was controlled by only seven moguls. Realizing what it had done — enriched private enterprise through public action, textbook regulatory capture — the state hurried to add a few more licenses, but not before the artificially scarce marijuana licenses were valued at $200 million each, according to the investment in one made by a Canadian marijuana giant. Let’s be frank: Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, the Florida company in which Canadian company Aphria made that significant investment, did not have $200 million worth of fungible “stuff” on hand. It did not have $200 million worth of real estate, property, or patents. That was an option bet, a calculated risk based on the company having a giant slice of legal business all to itself thanks to government regulation. %related-post-4% And this is the same roadmap Ohio is following. And in Pennsylvania, where the same script is playing out as if it was rehearsed. And Arkansas, where permits to grow will be limited to five. Why do states follow this model? By now, you, a reasonable and sane person, is probably asking, “Why?? What purpose does strictly limited permitting serve?” The answer is one you know by heart. It’s reefer madness, my dear. Most states approaching weed with great trepidation, only after caving to the will of voters — not because they want to, but because they have to. You could blame Jeff Sessions and the feds, but this was going on when Hillary Clinton staffers were still ordering office furniture for the State Department jobs they were sure were theirs. No, this is because Americans might love the idea of weed, but maybe not so much in practice. They fear it. They don’t understand it — and they think that by limiting it while still allowing it, they check all the boxes. Enough weed to help sick people, not too much weed to let in “an unsavory element.” It’s great policy, if you’re one of the lucky few to win a permit. Less great if you’re a patient stuck with all the consumer choice of a town where the only retail option is a Wal-Mart. In that way, this monopoly-creating approach to weed is very familiar.
During an on-stage interview at a recent tech startup conference, TechCrunch Editor-At-Large Josh Constine poked fun at Mike Lynn, co-founder and CEO of Hound Labs, about his startup’s development of the world’s first reliable marijuana breathalyzer. “Why are you such a narc?” Constine asked. Both Lynn and the audience laughed before Lynn answered Constine’s question by aptly pointing out that there is, in fact, an actual need for such a device. “What we really try to do at Hound Labs is really be fair, to balance public safety and fairness because we need to have a standard,” he said. “We don’t want people going around stoned behind the wheel, just like you can’t drive drunk. But, at the same time, you don’t want to start firing people or arresting people who aren’t impaired.” %related-post-1% With medical marijuana still illegal in more than 20 states and recreational pot illegal in more than 40 — as well as the fact that marijuana of any kind is still technically illegal at the federal level — the cannabis industry still has quite a ways to go when it comes to respectability. It might be funny to joke that companies like Hound Labs are trying to ruin everybody’s buzz, but the fact of the matter is that advocates of responsible use could actually take the booming cannabis industry to even greater highs. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says fewer people are driving after drinking these days, more are driving with marijuana in their bloodstream than any other illegal drug. In Texas, for example, there were nearly 170 traffic accidents in 2012 where the driver tested positive for marijuana. That number jumped to 300 last year. But even if a driver tests positive for marijuana, it doesn’t mean he or she was impaired at the time of the accident. Unlike with alcohol, there is no national standard for intoxication from marijuana. And even if there was, according to Alex Berezow, a senior fellow at the American Council on Science and Health, blood and urine tests aren’t sensitive enough to show whether someone used pot five minutes or five days ago, and the first few hours after smoking pot is when someone will most likely be too impaired to drive. “The problem is really figuring out who is actually stoned — shouldn't be behind the wheel or in the cockpit of an airplane, or in an operating room in the hospital — versus who has THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — just floating around in their system,” says Lynn. %related-post-2% If someone is stopped for drunk driving, police can whip out a breathalyzer and test the driver on the spot. No such marijuana breathalyzer exists to test for pot. Well, not yet, anyway. Hound Labs and another Canadian firm, Cannabix Technologies, are developing small handheld devices that people can blow into, similar to the breathalyzers used to detect drunken drivers. Police and employers will be able to use the devices to detect and analyze the amount of THC in someone’s system in minutes. Berezow says that whichever company “gets to market first and can reliably and quickly and easily show a product that a police officer can use on the side of the road is going to have a very substantial market advantage.” And he’s right. As the cannabis industry grows, so will the opportunities for cannabis-related businesses. But the development of an effective marijuana breathalyzer is bigger than that. Not only will it help save people from needless hassles, it will, quite literally, help save people. If a few folks shout “narc!” in the process, then so be it.
David Stern says that when he was the commissioner of the National Basketball Association from 1984 to 2014, it was “generally known” that many players smoked marijuana. Due to the prevailing wisdom of time, “that marijuana was a gateway drug,” he says he was instrumental in tightening NBA marijuana rules in order to keep players getting high before stepping on the court. But now, he says, things have changed. Citing what he calls “universal agreement” that marijuana should be completely legal for medical purposes, Stern says the NBA should remove pot from its list of banned substances. %related-post-1% During a recent interview from a documentary by UNINTERRUPTED, Stern told former NBA player and current marijuana entrepreneur Al Harrington that there is now a “completely different perception” regarding marijuana, and that “it’s up to the sports leagues to anticipate where this is going and maybe lead the way." "I think all of the leagues are now appropriately focused on player training, structuring of the right parts of their body, player rehabilitation in the case of injury, (and) player nutrition,” he said. “(Marijuana) should be a part of that conversation.” Harrington, who launched a cannabis extraction company after retiring from the league in 2015, says he started using medical marijuana after a botched knee surgery during his playing days — and four subsequent surgeries to clean out a resulting staph infection — left him taking a slew of pain medications. A nurse saw all the pill bottles, and asked him if he’d ever tried cannabinoids. Harrington tried them and says he “immediately felt a difference.” Later, Harrington convinced his grandmother to try CBD to treat her diabetes and glaucoma. She also felt immediate relief, and it was as that point that Harrington says he started viewing cannabis “as just medicine.” “It’s not about rolling a joint,” he says. “It’s bigger than that.” Harrington took a form of CBD that didn’t show up on drug tests, and which allowed him to extend his career without ever testing positive or being suspended. Former Portland Trail Blazers sixth man Cliff Robinson wasn’t so lucky. %related-post-2% During his 18 seasons in the NBA, Robinson was suspended three times for breaking NBA marijuana rules. When he left the league in 2007, he became an advocate for marijuana legalization, and has since entered into a partnership with a Portland-based company called Pistil Point Cannabis to launch a line of sports cannabis products. He has also joined Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and city Commissioner Chloe Eudaly in supporting a bill that would allow people to smoke or vape cannabis in social settings away from their homes. Like Harrington, Robinson believes that using marijuana helped extend his playing career. He says the drug helped him deal with anxiety, as well as focus in all aspects of his life. "I had a little anxiety sometimes. I definitely didn't like pharmaceutical drugs, as far as how they made my stomach feel, so I would use [marijuana]. But you couldn't be really consistent with cannabis use, because of the way they tested," he told the Willamette Week last year. "I put myself in a position where I had to be taken off the court, which you're never proud of. But at the same time, I did feel that cannabis was helpful for me. I took the risk." Like Stern, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr thinks NBA marijuana rules should be tweaked to allow current and future players to use marijuana without the penalties risked by Harrington and Robinson. “I think the world is starting to understand that opioids are way worse for you than anything, and right now, in professional sports, we’re quick to write a prescription for Oxycontin or Percocet when your shoulder hurts or your knee hurts or whatever hurts,” Kerr said during a recent post-game press conference. Kerr says that while we’re learning “that medical marijuana is much healthier than those alternatives,” it remains a “tricky issue” — especially when it comes to selling the game to the fans. Still, he says, the health of the players should be the most important thing “by far,” which should motivate the league to come up with a way to regulate players’ use of the drug. %related-post-3% “It makes sense to use (medical marijuana) for specific injuries, and I don’t know how that happens or manifests itself, but the league would be wise to look into it,” he says. Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver agrees. He told Slam that if the science of medical marijuana checks out, the league “will look at” accommodating it by publishing new NBA marijuana rules. “My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management,” he says. “And it’s something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we’ll be open to it. Hopefully there’s not as much pain involved in our sport as some others, so there’s not as much need for it.” Former Commissioner Stern surmises that the reason the league hasn’t moved faster on the issue is because it hasn’t had “a proper spokesperson for this subject.” He says the league needs to define what constitutes proper use of the drug by its players, make the NBA marijuana rules official, and then start educating doctors about how to best use cannabis to treat injuries and other conditions. All of that starts, he says, by reconciling current state law with the league’s current collective bargaining agreement. "I think we have to change the collective bargaining agreement and let you do what is legal in your state,” he says. “If marijuana is now in the process of being legalized, I think you should be allowed to do what's legal in your state.” The role of the commissioner is huge here. Silver understands the situation, and is in a position to act. Stern has watched the issue evolve — as well as his own position on it — and can serve as a unique and powerfully ally to Silver. Perhaps he’d be interested in that spokesperson gig, as well.
It was just a few months ago that our collective jaws were dropping at the boatload of marijuana investment dollars that were pouring into the industry. In 2014, 59 cannabis companies raised raised a total of $104.5 million. In May of this year, $200 million was pledged in a single day by two different investors. Less than six months later, the flood of funds shows no signs of stopping, as a staggering $1.8 billion has been raised in the first three quarters of 2017, significantly up from the $720 million that was raised during the same time period last year. %related-post-1% While Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ prohibitionist mindset and marijuana’s illegality at the federal level continue to cloud the cannabis industry’s long-term future, the growth of the industry at the state level — as well as the Trump administration’s apparent disinterest in rolling back that progress — would seem to indicate that the cannabis marketplace will only continue to flourish thanks to increased marijuana investment. Sessions might not like pot, but the general public’s comfort level with legal marijuana continues to grow. And as the public gets more and more comfortable with legal weed, so do investors. Spurred by the irrefutable medical value of marijuana, an increasing number of traditional investors are jumping at the huge opportunity for high return assets. Not only is the total number of marijuana investment dollars significantly higher, but, so is the average size of raises — more than doubling from $3 million last year to $6.7 million this year — according to the Iridian Cannabis Deal Tracker, which tracks capital market activity in cannabis. %related-post-2% While the distribution of funds going to public and private companies has held steady since last year — publicly traded firms receive roughly 73 percent of the money — the sector breakdown has shifted. According to Benzinga, biotech and pharma industries easily led the way last year, trailed considerably by cultivation and retail. This year, retail has led the way, undoubtedly due to consumers’ clamoring for edibles and concentrates. Just a few months ago, we pointed out that American dollars were being pumped into the legal marijuana market at an unparalleled clip. Well, we’ve reached another such clip. Check back for future updates.
As more states legalize the “recreational” use of cannabis, the definition of medical marijuana is changing, and, as the definition changes, many of the pioneering small farms who started the industry are finding themselves going the way of the dinosaurs. But, is the disappearance of medical marijuana farms really in the best interest of the patient or big business? How is the phrase medical marijuana defined? What exactly makes marijuana “medicine”? That’s a tricky question, one with varying answers depending on who is asked. Ask a sick person and they will tell you that any food or substance that provides relief of symptoms without doing physical harm is therapeutic, a necessity and “medicine.” Unfortunately, sick people don’t get to define “medicine,” the government does, and as pharmaceutical cannabis products like GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex inch closer to FDA-approval, the rush is on to make competitive government approved “medicines” and transition the botanical cannabis market from farm-to-patient to a highly-taxed highly-regulated “recreational” market. %related-post-1% These definitions matter most for small growers and patients, because ultimately they define who can supply cannabis for medical purposes and who can economically benefit as laws continue to change across the United States and abroad. While western states that pioneered the industry have traditionally favored a free-er market of small farms, businesses and collectives, in midwestern and eastern states, medical marijuana markets are becoming highly exclusive clubs for the very wealthy and well-connected. Who gets to grow medical marijuana? Many newer state laws (like Florida and New York) are being shaped from the onset as oligopolies, which are cartel-like markets where there are only a handful of competitors controlling the entire supply. Many of these state laws favor extracted products over raw cannabis flowers and also call for vertical integration, meaning these lucky few license holders have the exclusive right to grow, process and distribute the entire supply. Forced flower extraction into standardized products and a limited market of early producers gives these companies a head start on making their own Epidiolex-like drugs that could potentially become lucrative FDA approved medicines. And, should cannabis be moved from Schedule I to II federally, these oligopoly-market license holders will be in line for some serious cash-ins when they go public and begin to formally merge across state lines to supply the national medical market. %related-post-2% Of course, the exercise wouldn’t be worth the cost of FDA approval if pharmaceuticalized cannabis products must compete with genetically diverse botanical cannabis as medicine, which can be grown at home but never standardized like traditional “medicines.” Unfortunately for the small growers that supplied the earliest medical cannabis markets, they no longer can call their crops “medicine” or “medical marijuana” once the FDA defines it first, and they already are. The first medical marijuana farms In the early days of medical marijuana, most state governments declined to regulate. In California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, legislation passed by citizens through ballot initiative was more rights-based than commerce based, thoroughly acknowledging first that the criminalization of this useful plant was a fallacy to begin with. It was also an unspoken but acknowledged reality that hundreds of thousands of farmers on the west coast have been supplying the demand for this illegal plant since the early days of prohibition, and giving them a path to a legal market was just as important as patients getting product. The result was a highly competitive and diverse cannabis economy that flourished in the gray area between state and federal law. These small medical marijuana farms were allowed to grow anywhere from six to 99 plants per patient, as long as they provided said patients with the medicine they needed, free of cost. Starting with California’s S.B. 420 in 2004, these growers could sell the excess of what they grew for patients to locally-regulated dispensaries at a profit. In this way, the broader market for medical marijuana (whether or not the government deemed their use “medical”) subsidized the heavier use of the chronic and fatally ill. %related-post-3% Just as the botanical medical marijuana markets are being eliminated by the legal definition of “medicine,” they are being shrunk by the legal definition of “patient” too. One of the biggest criticisms of California’s medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, was that it allowed medical cannabis for any condition which a doctor chose to recommend it for, meaning “anybody who wants it can get it.” Not only was that part of the intention of the law, but it is scientifically valid as educated use of cannabis is technically safer than most over-the-counter drugs, processed foods, refined white sugar, tobacco, alcohol or the vast majority of prescription drugs. What happens next to medical marijuana farms? So, what exactly is the difference between medical and recreational marijuana? The plant itself is the same, regardless of the reason a person chooses to interact with it, but as the United States gets closer to nationalized medical marijuana, the answer is shaping up to be the difference between a factory and a farm. And, besides the harm to small growers and patients, if most cannabis production is standardized and concentrated, what effect does that have on the future of the plant itself?
At the time of this writing, more than half of the states in America — 29 — are medical marijuana states, and it’s not hard to see why. Legal medical cannabis helps to boost local economies, provides relief to millions of people suffering from numerous medical conditions, shrinks the black market, and reduces crime. As Civilized notes, the governors of the first four states to legalize medical marijuana — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — are lobbying the Trump administration to let the cannabis industry continue to grow unabated. If it does, the site predicts, more states will legalize medical marijuana, and the industry will continue to see increased scientific research, product development, investor interest, and sales. %related-post-1% While the cannabis industry still has much more room to grow, Civilized wanted to see how much it has grown so far. Using data from the Marijuana Policy Project, the site recently ranked medical marijuana states according to how much of their populations are currently using medical marijuana. Note: Of the 29 states where medical marijuana has been legalized, seven did not have enough data to be included in the list, as they have either yet to implement the law or have just recently implemented it. Here is how the other 22 states rank: 1. California: 3.83% Total population: 39,849,872 Medical marijuana patients: 1,526,250 2. Maine: 3.31% Total population: 1,327,472 Medical marijuana patients: 43,906 3. Michigan: 2.20% Total population: 9,935,116 Medical marijuana patients: 218,556 4. New Mexico: 2.13% Total population: 2,084,193 Medical marijuana patients: 44,403 5. Arizona: 1.89% Total population: 7,026,629 Medical marijuana patients: 132,487 6. Rhode Island: 1.71% Total population: 1,059,080 Medical marijuana patients: 18,155 7. Colorado: 1.53% Total population: 5,658,546 Medical marijuana patients: 86,821 8. Oregon: 1.49% Total population: 4,144,527 Medical marijuana patients: 61,867 9. Montana: 1.48% Total population: 1,052,343 Medical marijuana patients: 15,563 10. Hawaii: 1.05% Total population: 1,454,295 Medical marijuana patients: 15,334 11. Nevada: 0.95% Total population: 2,995,973 Medical marijuana patients: 28,308 12. Vermont: 0.71% Total population: 624,592 Medical marijuana patients: 4,439 13. Connecticut: 0.53% Total population: 3,583,134 Medical marijuana patients: 19,082 14. Massachusetts: 0.50% Total population: 6,873,018 Medical marijuana patients: 34,189 15. Washington: 0.33% Total population: 7,384,721 Medical marijuana patients: 24,577 16. Delaware: 0.32% Total population: 965,866 Medical marijuana patients: 3,092 17. Illinois: 0.18% Total population: 12,815,607 Medical marijuana patients: 23,300 18. New Hampshire: 0.16% Total population: 1,335,832 Medical marijuana patients: 2,089 20. (tie) Alaska: 0.14% Total population: 741,204 Medical marijuana patients: 1,042 20. (tie) New Jersey: 0.14% Total population: 8,996,351 Medical marijuana patients: 12,514 21. New York: 0.13% Total population: 19,889,657 Medical marijuana patients: 26,096 22. Minnesota: 0.12% Total population: 5,554,532 Medical marijuana patients: 6,384
So far, legal Oregon marijuana sales have exceeded expectations. And there is no shortage of statistics pointing to those successes, which show Oregon marijuana sales nipping at the heels of Colorado’s enviable numbers while outpacing Washington receipts. Rejoice, friends. What’s more — and surely cause for added joy to many good people across the Beaver State — is that tax revenue collected off 2016 Oregon marijuana sales is now being disbursed to qualifying groups. How much money, you ask? Try $85 million on for size. Yes, that’s a mega-sized piggy bank’s worth. In total, the state collected over $108 million in 2016 marijuana taxes, but after administrative and regulatory startup costs were stripped out, that left roughly $85 million to be distributed. So where does all that tax money from Oregon marijuana sales go? Good question. Here’s a percentage breakdown of where the tax revenue must go by law: 40 percent — Common School Fund 20 percent — Mental health, drug and alcohol treatment programs 15 percent — Oregon State Police 10 percent — Cities (law enforcement) 10 percent — Counties (law enforcement) 5 percent — Oregon Health Authority And here’s how those percentages translate into real dollars based on the $85 million of tax revenue: $34 million — state school fund $17 million — mental health, alcoholism and drug services account $17 million — Oregon cities and counties (law enforcement) $12 million — Oregon State Police $4 million — Oregon Health Authority Anthony Johnson, the primary ballot petitioner to legalize recreational marijuana in Oregon said, “I am glad to hear that the revenue is finally being distributed. This is what the voters intended. It shows that legalizing and regulating cannabis can help generate revenue for important governmental services.” No doubt other states will take note of how Oregon marijuana sales tax revenues can help shore up budget needs. Especially states with budget shortfalls.
Giving veterans marijuana access should be an easy, commonsense move, right? Everyone supports the troops. Of course they do. To say otherwise is anathema for anyone in public office. In all but the most progressive jurisdictions on in the U.S., criticizing the military — including questioning the mission, or, far worse, the conduct of service personnel — is a form of political hari-kari. Look at Bernie Sanders. Vehemently and proudly anti-war, the most successful left-leaning presidential candidate in most voters’ lifetimes nonetheless supports the notion of a “robust military” at the ready at all times. But do we really fully support the troops, specifically veterans, in the U.S.A? %related-post-1% If we did, we wouldn’t have warehoused soldiers and Marines maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a rat-and-cockroach infested slum located an Uber ride away from the halls of Congress — and that scandal at Walter Reed Hospital wouldn’t have been followed within a decade with yet another criminal embarrassment at the Veterans Health Administration. If we did care about the veterans and wanted to support them — all 2.3 million women and men who went overseas to pursue missions that are still incomplete almost two decades later — we’d listen to them and to the American Legion, arguably the most conservative veterans’ organization in the county, and give veterans marijuana priviledges. As many as one in five veterans of the country’s two 21st-century wars have post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 360,000 have some form of serious brain injury. Add them to the veterans of Vietnam and the “small-scale” conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s, and by sheer numbers alone, you have what should be a national health emergency. Stories of veterans using marijuana in some form instead of a shopping list’s worth of pharmaceuticals — some of which are habit-forming, others of which have terrible side effects, yet others which just don’t work — are everywhere. There seem to be more cannabis organizations founded by and designed for military veterans every day. %related-post-2% And yet here are House leaders, killing proposals to allow VA doctors to prescribe cannabis to veterans without so much as a vote. And here’s the VA, doing what it can to block one of the most significant marijuana-related research projects in existence, what would be a groundbreaking study into cannabis’s value in treating PTSD, were it allowed to go forward. As a result, there are military veterans breaking the law, risking imprisonment and treated like cartel-level criminals solely because they took matters into their own hands in order to go through a day or two without chronic pain and psychological torment. It should be a simple thing to give military veterans marijuana. They really don’t ask for much, just what everyone asks for: decent health care, decent job opportunities, to be remembered and cared for rather than forgotten after their service expires. Giving them that much is supposed to be the deal. It’s the civilians who have a hard time fulfilling their end of the bargain. Good things happen when we actually support the troops. The GI Bill is considered to be one of the single most successful policies to emerge from the federal government. Opportunities for education and home ownership afforded to returnees from World War II and Korea laid the groundwork for a new middle class that lasted for at least a generation. Bad things happen when we don’t: homelessness, suicides, never-ending wars. The good news is that this can’t go on forever. There is simply no way that elected officials can say with a straight face that they’re pro-military and deny combat veterans marijuana access without suffering real consequences themselves. %related-post-3% This time around, if we give vets some agency and pay attention, we’ll see the first steps towards ending the war on drugs. Wounded vets using cannabis to heal their wartime scars are crucial to nationwide efforts to legalize marijuana. Once Congress finally eases marijuana restrictions, it will absolutely be in no small part thanks to the vets. It’s already breaking that way. States with ridiculously limited medical-marijuana programs are being shamed into adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions — and others are proving wise enough not to impose such pointless and harmful restrictions in the first place. As has been demonstrated time and again, medical cannabis is the first step. Once people accept the plant as a legitimate wellness tool, decades of anti-pot propaganda starts to dissipate. Look at Florida, where more than 70 percent of voters approved medical marijuana, and where one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress is now a champion of medical pot. Maybe he’s doing it solely out of political expediency. It doesn’t matter, though. The worm is still turning. Conservative states including Tennessee aren’t so conservative when it comes to cannabis policy. Cities like Nashville have already pushed municipal decriminalization efforts. Within two hours’ drive is Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home to the 101st Airborne Division. You can bet that everyone on base knows that weed will help them through their lives once they’re discharged. And they'll act on it, whether legal or not. Patriotism as politics cuts both ways. Vets vote. And vets spur lawmakers into action. When marijuana is legalized in your area, when medical cannabis becomes acceptable for you to use, make sure you thank a vet.
Legal cannabis opportunities in the U.S. are exploding and the marijuana industry needs black entrepreneurship to be an integral part of the trend. More Americans support legalization than at any time in the nation’s history. Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, and eight states now allow adults to use pot for recreational purposes. The legal marijuana industry brought in $6.7 billion last year, and is projected to reach $50 billion by 2026. And while more and more budding bud entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the opportunity to make huge profits in the industry, one segment of our society — African Americans — is struggling to get its collective foot in the industry door. %related-post-1% If the marijuana industry needs black entrepreneurship, what's the problem? According to a 2016 investigation by Buzzfeed, less than 1 percent of the nation’s dispensaries are owned by African Americans. This dearth of minority ownership, researchers and industry experts say, is due to myriad obstacles not faced by other owners. First, most states block people with a criminal record from entering the marijuana industry. Since black men are six times as likely as white men to be convicted of a crime and incarcerated, that means they are six times less likely to become pot entrepreneurs. Second, substantial economic barriers from state to state block African Americans looking to enter the industry. Not only are there very few licenses issued in some states, but the associated application fees, license fees, and startup fees can be cost prohibitive. Applicants in some states also have to pay six-figure deposits and, in states like Pennsylvania, provide proof of $2 million in funding, with at least $500,000 in the bank. While those who don’t have access to that kind of cash might turn to banks to help fund the launch of other kinds of businesses, the fact that pot is still illegal at the federal level means than banks are unwilling to give out loans to those looking to enter the marijuana industry. Industry experts say these high investment requirements unfairly benefit politically connected individuals, who are typically wealthy and white. "Marijuana legalization without racial justice risks being an extension of white privilege," says Bill Piper, a lobbyist for Drug Policy Alliance. Another big factor is African Americans’ disinterest in getting involved in a business selling a drug that has played a pivotal role in the targeting and incarceration of their family and community members. The Trump administration’s renewed focus on the War on Drugs — spearheaded by prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions — has only increased those apprehensions. %related-post-2% So, if the marijuana industry needs black entrepreneurship, what's being done? While the lack of African American entrepreneurs in marijuana industry is disappointing, new initiatives by various states and municipalities are contributing to positive change. Here a few examples: Massachusetts’ marijuana law now requires access to ownership be given to members of communities criminalized and economically crippled during the War on Drugs In February, Washington, D.C. removed its ban on felons convicted of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana from entering the industry. Portland, Oregon is the first city in the nation to vote to direct part of its cannabis tax revenue toward reinvestments into communities of color. Los Angeles and San Francisco are pursuing similar policies. The city council of Oakland, California recently voted to reserve half of all new marijuana business permits for people with drug arrests on their records or who lived in neighborhoods with a significant number of pot arrests. Ohio now mandates that 15 percent of new marijuana licenses to be issued to minorities. Florida is reserving one of its future cultivation licenses for a member of the state’s Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. While these pockets of progress are encouraging, it’s too soon to gauge their effectiveness. Hopefully, they will be successful and influence other municipalities to follow suit. Stay tuned to The Sugar Leaf for future updates regarding this matter.
While the number of women in senior business leadership roles around the world hasn’t improved much in the last decade, there are increased opportunities for women in marijuana — though there is plenty of room to grow. According to a recent report by Grant Thornton, the percentage of women in senior business leadership roles across the globe is a mere 25 percent. This represents an increase of one percent since 2016, and just six percent in the last 13 years. %related-post-1% The highest areas of progress for women, according to Forbes, can be found in education and social services, where they comprise 41 percent of upper management. They also have slightly more success in the hospitality (33 percent) and food and beverage (27 percent) industries. In areas like technology, manufacturing, and transport (19 percent each), construction and real estate (18 percent), and mining and quarrying (12 percent), women have the smallest presence in leadership. The percentage of women in marijuana leadership positions is encouraging Not only are more and more women using marijuana these days, they also make up, on average, a higher percentage of leadership in the cannabis industry than women in other industries. According to a recent study, women hold 36 percent of executive positions in the marijuana industry — the third highest percentage among all industries in the nation. Female executives hold 28 percent of the leadership roles in investments and 33 percent of the leadership roles in wholesale cultivation. They also comprise a growing number of executives in ancillary technology or products (35 percent), medical and recreational retailing (38 percent), and ancillary services (40 percent). Women hold nearly half (48 percent) of the leadership roles in processing and infusion, and a whopping 63 percent of those holding executive positions in cannabis testing labs are women. %related-post-2% The legal cannabis industry is a brand new one, and it’s launching at a time when equal pay and equal opportunity are at the forefront of more minds than at, perhaps, any time in history. The current climate likely plays a significant role in the fact that, as industry experts point out, women have more opportunity to climb the ladder in the cannabis industry — and are climbing that ladder faster — than women in virtually every other industry. With that said, however, there is still much room for improvement. But there is still much ground to be gained for women in marijuana As Entrepreneur notes, women in the cannabis industry are subject to some of the same “glass ceiling” issues they face elsewhere. Fewer than half of executive roles at two-thirds of cannabis businesses are held by women, and 25 percent of companies have no women working in management. There are no women among 36 percent of cannabis investors and firms, and in Canada, a mere 5 percent of board members at publicly traded marijuana companies are female. What’s contributing the lack of women in these areas? A few things, say industry experts. Some insiders argue a stigma surrounding the industry is causing talented people to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Others point out that top cannabis executives typically hail from male-dominated areas such as venture capital, investment banking, and mining. "In the startup and finance sectors you've got this bro vibe going on," says Lisa Campbell, co-founder of a business incubator for women in the cannabis industry. "We find that it is kind of an old boys' club in a way, even though it's a very new industry." %related-post-3% There is a unique opportunity for women in marijuana fields to get in on the ground floor of an emerging industry instead of having to struggle to move up within an existing one. Incubators like Campbell’s are among several groups and organizations that are helping women navigate the obstacles to leadership — and even entrepreneurship — in the cannabis industry. Programs to cultivate females leaders in marijuana LIV Advisors, which specializes in mentoring cannabis startups, interviews women in the industry on its podcast, and has published numerous videos on cannabis business formation, development, and taxes. The group regularly hosts meetups, and held a conference in Los Angeles in July featuring panel discussions on helping women in the cannabis industry become more assertive, get funding, negotiate sales, navigate legal issues, and succeed in the industry. Women Grow, a national not-for-profit group founded in Denver in 2014, helps women become influencers in the cannabis industry. The Cannabist calls the organization’s annual summit “part TED Talk, part networking mixers and part reunion for women and equality-minded men working toward the legalization and commercialization of marijuana.” Chanda Macias, head of the Women Grow’s D.C. chapter and owner of a dispensary, told attendees at this year’s event that cultivating diversity in the marijuana business is vital. “We are the leaders – the minority leaders – in cannabis, and we make cannabis look good,” she said.
Let’s be honest, one of the leading stereotypes of the average marijuana smoker isn’t that flattering. Ask someone to close their eyes and tell you what they envision when they hear those words — marijuana smoker — and there's a strong chance they'll paint a verbal picture of some squinty eyed party bro whose major contributions to society revolve around frat parties, frisbee and hacky sack skills, and some acoustic guitar riffing. %related-post-1% Alas, friends, that’s sadly what we’re up against image-wise in many places across the country. And until we’re able to show that it’s not just those stoner dudes who regularly consume cannabis (nothing against the stoner dudes — we freaking love stoner dudes!), we’ll be fighting an uphill PR battle. That’s the bad news. But there is some heartening news developing on the messaging front to combat those old stoner stereotypes. More frequently, survey and poll results are coming out showing that there is much more to the marijuana smoker (and general consumer) base than once was thought. Our friends over at Eaze recently released customer survey data revealing — among other factoids — that 51 percent of their patrons hold a college or postgraduate degree, 91 percent of them hold down full-time employment, and 49 percent have a household income of at least $75,000 per year (that’ over $15,000 more than the 2016 national average, fyi). The picture painted by those Eaze statistics is that many marijuana smokers are more highbrow than some stereotypes suggest. What’s more, a survey recently conducted in Colorado shows that — again, contrary to popular misconceptions — your typical marijuana smoker typically doesn’t partake to par-tay. Really. %related-post-2% A group called Consumer Research Around Cannabis (CRAC) polled more than 1,200 marijuana consumers in and around Denver, Colorado, on why they use marijuana. Here’s what they found: 47.2 percent said they use cannabis to fall asleep 45.7 percent claim they use cannabis to stem anxiety and/or depression 47.2 percent reported they use cannabis to fight pain So, what about users embodying the old stoner stereotypes? Well, they’re not as numerous as you might think. Only 28.5 percent said they used marijuana to have a good time (read: partying), while just 32.8 percent used it to get “creative” or deep in thought (yeah, deep thoughts, man). As unexciting as such findings sound, they might actually be good for the cannabis industry. Why? For the industry to reach its full potential, the old stigmas associated with marijuana need to be dismantled, and the more the substance is shown to be a help with widespread everyday (read: normal) circumstances, the better its appeal might be to those who continue to view it ithrough an age old lens. Time will tell, but it just might be that tame is good for the cannabis world.
In 2014, when Oregon voters approved of Ballot Measure 91, giving a thumbs up to recreational marijuana sales and consumption, many wondered (worried, really) about how younger Oregonians would be impacted. Naturally, voices were raised encouraging the state that they needed to invest in fighting underage marijuana use. In response to this concern, the Oregon Legislature steered $3.9 million to the Oregon Public Health Division’s (OHA-PHD) budget, as they direct the state’s efforts in fighting underage marijuana use. With that investment the OHA-PHD unveiled a pilot program called “Stay True to You” to combat teen and young adult cannabis consumption. And, as the pilot program has drawn to its conclusion, some indicators signal its success. %related-post-1% How were the resources spent? Of the $3.9 million allocated to the OHA-PHD, roughly $2.28 million was dedicated to a media campaign, nearly $550,000 was directed to the coordination of the program, evaluation of pilot cost $250,000, and the balance was paid to a communications firm to design and implement the Stay True to You campaign and its complementing "Talk With Them" program that was aimed at parents and mentors of youth and young adults. The campaigns were pushed out across numerous media channels, including television, radio (traditional and subscription-based), social media, billboards, mall signage, and more. Stay True to You had a primary internet anchor in its website, StayTrueToYou.org. 82 percent of program participants in the pilot counties (Clackamas, Jackson, Josephine, Multnomah, and Washington) reported “frequent exposure” — at least weekly — with media connected to the campaign. What was the messaging? The program took a dual-pronged messaging approach. For teens and young adults, the focus of the conversation revolved around scientifically based warnings regarding how cannabis use can harm younger individuals. As for parents and mentors, they were encouraged to engage those in their care or realm of influence, to help them make good decisions (read: abstain until they’re of age) when it comes to marijuana use. %related-post-2% How successful was the program at fighting underage marijuana use? While intent to use percentages did not change significantly, a summary produced by the OHA-PHD shows that “the campaign had a positive effect on youth and young adults’ perceptions of the social norms around youth marijuana use and knowledge of the legal consequences of marijuana use before age 21” years of age. Pilot program recommendations for the future The authors of the Stay True to You report have made 5 recommendations based on the pilot program findings. They are: Provide support in every community in Oregon to youth, young adults, and parents Require marijuana businesses to disclose their expenditure on marketing and promotion Establish a maximum size and number for signs at retail marijuana stores Prohibit the sale of flavored cannabis products Protect local control
As the legal marijuana industry continues to grow, more and more cannabis consumers are making routine purchases the same way they would buy wine or alcohol. If you’re one of those repeat customers, there are some rules of thumb to avoid getting stuck in line behind fellow consumers at marijuana shops. Best days and times of the week to buy cannabis %related-post-1% If you’re wanting to swing by one of your favorite local marijuana shops to buy some weed, go on Sunday or Monday or when it’s cold and/or rainy outside. Or before 11 a.m. Those are typically the slowest times at your choice dispensary. However, if you can’t make it at those times, at least try not to go after 5 p.m. Or on Friday. Chances are, it’ll be too busy. Thursdays and Saturdays can be pretty busy, too — especially if the weather’s nice and warm. When it comes to busy days to buy pot, there are a few days throughout the year that are busier than others. Busiest days of the year at marijuana shops These were the top five busiest days at marijuana shops in 2016, according to the folks at MJ Freeway: Known as “Weed Day,” 4/20 — or April 20th — was the biggest day of the year for cannabis sales in 2016. Sales on this day were 97% higher than any other day of the year. A close second was December 31. What better way is there to ring in the New Year than by burning one down? %related-post-2% On July 1, the Friday before the Fourth or July, countless cannabis connoisseurs picked up some pot along with their hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks. No end-of-summer celebration is complete without a trip to the neighborhood weed shop on the Friday before Labor Day. Given the amount of family drama that can happen when families get together, it’s perhaps no surprise that November 23 — the day before Thanksgiving — made this list. Did you know? While some people assume that 4/20 is the police radio code for marijuana, the number of chemical compounds in cannabis, or Bob Marley’s birthday, the number was actually the result of a treasure hunt. Here’s more about the hazy history of 4/20.
According to a new report, legal cannabis sales in California are projected to hit $2.8 billion next year, and reach $6.6 billion by 2025. And who’s driving those sales? Millennials. Not only does the report give us a clearer picture of who is jumping at the chance to buy legal weed, but it also provides a glimpse of how marijuana delivery purchases made online are impacting the cannabis industry. The study, prepared by cannabis analytics company New Frontier Data in conjunction with online marijuana delivery marketplace Green Rush, outlines product trends, market growth, and consumer demographic numbers — numbers showing that millennials account for a whopping 80% of all online cannabis sales. %related-post-1% Increased access to legal weed, as well as millennials’ embrace of technology and increased preference for pot over alcohol, have all combined to drive those sales. And while that growth in cannabis sales shows no sign of slowing down, the report predicts retail prices to decline over the long term, especially if more producers are granted licenses or if larger producers enter the market. Here Are Some More of the Study’s Findings: Cannabis flower products top online cannabis sales, representing 70% of products sold via greenRush.com. Cannabis concentrate represents 22% of online cannabis sales through the site, with its market share predicted to grow year-over-year as consumers increasingly move toward non-flower and liquid vaporization products. Smaller product package sizes dominate marijuana delivery sales, as consumers prefer the flexibility of purchasing smaller quantities, but more frequently. As the report indicates, specific demographic and product segments are the main drivers of demand and “will have a major impact on product packaging, brands, new service providers, and backing-investors entering the space” nationwide. %related-post-2% “Significant changes are already underway in California for medical cannabis and adult use laws, which we see will have major implications for the cannabis industry, including e-commerce and delivery services in the state,” Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, CEO of New Frontier Data, said. “As the largest state in the country — and the largest potential market for cannabis products — the implications for the growth of the industry because of California’s adult use market cannot be overstated.”
People love to travel. And people love marijuana. Yet, despite increased access to legal marijuana both in the United States and abroad, pot-loving tourists often struggle to find places to toke while they take in the sights. So why is it so hard to find marijuana friendly hotels? In the past five years, eight U.S. states have voted to legalize recreational marijuana use. Those states are home to popular tourist destinations like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, and Boston. (Washington, D.C., has voted to legalize it, as well.) %related-post-1% The current situation in Nevada is typical of the other states on the list. While tourists in Nevada are welcome to purchase pot, they aren’t permitted to smoke it anywhere other than their private residences. Since tourist folks are only visiting the state — and don’t have homes there — they find themselves in a bit of a cannabis consumption conundrum. Despite the fact that tourists can (and do) buy a lot of marijuana in Las Vegas, they can’t smoke it there. They can’t smoke it in hotels. They can’t smoke it in rental cars. Casinos won’t allow them to smoke it because the substance is still illegal as the federal level, and they’d risk losing their gambling licenses. And lighting up on the street can result in a $600 fine. Given all that, what do tourists do? Well, as NPR reports, some buy edibles or dabble in scentless vaping pens. Others take their purchases back home with them. Some just decide to take their chances and break the law. It’s difficult to find marijuana friendly hotels while you travel because local travel bureaus and other promoters are hesitant to even mention — let alone promote — marijuana tourism. As Travel Weekly points out, many bureaus are partially funded by the federal government, which, again, still bans legal marijuana sales. Pot tourism also conflicts with the corporate cultures of many hotel chains. Even hotels in Denver and Seattle — cities with the longest histories of pot-friendliness in the nation — rarely promote rooms that can be used for pot smoking or publicize whether they allow guests to smoke on site. %related-post-2% Also affecting cannabis tourism is the fact that cannabis is illegal to consume in any public place in the nation, plus the fact that all cannabis sales have to be done in cash because banks won’t do business with the pot industry because — you guessed it — it’s still illegal at the federal level. Also complicating things is the fact that nobody is quite sure which direction federal marijuana law will take under President Trump’s notoriously prohibitionist attorney general, Jeff Sessions. But, good news! The smoke is beginning to clear a little bit around marijuana friendly hotels: Though none have opened yet, voters in Denver approved a plan for social consumption lounges — “Amsterdam-like places where people can smoke, eat, vape or otherwise ingest marijuana without breaking state law,” as one industry expert describes them. (A similar bill was proposed, but failed, in Nevada in the last legislative session.) Several members of the Oregon Legislature sought to create “cannabis cafes” and bed and breakfast-type “cannabis hotels,” though they saw two bills rejected by the state’s anti-smoking crowd, who cited Oregon’s “Indoor Clean Air Act.” “They see ‘smoke is smoke is smoke,’” laments Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer. A company called American Green is buying a deserted California mining town, and plans to create the country’s first pot-themed resort town. While the company has yet to face any major legal hurdles, it’s also revealed few details about the planned development. %related-post-3% While these near victories might be frustrating, thankfully you don’t have to wait for bills to pass or building projects to be completed in order to plan your next pot-themed trip. You just need to do a little digging. While not an official filter on Airbnb, you can find a handful a cannabis-friendly listings if you do a quick Google search of the city you plan to visit. Also, sites like The Travel Joint and Bud and Breakfast maintain up-to-date databases of 420-friendly destinations. Would you like to browse a short list of some of the best? Check out this list of marijuana friendly hotels and other lodging options put together by the fine folks at Leafly.
The bad news is that some people still ask this question: Is marijuana a gateway drug? The good news is that the marijuana-as-a-gateway myth has been chipped away at over the years. The better news is that a new line of thought is emerging: Marijuana may actually be an “exit drug” for those addicted to hard substances. Where We Stand Today While President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis wants to expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, the commission — which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, “a notorious anti-cannabis hardliner,” according to Leafly — doesn’t include cannabis on its list of drugs that can actually help people addicted to opioids. %related-post-1% And as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions tells it, the drug shouldn’t be on that list because using marijuana to combat opioid dependency is merely trading “one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.” Given Sessions’ hardline stance on legalization, his comments here should be no surprise. They should also not detract, however, from an irrefutable fact: Cannabis is helping to save the lives of people addicted to opioids. Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug? Let's Flip That Question Upside Down While marijuana has long been labelled a gateway drug, studies show that alcohol and nicotine — and not pot — are the most common drugs first abused by those who move on to harder and more dangerous substances. Opioids are one of those substances, but, instead of encouraging people to dabble in opioids, marijuana can actually help people overcome them. Some 2.6 million Americans (roughly the equivalent to the combined populations of Wyoming, Vermont, Washington D.C., and Alaska) deal with some sort of opioid addiction. While marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance limits its ability to be studied by researchers — likely contributing to the continued and widespread debate about its true medicinal benefits — there is increasing evidence highlighting marijuana’s effectiveness as an exit drug. Marijuana as an Exit Drug According to a recent study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, cited by Leafly, 90 percent of post-operative patients who used medical cannabis during their recoveries believed that it helped to alleviate their pain, while 81 percent believed it cut down on how much opioid pain medication they wound up using. %related-post-2% More importantly, a 2014 study found that states with legal medical marijuana saw 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdose compared to states where the drug is illegal. Leafly also cited qualitative data that illustrates cannabis’ effectiveness as an exit drug for drug rehab patients, military veterans, and everyday people going through recovery. According to an American Society of Addiction report, 33,091 Americans died from opioid-related overdoses in 2015. That’s 91 deaths every day. And the numbers are growing. (By the way, how many Americans died from cannabis overdoses in 2015 or 2016? None.) A Straightforward Argument When it comes to describing marijuana’s usefulness as an exit drug, Joe Schrank, the co-founder of a California-based recovery center, perhaps says it best: “We’re trading drugs that will kill people for a drug that will not kill people.” While Sessions, Trump, Christie, and others are free to push for hardline policies that limit — or eliminate — Americans’ access to medical marijuana, public sentiment trends toward legalization. Until they can make a more compelling argument than Schrank, it will continue to do so. So, is marijuana a gateway drug? Hardly. To the contrary, it can help get people off harder substances. And it won't be long (hopefully) until that question is no longer posed.
Do you know what’s great? Living in a country where (legal) marijuana is becoming easier and easier to get. You know what’s not so great? Having to break up your own weed and roll your own joints. That’s why other methods of consumption are becoming popular, like marijuana vaping. But is the popularity of vaping going to displace flower? There are numerous solutions to the age-old problem Learning how to roll a good joint can be a challenge for the novice, and even if you can roll a good one, having to do so before you can take a puff can be, well, a drag. Looking to bypass the hassles long associated with prepping pot, an increasing number of users are turning to easier and faster ways to get high. %related-post-1% Edible marijuana, for example, allows users to eat cannabis in safe doses, while pre-rolled joints make marijuana as easy to consume as a traditional cigarette. While both are growing in popularity, however, neither can match the popularity of cannabis oil vaping. Marijuana vaping growing in popularity In states where marijuana is legal, cannabis vaping allows users to purchase cannabis concentrate in small glass containers that can be screwed into inexpensive, rechargeable vape pens. The cartridges cost as low as $30, depending on how much concentrate they contain, can be carried in your pocket, and don’t produce the same smoke and smell emitted from standard, flower marijuana. The cartridges also allow users to monitor their usage, which, as Merry Jane notes, has likely played a huge role in the product’s popularity. And just how popular is cannabis vaping? According to BDS Analytics, concentrated cannabis sales are growing by leaps and bounds in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. In recent years, Washington has seen its growth rate for concentrates increase by 194 percent. Oregon’s has grown by 105 percent, and even Colorado, which has a more established recreational system, has seen cartridge sales jump by 57 percent. In the nation’s largest marijuana market, California, marijuana delivery service Eaze reports that cartridges accounted for nearly a quarter of all cannabis sales in 2016. Compared to 2015, the company saw their annual sales for cannabis concentrate explode by 400%. %related-post-2% Is there a market ceiling for marijuana vaping? Despite their popularity, cartridge sales still trail plant pot sales by a pretty wide margin. There are still some questions, too, regarding the exact content of the cartridges, as well as their supposed status as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco. But, as Business Insider notes, with legal cannabis regulation and implementation not kicking in until January 2018 in many states, the popularity and sales of these affordable, fast, and easy-to-use disposable cartridges will likely only continue to grow.
Yes, senior citizens and marijuana could easily form a political powerhouse. Here's how. If it impacts me directly, it's important politically Adam Smith was not a cynic. He was a realist. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest,” wrote the modern era’s first economist wrote in Wealth of Nations. Aside from providing the general, unlearned public with rudimentary bromides to deploy over dinner and in barrooms — if anyone knows anything about economics, they will know this principle of self-first survival, or maybe the “invisible hand” of the free market — Smith also delivered a fundamental political lesson. The question all voters ask, and the one all supplicants for their votes must answer is: What’s in it for me? %related-post-1% Appeals to reason, justice, or emotion will find their effectiveness limited at property lines. In other words: A foreign war or a public good is an abstract thing, an innocuous thing, until it affects your taxes or your home values — and then watch it become a Matter of Great Import. In order to do the right thing, a voter must believe it is the right thing for herself. When it comes to voting, senior citizens call the shots This can be a challenging equation to balance at the ballot box. It’s Millennials who will (someday) inherit the world from the Baby Boomers (eventually) — yet it’s the Baby Boomers who are shaping the future by turning out to vote and selecting choice-makers for us. With this in mind, they can help us move toward a more verdant future by voting to legalize marijuana. And they should. Senior citizens and marijuana make for a great match. " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Until now, voters over 50 have been the reliable bulwark against marijuana legalization. According to Gallup, there’s wide majority support for marijuana legalization across all generations, with one exception: That’s right, voters over 55. You can probably thank senior citizens for marijuana legalization’s loss in Arizona, the lone failure on Election Day last year. This is ironic, considering senior citizens have been for some time the fastest-growing demographic among marijuana users. There’s decades of propaganda to unlearn, sure. But then again, people around the age of 60 or 65 or older were the people who made cannabis a central part of the American counterculture. Senior citizens and marijuana have been cozying up According to one survey, marijuana use among Americans 65 and older has increased by 250 percent. Data like this isn’t the most reliable — a survey’s value relies on people telling the truth, and since people lie to their doctors about how much alcohol they drink, and it’s legal, how honest are they about drug use? — but at least some of the smart money is following it. %related-post-2% Marijuana companies are converging on senior centers and retirement homes to find new customers. Since aging includes some of the very ailments medical marijuana is most effective at treating — among them sleep issues, chronic pain, and wasting syndromes associated with cancer — the appeal is obvious. The pitch makes perfect sense. Here’s something that’s relatively benign, available in formats that require no smoking — thus, no negative health impacts — with limited side effects, and profound medical value. And, yes, the fountain of youth potential. As mentioned above, initial results from a study conducted on mice revealed that THC may reverse or at least slow the cognitive decline associated with aging. Would you like to enjoy — and remember — those golden years? Of course you do. " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> It’s no accident that medical marijuana was overwhelmingly approved in Florida, land of of the snowbirds and Sun Belt retirees. Until now, much of the taboo and reluctance to embrace cannabis has been about “the children.” This, too, is ironic: It’s been kids, stricken with intractable epilepsy and other illnesses medicine is helpless to heal, that have convinced state lawmakers in red areas like Georgia and Texas to allow sick people to access high CBD, low THC oil. When senior citizens and marijuana come to terms, prohibition will end You’ll notice that no matter who is in office, no presidential administration and no Congress have been able to raid Social Security or gut Medicare. In addition to owning property and significant wealth, seniors also wield significant political power. If seniors collectively realized tomorrow that cannabis was good for them, Congress would end marijuana prohibition within a year. You can bet on that.
We're not making this up. Legal marijuana is proving to be a (positive) force in shaping real estate trends. We'll explain. While the growth of legal marijuana has been fueled, in large part, by the plant's ability to help an ever-growing number of people deal with a wide variety of health conditions, the list of benefits that legal pot provides does not end there. In addition to its medicinal qualities, legal marijuana has helped slow down drug trafficking, reduce drug-related crime, and generate considerable tax revenue that cities and states have used to fund public health programs, anti-opioid treatments, student scholarships, the rebuilding of public schools, and more. Legal marijuana’s economic impact has extended to real estate trends, as well. %related-post-1% As the New York Times examined, the more than two dozen states that have legalized pot have seen a boom in the number of factories, warehouses, self-storage facilities, strip malls and other commercial properties that have been repurposed for the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana plants and products. While no one knows exactly how long the current marijuana real estate boom will last, this increased demand for commercial space means that, for now, landlords and property owners are charging those in the marijuana business well above market value for their properties. And they're normally getting their asking price. According to National Real Estate Investor, the biggest jump in property prices can be found in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use — states like Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, California, and Colorado. In Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, for example — two cities in Orange County, California — the marijuana industry has caused industrial property values to nearly double in the past 12 months. There are also some neighborhoods in the country’s unofficial legal pot capital of Denver, Colorado, where the average asking lease price for warehouse space rose by more than 50 percent between 2010 and 2015. As the Times points out, the demand for retail space is just as hot. As of 2015, there were roughly 200 marijuana stores in Denver — five times the number of stand-alone Starbucks stores — occupying properties from high-end storefronts to shuttered gas stations. Landlords typically charge two to three times market rates for these spaces. %related-post-2% “It’s a tax these guys are used to paying because it’s still federally illegal,” Brian Vicente, a partner at a Denver law firm that specializes in marijuana issues, told the Times. Marijuana producers put up with the high prices because they don’t really have a choice. Federal law blocks interstate commerce, which means pot must be grown in the same state where it’s sold. As result, not only do growers have to absorb high property costs, but they also have to spend huge sums of money to retrofit old warehouses in order to properly cultivate cannabis. Those costs include huge water and electricity bills, as well as the implementation of climate controls and much-needed privacy and security measures. Marijuana growers who want to cultivate their crops outdoors face an additional maze of zoning and land use issues, stifling regulations, and pushback from other, more “traditional” farmers. While there are more questions than answers about the future of the legal marijuana industry, growers and retailers are going full force right now because the opportunity for profits is simply too good to pass up — even with the considerable overhead. Changes may be coming later on, but for now legal marijuana is certainly a positive influencer on real estate trends.
While there are still 21 U.S. states without legalized marijuana in some form, there are others, like California, where pot is not only legal, but where residents have access to way more marijuana than they can actually consume. It’s true, there may actually be too much California marijuana. California was already one of the nation’s biggest pot producers when it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Last November, residents in the Golden State voted to approve the legal sale and possession of an ounce of pot for recreational use, and now, with growers seizing the opportunity to make some bank in the booming business, the supply of California marijuana far outweighs demand. %related-post-1% According to CBS13 in Sacramento, California produces between 14 and 16 million tons of marijuana annually — some 12.5 million to 14 million more tons than it needs. At a panel discussion held by the Sacramento Press Club in July, Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said that state-licensed growers “are going to have to scale back” their marijuana surplus. “We are on a painful downsizing curve,” he said. While recreational sales of California marijuana will be legal as of January 1, 2018, lawmakers are still discussing the number and scope of new regulations that will accompany the new sales. As the Oregon Cannabis Connection points out, things like license limits, plant and canopy limits, and enforcement actions are still up in the air — items that lawmakers must reconcile in order to maximize trade of the state’s legal and taxable marijuana while, at the same time, shrinking the unregulated market. Balancing the scales won’t be easy. Current federal law bans interstate trade of cannabis, and California law will ban the export of pot after January 1. At that point, Allen says, growers will have to make a choice. They can get a license and face pressure to reduce their crops — as well as face stiff competition from other legal growers with similar surpluses — or they can try (like some are already doing) to operate without a license by selling cannabis to buyers in other states via the illegal black market. They could just decide to quit, too. %related-post-2% Allen says those growing and selling pot illegally will face prosecution sooner or later. Instead, he says, he would love to see state and local governments across the nation license and open shops for growers to sell California’s surplus pot, and, indeed, those discussions are happening. Dr. Aseem Sappal, a dean at Oakland’s Oaksterdam University, also laments the fact that growers could face prosecution. “Nobody wants to operate under the radar,” says Dr. Sappal. “They want to do this legally. They want to say, ‘Hey, look, what I’m doing is okay.’” Students at Oaksterdam study marijuana, and Dr. Sappal predicts that growers in the legal market will come up with myriad ways to sell the state’s surplus. One of those ways could be to convert cannabis into oil. Dr. Sappal says that roughly 75 pounds of marijuana — which is a sizeable portion — can produce roughly 5 liters of oil. The fact that a lot of pot is needed to “make a little oil,” he says, creates a “very good avenue” to use up the surplus. The new regulations will be decided by January 1. Until then, Californians should smoke ‘em (and vape ‘em, and eat ‘em, and drink ‘em, and bake stuff with ‘em) if they got ‘em.
During the 2015 election campaign, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party pledged to “legalise, regulate, and restrict access” to marijuana in order to keep drugs "out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals." Trudeau followed through on that promise in April, introducing legislation to open up Canadian cannabis laws, legalizing the retail marijuana market by 2018. The legislation, which closely follows recommendations laid out in a federal task force report late last year, would allow anyone over the age of 18 to carry up to 30 grams of dried or fresh marijuana, and let consumers buy or grow as many as four marijuana plants at home. Canada’s provinces will take the lead on controlling the price, as well as setting up sales, distribution, and enforcement systems. Other items, like taxation, have yet to be determined. Also unclear is where all the pot is going to come from. While Trudeau is aiming for the legislation to take effect by this time next year, there might not be a big enough supply of Canadian cannabis to meet demand. %related-post-1% A cannabis shortage? According to Health Canada, the number of Canadians registered to use medical marijuana rose to almost 130,000 in March of this year — double what it was just a year ago — and that number continues to increase every month. The medical marijuana market is growing so quickly, in part because more insurance companies are now covering the drug, says Greg Engel, chief executive officer of Organigram Holdings Inc., one of Canada’s few large marijuana producers. Engel says Organigram and the country’s other leading producers are already struggling to keep up with the existing demand for medical marijuana, and will have an even tougher time keeping up when the adult recreation market starts next summer. “There are the top six or seven companies, that we’re one of, that are doubling, tripling, if not quadrupling production,” he says. “But there’s new companies coming into the space as well, in anticipation. The challenge is they may not be ready when the market starts.” Potential fixes to a possible canna-shortage Health Canada pledged last month to speed up its approval process for applicants seeking a license to grow marijuana. And while the agency has sped up approvals, it still takes up to a year for a new producer to ramp up production and reach the marketplace, says Cam Mingay, a senior partner at Cassels Brock who follows the marijuana industry. “I don’t know what anyone can do about it — you can’t force the plants to grow faster,” he said, adding that any companies whose licenses are approved likely couldn’t be in production “in any meaningful capacity” until the end of 2018. Back in April, federal ministers reiterated that the ultimate goal of the legalization is to shrink or kill completely the black market for marijuana. If demand for legal pot continues to outpace production, however, or if the tax incentives are unbalanced, the black market could take over Canada’s marijuana trade — regardless of the legislation. %related-post-2% Worst case shortage scenario According to Jason Zandberg, an analyst at PI Financial, companies are still trying to ramp up their facilities and production, and initial sales will likely take place online and by mail, as it wouldn’t be possible for producers to stock all of the government dispensaries across Canada. Zandberg says everything would have to go “perfectly” for producers to meet the projected demand — something that is not likely to happen. “There will be a shortage initially,” he says. “My concerns are that if that is used as an excuse to push the date of recreational legalization back, there’s a danger that it slips into the next election cycle and doesn’t actually happen.” Let’s hope the Canadian cannabis shortage only lasts a short time.
While the availability of legal marijuana isn’t quite on par with, say, the availability of alcohol, cigarettes, or pharmaceutical drugs, things are certainly trending in a positive direction. And as legalization spreads, monies collected through marijuana taxes will benefit more people. As we’ve previously mentioned, medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, and adults in eight states can now use pot for recreational purposes. Three out of four adults believe states should have the power to establish their own marijuana laws, and only 14 percent think the Justice Department should bypass state legislation in order to enforce federal laws and prosecute marijuana laws. %related-post-1% Part of pot’s path toward increased legalization in the U.S. is the result of strong advocacy efforts, especially regarding the drug’s ability to help people suffering from a wide variety of health conditions. An even bigger factor, arguably, is marijuana’s ability to generate money — and lots of it. While America is the global leader when it comes to growing legal marijuana, producing the highest quality marijuana, and having the largest market for marijuana, we are being outpaced by other countries when it comes to research, science, and trade. As CNBC points out, numerous countries around the world are using a top-down approach of legalizing pot at the federal level, as opposed to our state-by-state, bottom-up model. Canada, for example, has already launched a federal medicinal marijuana program, and will launch a full recreational program in 2018. Right now, our neighbors to the north have the world’s second largest market for marijuana at $500 million. When their recreational program is launched, that number that will grow to an estimated $618 million in 2018 and $22 billion by 2020. Elsewhere, the Dutch government generates more than $600 million in marijuana taxes annually from its coffee shops, and Spain, Mexico, Australia, Italy, Colombia, South Africa, and Israel each see varying levels of pot profits each year. England would rake in an estimated £1 billion in new taxes if it legalized pot, and while the U.S. market for marijuana was $7.9 billion in 2016 — and will likely hit $21 billion by 2020 — it could be astronomically higher if both medical and recreational legalization were to spread nationwide. And with the tax revenues, jobs, and projects marijuana is already funding, it will likely be only a matter of time before even the most anti-pot lawmakers see the light about letting people light up. %related-post-2% Consider These Numbers: Marijuana taxes netted Colorado more than $105 for the 2016-17 fiscal year, and more than a half billion dollars since 2014. These funds go largely toward public health programs, housing for at-risk residents, student scholarships, anti-opioid treatment, and the rebuilding of crumbling public schools. The cannabis industry contributes a total annual economic of more than $1.2 billion in Oregon. An estimated 12,500 pot-related jobs have been created there with cumulative annual wages of $315 million. When recreational marijuana is finally available for purchase in Massachusetts in 2018, it could be subject to as much as a 28 percent tax, with a portion of that tax revenue going to fund substance abuse treatment. Legalizing recreational marijuana could help the deficit-plagued state of Connecticut pay down its debt, as well as fund its pension obligations and health-care expenses. It’s already common knowledge that legalizing marijuana can help to slow down drug trafficking, reduce drug-related crime, and help people deal with illness. But as the above figures indicate, it can take our economy to new highs, as well.
Recently, a study published by the Highway Loss Data Institute tried to link marijuana and car wrecks. The study examined the number of collision claims in the western states of Colorado, Oregon and Washington where marijuana is legal for recreational adult use. The ultimate goal of the report seemed to be to show that an increase in the number of collision claims can be attributed to legalization. Yet since its publication, many have questioned the authority of the report. What the study says about marijuana and car wrecks "The combined-state analysis shows that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes," says Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). %related-post-1% Colorado apparently had the biggest increase in claim frequency when compared with the different control states. When combined, the three states of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington had about 3% more collision claims than the control states — Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The study was reported across numerous American and international media outlets. If car wrecks totals have increased, at least fatalities haven't The American Public Health Association (APHA) published a study in the American Journal of Public Health, exploring a nuance overlooked by the HDLI study, which linked marijuana and car wrecks overall. The conclusion of their study is that “three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization. Future studies over a longer time remain warranted.” Notice the “fatality rates” nuance. The APHA findings were focused on the severity of crashes, not their overall number. Pushback to the HLDI study The HLDI study made quite a bit of noise, and many industry watchers wondered how to interpret its results. In a truly scientific study, the entire methodology of testing and analysis are explained, and different possible explanations are given for the obtained results. Just take a look at the study published by the HLDI, and you’ll notice that it isn’t clear how they obtained such results. The study conducted by the American Public Health Association seems much more plausible, even for the untrained eye. Sure, there might be a correlation between the year in which recreational cannabis use was legalized and the number of insurance claims for collisions, but that doesn’t prove cannabis causes more accidents. Causation and correlation are not one in the same. It’s important to understand the difference between correlation and causation. Especially because it appears the HLDI work might lead lawmakers and voters to believe that correlation is enough to influence cannabis-related legislation. %related-post-2% Correlation is a mutual relation between two or more things. Here’s an example: When temperatures rise, ice cream sales rise. But imagine, if crime rates also rise when it gets hotter outside, does that mean that ice cream causes people to become criminals because violence and ice cream consumption increase at the same time? No, because there’s no causation. So, if the number of people sending in a claim to their insurance company after a collision rises, does that mean it’s because their state legalized the recreational use of cannabis? It might be, but it isn’t necessarily the case. After a correlation has been found, much more analysis must be done to see if there’s causation or not. A lot of other things might cause an increase in collision claims. Who knows, maybe people work longer hours, and it’s the fatigue that causes them to react slower than usual, and hit another car. It doesn’t seem like the HDLI studied these kind of possible causes. This makes the study less trustworthy, and more opinionated. It’s easy to look for a correlation between two things if you want to show your opinion on a subject. It’s a lot harder to prove causation between them in order to prove your point. So, is there a link between marijuana and car wrecks? If the statistics presented by HLDI are correct, then yes, there is a correlation. However, we agree with a growing number of voices that more scientific study needs to be conducted before drawing a straight line between the two (aka causation).
Medical cannabis appears to be a helpful solution for many people suffering various ailments. But what about your pets? What are marijuana effects on dogs and cats, and how do those effects differ from traditional pharmaceuticals? Those are tricky questions, and as always when it comes to medical cannabis, opinions often clash. The laws concerning medical cannabis apply only to human beings. A veterinarian isn’t allowed to prescribe cannabis as a treatment for your pet. The main reason for this is the lack of scientific research and testing on the subject, which has yet to prove whether cannabis is definitively safe or beneficial for pets. Dogs have cannabinoid receptors just like human beings, which means that, in theory, it’s possible they react similarly to cannabis. Only without proper research, we’re unable to say how their bodies actually react to cannabis, and if it would truly help manage their pain or illnesses. %related-post-1% Hemp products for pets As you might have noticed, cannabis products are available for your pets online and even in some local grocery and pet stores. Such products are made with hemp, which isn’t the plant used for smoking. Hemp contains very little THC, and federal law requires that industrial hemp contain less than 0.3% of THC by dry weight. Hemp appears to have medical properties because of the CBD it contains. Because you can’t get high from hemp, and because it’s also used in goods like the ecologically friendly clothes, it’s subject to different regulations than THC-heavy cannabis products. According to an article published on AmericanVeterinarian.com, cannabis products, some even containing THC, are beneficial for dogs. Owners have witnessed positive effects on their dogs, who reportedly seem to be in less pain, and appear happier. But we still don’t know anything about the longterm effects, or what would happen if a dog receives too many drops of hemp oil. To that point, the article includes this disclaimer: “the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has no formal position regarding the veterinary use of medical marijuana but does agree that more studies are needed.” Can you trust these hemp products? Since products made from hemp are legal, they can be readily purchased and consumed. But before doing so, you must think about the fact that they don’t undergo the same testing as pharmaceuticals do. Also, dosing may be difficult since the lack of proper research and testing makes nailing down product benefits a bit of a guessing game. Moreover, in 2015 the FDA sent warning letters to some manufacturers of hemp supplements for dogs because of their marketing practices. Some manufacturers marketed their products as being safe and 100% effective, but without rigorous testing such claims may not necessarily be true. It turned out that some products that were tested by officials didn’t even contain CBD, which means they weren’t of any advertised use. %related-post-2% According to some pet owners and veterinarians, hemp can be used to treat or ease the pain from sprains, torn ligaments, bone breaks and other ailments. It might be possible to reduce the dosage of pharmaceutical drugs by giving some hemp to your dog (though we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first). Also, the CBD may help ease the side effects of the drugs. Of course every dog or cat will react differently to hemp products. And it might be unsafe to reduce the dosage of the prescribed drugs, risking to cause greater harm to your pet. A study, issued in 2016 by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, details why people buy hemp products for their dogs and cats, and what their observation about the effects is. For example, more than 38% of the people who answered the survey indicated that hemp helped ease their dog’s pain. When it comes to the side effects for dogs, sedation seems to be the biggest one, with over 19% of the respondents indicating it as a significant effect. A little warning THC-laden cannabis is unsafe for dogs and other pets. So if you have a stash of smokable products, edibles, or other cannabis products at home, make sure your pets cannot reach them. Poison control centers often receive reports of pets eating their owner’s cannabis stash. This can induce, among other things, vomiting, muscle twitching, incontinence, low or high heart rate, trouble breathing and unconsciousness. It’s incredibly important to take your dog the the veterinarian immediately if s/he ate something containing THC, even if you don’t see any signs of intoxication.
Democracy is a loud, divisive, and ponderous task. This is true when the parties involved mostly agree. Undoing a lifetime’s worth of failed policy — even a vastly unpopular policy that benefits only a privileged few, to wit: marijuana prohibition — is a titanic undertaking, akin to melting a glacier with a hair dryer. But legalizing marijuana is something legislatures have been tinkering on for some time. With how quickly Americans’ attitudes have shifted on drug policy, it’s easy to forget how long and torturous a path the movement to allow adults to use cannabis without fear of arrest has trod. Remember: California voters rejected legalizing marijuana recreationally in 2010 — after medical cannabis production and sales had been legal for more than a decade. It took another seven years (and three other states going first) before the state at last legalized in November 2016. Do you have that kind of patience? Thankfully, it won’t be required. If anything like the following is going on in your state, legalizing marijuana will likely come much sooner than seven years. %related-post-1% You already have medical marijuana You gotta walk before you can run, you gotta hum before you can sing — and you have to have CBD oil available to kids with epilepsy, former NFL players with head trauma, and senior citizens with chronic pain before you can walk into a dispensary and cop a handful of pre-rolled joints. Every state to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over has had medical marijuana in place first — and in most cases for a very long time. In Oregon, medical preceded legalization by 14 years; in Maine, it was 17 years. And it shouldn’t be some mythical, “medical marijuana in name only” situation where only hemp-derived CBD oil is allowed or where dispensaries are as rare as unicorns. In both Maine and Massachusetts, where legalization passed by the smallest margins in November, retail storefront dispensaries had been open for a few years. Ask any monorail salesman: There’s nothing like a real-life demonstration to win over the unwilling. Medical cannabis sales normalizes the concept of incorporating the drug into society, and provides tangible proof of the benefits. This bodes well for Michigan, where dispensaries have been in operation for several years, patients have been able to grow their medicine at home, and the Marijuana Policy Project is currently organizing and fundraising for a ballot initiative. Decriminalization is happening A good first step towards allowing something is ending the practice of punishing it severely. Most medical marijuana measures have been preceded by decriminalization, where cannabis possession, once a misdemeanor crime punishable by arrest and incarceration, becomes a violation akin to a traffic ticket, punishable by only a fine. This is another example of social conditioning: it’s hard to convince people to start collecting taxes on conduct that’s still criminal, but it’s a much easier sell to regulate and tax when cops grow so bored with writing tickets for a relatively harmless activity that they stop bothering. And this is happening all over… albeit slowly. Embarrassed by arrest statistics so spectacularly biased it’s a wonder they didn’t earn a statue in New Orleans, pragmatic lawmakers and law-enforcement officers in Houston and Nashville moved to decriminalize possession — though in Nashville’s case, the good turn was undone by state lawmakers, who recognized the first step towards legalizing marijuana when they saw it. %related-post-2% You’re broke Necessity is the mother of invention, desperate times call for desperate measures — pick your pablum: it applies to the dire straits Illinois finds itself in. The state is an apocalyptic $9 billion in the red, a budget deficit so bad it makes California’s subprime crisis-era fiscal hole look like a molehill. Residents are fleeing, and a political impasse means no new tax money is coming anytime soon. It’s no accident that Democratic lawmakers in Springfield are now floating the idea of legalizing marijuana as a ready and easy moneymaking solution. Together, Colorado and Washington collected about $455 million in tax revenue from the sale of cannabis. Together, the two states have a smaller population than Illinois, which could net as much as $700 million with regulated and taxed cannabis sales. Cannabis cash has allowed one Colorado town to pave its streets and build a new city hall and civic auditorium. Marijuana revenue won’t solve longstanding systemic problems like population imbalances (hi, Baby Boomers) or high fixed costs like healthcare, but it’s an untapped source of revenue. There aren’t too many of those around. There won’t likely be any bailouts from Washington in the Trump era, and with hard-up citizens unlikely to volunteer to pay more income or property taxes, turning a black-market economy into something that can fund schools, roads, and public-employee pensions is one of the only remaining cards yet to the played. Lawmakers are finally doing their jobs If our elected representatives were truly interested in working for us, cannabis would have been legal a long time ago. More than 90 percent of Americans support medical marijuana; more than 60 percent of all Americans believe recreational marijuana should be legalized. Cannabis is more popular than Donald Trump, and has better-attended inauguration parties. Yet, to date, legalization has only come through the citizens’ initiative. You can blame special interests, you can blame political deadlock — either way, lawmakers aren’t doing their jobs and making laws the people want. In Florida’s case, lawmakers took forever to do the job they were constitutionally bound to do, simply because that job involved weed. %related-post-3% So if notoriously risk-averse politicians are willing to publicly say it’s time for legalizing marijuana, it’s probably well past time. And judging by the reaction state lawmakers in New Jersey are triggering from human roadblock Gov. Chris Christie with their proposal to legalize cannabis in the state, it won’t be long before a Legislature votes to legalize. This follows a similar formula as above: first medical, then legal, and a host of state houses have already passed medical cannabis and successfully convinced the governor (most of whom in America are Republicans) to affix his (most are men) to the bill. And even setbacks like Vermont’s, where the governor declined to sign a just-passed legalization bill, came with the caveat that the only problem was the details, not legalization itself. The real progress, however, would come if Congress called one of the more than a dozen cannabis-related bills introduced this session for a committee hearing. Once that happens, legalization will be imminent everywhere in the country. Take heart: It’s already inevitable.
Cannabis' comparisons to Silicon Valley are only apt if we note that unlike smartphones, there's still a long way to go before we achieve saturation. To do that, the marijuana industry needs some changes, only some of which it can implement itself. For all the endless hype — the earned media prevaricating between open-mouthed fawning and hand-wringing, the disruptive attention from investors, and the caterwauling from police and prohibitionists petrified of a world with new rules — it’s important to remember that marijuana is still a fringe pursuit. Cannabis enjoys favorable comparisons to Silicon Valley, sure. As the only other industry to appear in our lives as if overnight, technology is a convenient measuring stick. It’s also hyperbolic wishful thinking to compare the two in apples-to-apples style. %related-post-1% Consider: more than two-thirds of Americans, and 86 percent of adult Millennials, own smartphones, still the vehicle of choice for any venture that touches tech. Compare that to the number of Americans who smoke weed. According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, the nation’s monthly marijuana users number only 22.2 million — or fewer than ten percent of the population. Thus far, the meteoric growth of a legalizing industry segueing from the black market to government regulations has protected this willful overselling from painful exposure, but the razzle-dazzle of the marijuana industry likely won’t last forever. Let’s assume that’s low, and that participants in a government-run survey are less than forthcoming about their drug habits. Another recent survey pegs the number of “regular” users of marijuana — that is, people who use cannabis at least once or twice a month — at 35 million, or slightly more than ten percent of the population. That’s better, but not exactly the kind of market estimate to make a venture capitalists’ heart sing. Imagine a world where only ten percent of us had an iPhone — and we only used it every other weekend, after the kids were safe in bed. Apple would be a cute little company with an interesting booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), not a global juggernaut. But there is a favorable comparison to be made to consumer electronics. Unlike smartphones, cannabis is far from achieving saturation — there is still room to grow. Over half of cannabis consumers are Millennials, and men outnumber women almost two-to-one. This means women and all people over 40 are new frontiers for the marijuana industry. There hasn’t been opportunity like this since Uber set sights on China. But in order for cannabis to take advantage, and to avoid stumbling like Uber has in China, weed will have to break free from some major hindrances. Here are four of the biggest hurdles cannabis needs to jump in order to maximize its market presence: Cannabis is Over-Reliant on Super-frequent Users If the cannabis industry relied on the 35 million people who smoked just once or twice a month, there would be mass layoffs at dispensaries. For now, a relatively small percentage of heavy users are keeping the marijuana industry afloat. %related-post-2% According to data crunched by Colorado’s Department of Revenue, 50 percent of marijuana users use fewer than five times a month — and account for less than 3.5 percent of sales. Meanwhile, another roughly 22 percent of users who consume daily account for nearly 70 percent of all sales. The “average” marijuana user is a 37-year-old male who spends about $100 a month on flower, but in reality, a few Millennials are coming in to spend hundreds of dollars a week. What the cannabis industry needs, then, are more people from all walks of life, who spend just a little more, who have figured out a way to weave cannabis into their lives, if not daily, at least every other day. Cannabis Still Has an Image Problem There aren’t enough positive representations of marijuana use and users for most of us to stand up and say, “Yes, I smoke weed, and I’m a good person.” Seth Rogen, this is partially your fault. Weed already has white males (studies show this). But there still aren’t very many role models for the demographics where cannabis has growth potential: women, people of color, people over 60. Much of this has to do with how society has “rewarded” these people: with visits from Child Protective Services, with trips to jail, with misinformation and propaganda. There is still ample room for a respected mainstream voice to start saying what we know to be true: weed is a relatively benign substance, a safer alternative to alcohol, and an even safer substitute for habit-forming pharmaceuticals like opiates. Former NFL players like Jake Plummer taking non-psychoactive cannabis oil for post-concussion syndrome is a start, as is Whoopi Goldberg’s line of non-psychoactive, beauty product-like offerings geared towards women. But cannabis-infused bath salts and marijuana-based “romantic aids” aren’t going to matter if people can’t see themselves using them. What weed really needs is a celebrity endorser with wide appeal like Ivanka Trump, although preferably without the overseas sweatshops. Marijuana Needs to Become Boring Smartphones are ubiquitous because they are simple. Look: a touchscreen! Look: icons! A few apps, and you’re set for life. If an iPhone and iOS are the standards of our day (and they are), cannabis is still a PC running MS-DOS. Even experienced users are overwhelmed by the size of the average dispensary menu, with brand-new strain names every week, and budtenders who have the task the size of a sommelier’s, but with the training and expectations of someone working a beer-and-shot dive. What is all this? What will it do? You don't know, exactly? Imagine sales patter like that at a car dealership. %related-post-3% Cannabis needs to figure out a way to become less ritualized and more boring if it wants to capture a Walgreen’s-sized market. Being able to sell in a simpler, standard setting without ID checkpoints and security guards isn’t something the industry can grant itself, but it can absolutely work on standardized products with predictable, consistent dosing and stupid-obvious, idiot-proof directions and results. The customer experience at many dispensaries is in need of enhancement, if not a total overhaul, if the untapped women-and-Boomer segments are going to feel welcome. Marijuana Use is Still a Risk Smoking weed won’t kill you — unless you’re an immunocompromised AIDS or cancer patient using weed tainted with fungus — but it can absolutely rob you of your ability to earn a living...and more. That’s not weed’s fault. It’s society’s, which is neither welcoming nor friendly, even in the legalization age. Employers have the right to fire a worker for smoking weed — and that’s in the states where adult-use cannabis is legal. And if you’re a parent, drug use is still a serious risk, particularly if you’re involved in a custody battle. Weed can lose you your job and your kids. If you go to any marijuana industry conference, you’ll hear stuffed shirts in suits prattling on about advocacy and education. They may sound like hectoring bores repeating catchphrases — and they may be — but they’re right. If the marijuana industry was longsighted enough, it would be dedicating much of its profits towards advocacy and education efforts to countermand the decades of brainwashing for which we have DARE to thank.
Praise be! Your state allows legal medical marijuana. Now the beneficial effects of America’s most helpful, yet illegal, plant can be enjoyed by patients sorely needing it. Or, at least that’s what you’ve been hoping would be the case, in some places, for quite some time. The fact of the matter is that even when states make medical marijuana legal, that’s often the first step in what can be a painfully long process of many...many...many steps. Not to mention a bundle of, what might seem to be, counterintuitive rules prohibiting worthy patients from getting their hands on high quality medication. Circumstances vary by state, but here are four examples of states that have passed canna-friendly legislation that are yet to yield patient-friendly results. %related-post-1% Hawaii Just four years after California allowed legal medical marijuana, their neighbors wayyyyy to the west followed suit. Actually, what Hawaii did was a first in America — they were the first to legalize marijuana through the bill-to-law process, rather than through a ballot initiative as did California. 17 years later, though, it’s no easy task for patients to access their canna-meds. Just how hard? In the nearly two decades since legal medical marijuana became a thing in Hawaii, not a single dispensary has opened on the islands. Get that? Zero. Zilch. The problem, explained by Motherboard, is that Hawaii originally allowed “medical use of marijuana for registered patients, (but) it didn't specify where these patients were supposed to get their supply.” It wasn’t until 2015 — a decade and half later — that “the state passed a law opening the door for a small number of licensed dispensaries to open up shop.” At the time this was written, two massive hurdles still existed. While the state granted eight licenses to marijuana companies, in true bureaucratic fashion Hawaii has been taking quite some time identifying and guiding each piece of the required business structures. To boot, the state requires each license holder to manage the entire seed-to-sale process, which is extremely expensive — especially for companies trying to acquire funding in an industry that is still federally barred. Cobbling together the necessary capital can be extremely time-consuming. Ohio In early June 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill permitting legal medical marijuana. But as Cleveland.com notes, “patients still can't buy legal marijuana here, and doctors can't become certified to recommend it. No licenses have been awarded to marijuana cultivators, processors, testing labs or dispensaries.” Woof! That doesn’t seem to bode well for patients. However, state officials have long-told of a two-year process to get the legal medical marijuana program off the ground. And according to Ohio watchers, the state appears to be on track to meet that timeline. When it launches, Ohio will boast up to 24 licensed growers, 40 processors that will turn marijuana flowers into various derived products like oils, edibles, and patches, and 60 dispensaries. While they wait to legally purchase marijuana, the state has created a stopgap for patients in the form of an “affirmative defense letter,” a form physicians can issue to a patient “intended to allow patients to use medical marijuana without being prosecuted for possession.” %related-post-2% New York In the case of the Empire State, though many celebrated the expansion of New York’s legal medical marijuana program to include sufferers of chronic pain — many who are elderly — the state’s online registration process has been problematic. In an OZY article, Nick Fouriezos writes that “while more access came as a needed salve for many ailments, it also served as a new twist on the old story of health care disparities between urban and rural communities.” Compounding that divide is the fact that the number of doctors who will actually “certify” a patient to get on the legal marijuana registry dwindles substantially outside the bigger cities. As Fouriezos tells it, there are some 400 such doctors in New York City alone, but outside the metropolitan areas, patients “with chronic pain sometimes drive two and a half to three hours to get certified.” Georgia The Peach State has some of the tightest medical marijuana restrictions in the country, though the Georgia program was recently expanded to cover patients of AIDS, Alzheimer’s, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. Essentially, qualified patients can possess cannabis oil containing no more than 5 percent THC. But here’s the catch: they can’t purchase it or make it. For that matter it can’t be sold either. So, you might wonder, how does a patient get their hands on their medicine? Enter the strange story of Georgia State Rep. Allen Peake, on whose front porch magically appears a shipment of cannabis oil once a month. Peak then distributes the oil to approved patients, free of charge. One of the patients that Rep. Peake delivers to told the Associated Press, “It shouldn’t be this way. You shouldn’t be meeting at a gas station or a Target parking lot to get medicine to somebody. You should be going to the place where it is produced and tested to get it dispensed to you in a regulated manner, but this is what we’re forced to do.” We agree. Legal medical marijuana laws are a work in progress in the United States, but as advocates will tell you, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, for the sake of patients, we get there sooner than later.
While the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis is waiting on a bill (SB 845) to become law, which would give them recreational marijuana forecasting responsibilities for the state, they’ve plodded ahead and issued their first official future-gazing cannabis report. Casting an eye forward, lead economist Josh Lehner has made predictions for Oregon marijuana sales and associated tax revenue. Long story short, a Colorado-like boom (likely) looms First things first, forecasting is not an exact science. So while many signs point to an Oregon marijuana sales boom, it’s not guaranteed (we’ll get into reasons for that in a bit). %related-post-1% But caution aside, there looks to be much opportunity for sizable industry growth across the state — enough for the treasury to pocket upwards of $156 million in marijuana taxes in the next two years. Looking to Washington and Colorado for cues (both have a two-year head start on Oregon marijuana sales), Lehner anticipates similar positive trending. He argues that “as the market matures...the coming few years will see strong growth as the product becomes more widely available, more socially acceptable, and more black and gray market sales are realized in the legal market.” In transaction totals, Lehner notes that Oregon marijuana sales surpassed Washington’s in its first year, resembling more closely Colorado’s totals when adjusting for population differences between those states. And if Oregon can enjoy a Colorado-like marijuana boom, that will yield numerous downstream benefits. 4 factors leading to impressive Oregon marijuana sales trends Lehner says Oregon marijuana sales numbers were so striking because: Oregonians consume more cannabis than do Washingtonians, when adjusting for population discrepancies. This is probably because... Washington taxes marijuana at a higher rate than Oregon does. Lower taxes decrease final sale costs, which likely encourages additional Beaver State consumer purchases. The “cross-border effect,” wherein “Oregon had somewhat of a built-in customer base who were used to purchasing in the legal market” across the line in Washington. A testament to this is the fact that southwest Washington counties experienced a near 40 percent drop in sales once Oregon sales commenced. Oregon has enough dispensaries to keep a closer, though not quite in lockstep, pace with consumer demand. %related-post-2% Possible bumps in the road? Ok, so getting back to the disclaimer from earlier, there are a few cautionary factors Lehner suggests could keep the marijuana boom from, well, booming as much. The first has to do with supply limitations that would prohibit consumers from purchasing as much product as they’d like. Lehnen points to regulatory hurdles as the leading possible factor in this regard, as overburdensome rules could slow growers and marijuana processors from obtaining valuable licenses. The second has little to do with Oregon itself. Rather, it’s Washington D.C. Lehner stresses that he doesn't feel a federal crackdown is highly likely, but he does warn that if one did happen it would wreck all rosy forecasting. These possibilities aside, the future of Oregon marijuana sales looks good.
When compared with the rest of the U.S., California marijuana laws are some of the most progressive in the country. In 1996 the state legalized medical marijuana, and 20 years later voters approved recreational sales and consumption by a margin of roughly 56 percent to 44 percent. Golden State legislators are trendsetting once again with California marijuana laws by passing a “marijuana sanctuary state” bill. What do you mean, “sanctuary state”? The phrase “sanctuary state” is a play on the expression “sanctuary city,” which is often used when discussing immigration policy. In that context, a sanctuary city is one that has passed municipal ordinances preventing local government and law enforcement from aiding federal authorities in their attempts at implementing national immigration rules. %related-post-1% Similarly, a sanctuary state is one that abstains — on a much larger scale — from assisting the federal government on a particular issue. In this circumstance, the California Assembly prefers to not help their federal counterparts when it comes to cannabis since California marijuana laws and federal marijuana laws are vastly incongruent. What’s in the bill and why was it drafted? In short, the bill (AB-1578) prohibits any state or local agency from assisting any federal agency’s attempts to implement federal marijuana laws that are incompatible with California marijuana laws. Only a signed court order from a judge can alter that. Here’s a passage from the bill itself: This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized or allowed under state or local law in the State of California and from transferring an individual to federal law enforcement or detaining an individual at the request of federal law enforcement or federal authorities for marijuana- or cannabis-related conduct that is legal under state or local law. According to the Associated Press, AB-1578 was introduced by Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles “amid uncertainty surrounding how President Donald Trump’s administration will deal with states that have legalized marijuana.” What’s next for AB-1578? The bill now heads to the state Senate and its Public Safety Committee for further consideration and intensified scrutiny. If it clears those hurdles, then Gov. Jerry Brown can sign it into law.
Since medical marijuana is legal in many states across the U.S., new industry professions are cropping up. Here’s one job title that piqued our interest recently: medical marijuana caregiver. So who are these people, and how do they care for patients? What’s a medical marijuana caregiver? The state of Michigan offers a good example with their definition of a marijuana caregiver. In the Great Lakes State, a marijuana “primary caregiver” or “caregiver” is defined as the following: a person who is at least 21 years old and who has agreed to assist with a patient's medical use of marijuana. %related-post-1% To be a marijuana caregiver in Michigan comes with some additional requirements, though, such as not being convicted of any felony within the past 10 years, and never being convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs or felony related to an assaultive crime. What does a medical marijuana caregiver do? A caregiver adapts the services provided to the needs of the patient. For example, in some locales a caregiver can assist a patient who wants to grow their own plants. Not everybody knows how to get started, where to buy soils or seeds, or how to grow and harvest, so this is when a marijuana caregiver is of great service. Over the course of several weeks or months, such a caregiver can help a patient find the right strain, set up their grow site, and then grow, harvest, and cure their medical marijuana. Medical marijuana caregivers might also be able to grow plants themselves for their patients. In this case, the caregiver’s grow site must follow state laws concerning, among other things, the number of plants grown, transportation, and security and residential zoning. But that’s not all. Caregivers can also teach patients appropriate dosing procedures and how to make edibles, tinctures, creams and other marijuana-based products. Too, they can drive the patient to the doctor, help with grocery shopping, and much more. %related-post-2% Medical marijuana caregivers in Maine show how the profession is evolving When Maine allowed the use of medical marijuana, patients basically had two choices. They had to grow their own plants, or ask a family member designated as caregiver to do it for them. Up until 2009, the state of Maine allowed caregivers to have only one patient. But inn 2009, the law was changed, allowing caregivers to serve up to five patients. It quickly became a larger scaled industry, especially with the rise of the number of people seeking medical marijuana treatment. In 2013, another amendment to the law allowed caregivers to hire an employee. The industry further expanded, and the state of Maine now has around 3,000 marijuana caregivers, according to Portland Press Herald. The future of the profession It’s hard to say how the industry of medical marijuana caregivers will evolve during the next few years. Dispensaries and recreational use laws could compete with smaller caregiver businesses. And much will depend on legislative amendments, which could change the number of plants a marijuana caregiver can maintain, as well as how many patients they can serve. If you’re interested in becoming a medical marijuana caregiver, the best first step is to research your specific state’s rules and regulations.
Law enforcement officers are trained to detect signs of impairment after pulling a driver over. A big problem, though, is that these signs are most often related to alcohol use, not to the consumption of other substances, like cannabis. Since everyone’s body reacts differently to the consumption of cannabis, it might be difficult for officers to determine on the spot if someone is intoxicated. That's why new drugged driving detection devices are being developed. When driving, how much THC is too much? Many states haven’t put a legal limit on how much THC you are allowed to have in your system before getting behind the wheel. Also, it appears that lawmakers are having trouble determining the proper threshold marking drugged driving. Too, it doesn’t help that current testing methods are still very controversial. That’s why new methods and devices are being tested, especially now that many states have legalized medical and recreational cannabis use. %related-post-1% Soon, you might be stopped by police not only to do a regular breathalyzer alcohol test, but also to be subject to an immediate test for THC levels in your saliva or breath (fun, right?). Up until now, THC levels were measured by drawing blood. The problem is that this psychoactive component of cannabis can stay in your system for up to 30 days after consumption. According to critics of this method, THC presence in your blood does not automatically prove intoxication and impairment. Moreover, it would be impossible for someone to know exactly when there are no more traces of THC in his or her blood. This means you could get in trouble for having THC metabolites in your blood, even though you haven’t consumed any cannabis products for almost four weeks — and that’s not cool. Saliva tests Different companies are working on so-called drugged driving devices. One of these devices is a little machine which measures active THC levels in your saliva, after swabbing ones mouth for about 10 seconds with a plastic swab stick. The logic behind this approach is that you will only have THC in your saliva if you’ve consumed cannabis in the hours before the test. The device will immediately show how many (if any) nanograms of THC the subject has in their saliva. Of course, for this to mean anything, lawmakers must decide on legal limits when it comes to impairment, with the necessary consequences for people who transgress these limits. The cost of the saliva testing device A saliva testing device by Alere Toxicology costs almost $6,000. States, counties, and municipalities might consider this investment because the device doesn’t only test for the presence of active THC, but also for cocaine, opiates, methamphetamines and several other drugs. Also, it might save law enforcement officers a lot of time and money, because blood testing won’t be needed as often anymore. %related-post-2% Breathalyzers for cannabis Hound Labs is another company working on a THC-detecting device. The startup is currently making a breathalyzer which measures THC levels. The driver must breathe into the device, and a single use cartridge will detect and measure the amount of THC. The completion of clinical trials is still necessary before the product will be launched in order to test its accuracy and efficiency. Like the saliva testing method, this device would be sold to law enforcement and possibly companies needing drug testing devices. The cost of the breathalyzer A breathalyzer will cost between $600 and $1,000. The device uses individual cartridges for each test, which cost about $15 per piece. The price of this breathalyzer is about the same as the one for similar devices used for alcohol testing. Upcoming research and development The California Highway Patrol will get $3 million each year, for four years, to do research on testing protocols for drugged driving. We can expect some non-invasive new methods like the ones mentioned above. It’s likely that other states are already working on, or will be in the near future, better ways to test for impairment. Like with alcohol, once legal thresholds are instated, the government could for example create educational programs to teach young people about the consequences of cannabis consumption, as they currently do with alcohol.
You’ve heard the analogy: the marijuana industry as the modern incarnation of the famed 19th century California Gold Rush. While there are considerable differences between the two, it’s true there are some similarities. Namely, a boatload of dollars being poured into the respective industries in hopes of collecting a healthy ROI in (relatively) short order. And thanks to a recent spike in such investments, marijuana businesses and cannabis-related innovation are benefitting greatly. One day, two announcements, $200 million A perfect example highlighting the uptick in marijuana investments was the $200 million pledged in a single day (May 23, 2017) by two different investors. Marijuana Business Daily (MJBizDaily) noted “the combined $200 million is among the largest amounts of planned cannabis investments disclosed in a single day.” That’s not hard to believe since, as Minyanville reports, “in 2014, 59 cannabis companies raised a combined $104.5 million.” %related-post-1% For the non-math majors out there, that means nearly double the 2014 total was raised in a single day just three years later. The first $100 million was announced by StarGreen Capital, an arm of the Beverly Hills real estate firm, StarPoint Properties. MJBizDaily says the group wants to inject cash into “a range of marijuana companies, focusing initially on cultivators, manufacturers and retailers.” StarPoint has its strategic partnership eyes out for professional entrepreneurs, “anything with a real estate component” according MJBizDaily, and “is interested in both new and established companies.” The second $100 million announcement came from the other side of the U.S., by Florida attorney John Morgan, who has a lengthy background as a medical marijuana advocate. Until recently, Morgan claimed he wouldn’t invest in the cannabis industry, drawing a strict line between his activism and business interests. But his late-May announcement represents a pivot, one that could have him setting his sights on licensed business acquisitions, says MJBizDaily. Investment powers innovation As more dollars like these make their way into the legal cannabis space, they’ll power innovation by young marijuana businesses. Though the $200 million announced on May 23 seems to be earmarked primarily for cultivation, distribution, and real estate, other investments are stimulating new products and services that will better the industry on the whole. The same week the dual 9-digit investments were announced, a well-regarded Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Benchmark Capital, broke word that they’d led an $8.1 million fundraising round backing the development of a new cannabis breathalyzer by Hound Labs. The device, currently undergoing clinical trials in at San Francisco General Hospital, will be marketed heavily toward law enforcement agencies and companies in the drug testing industry. %related-post-2% But the Valley, a long-tenured hotbed of innovation, doesn’t have the market completely cornered on fresh, industry benefitting technologies. Just look to Oregon where marijuana businesses are booming with new monies fueling their efforts — between $60-$80 million raised in the six months preceding May 2017 alone. One of two “for instances” is Phylos Bioscience, a company who, as an Oregon Public Broadcasting writeup put it, “for a few hundred dollars, will outline the genetic profile of any cannabis plant you bring them.” This enables farmers to be sure they’re not trampling on pre-existing intellectual property. And then there’s Oregon CBD, a business founded by two brothers to grow the American hemp market by developing strains that will flourish in any number of climates. Traditional startup events now stage-sharing with cannabis Almost every mid-sized and larger metropolitan area celebrates their entrepreneurial culture with some sort of annual startup week. These celebrations usually include networking events, keynote and panel addresses, workshops, pitch competitions and/or demo events. Many such weeks were born with a strong tech focus, but a few are now carving out space for — or being infiltrated by — young marijuana businesses and marijuana business ideas. Case in point, Canopy, a venture fund and business accelerator in the legal cannabis realm, used the first day of Boulder Startup Week 2017 to feature its own demo day. Ten fledgling businesses presented concepts ranging from cannabis product packaging solutions to automated plant harvesters to marijuana-focused social media platforms. Cannabis has become such a normalized topic in some locales that even aspiring elected officials are openly addressing matters related to the industry. In Detroit, mayoral candidate Ingrid LaFleur participated in one Detroit Startup Week panel discussion titled, “Politics, Diversity and Advocacy in Cannabis,” and hosted a second event called “The Cannabis Conversation: How the Cannabis Industry Benefits Detroit.” %related-post-3% But will the U.S. win the cannabis innovation game? In most industries, the United States is viewed as an innovation leader. In the cannabis space, though, the complexities of laws — the plant is federally illegal and individual states maintain their own rules related to it — prohibits the natural maturation of the industry. Not so north of the border. Canada, while the United States drags its feet, permits medical marijuana nationwide and is moving quickly towards ending recreational prohibition — most expect this to be achieved by July 2018. And while cannabis consumers rejoice in this, streamlined pro-marijuana national laws also encourage increased investment while eliminating barriers keeping marijuana businesses from growing and innovating. What does that mean? According to The Globe and Mail, “it means that Canadian marijuana-industry players, and those that can establish themselves as such, have a unique opportunity to pull ahead of their competitors in the international marketplace.” Does that mean Canada will outpace the U.S. in the long run? Only time will tell, but they’re certainly getting a significant head start out of the gates even as American dollars are being pumped into the market at an unparalleled clip.
The legal marijuana industry is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, according to the 2017 Marijuana Business Factbook recently published by Marijuana Business Daily. 2016, a banner year for the marijuana industry When it was all said and done, the legal American marijuana industry hauled in an estimated $4 billion to $4.5 billion in 2016. That represents a jump of more than 30 percent over 2015 sales of medical and recreational marijuana in the United States. Business Insider put those sales numbers in perspective, telling that the marijuana industry outpaced “Viagra and Cialis, paid music streaming services, tequila, and Girl Scout cookies” in 2016. That’s a lot of Thin Mints. %related-post-1% What’s more, if the legal marijuana industry continues at its current clip, it will likely sprint past frozen pizza and ice cream sales soon. More record-breaking in 2017? Even on the low end, if projections are correct, 2017 will far surpass 2016 in the total amount of legal marijuana sales. The Factbook puts its estimate between $5.1 billion and $6.1 billion for the year. Casting an eye toward 2021, the legal marijuana industry could get as high as $17.1 billion thanks to recreational market additions such as California and Nevada. Legacy legal markets will continue to grow in their own right this year, says the Factbook, and Nevada’s July recreational launch will probably boost overall sales numbers sharply. This growth comes despite lingering uncertainty about how the Donald Trump administration will treat the marijuana industry. Additional marijuana industry trends Paul Ausick over at 24/7 Wall Street parsed out some additional findings from the Factbook. Of them, he notes: Investment deals in the industry are growing bigger, happening more frequently, and are larger in scope than before. 2017 could see more capital enter the market than ever before...combined. The cultivation portion of the market is getting saturated, especially in long-tenured legal states. This trend will likely push wholesale prices downward. Profits are longer in the making across the marijuana industry: “a year ago 70 percent of retailers said they broke even or made a profit in their first year of operation. That number fell to 55 percent in this year’s survey.”
So, who wants first dibs on the global marijuana market? America? No. Great Britain? No. Mexico? Hmmmmmm, no again. Next to the Netherlands, the United States’ northern neighbor is the only country getting a leg up on the global marijuana market that could eventually be worth a whopping $200 billion annually. O Canada, indeed. Will the U.S. legalize soon? While some cannabis optimists see legalization looming closely on the horizon in the States — U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has hypothesized that legalization could happen in as soon as five years — there is no shortage of hurdles standing in the way. And even if legal sales and consumption becomes reality in every state, even the boldest cannabis advocates aren’t sure what the federal government’s exact actions on those matters will look like. %related-post-1% In an April 2017 Inc. article, Rep. Blumenauer said, “I've stated and I strongly believe in five years every state will be able to treat marijuana like it treats alcohol.” Get that? He speaks of “every state,” not the actual federal government. And even if the U.S. government adjusts its stance on cultivation and sales, that and import/export legislation are completely different matters altogether. Canada’s first-mover advantage Which is something Canada has already worked out, and is why they have what Vanmala Subramaniam referenced in a recent Vice News report as the “first-mover advantage.” As Subramaniam puts it, that’s “when a few key players in a particular industry gain an advantage because they entered into the marketplace first. These companies are able to establish strong brand recognition, shore up the best sources of funding, and build a loyal customer base simply because there aren’t any competitors in the way during their first few years of operation.” And as of now, only two countries export cannabis for medical use: Canada and The Netherlands. So what that means is the four Canadian cannabis companies that export medical product — Cronos Group, Canopy Growth Corporation, Aphria, and Tilray — have a massive head start, laying the groundwork for global marijuana domination. Additionally, even though not all the regulatory wrinkles have been ironed out yet, Canada will likely legalize recreational marijuana nationally by summer 2018. Quoted by Bloomberg Businessweek in April, Canopy president Mark Zekulin stated, “the longer U.S. prohibition remains in place, the more dominant the Canadian companies will become.” It’s as simple as that.
For some time, a popular line of reasoning has been that legalized cannabis will make a massive dent in the alcoholic beverage market with consumers swapping one product for another. It turns out, however, that booze and cannabis may actually be the new peanut butter and jelly, not the competitors we once thought they’d be. How much will cannabis bite out of the booze market? Okay, let’s start with a qualifier: Cannabis will likely take away some business from the over-21 beverage world in the U.S. According to New York consulting firm the Anderson Economic Group (who has been analyzing the Canadian market) marijuana, when fully legalized, will peel roughly $160 million away from the booze market north of the American border. %related-post-1% That may seem like a lot of money at first blush, but when considering the Canadian adult beverage sector is worth some $22.1 billion, it’s a mere sliver. The Canadian beer market in its own right, worth about $9.2 billion of the total booze sector, will experience just a $70 million drop thanks to marijuana. Much consumer spending overlay Another New York firm, Deloitte (author of an earlier study suggesting more substantial cross-industry competition), suggests the Canadian cannabis market could be worth well over $22 billion annually, similar to the value of alcoholic drinks. Considering that hulking number, however, the approximate $160 million stripped away from booze sales won’t fuel the immense cannabis market alone. Nor will it substantially undercut alcohol. It’s looking more like booze and cannabis are complementary products with much Venn diagram overlay. Earlier in 2017, Foursquare reported that around 4/20 (the widely observed marijuana celebration day) liquor stores experienced a 36 percent increase in foot traffic while pub attendance jumped 92 percent in American states with legalized recreational marijuana. Those numbers suggest cannabis consumers don’t silo their marijuana use away from their alcohol consumption. What’s more, in that same Foursquare report, nightlife spots enjoyed near double-digit attendance upticks. At this point, marijuana industry future-gazing is still comprised of much hypothesis. But, it may not be too much of a gamble to suggest that cannabis could actually be an economic stimulant for complementary industries, rather than cannibalizing them. The new PB&J? Time will tell.
The introduction of legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon was met with much celebration. However, two years since recreational sales began, one group may not be as excited as the rest of the state’s cannabis fans: owners of medical dispensaries. How many medical dispensaries have closed? As reported by Marijuana Business Daily, more than 200 medical dispensaries have either phased into the recreational space or closed completely since the beginning of 2017 when the state untethered the recreational market from the medical. %related-post-1% To meet the new Oregon state rules that went into effect as the calendar flipped to 2017, if they wanted to serve recreational cannabis consumers, medical dispensaries were required to obtain an additional recreational license. If they did not, the medical businesses could only sell their cannabis products to clients holding a state-issued medical marijuana card. Fewer medical cards, less medical business That’s where things have gotten dicey for medical dispensaries. The Oregon medical cards are only good for a single year at a time, and since late-2015 the number of card holders in Oregon has shrunk from 74,531 to 61,659 by March 2017 (possibly due to the ease of accessing high-quality cannabis products without a card). New medical card figures will be released in July, but even if they hold steady there is another reason medical dispensaries may be opting to join the recreational market. It’s the number 440,000: the estimated tally of in-state recreational consumers. Some quick calculator-punching shows that, based on those numbers, there are some 378,000 more recreational consumers in Oregon than medical. The allure of grabbing a piece of that market share has proved to much for some former and soon-to-be-former medical dispensary owners. Is there a silver lining for medical dispensaries? But Eli McVey of Marijuana Business Daily suggests that could be a benefit to those choosing to stay in the medical realm. He writes that “as long as patient counts don’t fall to unsustainable levels,” the “rec market is quickly becoming saturated,” which means “a dispensary could find more success catering to a much smaller customer base given the relative lack of competition.” So there is a possible silver lining to all this for medical dispensaries. That said, what-ifs abound in the Oregon medical marijuana market, and it will likely be another year or so until we have a clearer idea of how these two separate but complementary markets impact one another.
Is Roger Goodell the Jeff Sessions of the National Football League? Opponents of his stance on cannabis might wonder about it, as many believe the marijuana facts (sorry, "facts") he’s been trotting out lately read like soundbites of a bygone era — similar to the "facts" the U.S. Attorney General frequently uses. The NFL’s painkiller overreliance It’s no shocker that many NFL and former-NFL players have sustained life-altering injuries playing the sport they love. While the rewards of a lengthy, injury-free career can be great, few players actually achieve that reality. Most have an experience quite the opposite. %related-post-1% As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, between 2008 and 2016 the average career of an NFL player (across all positions) decreased substantially, from 4.99 years to 2.66 years. Wide receivers now have the shortest careers of all, averaging less than 2 years and 3 months. A few players, like former New York Jet D'Brickashaw Ferguson, have simply walked away from the game before being subjected to serious injury. Not all are as fortunate as Ferguson, however. Many are forced out of the sport by career-ending injuries or, as is becoming more frequent, the accumulation of head trauma in the form of concussions. Whatever the debility, NFL and former-NFL players rack up on painkiller prescriptions. If claims in a current lawsuit — filed by some 1,800 former players against the league — are accurate, the NFL pushes massive amounts of painkillers on injured stars who are not “informed of the long-term health effects of taking controlled substances and prescription medications in the amounts given to them.” Just how many painkillers does the NFL distribute? According to a CNN report, “in calendar year 2012, on average...each team was prescribed 5,777 doses of anti-inflammatories and 2,270 doses of narcotics. Considering that each team has 53 players, that could amount to about 150 doses of drugs per player each year.” That’s an astonishing amount. And what’s the benefit? According to a 2014 opioid study, not much. Or as the Washington Post summarized, “there's little evidence of benefit for treating chronic pain with opioids, but a there is a real risk of harm.” You needn't be well-versed in marijuana facts to see that isn't a desired result. And marijuana is bad? Yet no matter the pleadings made by numerous NFL voices — including the likes of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — league bigwigs are sticking to the “marijuana is bad for you” line. Even when new research (much discussed in this Washington Post piece) is being published highlighting “substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.” %related-post-2% Don’t tell that to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, though. On ESPN in April, Goodell justified his, and the league’s, take on cannabis by saying it’s addictive and that he “want(s) to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something...we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.” It’s hard to read the “held accountable” part there and not see that as code for “be sued.” In a litigious society, it makes sense that liabilities are a chief concern. That said, opioids deliver well-demonstrated negative consequences. Much worse, it is believed at this point, than any cannabis side effects. This single datapoint comparison is telling enough, related to marijuana facts: 0 — the number of recorded cannabis overdose fatalities ever 20,101 — the number of prescription painkiller deaths in one year (2015) Goodell also noted that “smoking” marijuana can’t be healthy, though he failed to mention the vast array of cannabis-infused products players could use in substitution for inhaling flower smoke. Will the NFL ever budge on marijuana use? The jury is still deliberating the scientific benefit/risk ratio (What are the chances for addiction? What are the impacts on the brain? How exactly will this help players?) of marijuana used as a substitute for traditional pain medications. Many more hard marijuana facts are needed. But advocates of its use are growing less patient with the NFL’s approach. %related-post-3% The day after Goodell’s ESPN interview, retired NBA all star, Cliff Robinson remarked that “cannabis can help players that are battling brain injuries, chronic pain, and other conditions. But rather than work on a policy that is based on science and compassion for players, the Commissioner appears to want to continue to enforce a failed policy, and in the process, push players towards more harmful substances like opioid painkillers.” Time will tell how this argument shakes out — most likely by the time the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement is redrafted after the 2020 football season.
Even at a time when legal marijuana sales are exponentially growing, the cannabis black market continues to thrive. Recent news coverage in Colorado and Oregon offers insight as to why this is happening. Oregon "diversion" rates booming Quoted by a Central Oregon news outlet recently, one anonymous Oregon farmer said he continues cultivating and selling product on the black market because, “one can make considerably more money for the same product.” According to the farmer, who sells roughly 100 pounds of illegal marijuana annually, “we ship it out of state, where we get much more money.” It’s practice called “diversion.” %related-post-1% By his estimates, a single pound of marijuana can fetch prices between $4,000 and $7,000 once it has been shipped to a state where cannabis remains illegal. With black market marijuana delivering such a massive return on investment, some estimates insist that up to 80 percent of Oregon’s marijuana exits the state for the East Coast. Colorado's leaking "damaged" product In Colorado, the METRC program — used to track legal marijuana in the state’s seed-to-sale system — shows “leakage” into the black market. And while regulators say it’s difficult to estimate just how much legal marijuana has flowed into the black market, they have levied more than $680,000 in fines to licensees who’ve violated state law. One of the more prevalent infractions is when growers report a selection of their cannabis as damaged or contaminated and then sell into the untaxed and unregulated bootlegging world. Tax rates and the black market But whereas most black market product to date tends to leave legal states to states where marijuana remains illegal, some Coloradans are worried increased marijuana taxes will encourage increased intrastate black market transactions. As reported by the Denver Post, the state’s most recent spending bill includes what would be a special sales tax increase on recreational transactions, from 10 percent to 15 percent. %related-post-2% According to the Tax Foundation, recreational marijuana in Colorado is already taxed at the second highest rate in the county. Here’s how The Denver Post broke those numbers down: “The state’s cannabis consumers pay the standard 2.9 percent state sales tax plus a special 10 percent marijuana sales tax. A 15 percent excise tax applied on wholesale transfers is baked into the cost of sale. Under the legislative proposal, the increase to the 15 percent special sales tax rate is paired with the elimination of the 2.9 percent regular sales tax. So the move amounts to a 2.1 percentage-point tax hike for consumers.” Consumer spending habits As wholesale and retail prices of legal marijuana fall, which in turn increases consumer purchasing power, the risk of increased tax rates turning buyers to the black market likely decreases. However, basic economic principles apply to every market and one consumer realty transcends every industry: consumers like a good deal and will seek out opportunities to stretch their dollars.
Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke of “greater enforcement” when it comes to the marijuana industry. His remarks certainly caused plenty of hand-wringing by cannabis cultivators and consumers nationwide. But even in a time of federal uncertainty, legal marijuana sales numbers continue growing. The next great American industry Quoted in an April 2017 Yahoo! Finance article, Arcview Group — a cannabis industry funding matchmaker — CEO Troy Dayton proclaimed that “cannabis is the next great American industry.” He also said that federal meddling “may impact valuations of some companies, and it may affect who invests in those companies, but states will continue to give out licenses, and there will be a line of people outside those facilities looking to purchase” marijuana products. %related-post-1% Big receipts in the Centennial State Giving credence to Dayton’s claims, legal marijuana sales show few signs of slowing any time soon. Take, for example, Colorado, wherein March the state posted its tenth consecutive month of legal marijuana sales surpassing the $100 million mark. March's haul? $131.7 million. That's 48 percent more than March 2016. For the state, that means March 2017 alone padded the coffers with $22.9 million. The previous month, February, were incredible as well. February receipts topped $126 million in the Centennial State. $86.4 million was recreational revenue, and the rest ($39.6 million) was for medical product. For perspective, February 2017 receipts were nearly 36 percent greater than February 2016, and the state collected about $17.5 million in taxes and fees for the one month alone. New records elsewhere But it’s not just a Colorado phenomenon. The Alaska Department of Revenue recently unveiled a March 2017 report showing the state has hit new highs of legal marijuana sales and production. Though not on par with Colorado retail numbers, Alaskans bought 225 pounds of flower and another 169 pounds of other parts of the cannabis plant. In all, those purchases contributed nearly a quarter million tax dollars to the state budget. And Oregon numbers for all of Q1 2017 show purchases hitting $101 million. That's 24% more than Q1 2016. %related-post-2% Lower wholesale costs, more consumption Back in Colorado, one of the most interesting nuances of their record-breaking sales numbers is the fact that they have been made against the backdrop of sinking wholesale marijuana prices. According to Cannabis Benchmarks, January 2017 wholesale prices in Colorado were 33 percent less than a year earlier. So how does Colorado keep its sales numbers high? Eli McVey of Marijuana Business Daily attributes it to two market forces: increased spending by existing users and new consumers making purchases. There could be other factors at play as well, but whatever they might be the end result is what appears to be a continued boom in legal marijuana sales.
As numerous industries decline in workforce numbers, the marijuana jobs market is poised for a boom. A multi-billion dollar market In 2016 the legal cannabis industry was worth roughly $7.2 billion, according to New Frontier Data, a Washington D.C. analytics firm. In their most recent annual report, New Frontier projects the cannabis industry to grow at a 17% annual rate. They also expect medical sales to increase from $4.7 billion in 2016 to $13.3 billion by 2020. But that’s just medical cannabis. Recreational totals will balloon as well, they say, from $2.6 billion to $11.2 billion during that same time. Tied to those sales forecasts, naturally, are marijuana jobs. %related-post-1% Jobs, jobs, jobs New Frontier isn’t shy about potential job-growth numbers, estimating that by 2020 the legal cannabis industry will create more than 250,000 American jobs — this only in states where marijuana is currently legal. As more states legalize cannabis, marijuana jobs projections will likely increase. And those jobs are desperately needed, especially when considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the manufacturing sector will lose 814,000 jobs, while utilities and government will shed 47,000 and 383,000 jobs respectively by 2024. According to Marijuana Business Daily there are between 100,00 and 150,000 legal marijuana jobs today. More jobs and good wages In Oregon alone, where both medical and recreational cannabis are legal, there are an estimated 12,500 marijuana jobs, according to Whitney Economics, an economic and management consulting provider. Those jobs contribute roughly $315 million in annual wages to workers across the state. The average wage of cannabis workers who actually touch the plant is $12.13 per hour. That’s 24% above Oregon’s minimum wage. Not too shabby for labor work. Just south of Oregon, in California, productive harvest trimmers make between $400 and $450 every workday, with the most exceptional trim laborers bringing in a $500 daily haul, according to farmers quoted in a 2017 ABC Radio story. As the industry normalizes, so too will employment needs, ranging from plant trimmers to budtenders (dispensary attendants), and traditional white collar jobs like accountants and marketing professionals.
Even in states where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal, medical marijuana spending outpaces recreational receipts by a three-to-one margin. That’s according to a recent 400-page study released by New Frontier Data, a Washington D.C.-based analytics firm specializing in the cannabis industry. In The Cannabis Industry Annual Report: 2017 Legal Marijuana Outlook, New Frontier partnered with Baker Technologies, a CRM outfit, to examine some recent marijuana business trends in states such as California, Colorado and Oregon, while also making some predictions for the near to not-so-near future. %related-post-1% Why is this report important? Data analysis across the marijuana industry remains in its infancy, but as the legal landscape changes and capital flows into the space, experts insist that understanding studies like New Frontier’s are essential to cannabis business successes. "California offers the perfect example of why it is so important to understand trends in consumer behavior,” said New Frontier Data CEO Giadha Aguirre De Carcer. “The state's legal industry is forecast to grow from $2.8 billion in 2017 to $5.6 billion in 2020. That spending will be increasingly directed at products and retailers who understand and serve the market's evolving tastes and preferences. The market is changing, and the most successful operators will be those who adapt most quickly to the change.” %related-post-2% Medical versus recreational spending Though medical marijuana versus recreational spending levels garnered most headline attention, the Annual Report is chock full of other helpful tidbits. For instance, while (in 2016) medical spends averaged $136 per transaction to a recreational average of $49 — helped by the fact that medical products tend to be pricier — medical users also shopped every 10 days as recreational consumers did so every 14 days. How do consumers, you know, consume product? New Frontier also shed light on a massively important insight into how consumers prefer to actually use marijuana. In the recreational market, demand for flower (smokable) products plunged from an 85 percent share in January 2016 to just 64 percent by the end of the year. On the medical side, it fell from 87 percent to 65 percent. If this trend holds steady, expect more investment in extraction methods and non-smokable product offerings. %related-post-3% The sky's the limit The Annual Report estimates medical marijuana sales will hit the $5.3 billion mark this year, which would be 67 percent of the entire legal cannabis market. By 2025 the medical sales total will pass the $13 billion threshold in today’s currently legal states. When new states join the legalization roster, that $13 billion number is expected to grow accordingly. As for recreational, the 2017 forecast is $2.6 billion in sales, and $10.9 billion by 2025. Tied to the marijuana boom, in the near and long term, is job creation. In one state alone, Oregon, New Frontier estimates that by 2020 legal cannabis will produce about 18,000 jobs. This number takes into account medical and recreational jobs, as well as those created by marijuana spinoff businesses. This year’s Annual Report demonstrates the resilience of an industry freeing itself from decades-long stigmatization. In the words of John Kagia, Executive Vice President of Industry Analytics for New Frontier, “These markets are growing very, very aggressively.”
As the legal cannabis industry grows in the United States, so to does interest in how marijuana effects consumer behaviors. Both the recreational and medical use of the substance stimulates purchases of complementary goods, and in an age of data-driven product positioning the smart marketers of compatible goods and services need to know how to best tether their businesses to cannabis spending. Earlier in April the team at Foursquare, a phone app that delivers localized and personalized consumer recommendations to its users, offered some insights into this fast-developing retail world. How did they do it? By analyzing anonymized profile activity during the internationally celebrated 4/20 “holiday,” Foursquare was able to track some telling spending trends among cannabis users. %related-post-1% Fast-food and pub stops Some of the consumer marijuana effects could be expected. For instance, on April 20 marijuana dispensaries enjoyed a dramatic uptick in their bottom lines as their average business grew 76 percent on that day alone. And few would be surprised to learn that fast-food chain restaurants in general experienced a 20 percent jump in business, while visits to pizza establishments grew by 11 percent. Foursquare’s Sarah Spagnolo also noted that attendance at nightlife venues increased by 8 percent, liquor stores were trafficked 36 percent more, and that “pubs were up by a whopping 92 percent compared with the prior week.” So much for the stereotype of cannabis users being homebody couch potatoes. Social butterflies and thrill seekers In a Foursquare blog post, Spagnolo explained that “interestingly enough, nightlife spots in Oregon (which includes every type of bar, lounge, club and brewery) were unaffected” during a two-year study period between 2015 and 2016. "In fact, they experienced a 3% growth in year-over-year foot traffic, right on par with national nightlife industry trends.” Cannabis users are also, according to the research, a very active group. In the states where Foursquare conducted their study (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington), dispensary goers were more likely to visit ski resorts, climbing facilities, sports stadiums, and bike shops than the average Foursquare subscriber. %related-post-2% Millennials and baby boomers alike Marketers are always interested in the age of their customer profile. When it comes to dispensary visitors, though, all age brackets are well-represented. What’s more, the two age ranges with the strongest patronage percentages are at almost the complete opposite ends of the spectrum, Millennials and Baby Boomers. Take a look: 20-to-24 years old 14% 25-to-34 years old 32% 35-to-44 years old 21% 45-to-54 years old 10% 55 and older 23% Odd, ends, and takeaways It’s also worth noting that men and women had almost equal representation at dispensaries. Men made up 52 percent and women 48 percent of the customer base. And as for libation pairings, 4/20 revelers prefer draft beers, pale ales, IPAs, and “fancy cocktails.” Perhaps the biggest thing marketers and industry watchers must consider is that data collection around the marijuana effects on consumer behaviors is in its earliest stages. That said, Spagnolo urges the alcohol and nightlife industries to watch developing trends closely and be flexible to accommodate the evolving landscape. The same might be applied to restaurants and other industry sectors looking to piggyback on the cannabis boom.
It’s clear. Fewer people than ever fear reefer, let alone reefer madness, as marijuana's public support has reached an all time high in a new opinion poll. A CBS News poll released this April reveals that a whopping 61 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal. That’s a five percentage point increase over the poll’s record breaking 2015 results. What’s more, 88 percent of survey respondents approve medical marijuana use. %related-post-1% Only a quickly diminishing 33 percent believed marijuana should remain illegal. The CBS News findings infer two growing trends related to marijuana's public support. The first is that marijuana, in general, is becoming less stigmatized as the years pass. Once widely viewed through a controversial lens, now the plant seems to have been normalized in the popular American mind. And second, folks are growing more appreciative of marijuana’s medical benefits, valuing it in a greater context than represented in old Cheech and Chong films. 61 percent support full legalization 88 percent support medical legalization 76 percent of millennial approve legalization 71 percent oppose federal interference in state marijuana laws 65 percent feel marijuana is the least dangerous "drug" But the recent results highlight more than just overall pot approval ratings. Additional findings Over 71 percent think the federal government should defer to state laws on marijuana matters. Politically speaking, opposition to federal interference is bipartisan (remember that word?), as self-identified Republicans (63 percent), Democrats (76 percent), and independents (72 percent) prefer Washington D.C. allow state legislatures take the lead on cannabis laws for now. Also, 65 percent of poll participants view marijuana as less dangerous than other drugs—notably, 53 percent see alcohol as a more harmful substance—while more than three-quarters see absolutely no connection between legalization and crime increase. %related-post-2% Historical trends Americans have changed their minds about marijuana dramatically over the past four decades. When CBS News first polled marijuana's public support in 1979, only 27 percent felt it should be legal. Yet it wasn’t until post-2010 that sentiments began their striking shift. In 2011, just six years ago, legalization enjoyed only 40 percent support. By 2013 that number snuck up to 45 percent, but it wasn’t until 2014 that a majority (51 percent) gave legal marijuana the thumbs-up. During the past three years, however, approval numbers have skyrocketed as more than three-fifths of Americans have made their peace with marijuana. Given that trending, it may come as no surprise that the age demographic least supportive of legalization is the 65-and-older bracket (37 percent), while Millennials are the most favorable (76 percent). The three age groups in between all approved legalization at, or above, the 60 percent threshold. CBS poll not an outlier CBS News polling is not alone showing marijuana favorability trends. A Gallup survey from October 2016 reflected a 60 percent approval rating for marijuana legalization, and a Pew poll from the same month had it pegged at 57 percent. Gallup’s marijuana poll extends back farther than the CBS version by a decade. In its first pot poll in 1969, Gallup recorded a mere 12 percent of Americans favoring legal weed. Throughout the 1980s and well into the 90s, pro-legalization sentiment could never quite clear the 30 percent plateau. But since opinions began turning, they have done so in a decided fashion. Since 1995, when a only a quarter of respondents gave the head nod to Gallup, approval numbers have climbed steadily with the exception of a handful of years. In the single year between 2012 and 2013, legalization favorability percentages increased as much as they did in the quarter century between 1980 and 2005. While the Donald Trump administration has yet to take a decisive marijuana stance, Americans seem to be sending a very clear signal: public support for marijuana is only going to become more resolute.