Insights from across the cannabis industry
Oregon’s legislature has a busy agenda on cannabis this year. The state is trying to deal with a massive oversupply of legal cannabis, a declining medical marijuana program, and deciding on licensing and regulation of social consumption lounges. Often overlooked in legalization regulations, however, are basic protections and employment rights for users. Over 20 years after Oregon legalized medical marijuana, even patients still don’t have these protections for off-the-job or non-impairing medical use. Last week, the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives heard arguments for and against proposed legislation that would grant cannabis users employment protections, H.B 2655 and S.B. 379. So far, no vote has been taken to move the bills out of their respective committees, but the proponents for and against the issue are lining up to support or oppose those bills. Basically, if these bills become law, if the job isn't for the federal government users cannot be discriminated against — i.e., fired from their job — for THC in their urine on a drug test, with some exceptions. Both bills would declare an emergency, meaning they will be enacted into law immediately after passage. Right now, only summary text is online, but this legislation gets at a larger national issue. Despite the majority of states having medical or adult use cannabis programs that allow some forms of access, only a small handful have laws protecting patients or adults who use cannabis “recreationally.” At issue is how to determine “impairment” based on cannabis in a blood sample or urinalysis, and the science isn’t settled on that approach. Legislators around the country have been trying to find a scientifically solid way to determine and regulate cannabis impairment by THC content in the blood. In Oregon, big industries are coming out hard against these employment protection bills specifically because they do not have a scientifically valid impairment test. All are arguing that until such testing is a reality, their employees should be prohibited from off-the-job legal use. The Opposition Although many advocates and pro-cannabis lobbyists were aware there was an employment protection bill in the House of Representatives, many were surprised to find out there was an identical bill in the Senate, which was heard first. During that hearing there was only one proponent, Casey Houlihan of ORCA, to defend the bill against a host of lobbyists that represent industries that mandate drug testing for safety. Pro-cannabis advocates did testify in larger numbers for the house bill. The overwhelming majority of opponents are requesting that the legislature outright oppose the bills. One opponent, Rob Bovett of Association of Oregon Counties did offer to work with the legislature to amend the law in a way that exempted certain high-risk industries. %related-post-1% “I am more than willing to assist in a work group if there is a desire to amend S.B. 379 [and H.B. 2655] in a manner that attempts to comply with constitutional requirements,” Bovett offered. Most cited the lack of a scientific means of determining impairment by THC levels in the body as a reason to uphold the status quo. “Many employees within the trucking industry are still in safety-sensitive positions where impairment of any kind could jeopardize the health and safety of themselves, our drivers, or the motoring public. Instead of creating a two-tiered policy for workplace impairment, most trucking companies rely on and enforce a drug-free workplace for all employees. This is necessary because current drug tests are unable to determine whether an employee is impaired at work or merely has marijuana in their system. If passed, SB 379 would place employers in the untenable position of lowering the bar for safety for all employees in order to accommodate the lawful use of marijuana for some,” testified Waylon Buchan of the Oregon Trucking Association. The Proponents Proponents of employment protections for cannabis use say medical use should be treated the same as prescription medicines and suggest there are better ways to determine impairment from cannabis use than THC content in the body. Sarah Duff, a board member of both Oregon NORML and Compassionate Oregon, suggested using mobile applications like DRUID App to determine impairment. These jobs serve as a punch clock for employees who work jobs with a high potential for danger (such as truck driving) and are already in use in Colorado. Employees are not allowed to clock into work without passing an impairment test based on reaction times. Well-known cannabis researcher and physician Dr. Sunil Aggarwal also agrees with this approach. “A better measure of impairment is something like the DRUID App, a validated application that can be run on a mobile device that can measure one’s reaction time, speed, coordination, balance, and other psychomotor variables, and compare it to an individual’s baseline value,” Aggarwal said. %related-post-2% Duff testified that she believes the industries opposing these protections with valid safety concerns should be exempted from the law, which she says she interprets the law as doing. She added that after learning about the potential danger of impairment on these jobs she would hope “that they do impairment tests daily to ensure that fatigue does not cause employees or contractors to work in dangerous conditions. Those who support this bill want pilots to be alert and not under the influence of any drug or fatigue, but urinalysis does not provide this assurance.” “I would like to mention that some industries have used drug tests to avoid paying out workers compensation claims. The OHA website states that 55 percent of Oregonians admit to having used cannabis at some point in their lives. They state that 16 percent of Oregonians currently use cannabis. It seems that some businesses have figured out that they can save money on worker's compensation insurance if they can use a positive drug test for cannabis as an excuse to not pay out the claim,” Duff added. “We need to pull apart these layers of prohibition.” “Right now, you have a choice between a life-saving medicine and your job, that is a difficult situation,” testified Heather Kell, who added cannabis was a safer alternative to prescription painkillers, especially in light of the opiate epidemic. It seems at least the House Business and Labor Committee was favorable to this take, with Representative Julie Fahey (D-Eugene) adding that she has replaced opiate painkillers with cannabis for her own back pain and “is happy to still have my own job.” “The current dynamic is hindering the ability of otherwise qualified people to find and/or keep jobs — increasing Oregonian’s risk of financial insecurity. This is especially true for lower wage employees, further entrenching legal cannabis as a right only for the wealthy and privileged,” testified Jesse Bontecou, who represents the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association (ORCA). %related-post-3% Further testimony in favor of the employment protections was submitted by Beth Creighton representing the Oregon affiliate of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), which is “an organization of attorneys committed to advancing equality and justice in the workplace.” Creighton has represented Oregon employees for over 20 years and says that ever since the state legalization in 2014, she receives at least one call a month from a citizen who was fired for legally consuming cannabis in their off hours. “Ninety-eight percent of the time I have to tell clients that I am unable to help them because under the current law, an employer can fire an employee for using any substance while off duty, even if it is legal to do so. The only exception is tobacco, which is protected… There is absolutely no business-related reason that an employee who has a beer on Friday night after work should be terminated Monday morning for doing so. Also, it makes little sense to fire employees who take pain medication at night that wears off by morning, but is still in their system. There is no current law preventing employers from doing just that. Allowing employers to terminate employees for something that the voters in this state have decided is perfectly legal infringes upon Oregonians’ fundamental rights to freedom,” Creighton testified. Can impairment be measured by THC content in human blood or urine samples? Read more in part 2.
Football season may have come to a conclusion a few weeks ago, but for cannabis headlines in the game, things are just heating up. Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone, let’s talk about a different kind of bowl. The NFL has been grabbing recent headlines for a multitude of reasons lately, but here’s a rundown of the latest and greatest news from the world of weed and football. Making History The NFL has held a strong anti-cannabis stance for decades. Listing weed as a banned substance — even for medical uses — the NFL has made it notoriously difficult for players to benefit from the therapeutic properties pot can deliver. But all of that changed recently. Running back Mike James, currently a free agent, injured his ankle during a game in 2013. He was prescribed opioid painkillers and quickly developed a dependency. To curb his prescription drug abuse, James turned to medicinal marijuana to manage his pain. In doing so, he reclaimed his life and was able to return to the game he loves. Just one problem: the NFL considers marijuana a banned substance unless players file a therapeutic use exemption. James became the first player in NFL history to file a therapeutic use exemption in 2018. Unfortunately, the league denied his request, but nonetheless, James has changed the way other players view cannabis as a painkiller, and he has paved the way for potential reform of the league’s anti-pot stance. Changing the Ban One of the highlights of the NFL postseason is the collective bargaining period between the league and the players association. This year, however, is even more noteworthy because the topic of drug testing for cannabis was added to the docket. Currently, players are after suspended for cannabis following two positive drug tests. Although we can’t expect sweeping changes anytime soon, the latest reports indicate that NFL leadership, including commissioner Roger Goodell, have recognized there’s no practical reason to prohibit players using cannabis. It’s unlikely that we’ll see any massive overhaul of the league’s cannabis regulations, but rather a more gradual process that allows for players to use weed first medically, but eventually recreationally. High Times for Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana is one of the biggest names to ever play professional football. Now, he’s hoping to become just as big a star in the legal marijuana. In January 2019, Montana was involved in a $75 million dollar investment in San Jose, California-based cannabis company, Caliva. Montana certainly isn’t the first player to pursue lucrative investments outside the game, but he is one of the very first to look to the burgeoning cannabis market as a potential cash cow. Even more telling for Montana, however, is that this is his second investment in cannabis, following his 2017 investment in Herb, a Canada-based cannabis company. As the NFL itself begins to take a more lenient stance on weed, it will continue to be interesting to see how some of its most high profile players pump money into the grown business of recreational and medicinal cannabis.
For all of the legal cannabis industry’s positive momentum, it’s important to be reminded that cannabis is still a drug and needs to be treated as such by those who use it. Once such reminder comes from Ireland. Ireland’s drug treatment facilities are sounding the alarm about high-potency cannabis flooding the market. This might sound great to those who like their weed to have a high level of THC, but for others, it’s creating a slew of health problems. In the 1990s and early 2000s, smoking cannabis in Ireland wasn’t at all like it is now. As the Irish Times reports, back then, most people used low-quality hashish from Morocco, one of the only products available. Since then, the potency of resin has increased dramatically, causing psychosis and other health problems. But Ireland isn’t the only country in which the strength of cannabis has spiked. The average potency of resin seized in 28 EU member states increased from 8.14% THC to 17.22% between 2006 and 2016. The potency of herbal cannabis increased from 5% to 10.22% over the same period. These high amounts of THC are seriously affecting users, especially young people. What Has Caused the Spike? According to the Irish Times, it all started when kingpin John Gilligan was sentenced to a long prison sentence for importing cannabis. Gilligan was likely the reason why there wasn’t much choice on the Irish market, and why people used the bad quality hashish. Once this big player was out of the way, the competition had a chance to conquer the Irish market, flooding it with a wide variety of cannabis imported from North Africa and the Middle East. In order to keep up with demand, Moroccan resin producers had to increase the potency of their resin by extracting in a more efficient way. But they didn’t increase their price, and cheap weed started popping up at countless grow houses across Ireland. As a result, cannabis products available in Ireland (as well as in many other European countries) now contain much more THC than a decade ago, which has made it virtually impossible for first-time users in Ireland and elsewhere across Europe to find low-THC cannabis when they first try the drug. So, what does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that Irish folks using cannabis for the first time are very likely to have a bad experience. It also means that the growing number of people needlessly forced to enter drug treatment for cannabis will only continue to rise. Stay tuned to The Sugar Leaf for updates.
Every fast-growing industry relies on fast-growing technology. Legal cannabis is no exception. Not only is the legal cannabis industry growing quickly, it’s changing quickly, too. And technology is playing a huge role in that growth and change. Here are a few examples: Easier Crop Monitoring In order to produce large quantities of marijuana of consistent quality, companies like Surna are providing the industry with cutting-edge equipment. The vice president of the company, Tae Darnell, says his company’s technology “will allow growers to monitor their crops from anywhere in the world, the same way alarm systems monitor houses.” “You’ll be able to check on yield, irrigation levels, all from a smartphone,” he says. Fewer Manual Tasks With manual data entry and compliance monitoring being increasingly replaced by software, legal cannabis retailers don’t have to do as much work as they used to — at least when it comes to the administrative part of the industry. More Reliable Products Technology also benefits (medical) marijuana consumers, as it allows them to find reputable dispensaries and buy the same product each time, as well as trust the quality of what they’re buying. Perfect THC/CBD (and other cannabinoid) ratios that are exactly the same for every product are possible when labs use modern technology in order to create new formulas, and new formulas could be developed for countless ailments. New Tech, New Jobs The continued demand for canna-tech will continue to drive demand for tech-savvy workers. Cannabis companies big and small are struggling to attract everything from interns to full-time employees. For those tech-minded folks who will soon (or who have already) graduated college, the cannabis industry offers a real and (well-paying) opportunity to jumpstart their careers. Marijuana’s Online Marketplace The Internet has played a huge role in the growth of the legal cannabis industry. Weed-related websites, blogs (like ours), and online stores have helped to drive public information, public opinion, and sales. Web developers in the weed industry need to think ahead to create new concepts, as well be vigilant when it comes to navigating regulations — regulations that tend to change often. In short, technology and legal cannabis go hand in hand, and have to adapt to one another.
Women and seniors aren’t the only demographics using more cannabis these days. The number of millennials taking advantage of easier access to legal cannabis is on the rise, as well. Could they spur legalization at the federal level? If the U.S. government ever decides to legalize marijuana at the federal level, we’ll likely have millennials to thank. According to data from popular polling and opinion platform The Tylt, 84 percent of millennials are in favor or marijuana legalization, with 88 percent says it’s “safer than booze.” “It is next to impossible for Uncle Sam to ignore millennials on the issue of pot reform for much longer,” the report says. Not only is it impossible for the federal government to ignore millennials’ interest in legal weed, but cannabis companies need to step up their game and market their products to this demographic if they don’t want to fall behind the competition. And many already are. Cannabis Has Become Part of Their Lifestyle According to a recent industry report, lifestyle brands succeed because they “seamlessly fit a product to a person’s lifestyle, rather than forcing a lifestyle change to fit a product.” The report aptly points out how marijuana “is joining spin class, pressed juice, and craft beer as a lifestyle brand.” Companies that have been targeting millennials for a long time, like beer producers, are now moving to adapt to the needs and wishes of this generation. And it’s important that they do. Millennials are used to receiving tons of information online every day. In order to reach them, cannabis companies need make millennials feel like their products corresponds to their lifestyle. Millennials don’t want to adapt to products, they want products that adapt to them.
Will these new bills push at-home cultivation toward normalization or simply create a new version of prohibition? Washington’s Initiative 502 (I502) campaign made it one of the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012, but it was incredibly contentious. Cannabis advocates who came out in opposition to I502 said the way it was written would regulate out most of the state’s existing producers and decimate the state medical system. They also warned that the the lack of personal cultivation (home grow) rights wouldn’t be an easy fix. Six years later, a lot of these points of contention have come to bear, and advocates are still pushing the state legislature for the right to grow at home for personal use. This is the first legislative session in post-legalization Washington State that there is bipartisan and bicameral support to change it before the session even officially begins. On Friday, January 11, Senate Bill 5155 and House Bill 1131 were pre-filed concurrently into the state legislature. Both bills are titled “Allowing residential marijuana agriculture,” and have bipartisan sponsors. H.B. 1131 is sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake (D) — who has championed the issue in years past — along with Rep. Drew MacEwen (R), Rep. Laurie Dolan (D), Rep. Jim Walsh (R), and Rep. Shelley Kloba (D). S.B. 5155 is sponsored by Republican senator Maureen Walsh, along with Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D), Sen. Sam Hunt (D), and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D). %related-post-1% While efforts in previous years have died in committees, last year Gov. Jay Inslee signed an omnibus bill that made a handful of changes to the industry and directed the Liquor Control Board (LCB), which oversees recreational marijuana, to look into regulating home grow. The bill did not actually legalize and regulate the practice, however. While Inslee has not yet commented on whether or not he would sign this specific legislation into law, it is unlikely he would oppose it if it made it to his desk. Both the house bill and senate bill would amend current state law to allow adults over the age of 21 to grow up to six plants at home and “produce or possess” up to 16 ounces of “useable marijuana” (cannabis flower), 16 ounces of “marijuana products in solid form” (topicals and edibles), 72 ounces of liquid, and 7 grams of concentrate. There cannot be more than 15 plants in a single residence regardless of the amount of legal adults. Property owners can still prohibit their tenants from growing it, and any personal supply of homegrown flowers exceeding an ounce will need to be labeled similar to commercially produced product: the name, date of birth, and address of the grower, as well as the planting and harvest dates, must appear on the container. Home extractions must be non-combustible (ie: kief sifting and ice water hash are OK, butane hash oil is not). In years past, some of the biggest opposition to similar legislation has come from some of the biggest licensed cannabis producers supplying the legal market, specifically the Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA). Not all producers are in opposition, however, and are actually members of an organization supporting homegrow efforts, the Cannabis Alliance. Advocates calling themselves Home Grow Washington (HGW) think they have a good shot at getting this through in 2019. Activist Don Skakie is part of HGW and has advocated for this issue directly in the statehouse in Olympia for the last three years, and says from initial conversations he has had this week with legislators, he is optimistic it can pass. “It’s about making cannabis normal and regular in society. We have legalization in Washington that is just Prohibition 2.0,” Skakie said last year. %related-post-2% Founder and executive director of the Seattle-based Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy (CaSP), Dominic Corva, has previously argued that home cultivation should be considered a right that comes along with ending cannabis prohibition. “The biggest evidence that cannabis legalization does not necessarily mean the end of prohibition, in Washington at least, is the fact that you can only commercially produce cannabis,” Corva said. “You can’t produce it any other way, it has to be commercial. Home grow represents something much bigger than it really is.” Rep. Brian Blake has sponsored similar legislation three years in a row, and says he will continue to re-file home cultivation bills each session until it passes. “I think folks should have the ability to take care of themselves,” Blake said. “I think it just doesn’t seem like folks should be forced into the state market if they want to, have the time, and want to make the effort to produce enough for their own personal use.” Additionally, Blake has been a proponent of issues patients have had with the new medical paradigm, such as children being allowed to use medical cannabis at school. Despite the failure of previous bills, Blake is still working on it. Alongside the home cultivation bills pre-filed last Friday, Blake also prefiled H.B. 1060
When most of us think about cannabis jobs, positions like budtender and trimmer probably come to mind. But with legal marijuana thriving across the country, we’ve officially entered a new era of careers in weed. The cannabis world has changed drastically since medicinal bud was first legalized in the late 1990s. As we enter 2019, the industry is projected to continue to boom — to the tune of 220% growth over the next year alone. While this is certainly great news for the investors and companies building the recreational and medicinal cannabis market, it’s also a great time for job seekers looking for their next big thing. The New Era Of Weed Careers As with any high growth industry, the canna-boom has revealed a whole host of opportunities for professionals of all specialties. From high-profile legal and compliance positions to retail management and even sommeliers — yep, just like the wine professionals — legitimate cannabis companies are attracting top notch talent from more established, mainstream industries. To put it into perspective, marijuana jobs grew a whopping 690% between January 1, 2017 and August 1, 2018, including many roles in compliance, operations, and finance. While cultivation and extraction positions may still represent the lion’s share of these careers, the tide is turning toward staffing high-caliber roles necessary to lead large businesses. The Hits Keep Coming As if the growing number of careers in cannabis wasn’t good enough news, salaries for cannabis workers grew more than 16% between 2017 and 2018. It’s shaping up to be a big year for companies companies nationwide. If you’re looking to make a change and start the year fresh, now may be the time to take you particular set of skills to your closest cannabis company.
The growth of the cannabis industry showed no sign of slowing down in 2018, and that growth can be expected to continue in 2019. Anything is possible for the legal weed industry this year — new ideas, new products, new companies, and, of course, new legislation. Here are a few of our pot industry predictions for 2019: The CBD Market Will Only Keep Growing We recently discussed the rapid expansion of the CBD market. This year, we are likely to see even more products infused with the cannabinoid, allowing it to reach an even larger population. Cannabis Growers in Canada While Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, a supply shortage quickly forced some shops to temporarily close. It took a long time for growers to get their licences approved — and while some intermittent shortages are still to be expected — many growers will finally be able to planting their crops this year. Illinois Could Be the Next State to Legalize Recreational Weed Nothing is final just yet, but Illinois could might be legalizing the recreational use of cannabis in 2019. According to a report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, legalization would create more than 23,600 new jobs and $525 million in tax revenue. Legal Cannabis in Spain Spain could very well become the next country to fully legalize the possession and consumption of marijuana. For now, possession on the streets is illegal, but you are allowed to consume cannabis in private clubs, thanks to strict private property laws. According to MJfreeway.com, 2019 might be the year in which cannabis will be legalized “in a licensed, regulated, compliant and taxable model.” This would also have a positive influence on the country’s tourism industry, by attracting people who now visit Amsterdam to ‘legally’ consume cannabis. The Big Boys Will Take a Bigger Seat at the Table Spurred by the need to keep customers who might prefer cannabis to their products, major alcohol, tobacco, and beverage companies are expected to launch a significant number of CBD- and THC-infused products in 2019. And when they do, they will likely become some of the biggest players in the industry.
In a real way, the biggest development in global marijuana policy reform in 2018 was what didn’t happen, as in nothing bad. There were no major setbacks, there were no disasters — there was nothing to stop or even slow the momentum that marijuana legalization and the attendant legal cannabis industry has enjoyed for most of the past decade. Look: 2017 ended with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise that the country would legalize from Pacific to Atlantic. And it (and he) did. On the very first day of 2018, retail recreational cannabis stores opened in California. Red states legalized medical marijuana. Everything continued as before, and (almost) nothing was (too horribly) bad. What’s the catch? Depends on your perspective. We saw big business’s first real big moves to capture a lasting slice of the action, and we saw some small producers squashed in the process. Medical marijuana patients in the United Kingdom have legal access, but without any way to get any. There are improvements to be made and much more to be done, but in recounting the biggest news from 2018, there is no disaster to lament. And that is the biggest news of all. Here, then, in no particular order, are our most important stories of the year: Red States Love (Medical) Marijuana Voters in North Dakota said no thanks to one of the more ambitious recreational legalization efforts to be seen in the United States, but medical marijuana continued its winning streak at the ballot box — and in the Utah state Legislature. Better yet, the bills approved in Oklahoma in June and in Missouri in November are workable and viable. You can’t say quite the same thing about Utah, where patient advocates have filed a lawsuit challenging a “compromise” bill brokered by the Church of Latter Day Saints and their supporters among lawmakers, but even the willingness to negotiate reveals what in stark focus what everybody already knows: Medical cannabis is a political winner that transcends whatever aisles, divides, and walls that exist elsewhere in our great and groovy society. Canada Legalizes Marijuana The continent-sized country with the California-sized population, Canada remains legalization’s worldwide leader and — do you like metaphors? — the largest “test tube” for legal cannabis. Results from the latest stage of the experiment, which began Oct. 17 when retail stores opened for Canadian adults, is that it works — and seems to work awfully well. Share prices in Canadian marijuana company stocks skyrocketed, and these same firms continue to export medical cannabis all over the world. The biggest concern for some Canadians is how to negotiate the border with the United States. %related-post-1% Legacy Intoxicants Discover Marijuana… It was always a matter of time before Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco woke up to the real and tried to take over cannabis. This began in late 2017, when Constellation Brands, the parent company of Corona and a slew of other booze brands, bought a 10 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corporation, the darling and unicorn of the Canadian publicly traded marijuana companies — and it continued in August, when Constellation upped its big bet in Canopy to $4 billion. That followed a play by MolsonCoors, and that all preceded a $1.8 billion investment in Cronos, yet another Canadian firm, by Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris tobacco and Marlboro. …and So Does Wall Street There are ski jumps and sharks, and there’s the day Jim Cramer discovers who you are. Marijuana is now a fixture on “Mad Money,” which means everyday investors are plumbing the internet, their friends, and — yes — CNBC for stock tips. So ripe is the melon that, in October, John Boehner, the Republican former Speaker of the House of Representatives who joined the board of an Ohio-based marijuana company, jumped into the business of selling marijuana-related stock tips. New York Figures It Out (Sort of) Once the United States’s capital for petty marijuana busts, New York City is now a cannabis speculator’s dream. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pre-Christmas announcement that his 2019 budget proposal just might include a marijuana legalization initiative had a nearly year-long build-up. There was Cuomo challenger Cynthia Nixon’s embrace of cannabis, which dragged Cuomo to do the right thing; there was the district attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn announcing that they were through with low-level possession arrests — and then there was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own tepid embrace of legal cannabis as a good idea. All this means that New York, the country’s largest city, its cultural hub, one of its main tourist attractions and the center of media and finance is inching towards legalization. Legal weed, outside of all three of Donald Trump’s main houses. Everybody (Even Congress) Loves CBD (and Hemp) Mitch McConnell has a hemp pen. The Senate majority leader flashed his cannabis sativa-fueled ink to sign the Senate’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill — which included a provision legalizing the production of industrial hemp. Now that everybody seems to have figured out what CBD is and where it comes from, the low-THC version of cannabis sativa is now a big deal in McConnell’s Kentucky, where farmers are betting big on hemp crops. %related-post-2% UK Officials Shamed Into About-face On Medical Marijuana The flight from Canada landed at Heathrow Airport in London in June. Within hours, officials with the Home Office seized its precious cargo — a vial of CBD oil from Canada, the epilepsy medicine for Billy Caldwell. Within days, Theresa May’s people were excoriated in the media and in the public for taking medicine away from sick people — sick children, no less — and within weeks, May’s government issued a promise to change the country’s drug laws to legalize medical marijuana by Nov. 1. As patient advocates have demonstrated, the law isn’t yet workable — there is no easy or cheap access, and doctors with the National Health Service can’t (or won’t) write prescriptions, but the boulder is rolling down the hill in the UK. Jeff Sessions Gets the Boot, Leaves Legacy of Dust What did Jefferson Beauregard Sessions accomplish during his year-and-a-half as attorney general of the United States? The former Senate backbencher from Alabama became marijuana legalization’s Enemy No. 1 on pure talk. But a series of increasingly shrill bellicose statements was followed up with absolutely no action. Either Sessions didn’t really want to do anything about the country’s marijuana industry, or Donald Trump wouldn’t let him — or maybe there just wasn’t enough support in the government for a countrywide crackdown on legal weed. Whatever. Sessions was let go after the midterm elections for his refusal to trigger a constitutional crisis and fire Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Which brings us to the biggest development of 2018, which was — nothing. Nothing bad, as we said the outset. There wasn’t a setback, there wasn’t a crackdown. There wasn’t a crime spree, there wasn’t a huge batch of tainted marijuana giving us all the crazies, there wasn’t a giant spike in youth marijuana use. Marijuana legalization has yet to fulfill its worst or even its less rosy prophecies. We knew this would be the case, but now it is undeniable. And that’s the biggest news of all.
As the medicinal and therapeutic effects of marijuana have become increasingly popular, CBD’s growth is rapidly overtaking that of THC. According to data from New Frontier, CBD sales will increase from $535 Million in 2018 to more than $1.9 Billion by 2022. Other analysts expect even bigger growth in the coming years. The rapid growth of the CBD market can be partly explained by the availability of products containing the compound. It’s not only available in dispensaries, but also in natural food stores and beauty aisles. Of course, a facial mask containing CBD has nothing to do with a dried flower from a dispensary. As a result, the image surrounding CBD products is completely different, thus attracting more — and, specifically, more non-marijuana-using — consumers. This non-psychoactive compound is becoming more and more popular because of its medical properties with many doctors recommend CBD products to patients dealing a wide variety of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, or muscle aches. A few drops of CBD under the tongue has also been known to help epileptic children and adults. There are also many people who start using CBD-infused products without consulting a medical professional, proving that these products are increasingly been seen as completely normal. All kinds of products are now being infused with CBD: cold-brew coffee, body lotion, water, lip balm, and even dog treats — just to name a few. Marijuana has long been considered as something “for stoners.” With the rise of CBD, however, every adult (and some children) is now a potential consumer of CBD, and with every new CBD-product, more people will find something that corresponds to their needs.
Most people know Gene Simmons as a member of the makeup-wearing, all-night-partying band KISS. Despite his long career as a musician, Simmons claims he’s never had a drink or done a single drug — even cannabis. But now, Canadian cannabis company Invictus M.D. has hired Simmons as their Chief Evangelist Officer. Why the sudden change and what does this mean for the industry? The story starts with a 6-year-old girl living with epilepsy. Until seeing this little girl struggling with her illness, Gene Simmons had held a fairly strong anti-drug line. “Three years ago, I was dismissive, arrogant, and uniformed about medical cannabis and thought the whole notion of its medical use as so much smoke and mirrors,” he told the Toronto Sun. After seeing a cannabis ointment “miraculously cure” the girl, however, Simmons changed his tune. “But over the last few years, I’ve started to see the tremendous new information that scientists and researchers have been telling us about the incredible uses for this humble plant that just grows there in the ground. I’m incredibly bullish on the product and, particularly, on this company.” Becoming the Face of Invictus M.D. Despite recent Canadian law prohibiting celebrity endorsements for cannabis companies, British Columbia-based Invictus M.D. found a workaround. After learning of Simmons’ new found appreciation for medical cannabis, they hired him on full time. Serving as the company’s Chief Evangelist Officer, Simmons leverages his brand experience, both personal and as a member of KISS, to market their services and drive growth in the Canadian cannabis market. Simmons attends industry events across Canada in his role as spokesperson and event marketer, but also participates in investor meetings and the company’s annual general meeting. So, even though his face and name are helping Invictus grow market share, Simmons’ business and marketing acumen will hopefully show the largest dividends.
Is the next center of marijuana production in California former flower farms in Monterrey County, is it hoop-houses enjoying ocean breezes in Santa Barbara — or is it neither? Prior to marijuana legalization, one line of frequently repeated conventional wisdom in certain cannabis circles was that once prohibition ended, The End Times would soon follow. Once commercial cannabis became a thing and Big Something — big ag, big tobacco, big pot, big whatever — became involved, it was lights-out for the “Emerald Triangle,” the remote, redwood-forested counties of far northern California where mom-and-pop farms nestled on mountaintops and tucked behind river bends had provided the country with cannabis, and collected a neat profit in the process. Either Philip Morris was already plotting with Monsanto and George Soros to buy up all of Humboldt County and patent the marijuana plant in the process — a conspiracy theory that you can still hear repeated today in some version, and in earnest — thus “stealing” the plant, or Big Marijuana would quickly figure out the futility of trying to supply Los Angeles’ marijuana demand with farms located on treacherous, one-lane roads an eight-hour drive away, and go to where land and labor were cheapest. In California, that means the land in least demand, which means the desert or the agricultural communities of the Central Valley, where cannabis would become a complement to the oceans of pistachios, almonds, stone-fruits, and other commodities produced by industrial agriculture. %related-post-1% Some version of this doomsday scenario figured in the minds of the old-school hard-line marijuana activists and first-and-second generation Emerald Triangle growers who found common ground with the police and prosecutors who had harried them for decades when they came out in opposition to legalization. It was a compelling thesis, and there was some credible evidence — wholesale marijuana prices were indeed dropping and some of those farms were going out of business, and some old growers who could still make the nut financially were left out on technicalities, after they found that their unconventional arrangements disqualified them for state permits — but these arguments suffered from a few flaws. First, beside the fact that such an enterprise was completely impractical, there was never any credible evidence that tobacco companies, Soros, Monsanto, or any combination of the three were plotting a land-grab of remote, hard-to-access, harder-to-develop-into-industrial agriculture former timber land in Trinity County. Marijuana grows well here thanks to an agreeable climate but it was planted as a practical matter, to hide it from the authorities; if you are the authorities, why would you go to the trouble of hiding? Second, the thing about cheap land in California is that it is cheap for a reason. There isn’t a lot of water, and summers are long and hot — too long and too hot for cannabis plants, who, like humans, appreciate warmth but aren’t too keen on being baked to death. Massive marijuana farms have yet to spring up in the Central Valley, and where marijuana has been heralded as an economic savior in the otherwise moribund deserts— in a former prison in Coalinga, in unused warehouse space in the Mojave — it has yet to prove itself a profitable or viable enterprise. A much likelier scenario is exactly what’s been emerging over the last year and a half: marijuana as an alternative or a supplement to wine grapes or ornamental flowers, which turns out, thrive in similar atmospheric conditions like those found in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. The Washington Post’s recent filing from the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, where marijuana is touted as a “high-value commodity that could help reinvigorate” a fading “agricultural tradition” details both the growth and the limitations of this idea in action. %related-post-2% Central California between Santa Barbara and Monterey to the north has the highest concentration of licensed marijuana producers in the state, according to the newspaper. But even that only amounts to 330 acres in total in Santa Barbara — a “tiny fraction” compared to the seas of land under cultivation for wine grapes. At one point, according to one estimate, there were roughly 55,000 marijuana cultivators of various sizes in the Emerald Triangle, meaning if Santa Barbara wants to be the next best home for cannabis cultivation, there needs to be an extended period of growth, and proof that it can be sustained. The truth is that everybody is still figuring out exactly what will work — and nobody can say with certainty what that will be. It’s becoming increasingly clear that what works with wine does work to an extent with cannabis — that is, there is something in the terroir, in the land and in the air, that determines how cannabis flowers affect the human brain and body. Which is to say it may matter very much exactly where a cannabis flower is grown, in the same way that it matters extremely to the market and to the palette if a grape comes from Napa County, or just a few hillsides away in Solano County. And there are considerations far more earthly to consider. There’s the market, and there are margins. While marijuana is an estimated $4 billion-a-year industry in California, according to figures quoted by the Post, what those $4 billions will eventually buy is far from certain — will it be high-end flower, mid-range pre-rolls packaged like cigarettes, oil cartridges harvest from huge warehouses in the desert? It could also be that the impractical Central Valley could become lucrative if local governments make it so. Many marijuana companies are still “jurisdiction shopping,” in the words of the Post, looking for the best combination of low taxes and low-enough labor costs that work for the bottom line. That works in most agricultural industries, but only so far. Wine is an object lesson yet again. You can’t grow a Napa cabernet in the mountains or in the desert, because that is not Napa. Cannabis may not be quite as picky — especially with indoor growing — but indoor growing is costly, and the cannabis plant is a more fickle mistress than some growers realize. It has yet to be proven beyond doubt that massive, mold, and pest-resistance high-quality cannabis can be grown reliably at scale. Like a snow globe just snatched from the shelf and given a furious shake, the image of large-scale marijuana farming is hazy and unclear and has yet to coalesce and to settle. As a result, the Emerald Triangle is still with us — and the “next” one may be the one we know now, albeit in evolved form.
Earlier this year, we told you that public support for legal weed had not reached its peak. And we were right. According to a new poll released by Gallup, public support for marijuana legalization has reached yet another high. The poll, released in October, shows that 66% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. This marks the third year in a row that public support has hit a new record. Public support for legalization was a mere 12% in 1969, and has grown significantly during this decade. While support among 18- to 34-year-olds has now reached 78%, it’s not just younger adults who want to see marijuana legalized. Last year, 50% of respondents age 55 and older thought pot should be legalized. This year, that number shot up to 59%. This age group has seen the biggest increase in support in the last few years. Influence on lawmakers? Public support has increased rapidly in the last few years. At the same time, many states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. This is likely not a coincidence. If there’s no public support, a state likely won’t legalize weed. But a large group of supporters could be enough to sway lawmakers to propose a ballot. As long as the public continues to show their support, it’s likely that more and more states will legalize weed — even in parts of the country that have been more resistant to legalization than others. In 2009-2010, for example, public support was lower in the South and Midwest than in the East and West. In the Midwest, only 40% said that marijuana should be made legal. In the South, the number was only one percentage point higher. In 2017-2018, support has become way more consistent nationwide, with 65% in favor in the Midwest, South, and West, and 67% supporting legalization in the East. This increase could continue the streak of good news for the industry, leading lawmakers in the Midwest and South to rethink their stance on legalization — as well as efforts by cannabis companies to push their expansion efforts towards other parts of the U.S. Stay tuned to the Sugar Leaf for updates.
Finding a place to consume cannabis in Las Vegas can be a bit of a gamble, but a new state-of-the-art dispensary is likely to make Sin City weed shoppers feel like they’ve hit the pot jackpot. While Cannabis is legal in Las Vegas, finding a place to use it is another story. Consuming weed in a public place or car is illegal, as is smoking it in your hotel, unless you have the explicit permission of the owner — which none have reportedly granted as of the time of this writing. The only option for using pot in Las Vegas is knowing — or finding someone — who will let you smoke your weed or eat your edibles on their private property. But while finding a place in Vegas to take a hit can be a bit of a drag, shopping for weed there is not. The city is now home to Planet 13, a new dispensary that sells flowers, edibles, and concentrates. Planet 13 is just like any other dispensary in the country except that it is absolutely enormous. According to CannabisDispensaryMag.com, the first phase of the store, which has already opened, includes 40,000 square feet, with more than 16,500 square feet of cannabis retail space. When all phases are completed, the mega-store will total 112,000 square feet — more than enough to handle thousands of customers daily. The Next Big Thing? Conveniently located near the famed Las Vegas Strip, Planet 13 is more than just a dispensary — it’s built to be a complete experience, from the moment you see the building until you leave. Upon entering, you’ll see 15-foot-tall LED lotus flowers on the roof of the building — flowers that you can actually control. There’s also an interactive floor, an aerial orb show, and interactive laser art. You could easily forget you’re actually there to buy some weed. Planet 13 is amazing, but it’s safe to say similar stores wouldn’t work everywhere. The LED lights, outdoor water feature, interactive floor, and other experiences are, of course, perfect for Las Vegas, but would likely be a little much for smaller cities or towns. And, of course, there’s still that pesky issue of legalization to deal with. But, hey, next time you're in Vegas, be sure to check out Planet 13. And we wish you best of luck in trying to find a place to enjoy your stash once you do.
Dispensaries have always targeted men. If they want to beat the competition, however, they need to market to women, too. For a long time, most people thought that only “stoners” used weed — stoners who were also primarily men. But with an increasing number of states legalizing the recreational use of marijuana — and public support for legalization continuing to rise — a longtime truth has become more widely recognized: Women like weed, too. While everyone is different — and some women likely smoke more weed than the average man — there are some generally recognized differences between male and female pot consumption. Men, for example, typically prefer high-potency weed, which allows them to get high quickly, while women often want to be more discreet — especially when they feel like they could be judged by others for using weed. As a result, women are more likely to be interested in products like lotions with CBD, low-THC buds, edibles, and vape pens. Not surprisingly, marijuana-related businesses have noticed these differences, with weed marketing strategies looking more and more like those of beauty products. While men typically want products that are quick and easy to use — like 2-in-1 shampoos/shower gels — women generally like to handpick their shampoos, conditioners, and shower gels. Following this lead, dispensaries have spearheaded a so-called “pinkification” of weed featuring female-friendly packaging, vape pens, and weed-infused beauty products. By appealing more directly to women, dispensaries will likely not only increase their bottom lines, but they could also be playing a significant part in the normalization of weed. Over time, women picking up kids from play dates will feel as comfortable talking to each other about their favorite weed-infused products as they will talking about the weather.
While there are plenty of weird places to grow weed, outer space now tops our list. Kentucky-based Space Tengo specializes in special boxes that can be used on the International Space Station (ISS). Cannabis and hemp cultivators Atalo Holdings and Anavii Market — also based in Kentucky — decided to partner with Space Tengo to send some ganja plants to a galaxy far, far away. The microwave-sized boxes are actually clean room laboratories that will be used by ISS scientists to grow and observe the plants. According to Kris Kimel, co-founder and chairman of Space Tango, there are now two of those small laboratories on the ISS. So, what can we learn from weed grown in outer space? Growing weed in a low-gravity environment sounds like fun, but is it useful? According to pharmacy professor Joe Chappell of the University of Kentucky, it is. He explains that plants have a genetic reservoir they can use in “stressful” situations — a reservoir they can use to adapt to their environment and survive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGYo8kbzeKs Chappell told MerryJane.com that “understanding how plants react in an environment where the traditional stress of gravity is removed can provide new insights into how adaptations come about and how researchers might take advantage of such changes for the discovery of new characteristics, traits, biomedical applications, and efficacy.” In short, by growing weed in space, researchers may discover new ways to use cannabis to treat certain illnesses. Despite the potential of interplanetary pot, don’t expect to find any “space weed” in your local dispensary just yet. The goal is to see how the plant reacts to this low-gravity environment, and how that could be useful for humankind. Kimel says that “each time a new type of physics platform has been successfully harnessed, such as electromagnetism, it has led to the exponential growth of new knowledge, benefits to humankind, and capital formation.” Whether this will also be the case for the cannabis grown in space is still uncertain.
America’s recreational and medicinal pot business is now worth billions. But there’s a troubling stereotype that continues to weigh down the industry: the lazy, unmotivated, worshipers of the “wake and bake” themselves — the stoners. But how is this stereotype affecting legit businesses and what can companies do to break free? In movies and on television, it seems every ensemble cast features some sort of lovable stoner. Chill, but lacking in motivation and general wherewithal, we all know the type. But now that weed is legal in some capacity in 30 states, the idea of the video game-loving, fast-food devouring stoner is proving bad for business. Dispelling the Stigma Across the country, marijuana companies are seeking out new and creative ways to shake off the stoner stereotype and present cannabis as the ticket to pain relief and recreation for people of all walks of life. For some companies, this comes across in more effective branding and marketing techniques — leveraging billboards and ads portraying nurses, doctors, grandparents, and more as responsible cannabis users instead of stoners. Other brands have set their sights on product design to add a more refined air to their weed products — ridding packaging of pot leaves in favor of sleek, modern designs. These techniques have already shown some benefit, but the naysayers remain, arguing that these marketing tactics merely gloss over marijuana’s darker side. What’s Next? Thanks in large part to decades of criminalization, cannabis still has a reputation of the drug of choice for characters on the fringes of society, especially in movies and on television. Cheech and Chong brought the house down with their THC-infused brand of humor but didn’t really do any favors for low-key users aiming to avoid the stoner stereotype. Fast forward a few decades, and TV shows and movies are starting to show pot users in a more realistic light. There’s less of an emphasis on smokers glued to their couches eating junk food, and a more down-to-earth representation of cannabis users enjoying pot for practical or medical reasons, from chronic pain to anxiety and beyond. As the image of the half-baked, goofy stoner are replaced with real-world representations of weed users, the tide of common opinion is sure to change.
A new report calls concentrates the “hottest product category in cannabis.” Why is this market booming and will it keep growing? Cannabis concentrates are obtained through extraction of the cannabis plant. The most desirable compounds are “saved,” whereas all excess material is removed. Depending on the parts of the plant that are used, the concentrate could contain either THC or CBD, or both. As we’ve discussed previously, one of the most well known concentrates is hash. The resin is compressed in order to make this smokable product. It’s possible for growers to breed cannabis strains with a high trichome production, with the goal to make hash. Butane hash oil is also a cannabis concentrate, known as BHO. Butane is used to extract cannabinoids from the plant. The THC content of BHO can be as high as 80%, making it very useful for pain relief. Why such growth? One of the possible reasons for the growth of the concentrates market is that new users find concentrates more comfortable to use. While legalization has led to more and more people being willing to try marijuana for the first time, smoking dried flowers might not appeal to those who’ve never smoked before. Concentrates might seem like a healthier alternative. When you use concentrates, you don’t inhale smoke, thus saving your lungs. Concentrates can be vaporized with a vaporizer or “dabbed,” and can also be used to make edibles. Not only is a brownie is healthier than a joint, it’s also much more discreet. This difference is also very appealing to entrepreneurs. Selling only flowers means attracting only customers who smoke, while selling different types of concentrates means attracting a wider range (see: more) customers. According to BDS Analytics, U.S. consumers are expected to spend $2.9 billion on concentrates this year. By 2022, the firm says, that number is expected to hit $8.4 billion and nearly match the $8.5 billion in flower sales forecast for that year. Are concentrates the next big thing for cannabis investors and entrepreneurs? It sure is looking that way.
Robots are replacing human workers in many industries. After all, robots don’t get sick, they’re always on time, and they’re cheaper in the long run. But can they grow weed or roll joints? With wholesale cannabis prices dropping and labor costs going up, hiring people to manually trim plants could be a thing of past. That’s where robots come in. According to Jon Gowa, the CEO and founder of Bloom Automations, we could see robotic arms with scissors rolling filling grow houses all over the country. “We’re looking at robots that could use cameras (to) actually look at the cannabis and understand each different plant,” says Gowa. The hand-rolled joint could be on its way out, too. Rolling a nice joint is easy to do for experienced rollers, but there’s no one as fast as a Dutch-made robot which can roll 100 joints in three minutes. With recreational cannabis becoming legal in more places every year, these robots might come in handy for big dispensaries, especially during the tourist season. Is It All About the Money? Investors want companies to be cost efficient in order to get a nice return on their investment. In the long run, robots are cheaper and more reliable than many human workers, so it’s not a surprise that the cannabis industry, in which (almost) everything from planting to harvesting is still done by hand, might be undergoing some “modernization” — or even “robotization” — down the road. With that said, smart and sophisticated robots will be needed to replace cannabis workers. Growing marijuana isn’t easy. It takes a lot of knowledge and skill. As a result, you shouldn’t be too worried about losing you job in the cannabis industry. For now.
It was only a matter of time, right? Eventually Jimmy Buffett had to get into the cannabis game. Parrotheads of the world rejoice — your favorite pirate has finally taken the plunge. Jimmy Buffett has been virtually synonymous with flip flops, cheeseburgers, margaritas, and just about anything tropical for decades. While his song lyrics often point to rum and tequila as Buffett’s preferred form of relaxation, the writer and entrepreneur has actually been a vocal advocate for medicinal marijuana for quite some time. And because he lives in Palm Beach, Florida, he played a key role in the state’s vote to decriminalize weed. Here Comes the Coral Reefer While it might be easy to think Buffett is jumping into cannabis for his harder-partying fans, you’d actually be mistaken. Buffett’s never shied away from his love for herb, but it’s actually the medicinal benefits of pot that piqued Buffett’s interest. And that’s why he’s chosen to partner with Suterra, an Atlanta-based cannabis company that operates ten dispensaries in Florida. According to spokesman for Buffet’s Coral Reefer brand, Buffett considered partner with several cannabis companies before settling on Suterra. This decision was made in large part because the company focuses primarily on the health benefits of pot instead of recreation. The Coral Reefer line of products will focus on providing pain relief, improving appetite, and managing symptoms associated with chemotherapy. Where to Buy Now, let’s answer the next big question. Where and when can you buy Buffett products? Sunterra has an extensive network of dispensaries in Florida, including Miami Beach, Jacksonville, and Pensacola. The future is unclear as to whether or not the products will be sold outside of the Sunshine State. As for when the products will go on sale — come Monday. OK, just kidding. If you live in Florida, you can expect to see Coral Reefer Products hit shelves in Spring 2019. If you’re one of the 160,000 Florida residents with your medical recommendation, we’d love to get your take on Coral Reefer. Keep your eyes peeled and drop us a line once you give it a shot!
The cosmetics industry is always changing to keep up with their buyers’ demands. And, lately, the industry is moving to keep up with the public’s demand for products made with cannabis. Legendary cosmetics brand Estée Lauder recently launched a face mask infused with hemp oil. The product is available under the name “Origin,” and is available on Sephora’s website. But Estée Lauder isn’t the only brand seeing the potential benefits of using hemp oil in their products. Many other (smaller) companies have also decided to take a shot at this new type of cosmetics industry. Dixie Elixirs, The Wonder Seed, Foria… While you may have never heard of these brands, they might become just as popular as Estée Lauder one day. The benefits of canna-cosmetics Cannabis-infused cosmetics are essentially the same cannabis-infused topicals — like creams, lotions, and serums — you’re already familiar with. Some products contain CBD, while others only hemp oil without any CBD or THC. Estée Lauder’s Origin line, for instance, will only be produced with hemp. While many industry experts say that CBD can help alleviate pain when applied to the skin in the form of an infused topical, there simply isn’t enough scientific research to say this is 100 percent accurate. The product might work for some people, but not necessarily everybody. Products containing hemp oil have a completely different effect. Hemp oil is obtained from the seeds of the plant, whereas CBD oil is extracted from the flowers. Hemp oil can serve as an effective moisturizer without clogging the pores. The omega-6 fatty acids it contains have anti-inflammatory properties, and its anti-aging properties could be especially for the cosmetics industry, which is always looking for new ways to help consumers look younger. Legal challenges Manufacturers of CBD-infused cosmetic products face some important legal challenges. Chief among them is the CBD’s federal classification as a Schedule I drug, which will likely make it difficult for manufacturers to ship products from the factory to retail shelves across state lines. For example, earlier this year, Forbes profiled Lord Jones, a small brand that producers cannabis-infused body lotions and other cosmetics, and which “employs a team of lawyers to ensure they don’t have to tussle with the DEA over a moisturizer.” The struggles of Lord Jones illustrate why it could be awhile before more consumers use products like CBD-infused face cream as part of their morning routine.
There was a time when YouTube was the go-to resource for questions about cannabis, product reviews, and more. But now, marijuana-related videos seem to be disappearing without reason. So, the question remains: Why is this content being banned? The boom of legal and recreational cannabis signaled an opportunity for entrepreneurs of all types. One of the most notable groups, however, has been content producers and marketers, namely YouTubers and social media activists and personalities. These are the people who explore new products, investigate newer cannabis technologies, answer questions common among novice cannabis users, and much more. For many of these channels and outlets, content views quickly surpassed one million impressions — a great sign for anyone in the social media business. But all of a sudden, channels were suspended and content removed without cause. Searching for a Reason Social media giant Facebook and tech powerhouse Google both have strong rules banning cannabis advertising. What exactly constitutes advertising, however, seems to be fairly open to interpretation. Facebook has stated that their advertising review consists of a combination of human and algorithm assessment, and the results seem to be clear — if it appears you are trying to actively sell cannabis, your content will be outlawed. On YouTube, however, content review seems to be murky. Cannabis accounts are being removed entirely immediately and without cause. For many business owners, this represents the total loss of an online presence and the hard work taken to build significant followings. What makes these account suspensions even more frustrating is that the content standards seems to be applied randomly and inconsistently. A Matter of Money While it may not be easy to agree with Facebook and Google’s approach to cannabis advertising, there at least appears to be a method to it: Cannabis is still illegal under federal law, so if your content is trying to sell cannabis, you’re out of luck. A possible explanation for YouTube’s deals with the almighty dollar. YouTube can’t make ad revenue off of cannabis videos. Many major corporations feel their brands are misrepresented when played before, during, or after a cannabis-related video, so they don’t pay for the ads. It may not come as a surprise that ad revenue is guiding YouTube’s stance on marijuana, but whether this approach holds up will become apparent over time.
While you might think of cities like Amsterdam when you think of canna-tourism, the United States is quickly becoming a very popular (and very welcoming) vacation spot for the marijuana-minded. Cannabis-friendly accommodations — where you can legally smoke either on a balcony or inside your room — are popping up all across the U.S. There are even places where you don’t have to bring your own bong, as the room comes fully equipped. “Puff and paint” events are also becoming very popular for those looking to discover the power of some good pot on their creativity. Want to enjoy beautiful landscapes while smoking a legal joint? Head to Colorado, where, according to Forbes, cannabis tourism has grown 51 percent since recreational use became legal in 2014. California is the place to be if you want to go on a wine and weed tour. You only have to get on a bus enjoy the wine and marijuana tastings in the different destinations you’ll visit. Planning Your Trip While you're free to select a destination, book your own accommodations, find places to smoke, and buy your own marijuana, planning a custom cannabis vacation can be a bit of a challenge. Because consumption isn’t allowed in public in most states, it can be difficult to find a private place to use your recently bought products. An easier option is an organized vacation. You’ll be with your own little group of other cannabis enthusiasts. Together, you might discover new strains, new products (infused beers, lotions, etc.), grow facilities, dispensaries, and much more. Tourism entrepreneurs are getting very creative when it comes to creating such trips. What about a weed-filled wellness retreat for women with yoga and spa treatments to make you ultra relaxed? Or perhaps a bus tour with like-minded people in order to visit grow facilities and taste new strains? Like the cannabis industry itself, expect canna-tourism options to only grow.
The prohibitionist crowd often warns that increased access to legal marijuana would lead to increased use of harder drugs. A recent study disagrees. For years, those who’ve opposed marijuana legalization have repeatedly predicted that legal marijuana use will cause increases in crime, traffic accidents, and marijuana use among youth. Those predictions haven’t panned out, and, according to a recent study, neither have warnings that legal marijuana will spur an increase in the use of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. The study, conducted by data analysis company LiveStories, pokes further holes in the so-called “gateway drug” theory by illustrating that hard drug use has not increased in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and other states where recreational marijuana is legal. While the study found that cannabis has (unsurprisingly) increased significantly in the wake of recreational legalization, it also found that binge drinking levels in legal cannabis states has stayed roughly the same and that tobacco use nationwide has decreased. Respondents’ legal concerns kept some from admitting to cocaine use, but researchers were able to gather reliable data showing that cocaine use in Colorado, for example, dropped between 2011 and 2016. The LiveStories report also jives were other recent studies that show that opioid deaths in legal pot states have remained low compared to the national average. Legal states have also seen a high level of educational enrollment, with Colorado having the nation’s second highest percentage of citizens with a college-level education or higher. While the legal marijuana industry can always benefit from more research, the LiveStories study does a good job of moving the needle in the right direction.
While the availability of legal marijuana has caused some short-term drops in beer sales, the nation’s biggest breweries continue to play the long game, seeing legal weed as an opportunity and not the enemy. Plants, edibles, oils, and other delivery methods continue to dominate the legal marijuana market, but cannabis-infused beverages like coffee, tea, and (especially) beer are continuing to gain market share. As we’ve discussed previously, some of the nation’s biggest breweries have seen significant drops in sales as more and more Americans are, apparently, substituting pot for beer. Constellation Brands, the country’s third-largest beer company, acquired a 9.9 percent stake in Canopy Growth in order to co-develop THC-infused beverages. Molson Coors Brewing Co. is also trying to gain its part in the cannabis world, by teaming up with The Hydropothecary Corporation. And the list continues to grow… Heineken: A New Pot-market Player While some breweries are seeing short-term losses, more and more eyeing longer-term opportunities to hop from hops and barley into the canna-business. Heineken is the biggest among them. The Dutch company created in 1864 recently launched a new type of “beer.” This version doesn’t contain any alcohol, but is instead infused with cannabis. For now, there are two versions of the beverage. One contains 10 mg of THC, the other 5 mg of THC and 5 mg of CBD. Each variety costs $8 a can. For now, you have to be lucky enough live nearby one of the dispensaries in California where the beverage is sold. But if sales go well, we could see availability expand across the country. Will These Beverages Replace “Normal” Beers? It’s highly unlikely these cannabis-infused beers will replace classic, alcohol-based beers. Infused beverages While it might fun to buy one every once in a while, getting 50 cans for a party will be too pricey for almost everyone. Perhaps cannabis-infused beer will become the next glass of wine after a stressful day. Just not in Canada. Even though the recreational use of cannabis will soon be legal in Canada, consuming infused beverages or edibles will not. While these products might be legalized in 2019, nothing is set in stone. If our friends to the north want to try a bud-infused beer, they’ll have to come visit us.
The positive results produced by the legal cannabis industry’s rapid growth are numerous. At the top of the list are the generation of considerable tax revenue, a drop in drug trafficking and drug-related crime, and the scores of people who can now better deal with numerous health conditions. The growth of the legal weed industry has also created a steady stream of new job opportunities. Here’s a look at some of the fastest-growing ones: Budtender To run a quality dispensary, a budtender must know everything about the strains that are sold. This is even more important when a medical marijuana patient needs to find a good strain. Therefore, skilled budtenders are in very high demand. According to USA Today, in Ohio, for example, 56 licensed dispensaries are looking to hire budtenders. Pastry Chef Pastry chefs who like to invent new, cannabis-infused recipes can find their spot in the fast-growing cannabis industry. According to Civilized, an edibles chef can earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. And if you open your own restaurant with a cannabis-rich menu, you could earn much more. Dispensary Store Manager Not only use extensive knowledge about the cannabis industry necessary for this job, but you must be very strict when it comes to state laws, which doesn’t make it an easy job. The fact that universities in the United States, as well as Canada, are now creating specialized courses and degrees for future managers, is a good indicator that many of these jobs will likely be created in the near future. Marijuana Grow Master Cannabis is now being mass produced, and doing that requires quite some training and skills. Northern Michigan University has launched training programs and majors for future marijuana growers. There’s a four-year medicinal plant chemistry degree, for example, but also classes like organic chemistry, biology, biostatistics, and more, that can be key if you choose to pursue this canna-career option. Cannabis Consultant Here’s one you probably didn’t think about. These consultants advise entrepreneurs and new growers on how to grow, sell, and market marijuana the right way. With many entrepreneurs seizing the opportunity to get into this industry and make a lot of money — without actually knowing a lot about weed — these consultants can put a big price tag on their advice. Honorable mention: The number of social media and marketing consultants are growing in numerous industries, and the legal weed industry is proving to be no exception.
It seems like the ups and downs of cryptocurrency have been grabbing headlines for months. While the unpredictability of this new, decentralized currency has prompted many to be skeptical, Bitcoin and the like have piqued the interest of cannabis business owners worldwide. Without getting into all the technical details, cryptocurrencies are peer-to-peer virtual money. That means no bank has to approve transactions between people. And the blockchain technology upon which cryptocurrencies are built is inherently secure. Sure, you can’t physically pull a bitcoin or other cryptocurrency out of your pocket to pay for something at the grocery store, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. There are more than 1,000 different cryptocurrencies active worldwide and — as of December 2018 — their collective value totaled more than $500 billion. The number of currencies available may continue to grow, but the gist remains crypto represents a secure — albeit unpredictable — way to invest and exchange money. Taking Canna-banking to the Next Level So, what can crypto do for the cannabis industry? Understanding the benefits of virtual currency for the growing business of bud starts with investigating the barriers traditional banks present to legal cannabis companies. Traditional banks bring along traditional standards and regulations. More specifically, they have hundreds of years of regulatory standards written to prevent money laundering and fraud. For cannabis business owners, any transaction related to marijuana must be identified as a suspicious activity — even in states where cannabis is legal — and a separate set of reports has to be filed when tax revenue is deposited in a state’s bank account. It’s confusing and, long story short, it means the IRS tends to flag decriminalized states as potential money launderers. Looking at blockchain technology, which is totally secure, could show the validity of marijuana transactions at the state level, thus preventing any unnecessary red flags for fraud. While still in very early stages, blockchain and cryptocurrency could be the next big step toward legitimizing cannabis banking at the state and federal level.
While (medical) marijuana is legal in many states, driving while stoned is not. To test if someone is under the influence of a drug other than alcohol, many devices have been developed and tested. Some have failed, while others appear to be effective. It goes without saying that drugged driving is very dangerous and (rightly) illegal. But did you know that until not so long ago, law enforcement agents had to take you into custody in order to test you for marijuana? Spurred by law enforcement’s need to detect and analyze the amount of THC in someone’s system in minutes, several companies have entered the race to come up with the world’s first reliable marijuana detection device. Testing Troubles Testing for alcohol impairment has been very easy for a long time, but catching someone who’s high is a bit more tedious. Officers have to look for signs of drug use by simple observation. As you can imagine, checking if someone can stand on one leg isn’t as effective as using a professionally developed device. Last year, a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) outlined the difficulties in developing a trustworthy device to detect THC. While detecting recent THC consumption is rather easy, detecting impairment is something completely different. According to the NHTSA, some studies “have attempted to estimate the risk of driving after marijuana use, but these remain inconclusive in terms of predicting real-world crash risk.” While there’s a correlation between the amount of alcohol in someone’s breath and the degree of impairment, there’s no such correlation for THC. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a debate about the actual effectiveness of these devices. The Latest Models • CBD isn’t psychoactive, but THC is. That’s why new marijuana breathalyzers focus on the presence of THC, as well as other drugs such as cocaine. Oakland-based Hound Labs wants to “make testing for marijuana as easy as testing for alcohol.” Drivers woul blow into the device, and the disposable cartridge would analyze their breath. A positive result for THC would mean the driver used marijuana in the last two hours. • In Canada, a saliva test has been developed and is currently waiting for approval from the nation’s Justice Department, according to the National Post. One key advantage of the test is that is can detect THC for up to six hours after consumption. While these devices are mainly being developed for law enforcement to use during traffic stops, they could also be useful at the workplace. Construction workers, bus drivers, and people handling heavy machinery can be a great risk to themselves and others if they are high on any type of drug during their work. As we've mentioned previously, an effective breathalyzer (or similar) device could be the legal marijuana industry’s best friend. Stay tuned to the Sugar Leaf for updates.
Whether it's a reluctant industry or incompetent regulators, one thing is certain: we're not so great at this. Vallejo, California shares an area code with most of the Emerald Triangle, where, even today, with erratic licensing squeezing small producers out of the burgeoning market, an awful lot of high-quality cannabis is grown, processed, sold, and smoked. It was and is the Wine Country of weed, the Loire Valley of terpenes, California’s cannabis basket. That is to say, it should go without saying that the 707 has not and is not about to run out of marijuana anytime soon. Thus, for those adult cannabis consumers looking to exercise their still-new rights to purchase some legal marijuana — and at the start of the seventh month of licensed and regulated retail sales — a dispensary with little legal cannabis to sell and lots of bare shelf space is an incongruity, a very dumb and very obvious cosmic joke. %related-post-1% Amid such bounty, the rare brands that passed the test were selling for $70 an eighth or more, prices not seen outside of real supply shortages in the black market days. Within a few weeks, the industry had recovered, at least partially. More than 70 brands had figured it out (with an untold number of smaller outfits giving up). For buyers, it was a brief hiccup, soon to be forgotten. But a hiccup at all, in a state with the country's oldest pre-established industry and consumer base, is a clear sign something isn’t working. Someone had blundered, which would be bad enough, if it weren’t for the fact that scenes like this played out all over the state — in just the way experts and observers had been predicting and fearing for months. “A Hard Reset” New California state regulations around marijuana purity, testing, and packaging went into effect July 1. And from seed to sale, the industry just wasn’t quite ready. For the last few weeks of June, dispensaries held emergency fire sales to get rid of noncompliant product — flower that hadn’t been tested, edibles in the wrong packaging, dubious oil of unknown potency from mysterious sources. According to a survey of anonymous dispensary owners conducted by a Mendocino County couple who own a topical cannabis brand, in some cases, tens of thousand of dollars’ worth of product or more had to be discarded. The marijuana industry had a “hard reset,” as Leafly termed it. The industry knew this was happening, and when — knew all about it for months, and yet still couldn’t manage without a disruption big enough to jolt consumers. Suppliers are due some of the blame. They’d been overproducing for years, and if they could not or would not meet the standards that they knew would eventually apply to them. Then again, these are commodity farmers, and ones who don’t enjoy government guarantees or subsidies, like most everyone else plying the land in California. They are at the mercy of the market, and with everyone else growing as much as they could while rules were lax, the market was flooded. But in other cases, government came down too hard. New testing rules — including one requirement banning the sale of marijuana deemed “too wet” — put some manufacturers out entirely, and left cannabis users and patients to scramble for what they could find back on the underground market. There, they found a significant number of fellow customers they might have recognized at old medical dispensaries, before a tax burden of 35 percent or more, depending on jurisdiction, shooed them away from retail outlets before they opened. %related-post-2% Why were brands and dispensaries seemingly caught off guard? They might simply not have been able to move so far so fast. So did regulators do enough to help them? And if so, why do they keep repeating the same mistakes seen around the country? Is this… normal? This also says something deeply ironic about marijuana legalization: Sometimes, from both sides, consumer and producer, things were easier and cheaper in the old gray-market days. This is admittedly a myopic view. The outlook for people formerly incarcerated or with criminal records for marijuana ruining career or benefits prospects has certainly improved, significantly. The New Norm of Reform With few exceptions, interrupts like this have become a feature of marijuana policy reform. In Nevada last summer, it happened when supply outstripped actual demand. In Pennsylvania earlier this year, where medical marijuana was so popular and dispensaries stretched so thin that it prompted the end of a state ban on cheaper, easier-to-use smokeable marijuana (even though patients are clearly instructed that their cannabis flower is "not for smoking). And in Massachusetts, where voters legalized recreational marijuana on the same night as Californians, recreational buyers are still waiting to hear when sales will start. They will, once regulators get around to approving an independent testing lab — but they also might not, as localities throughout the state, given the power of choice whether or not to allow a commercial marijuana industry inside town limits, have opted to become the cannabis equivalent of dry counties. Good thing bootleggers never prosper, and in marijuana producing areas that suddenly have trouble selling marijuana, there is no strong financial incentive to break the law. %related-post-3% With transition from black-market to legal or somewhat-legal in every state where the experiment is tried, it’s clear that regulators and policymakers aren’t quick to learn lessons from other states. Meanwhile, states that have mature recreational marijuana markets are back in a very familiar and predictable pickle: They’re full. Epic oversupply situations are causing prices to fall to historic lows in Washington and in Oregon. Cycling between feast and famine, with enough uncertainty to make the faint-of-heart or low-of-funding consider other work. Famine, in a time of plenty. To err is human, and to suffer shortages and interruptions is the penalty all emerging marijuana markets must apparently pay.
The number of medical marijuana patients in recreational states is spiraling down. Why is this happening, and will MMJ programs survive the struggle? Medical marijuana patient counts in Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon have been decreasing since the legalization of recreational marijuana. While it took nearly two years for the drop to happen in Colorado, the drop was almost immediate in Oregon and Nevada. According to mjbizdaily.com, there has been a 42 percent drop in patient counts in Oregon since the beginning of recreational sales. In Nevada, patient counts decreased by 32 percent and in Colorado by 22 percent. What’s Causing the Drop? Simply put, access to recreational weed has never been so easy. Because people with medical marijuana cards have access to the exact same products, there is little stopping them from buying like recreational users. Also, while taxes on medical marijuana are often lower than those on recreational marijuana, doctor visits and card renewals all carry costs, often making it cheaper for patients to stop renewing their medical cards. Moreover, some people no longer want to be on file as medical marijuana users. Having a card means you have a file somewhere in a database. If you want to stay anonymous, or don’t want anyone to know what illness you have, it might be better to buy like a recreational user. Will MMJ Programs Disappear in Recreational States? Despite the drop-off, it’s highly unlikely the medical marijuana programs will end up disappearing completely. Someone with a MMJ card still has several benefits. For instance, you’re less likely to get in trouble at work if you have to prove that marijuana is one of your medications. Also, minors can use cannabis with parental consent if they have a medical marijuana card. Without it, they won’t even be allowed into a dispensary.
Companies like Google and PayPal often grab headlines for their forward-thinking innovations and technology. But when it comes to weed, the big guys aren’t as friendly as you might expect. Big tech companies have a reputation for pioneering new technologies and evolving the ways we lead our everyday lives. Given how engrained technology is at home, work, or play, it can sometimes be easy to forget that these companies have a pretty significant influence over what we do or don’t see. In the case of legal weed, heavy tech hitters Google and PayPal have taken a relatively unexpected stance — they have become more strict on companies selling ancillary pot products, such as pipes, vaporizers, and bongs. Why Can’t We Be Friends? While at face value, it may seem like Google and PayPal are cracking down on pot-related products specifically, these restrictions are actually the byproduct of policies intended to limit underage access to harmful content. Based on these policies, Google has made it almost impossible for vape, bong, and pipe companies to advertise through their AdWords service, while PayPal has brought e-commerce to a screeching halt. For online retailers, or smaller brick and mortar retailers with online presences, finding ways to advertise products can mean success or failure. Right now, many of these companies are looking to social media to grow their customer bases. Looking Ahead The cannabis industry will continue to boom with expected profits reaching $57 billion by 2027. With the amount of money projected to roll in, it will be interesting to see if the big tech companies continue their hard-line stance on cannabis-related products. After all, more lenient guidelines for these goods could represent significant revenue opportunities. One thing is for certain: Only time will tell how these policies will adapt to the growing legal weed industry. Just as we have seen on a local level, recreational cannabis has caused both businesses and government organizations to rethink how they handle weed. And big tech won’t be any different.
With an increasing number of brands across virtually every industry expanding beyond traditional advertising these days, the use of social media influencers has become increasingly prevalent. And the legal marijuana industry is no exception. Federal law makes launching advertising campaigns for cannabis a real struggle. Even in states where weed is legal, it can be tough to find ways to advertise your company without running into legal obstacles. This is one of the reasons why celebrity influencers are becoming a bigger and bigger thing when it comes to marketing marijuana. %related-post-1% Leafs By Snoop is a good example of how a celebrity can create a (long-lasting) buzz for a company. In 2016, large Canadian cannabis producer Tweed partnered with Snoop Dogg to provide Canada with high-end cannabis. The partnership went further than a couple of Instagram posts. The new business partners worked together to select and market high-quality strains, thus increasing their chances of long-term success. And theirs hasn’t been the only such partnership. As Forbes notes, cannabis products such as Tommy Chong’s “Chong’s Choice” and Willie Nelson’s “Willie’s Reserve” see boosts in sales when their celebrity namesakes tweet or post about their products — messages that hundreds of thousands of fans inhale with enthusiasm. %related-post-2% A little less well-known — but no less effective — social media marijuana influencer is Dabbing Granny. More than 750,000 people follow the senior citizen for her hilarious Instagram posts, proving that people of all ages, backgrounds, or careers can become important influencers for cannabis companies. Can Influencers Influence Lawmakers? As more and more people get more and more used to seeing celebrities talk about, promote, and use cannabis on their social media profiles, public support for full marijuana legalization will only continue increase. And who knows? Perhaps more lawmakers will be influenced by that public support — or those same influencers.
As the legal marijuana industry has grown, so has the number of delivery methods available to those looking to use the drug to get relief from various health conditions. Among the most useful and discreet delivery methods is topical marijuana. A full cannabis extract of activated cannabinoids, topical marijuana is essentially a thick oil which is applied externally and absorbed by the skin to provide targeted relief for numerous conditions, including muscle soreness, joint pain, tendonitis, arthritis, eczema, minor burns, and chapped skin. Topicals are commonly available as lotions, ointments, sprays, and salves, and can typically be applied multiple times. This topical use of cannabinoids allows them to absorbed directly into a localized area for a quicker and more focused benefit. People suffering from conditions like psoriasis or arthritis can use topicals for pain relief without having to rely on opioids or other pills that often come with bad side effects. And while some topicals are infused with THC, they won’t get you high, allowing you to think clearly and maintain full brain function while using them. Another benefit of using topicals is that they can provide you with relief from pain without getting questions or dirty looks from others. Because you are simply applying a cream to your skin, and not smoking, people will be less likely to notice or criticize you. Choosing and Using Just like with edibles and buds, the most challenging part of using topicals is choosing one that works for you. Not all topicals work for everyone, but once you’ve found one that does, it’s pretty easy to use. Start by cleaning and drying your skin. (A quick rinse will be enough.) Then, apply some of your topical to the area and massage it into your skin. It’s as simple as that. (Note: Don’t apply a cannabis-infused topical to damaged skin or near your eyes, nose, mouth, or intimate areas. And don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands after applying the topical. Also, be sure to wash your hands with soap before doing anything else.) When the topical is completely absorbed into your skin, you can go on with your day. If you don’t feel the effects immediately, wait a bit. It can take some time before you feel relief. A second application might be necessary after a few hours. Always listen to your body, and be patient.
The availability of legal marijuana is growing. So is the number of non-users willing to try it. Back in February, the research firm PSB Research partnered with Civilized.life to conduct a study that explored “views on cannabis, cannabis usage, and habits and behaviors of both consumers and non-consumers to better understand the lifestyle of modern cannabis consumers.” Among the key findings of the study was that the number of those who’ve never tried marijuana — but are interested in trying it — is on the rise. During last year’s edition of the study, 20 percent of non-using Americans said they would try cannabis. In this year’s study, that number had risen to 31 percent. Why the Rise? When the study was conducted last year, there were fewer states where the use of medical and/or recreational marijuana was legal. It’s entirely possible that residents of states where pot was illegal answered “no” to the question “would you ever consider using cannabis?” simply because they would never consider doing anything illegal. If their states legalized cannabis after last year’s survey, they may have been swayed to answer “yes” this time around. Why Are Non-Consumers Now Curious About Using Marijuana? Again, we can only speculate, because everyone has their own reasons. One plausible answer, however, is that legal weed is simply something new and exciting. It’s getting good press these days, which naturally makes people curious, and when they want to learn more about it, it’s easy to find reliable information. What Does This Mean for the Industry? If even a small percentage of non-consumers become regular medical or recreational users, there could be a very noticeable increase in sales. What About Other Countries? In the Netherlands, for example, cannabis has been tolerated (but not legalized) for quite some time. After interviewing some people who’ve grown up in the Netherlands, we found that non-consumers aren’t all that curious about — or even really interested in trying — weed. Most young people walk by coffee shops (where weed use is openly tolerated) without giving it a second thought. Maybe it’s because they’re used to it being tolerated, or because it isn’t “cool” since it doesn’t provide the same risky thrill found by using other illegal drugs.
News headlines nationwide have been touting the canna-boom. Cannabis dispensaries and production facilities seem to be popping up everywhere medicinal and recreational marijuana is legal. But in light of these reports, just how big is the retail marijuana market? The legal cannabis boom has certainly grabbed a lot of headlines over the past year. Until recently, however, hard data comparing the size and growth of retail pot had been rather hard to come by. Thanks to the Annual Marijuana Business Factbook, however, that is changing. The leading resource for trends, facts, and figures in recreational cannabis, the factbook is 300 pages of forecasts, benchmarks, and statistics covering the nation’s fastest growing industry. What The Numbers Say The U.S. retail cannabis market is valued at about $55 billion total — including illicit sales. When comparing the market to other industries, it’s actually easier to look at year-over-year growth as a sign of overall market share. Representing roughly $5.8-6.6 billion in revenue, medical cannabis overtook some other noteworthy industries in 2017. Last year, retail cannabis sales overshadowed both Oreos ($0.7 billion), the tattoo industry ($1.5 billion), and the organic produce industry ($4.8 billion). These statistics alone may be a little surprising, but what’s more noteworthy is that legal cannabis now has Netflix (annual revenue of $6.6 billion) and McDonald’s (annual revenue of $8 billion) clearly in its sights. On the heels of California’s legalization of recreational weed, the retail cannabis market is primed to surpass these numbers in 2018. A Matter Of Time Looking at 2018 is only part of the upside of the cannabis industry. For the next 4 years, the industry is poised for 200% growth. Continued decriminalization means a significant portion of the $55 billion legal and illegal cannabis market may become more legit. If so, retail cannabis will be rubbing shoulders with major tobacco ($80.3 billion) and beer ($111 billion). Although a significant number of factors are in flux — for example, the number of states legalizing weed — the future of retail cannabis sure seems promising.
Mandatory drug tests were once the name of the game for anyone looking for a job in corporate America. But as popular opinion towards weed is changing, are big companies keeping pace? Marijuana and employment are two words that haven’t always gone hand in hand. As the legal weed business has expanded, however, more jobs have become available in dispensaries and at grow operations. This, however, isn’t the only impact legal weed has made on the job market. In some industries, marijuana drug screenings have actually come to be seen as unnecessary barriers to employment. As the need for workers has increased, companies across the country removing cannabis from pre-employment drug screenings. Leading The Way It may come as no surprise that the industries dropping cannabis from pre-employment drug screenings are those with the largest staff shortages. Companies in hospitality, shipping, and assembly are all facing significant shortages of capable staff. Dropping cannabis from pre-screening opens up a large base of potential employees. Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas is the latest in a long line of companies to change their tune on weed testing. Even in the highly regulated world of casinos, Caesar’s was struggling to fill vital spots on the casino floor and in other areas of the hotel. By updating their drug testing policy, Caesar’s has been able to increase the number of qualified candidates while working to ensure workers are not under the influence while at work. Look To The Future Although current trends may show companies taking a more lenient stance on marijuana screening, that doesn’t necessarily mean the trend will hold. Currently, employers in the nine states — and District of Columbia — where weed is legal, are most likely to drop testing. Much of this is due to the sheer number of jobs available in these areas. In Colorado, for example, the tourism and resort industry mean jobs can be found virtually year round. As unemployment trends continue to ebb and flow, however, we will have to wait and see if states continue to be lenient on screening for weed. How do you feel about drug screening for weed? Let us know!
Beer ads, fast food restaurants, candy companies — the list of major sports sponsors goes on. For legal weed brands, however, landing a sports sponsorship seemed like a pipe dream until one team set the precedent. Nevada legalized the purchase of recreational cannabis in July 2017. Although they weren’t the first to make such a move, Las Vegas is now grabbing headlines for breaking ground of a different kind with legal weed. The city is now home to the first sports team sponsored by a cannabis dispensary. Let There Be Lights If you had one guess as to the first sport to tout a legal cannabis sponsor, which would you pick? Football? Nope. Baseball? Yeah, right. NASCAR? Dream on. The answer? Soccer. The first team in U. S. history to be sponsored by a cannabis brand is none other than the Las Vegas Lights — a professional soccer team that competes in the United Soccer League (USL). The USL is the second tier of professional soccer in the United States, sitting right below nationally recognized Major League Soccer. Sponsoring the Las Vegas Lights is a 16,000-square-foot dispensary called NuWu Cannabis Marketplace. Complete with a drive-thru, the dispensary is expected to begin selling Lights-branded products. In return, NuWu ads will be found across the Lights’ Cashman Field, as well as at public events featuring players. Getting Down To Business Brand visibility for both team and dispensary is just one aspect of this winning deal. All adults 21 and older who visit NuWu with a Lights ticket stub will receive 10 percent off any purchase. The dispensary itself is also run by the Paiute Tribe and the dispensary itself is located on tribal lands. For both parties, the co-branding is viewed as an opportunity to bring new attention to Las Vegas, breathe new life into the city and shed light on the positive side of legal weed. “This is the right time and the right market to do this, and we’re not going to hide. We think this will be part of the destigmatization of this substance and business, “ said Brett Lashbrook, Chief Operating Officer of the Las Vegas Lights. Is there a team you’d love to see your favorite dispensary sponsor? Drop us line and hit us with your ideas!
Snoop Dogg is an established name in legal weed. Tiger Global, on the hand, not so much. Now, the two are partnering to help a weed startup. Tiger Global may not be a household name, but chances are you’re familiar with more than one of their investment companies. Founded by Charles P. Coleman III in New York City in 2001, Tiger Global was an early investor in some of the world’s most popular social media and streaming services, including Facebook and Spotify. Teaming up with Snoop Dogg’s venture capital firm, Casa Verde Capital, Tiger Global contributed to a $17 million series A investment for marijuana tech company Green Bits. Higher Tech Green Bits is one of the leading cannabis tech startups in the country. Offering a seamless point-of-sale system that incorporates state compliance standards, business growth best practices, customer satisfaction features, and operations guidance. The company currently operates in 11 states and has processed as much as $2 billion in annual retail pot sales. Available in 800 retailers in the United States, Green Bits has drawn numerous comparisons to the point-of-sale system Square, which revolutionized retail sales and the ability to make mobile devices sales ready. Impacting The Industry Although much may not be known about Tiger Global outside of the business in which they have invested, jumping into the cannabis world is pretty telling move for the notoriously private group. Partnering with Casa Verde indicates a growing trend of traditional VC groups branching out into the world of retail pot. Many industry pundits point to Tiger’s investment as the first by an institutional VC into the marijuana market. Boasting 38 exits among its portfolio of startup businesses, Tiger Global has a proven track record of building businesses to the point of major success or lucrative exits. With the cannabis industry still in its relative infancy, this move could prove a watershed moment for other startups and the potential for other major players to test the waters with legal weed. For green businesses, the future is certainly looking bright.
While the legal weed industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, conflicting local, state, and federal regulations present unique roadblocks when it comes to marijuana marketing. As we may have already mentioned a few times, the legal marijuana market is exploding. Not only are more and more states moving to legalize cannabis, but countless budding bud businesses have sprouted up to provide pot — as well as new pot-related products and services — to the growing numbers of consumers who can now legally buy the drug. For all of its innovation and growth, however, the cannabis industry faces an uphill battle when it comes to digital marketing. %related-post-1% As Ad Week notes, Google, Facebook, and Instagram have all blocked marijuana companies from advertising on their platforms — even in states where marijuana is legal. “Operators like Facebook, Instagram are pulling accounts all the time or Facebook won’t even let you start advertising,” Cy Scott, CEO and co-founder of an analytics company that works with cannabis brands, told Ad Week. “It’s worse than alcohol or tobacco—you see beer commercials all the time [where] everyone looks like they’re having a good time and enjoying alcohol, but you don’t see that with cannabis.” While 30 states have legalized some form of marijuana, 20 have not. That disparity, coupled with the fact that marijuana in all forms is still illegal at the federal level, has made allowing marijuana advertising — even in small amount — too politically risky for the likes of Google and Facebook. And that climate isn’t likely to change much until cannabis is legal everywhere. In order to maximize their opportunities for growth in the face of these unique obstacles, cannabis companies are taking a creative approach when it comes to marketing. With many cannabis companies steering away from digital ads, the folks at Search Engine Land recommend companies build cannabis marketing teams consisting of “the best SEO strategists, content marketers, email specialists and public relations (PR) managers available.” %related-post-2% Cura Cannabis Solutions’ e-commerce site features a referral program that uses MailChimp for managing email campaigns. The company also partners with publishers like Leafly, who offer reviews of dispensaries and specific strains of cannabis. Some retailers and dispensaries connect with new customers via in-store demonstration days. Others have promoted themselves with near-field communication, mobile payments, and text messaging campaigns. As industry experts note, the cannabis companies who can successfully navigate today’s complicated landscape will be at an advantage when more traditional advertising channels finally open up for the legal weed industry.
While industry experts have a good idea why wholesale marijuana prices continue to drop, the drop could soon stop. According to a new report by cannabis industry analysts, the price of a pound of legal cannabis has been falling since the middle of 2016. The report by Cannabis Benchmarks, an independent price reporting agency, shows that the U.S. spot index for legal marijuana fell 13 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. A subsequent report by the agency found that marijuana prices had continued to dip slightly during the first month of 2018. The spot index, which averaged $1,789 per pound in 2016, opened 2017 at $1,562 per pound and closed the year at $1,436 — a decline of 6 percent. By January of this year, the price had fallen to $1,292 per pound. While the marijuana industry has been operating under a cloud of uncertainty in the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescinding of the Obama-era Cole Memo, analysts say that drop in wholesale marijuana prices has nothing to do with the perceived threat of federal interference, but rather simple supply and demand. As report author Adam Koh told The Cannabist, the spot price uncertainty of cannabis is in line with other commodities, though pot prices are more susceptible to factors such as politics, varying state guidelines, and natural disasters. While the overall drop in wholesale prices was primarily driven by significant overproduction in Oregon, most of the nation’s major Western marijuana markets — with the exception of Colorado — have seen decreases in their composite prices. As Koh adds, however, while the drop in prices has been steady, it has also been relatively calm. “While prices declined in (Colorado and Washington), they did so fairly gradually,” he told The Cannabist. “The landscape in those two markets is pretty settled on the whole, so you didn’t see a lot of abrupt regulatory changes like you’ve had in the past — no big overhaul of rules like what took place in the first couple of years of those markets. So businesses were just able to go about their day-to-day operations with less turbulence.” While the different markets across various states make predicting pot prices a bit of a challenge, Koh believes the continued lack of overall market turbulence will help the prices of pot to level off sooner than later. “I think we’re getting close (to the bottom),” he says. Stay tuned to the Sugar Leaf for updates.
Snoop Dogg, the legendary entertainer, entrepreneur, and marijuana advocate has always had his mind on his money. Now, his money is on marijuana. Snoop Dogg co-founded venture capital firm Casa Verde Capital in 2015 with the view that “the cannabis industry will be among the most compelling investment themes of our generation.” After recently raising $45 million its first round of capital funding, it seems the MC and mogul was on to something. %related-post-1% While Snoop — who’s listed by his real name, Calvin Broadus, on Casa Verde’s website — seldom passes up the opportunity to get his hands on some weed in his personal life, his firm is taking an arms-length approach when it comes to investing in legal marijuana. Instead of investing in dispensaries, farms, and other business that handle the plant, CVC is directing its dollars toward the “ancillary cannabis industry.” “We’re investing in the picks and shovels,” CVC managing partner Karan Wadhera recently told TechCrunch. Wadhera calls Snoop “among the most important cultural figures” in the legal marijuana biz, and says that his involvement “lends a lot of credibility and excitement” to CVC’s portfolio companies. While Snoop is hands-off on the investment process, Wadhera says Snoop is very involved with some the firm’s portfolio companies, most notably cannabis lifestyle site Merry Jane. “That’s content. That’s media. That’s Snoop’s bread and butter,” he says. %related-post-2% While much of the legal marijuana industry is focused on how to survive and thrive in the midst of the current uncertain legal climate, Wadhera and the team at CVC are decidedly optimistic about the industry’s long-term future. “The industry is fraught with a lot of temporary issues that people are trying to solve, including banking and payments, which are a problem because [cannabis is] still illegal under federal law,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re more interested in companies that are building functions for the long term because those short-term solutions won’t be relevant once we’re in a federally legal environment.” One such company is LeafLink, a e-commerce platform for cannabis dispensaries and CVC’s biggest investment to date. According to the company, LeafLink is designed for “cannabis brands and retailers who want to streamline the ordering process, simplify communication, and spend less time on busy work.” The platform has handled more than $180 million in transactions since 2016, and projects that its order volume will reach $500 million this year. As marijuana becomes legal in more states, Wadhera predicts, companies like LeadLink and firms like Casa Verde will be poised for growth. “We’re just getting started,” he says.
Marijuana companies are hiring, a lot! The industry is growing quickly, and qualified workers are in high demand. Demand so high, now there are college cannabis courses. McGill University (Montreal, Canada) will soon be offering a diploma track for future marijuana growers and business managers in anticipation of nationwide recreational marijuana legalization. Some schools in the U.S. have also launched programs and college cannabis courses to teach the next generation of cannabis experts. %related-post-1% McGill University aims to train the canna-managers of tomorrow Every fast-growing industry needs a healthy supply of workers, and the same goes for the marijuana industry. New jobs are created every day, but in order to position oneself best to a company, one’s cannabis knowledge needs to be deeper than just a few quick Google searches. Simply knowing how to water a marijuana plant isn’t enough anymore. The Canadian university quickly jumped on the opportunity to create classes for future managers in the cannabis industry. Why? According to the Dean of Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Anja Geitmann, “this is a sector that applies very much to agriculture and in which tens of thousands of new jobs will be created in the coming years.” %related-post-2% The industry needs more qualified commercial-scale workers The number of dispensaries and wholesaling entities are booming, and will continue to do so. But the people who learned how to grow small quantities of cannabis aren’t necessarily fit to become managers of huge grow sites. That’s why trade schools and universities need to prepare students for management positions in the industry. Additional cannabis programs highlight industry mainstreaming McGill isn’t the first school to provide a cannabis industry diploma. Other schools have started training programs and majors, such as the Northern Michigan University. Can you imagine putting “certified cannabis grower” on your resume? The fact that this will be possible proves, in our opinion, that cannabis is going mainstream faster than ever. Growing cannabis might soon become as normal as growing apples. Well, maybe.
Do marijuana sales drive tourism, or do established tourist destinations simply generate more revenue because they’re already prepared to handle marijuana-minded visitors? The answer is somewhere in between. There’s no doubt about it: The legal marijuana industry is booming. Despite the fact that cannabis is still technically illegal in all forms in 20 states and at the federal level, the legal pot business raked in nearly $9 billion in sales last year — a figure that’s projected to reach $21 billion by 2021. %related-post-1% In addition to this mountain of revenue — and its associated taxes — legal marijuana sales help countless people deal with dozens of medical conditions, reduces crime, and creates jobs. It is also making a noticeable impact in the nation’s tourism industry While it is still too early to assess just how much of a boon legal pot has been to the tourism industry, data from a few states where marijuana is legal shows that not only is legal weed driving tourism, but that tourists in search of legal weed are also inspiring existing canna-businesses to expand their product and service offerings to meet this growing demand. In Colorado, for example, a research firm hired by the state’s tourism office found that legal marijuana was “extremely influential” in the vacation decisions of 23 percent of the state’s visitors in 2015. A deeper look at the numbers shows that roughly 4 percent of Colorado’s tourists age 25 or older said they both came to the state for weed and actually shopped for it that year. %related-post-2% Those numbers shouldn’t have been a surprise to state officials, however, as a midsummer report by the Colorado Department of Revenue the previous year indicated that out-of-state visitors accounted for half of all pot sales in Denver and nearly 90 percent in the state’s mountain regions. Another indicator? Searches for Denver on the travel booking site Hotels.com have humorously spiked each year on April 20 since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. In response to the growing interest in marijuana-based tourism, cannabis entrepreneurs in Colorado have launched cannabis tours and a “weedery” patterned in the mold of a winery. Tours of dispensaries, grow houses, and other cannabis-friendly destinations are popular with visitors of California, as well. And other new, bud-related businesses are popping up all the time, looking to capitalize on the budding industry — businesses like Oakland’s Puff Pass Paint. Modeled after popular classes that pair wine and painting, Puff Pass Paint lets customers pay a few bucks to get creative and high for a few hours. %related-post-3% Colorado and California aren’t the only states reporting an influx of pot-minded tourists. Oregon, Washington, and Nevada are seeing gains, as well. As Marijuana Business Daily notes all of these states are benefiting from cannabis branding and retailing practices that continue to advance significantly — practices that are helping them not only attract out-of-town customers, but also serve the ones who are already coming. In Nevada — home to the uber-tourist destination, Las Vegas — the state’s first six months of recreational marijuana sales ($195 million, 2017) crushed those of Colorado’s ($114 million, 2014). And in Oregon, counties along the North Coast, whose natural beauty is popular with tourists, boasted some of the highest per capita sales numbers in the state. Once these (and other) states can move fully past some of the legal hurdles associated with the legal marijuana business, their ability to generate crowds — and revenue — will be virtually endless.
It might not be Spring yet, but the fact that we’re putting the wraps on the first full week of March makes it feel close. Here’s the cannabis news of the week. You can do it, people. Just close your eyes and envision those warm temperatures right around the corner. Can you feel them? Ahhhhh, yes. They’ll be here soon. And to help keep you preoccupied until we can thaw out, here are some cannabis news headlines from the past week. Reefer Madness kills Kentucky’s MMJ bill " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> For some time, it really looked like Kentucky would legalize medical marijuana this legislative session, especially as a combatant against their raging opioid epidemic. But alas, old biases — trot out the "gateway drug" line — won out this week as the bill was sidelined. One opponent claimed, “I think it’s wrong to herald marijuana with its many proven negative qualities.” Mmmhmm, right. Nevada keep casinos and cannabis separate This has been a topic of much discussion since Nevada gave the thumbs-up to recreational marijuana. But this week, the state’s Gaming Policy Committee formally moved to keep the barrier up between the two, worried about how federally illegal cannabis money might be “legally laundered” through the casinos. Denver’s Mile High 420 Festival unveils 2018 lineup We all know that Coloradans have long been big celebrators of April 20. And this year, Denver’s 420 Festival looks to be a doozy as the music lineup was released this week. The festival will be held at the Civic Center Park, and will include headliners Lil Wayne, Lil Jon, and the Original Wailers. USA Today announces its new “Potcast” Here is yet another tell-tale sign that marijuana is working its way deep into the mainstream: USA Today, owned by media mega-corporation, Gannett, announced this week the rollout of a new podcast called “Potcast.” It’s already on iTunes, and will focus on everything related to the emergence of this new legal industry. California gets tough on Weedmaps Earlier this year the California Cannabis Control Bureau sent out some 900 letters to unlicensed marijuana businesses telling them to get right with regulations. Now the state is zeroing in on popular websites like Weedmaps, requiring them to delist unlicensed industry businesses. Leafly, a Weedmaps competitor scrubbed its list earlier. We’ll keep our eyes out for more cannabis news next week, and we’ll pass along the best nuggets.
Once big rivals, Big Tobacco and marijuana are poised to partner for big profits. The first forays are already underfoot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes in the United States has been on the decline since the 1960s. Part of that drop has been caused by increased awareness about the dangers of smoking. Part of the drop is due to Americans’ interest in other things. One of those other things is marijuana. %related-post-1% Big Tobacco has viewed pot as both a competitor and a potential source of profits since at least the 1970s. As the substance’s popularity has increased and the legal marijuana market has grown, tobacco companies have begun to invest in cannabis. Foreshadowing a shift into the legal marijuana biz, Imperial Tobacco changed its name to Imperial Brand in 2015. Then, last year, in a move that raised even more speculation, the company named Simon Langelier, the chairman of a Canadian cannabis oil extract supplier, to its board of directors. As Imperial Chairman Mark Williamson told the Motley Fool, Langelier's “extensive international experience in tobacco and in wider consumer adjacencies will be a great asset to the board." Also looking to expand into some of those “wider consumer adjacencies” is Philip Morris International of Switzerland, who, as High Times explains, has purchased a patent for a GMO plants with higher terpenes. %related-post-2% Not to be outdone, North Carolina-based tobacco company Alliance One International recently staked a claim in the pending legal pot market north of the border, purchasing an 80 percent stake in Canadian pot grow facility Goldleaf Pharm Inc. It’s pretty obvious that Big Tobacco is banking on the fact that, one day, they will be able to sell marijuana to the public as easily as they can a pack of cigarettes. All that’s holding them back — and the rest of the industry — is outdated federal law. When that changes, be ready for a full-on marriage between tobacco and marijuana.
The week we flipped the calendar from February to March was yet another big week in the cannabis news world. Here are some of the more notable headlines. It’s always a tough task trying to whittle down the week’s cannabis news headlines to a Top 5 list of sorts. These days the sheer amount of breaking, important cannabis news is impressive, so picking and choosing is no simple chore. But here we are, so let’s do this. Denver issues first cannabis club license " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> At long last the city of Denver, Colorado, has issued its first license for a social cannabis club wherein of-age consumers can BYOW and partake together. The license was awarded to The Coffee Joint (a straightforward name if there ever was one), which is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Flower will not be permitted. However, vapes and edibles will be. Nevada marijuana sales are off the charts We had a hunch that recreational marijuana sales in Nevada (especially in Las Vegas) would be a hit. But woo-doggy, it turns out projections were conservative to say the least. The news broke last week, but continued to make headlines this week, that last year Nevada recreational sales averaged more than $1 million per day. December was the busiest month with $35,769,000 in sales. Happy Holidays, indeed. Canadian marijuana use has skyrocketed the past few decades It would make sense that a country about to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide would be home to many friends of marijuana. And, of course, that’s the case in Canada. A study made the rounds this week that between 1985 and 2005, Canadian cannabis consumption more than doubled. In 2015, 12.3 percent of the population over the age of 15 used marijuana. In 1985 it was just 5.6 percent. Pedestrian fatalities tied to legalized marijuana Legalization advocates are used to this: Studies with marijuana scare statistics. Such an example was big news this week as a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association tied spikes in pedestrian deaths to smartphones and legal cannabis. Of course, many headlines (unlike the one linked above) ignored the phone part, instead zeroing in on weed. American Legion wants medical marijuana for veterans This can’t keep up forever. American veterans begging their government to allow them to legally access medical marijuana, only to be denied. It can’t. And it won’t. This week the leader of the American Legion, the United States’ largest veteran organization, pressed Congress during a hearing on the matter. National Commander Denise H. Rohan asked for “immediate reclassification of cannabis to allow research into its potential for medical application.” Thanks, Commander Rohan. That’ll do it for this week’s batch of cannabis news headlines. We, as always, will be back next Friday with more.
Though not too splashy a week in cannabis news, there were plenty of important items making headlines in the last full week of February 2018. Some weeks burst at the seams with eye-grabbing cannabis news. Other are more subdued, though no less important. This week was of the latter category: Chill but meaningful. Here’s a quick rundown of some cannabis news headlines from the past few days. Colorado Girl Scouts allowed to sell outside dispensaries You likely recall the recent kerfuffle surrounding a San Diego, California, Girl Scout who set up shop outside a local dispensary. She, of course, sold out of her cookie stash in record time. Well, in some more cookie-related news, the Girl Scouts of Colorado have formally declared dispensaries as fair game for enterprising young girls who want to sell their Thin Mints and Tagalongs to shoppers buying cannabis products. Las Vegas airport as a pot dumping ground We’re all very familiar with the old line, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” And true to form, officials at McCarran International Airport are making it easier on travelers to ditch their cannabis stashes before they hop on a flight home. There are now 13 “amnesty boxes” located around the airport where tourists can offload their green goods before heading through the security line. Denver marijuana is a BIG consumer of electricity This was one of those headlines that had us thinking “yeah, that makes sense.” But even still, it was eyebrow-raising. We learned this week that nearly four percent of all electric usage in Denver, Colorado, is from marijuana grows. Energy consumption related to the marijuana industry is a topic of increasing interest, and Denver provides an example of how much marijuana demand drives energy demand. Canadian health insurer announces MMJ coverage This is a big win for Canadian medical marijuana patients, as Sun Life Financial, a major health insurer, will allow companies to add medical marijuana coverage to their group health plans. Sun Life isn’t the first Canadian insurer to make such a move, but the are the biggest, as they provide coverage for over 3 million Canadians and their families. Tennessee judge allows raided CBD-selling businesses to reopen In one of the most eye roll-inducing installments of “Modern Reefer Madness,” police from multiple law enforcement agencies in Middle Tennessee recently raided and shuttered 23 businesses for selling CBD-infused products. They also issued 21 criminal indictments on business owners. But pump the brakes, people. It turns out that, yes, such products are actually legal in Tennessee. The good news is that this week a judge allowed the businesses to reopen. The bad news is that authorities acted so ham-handedly without knowing the actual laws. That’ll do for this week’s Cannabis News Nuggets. You know the deal, we’ll be back next week and we hope to see you then.
This week was full of good cannabis news headlines, including record-breaking receipt totals in Colorado and Pennsylvania MMJ patients finally gaining access to medicine. Some weeks, unfortunately, not all the cannabis news we share with you is positive. But this week was something special. It was jam-packed with good vibes, and as usual, we’re happy to share some of the more notable cannabis news headlines with you. Berkeley, California becomes a marijuana “sanctuary city” On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council passed a new resolution making the town a “sanctuary city” when it comes to marijuana. What does this mean? Here’s verbiage from the document itself: “No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City of Berkeley shall use any City funds to assist in the enforcement of Federal drug laws related to cannabis.” Simply put, if federal agents want to raid any legal cannabis entity in Berkeley, they’ll have to do it without any local help. " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Colorado 2017 legal marijuana sales pass the $1.5 billion mark At some point legal marijuana sales in Colorado have to plateau, right? Well 2017 wasn’t that year — if it exists. The Colorado Department of Revenue announced this week that the state hit a record $1.51 billion in cannabis sales last year, of which $1.09 billion were recreational and $416.52 million were of the medical variety. For reference, 2016 totals hit $1.3 billion in sales, and 2015 tallied a (by comparison) paltry $996 million overall. Alcohol more damaging than marijuana? No way! Consider us not shocked by these results. Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder released findings, that eventually made the rounds this week, that marijuana use does not negatively impact the size or functioning of white or gray matter in the brain. But do you know what does lead to “negative associations” in those areas? Yep, alcohol. Mr. Steves goes to Washington (D.C., that is) We don’t try to hide our love for Rick Steves, the greatest travel guide in the history of travel guides. This week, the Washington State native traveled to Washington D.C. to brief members of Congress and their staffs on why marijuana prohibition needs to end. Steves anchored his argument in civil liberties, but also discussed crime reduction and public revenue reallocation. First Pennsylvania MMJ dispensary opens We’re beyond happy that the first MMJ dispensary in Pennsylvania opened to patients this week. The first customers into the store were the mothers of children who suffer from seizures. The pair advocated for fair cannabis laws for years, and finally had the chance to purchase medicine from an actual dispensary. We hope many (many!) more will finally be able to join them. Alright friends, that does it for this installment of Cannabis News Nuggets. We’ll be back again next Friday with more.
As legalization spreads, marijuana consumer preferences are shifting. Two correlating trends are the growing popularity of vaporizers and a dip in flower demand. For decades, if you wanted to use cannabis — even in states where it was legal — you had few options but to roll a joint and smoke it. As California cannabis delivery service Eaze and other pot startups have discovered, however, easier and less messy delivery methods like vaping have not only transformed the usefulness and public perception of the drug, they have also helped the industry explode into the mainstream. %related-post-1% As Eaze explained in its “2017 State of Cannabis” report, these products are helping more and more longtime — and new — users discover how easy it can be to enjoy marijuana. “Products that are ready to use out of the box, easy to use, and portable, especially interest newcomers as these products result in a smooth and pleasant first-time introduction to marijuana,” the report says. “These ‘convenience’ products only require a match or lighter, a push of a button, or some appetite, and are perfect for many lifestyle activities, such as prerolls for a concert, or a vaporizer for yoga.” Similar to e-cigarettes, vape cartridges are the most popular of all the new convenience products. Because the products don’t actually burn any organic material, the New York Times notes, they are widely considered to be safer than smoking in the same way vaping nicotine is safer than smoking cigarettes. As recently as 2014, marijuana flower accounted for 85 percent of Eaze’s annual sales. The company saw sales of vape cartridges jump by 400 percent between 2015 and 2016, driving down flower to less than a third of its total sales and helping to boost the company’s overall sales by 300 percent in 2017. %related-post-2% Another cannabis start-up, Cura Cannabis Solutions, an Oregon company that specializes vape cartridges, has seen similar growth. In December 2016, the Times reports, the company’s sales were $2 million. One year later, they were raking in $7 million each month. According to the Times, this “increasingly sophisticated set of marijuana start-ups” argue that by “pushing the industry past smoke, they can make cannabis convenient and ubiquitous — the drug of the future, and the next great American bonanza.” With the industry estimated to hit $23 billion by 2021, it’s hard to disagree.
Interesting cannabis headlines keep coming at us at lightning speed, and the first full week of February 2018 was loaded with notable cannabis news. Every single day we keep our eyes on cannabis news headlines — then we pass some of the best nuggets on to you. Here are six from the past few days. Girl Scout entrepreneur under fire (you gotta be kidding us!) " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> It’s hard to think of a better munchie fix than a box of Girl Scout cookies. That reality — we’re sure you’ve heard by now — led to the most perfectly located Girl Scout sales spot imaginable . . . outside a San Diego dispensary. She, of course, sold out of her stock in no time. Cue the the hand-wringers and fun police. Did she break rules? Or not? *eye roll* Our question: Are people really worried about this? Our verdict: We love her style either way. Cannabis jobs are booming We all had a hunch that the number of legal cannabis jobs were booming. Earlier this week, that hunch was confirmed as new statistics were released by ZipRecruiter revealing that cannabis job postings increased by 445 percent in 2017. That’s incredible. Especially considering that the year prior job posts grew by just 18 percent. Cannabis delivery coming to Colorado? We're obviously big fans of cannabis delivery here at The Sugar Leaf, and we hope it’s a service that becomes as common as pizza delivery one day. And if a group of Colorado legislators have their way, it will be — in Colorado, anyway. News broke this week that Colorado legislators are, again, considering allowing cannabis delivery in the Centennial State. A bill was introduced last year, but it failed. We’ve got our fingers crossed they have more luck this time. Washington marijuana tracking still a problem It would be an understatement to say that the state of Washington has had problems with their marijuana tracking system. And last week, after a three month delay, the system launched yet again. Celebration time, right? Well, not so fast. According to some businesses this week, there have been abundant problems generating manifests and traceability has all but shut down at times. Authorities have said the problems will be resolved — and we hope, for the sake of cannabis businesses, they’re right. Portland gets its first “cannabis bodega” We’re in L-O-V-E with this idea. Jeffrey's Flower and Oil is a cannabis dispensary in Portland that is, as the Willamette Week puts it, “a one-stop for tinctures, drinks and munchies.” PTL, friends. PTL. What’s more, Jeffrey’s plans on offering picnic baskets full of great grub and cannabis items this summer. Talk about a yard party upgrade. Sign us up. Virginia one step from legalized medical marijuana oil We are heartened that that the Virginia House and Senate have unanimously approved a bill that would allow patients to access cannabis oil upon the recommendation of a physician. The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Ralph Northam, a doctor, who has already voiced support of medical marijuana. Hi-five, Virginia. Alright friends, be sure to come back next week for more cannabis news headlines.
We’re now to the second month of 2018, and if January was a harbinger of things to come, we are never going to run out of cannabis news to share this year. Is it possible to be surprised that we’re already to February while simultaneously feeling like January took foreverrrrrrrr to end? Whatever the sentiment, January delivered stacks of cannabis news headlines that have set the tone for the entire year. Here are a few from the week the calendar flipped to February. Willie Nelson’s cannabis line nabs $12 million to expand The Redheaded Stranger is cannabis royalty, and there is absolutely no doubt about that. He’s been a canna-advocate for decades, and a few years ago he launched his own line of cannabis products called Willie’s Reserve. This week, the Colorado group that markets Nelson’s line announced it had raised $12 million to expand beyond its current market, which is comprised of Colorado, Washington, Nevada and Oregon. *coughs into hand* “California” Here’s a Rolling Stone video from the initial launch of Willie’s Reserve: " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Canadian cops eat confiscated edibles and then one...climbs a tree? We already discussed this in our Weird Weed Headlines post earlier this week, but it’s definitely worth another mention. Two Toronto policemen who were supposed to be guarding products confiscated during a dispensary raid decided to, um, sample the goods. Afterwards the two got separated from one another, and things went awry from there. Long story short, one called for backup while hallucinating, and when help arrived, here’s what he saw: "He was up in a tree. Up there with the birds.” Literally and figuratively, we assume. San Francisco to expunge thousands of marijuana convictions From some funny news (above) to some seriously good news: Going back four decades, the San Francisco district attorney’s office is tossing out old misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession. Some 3,000 misdemeanor convictions will be thrown in the trash, while another 4,900 felony marijuana convictions will be evaluated to see if they can be downgraded. San Diego is making similar moves. Hi-fives, people! 6-year-old girl becomes first recipient of legal MMJ in Texas More good news here. MMJ has been a long time coming in the Lone Star State, and a Central Texas girl suffering from intractable epilepsy become the first patient in Texas to receive a legal medical marijuana delivery. There is only one dispensary in the state — tucked between San Antonio, Houston, and Austin — and though advocates were celebrating a single delivery, that one transaction represented the culmination of years of hard work. Super Bowl dispensary blitz coming Sunday is the big day for football fans everywhere, as the New England Patriots square off against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. And speaking of bowls, dispensary owners are anticipating a major rush on their inventories by fans who would rather enjoy cannabis with the game than beer. Tastes great, less hangovers. Another round of cannabis news in the books. We’ll be back again next week with more.
Federal law has rendered the nation’s booming legal marijuana industry a cash-only affair. Here’s why that’s terrible for everyone involved. Despite Americans’ unprecedented support for marijuana legalization — as well as the fact that 30 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing cannabis in some form — the drug remains illegal at the federal level. As we’ve discussed previously, this legal grey area has forced those in the marijuana industry to operate without traditional access to the banking industry. %related-post-1% The federally created Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) oversees financial institutions, and since marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, any banks that do businesses with marijuana companies could expose themselves to money-laundering or racketeering charges under the federal Controlled Substances Act. In 2014, the Obama Administration issued revised guidelines that gave some leeway to banks to legally provide financial services to state-licensed and law-abiding marijuana businesses, but virtually all banks kept their distance, still not confident that they could serve cannabusinesses without risking fines or prosecution. While the Senate recently approved legislation to protect banks against repercussions if they do business with marijuana businesses, a Republican-controlled committee voted against even talking about a similar amendment in the House. This lack of access to banking services means that virtually all marijuana business must be done in a cash-only fashion, which can be an enormous — not to mention dangerous — hassle for all involved. Here’s why: %related-post-2% Marijuana businesses are prime targets for violent criminals The more successful a marijuana business is, the more cash it’s likely to have laying around. Criminals know this, and have targeted employees who guard and/or transport large sums of money. In 2012, a pot shop owner was kidnapped, tortured, and left for dead in the Mojave Desert when his assailants incorrectly believed he had buried money in the desert. (He, as well as a female acquaintance who was also kidnapped, thankfully survived.) In 2014, a marijuana delivery driver was beaten with a gun and robbed in Lake Forest, California. The robber stole cash and weed. A year later, a security guard was forced to shoot and kill a burglar at a medical marijuana dispensary in Anaheim, California. In 2016, a 24-year-old former marine with a wife and three children was shot in the head and killed during his second week on the job as a pot store guard in Aurora, Colorado. The robbers fled without any cash. Just four days later, a 35-year-old guard at a San Bernardino, California medical marijuana dispensary was shot. He survived, but three armed robbers made off with a mountain of cash. (The case mirrored a 2015 shooting of another dispensary guard in San Bernardino who died from his wounds.) A couple of weeks before the Aurora incident, a dispensary owner in Walnut Park, California survived a gun battle with two would-be robbers. In November, another dispensary owner in Los Angeles survived after being shot twice by robbers outside his store. Unfortunately, these cases only scratch the surface. The longer dispensary owners and employees have to handle tons of cash, the longer we will likely continue to see similar incidents. %related-post-3% Buying cannabis can be needlessly complicated Not only are cannabis customers also putting themselves at risk when they visit dispensaries while carrying large amounts of cash, but products that have been introduced to help marijuana growers, retailers, and customers navigate the industry’s cash-only status only serve to add extra steps to what should be a much simpler buying and selling process. For example, PayQwick, the so-called “PayPal for pot,” issues customers a preloaded card that they can use to make purchases and collect rewards. According to the Orange County Register, the company charges a 2.75 percent transaction fee to cannabis businesses, who can also use the online payment platform to pay vendors, landlords, and employees. Similar to Groupon, Denver-based Greenito allows dispensaries and delivery services to offer “smokin’ deals” on various products. Customers then use their credit cards to pay for the products and a small “access fee” online, and then receive a certificate to redeem at the retailer. While innovative, neither of these options are simpler than, say, using your credit card or debit card to buy weed like you would anything else. Neither are the pot vending machines or delivery services that accept cryptocurrencies like bitcoin — currencies that are only used by a minute fraction of consumers. Until pot businesses can use banking services without fear of penalty, pot customers will continue to deal with the hassle and risk that comes with operating in a cash-only world. %related-post-4% Current regulations are a pain in the bud for some marijuana business owners Even if marijuana business owners and employees are never in any physical danger, they still face of barrage of hurdles brought on by the cash-only cannabis industry. Without a bank account, marijuana businesses can have trouble managing payroll, getting business loans, and obtaining mortgages or credit cards. And the cannabusinesses that do somehow to get bank accounts have to walk on pins and needles, afraid their accounts could be closed at any moment. Marijuana businesses have difficulty getting insurance, as well. Without access to a bank account, Mendocino County, California cannabis farmer Ashley Oldham started to keep her cash in a safe under her house. When wildfires ravaged the area last October, she lost both her home and her savings. As she told public radio station KALW in San Francisco, she can’t help but compare herself to her grape-growing neighbors in Mendocino who have access to federal crop insurance. “We should be treated 100 percent equally to grape farmers. And, we don't have crop insurance like they do,” she says. “If I was in a situation where I could've had crop insurance and my money in a bank, I wouldn't be hurting nearly as bad as I am right now.” Not only do marijuana businesses have to shell out high fees to keep up with regulatory requirements, they are also taxed through the roof. As we outlined recently, U.S. tax code blocks businesses that sell federally illegal substances from taking standard corporate income-tax deductions. As a result, marijuana companies can see their profits taxed anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent. %related-post-5% And when it comes time for marijuana business owners to pay their local, state, and federal taxes, they must count and deliver their payments in cash. Some of those payments are so large that the businesses have to hire armored cars or independent security firms to protect themselves. As CNBC notes, the amount of money coming into the IRS from the legal cannabis industry is so huge that the agency has ratcheted up its cash-counting capabilities in both Denver and Seattle. While Attorney Jeff Sessions recently reignited the legislative limbo between federal and state marijuana laws, you can bank on the fact that the cannabis industry can’t remain unbanked for much longer. Today’s $6.7 billion U.S. cannabis industry is projected to hit $21 billion just three years from now. That's a massive cash-only industry. Is the IRS going to want to continue counting all that cash? Don’t count on it.
The last full week of January 2018 featured plenty of captivating cannabis news — including Vermont becoming the newest recreationally legal state! Here’s a new rule for cannabis news watchers in 2018: Don’t blink. But if you did this past week, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the bigger ticket cannabis news items. Vermont goes recreationally legal The Green Mountain State, indeed! After nearly joining the recreational ranks in 2017, Vermont became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through their legislature on Monday when Gov. Phil Scott signed House Bill 511 into law. Beginning July 1, 2018 Vermont residents will be able to grow their own cannabis and possess small amount for personal use. " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Is marijuana flower power dwindling? Yes The New York Times ran a story on the front page of their business section Wednesday highlighting the decreasing consumer appeal of marijuana flower. Consumers have, especially over the past year, shown an increasing interest in other forms of cannabis products. A recent Eaze consumer study bolsters the NYT piece. According to Eaze, vaporizer products are cutting into flower popularity the most. Marijuana media attention is booming Gone are the days of relying on industry-specific media outlets for cannabis news and information. Nowadays, mainstream outlets are dedicating more type space to marijuana than ever before. Just this week, the Associated Press announced the formation of a dedicated marijuana editorial team comprised of seven reporters, two video journalists, and a photographer. Georgia makes encouraging MMJ dispensary moves It’s no secret that southeastern states haven’t been the most friendly to marijuana — recreational or medical. Georgia, however, looks to be taking steps in the right direction medically speaking, as an MMJ dispensary bill was approved Wednesday by a House review group. The bill, if signed into law, would allow for limited cannabis cultivation, and up to 10 medical dispensaries in the state. A cannabis-based anti-seizure medicine may come to market soon GW Pharmaceuticals released results this week from study conducted on seizure-suffering patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Participants were given a new drug with ingredients derived from cannabis — and the results were favorable. According to the lead author of the study, “For some, it (cannabis) does not do a whole lot. But for the people it does work in, it is priceless.” Allllllllllrighty then. We’re always happy to give you some cannabis news headlines that you can share at your next dinner party. Come back next week for more.
For some consumers, adult beverages and marijuana go together like peanut butter and jelly. But as legal weed grows, Big Beer is looking for ways to recoup its losses to cannabusiness. At first glance, the increased availability of legal marijuana appears to be doing quite a number on the beer business. Some of the nation’s biggest breweries have seen significant drops in sales as more and more Americans are, apparently, substituting pot for beer. %related-post-1% But while the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are seeing short-term dips, a growing number of big beer’s biggest movers and shakers are also eyeing longer-term opportunities to hop from hops and barley into the cannabusiness. As we reported previously, the country’s breweries, which have lost 10 percent of their market share to wine and hard liquor since 2006, have seen their profits plummet even more with the increased availability of legal marijuana. According to industry data, sales of Coors Light and Miller Lite were down 3.6 percent and 1.6 percent last year, respectively, through the third quarter from a year earlier. In October, Molson Coors, MillerCoors' Denver-based parent company, reported that its domestic beer sales had dropped by nearly three percent during the previous quarter. As a whole, light beer sales dropped by 14 percent between 2010 and 2016 — a drop that researchers say will only continue. "There's clear evidence that access to legal cannabis softens alcohol revenue," Vivien Azer, an analyst at equity research firm Cowen, told Crain’s. %related-post-2% Studies at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University show that alcoholic beverage sales fell 15 percent after medical marijuana became legal in several states, and a recent report from Cannabiz Consumer Group indicates that 27 percent of beer drinkers say they have already swapped cannabis for beer, or would do so if pot was made legal in their state. With legal marijuana becoming easier and easier to obtain across the nation, the nation’s breweries will have more and more difficulty trying to recoup sales. But instead of competing with the cannabusiness, more and more big names from world of big beer world are seizing big opportunities to invest in the cannabis space. Here are just a few examples: Heineken is test marketing a marijuana-infused craft beer brand in California. A former marketing chief for Budweiser has co-founded Toast, which markets pre-rolled joints. He has also joined the advisory board of San Francisco-based startup GreenRush Group, which aims to become the Amazon of weed. Most recently, Constellation Brands — the country’s third-largest beer company — acquired a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth, one of the biggest companies in the legal weed industry, to co-develop THC-infused beverages. And the investment isn’t likely to end there. According to Brett Cooper, an analyst at Consumer Edge Research in New York a lot of alcohol companies “are taking a serious look at the space.” Cooper told Crain’s that at a recent industry conference, "every single executive speech referenced the issue of marijuana's cannibalization of alcohol sales.” “It's not a fringe issue anymore,” he says.
Viceland Canada is going under? Bummer. The channel has aired some great shows, one of which is Weediquette. Here are some episodes you should watch. With the recent news that Viceland Canada will soon be pulled off Canadian cable television — the cord is slated to be yanked on March 31, 2018 — many fans of the channel’s programming have wondered where they’ll be able to view their beloved shows. %related-post-1% Fear not, dear Canadian viewers. Though Viceland Canada will soon be off air, company executives promise the full suite of the channel’s shows will continue to be accessed on Vice.com. It should come as no surprise that at The Sugar Leaf one of our go-to Viceland shows is Weediquette, the documentary series following Krishna Andavolu as he examines some of the industry’s most pressing topics, and explores them with some of its most interesting characters. So, in tribute to Viceland Canada, here are some of our most recommended Weediquette episodes from the past three seasons. Kings of Cannabis | Season 1, Episode 2 " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> Krishna heads to Colombia with Arjan Roskam, one of the world’s most influential marijuana breeders (he’s won 38 Cannabis Cups), as he searches for the country’s rarest marijuana strains. The F*@k It, I Quit Lady | Season 1, Episode 7 " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> In 2014, Alaskan news anchor, Charlo Greene, shocked viewers when she revealed that she was the owner of a dispensary, and that she was leaving television news to advocate for better marijuana legislation. She signed off, “F*@k it, I quit.” This episode follows her post-television advocacy efforts. Gridiron Ganja | Season 2, Episode 2 " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> It’s no secret that professional football — football at any level, really — is grueling on those who play the sport. As injuries to the head and body mount, their long term consequences are becoming ever more debated. And figuring more prominently in those debates: marijuana’s healing powers. Oil for Autism | Season 3, Episode 2 " frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> As autism rates increase, parents are becoming increasingly desperate to find cures for their children. How desperate? Many break federal laws to obtain cannabis products and administer them to their ailing kids. These four episodes are just a sampling of the Weediquette goodness. Now, let’s binge watch.
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% Marijuana 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.