Month: January 2020

South Dakota to Vote on Cannabis Legalization This Year

Since 1996, presidential election years have been big years for cannabis law reform measures on the ballot and 2020 is shaping up to be another monumental one for the cannabis community. A somewhat unlikely state may just make the leap to full legalization as advocates in South Dakota have put in the hard work of gathering signatures to qualify an amendment for the November ballot. Each state that passes a medical or recreational measure brings us one step closer to ending prohibition federally, and bonus points go to activists that have success in conservative locales like the Mount Rushmore State. Marijuana Moment reported:

The proposed constitutional amendment, which was submitted by a former federal prosecutor in September, would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Individuals would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

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Under the broader recreational legalization proposal, the South Dakota Department of Revenue would be responsible for issuing licenses for manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. And sales on cannabis products would be taxed at 15 percent, with revenue earmarked to cover the program’s implementation, public education and the state general fund.

Additionally, the measure requires the legislature to pass bills providing access to medical cannabis for patients and allowing for the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. If the separate medical marijuana legalization initiative is approved, however, that specific provision wouldn’t be necessary.

Gathering thousands of signatures is no easy task, especially during the winter, so my gratitude goes out to everyone that braves the elements to help legalize freedom, jobs, and revenue around our great nation, especially in states that aren’t your typical hotbed of support. However, the times are a-changin’ with medical provisions passing in places like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Utah as these victories give me hope that sensible cannabis policies will soon be the law of the land in red states like South Dakota and Idaho. State by state, freedom is on the march, bringing the cannabis community closer and closer to equality from coast to coast.

It’s Time for Cannabis Careers to Get the Respect that They Deserve

The media loves loves love reporting on the big sales and tax revenue numbers that legal cannabis businesses generate. They don’t do as good of a job demonstrating the full economic benefit that regulated cannabis commerce has brought to states across the nation, and outlets often can’t resist having some time of punny headline about “Smoking Sales Expectations” or “The Green Rush” and our society of large certainly doesn’t give the proper amount of respect to the cannabis community and the hardworking folks operating small businesses.

Most people have zero clue the amount of work that goes into making a living in the industry or that the lack of banking access and other regulatory headaches hinder the livelihood of workers throughout the industry, not just dispensaries, cultivators, and processors. Hopefully, that will change over time as people become more educated and cannabis moves more mainstream.

Writing for Green Entrepreneur, Grup Flor’s Gavin Kogan, makes some excellent points:

“Cannabis professional” not an oxymoron. There’s perhaps no other industry in modern history that is so multi-faceted, requiring some level of knowledge or expertise across so many different disciplines. After all, we are creating an entire industry from one end of the supply chain to the other, entirely from scratch. From the agricultural issues of cultivation to the engineering aspects of manufacturing to the legal and regulatory requirements surrounding local consumer shops, cannabis requires the business acumen so common in more traditional industries

According to ArcView Market Research, the cannabis industry will employ well over 400,000 people in the US by 2021. By conservative estimates, there are already 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States now, of which 64,000 were added just in 2018. As more states legalize cannabis, employment needs and opportunities will grow exponentially.

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As parents, educators and business owners, let’s legitimize cannabis as a serious career path for those eager to learn and join such a dynamic industry. It’s time to put the stigma of the product behind us and appreciate the impact cannabis is, and will, have on our economy.

Slowly but surely, we are debunking so many myths about cannabis and people that utilize the plant, but that slow progress can be so frustrating. I often wonder if those working in the beer, wine, and liquor industries suffered similar stigmatization after federal alcohol prohibition was repealed or if changing the law across the land helped legitimize their career paths.

Recently, I attended a hearing of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the agency that regulates both alcohol and cannabis in the Beaver State. It is easy to see that cannabis is still considered second fiddle to alcohol, even though cannabis generates more tax revenue than beer and wine for the state by far. I was envious of the respect that OLCC Commissioners gave representatives of liquor distributors and small wineries and left motivated to help ensure that the cannabis community and industry achieves the respect and recognition that we deserve. Step by step, we’re gonna get there.

Italy’s Supreme Court Gets It Right, Growing Your Own Cannabis Is Not a Crime

Cultivating quality cannabis is not a simple task. One of my personal pet peeves is when people claim that growing must be so easy, since it “grows like a weed.” While the plant can “grow like a weed” if you simply want to keep it alive, but if you desire top shelf, or even medium shelf, flowers, there is a lot that goes into the cultivation process, depending upon a plethora of factors, from genetics to the soil to whether you are cultivating indoors or outdoors. It can be done, of course, but it isn’t as easy as plopping up a cannabis plant somewhere with sunlight and just feeding it water.

However, regardless of the difficulty of cannabis cultivation, it is something that should be available to all adults, without any fear of criminal punishment. Personally, I believe that no legalization law is complete without home cultivation (I’m looking North up to you, Washington State) and am proud that Oregon allows adult households up to four plants without any medical license. Cultivating your own cannabis can be therapeutic for patients, a fun past time, or an inexpensive way to supply, or supplement, your usage.

While the exact specifics of the case and its implications aren’t available yet, the Italian Supreme Court recently ruled that growing your own personal cannabis garden is not a crime. The case appealed to Italy’s top court arose from the fact that a local man was sentenced to up to a year in prison for growing two plants for his own use. Wisely, the court determined that such actions do not warrant a harsh criminal punishment, as The New York Times reported:

Growing small amounts of marijuana at home for private use is not a crime, Italy’s top court has ruled, putting an end to a yearslong legal dispute and adding Italy to the short list of countries to allow cultivation of recreational cannabis.

A 1990s law prohibits the cultivation and sale of marijuana in Italy, but conflicting court decisions, and a 2016 amendment that opened a loophole in the law, created confusion over how it should be interpreted.

The country’s highest court appears to have settled at least part of the question, writing in a one-page statement of its findings that “at home, small-scale cultivation activities are to be considered excluded from the application of the penal code.”

Hopefully, the decision leads full legalization ultimately as legislators and policymakers should find the ruling untenable as people learn that cultivating a couple of cannabis plants is no longer a crime, but without certainty regarding plant or possession limits. Italy should take the next step and end cannabis prohibition, bringing more freedom, jobs and revenue to its people.

Just Say No to Higher Cannabis Taxes

Operating a licensed and regulated cannabis business is an extremely tough endeavor. After working towards drug policy reform for about 20 years before living in a state with legal cannabis commerce among all adults, I have received a crash course in the last four years about the ins and outs of running a cannabis business from clients, friends, and regulators. The truth of the matter is that profiting from legal cannabis sales is an extremely difficult task because of regulatory hurdles and tax burdens. The federal 280e tax code that prohibits cannabis entrepreneurs from deducting normal business expenses (rent, payroll, etc.) is the most damaging. High (I know, pun intended) taxes on cannabis are another serious barrier, making prices unaffordable for those with lower incomes, and encouraging people to shop on the illicit market.

California, already hurting businesses with a heavy tax burden, are raising taxes even further. The Golden States should reverse course, and other states should not follow suit, they should look to go in the opposite direction and keep taxes law to benefit local businesses and allow the regulated market to keep pace with the prices in the unregulated economy. The San Jose Spotlight reported on the tax hike:

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration “stunned and outraged” the business side of California’s cannabis market when it announced in November that taxes would go up in January, the California Cannabis Industry Association said in a statement.

The association said California adding more taxes, as the state’s nascent recreational cannabis market “spirals towards collapse” would “drive consumers to the illicit market at a time when illicit products are demonstrably putting people’s lives at risk.”

California collects a 15% excise tax from cannabis consumers and San Jose collects an additional 10%. Every transaction also includes a sales tax that is at least the 9.25% charged by the state on all consumer transactions and maybe more when cities and counties have their own sales taxes. Those rates will remain the same in 2020, but retailers will face a 12.5% bump in taxes and farmers will see an increase of more than 4%.

Like many consumers, the cannabis community is very price conscious. Further, cannabis consumers are comprised of many patients on limited incomes and with plenty of people that know how to acquire flower and other products through underground connections. Too heavy of a tax burden will disproportionately hurt sick and disabled patients and mom-and-pops, as the wealthy and multinational companies can easily handle price increases.

Keeping taxes low will better help everyday citizens and the small businesses that truly power and invest in our local communities and neighborhoods. California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis and I’m pleased that they helped show the way, but let’s not follow the state’s example on taxes, unfortunately, as the Golden State is going completely in the wrong direction.