Month: January 2021

Idaho Cannabis Community Needs to Rise Up to Stop Constitutional Ban

Now, it’s getting serious. What seemed like a desperate ploy from a bygone era, a constitutional amendment to prohibit cannabis legalization in Idaho is gaining legislative steam. Republican State Senator C. Scott Grow’s Reefer Madness-inspired bill passed out of Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee on a party line vote and will now go before the full committee. If passed by the House and Idaho voters, all psychoactive drugs would forever be illegal in the Gem State unless approved by the FDA. To signify how ridiculous this constitutional amendment is, even if the federal government repealed federal prohibition by removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances, cannabis would still remain constitutionally prohibited in Idaho.

While proponents like Senator Grow spouted debunked lies like cannabis legalization leading to crime, opponents wisely pushed back with science and common sense, as ABC News reported:

Those opposed said medical marijuana is needed for Idaho residents suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses. Dan Zuckerman, medical director of St. Luke’s Cancer Institute, said dealing with over a thousand cancer patients over more than a decade convinced him of the efficacy of medical marijuana in helping with pain and nausea.

“I’ve seen it myself with my own eyes,” he said. “The data is clear that patients benefit from this.”

Sen. Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, also noted that the amendment would prohibit doctors from providing terminally ill patients access to experimental or investigational drugs that are normally illegal but can still be prescribed in certain circumstances when other treatments have failed.

While a constitutional ban on cannabis will keep Idahoans coming to Oregon (the road trip to Pendleton to visit Kind Leaf IS worth the trek), helping create jobs and generate revenue for the Beaver State, this proposed constitutional ban is just wrong and sets a dangerous precedent for other states to follow. If Senator Grow gets his way, then other Reefer Madness prohibitionists will consider similar constitutional bans in other states, leading to more unnecessary arrests and the continuation of a domestic war that has already harmed too many nonviolent Americans.

Power to the People: Before Gamestop, there Was the Cannabis Stock Tilray

If you are on the internet, you have probably heard about Gamestop and the billion dollar financial losses that some hedge funds are in line to suffer because they bet on the gaming retailers stock to plunge, a practice known as short selling. A short squeeze has occurred because folks in a Reddit forum got wind of the intentions of these billion dollar hedge funds and encouraged folks to buy up Gamestop stock, ruining the bet of those that gambled on the company losing value. I’m no financial markets expert, and must of what I knew about short selling is from watching the movie The Big Short about the housing market collapse. The situation is pretty confusing for lay people like myself, so I started educating myself.

One of the things that I learned is that the Canadian cannabis company Tilray experienced a similar short squeeze situation, albeit on a smaller scale, as CNBC reported:

The trading frenzy in shares of GameStop and now AMC Entertainment looks familiar to Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy.

Back in 2018, shortly after it went public, the Canadian pot producer’s stock was ensnared in a wild short squeeze and rose about 1,400% between July and September of that year on an intraday basis.

“I’ve had a little bit of PTSD over the last couple of days,” Kennedy said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “I remember getting five different calls from Nasdaq in a single day about our stock being halted because the short sellers were being squeezed so badly.”

As noted by CNBC, Tilray’s stock rose from about $20 to $300 and hedge fund short sellers lost about $600 million. With billions of dollars at stake on the Gamestop short squeeze saga, the Wall Street empire has struck back against the Reddit rebels and Robinhood and other stock trading apps have temporarily frozen the ability to trade Gamestop stocks. Robinhood has since been hit with a class action lawsuit. Wall Street watchers, grab your popcorn.

With cannabis likely being legal in a few years, Tilray’s CEO is on the record expecting federal legalization within two years while I’m not quite as optimistic, the cannabis industry will only get bigger. As more cannabis stocks are traded, more will likely be put in positions like Gamestop or Tilray was in, unless regulations are put into place to curtail short selling. If you’re gonna invest in cannabis or any other stocks, you’ll want to do your due diligence as it is always buyer beware. In the meantime be sure to support locally owned businesses like Pendleton’s Kind Leaf as the money spent there helps the local economy, not foreign corporations or billion dollar hedge fund operators.

Step by Step Towards Legalization, Congress Should Pass SAFE Banking Act

Yes, it’s way past time that cannabis be legalized. Science and common sense as swept Reefer Madness into the dustbin of history. A supermajority of Americans support ending prohibition and view legalization as inevitable. Vice President Kamala Harris co-sponsored the MORE Act last year. And the new Senate Democratic Majority is on the record supporting the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and just included cannabis reform as a part of his racial and economic justice policy platform. Momentum is clearly behind the cannabis community and there has never been a better time for federal drug policy reformers.

However, political momentum is about to crash into political reality once again. There’s a saying in baseball that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. The baseball cliche means that a team can be on a great winning streak, but a fantastic game by the opposing team’s pitcher or a bad game by their own pitcher, can cause them to lose the next game. Previously, Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate was an immovable object that could stifle both legislation introduced in the Senate, even if supported by fellow Republicans, and reforms passed by the House. Now, McConnell is in the minority, but the filibuster, the hotly debated Senate rule that allows any senator to force legislation to need 60 votes to pass, instead of a simple majority. With a 50-50 Senate, it seems likely that full legalization, whether it’s the STATES Act or the MORE Act will be filibustered and have a difficult time garnering 60 votes.

Where should cannabis reformers look to continue the momentum over the next two years? The SAFE Banking Act. Allowing state-regulated cannabis businesses to utilize banking services will be huge for the industry, especially for craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. Small businesses and mom and pops are at a huge disadvantage compared to multinational corporations without arbitrary banking regulations and fees, let alone being prohibited from banking and loans with most financial institutions.

Forbes, reporting on potential cannabis reforms over the next two years:

In addition to the STATES and MORE Acts, another notable pro-cannabis measure that has been languishing in the Senate since its passage in the House of Representatives has been the SAFE Banking Act, which allows banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis companies without fear of prosecution. This is a critical piece of legislation, which if passed, would be a watershed as many cannabis businesses are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises because of the federal illegality.

Fighting for legalization can be maddening at times, when it is so obvious that the war on cannabis is a terrible failure, but we must be realistic and not be discouraged to continue what has worked for us thus far: positive change step by step. Oregon first decriminalized in 1973, California passed medical in 1996, and then Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012. Success begets success. Passing the SAFE Banking Act will help out cannabis businesses and improve public safety and it will be a prudent next step to build upon as we march towards true freedom and equality for the cannabis community.

Senate Majority Leader Says Cannabis Reform is a Top Priority

When New York Senator Chuck Schumer, then Senate Minority Leader, started touting cannabis legalization by introducing a descheduling bill on 4/20 back in 2018, it could simultaneously be seen as a great step forward for the cannabis community and a political ploy to gain votes. It can be easy for members of the minority party to tout popular policies to earn votes, it’s another thing to actually fight for those policies when you are in the majority and have the power to bring legislation to the floor. Now that Sen. Schumer is officially majority leader, it’s time for him to put up and on us to force him to follow through with his promise. While you can’t take anything for granted in politics, it’s a good sign that the Senate Majority Leader mentioned cannabis when discussing his top priorities on the Rachel Maddow Show.

Marijuana Moment reported:

In his first public comments on cannabis policy since Democrats reclaimed the majority and put him in the top leadership position, Schumer said federal marijuana reform will be part of a racial justice agenda that lawmakers will pursue in the 117th Congress. It’s a signal to advocates that the senator’s pre-election commitments to advancing legalization were not simply political bluster.

Schumer said that when it comes to marijuana reform, the issue intersects with both racial and economic justice.

“A young man is arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. He has a criminal record the rest of his life, can’t become a productive citizen—this one won’t hire him, that won’t hire him. Change that,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “There’s lots to do, and we have to succeed.”

Removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances, as Sen. Schumer has introduced in the past, is the best path forward for the cannabis community and industry, much better than rescheduling. Congress obviously has a lot of important issues to tackle as our nation tries to emerge from the consequences of a raging pandemic, but ending cannabis prohibition should be a priority as it intersects a lot of issues. As Schumer noted to Rachel Maddow, the war on cannabis harms both racial and economic equality. Ending arrests and imprisonments while also generating jobs and revenue is a serious win-win-win for the United States of America. It’s time for our elected officials to catch up with the will of the people.

Idaho Senator Doubles Down on Reefer Madness Nonsense

While the rest of the nation is following both science and the will of the voters, America’s last prohibition state is doubling down on the Reefer Madness delusion that cannabis is a scourge that can only be eradicated by arresting and jailing people for utilizing a substance that is much less addictive and harmful than alcohol. While a supermajority of folks now understand that cannabis prohibition should be swept into the dustbin of history as alcohol prohibition once was, Idaho State Senator C. Scott Grow, is calling for a constitutional amendment to forever ban cannabis and other “psychoactive drugs” from being legalized within the borders of the Gem State.

My friend and activist colleague, Russ Belville, an Idaho native working on ending cannabis prohibition in the state, provided his take:

Idaho is the last state in America with absolute marijuana prohibition. Not only are adult-use and medical marijuana illegal here, even the low-THC CBD oil that was legalized federally under the 2018 Farm Bill is still illegal in Idaho. It’s so absurd that Idaho State Police declared a 6,700lb load of industrial hemp being trucked through the state was “the biggest drug bust in state history.

This amendment is just the latest anti-marijuana salvo from prohibitionist state legislators who are out-of-touch with their constituents on the issue of marijuana.

And as the Idaho Statesman noted, Idaho’s Reefer Madness policies don’t prevent Idahoans from using cannabis, it merely increases the coffers of the great state of Oregon, as Idaho’s cannabis community just makes purchases across the border:

Idaho — which does not allow medical marijuana — is now surrounded by border states that have legalized the drug in some capacity, with the exception of Wyoming. Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Montana have legalized recreational pot, while Utah allows medical marijuana. A total of 36 states have approved medical marijuana use, while 15 have allowed recreational use.

Banning pot hasn’t stopped Idaho residents from buying it. An economic analysis released by Oregon last year showed marijuana sales along the Idaho border were up 420% the statewide average.

Idahoans, contact your legislators and urge them to oppose this constitutional amendment. Regardless of one’s political position, they should be extremely wary about tinkering with the constitution to prohibit the rights of people. Opinions, statutory code, and scientific knowledge changes over time. If this constitutional ban does make this ballot, I imagine that the ironically named C. Scott Grow will rue the day.

The ballot box is where cannabis policy reform thrives. While reforms are tough to pass in legislatures, places where big money interests have too much power, cannabis measures do great when put before the people. Placing cannabis at the ballot box is coming onto our home turf. Our record winning elections is better than the best sports dynasties, probably only eclipsed by the Harlem Globetrotters. With positive cannabis passing in conservative states like South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, I like cannabis’ chances.

Idaho residents thinking of traveling to Oregon should venture into beautiful Pendleton for a great road trip getaway. Don’t just settle for any Oregon dispensary. Come to Kind Leaf, Eastern Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique, and enjoy the best selection in the state, if not the entire Great Northwest. Order online via Leafly to save time, or come on in and marvel at what the future holds, regardless of the futile attempts of Reefer Madness prohibitionists like Senator Grow.

Florida Republican Files First Federal Cannabis Bill of 2021

It’s the dawn of a new day in Washington, DC, and the cannabis community has a reason to be optimistic about making progress towards ending federal prohibition. Fresh off of the momentum of passing the historic MORE Act last year, there is hope that the US House will not only pass another legalization bill, but will actually improve upon the MORE Act, which contained some restrictive language on licensing. The very first cannabis reform bill of the 2021 legislative session is by Representative Greg Steube (R-FL), an identical bill to one he sponsored last year. Steube’s proposal would move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Marijuana Moment got a sneak peak at the bill. While Rep. Steube’s bill won’t end federal prohibition it would still have several positive effects:

It would, for example, protect federal employees who use marijuana from a Reagan-era executive order that defines illegal drugs as Schedule I or II substances.

And only drugs under Schedules I and II are affected by the tax provision known as “280E” that blocks cannabis companies from deducting businesses expenses from their taxes.

Reclassification would also make scientific research easier, since cannabis’s current Schedule I status creates additional hurdles for studies.

Ending the 280E IRS code that arbitrarily and unfairly taxes state licensed cannabis companies at 70% or, would be huge for the industry, especially for the small craft boutiques like Kind Leaf, that are working hard to survive the competition from multinational corporations. Coupled with a provision that normalizes banking services for cannabis companies, Rep. Steube’s bill would be a huge step forward. As Marijuana Moment notes, removing cannabis from the CSA’s schedule is preferred and there could be regulatory concerns about rescheduling, so other bills are certainly better, this proposal is a great step in the right direction, even though rescheduling isn’t the right policy change. Just to reiterate and make crystal clear: Schedule III for cannabis is not a good idea and this bill should not pass as-is, but it’s benefits, such as repealing 280e and removing restrictions regarding scientific research should be enacted.

Our political system isn’t fixed by one election and we can’t be complacent. Let’s continue to work hard to ensure that more and more elected officials represent the will of the people on cannabis, criminal justice reform, and drug policy in the years to come.

The Oregon Liquor and CANNABIS Commission is Long Overdue for the OLCC

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has overseen the nascent Oregon cannabis industry since Measure 91 went into effect in 2015. Since then, the OLCC has been the chief regulator over an industry that went from the underground into a licensed and regulated billion dollar business sector. With federal legalization getting closer and closer, the future looks bright Oregon’s cannabis industry to bring in even more revenue, but some sensible reforms are needed at both the state and national levels to fully unleash the economic benefits of cannabis, starting with helping craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf thrive.

Adding “cannabis” to the OLCC’s name, may not seem like much, but it’s an important symbolic step in mainstreaming cannabis and implementing common sense regulations. That said, it’s important that the OLCC not regulate Oregon Medical Marijuana Program as the needs of OMMP patients and providers are distinct from those of consumers and for-profit businesses.

The Willamette Week reported on Governor Kate Brown’s House Bill 2111 would replace the word “control” with “cannabis,” renaming the regulating agency the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission:

With Oregon retailers on a pace to sell $1 billion worth of recreational cannabis in the 2020-21 fiscal year, Gov. Kate Brown is asking lawmakers to change the name of the venerable Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which has worn the same label since its formation in 1933, after Prohibition ended.

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But following voter approval in 2014 of recreational cannabis, the OLCC took on a vast new responsibility, regulating legal weed. (To put the two industries into perspective, the OLCC expects to sell about $777 million worth of distilled spirits in the next fiscal year. That’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to cannabis, because it doesn’t include the retail markup on booze, but it shows that cannabis has quickly become a significant industry for the state to regulate.)

Unlike liquor, where established multinational and domestic distillers produce versions of the same booze Oregonians have drunk for decades, cannabis is a rapidly emerging and evolving industry. The state plays a much different role with cannabis: It is not a seller. Instead, the Oregon Department of Revenue collects a tax of 17% at the retail level, while the OLCC provides regulation. It is involved in helping the industry maximize safety without stifling growth and innovation.

With cannabis moving on par with alcohol, in the great state of Oregon and slowly but surely across the USA, the OLCC, legislators, and policymakers need to stop being afraid of federal intervention and start maximizing the industry, while protecting the needs of patients and growers. Oregon needs to move forward with expanding delivery services, allowing cannabis cafes (after the COVID pandemic ends), ending restrictions designed to curb the cannabis supply, and promote the state as a cannabis tourist destination, the same way that our local wineries, microbreweries, and distilleries are celebrated. Changing the name of the OLCC is a start, let’s continue, step by step, to treat cannabis as it should be, as a relatively safe substance. Let’s fully put Reefer Madness behind us and start using some cannabis common sense (hat tip to activist Paul Stanford and his crew) across the board.

Ultimate Fighting Championship Ends Punishment for Positive Cannabis Tests

Step by step, we are seeing cannabis use properly move mainstream and the sports world is no different. Fresh off the heels of the NBA announcing that it will not be drug testing basketball players for cannabis this year, a move expected to become permanent, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has ended its policy of punishing fighters for testing positive for cannabis. Ridiculously, cannabis has been treated the same as steroids or other illegal performance enhancing drugs, with fighters losing fights, pay, sponsorships, and bonuses.

I imagine that fan favorites, and known cannabis connoisseurs Nick and Nate Diaz, smiled when they heard the news, knowing that they were ahead of their time. Pat Healy, who lost at least $130,000 in fight bonuses due to a positive test back in 2013, should get his lost wages, as should every other previously sanctioned fighter, in my personal opinion. The Associated Press reported on the UFC’s landmark testing policy shift on cannabinoids derived naturally from marijuana are no longer prohibited substances, according to Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s senior vice president of athlete health and performance:

The UFC won’t allow fighters to compete while under the influence of cannabinoids, but Novitzky said the promotion recognizes that MMA fighters often use marijuana for pain management or relaxation. Fighters advocating for legal competitive marijuana use have previously argued that a loosening of the UFC’s anti-marijuana rules could lead to a reduction in the use of antidepressants or more addictive pain medications.

The UFC partnered with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2015 to produce a comprehensive anti-doping program in a notoriously fractious sport. Mixed martial arts once frequently showcased fighters semi-openly using steroids and testosterone replacement therapy, among other performance enhancements.

“The goal of the UFC anti-doping program is to protect the rights of clean athletes by deterring intentional cheaters and holding those who choose to dope accountable in a fair and effective way,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “These amended rules are aimed at this, and to continue our focus on preventing intentional cheating and not to unnecessarily punish athletes for behavior that does not impact the fairness or safety of competition.”

As our nation grapples with so many other health issues, one of the most least addictive and dangerous drugs should not be prohibited, pushing athletes and ordinary folks to use more deadly substances, such as alcohol and opiates. Slowly but surely, it is good to see that science and common sense are winning the day. When it comes to legalization versus prohibition, legalization wins in a knockout.

Amsterdam May Ban Cannabis Tourism, Oregon Should Step Up

I have been so fortunate to travel to Amsterdam a few times and the great city has never disappointed. The Van Gogh museum, the 120-acre Vondelpark, walking around the Jordaan neighborhood to check out the many houseboats on the canals that wind through the city, are must-see attractions along with historical sites like the Anne Frank House and the Old Church, built in 1306. The city is amazingly clean, public transportation is easy to use, the food is great, and I found the locals to be extremely friendly. And yes, of course, the city is known for its cannabis coffeeshops, making Amsterdam a cannabis tourist destination soon after Mellow Yellow was opened by Wernard Bruinin back in 1972. Cannabis tourism will take a serious hit if Mayor Femke Halsema has her way.

In a letter to Amsterdam’s City Council, Mayor Halsema proposed her intention to enforce Netherland’s ban on foreign tourists purchasing cannabis at the city’s famed coffeeshops. DutchNews reported:

In recent months, calls have increased from politicians, businesses, tourist bodies and residents of the Dutch capital to enforce a national law which means only residents can buy from the coffeeshops. It was never enforced in Amsterdam because of concerns that it would drive the trade on to the street.

‘We are absolutely not heading for a cannabis-free Amsterdam because coffeeshops belong to the city,’ Halsema said, according to the Parool. ‘But there is a huge desire to change the tourism. Our freedom should not be a license for large groups of young people to throw up in the canals because they have smoked and drunk too much.’

The mayor also intends to limit the number of coffeeshops in any chain and regulate the supply with a new ‘quality mark’. Although coffeeshops fall under the mayor’s responsibilities, the new proposal will be discussed by Amsterdam council to draw up definitive plans, and there will also be a transition period before any ruling is enforced.

While I certainly defer to the judgment of those living in Amsterdam, I imagine that such a ban on cannabis tourism will be a huge mistake for a number of reasons. First of all, the economy will suffer and second of all, this move won’t end cannabis sales to foreigners, it will just push cannabis sales to tourists underground, unnecessarily turning more people into criminals.

While Amsterdam’s ban on cannatourism will have negative consequences for the international tourist destination, it could open up opportunities for other cities and states, and Oregon should be chomping at the bit (when we can get back to freely traveling and congregating in crowds again, of course). During the COVID pandemic, the cannabis industry has been one of the few bright spots in Oregon and the state should be looking at ways to fully unleash the power of the cannabis community.

It will take a long time for the state to recovery from the pandemic as well as last summer’s wildfires. Unfortunately, fires are likely to be a recurring occurrence, so the state needs to do what it can to maximize its business sectors. Just as Oregon has embraced the local wine and microbrewery industries, it needs to do the same with cannabis.

With a supermajority of Americans now embracing legalization and federal reforms coming soon, Oregon officials need to be bold on a variety of fronts to help the remaining local craft cannabis businesses thrive, and legalizing cannabis cafes and promoting the industry are starting points. Federal legalization is coming relatively soon, (probably not soon enough, but soon) and Oregon should be at the forefront of the industry. However, if the state doesn’t start helping mom and pops and small businesses, there won’t be many Oregonian-owned cannabis businesses prospering. I’ll continue detailing other needed reforms, but step by step, Oregon needs to capitalize on cannabis before it’s too late.

After the Shakeout in Washington, D.C., How Likely Is Cannabis Legalization?

Well, our nation has had a very eventful 2021 thus far, huh? With federal elections finally decided, and a new president set to take office on January 20th, there is one burning question that the cannabis community wants answered: Will cannabis be legalized in the next two years? This is pure speculation on my part, but I would put the chances that federal cannabis legalization is signed into law within the next two years at about 33%, up to a coin flip at best. I do think that we have good odds of seeing much-needed reforms, such as opening up all banking services to state-legal cannabis laws and fixing the 280e IRS tax code that arbitrarily taxes regulated cannabis businesses at an exorbitant rate.

After the United States House passed the historic Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act late last year, most cannabis law reform advocates celebrated the victory as a great step in the right direction, but noted that passage in the Senate was unlikely with Republican Mitch McConnell in charge. After the Georgia special elections in favor of Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Democrat Chuck Schumer will soon be the Senate Majority Leader, and Schumer has pledged to make cannabis legalization a priority. Now, we know that we can’t always expect politicians to follow through on their promises, so it’ll be imperative that we continue to pressure our representatives and let them know that they need to do the right thing and follow the will of the voters, by ending federal cannabis prohibition.

While cannabis legalization should be a no-brainer with strong majority support from voters across the nation, the Senate filibuster rule that can force most bills to need 60 votes to pass will stand as a huge obstacle to passing. The 60 votes could be overcome with some compromises and political horse trading, but Democratic leadership will need to really fight for legalization, and my hunch is that our elected officials will be busy with other issues regarding our health and economy, to place too much political capital in pushing through a legalization bill.

The cannabis community should be emboldened by our political position and strength and work hard to celebrate some major victories around banking, taxes, and other issues that will benefit us, and the nation at large. If we want local craft cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf to fully thrive, we need common sense reforms to pass. Success then begets success, and step by step, we’ll see legalization bills get closer and closer to passage, and if all things go right, we can see federal legalization pass in the near future. I hope that I’m too pessimistic about passage within the next two years, but I’m certainly optimistic about continuing to make good progress, step by step.