Tag: cannabis

Cannabis Taking a Bite Out of Beer Sales

Personally, I have nothing against the alcohol industry, but I do get miffed sometimes to see alcohol celebrated in our culture while cannabis is still publicly shunned and suffers through stigmatization, even in states where it’s legal. From a public policy perspective, it is clear that cannabis is the safer choice for adults as the societal costs of alcohol are much greater and taxes remain extremely low, not remotely covering the public health and safety costs increased by imbibing. We are now getting data that cannabis is taking a bite out of beer sales, as reported by Marijuana Business Daily:

The volume of beer sold in Canada declined 3% in the first 11 months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, according to new data from provincial alcohol boards and brewers.

The figure underscores how recreational cannabis has captured some of the beer market – and validates concerns among Canadian brewers who long feared the impact of adult-use marijuana on their sales.

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In a note to investors, Cowen analyst Vivien Azer said the 3% drop in beer sales is far worse than the trends seen between 2014 and 2018, when beer sales volume declined an average 0.3% annually.

There are a lot of reasons why the cannabis community can be proud. We have put in a lot of work to end unnecessary arrests and build an industry from the ground up. We are creating jobs and revenue for our local communities and have helped decrease the use of more dangerous substances like alcohol and opioids.

We have started to see alcohol companies start making the transition to investing in the cannabis industry as they see the writing on the wall and the CEOs in charge will certainly follow the money. While these big companies may help mainstream cannabis and prove to be allies to implement much-needed federal reforms, let’s all do our best to support craft cannabis boutiques that have been on the right side of history for a long time.

 

Congress Holds More Cannabis Bill Hearings

While federal reforms are taking entirely too long, it is still newsworthy and important that the United States Congress is holding hearings on important legislation. Each step at the federal level brings us closer to real change and today marked another important milestone for the cannabis community and industry.

As usual, Marijuana Moment was on top of another historic cannabis hearing:

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held the meeting to discuss six cannabis reform proposals, including two that would federally legalize marijuana. Most of the hearing involved lawmakers pressing witnesses from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the obstacles to marijuana studies that those officials claim are needed before pursuing broader policy reform.

Conversation was more limited when it came to legalization bills such as Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler’s (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was approved by his panel last year. That said, formerly anti-reform Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) did lead a powerful discussion about the failures of prohibition and the need to deschedule cannabis.

Kennedy announced that panel leadership has agreed to hold a second hearing featuring the voices of people negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition, which he said “has failed.”

Portland Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer issued a press release praising the hearing:

Congressman Earl Blumenauer Applauds Energy and Commerce Committee for Holding Cannabis Policy Hearing

Washington, DC – Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, today released a statement applauding the Energy and Commerce Committee for holding its first cannabis related hearing.

“After years of working to advance cannabis reform in Congress, this critical hearing is an important milestone where another major congressional committee focused time and attention on our movement. I’m pleased Chairman Pallone and Health Subcommittee Chair Eshoo made this hearing a priority. It was important to hear a number of senior members of Congress affirming the change that is taking place at the state level and affirming the contradictions that are created by the federal government being out of step and out of touch.

The topics discussed today are all relevant to bringing our cannabis policy into the 21st century, including my bill to clear the barriers to cannabis research. The hearing also included our top priority, the MORE Act, legislation to decriminalize cannabis federally and address the consequences of the failed war on drugs. It’s past time for Congress to catch up to the American people. We need action, and today was an encouraging and important step forward in our blueprint for cannabis reform in this Congress”

Step by step, we are moving closer to legalizing banking access, reforming our tax code, and ending the failed war on the cannabis community. It is not only notable that important congressional hearings are being held, but also that we are swaying former prohibitionists like Joe Kennedy to get on the right side of history. While there is a lot more work to be done, it’s nice to see our elected officials starting to give cannabis law reform the attention and priority that it deserves.

Tell Children the Truth About Cannabis

When I found out that my parents lied to me about Santa Claus, my immediate thought was, “What else have they been lying to me about?” I had a similar reaction with cannabis because I had been taught by the local DARE program in school that I would immediately be addicted to heroin and other drugs. After realizing that I had been lied to about cannabis I wondered, “What other drugs did they lie to me about?”

While DARE officers may have inadvertently sparked my interest in drug policy reform, we are doing children, and our society, a great disservice by lying about cannabis. The fear mongering scare tactics that have been around since Reefer Madness days are just counterproductive and could push minors into using more addictive and deadly drugs after they realize that they have been lied to and the adults that shared those lies will lose credibility.

The Drug Policy Alliance on What You Should Really Tell Your Children About Marijuana:

When it comes to drug education, scare tactics and fearmongering are deeply counterproductive. The most infamous and commonly used drug education curriculum that relied on these approaches, D.A.R.E., has consistently been proven to be ineffective. Recent research about ideal forms of health education, including drug education, emphasizes the importance of skills-building as a fundamental approach.

DPA’s Safety First: Real Drug Education for Teens curriculum is the culmination of almost 20 years of work in youth drug issues by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The Safety First curriculum empowers ninth and tenth grade students to make healthier decisions about alcohol and other drugs. It gives them personal and social strategies to manage the risks, benefits, and harms of alcohol and other drug use, as well as information about the impact of drug policies on their own health and the health of their communities. Most importantly, it spends a good deal of time building the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate information about alcohol and other drugs. Safety First teaches young people to look at information critically and come to their own conclusions based on research. The aim is to give young people the tools to analyze sources such as Berenson’s book, and discover his inaccuracies and exaggerations on their own.

Personally, I believe that government agencies and nonprofits working to keep drugs out of the hands of children should bring in people from the cannabis community and industry to assist in messaging. Those of us that fight for legalization and have studied cannabis policy for years have a vested interest in keeping (non-medical) cannabis out of the hands of minors as much as anyone. Tell kids the truth about brain development and how some things are best left for adults, but don’t endanger children’s lives and your credibility with debunked myths. The truth is the way.

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.

Happy New Year! Illinois Governor Pardons Over 11,000 People with Cannabis Convictions

One of the biggest developments in 2020 for the cannabis community will be the start of legal cannabis commerce in Illinois on New Year’s Day. Legalization in the Midwestern state will reverberate across America’s Heartland as neighboring states will see the Land of Lincoln usher in more freedom, jobs, and revenue and will want to follow suit. Even more important than the direct economic benefits of cannabis sales are the rights and freedoms that more people will enjoy as those saddled with old convictions will have the ability to expunge those past offenses off of their records. Thankfully, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker kicked off the New Year right by pardoning 11,017 people with minor cannabis offenses, as ABC 7 Chicago reported:

“Tomorrow when adult-use cannabis becomes legal, pay attention to the fact that we are beginning to accomplish four very important things: We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis. We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry.”

The Cannabis Regulations and Tax Act provides for ways to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses, with more than 700,000 records that will be eligible.

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Governor Pritzker acknowledged that marijuana convictions have disproportionately impacted black and brown people and stressed that this new industry emphasizes equality saying it will bring safe oversight and an end to a decades’ long war. Pritzker made the announcement at Trinity United Church of Christ Tuesday.

Hopefully, Governor Pritzker’s pardons will influence other governors to do the same across the nation. Too many people have had their lives disrupted or ruined by nonviolent cannabis offenses, hindering their ability to find jobs, get an education, or maintain custody of their children. It’s time to move forward with a sensible public policy that truly treats the cannabis community equally and fairly from sea to shining sea. Here’s to 2020 and let’s all resolve to continue the fight for freedom and liberty for all.

Legal Cannabis Retailers Doing a Great Job Preventing Sales to Minors

Reefer Madness fear mongering has been a staple of prohibitionists for decades, but the truth about cannabis has been debunking each myth one by one. The fear tactics originally started with outrageous claims, like folks turning deranged, that a basic understanding of the plant and those that utilize it revealed that the stories were nonsense. The denial of medicinal properties has melted away as a majority of states legalized medical use and predictions of highway carnage have proven to be false as well.

The fact that regulated cannabis would do a better job of preventing sales to minors than the illicit market would take some studying, and now, the results are coming in, and legal retail outlets are indeed checking identification and turning away underage would-be buyers. A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that cannabis retailers in Washington and Colorado, the first two states that legalized cannabis commerce to all adults, did a better job than alcohol establishments of denying purchases by those underage. Washington State retailers denied those under 21 86.6% of the time, while Colorado stopped minors 92.6% of the time. Marijuana Moment reported on the study:

The authors highlight that “refusal rates exceeded those for alcohol and are similar to those for tobacco.” In other words, the policies and regulations of the cannabis industry in Colorado and Washington could be used as potential models for other states looking to legalize recreational marijuana sales.

The findings are comparable to a sting operation conducted by Oregon regulators last year that showed a 100 percent compliance rate by licensed marijuana stores in not selling to underage individuals.

According to the new Colorado and Washington study, when it comes to cannabis, “regulators in both states worked with the industry, performed compliance checks, and penalized stores that failed.”

Those in the cannabis industry have a huge interest in ensuring that cannabis stays out of the hands of those under the age of 21 as minors’ brains are still developing and noncompliance with identification checks will lead to a backlash against legalization. Licensed and regulated cannabis retail outlets should be commended for their efforts in checking IDs and preventing sales to minors, helping prove, once again, that legalization is a better policy than prohibition.

Just Like Every Year, 2020 Will Be a Big Year for Cannabis

Since California passed Proposition 215, becoming the first state to legalize medical cannabis, back in 1996, virtually every single year has been a big year for the cannabis community, as we’ve continued to make progress dismantling Reefer Madness-inspired prohibition across the nation. Major election years tend to have the biggest developments and 2020 is certainly no different as we’ll be seeing numerous states consider important reforms either at the ballot box or through legislative actions. Of course, the federal elections will go a long way towards Uncle Sam’s cannabis policies in the coming years.

One of the most important ballot measures, particularly to those of us living in the Great Pacific Northwest is a medical proposal currently gathering the 50,000+ needed valid signatures in Idaho, the last bastion of complete prohibition in the area. Full disclosure–I helped draft early versions of the initiative, and am extremely proud of the dedicated, hardworking advocates that are currently traveling the state urging folks to sign the petition. With conservative Utah passing medical cannabis in 2018, there is optimism that Idahoans will join the medical cannabis majority, as support for medicinal use as strong majority support across demographics.

Tom Angell reported on Idaho, and 15 other states with potential 2020 reform measures for Forbes, here’s what he had to say about the Gem State:

Idaho is one of only a handful of states in the U.S. that doesn’t even allow patients to access CBD medications with low-THC content. That could change, however, under a proposed medical marijuana ballot measure for which activists are currently collecting signatures.

The Idaho Cannabis Coalition’s proposal would let approved patients and their caregivers possess up to four ounces of marijuana. A system of licensed and regulated growers, processors, testers and retail dispensaries would be established.

Patients would not be allowed to grow their own medicine unless they qualify for a hardship exemption for those who have have a physical, financial or distance difficulty in acquiring marijuana at a dispensary. Those patients could grow up to six plants.

It will be great to see Idaho and other states move forward with positive reforms as there are still too many people getting arrested and patients in need across the United States. In addition to people’s freedom and wellbeing being harmfully disrupted, federal business regulations, particularly tax and banking policies that are hurting small businesses, will only be addressed with a groundswell of support as we increase our political power state by state. So long as we keep working hard and spreading the truth about cannabis, 2020 will be another banner year for our community.