Category Archives: News

Hawaii Lawmakers Reject Legal Marijuana

On Friday, a marijuana legalization bill failed in the Aloha State. The bill was introduced by J. Kalani English, a long time marijuana advocate. He has been attempting to pass recreational marijuana initiatives for fifteen years. This bill had looked promising since it made it further than all previous attempts. However, it was unable to gain approval from the two required committees. The Senate Health Committee essentially killed the bill by not scheduling a meeting.

The news is surprising considering Hawaii was part of the first group of states to pass laws for medical marijuana. Just four years after California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, Hawaii followed suit. There are several reasons for Hawaii’s slow path to legalization. Marijuana laws cannot be passed via ballot initiative like other states can. They must go through the more tedious legislative process. There has to be enormous pressure from the public before the lawmakers feel confident enough to contradict federal law. In addition, politicians from the state claim they don’t want to risk threatening the existing medical marijuana program. I wouldn’t buy this explanation since many states have had no issues after legalizing for recreational use. Yet, Senator Roz Baker and many others, believe the government will possibly enforce federal law if they move beyond medical use.

Recreational marijuana will not be happening this year, but how long can lawmakers delay the inevitable? It could be many more years based on the fact it took 15 years to set up a system for medical dispensaries in the state. Even though the legislation was passed in the year 2000, regulation came just a few years ago. It seems like they really like to scope out what is going on in other states before making a move. It’s a smart move to monitor the outcomes of legal marijuana before rolling out the perfect plan. At some point, they need to agree on a bill and get users the protection they deserve. The kinks can be worked out during and after implementation. Simply modeling other successful programs is a great place to start

Just imagine the level of tourism the islands would expect with a recreational market. People are much less likely to bring their cannabis with them since they can only come by plane or boat. Very few places currently have tropical climates along with cannabis stores. Also, ordinary tourists that are on vacation for the weather are likely to spend money on cannabis since it’s legal and available. From an economic point of view, it will definitely boost the Hawaiian economy. Growers have been taking advantage of its premium cultivation conditions for years and it would be great to see it openly available to the public.

San Francisco Expunging Cannabis Convictions

District attorney George Gascón claims that his office is in the process of expunging over 9,000 cannabis related convictions. The office is not working alone to get this accomplished. Code for America is a non-profit organization focused on using open source technology. Over the past year, they have been working together to identify eligible cases. Some of these eligible cases date as far back as 1975. Computer-based algorithms were used to locate cases that qualify. All of this started to come together with the passing of Proposition 64 in 2016. It was mentioned in the legalization bill that records could be expunged for crimes that are now legal.

Interestingly, San Francisco is the first city in the country to identify all eligible convictions. The proposition allowed for expungement for records, yet didn’t lay out a process. If the district attorney didn’t take this initiative, very few would ever see their records adjusted. This is because clients would have to hire their own attorney’s and pay court costs. Many of these people do not have the means to do that. The drug war disproportionately affects those of the lower economic class. It’s great to see someone high-ranking in law enforcement make the initiative to do the right thing. He definitely is going above and beyond his job description.

The software used by Code for America has been so successful that
Gascón is urging other state prosecutors to implement it. 10 states and the District of Columbia have implemented recreational marijuana laws. There is no reason why this technology isn’t being used to clear convictions across the country. If over 9,000 people can have their records expunged in one city, imagine how many others there are nationwide. Gascón understands the severe lifelong penalties that come with a criminal record. Nobody should be excluded from things like receiving a loan or owning a firearm for doing something that is now legal. When laws change, it should be up to the government to make things right. Citizens shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer and go through the lengthy process themselves.

Calvin Johnson Pre-approved for dispensary license

For us Lions fans, Calvin Johnson was always a shining light among a disappointing football franchise. He was consistently making big-time plays but never experienced any super bowl appearances with the Lions. I’m sure the team’s performance was a key reason why he decided to retire at the age of 30. It appears after his retirement in 2016, he has been working on entering the cannabis industry in his team’s home state. More specifically, he wants to operate in the town of Webberville. He submitted his application back in December. This was very early on, when the state had just started accepting them.

At first the state had denied his application. The reason for his denial was the presence of unpaid traffic tickets. This minor issue was quickly handled by Johnson, and now he is officially pre-approved to operate in the state. However, receiving a pre-approval is not the same thing as being licensed to operate. The state of Michigan receives the original application and licensing fees from potential businesses. After that, it is up to the local government to grant final approval to someone. So Johnson will have to wait until the local board from Webberville gives him the thumbs up to celebrate. Communities that do not want cannabis businesses operating in their jurisdiction can vote to ban them. Even towns and cities that allow them to operate, can still choose to approve or deny specific applications.

I’m sure Calvin Johnson is thrilled to hear about his pre-approval for a number of reasons. The barriers to entry for new businesses in the industry are extremely high. Especially for someone who does not currently own a medical marijuana facility. Applicants have to be applying for a specific location, so they must already own the property they are applying for. That is very risky because if denied, all the costs to obtain that property would have been for nothing. Applicants must also pay for thousands of dollars in licensing fees when they submit their information. Obviously, none of this is a problem for an athlete like Johnson. However it would stop many potential business owners.

Calvin Johnson is clearly looking to vertically integrate his medical cannabis operation. He didn’t just apply for a license to sell it. Instead, he applied for a license to cultivate, process, and sell it at the retail level. The state requires a separate license for each step in the process, leading many to focus on a specialized approach. He wants his business to be as self-sustainable and profitable as possible. He has a large amount of available investment money, so it only makes sense to grow and process your own supply. Growers with a high-quality product will definitely be charging a steep wholesale price in the beginning stages of legalization. Being pre-approved this early has Calvin in a great position to establish roots in the newly regulated industry.

Michigan Book Company offering weed gifts

When a state decides to legalize cannabis, there is always a waiting period before it can be sold. Michigan is currently going through that phase. For some people, they see this unique time as an opportunity to cash in. There is a large demand for an unavailable legal product. In addition, the law is also written to include marijuana gifts as a legal transaction. One bookstore in Michigan has decided to absorb the legal demand for marijuana through gifting. The idea is a customer can purchase books for a higher than normal price, and receive a free edible with their transaction. Michigan Blaze calls it a Brownie Edible Book Bundle.

The bundle appears to be advertised online on the companies website. This will no doubt drive all kinds of business their way. It may seem like a new intelligent idea, but it has been done before with a wide variety of products. Gray area businesses like these are popping up in every state that legalizes cannabis. It is a blatant way to try and skirt around the law and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Nobody is fooled by the fact that cheap books are being sold for abnormal prices that more than cover the costs of cannabis. Especially when it is openly advertised that anyone over 21 can only acquire weed gifts from your business. Short-term it will be great for profits, but long-term it could cost big time.

Another thing to take into consideration is that dispensaries will be operating sometime in 2020. Even if these types of businesses manage to avoid prosecution, they won’t be around long anyway. Legal dispensaries are going to absorb the customers that are buying unnecessary books for a buzz. Prices will be more reasonable because businesses will not need to throw in a book with their weed sale. For me, it makes more sense to run a book store that includes a smoking/reading area. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that could open for business tomorrow. Permits eventually will be available for public smoking areas though. If gray area businesses like Blaze Michigan can wait, it’s a great way to indirectly cash in on this thriving industry without the jail time.

Kentucky governer supports medical marijuana

Governor Matt Bevin was asked about his stance on cannabis this week. He was speaking at a community event and explained how personal the topic is for him. During his answer, he clearly stated that cannabis has medicinal benefits for many people. At one point he got very emotional and mentioned his young nephew who fought and died from cancer. Unfortunately, countless other people are going through a similar situation. Legally, they can only rely on dangerous pharmaceutical drugs. He realizes that, and claims he will support a well-written bill. It was stressed during his talk that the main goal shouldn’t be to raise tax money.

Kentucky is one of the few remaining states without an active medical marijuana program. The southern states are notorious for their history of harsh marijuana laws. Cannabis has a much more negative stigma among the general population. States like Kentucky are not known for being progressive with any of their laws. Conservatives hold control of the state government and the population of voters is also strongly republican. However, medical marijuana is one of the rare topics that both democrats and republicans can agree on. Now that more then half the country has legalized medical marijuana, they are finally taking steps in the right direction.

Also this past week, a medical marijuana bill was introduced by Senator Stephen West. A lot of the rules drafted in the bill are likely to change before it has the chance to pass into law. It is very early on in the process, but still very promising. The timing is perfect with the Governor making his pro-cannabis remarks. One thing to keep in mind is that Bevin is not a supporter of recreational marijuana use. My guess is that more then half the country will need to have legalized cannabis before Kentucky reconsiders. However, anything is better then their current laws.

Michigan may cut costs for patients

The regulatory authority in charge of the medical marijuana industry in Michigan is LARA (The department of licensing and regulatory affairs). Currently, they are proposing a new set of rules. According to Michigan.gov, cardholders can expect a 33% reduction in their state application fee. In addition, officials aim to eliminate various other processing charges. The goal of the new rules is to cut costs for patients. The administration drafted these changes shortly after expanding their available online services. Instead of increasing profits, they openly passed on the savings.

The state has been lacking when it comes to licensing businesses in a timely fashion. However, they have a solid system available to patients and caregivers. Online services mentioned earlier include : ability to submit application online, check status of application, renew or replace cards, remove caregivers, and withdrawal from the program. Hopefully it will incentivize more people to renew. It will be easy for many to simply let their card expire, now that weed is legal. Possesion limits remain the same unless you’re a caregiver. The patient-caregiver system is great, and I hope it continues to thrive. It promotes the small batch craft cannabis growers.

Proposed Rule Changes

All of the changes seem to benefit registered patients. The key changes include:

  • Changing the application fee from $60 to $40.
  • Eliminate $25 caregiver background check fee.
  • Eliminate $10 Change form fee(replace card fee).
  • Extends the renewal period from 60 days to 90 days.
  • Allows MMMP staff to contact patients/caregivers by e-mail to increase response speed.
  • Allow patients to change the person authorized to posses plants at any time.

Michigan passed medical marijuana in 2008, and dispensaries were not legally operating at the time. The regulatory system has been in place over 10 years. Each year they’ve improved and now it seems the state has mastered the administrative role. Hopefully in a few years we will say the same thing about commercial licensing. No one here is an expert at regulating this plant, so trial and error should be expected. Those getting into the industry right off the bat need to be ready for unexpected rules and procedures.

A public hearing will be scheduled next month and hear the communities opinion on the proposed changes. LARA will not make any of these changes before the hearing.

Canadians claiming Cannabis On Tax Returns

Many cannabis consumers are going to be shocked to realize their pot smoking might make them eligible for some cash back from the government. Canada legalized weed nationwide and it’s the second country in the world to do it. Even so, for them to return millions of tax dollars back to smokers sounds too good to be true. However, the Canada Revenue Agency considers cannabis to be a permitted medical expense. Some canadians can include cannabis on tax returns. Those looking to cash in need to meet several specific conditions before anything can be written off. First, the person using marijuana needs to prove they possess a prescription to use the drug from their licensed physician. If you’re a recreational user, then kiss that money spent on weed goodbye. The CRA is not going to refund everyone in the country that wants to get high, regardless of how much money in taxes they are pulling in.

The second obstacle to obtaining a tax retun for weed is showing it comes from a licensed producer. Buying from unlicensed distributors means the government isn’t going to receive their tax. This never makes them happy. It certainly will not make them want to give you additional deductibles. So if it isn’t a habit already, start saving all the receipts from the provisioning center. The payback is going to be huge for daily users. It will also highlight how much of the yearly budget goes to the sweet leaf. Once that realization is made, many begin to grow. That realization is what helped me get started, outside of my intense interest.

All medical marijuana expenses cannot be written off. Canada gives patients the option to subtract either a number or percentage from the total expense. Options include subtracting $2,268 or 3% of the user’s net income. So if you make more then roughly $74,000/yr you would opt to subtract the $2268 from the yearly expense. Everyone else could benefit by subtracting a substantially smaller amount. Someone making 40,000/yr only needs to reduce $1200 from their yearly cannabis expense.

Despite all the restrictions, it still seems like a fair deal for the Canadian people. It likely will be a really long time before the U.S. refunds anybody for pot. Becoming federally legal for medical purposes is the first hurdle. People all across our country are purchasing medicine from licensed producers. The blatant difference is the federal government sees them as criminals instead of patients.

Oakland County’s First Legal Dispensary has Opened

Here in Michigan, Oakland County is well known for its anti-marijuana reputation.  Officials has routinely raided any type of medical marijuana provisioning center that has opened in it’s jurisdiction.  This has a lot to do with the county sheriff, and former attorney general Bill Schuette.  When these raids happened, the state was not offering licenses for dispensaries to operate.  Dispensaries were simply operating based off the local governments approval.  In Oakland County, the interpretation of the law was always that patients could only obtain cannabis from their registered caregiver and that caregivers may only support 5 patients.  So any establishment providing medicine to more then the same 5 registered patients, was violating the law in their eyes and worthy of a large amount of police resources.  This approach caused a  large cluster of shops to open up shop in Detroit, outside of Oakland County.

Now that the state of Michigan is issuing licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate, one CEO has his eyes on Oakland County.  Greenhouse is the name of the dispensary that has been approved, and it opened it’s doors to patients on February 1st.  It’s located in Walled Lake and the owners are not worried about dealing with law enforcement because they plan on strictly following every rule and regulation.  If the state doesn’t start licensing more cultivators, then running a successful business will be difficult for them.   Especially with all the unlicensed dispensaries being given an extension to operate until their applications begin to be processed.  However, I think that Greenhouse is still in a very good position to be successful because of its location.  There is a lot of money in Oakland County and many residents who have been driving to Detroit will happily make the switch locally.

With the recreational use of cannabis being legalized last November, there will be even more of an opportunity for Greenhouse to be successful.  This licensed facility will already have the majority of the resources needed when the time comes to apply for recreational licenses in a year or two.  The recreational licenses will be much harder to obtain for those who want to start from scratch before legal sales begin.  It took Michigan 10 years before they created a regulated system for medical marijuana sales, so it has to be much quicker this time around.  Regulators have got to be feeling the pressure now.  Voters have made it clear it’s time to draft policies outside of prohibition.

One problem the store will likely have to deal with is an overflow of patients.  Improvising a balanced system that efficiently process each person without making them feel rushed is key.  Nobody will want to come back if they feel like they can’t make the proper decision due to pressure.  I wouldn’t want to be the one creating the forecast for their first year of operation, as there are no similar businesses to base numbers off of.  Luckily for Greenhouse, it will likely take a while before another store successfully obtains a license in any county the way things have been going.  They really need to capitalize on the lack of local competition, so they can invest later on when the competition comes.  It will be easy to differentiate their brand if they receive a big enough head start.  Before we know it Oakland County will be an place of opportunity for these entrepreneurs instead of an area of restricted access.  Those who took the risk years ago in this county have to be shaking their heads wishing they had waited for this profitable and legal opportunity.

Attorney General prospect William Barr will respect state’s choice to legalize

As things stand right now, the United States attorney general is Matthew Whittaker.  He was appointed by President Trump after Jeff Sessions was asked to resign from his position last November.  Barr was the chief of staff for Sessions at the time of his resignation, and is going to be used as a temporary replacement until a permanent candidate is selected.  President Trump has made it relatively clear that his number one choice for that new position now is William Barr.  He is very popular among republicans and doesn’t technically need a single vote from the democratic isle of the Senate to be confirmed, due to their majority.  The marijuana industry is watching closely because it’s highly likely he will be the lead law enforcement officer in our country, and have a large impact on how federal marijuana laws will be enforced.

With a track record of not being very green friendly, its logical that he would take a very traditional approach to cannabis and try to enforce federal law on states that have successful and well established regulatory systems in place.   Last week while testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr claimed he would not use any federal resources to interfere with states that have already decided to regulate cannabis.  As long as businesses are complying with their individual state laws, he claims there will not be any interference.  During Jeff Session’s time as attorney general, there was a ton of fear spreading throughout the industry because of his outdated approach to cannabis.  Sessions went as far as rescinding the guidelines that were established by President Obama and designed to provide protections to businesses operating legally under state law.  William Barr is not claiming to be pro cannabis in any sense though.  He has admitted that personally he believes the drug should have remained in its illegal status.  His stance is pretty confusing because he claims that Congress should figure out a way to stop state initiatives because he views them as “a backdoor nullification to federal laws”.

This guy does not seem like the ideal candidate by any means for those who are involved with cannabis.  It definitely seems to be improvement from the direction the administration was heading with Sessions in charge.  While that is not saying much, it seems that the momentum from cannabis reform has reached the point of no return despite his personal view of the plant.  It isn’t fair to expect a pro cannabis view from anyone that Trump would want in charge of our country’s law enforcement.  The Senate is expected to make their vote next month on whether or not to confirm him.  It is predicted with a high degree of confidence that he will be confirmed as attorney general. I’m sure that this stance on states right’s will help insure he gains even more votes from the Senate.

Marijuana in the Upcoming Midterms

It’s approaching midterm election time, and my hope is voter turnout will be good thanks to the marijuana initiatives that will be on the ballots for four states (Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah).  The most exciting measure for me personally is the chance for voters to pass recreational marijuana in my home state of Michigan.  It’s exciting and surprising that North Dakota will also be voting on a measure for recreational use.  Both these initiatives accomplish the same goals of giving marijuana consumers some protection from prosecution, but the language in one is much vaguer than the other.  North Dakota is taking a unique approach that hasn’t been standard practice in previous successful initiatives across the country.  It simply states that it will allow adults over 21 to possess, grow, and purchase cannabis without any legal punishment.  Those with previous marijuana convictions can get those expunged and the initiative also creates penalties for those under 21 who possess, grow, or purchase pot.  Other than that, there is no mention of possession or grow limits for adults.  Setting tax rates and determining how stores and cultivation centers will be regulated was not mentioned either.  An advisor for the campaign claimed the reason for this was to let the legislature do their job and develop all the regulations.  It will be interesting to see how this initiative turns out in a highly conservative state with unclear rules.

Polling from both of these states has shown more positive results for Michigan than North Dakota.  I think that it is likely a direct result of the clear framework MI Legalize has presented to voters.  Many people may see the vagueness as a sign of no rules or limits and vote against it.  Medical marijuana has been legal in both states but it still seems like a large jump for North Dakota to go from no medical marijuana in 2015, to full-on legalization.  It would be terrible to see this bill not go through and see more people continue to get incarcerated but it wouldn’t be that surprising.  At least an opportunity for voters to make a positive change for personal freedoms exists, the same still can’t be said in the majority of the U.S.  Michigan has shown some very good polling results in favor of the measure.  This is definitely still not a guaranteed win, and it would be the first in the Midwest to do so.  Legalization has hit both sides of the coast but has yet to stretch across.  Hopefully Michigan can be the framework of the connecting bridge.

Utah and Missouri both have medical marijuana initiatives that desperately need to pass.  It’s inconceivable that people are still being considered criminals for treating their health condition with natural solutions.  Utah’s initiative is confusing and full of unnecessary regulations that are not in the best interest of patients.  Lawmakers have already agreed to create a compromise that will change much of the rules from the original voter initiative.  The first key component to Utahs bill is that it only covers a handful of conditions.  Qualifying conditions include HIV/AIDS, Cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.  It also prohibits the smoking of cannabis in its natural form.  They also decided to impose restrictions on doctors such as not allowing them to recommend cannabis to more than 20% of their patients.  This is probably the worst part of the bill and suggests that the percentage of people that could benefit medically from cannabis is very small.  In addition, patients will only be allowed to cultivate their own medicine if they live more than 100 miles from a licensed dispensary.  The state wouldn’t have the sick miss a great opportunity to pay taxes.  Who knows how much worse this bill will become once legislators make good on their promised compromise.  At least some patients will be saved the nightmare of an arrest and criminal record.

Campaign organizes not being able to agree on an ideal medical marijuana industry for Missouri has led to their being 3 separate initiatives on November’s ballot.  They couldn’t settle their differences and this could lead to a mixed result come voting day.  The differences in the initiatives mainly involve qualifying conditions as well as tax rates and where those dollars should go.  Amendment 2 wants to set the tax rate at 4% and use that tax revenue to provide services to military veterans.  It also allows patients to qualify for marijuana with their doctor’s approval even if they do not have a “qualifying condition”. It also is the only one that would allow home growing.  Amendment 3 wants the tax rate to be 15% and send those funds to research institutions that study cancer and other serious diseases.  The last initiative, Proposition C sets the tax rate very low at 2%.  It would distribute that revenue to a variety of destinations.  In the case that more than one of these was successful this midterm, the amendments would take priority over the proposition.  Between the amendments, it would simply come down to which receives more votes.  It seems that Amendment 2 would be the best option because it keeps tax rates reasonable while allowing the plant to be grown if a patient chooses to do so.  It’s important to note that it should be a doctor/patient decision to use medical marijuana, not a list developed by those outside the health industry.