Category Archives: News

New California Bill Aims to Expunge or Reduce Past Pot Convictions

Legalizing marijuana has offered some great benefits to California and the other 8 states who have passed similar legislation.  Some of the main benefits that come to mind are tax revenue, reduction in crime, personal freedom, and job growth.  These are all improvements that will help to make the future a better place.  Like other states in the past, California lawmakers are trying to undo some of the enormous damage the war on drugs has had in the past.  The senate voted in a large majority to require prosecutors to expunge or reduce the punishments for people who were convicted of marijuana related crimes since 1975.  The Department of Justice would need to review all these cases and determine which ones are eligible for reevaluation.  Misdemeanors would be expunged in most cases while some felonies would be able to be downgraded to what is now considered a misdemeanor offense.  This bill has not yet become law; it must be signed/vetoed by Governor Brown or it will go into effect automatically in early September.

Currently Oregon, New Hampshire, Colorado and Maryland have made it easier for past offenders to have their records sealed.  While California wouldn’t be the first state to successfully expunge past marijuana records, other legal states have struggled to offer similar protections.  These bills have faced opposition from prosecutors and other lawmakers who argue that these people knowingly violated the law at the time and it’s a dangerous trend to apply new laws to old cases.  For example in 2014, the year recreational sales began in Colorado, a similar bill died in committee.  The opposition argued that many drug distributors had their charges lowered to low level felonies.  Their concern was that these serious convictions would have the possibility of being changed to misdemeanors.  Luckily later in 2017, a similar bill was passed that just targeted marijuana misdemeanors instead of felonies.  While it won’t have as much of an effect at reducing the damage of the drug war, it is still helpful for many people.

If California is successful at passing this bill, they will have done more than any other state when it comes to requiring judges to excuse past marijuana crimes.  This is likely due to this issue being mentioned in Amendment 64, the initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.  There was no framework established in 2016 when the initiative passed that established how the Justice Department would enforce the changes.  This bill clarifies many of the uncertainties by establishing deadlines for the department and establishing that both misdemeanors and felony pot convictions must be reviewed for eligibility.  There are a total of 218,000 cases that have the possibility of being expunged or downgraded to misdemeanors in the state of California alone.  Imagine how large this number is if we included all Americans since 1975. All these people likely have faced issues when it comes to key parts of life.  Things like seeking great employment opportunities or getting federal loans or grants for education can be nearly impossible.  Regardless what the laws used to be, people convicted of non violent marijuana crimes were never criminals.

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Michigan Medical Marijuana Businesses Threatened by Licensing Deadline

Across the great lakes state, cultivation facilities and dispensaries are facing a September 15th deadline to either be approved and licensed by the state or shut down operations.  Those who have gained approval from their local officials and have already submitted their applications to the state are extremely worried.  The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) began accepting applications in December of 2017, but the process to approve businesses is taking a very long time.  There have already been two previous deadlines set that were extended before the fast-approaching September 15 cutoff.  It seems that the government was not prepared to handle the overwhelming number of applications.

Currently,  only 16 applications were given approval out of the 637 submitted for one of the four license types: cultivation, retail, transportation, and processing.  Processing refers to businesses that will purchase cannabis from growers and create infused products or extracts like Rick Simpson oil.  There seems to be a small number of resources being devoted to inspecting and approving licenses.  Luckily, local officials are concerned for patients access to medicine and have been reaching out to Snyder asking for an extension.  It’s equally important to support the cannabis pioneers that have invested their life savings into provisioning centers in order to legally help patients find relief.  Now, dispensary employees are left to question if they will have their paycheck coming next month or if they will find themselves unemployed.  It is crucial that the state responds back quickly so these people aren’t forced to abandon their investments and careers in order to pursue other sources of income.

It almost seems like the officials enjoy causing problems among the medical cannabis community since they can no longer arrest those involved.  Why even set a deadline at all for these businesses to get approved?  Deny and approve the licenses as they come in and if they have been approved by their local city/township then they should be able to operate until they are given a response.  It’s bad enough they are picking and choosing which dispensaries can and can’t operate as they please. Shutting them down before they even get a chance to be evaluated because people created a random date is just wrong.  No other industry is facing the same level of regulations and hoops to jump through in order to legally operate.  It’s just another example of unnecessary government regulation.  The number of stores should be determined by the levels of supply and demand and as a result of certain companies gaining competitive advantages over one another.

There should be some regulation when it comes to advertising and locating next to schools, but not with arbitrary date setting.  These businesses would risk losing the chance to secure a license in the future if they operate past the September 15th deadline without being approved.  I can’t imagine the level of stress these owners are dealing with right now.  They only have two options if the deadline is not extended.  Either close temporarily and pray for a license while still paying overhead costs, or close permanently and exit the business.  Staying open and risking being raided/closed shouldn’t be considered a valid third option.  Criminal charges and no possibility of entering the industry would be the worst possible outcome for a successful marijuana entrepreneur.  The next coming weeks are going to be full of uncertainty until a solution is offered by the state.

Parent Company of Corona Invests Big in Cannabis

The beverage company that owns several brands of wine and beer including Corona and Modelo just gained 38% ownership in the Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth.  In order to acquire this much ownership of Canada’s largest medical marijuana producer, Constellation Brands made a record-breaking investment.  The owner decided to drop $3.8 billion in order to establish his company in the cannabis community before Canada’s recreational sales begin and before that sector of the economy explodes.  He believes like many other cannabis consumers and businessman that the time for federal legalization in the United States is also quickly approaching.  Robert Sands is confident that Canopy growth has market-leading capabilities that will allow them to expand and build their company across international borders.

This nearly $4 billion investment by an alcohol company is clear evidence of the culture change we have and currently are experiencing in both the U.S. and Canada.  If this kind of thing were to happen just ten years ago it would have been considered shocking and extremely risky.  Ten years ago there wasn’t even a Canopy Growth Corp. operating in Canada.  Although medical cannabis laws have been in place in the country since 2001, recreational legalization didn’t pass until this year.  Also, the U.S. hardly had any laws regarding medical cannabis besides a few select states which were mostly out west.  The market was in early development and did not have the legal protections or the enormous customer base that continues to grow over time.  Many still think that shifting focus away from the lucrative alcohol sector that Constellation brands worked so hard to build is questionable even at this point in time.  There still is no guarantee that legalization won’t hit more roadblocks and get delayed for years.  Nobody knows for sure if Canopy Growth will be successful in expanding its operations into a new country with established medical and recreational companies.

This move has to be extremely exciting for Canopy Growth’s point of view.  With an enormous boost in capital, it should be able to maintain it’s status as the largest cannabis company/producer in Canada.  Canopy also has stated they will not grow or distribute any of their products until it is legal at all levels of the government.  They will not be dealing with individual states that have passed laws allowing recreational or medical cannabis.  They are playing it safe and trying to remove any possibility of liability.  This may have an impact on their ability to establish themselves in the United States and other countries because other companies may be willing to take the risk and build their business behind the security of state or local laws.  However, with the type of cash they now have access to, they might be able to enter late and still be successful.  They would still have a strong reputation from their presence in the north and use that as a sales point for new customers who aren’t aware.  Another result of this investment is that Constellation will now be able to select four of seven directors for the company.  Management positions are going remain the same for Canopy Growth for the time being. When news of Constellation Brands acquisitions first broke the stocks for the Canadian company rose 31.3%.  I’m hoping that everybody has made their investment before Robert Sands did.

Illinois Police Threaten to Euthanize K-9’s Come Pot Legalization

There seems to be a never-ending list of absurd reasons police and other professions benefitting from the prohibition of marijuana have used to argue against legalization.  The latest comes from a K-9 handler from Illinois, who claimed that dogs currently being used to detect controlled substances would most likely have to be killed.  The fact that current dogs can’t be untrained from detecting the odor of cannabis, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be repurposed within the same department.  Many of these same dogs have already been trained to track down fleeing suspects and could also be used as a threat to criminals hiding in an enclosed space.  Those types of scenarios are routine and seem to happen in every episode of Cops.  While the local police departments would have to procure and train new drug-sniffing dogs for roadside traffic stops, saying euthanization is the likely future for many pups is a desperate scare tactic.  The center of drug investigations in states with prohibition including Illinois has always been marijuana.  These departments have a ton to lose when it comes to funding, staffing, and most importantly, probable cause.  Cannabis has a pungent odor that is the most recognizable among recreational drugs.  This has been used as an excuse to search and arrest countless people for offenses including cannabis but often additional, more serious crimes.

I would like to believe that not all police officers are for the prohibition of cannabis and would enjoy not having to arrest people for simple possession.  This individual officer ( Macon County Sherrif Buffett) was not part of this minority.  He simply knows that the past few years have shown great legislative progress across the nation pertaining to legal cannabis.  The public approval of recreational marijuana has been rising among polls steadily each year and is now said to lie slightly above the 60% mark nationwide.  Desperate times call for desperate measures and in his eyes, this was the last resort speech he needed in order to support the growing problem of mass incarceration. K-9’s were put on the force to be trained and help fight the failed war on drugs.  It’s not the community’s problem that there will be a surplus of dogs that shouldn’t have been used in the first place.  If they can’t be reassigned as mentioned earlier, they could be adopted by gradually removing them from the working environment.  Handlers already live with their dog outside of work hours, so there is no reason they couldn’t adjust to being there all day long.

The impact these type of nonsensical statements have on the public is often opposite from the original intent of the message.  Many more people start to question the true purpose of the anti-pot stance and see right through the distraction and follow the money.  Few still believe the illusion that the government is looking out for your health and the well-being of communities by outlawing plants, but they’re out there.  Opponents like Buffett are simply putting themselves on the wrong side of history before it is written.  Not many people have a positive outlook on Harry Anslinger from the 1930’s or anyone else that put profits over doing the right thing.  The fact that the war on drugs got so out of control and drug squads grew into a local military force, isn’t a reason to keep unnecessary jobs employed.  There are many professions that have been wiped out due to their inability to adapt to change(political or technological) and law enforcement should be expected to do the same.

Jamaica’s Medical Marijuana Tourism

Up until 2015, marijuana was not legal for medical purposes in Jamaica.  While it may not have been hard to find the sweet leaf in reggae’s homeland, there was little protection from prosecution and no taxes or facilities of distribution.  Many areas of the island suffer from poverty and the absence of a sustainable economy.  There is hope that this new forming industry can provide a tourist goldmine.  In March of this year, the first medical marijuana facility opened its doors to anyone with a medical marijuana prescription from any state in the U.S.  It is called Kaya Farms, and is located on the northern coastline of the country.  They hope to attract tourists from countries all around the world and accept paperwork or licenses of any kind that certifies your use of cannabis is for medical purposes.  Those who do not have a recommendation can come along for the trip too because there is a doctor on site at select times that can provide recommendations at the facility.  Jamaica is really pushing to stimulate the economy and benefit from its premium outdoor cannabis climate.

I think this is a great move by the government to embrace the history of the plant on the island and that they will be successful in raising money and creating jobs as more facilities open.  They are essentially opening their business to an unlimited market of cannabis consumers.  One business will not be able to sustain demand for long and many more will enter in to fill the void.  Looking at how much money a single state has made off taxing recreational weed sales, entrepreneurs in Jamaica should be hopeful.  In the calendar year of 2017, Colorado raised $247,368,473 in tax, license, and fee revenue from operating marijuana businesses (Colorado Department of Revenue).  While Jamaica technically is only selling to patients, one site doctors open up their market significantly.  A beautiful tropical climate draws plenty of tourists as it is, and a place like Colorado can’t compete with its location.  That is not to mention the locals who choose to purchase their medicine from Kaya Farms and other dispensaries.  I believe there are likely well-established suppliers on the black market that will remain in competition with facilities like they currently do in the states.

I know I would enjoy a trip to Jamaica much more knowing I’m already certified to purchase cannabis legally while on vacation.  Not having to worry about finding a reliable dealer with a quality product would be a great relief.  However, because the dispensary just recently opened a few months ago, prices may be inflated.  This is likely to happen due to a lack of retail locations with medicine.  The quality medicine is going to be sold at a premium that surpasses local distributors.  After letting the market develop and saving some cash, the vacation may happen for me.

 

Matt Barnes and NBA Weed Culture

A lot of people are probably surprised by the news that Matt Barnes (a 15 year forward in the NBA) is claiming a large percentage of players regularly use cannabis.  Athletes in all sports are supposed to have some sort of drug testing program in place.  Not only for federally controlled substances, but performance enhancing drugs as well.  Both of these pose potentially career-changing consequences for the high percentage of cannabis users currently playing.  Athletes are subject to four random test throughout each NBA season.  Once they complete those tests, they would be free to use cannabis as they please without worrying.  The off-season is free from drug testing as well.  These rules on drug testing do provide an opportunity for those who choose to indulge, and according to Matt Barnes, that number is around 85% of the basketball population.

Many people who play sports for fun like myself would be likely to say that consumption before a game made it much more easy to focus and get caught up in the moment of a big play.  Many professional basketball players are using it for different purposes, like relieving the physical wear and tear on their bodies.  It is a much safer and enjoyable alternative to alcohol, and that’s another primary reason for use among athletes.  For Matt Barnes, he admitted to using it before games and that in his best games he had been under its influence.  Being retired gives him the freedom to say these things, and it makes you wonder how many other guys are blazing before they arrive at the arena.  It shouldn’t matter at all whether they decide to or not, as long as long as it’s not negatively affecting their performance.  An athletes consistently demonstrated ability is what should determine their playing time on the floor, as long as their not abusing performance-enhancing drugs. Cannabis is not like traditional performance-enhancing drugs that boost muscle growth and are made in a lab.  However, like any drug, it affects people differently and if some players indulged before a game, it could be a disaster.  It should be the player’s judgment call, not the leagues on what substances to use.  With marijuana legal in 8 states and medical marijuana legal in a majority of the rest, the prohibited status in the NBA is becoming more questionable.  The actions of some of their players are sometimes 100 percent legal where they live or are traveling to.  Use of alcohol and prescription pills remain allowed but are decreasing in popularity.

Using cannabis while strict testing and rules are in place, speaks volumes about how beneficial it is to those in the league.  Some fans, as well as the sports media, will view a violation of marijuana rules as a big deal.  More importantly, it will be viewed as unprofessional by the coaches and results in some serious consequences for repeated offenses.  The first time a player is caught failing a test, they must simply complete a substance abuse course.  After that though, they face hefty fines and larger game suspensions for each violation of the rule.  It is also likely with the insane competition that a pretty good athlete can be lost about among all the other options who lack a marijuana record.  The time has come for the NBA to catch up to the public’s opinion, as well as the laws being passed across the country that are legalizing and decriminalizing the plant.  Studies have shown how opioid abuse has gone down in states that legalize medical or recreational marijuana and there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen within the league.

Recent Dispensary Closings in Michigan

Since the new year has began, I personally have already had to switch dispensaries that I was using due to the new medical marijuana regulations coming into effect.  Starting December 15th of last year, the state began accepting applications for the various types of businesses including: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail shops.  Retail dispensaries that were operating for years without any problems with local ordinances are now receiving letters ordering them to shut down until they are approved for a new license.  According to the Detroit Free Press, over 200 dispensaries in the state have been sent these cease and desist letters.

While the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs claims that the availability of medicine will be unaffected for patients, there are other consequences to this move.  Although profitable, opening a dispensary demands an enormous amount of overhead and variable costs. All of these business owners who had invested money in both their property as well as the medicine they had in stock, are going to lose patients during the temporary to permanent closure.  This is not right, and if they didn’t want them operating they shouldn’t have ever been given permission.  Yes they technically were unregulated businesses, but that was how the system had forced them to operate for years under the protection of local ordinances.  Some of these businesses in the past had even gone the lengths of relocating in order to comply with the ridiculous zoning requirements imposed by the city of Detroit.  Even playing by the rules doesn’t always guarantee protection of your business in this industry.  This transition period of awarding licenses to applicants is supposed to end in June, but at it’s current pace many in the industry are expecting delays.

There are many different opinions on whether this regulation is a good thing for the cannabis community or not.  The regulation establishes new taxes for those using it for medical purposes.  It also will make a system to track a plants progress from seed form to sale and ensure all products are only produced by licensed commercial cultivators.  Personally, I think regulation is not a good thing and it should be left to the already existing large community of cultivators who produce much higher quality cannabis on a small scale.  The patient- caregiver system that was established in 2008 when medical cannabis passed in Michigan, is still the backbone of the industry.  Dispensaries that are currently existing get their medicine from caregivers or patients, not some 3000 plant  facility that machine trims commercial quality bud.  It seems inevitable that with regulation small time grows will be undercut by those growing on a large scale.

The dispensary that I choose to visit now for my concentrate and edible needs, is much larger then other collectives I had been a member at.  The inventory selection is much larger as well as a higher number of employees working.  Larger dispensaries seems to be the trend as the number of operating dispensaries continues to be squeezed by the state government.  To this day it remains a risky business plan to enter the “not quite regulated” medical marijuana industry in Michigan.  For those looking to get into the trade, it would be best to apply for one of the new licenses and then wait before trying to set up shop during this uncertain time.