[Editor’s Note: Weedmaps is making big waves with their cannabis billboards. For me, they make the world we live in feel a bit more livable.]
Tempers are frayed and the situation is tense in America’s marijuana borderlands, the transition zone where recreational legalization and prohibition meet. That is, the drug-war mindset is raging against the dying of the right to harass nonviolent marijuana users, the end of which is on the other side of an imaginary line.
Usually, this results in police in illegal land spend their time and your money popping unsuspecting motorists carrying cannabis from green states back home, thereby creating a disincentive to what’s in any rational scenario a preferable alternative to patronizing the illegal market. Still, it appears any reminder that cannabis is legal somewhere else is enough to cause rancor in some circles.
This is the context and a partial explanation for the furor and the “controversy” over a billboard set up in Connecticut by Weedmaps, the IDGAF poster-child of the cannabis industry. Weedmaps is the cannabis industry’s most successful online advertising platform, and online advertising dollars can buy lots of analog billboards. Weedmaps has billboards in legal cities but they also have one in Connecticut, which has medical marijuana, but not recreational.
The Connecticut ad’s message — “Weed is legal in 60 miles” — is literally a lesson in basic geography, and a fact everybody already knew: Recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts is this way.
As both the Hartford Courant and later Boston-based Fox-25 News reported, this very simple observation is apparently more than enough to upset, and trigger a response from addiction-treatment circles.
The billboard in question is on I-91 in New Haven, and informs anyone whizzing by that there are legal marijuana dispensaries in Northampton, Massachusetts. Anyone who is a cannabis consumer probably already knew that, but this is what advertising (that is, commercial speech) does: shout out its message long enough and loud enough that it comes second nature.
Elsewhere on the road, a substance-abuse treatment center used the Weedmaps billboard as the impetus to set up its own, competing message: “Turn around for sober living.”
This limited flap is not an entirely isolated incident. In New Zealand, enough people complained about a billboard declaring “cannabis is medicine” that regulatory authorities ordered the billboard taken down. There are no such prohibitions on Weedmaps’s billboard, which is advertising a software application and not illegal activity, so its billboard will stay.
What does this all mean? Very little. The mere fact that both a newspaper and a television station saw fit to broadcast an item on a billboard (a meta-situation an undergraduate philosophy major could probably milk a paper out of) could also be a critique of the news media, or maybe the public’s insatiable appetite for anything marijuana-related, or just an outlet to yell and shout at stuff and have an opinion. For Weedmaps, who is receiving free publicity from Fox and from us because it spent money to tell people where states are, it’s all a benefit.
A Pot Billboard in Connecticut is Making People Angry was posted on Cannabis Now.
[Editor’s Note: Canada is a leader in the civilized world. The way Canada handled the sale of the very hot POT stock ticker symbol proves it.]
Weekend Unlimited, a small cannabis startup in Vancouver, has a very special trading symbol.
It can be hard to say exactly why anyone buys stock in any particular company. Maybe they know something you don’t. Maybe they truly believe in the company. Maybe it’s because John Boehner, who is now selling stock tips, told them so.
Or maybe it’s because they like the look of the stock ticker because they know when going to look for marijuana stocks, a very hot item for retail investors, you should absolutely buy the one that says POT?
This appears to be at least part of the rationale behind the recent mad scramble by 40 Canadian companies all vying for that particular stock symbol on the Canadian Stock Exchange. The process was a literal lottery won by Weekend Unlimited, a small Vancouver-based firm whose stock prices — POT stock — soared 150 percent upon news of its big win.
“Congruent” stock listings (that is, a symbol that has something to do with what the company does) are already a thing in the weed world. The symbol WEED on the Toronto Stock Exchange, for example, is held by one Canopy Growth Corporation, the unicorn and the darling of the publicly traded marijuana world.
But for all the many interesting, stupid and offensive slang terms for cannabis, there are only so many brief enough to fit within four characters. As Quartz and other outlets pointed out, until last year, if you were investing in POT, you were investing in potash (which are mined salts rich in potassium, since you asked). But then that company merged with another and the symbol became available. Then Canada legalized retail recreational marijuana sales, publicly traded marijuana companies became insanely valuable and acquisition targets for alcohol and tobacco giants, and well, here we are.
Rather than auction off POT to whoever could pay the most, Canadian market regulators decided on a lottery. On Feb. 1, the CSE announced that Weekend Unlimited, a self-described “aggregator” of brands for the Canadian marijuana market that previously traded under the dated ticker YOLO, was the big winner.
What does Weekend Unlimited do, and should you buy some stock? Only you can answer the second question, but we can help with the first. According to a statement from October, before shares in YOLO went on sale, it is also a “arms-length company which holds interests in various cannabis-related companies.” Some of the companies in which Weekend Unlimited has a stake are “Washington State, Orchard Heights Growers, British Columbia, Northern Lights Organics… and Jerome Baker Designs.” Do you know these companies? Could you identify Jerome Baker as a glass-maker with some High Times Cup victories, Northern Lights as a dedicated CBD brand? If so, then you are better equipped to say what POT is and what POT can do for your portfolio.
POT does have some other things going for it, aside from the name. On Tuesday, company officials announced that Northern Lights had secured a license for a retail facility near the Edmonton airport. One thing’s for sure: the market is a lot hotter for cannabis that it is for potash.
This Canadian Company Is the One True POT Stock was posted on Cannabis Now.
[Editor’s Note: For those following International Cannabis Law, this is another take on the WHO reclassification recommendation.]
There appear to be signs of political manipulation behind the UN health agency’s recommendations on marijuana, according to one analysis.
On Friday, a letter from the World Health Organization, the United Nations agency tasked with crafting policy to keep us global citizens healthy and alive, circulated among media. It appears the WHO is ready to issue a long-awaited recommendation on its own marijuana policy — and that recommendation is the rescheduling of cannabis and “its key components.” But the timing and unofficial nature of the recommendation’s announcement has led some to believe there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
The WHO recommends the UN remove “cannabis and cannabis resin” from Schedule IV classification while remaining under the Schedule I classification. It also recommends “cannabidiol preparations” and anything with “pure cannabidiol,” or CBD, be removed from international drug-control treaties entirely.
Unlike the U.S. drug classifications under the Controlled Substances Act, in which the strictest controls are on drugs (including cannabis) in Schedule I, the UN’s list of most dangerous drugs is called Schedule IV, a list established in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
So cannabis, currently listed in the same category as heroin in the UN’s list of the world’s most dangerous drugs, should not in fact be there, according to the Jan. 24 letter from WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
If adopted by the UN’s member nations, those same nations would in effect admit that they “have effectively been wrong about marijuana’s harms and therapeutic benefits for decades,” according to an analysis from Marijuana Moment’s Tom Angell.
That’s good! But less good is the fact that such a recognition would not necessarily cancel the 1961 treaty, compliance with which has been repeatedly cited by federal agencies, including the DEA, as justification for continuing the federal-level war on marijuana.
Who’s Behind the Curtain?
Even worse is the logical trick the WHO appears to be playing on itself — one that, according to an analysis from drug-policy expert Steve Rolles, would allow member states to still pursue draconian marijuana policies for purely political reasons.
As Rolles explained in a Twitter thread after several outlets published the WHO letter, buried in the WHO recommendations is an assertion that cannabis should remain scheduled internationally, and not for scientific reasons.
While admitting that cannabis is not “associated with the same level of risk to health” as other drugs on the UN list, the WHO did say it “noted the high rates of public health problems arising from cannabis use and the global extent of such problems.”
So “[t]he ‘global extent of the problem’ – ie lots of people use cannabis – is not a reason to ignore their risk assessment and mis-schedule it,” Rolles tweeted. “It is anti-science. It almost feels like there has been political interference. Has there been?”
According to rumors at the UN heard by Tolles, some member states have been pressuring WHO officials to keep marijuana under the strictest controls possible. This could explain both the twisted reasoning outlined above and why an earlier announcement of findings on marijuana were delayed.
As Marijuana Business Daily pointed out, member states in the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, who are scheduled to meet in March, were supposed to have received this expert advice from the WHO in December. Now that it’s February, those states may now push for a delay in any rescheduling move for another full year.
Why does any of this matter? Functionally, it might not, or at least not all that much: Canadian marijuana companies are happily shipping cannabis and cannabis preparations to UN member states like Australia and Israel without much issue.
But if Tolles’s hunches are true and there are member states of the UN unhappy with an international trade in the drug, it could signal complications in the global market down the road.
At the very least, the delays, the odd timing and the convoluted logic require explanation — at least, if they are not to be interpreted as proof that the international conversation around marijuana is still political, rather than scientific.
The Hidden Problem with the WHO’s Reclassification of Cannabis was posted on Cannabis Now.
[Editor’s Note: Cannabis businesses take note – while white, young men may still dominate the market, the women boomer market is growing at a more rapid pace.]
In the eyes of experts and the general public, the profile of the “typical marijuana consumer” continues to be a white male under 35, without children, who lives in or near a major West Coast city.
But as the latest “State of Cannabis” report from San Francisco-based marijuana-delivery software platform Eaze suggests, that impression is increasingly wrong.
And that’s good news for cannabis industry investors and entrepreneurs seeking new consumers—who are indeed flocking to marijuana after adult-use cannabis sales became legal in California on January 1, 2018.
Women and “baby boomers” are the fastest-growing consumer segments among marijuana users, according to Eaze.
Not only that, boomers are spending the most money per order on cannabis than any other generation, according to the report, which was released on Wednesday. (Must be nice to enjoy relative job and housing security and lack crushing student debt!)
Image courtesy of Eaze
The company culled its database of 450,000 consumers as well as answers from 4,000 survey respondents to make the claims contained in the report. It did not define its generational boundaries.
Thirty-eight percent of Eaze customers in 2018 were women, an increase of 3 percent from 2017.
Image courtesy of Eaze
And reflecting both the sizable increase in consumers overall —as well as the vanishing stigma associated with marijuana—the “total number of women consumers grew 92 percent,” according to the report.
Eaze used data from California only for the purposes of the survey, though the platform has long been said to be eyeing expansion into other states.
“First-time buyers,” that is, Eaze customers using the company’s services for the very first time—lured perhaps by the promise of aggressive discounts—grew by 140 percent, according to the report, which did not provide raw figures behind most of the percentages.
- CBD, or cannabidiol, the less-psychoactive marijuana compound associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects, continues to grow in popularity. In 2018, 4.8 percent of Eaze’s consumers bought CBD, compared to 2.6 percent in 2017.
- 71 percent of respondents said they are using less over-the-counter pain medication, like Advil, thanks to cannabis—and 35 percent said they are ditching prescription pain pills, like opiates, for marijuana products. Boomers led both categories in ditching pharmaceutical industry medication for marijuana.
- 29 percent of regular CBD customers are “female boomers,” according to Eaze.
- The most popular edible item—among age-verified, adult marijuana consumers purchasing in California’s strictly regulated market—are gummies.
- Marijuana users are replacing both alcohol and tobacco as well as prescription drugs with cannabis. Specifically, 63 percent of Millennials are drinking less, and 32 percent of Gen Z-ers are using less tobacco.
- The most popular reason for using cannabis is as a sleep aid. Eighty-four percent of women and 79 percent of men said they use marijuana for sleep.
- April 20 is a the big cannabis holiday, but by far the top day of the year for sales is “Green Wednesday,” or the day before Thanksgiving.
- Some things aren’t changing. Millennials who probably work in tech—which is to say, Millennials who are probably white and male—still dominate cannabis sales.
- Tech-worker hubs like South of Market and Mission Bay in San Francisco and Venice Beach and Santa Monica in Los Angeles are the top markets for Eaze-assisted marijuana sales. (Which might not be good news if the company wants to expand its market beyond its obvious target demographic.)
- The average age of a cannabis consumer is 31.
Women And Baby Boomers Are Increasingly Embracing Marijuana, New Market Report Finds was posted on Marijuana Moment.
[Editor’s Note: The U.S. needs to just legalize cannabis, so no one gets arrested for a load of hemp. It’s just too hard for local authorities to do the right thing.]
Police say they’ve made the biggest marijuana bust of all time, but owners say it’s hemp.
In December, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) made a grand show. Waving a pen made from hemp over the 2018 Farm Bill like a magic wand, McConnell ushered in what he promised would be a brave new era for farmers in his home state: They could grow hemp again, legally, and bring their crop to market without fear of arrest and seizure by federal drug agents.
It took only a few weeks after President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill into law for McConnell’s promise to be put to the test. And early results, like the load of nearly 18,000 pounds of what its erstwhile owners insist is pure Kentucky hemp, seized by Oklahoma law enforcement who insist it is, in fact, the biggest-ever marijuana bust and have charged the four men transporting the load with drug-trafficking charges, are not encouraging.
Panacea Life Sciences is a Colorado-based company that needed more industrial hemp than Colorado could provide. On Jan. 9, a truck and a van were pulled over by local police in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, as local media reported.
Paperwork found the shipment of 17,258 pounds of “plant material” indicated that the plant material was hemp, or cannabis sativa with 0.3 percent or less of THC. After a “field test,” police disagreed, and seized the shipment and arrested the four men — two drivers in the truck and two employees of a security firm following the truck in a van. Prosecutors this week filed drug-trafficking charges against the four men — despite still not being entirely sure that it was marijuana in the truck.
As of Friday, all four remained in jail pending lab results. Oklahoma authorities apparently shipped some of the suspected marijuana to a Drug Enforcement Administration lab in Washington, D.C., rather than do the very simple testing locally. This was an odd move, considering states have had drug-enforcement labs for decades, and even odder considering that Oklahoma has medical marijuana now, and the lab equipment necessary to test for potency is commercially available.
But since the DEA is hamstrung thanks to Donald Trump’s shutdown, no results are available and the men remain in jail on the basis that even though “we don’t have a level” of THC “yet,” the Osage County District Attorney’s Office is still convinced that what they have is marijuana and not hemp, according to KFOR.
“While we are fully aware of the new federal regulations pertaining to the interstate transportation of hemp, it is our belief that what was being transported was more than hemp as alleged by both the defendant’s attorneys as well as others associated with the companies purportedly associated with the truck involved,” the DA told KFOR on Wednesday. “The state will proceed with what we believe are appropriate charges and expect that the full story will come to light as the case moves forward through the courts.”
Attorneys for the men working the shipment say they have evidence that proves the exact opposite.
“We have a suite of paperwork that [proves the shipment] is hemp, but they jump to the conclusion that it’s marijuana and that it’s the biggest marijuana bust of all time,” Colorado-based attorney Mark Robison told Tulsa World.
According to Robison, the nearly 9 tons of hemp is worth about $850,000, and was intended to be processed into various CBD products. And according to attorney Matt Lyons, who is representing the two men who worked as security, they have both GPS tracking, video surveillance, and lab results from the Kentucky-based supplier that proves the load is hemp.
It’s important to remember that even before McConnell’s magic show — which promised to create a domestic source for the CBD poured into coffees and extracted into cosmetics, pills, and other “wellness” products sold by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP to video-rental stores in the heartland — industrial hemp and its related products were all legal commodities in the United States.
There are many examples: Dr. Bronner’s soap, hemp seeds, hemp clothes, hemp wicks, and whatever it is that CBD entrepreneurs are using as source material.
Whatever it is, as long as it had 0.3 percent or less of THC, the key distinction that, in the federal government’s eyes, makes cannabis sativa legal (hemp) or illegal (marijuana).
But what good is any of that if the very commercial activity McConnell is openly encouraging is intercepted by police and the participants slapped with charges worthy of cartel kingpins? Not very good. If he was serious about anything, McConnell should dig around for that pen and start writing messages to both the DEA and Oklahoma authorities, who are demonstrating that it takes more than a change in the law to change law enforcement.
The Problem with the Farm Bill was posted on Cannabis Now.