[Editor’s Note: It’s maddening that BC has made it so hard for medical cannabis users to purchase their medicine.]
You’d think that the legalization of cannabis would make it easier for people who use it for medical reasons to acquire what they need. Not so fast, Tiger. In April 2016, there were in excess of 100 medical cannabis dispensaries open for business in Vancouver, now there are a grand total of three.
The city cracked down on existing dispensaries threatening them with fines and even jail time if they remained open. They didn’t go down without a fight. Behind a set of impressive lawyers, they argued that the government was aiding and abetting the criminal cannabis trade by shutting down dispensaries. But on December 13, 2018, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that medical cannabis shops must be licensed by both the province and city or be shut down.
Still, their fight continues. A group of dispensaries—led by Weeds Glass and Gift—have banded together to try to mount another legal challenge. Represented by the Davison Law Group, the dispensaries are applying for a stay of the judge’s order. “Getting a stay is unusual,” said Dean Davison, founder of the Davison Law Group. “But this is an unusual situation.” He explained that this kind of stay occurs when a jurisdiction enforces a bylaw that is in conflict with another law.
Dispensaries Argue That Closures Will Infringe on Rights of Medical Cannabis Users
The tack they are taking is simple—they allege that the city is infringing on medical cannabis users’ rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by preventing them from being able to access the cannabis they truly need. The logic is that if the city’s medicinal cannabis users needs are great enough to keep more than 100 dispensaries in business, that many of them will be forced to go without the cannabis they need if there are only three. “Patients are going to suffer,” said Davison, “and they’ll be pushed back to the black market.”
The problem for the team is that they are sailing into almost uncharted seas. “There’s not much legal precedent when it comes to the cannabis industry,” Davison said. “Canada is leading the way, but they’ve done a poor job in some ways.” He’s referring to the fact that government-run operations were swamped with orders once legalization took effect and were unable to cope with demand. Although British Columbia’s situation was not nearly as dire as Ontario’s, many customers were frustrated by shortages and lost or incorrect orders.
Even if the government’s stores were working efficiently, there is still a problem for medicinal cannabis users—their needs are not likely to be met by the rules and regulations that are tailored to recreational users. Medicinal users often require higher dosages and many need edibles because they can’t smoke.
The response on social media has been one of dismay, with many people—especially those with mobility issues—openly asking what they will do after the closures.
The dispensaries in question are trying to comply to the city’s directives and are applying through legal channels to get licenses, but few feel they will be granted and even those who hold out hope have told me that they believe that government red tape will make the process unnecessarily long and arduous.
In an effort to strengthen their case, the Davison Law Group is collecting affidavits from medicinal cannabis users in Vancouver who will be directly affected by the closure of dispensaries like Weeds. More information can be found at dlg-law.ca.
Davison, who is piloting the case, remains optimistic, but realistic. “I think we have a good chance,” he told me. “But I thought we had a good chance last time.”
Original Post: Leafly: Vancouver Dispensaries Won’t Close Without a Fight
[Editor’s Note: Download a comprehensive report on taking a company public, by either an IPO or RTO, in Canada. This is a ‘how-to’ guide for larger companies.]
In the absence of sensible federal cannabis reform, a growing number of US-based companies are looking to do business in Canada, where adult-use cannabis is fully legal. Aside from the simple issue of legality, cannabis companies operating in Canada are also able to list themselves on publicly traded stock-exchanges, such as the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE), whereas most US-based companies cannot.
For those cannabis companies hoping to do business north of the border, the question becomes: how does one take their company public in Canada and when is the right time to do it? A new report released by MGO-ELLO Alliance attempts to answer this question.
MGO-ELLO Alliance is a professional collaboration between MGO LLP, a company dedicated to CPA and financial advisory services, and ELLO LLC, which focuses on cannabis financial services. MGO-ELLO Alliance aims to help shepherd emerging companies through the increasingly complex cannabis industry.
“As the cannabis industry continues to experience massive growth, inevitable financial and operational challenges will develop and the MGO-ELLO alliance is uniquely positioned to provide the highest quality consulting and professional services needed,” said ELLO CEO, Evan Eneman, in a statement announcing the partnership.
In the report, MGO-ELLO Alliance weighs the pros and cons of going public. For example, one of the advantages of going public is that it is easier to raise capital and attract top talent. The tradeoff, however, is that publicly traded companies, especially those in the cannabis space, are under increased scrutiny and are subject to strict regulatory oversight.
The report also covers the differences between going public through an initial public offering (IPO) and a reverse takeover (RTO). Generally seen as the traditional way of going public, IPOs involve filing a preliminary prospectus form with securities regulators and allow companies to raise as much money as possible.
RTOs, which is where a company goes public by buying a publicly traded company, represents a growing trend among cannabis companies in the United States. The reason why is that RTOs are quicker, cheaper, and subject to less oversight than traditional IPOs. The tradeoff, however, is that the purchasing company will have to issue a percentage of its shares to legacy shareholders of the purchased company. There also may be hidden liabilities that the purchasing company may have to deal with.
For US-based companies hoping to do business in Canada, the MGO-ELLO Alliance report provides a detailed walkthrough of how to go public through both an IPO and RTO, as well what the regulatory expectations are for publicly traded companies.
To view the full report, click the following link or visit the report section on Green Market Report.
Original Post: Green Market Report: New Report Provides Detailed Walkthrough on How to Go Public in Canada
[Editor’s Note: What you do matters. Your support of cannabis businesses practicing sustainability, makes the whole industry better. Read on to find out more.]
We often think about the marijuana industry as this sleeping giant, but it’s really just a baby.
This space so many of us have chosen is still in its infancy, and the choices we make today — as consumers and as cannabis professionals — have the power to impact the future of this still-growing economy, especially as it relates to the future sustainability of legal marijuana.
Sure, sometimes we feel powerless and insignificant, as if our individual actions aren’t enough to counter the seemingly insurmountable tide of “progress” and commercialization. But because legal and regulated cannabis has yet to even celebrate its fifth birthday, the opposite is actually true.
What you do matters. An entrepreneur’s intentional and thoughtful choices on difficult sustainability decisions are meaningful, and a customer’s discerning approach to the brands he or she is loyal to creates a vote-with-your-dollars relationship that rewards the most responsible businesses.
Also, while we need to remember that we have a voice, we also need to stay aware and educate our policymakers on how they can implement policies that will guide the industry in an environmentally friendly direction.
Here are two things that need to change right now for industry pioneers and consumers who want to make conscious decisions that will collectively make for a more sustainable cannabis industry in the years to come.
Alternatives to Modern Cultivation & Packaging
Let’s start with the obvious. Any conversation about cannabis sustainability in 2018 is incomplete without talking about cultivation and packaging, in that order.
For the most part, we are growing cannabis indoors out of necessity. Marijuana cultivators were driven indoors throughout prohibition, and now many regulated markets mandate indoor cultivation for “security” and “safety” reasons.
But because marijuana is a plant and a commodity crop and more aligned with traditional agriculture than pharmaceuticals — and because cannabis kills 0 (that’s zero) Americans each year, while alcohol kills 90,000 and nicotine kills nearly 500,000 Americans annually — most cannabis of the future will be grown outdoors, sans the misguided concerns about it being a safety or security concern.
Like it already does in California, Washington, Oregon and extremely limited parts of Colorado, marijuana will eventually grow under the sun, not under the High Intensity Discharge grow lights that have become so common in Denver and Oakland warehouses. This will lighten power grids’ loads and widen cultivators’ margins, and it will make the industry more sustainable.
Of course, legal markets are also hamstrung on the issue of packaging, as most consumers already know. The child-proof containers and exit bags required by law aren’t known for their earth-friendliness or recyclability, but that’s starting to change with design-minded entrepreneurs who are readying packaging alternatives that will keep cannabis out of children’s hands — and product packaging out of landfills.
Mass Adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility
Here’s what I tell friends and colleagues at least once a week, and most of them agree with me: “If you’re making money and not giving back, you’re doing it wrong.”
Outside of a few shining stars like Bloom Farms in California and The Clinic in Colorado, corporate social responsibility has not yet fully infiltrated the cannabis space. And this is a problem.
Mind you, the idea of “corporate social responsibility” and sustainability are not the same thing. But I would argue that a business with a thoughtful CSR program is inevitably a more sustainable business.
I’m particularly fond of how the International Organization for Standardization defines CSR: “responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behavior.”
These are questions all entrepreneurs should be asking themselves: How is my business impacting my environment? My community? And what can I do to offset or even out that impact?
Cannabis needs to go that extra mile and donate that pinpoint-targeted extra dollar to show the world that we’re serious about not only creating successful businesses, but also about bolstering the communities and the world around us. Perhaps more importantly, this spirit of sustainable giving fits nicely in with the sharing-is-caring spirit of cannabis itself.
How to Best Practice Sustainability in Modern Cannabis was posted on Cannabis Now.
[Editor’s Note: Joe is right about government regulations restricting small businesses by creating cost and regulation barriers, but dead wrong about most else. I will never purchase my weed from a big business such as Altria, just as I would never eat at Subway or McDonalds. It’s up to us to support small and unique businesses.]
Yes, I know the drill. Corporations are evil. Business people are greedy. No good can come from these evil, greedy people getting their hands on our beloved cannabis plant and selling it for *gasp* profits.
I’m not here to argue the greed of anyone. Greed is a trait human beings display to varying degrees; they have throughout all of known history and will continue to do so. But what I will say is that we have little to fear from corporations dominating the cannabis industry, and much to gain.
I know what many of you are saying: this guy is just some shill for big corporations, he hates the little guy, he’s probably getting paid to praise big business, etc. To be honest, I don’t care who “dominates” the cannabis industry. What I care about is getting the best possible price for the best quality product I can, just like in every other purchase I make. In the end, I don’t really care whether the company that made that product has 2 employees or 20,000.
Furthermore, the ultimate goal in a market should be competition. That’s what drives efficiency and innovation. So if small businesses are barred from entering a market, that’s bad for the goal of better products at lower prices. But “big corporations” aren’t the ones who bar smaller competitors from entering a market, the government is. Wal-Mart can’t stop you from opening a blender store, but government regulations and red tape can. A zoning board can.
In fact, big corporations are the ones who benefit the most from the very regulations that are supposed to be controlling them. They can absorb the costs of regulations and licenses and fees, much more so than a small business. Unable to overcome regulatory and monetary hurdles, a smaller competitor who may have been more receptive to changes in the market, had better customer service, or who one day may have come to dominate the market themselves never has a chance to get off the ground.
‘But Joe’, some of you are saying, ‘I can’t beat Wal-Mart so they are keeping me from opening a blender store.’ This brings me to the benefits of big corporations in the cannabis industry.
Just about every single product, commodity or service you enjoy in your everyday life was created by a “big” corporation and sold to you by one. Why is that? Why did the phone or computer or tablet you’re reading this on, the car you’re in, the coffee you drink, the food you eat, etc. invariably come from a big corporation? Were you forced to buy from them? Or did you choose to, because the blender at Wal-Mart is much cheaper than the one at Mr. Blender down the street. You could have bought the more expensive blender from Mr. Blender, but you didn’t. And why didn’t you? Because you know simple number comparisons and decided not to buy a blender for $60 at Mr. Blender when you can get the same exact blender at Wal-Mart for $39.97.
My point is this: because of the economies of scale that can be achieved by larger companies, they will always have an advantage when it comes to making better quality products at better prices than smaller competitors. But as long as there is a low entry barrier for competitors, consumers can have the maximum amount of choice, which should always be the ultimate goal. There are 12 Subway Sandwich Shops within 30 miles of my house, but I can still go to a local diner or a fancy restaurant or a hot dog cart or a taco truck or a McDonalds. In that list, McDonalds and Subway are the big corporations that “dominate” the market. But it doesn’t matter how big either of them get, they can only have a certain percentage of the market as long as others are allowed to compete.
When it comes to cannabis, I’m all for low barriers to entry for those who want to get in the market. Minimal regulations and red tape, lower licensing fees, lower taxes, yes to all of that. More shops, more growers, more processors, more labs, as much of everything as possible. Yes, some companies will rise to the top, as they do in every industry. But think of it this way: let’s say that 3 cannabis companies come to secure 60% of the cannabis market. The other 40% is taken by 30 other companies. Those first 3 companies clearly dominate the industry, but to a consumer, this means there are 33 companies from which to choose from.
Will some of the smaller companies be unable to compete with the big three? Absolutely. Some will fold, some will be replaced by others, one may even be able to get into the big 3 one day themselves; after all, no one shops at Sears anymore, but long before Wal-Mart, Sears dominated the retail market. As long as a company is profitable, it can thrive, whether it has 30% of the market or .oooo3%.
The only thing a market needs to thrive is the ability of the company with the next big idea or product or service to get a foothold in the industry. Consumers will take care of the rest, those greedy consumers who want better things at lower prices, the ones who punish companies that can’t deliver those things while showering the companies that can with their hard-earned money.
Everyone wants better things and a better quality of life. Some call that greed. But whether you are a big CEO or the “little guy”, you will always make what you think are the best decisions for your life and for the lives of those you care about. And as long as you are making those decisions voluntarily, what business is it of anyone else?
In a cannabis industry with many choices, you will be able to buy from the big companies or the small ones or none at all. You will be able to grow your own or get some from a friend. Choice is what matters.
So beware of those who say we need strict regulations in order to make sure the “little guy” gets a fair chance. Heavy restrictions will make sure only a limited number of companies survive, and those select few won’t be “little guys”.
Original Post: Marijuana Times: The Hysterics Over the Evil Coming of Corporate Cannabis
[Editor’s Note: Excellent interview on cannabis and business, entrepreneurship, family, future, and legacy building. A worthy read for all. ]
In honor of our “women of weed”-themed issue, High Times asked two of the most prominent women in the cannabis space to discuss the industry they’re so passionate about.
Dr. Dina is the founder of the Alternative Herbal Health Services dispensary in Los Angeles as well as the inspiration for the Nancy Botwin character on the groundbreaking pot-centric show, Weeds. A noted cannabis activist, Dr. Dina has made a name for herself as both a business owner and a philanthropist. Here, setting aside the traditional HT interview format, Dr. Dina talks to her colleague Corey Thomas, the founder and CEO of the Honey Pot cannabis company and winner of multiple High Times Cannabis Cups.
Dr. Dina: I’m honored right now to be here. I’ve watched you blossom over the years as an entrepreneur. I’ve seen you build your brand from the ground up. I’m really proud of you. I think that you set a great example for so many women in the industry. And I know that as a mom, you have something stronger to fight for. You should be pretty damn proud of yourself.
Corey: Thank you.
Some girl love—we got to put it out there because it’s true. We don’t always express how proud we are of one another as much as we should. What you’ve accomplished is really impressive. And it’s very difficult without taking on millions of dollars from the very beginning. But what I really want to know is: How do you think the role of women in cannabis has evolved in the last 10 years?
I wouldn’t say that our roles have necessarily changed much. I’ve been in the space for close to 20 years now and there’s always been strong women—the mothers, the sisters and the wives that made the industry what it is today. They’ve always been the ones that were trusted to run the [businesses]; some of the most successful dispensaries in California are run by women—current company included. We’ve always been integral parts of the space.
I think the real evolution over the last 10 years is society’s point of view on what we’re doing. The lack of education before and the stigmas that we dealt with created a fear-based lifestyle for us. And now with the changes in legislation, we’re able to come out of the closet a little bit more and step into the light and build businesses. But I think that’s the same for all genders. We’re all in a safer space now, at least here in California.
I agree. I’ve seen a huge difference. Twenty years ago, I feel like most of the women were stay-at-home moms, and they would take care of their kids while their husbands would grow. Because if something happened, they would go to jail. So the wives would be at home with the kids. That’s a situation we’ve had to fight for so many years. But eventually women started really getting involved in helping their husbands or their boyfriends build their brands. And all of a sudden, the women kind of stepped out from behind the men. Like, “Let us handle this. We can do this better.”
Oh, yeah, we’ve been here the whole time.
We’ve always been here. But now we’re in the front. It’s interesting, when you go to the High Times Cannabis Cups, you don’t see a lot of guys that show up to work the booths; you see girls. People want that because females are friendlier. They’re just naturally more nurturing and [people] connect with that.
Yeah, I mean this is a compassion industry first.
That’s what I think makes the difference. I think the compassion side of it is where the women really shine.
Oh, definitely. I will say numbers-wise, there’s probably more women working in the industry overall, because of those budtenders and all the women working in the retail space.
Yeah. So what do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about you?
Oh, man. I mean, I’ve been labeled a stoner for the longest time. I think you can probably relate.
I understand that.
Ignorance created a lot of misconceptions about who we are and what it meant to have a relationship with cannabis. I think that the legalization and the change of legislation and us being able to step out and show that we are powerful businesswomen who have been able to accomplish things against those odds [challenges] the lazy-stoner stigma that we all dealt with.
Yeah, I mean, cannabis consumers. I have a relationship with cannabis that is extremely special to me. Whatever society wants to call us, that’s on them.
How were you first introduced to cannabis?
My parents are actually in the space.
So you had a head start then.
Well, honestly, D.A.R.E. class was the first time I heard about cannabis. I think that’s how most of us heard about drugs, even though they thought that they were teaching us what to avoid. Other than D.A.R.E., my parents were always really honest. But they didn’t share that side of their life with me. Because it wasn’t safe to do that. You don’t tell your kids because they just like to talk.
The first time I ever consumed cannabis was in the parking lot of a bowling alley… And it was actually from my parent’s roommate. So technically, it was through my parents. It was the summer before freshman year of high school. I turned 14 that year, and I never looked back from that point forward.
Bowling was very fun that night.
You know, I think the first time you consume cannabis, you’re so concerned about what it is you’re going to be feeling. I hit it one time, and the whole time I was like, “Am I high? Am I high? Is this what it is to be high?”
I was so paranoid.
I mean, it was introduced to me by someone that my family trusted. And my parents never looked down upon it or said anything bad about it. They were always honest about the medicinal benefits, but at the same time, I knew that we couldn’t talk about it, that this was a part of our lives that was a secret. It’s a different time now, for sure.
How do they look at your career? Are they blown away by what you built?
I would say so. I think that my parents are really proud. I hope they are. I feel like I owe it to them. There have been a lot of changes over the last 20 years. [We can’t forget about] the generation that survived prohibition and helped to make the space what it is today.
We gotta make sure they’re okay.
Yeah. My family [and I have seen] the dark sides, you know? I mean, this is all puppies and rainbows.
What do you think are the biggest achievements in terms of marijuana image and portrayal?
Well, first and foremost, shout out to High Times. High Times Magazine has been around for longer than I’ve been alive. [For 44 years,] they have been teaching the world about the wonders of cannabis. Not only cannabis, but also the other wonderful natural substances that we can use to enjoy life a little bit more.
Other than that, in the last 10 years, Sanjay Gupta’s docuseries and how monumental that was [that he admitted] his ignorance and that he was wrong.
Isn’t it crazy, though? Have you noticed when you’re driving down the street you look up and all these billboards are for cannabis brands?
It’s amazing. I mean, we’re in national publications. Newsweek, we’ve been in National Geographic, we’re on Netflix [Disjointed]. Thanks to you. You know, there’s Bong Appétit on Viceland, which is a show that is teaching people how to infuse their own food with cannabis. It’s amazing.
Let’s talk about product development with your advertising. The Honey Pot bear was that famous bear that everyone knew. And it was something that really helped brand your product. Everyone knew you guys, you stood out as the Honey Pot. But as everyone knows, with Prop. 64, and our new regulations, we cannot appeal to children. And so we had to say goodbye to the bear…
Yes, exactly. In 2012, when I started Honey Pot, I had to store the honey. The bears are kind of synonymous [with honey]. When I made that first batch, I just poured it into bear containers. It became the Honey Pot bear.
Then we won our first High Times Cannabis Cup in 2015, for Honey Pot Bear Balm. So that solidified the bear as being a part of who we were. Fast-forward to 2018 and the bear is considered to be attractive to children. The Bureau of Cannabis Control here in California has quite a few regulations of how edibles need to be packaged and labeled and so on.
We’ve committed to evolving. But it’s creative, like the creative process of building a brand, and building that package, it’s something that is really enjoyable. The regulations have taken a lot of that creativity out of it, but it still is amazing. I’m really happy with our new branding and our new logo and our new packaging, and I’m really excited about the future.
Well, people have always loved your product, Corey. It’s not about the container. It was cute and kitschy, and I think it opened up a lot of people to trying a product that they were scared of. So thank you for that, because there were a lot of older women that came in and they were really scared, they didn’t even know what to do. “Here, we have CBD honey, just put it in your tea.” That opened them up.
We were microdosing way before, and now everyone is forced [into] microdosing. We’ve been doing it for a long time. But cannabis consumers are smart. They’ll purchase something because it’s in a pretty package one time or because it has a celebrity’s name on it, but if it is not a good product, they’re not going to buy it again. The products speak for themselves there. I just try and use ingredients that are as medicinal as possible. And if they work well together and have a beautiful marriage and can help the consumer just feel better, that’s really the goal.
What would you like your legacy to be?
Well, first and foremost, my son is definitely my legacy—third-generation cannabis-educated. He’s 11, so he’s not anywhere in the space nor will he be, but I’ve always been honest with him about who I am and who our family is.
Well, you’ve had a legitimate business for a large part of his life, but that business has been kind of in the gray area.
I’ve always told him what I did and the products that I made. I was honest with him that you can’t talk about these things, because not everyone believes that mommy’s helping people. That was hard for him to understand. It’s hard for all of us to understand…
It’s really hard.
It doesn’t make sense. But other than my wonderful child, who I hope to leave as a better version of myself, I just hope that my relationship with cannabis and the products that I make could just help one person’s life a little, make their life a little bit easier, a little bit more peaceful. We all want to make a small difference here in the world. If I’m able to transform my personal relationship with cannabis into making people’s lives easier, then I think I succeeded at life.
So what do you think about the current censorship that is being directed at cannabis, like on YouTube and other platforms? There’s a massive movement that’s trying to [tell] the truth about cannabis and they’re not allowing us to do so.
I think there are two sides to that, because we were just talking about Netflix and Viceland, and all of these amazing things that are happening. But at the same time there’s no legislation and there are no rules for how this information is supposed to be broadcast. At the end of the day, big business still runs our government and our entertainment industry. I feel like there are a lot of monopolies in this country that would be affected by the legalization of cannabis.
So we’ve been talking about equality. We know there’s still some sexism and misogynistic behavior going on in the industry. Do you feel that we’re being treated equally?
We are equal, we are part of this industry. That’s how I see it.
I remember with my first shop, I would have a vendor come in and I would try to negotiate a price with them. They’d be like, “$5,000.” I’m like, “I’ll give you $3,500.” And they would look at me like, “She’s trying to lowball me” or something, and they would say, “Where’s your husband?”
Oh, yeah, it still happens today. I almost feel like it’s a benefit to be underestimated. Sometimes. I mean, we’ve been in this game a long time. And, you know, yes, there is sexism, sexism exists.
Do you have any thoughts about the budding female cannabis social-influencer market versus the female growers and owner-operators?
Well, I mean, first of all, we didn’t have social media. We had to have code names and burner phones. And I was taught not to say anything about anything.
All photos are evidence against you in court…
There’s been a big shift in social media that has helped to educate the masses about the wonders of cannabis. And it’s been great for brands when Instagram was first going and there weren’t the algorithms [it has now]. You’re really able to speak directly to the consumer and let them know who you are and tell your story, and I think that’s been really great for cannabis patients. Anyone that’s considered an influencer has a tremendous responsibility. You’re influencing a generation.
Where do you want to be five years from now?
I know that I always want to be a part of the cannabis space. It’s just a part of who I am.
Where do you see Honey Pot five years from now? What do you have in store for us?
We recently partnered with a beautiful organic facility, and we’re now manufacturing all our products in a state-of-the-art facility. So we’re very, very excited about that. There’s lots of growth and amazing things happening at Honey Pot. We’re coming out with a bunch of new products and the old favorites are coming back.
How does the packaging change for you?
We are now in opaque bottles with a measuring cup so the consumer can measure their 10-milligram doses.
OK, last question: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Just be confident. Believe in yourself. Don’t believe in that stoner stigma that everyone else does. It was a big moment for me when I won my first Cannabis Cup. It made all the struggles and stigmas worth it. It felt like I was on the right path and supposed to be here.
This feature was published in the November 2018 issue of High Times magazine, subscribe right here.
The High Times Interview: Dr. Dina & Corey Thomas was posted on High Times.
[Editor’s Note: 2018 was a huge year for cannabis. Lots of great progress was made. Read on for the year’s highlights.]
If there were a theme running through the top cannabis news stories of 2018, it might be this: Nearly all were predicted in 2017.
In fact, with most of our top stories, it would have been big news if they hadn’t happened. The FDA approved approved its first-ever cannabis-derived pharmaceutical, Epidiolex, right on schedule. Canada, California, and Massachusetts entered the adult-use retail era in 2018, as they said they would. Ballot measures that passed in Michigan and Missouri? No surprise.
Some news did catch us off guard. Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled, definitively and with little warning, that cannabis prohibition violated the nation’s constitution. Utah and Oklahoma went medically legal. And who expected CBD to enter the mainstream so fast?
And you can’t cap off 2018 without a nod to Jeff Sessions. President Trump’s attorney general began the year by rescinding the Cole memo, the policy guidance that allowed state-legal cannabis to operate without immediate federal shutdown. The AG’s year ended one day after the midterm elections, when Trump effectively rescinded Jeff Sessions.
10. FDA Approves First CBD Drug, Epidiolex
FDA approved, and expensive.
Other FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that contain THC already exist. Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, has been on the market since the 1980s. What makes Epidiolex unique is that it’s produced using whole-plant cannabis grown by the manufacturer, UK-based GW Pharma. Epidiolex, indicated for patients with intractable seizures, is essentially a refined version of CBD. And it’s extremely expensive. Which is why its FDA approval was met with both applause and criticism from many in the cannabis community. Nobody’s against sick children getting a life-changing medicine. But many wondered if non-FDA approved CBD would achieve the same results at a much lower cost to patients and parents.
9. Ex-Prohibitionists Hop on the Cannabis Train
Boehner: Now with Acreage.
In the run-up to this year’s 4/20 celebration, the world received a strange bit of news. John Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the House, announced his decision to join the board of directors of Acreage Holdings, one of North America’s most well-known cannabis companies.
There are plenty of Republicans who’ve spoken out in favor of cannabis legalization, but Boehner had never been among them. In fact, he’d been one of the toughest bricks in the wall of prohibition.
Nevertheless, the logic of legalization and the lure of a growing industry brought about a change of heart. By the end of the year, other mainstream pols had followed suit. Former Democratic leader Howard Dean and ex-GOP party chair Michael Steele joined the advisory board of Tilray, the Canadian cannabis company.* Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Meanwhile, politicians still in office changed their tune on legalization in 2018: Sens. Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, and Dianne Feinstein came out in favor of legalization. So did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
* Full disclosure: Tilray is owned by Privateer Holdings, the private equity firm that also owns Leafly.
8. Congress Legalizes Hemp
Hemp is legal. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
Maybe this section should be headlined “Mitch McConnell Legalizes Hemp to Help His Home State Farmers,” because that’s essentially what happened.
After allowing a limited number of hemp pilot projects in the 2014 farm bill, the Senate majority leader came roaring back in 2018 to lead the charge for the commodity crop, which just happens to grow extremely well in Kentucky.
McConnell didn’t just back-door hemp in the farm b He embraced it, sending out tweets of himself signing documents using a hemp pen. At year’s end, hemp is expected to be fully federally legal—and the same might be said too, eventually, of CBD extracted from that federally legal hemp.
7a. Jeff Sessions Rescinds Cole Memo, Has Little Effect
The Cole Memo is no more. (AP, Leafly)
What a way to ring in the new year, huh? No sooner had most of us returned to our desks in January than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions issued a chilling edict: The Cole memo, the 2013 Justice Department policy advisory that allowed state-legal cannabis regulation to proceed, was henceforth no more.
An outcry ensued—but here’s the thing: Nothing happened. The policy no longer obtained, but US attorneys around the country didn’t unleash the hounds on state-legal cannabis companies.
In fact, they husbanded their resources and went after bad actors in legal states, companies operating outside the lines set down by state regulators. That had the effect of strengthening the existing industry, rewarding good operators by removing their rule-breaking competitors.
7b. Trump Rescinds Jeff Sessions
Sessions is no more. (AP, Leafly)
We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when.
All year it seemed like President Trump was on the verge of firing his attorney general. Trump didn’t care about cannabis, of course. Sessions’ original sin, in the president’s eyes, was appointing a special counsel and recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
The shoe finally dropped on Nov. 7, the day after Trump and the Republicans suffered a walloping in the midterm elections. Somebody had to pay for the losses, and it turned out to be Sessions (who, of course, had nothing to do with the election).
Trump appointed the unknown Matthew Whitaker as interim AG, and nobody was sure whether Whitaker’s status was even legal. By the year’s end, the president had named William Barr—an actual former attorney general, under George H.W. Bush—as a permanent replacement. Barr is an old-line drug warrior, but so far he doesn’t seem to have the odd passion for (against?) cannabis that marked Sessions’ time in office.
6. Mexico Supreme Court Strikes Down Prohibition
Prohibition is out.
Yow! This one really snuck up on us. At the end of October, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued the last of five rulings that declared the nation’s cannabis prohibition unconstitutional.
Because of the way Mexico’s courts work, the fifth similar ruling on a single issue makes the decision binding on courts nationwide. So now, technically, cannabis isn’t exactly legal, but it’s not constitutionally illegal, either.
More progress is expected. The nation’s lawmakers are now working on a full legalize-and-regulate package that may be ready for its debut in 2019.
5. Legalization Continues its March Across North America
Voters love legalization.
Canada, California, and Massachusetts weren’t the only big turns in 2018.
Vermont legalized adult-use cannabis through its state legislature.
Oklahoma legalized medical.
Missouri and Utah voters embraced medical initiatives as well.
And Michigan went fully adult-legal on election day.
North Dakota voters turned down an unregulated adult-use measure, but in keeping with the theme of the year: That was expected.
4. Massachusetts Cannabis Stores Open
First customers at Cultivate, in Leicester. (AP/Steven Senne)
Nearly two years after voters approved adult-use legalization, the first cannabis stores opened in the Bay State, marking the debut of legal, regulated sales in the Eastern United States.
The only problem was demand: Long lines formed outside the first open stores, and traffic snarled around the block.
As the year drew to a close, more stores were coming online, dissipating the demand. Meanwhile, all that tax money lit a fire under Vermont, the state’s northern neighbor, where officials watched consumers cross state lines (technically not legal) to purchase licensed, lab-tested product.
Prediction: Look for Vermont’s retail system to open in early 2020.
3. CBD Goes Mainstream
The NYT is on it.
The wonders of cannabidiol (CBD) have been known for years to many in the cannabis community. But few outsiders had even heard of the compound, let alone tried it.
During the summer of 2018, though, CBD suddenly seemed to be everywhere—in health supplement stores, mainstream drug stores, and even gas stations. Even CBD-infused cocktails became a thing.
The New York Times Magazine ran a feature titled “Why Is CBD Everywhere?” Which means one of two things: Either the cannabinoid has jumped the shark, or it’s become so ubiquitous that the DEA’s efforts to criminalize it will be futile.
The year ended with Congress passing the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp and pointed toward the end of the road for CBD as a banned, illicit substance.
2. California Adult-Use Market Opens
Steve DeAngelo (in hat) celebrates with Henry Wykowski on Jan. 1, 2018.
California cannabis sales went legal on Jan. 1, 2018. It wasn’t nearly as big a deal as Canada’s day one—partly because medical cannabis (and illicit adult-use cannabis) have been ingrained in California culture for decades. California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis, in 1996. In 2018, the state finally reclaimed its rightful place as America’s cannabis leader. Now if they can just convince all those cities and counties to drop their silly cannabis bans.
1. Canada Legalizes Nationwide
Leafly’s Bud Drop party marked the opening of the new legal era in Toronto. (Jesse Miln for Leafly)
At the stroke of midnight, Newfoundland time, on Oct. 17, Canadian dollars passed across the counters of stores in St. John’s, opening the post-prohibition era in the Great White North. At Leafly’s Bud Drop party in Toronto, supergroup Dwayne Gretzky played in the legal era with a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.”
Other nations (we see you, Uruguay) had taken tentative steps toward full legalization, but Canada will forever be seen as the first to stride into the world’s post-prohibition era. Canadians responded well to the change. Online shoppers jammed the Ontario Cannabis Store with thousands of orders at 12:01 a.m., Quebec handled 42,000 orders on the first day, and demand was so strong that some provinces nearly ran out of cannabis. More than two months later, the market had calmed and bumps were being smoothed, but the nation’s love of cannabis and pride in its pioneering role remained as strong as ever.
Original Post: Leafly: The Top 10 Cannabis Stories of 2018
[Editor’s Note: This acquisition helps solidify High Times mainstream media status. Now they have an online presence, a print presence, and a conference presence. BIG’s website may even be brought into the 21st century.]
As time progresses it seems like the growth in the cannabis industry is becoming ever more accelerated. Millions of cannabis consumers are emerging from the shadows to take their place as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to having their demands catered to. Millions of people are just waiting for legal markets to open so they no longer have to hide their love for the cannabis plant. This growth has translated into tremendous opportunities, both for companies new to the industry as well as players who have been in the game for a while. In the latter category is where legendary cannabis press outlet High Times resides.
For years High Times magazine was the only source of news and info for a community mired on the fringes of society thanks to the decades of lies that built up a stigma around cannabis. Now that legalization is taking hold across North America and beyond, HT is ready to grow with the industry it had a big part in bringing about. In that spirit, High Times has announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Buyers Industry Guide, the publication and production company responsible for the highly successful cannabis conference series ‘the BIG Show’. This B2B trade show – which services the ancillary cannabis community – gathers twice annually in Miami and Los Angeles, attracting over 10,000 industry guests a year. “The Big Show has a great reputation throughout the industry, so to bring their brand in-house is really exciting. They’ve developed an impressive roster of attendees, and a loyal audience – we’re looking forward to continuing to add more resources and additional programming in future years” said Adam Levin, Chairman and CEO of High Times Holdings.
As marijuana law reform takes hold in more places – especially in the U.S. – trade shows and industry conferences will become even more prevalent than they currently are, and HT is setting themselves up as a major player in that sector. “Working with High Times is a dream come true,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, the sole proprietor of Buyers Industry Guide. “I grew up reading their publication, and after meeting Adam and learning about his plans, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect marriage. High Times is rapidly evolving, pivoting away from solely focusing on media, into a true technology and services business. Receiving this kind of approval from these kingmakers reaffirms my belief that we’re on the right path, and doubles down on our belief that these types of events are not only beneficial, but necessary for the growth of this industry!”
In a world where so much communication happens online, conferences and expos are increasingly the place where real-world contacts are made and info is shared – the exact contacts and info-sharing that are vital for the continued growth of the industry as a whole.
Original Post: Marijuana Times: High Times to Make a BIG Acquisition
[Editors Note: To market as a women’s cannabis club is novel. The executive positions statistic mentioned in this article is from 2015. Currently, women in cannabis hold 27% of the exec positions, compared to 23% for all businesses. Neither of these numbers are acceptable.]
Although the holiday gift shopping salon hosted by the Women’s Cannabis Club didn’t come with a “No Boys Allowed” sign, the event strove to elevate women in cannabis in more ways than one.
At the Higher Standards storefront in New York City’s neo-mall Chelsea Market, cannabis enthusiasts of all genders congregated on Saturday afternoon to enjoy complimentary treats like a CBD-infused granola, a 20 percent discount storewide and some very good company, all facilitated by a group of women passionate about the emerging cannabis industry. “I find it extremely empowering to be a woman in cannabis,” Jen Bernstein, president of the Women’s Cannabis Club, told Cannabis Now. Bernstein, who sported a glittery cannabis leaf necklace to the event, is an industry veteran and a former managing editor for High Times, so it’s no surprise that she’s also an advocate for women in the cannabis sphere. “Knowing now with legalization, 37 percent of women are holding executive-level positions in cannabis — It feels like we’re creating a space for us. And in creating the Women’s Cannabis Club, we are exemplifying that idea that women enjoy and love cannabis just as much as our male counterparts.” Bernstein also shared the origin story of the Women’s Cannabis Club: the idea for the club itself was conceived in the spring, at a Cynthia Nixon rally on 420. The event spanned a little over two hours and included a demonstration of the LEVO II, an oil and butter infuser that can make a mean marinade, or some sweet canna-oil, with the touch of a button. LEVO’s head of brand Olivia Harris noted during the demonstration that the company is women-founded, which elicited whoops of approval from the assembled onlookers.
After the demo wrapped up, a smaller group of merrymakers ventured out of the crowded Chelsea Market, grabbed some hot chocolate and headed over to the High Line (get it?) to enjoy a free video exhibition and some fresh winter air. According to Lindsey Adler, another co-founder of the Women’s Cannabis Club who describes herself as a longtime cannabis enthusiast and a “cheerleader” for activists, the group structures its events with more than just their favorite plant in mind. “Each of us, the co-founders, we’re all creative people,” Adler said. “We’re writers, we’re photographers, we’re live music lovers. So [we try] to keep something creative, something inspirational behind it all.” Adler noted that the club’s kickoff event involved sipping some CBD and then taking a private tour of an art gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood.
Despite the fact that cannabis is not yet legal in the state of New York, there’s still an undeniably thriving community based around the plant, particularly in the city that never sleeps. “To be in New York City, it’s totally interesting because we only have the Compassionate Care Act and it’s not legal here,” Bernstein said. “But that’s what makes it interesting for us: to dive deep into CBD and hemp-based CBD and [learn] about those benefits as well, so that way we’re prepared for the day legalization comes to New York.”
The Women’s Cannabis Club aims to capitalize on that momentum and create a space for women to learn more about cannabis and take part in experiential events — there’s a yoga-oriented experience to come in January, a sex and weed workshop slated for February, and even more events to come in the future. “We’re currently formalizing our membership model, and meanwhile we’re focusing on building our community at our events and through social media and our newsletter,” Adler told us via text message.
For now, the women of the Women’s Cannabis Club will have to continue to enjoy their buzz with a wink and a nod — and a gaggle of like-minded individuals. “The events aren’t about cannabis necessarily,” Adler said. “It’s about the common interest. We all like cannabis, and we also love to do cultural things together.”
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