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Immigrants Can Be Denied Citizenship for Working in Legal Marijuana Industry

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  ROBYN BECK/Getty Images

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

ROBYN BECK/Getty Images


 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance a day before the unofficial marijuana holiday that makes clear working in the marijuana industry, or even just possessing cannabis could be grounds to reject a citizenship application—regardless of whether it is done in a state where it is legal.

Violations of federal marijuana laws “are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” according to the guidance issued Friday. Merely being “involved in certain marijuana-related activities” could be sign that an applicant for citizenship “may lack good moral character” regardless of whether “such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” according to the USCIS statement.

Immigration lawyers who work in states where marijuana is legal say they have been dealing with this issue for a while now, leading Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock to send a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking for clarification about policies that have been affecting immigrants. This isn’t just a theoretical issue either. CNN reports that two immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than two decades were told they were not eligible for naturalization due to their work in the marijuana industry. “I work hard in an industry that offers opportunity and that’s unquestionably legal within the state. For the government to deny my citizenship application because I’m a bad person is devastating,” one affected immigrant tells CNN.

Advocates for legalization say the guidance is more a reflection of the government’s anti-immigrant attitude than about drugs. “I don’t think this is about marijuana at all,” said Michael Collins, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think this is about them using the war on drugs to go after migrant community and that’s what they’ve been doing since Day 1.” A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana while 10 states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.


Employers May Lose Cases for Firing Medical Marijuana Users

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 Health-care worker Katelin Noffsinger told a potential employer that she took medical cannabis to deal with the effects of a car crash, but when a drug test came back positive, the nursing home rescinded her job offer anyway.

A federal judge ruled in September 2018 that the nursing home, which had cited federal laws against cannabis use, violated an anti-discrimination provision of Connecticut‘s medical marijuana law.

It was the latest in a series of clashes between U.S. and state laws around the country that came out in favor of medical cannabis users trying to keep or obtain jobs with drug-testing employers.

The Connecticut decision was the first ruling of its kind in a federal case and followed similar recent rulings against employers by state courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Earlier rulings had gone against medical cannabis users in employment cases by state supreme courts, including those in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, over the past few years.

Advocates hope new the new decisions are a signal of growing acceptance of cannabis’ medicinal value.

“This decision reflects the rapidly changing cultural and legal status of cannabis, and affirms that employers should not be able to discriminate against those who use marijuana responsibly while off the job, in compliance with the laws of their state,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Medical marijuana, like the cannabis cuttings growing in a Sira Naturals cultivation facility in Milford Massachusetts, is reshaping employment law. A U.S. District judge in New Haven, Connecticut, ruled in favor of a woman who alleged a prospective employer discriminated against her when she sought a health-care job and informed the company she used medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from a car crash. The judge found that the nursing home violated Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law protecting medical cannabis users despite marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level. (Associated Press File Photo/Steven Senne)

 

Noffsinger sued Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center in Niantic in 2016. She had been offered, and accepted, a job as recreation therapy director at the nursing home, contingent on her passing a drug test.

She told the nursing home that she took synthetic marijuana pills — legally under state law and only at night — to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she developed after the 2012 car accident. But the company rescinded the job offer after the drug test came back positive for THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high.

As a federal contractor, the nursing home worried that it could be cut off from that revenue if it employed somebody who tested positive for drugs.

On Sept. 5, 2018, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven ruled Bride Brook discriminated against Noffsinger based solely on her medical cannabis use in violation of state law. He denied her request for punitive damages. The case is now heading to a trial on whether Noffsinger should receive compensatory damages for lost wages from not getting the job.

A lawyer for the nursing home, Thomas Blatchley, declined to comment.

Noffsinger’s attorney, Henry Murray, said his client would not comment on the lawsuit. He said Noffsinger has taken another job in the health-care industry that doesn’t pay as much as the Bride Brook job.

In his ruling, Meyer said the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which many employers including federal contractors rely on for policies on drug testing, does not actually require drug testing and does not prohibit federal contractors from employing people who use medical cannabis outside the workplace in accordance with state law.

The decision will likely be used in arguments in similar cases elsewhere, said Fiona Ong, an employment attorney with the Baltimore firm of Shawe Rosenthal.

“This is a very significant case that throws the issue in doubt for many of these federal contractors,” Ong said. “It’s certainly interesting and may be indicative of where the courts are going with this.”

Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam now allow medical marijuana, while 15 others have approved low-THC products for medical reasons in certain cases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only nine states including Connecticut, however, specifically ban employment discrimination against medical marijuana users, who could continue to face difficulties in obtaining or keeping jobs in the 41 other states, employment lawyers say.

In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court ruled in 2017 that a sales and marketing company wrongly fired a worker after her first day on the job after she tested positive for cannabis, which she used under the state’s medical marijuana law to treat her Crohn’s disease. Also in 2017, the Rhode Island state Supreme Court said a college student was wrongly denied an internship at a fabric company where officials refused to hire her after she acknowledged she could not pass a drug test because she used medical marijuana.

In both cases, the two women told the companies during the hiring process that they used medical marijuana, but would not consume it while on the job.

The American Bar Association called the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island cases “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and cautioned employers to consider state medical cannabis laws when analyzing their drug use and testing policies.

Several bills are pending before Congress that would undo marijuana’s Schedule I classification as a controlled substance with no medicinal value. But Armentano of NORML said it is unlikely they will go anywhere while Republicans control Congress.

Some employers, though, have dropped marijuana from the drug tests they require of employees, saying the testing excludes too many potential workers in a challenging hiring environment.

Legal Weed: California Lawmakers Leave Many Marijuana Policies in Suspense

California lawmakers returned from summer recess to a busy week of committee hearings. Seventeen cannabis bills had hearings in Sacramento for the week ending Friday, August 10, 2018. We’ve broken down the status of each bill and what steps are to follow.

AB 1744 — After-school Programs (Placed in suspense file)

AB 1744 would allocate cannabis tax revenues to provide grants for the After-School Education and Safety Program. Qualifying after-school programs are required to provide youth development activities that promote healthful lifestyle choices and behaviors in order to receive funding. AB 1744  was placed in the suspense file with a vote of 7-0 by the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. The suspense file is a holding placing for any bill with an annual cost to the state greater than $150,000. Bills are held in the suspense file before the fiscal deadline to offer each legislative chamber time to allocate funds. Bills that are moved out of the suspense file go to the floor for a final reading and vote, while bills held in suspense die.

AB 1793 — Resentencing for Cannabis Convictions (Placed in Suspense File)

AB 1793 would require the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to review all convictions that could potentially be eligible for resentencing under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act of 2016 (AUMA), or Proposition 64, before July 1, 2019. The bill would allow prosecutors to challenge convictions that do not fully meet the eligibility requirements. AB 1793 was also placed in the suspense file Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, with a 7-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1863 — Personal Income Tax Deductions (Passed Committee)

AB 1863 would allow California-licensed, state-compliant cannabis businesses to deduct business expenses under the Personal Income Tax Law. If passed, the bill would go into effect immediately. The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 6-0 to pass AB 1863 on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. The bill will proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1996 — California Cannabis Research Program (Placed in Suspense File)

AB 1996 would establish the California Cannabis Research Program to develop studies and conduct cannabis research. The bill proposes to allocate resources from the California Tax Fund to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. The Senate Appropriations Committee placed AB 1996 in the suspense file Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2020 — Temporary Event Licenses for Onsite Sales (Placed in Suspense File proposes a state temporary cannabis event license to be issued to a licensee for events to be held at any venue zoned or approved by a local licensing authority for events. Additionally, the bill would authorize onsite cannabis sales and consumption for adults 21 and older, as long as all participants in the event are licensed under the Medicinal and Adult-use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA). AB 2020 was placed in the suspense file following a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2215 — Veterinary Cannabis Medicine Ban (Ordered for Third  Reading)

AB 2215 proposes to prohibit a veterinarian from recommending or administering cannabis to an animal patient. The bill would authorize the Veterinary Medical Board to revoke or suspend a license, or to assess a fine for violating a controlled substances law. AB 2215 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2255 — Transportation Limits (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2255 would prohibit licensed distributors from transporting cannabis that exceeds the amount stated on a shipping manifest. Violations would result in fines. Additionally, the bill would prevent law enforcement officers from seizing cannabis in transport without probable cause. AB 2255 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2402 — Personal Information Privacy (Ordered for Third  Reading)

AB 2402 prohibits a MAUCRSA licensee from sharing a consumer’s personal information to a third party without the consumer’s consent. The bill would also prevent a licensee from denying a consumer a product or service if they do not consent to sharing their information. AB 2402 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2555 — Legal Language of Cannabis (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2555 proposes to amend sections of the California Business and Professions code by adding definitions for the terms “immature cannabis plant,” “mature cannabis plant,” and “plant.” Additionally, instead of requiring a unique identifier to be issued for each cannabis plant, the bill would require a unique identifier for each mature cannabis plant. AB 2555 was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2641 — Temporary Event Licenses for Sales (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2641 proposes for the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) to issue a temporary cannabis retailer license to qualified licensees for the transportation and sale of any cannabis products at a licensed temporary cannabis event. The bill would require an application be sent to the BCC, including a list of all licensed participating business. AB 2641 was read a second time, and ordered to a third reading following a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.

AB 2899 — Cannabis Advertisement Restrictions (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2899 would prohibit a licensee from publishing advertisements or marketing materials for cannabis and cannabis products under a suspended license. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered a third reading.

AB 2914 — Cannabis in Alcoholic Beverages (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2914 would prohibit a cannabis licensee from producing or selling cannabis products in alcoholic beverages. Additionally, this bill would prevent any alcoholic beverage licensee from selling, offering, or providing cannabis or cannabis products. AB 2914 would authorize the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to suspend or revoke a license if a violation is found. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered to a third reading.

AB 2980 — Common Areas Shared by Cannabis Businesses (Ordered for Third Reading)

AB 2980 would require that sections of the MAUCRSA not be misinterpreted in a manner that would prevent two or more licensed premises from sharing common-use areas, as long as all licensees comply with the requirements of the act. The bill was read a second time Monday, Aug. 6 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which ordered to a third reading.

AB 924 — Commercial Cannabis Regulation on Native American Tribal Lands (Hearing Postponed by Committee)

AB 924 would establish the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Act for Tribal Entities (CREATE Act). Under the CREATE Act, participating tribes would be required to enter a tribal cannabis regulatory agreement with the governor for the purpose of establishing a tribal cannabis regulatory commission or agency. All tribal cannabis regulatory agreements and subsequent tribal commissions and agencies must be approved by the Legislature. A hearing for AB 924 was rescheduled for Monday, Aug.13, 2018, before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1459 — County Agricultural Commission Reporting (Passed Committee)

SB 1459 would require county agricultural commissioners to include cannabis among reports of the condition, acreage, production, and value of agricultural products submitted to the secretary of Food and Agriculture. SB 1459 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee 13-4 and has been ordered for a third reading on the Senate floor.

SB 829 — Compassionate-care Licenses (Placed in Suspense File)

SB 829 proposes the BCC issue and regulate compassionate-care licenses, which are issued to donors of medicinal cannabis or marijuana products to qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation. SB 829 was placed in following an Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.   

SB 930 — State-chartered Financial Institutions for Cannabis (Placed in Suspense File)

SB 930 would create a state charter for privately financed banks and credit unions for the purpose of offering banking services to licensed cannabis businesses. Administered by the Commissioner of Business Oversight and the Department of Business Oversight, the program would also create the Cannabis Limited Charter Bank and Credit Union Advisory Board to include the treasurer, the controller and the chief of the BCC as policy directors. SB 930 was placed in the suspense file Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Votes to Legalize Marijuana

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5,871 miles of open Pacific Ocean waters separate the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from the coast of California. But the 15-island chain that makes up the United States’ westernmost territory is poised to do something no U.S. state has ever done.

On Wednesday, 18 of CNMI’s 20 legislators voted to approve a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use. The bill would also legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp. And if CNMI Governor Ralph Torres enacts the bill, the territory will make legalization history—twice.

CNMI Would Be First U.S. Jurisdiction to Go From Total Prohibition to Full Legalization

This isn’t the first time CNMI lawmakers attempted to legalize cannabis. As recently as May, the CNMI Senate approved a piece of legislation nearly identical to the House-approved bill. Procedural issues, however, stymied the bill’s progress.

After another false start in the Senate, the House opted to file its own bill. It took less than a week for the full chamber to vote to approve the proposal.

 

That act alone makes CNMI unique among the 9 U.S. states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. Vermont comes closest, having legalized marijuana through a legislative process rather than a ballot initiative. But unlike CNMI’s proposed legislation, Vermont’s law doesn’t establish a retail market. The Mariana Islands’ legislation would.

There’s a second way CNMI would make legalization history if the bill becomes law. Every U.S. state that has legalized adult-use marijuana did so only after establishing a medical cannabis program. But in CNMI, there is no medical marijuana. The territory would be the first U.S. jurisdiction to go from total prohibition to full legalization.

What’s Next for Legal Cannabis in U.S. Territories?

Despite the tremendous distance between the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the continental United States, the territory has been closely watching legal cannabis unfold there. Indeed, the overwhelming support for the proposal in the House is due to lawmakers’ recognizing the significant benefits of legal weed.

 

The full text of the legislation, SB 20-62, cites how states with regulated markets for marijuana “have observed real and significant benefits to public health, safety and quality of life for all residents,” and goes on to list medical benefits like treatments for pain, epilepsy and PTSD, social benefits like a reduction in overdose deaths and lowered crime and economic benefits like tax revenue and job growth.

But the bill still has a couple more hurdles to clear before it becomes law. The CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 is currently on its way back to the Senate for approval. After that, it will head to the desk of Gov. Ralph Torres, a Republican who has expressed concerns about legalization.

In response to House passage of the bill, Torres stressed the importance of taking “a look at both sides of the coin.” Torres wondered about the crime statistics in states with legal weed and other public safety issues.

 

Whether those reservations would ultimately lead Gov. Torres to veto the legislative effort and oppose the will of CNMI residents, however, remains to be seen. Public hearings about the act had higher attendance than any hearings senators could remember. Initially, legislators had designed the bill as a voter referendum before adopting it in the Senate.

Marijuana News: FDA Approves First-Ever Cannabis-Based Drug

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The good marijuana news for GWPH is that the organization is giving its approval to Epidiolex. This is a type of oral solution for the treatment of seizures. This includes seizures from two types of rare epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

This bit of marijuana news marks the first time in the history of the U.S. that the FDA has given its approval to a purified drug derived from marijuana. However, customers with concerns about psychoactive effects from the drug need not worry.

Epidiolex won’t be causing psychoactive effects comparable to marijuana. That’s because it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes the “high” that users experience. Instead, patients are taking cannabidiol (CBD), which is another component of the drug.

The FDA notes that the current Controlled Substances Act requires Epidiolex be listed as a Schedule I substance due to its connection to marijuana. However, it has looked over the abuse potential of the drug and is advising the Drug Enforcement Administration on how to handle the situation.

The effects of Epidiolex could very well be a boon to patients with the two forms of epilepsy mentioned above. The drug went through three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to determine its effectiveness in treating the two diseases. It was shown to be more effective at reducing seizures, when taken with other drugs, than a placebo during these studies.

Despite all this good marijuana news, there are still some negative side effects to Epidiolex. These side effects are “sleepiness, sedation and lethargy; elevated liver enzymes; decreased appetite; diarrhea; rash; fatigue, malaise and weakness; insomnia, sleep disorder and poor quality sleep; and infections.”

Texas Republicans Come Out in Support of Marijuana Decriminalization

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Texas Republicans have come out in support of marijuana decriminalization in their official party platform. State GOP delegates also approved an expansion of medical marijuana access and support for industrial hemp at their convention.

Nearly 10,000 delegates attended the state Republican Party convention last week. Before Saturday’s vote on the platform, delegates had the opportunity to learn about cannabis policy and regulation. In a first for the convention, three pro-pot groups and one anti-pot group had booths in the exposition area.

The platform approved by delegates contained more than 330 planks covering policy issues ranging from gay rights to immigration. Of those, four are related to the regulation of cannabis.

One plank calls for a change in state law to remove criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Instead, civil penalties would apply to adults caught with an ounce or less.

 

“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” .

Currently, adults possessing up to two ounces of pot can receive a six-month jail term and a fine of $2,000.

Another platform item seeks a federal rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. “Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and move to Schedule 2,” according to the document.

 

Republicans also support an expansion of the state medical marijuana program with a call for “the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.”

Additionally, GOP delegates voted to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity.” They also urged “the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.”

Cannabis Activists React to GOP Platform

Cannabis activists applauded the party’s stance on cannabis issues. Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy told Forbes that the proposals would be positive changes for the state.

 

“Texas Republicans, like the majority of Americans, are ready to see more sensible marijuana policies enacted,” said Fazio. “Our state wastes valuable criminal justice resources arresting between 60,000-70,000 Texans annually. Delegates took a stand this week for a better approach. While it would be preferable for cannabis to be de-scheduled entirely, this call by the Texas GOP signifies a very positive shift in opinion. Outright prohibition is not working and Texas Republicans want to see Congress take action to make cannabis more accessible.”

Fazio also said that more Texans would be able to access medicinal cannabis if the GOP proposals become law.

“Under the current [medical cannabis] program, most patients are being left behind,” she said. “Texas conservatives are seeing the value of medical cannabis and want to see more inclusive access. Now we will take this to the Legislature for action during the 2019 legislative session.”

Under current law, only patients with intractable epilepsy may use low-THC cannabis oil after receiving approval from two doctors. The new platform calls for doctors, not lawmakers, to decide which patients might benefit from medical marijuana.

 

 

 

New York to Offer Medical Marijuana as Prescribed Opioid Alternative

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New York is set to significantly expand access to its medical cannabis program. Building off a change that added chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions in 2016, the Department of Health will now allow anyone with a prescription for opioids to use medical marijuana as an alternative. Officials expect the new regulation will help grow a program struggling with access issues. They also hope to get more patients off of prescription opioids.

If You Have an Opioid Prescription, You Now Qualify to Use Medical Cannabis in New York

Opioid deaths are skyrocketing in New York, which legalized medical cannabis in 2014. One investigation found a 135 percent rise in deaths between 2013 and 2016.

In 2016, the opioid death rate was 15.1 per 100,000 people, nearly two percent higher than the national rate. And in an effort to combat the rapid rise of opioid overdoses and deaths across the state, the New York Health Department is making a major change to its medical marijuana program.

Health Department officials hope the change will help reduce the use of prescription opioids. On Monday, State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced that anyone with an opioid prescription would be eligible to use marijuana as an alternative medicine.

 

“So that means if an individual is taking prescription opioids, they could take medical marijuana as part of the program that were are pushing forward to hopefully come off prescription opioids as well,” Zucker told reporters.

Studies have found that medical cannabis can effectively treat chronic pain, without the dangerous side effects and addiction opioids cause. Other studies suggest cannabis can act as a “reverse gateway drug,” helping people struggling with addiction wean themselves off drugs.

The Health Department hopes that allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis instead of opioids will reduce the number of patients who end up addicted to drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Fentanyl.

 

Offering Medical Cannabis as an Opioid Alternative Could Help Lift New York’s Struggling MMJ Program

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law in 2014. Since then, New York has struggled to grow its medical cannabis program. A short list of qualifying conditions, and restrictions on the kinds of cannabis products patients could access, hurt participation.

In 2016, New York added chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions. The Health Department also made it possible for nurse practitioner and physicians assistants to make a medical cannabis recommendation.

Now, New York has 1,688 licensed caregivers and roughly 59,000 registered patients. Yet the program has licensed less than two dozen dispensaries across the state. The program has grown, but not as rapidly as advocates and patients would like.

 

Zucker feels allowing those with opioid prescriptions to use medical marijuana “is another way to move the program forward."

CEO of US marijuana company MedMen says Oregon, Colorado are 'horrible markets' to be in

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  • CNBC's Jim Cramer sits down with Adam Bierman, the co-founder and CEO of the marijuana dispensary operator whose stores have been dubbed the "Apple Stores of weed."
  • Bierman explains why Oregon, Washington and Colorado are not considered ideal markets for weed retail.

Marijuana dispensary operator MedMen sees major hurdles in operating in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, where pot is medically and recreationally legal, co-founder and CEO Adam Bierman told CNBC on Monday.

Bierman, whose company functions in California, Nevada, New York and Florida, called the first three fully legal U.S. weed markets "horrible markets to be in" in an interview with "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer.

"[It's] good for business that those are tiny markets that, in the grand scheme of things, maybe matter not that much," the CEO said.

"What's really important to understand is every market since those markets came online [has] been supply constrained, so limited licenses and, most importantly, especially for the MedMen's case, the most arduous retail zoning restrictions known to man," Bierman continued.

While MedMen is licensed to operate in the United States, where some of its retail locations have been affectionately dubbed the "Apple Store of weed," the company is publicly traded in Canada on the Canadian Securities Exchange and the OTCQB Venture Market.

In early June, the Canadian Senate voted to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide. The move would make Canada the first and only country in the G-7 to fully legalize marijuana.

But Bierman won't stop at Canada.

"From the beginning, we've been the 'Why not?' people," he told Cramer. "Why can't you build a billion-dollar business in this industry? Why not? Why can't you take the biggest U.S. weed company and make it public and available for people to own all over the world? Now, there's a lot of roadblocks in that kind of an attitude and we can't list here in the U.S., so we have to list in Canada and, unfortunately, that's the only place to go. Now, fortunately, it is a place to go and they've been great partners."

According to MedMen, some of the company's California stores bring in over $20 million a year in revenue. When the company reaches $1 billion in revenues, Bierman said he'll "look at what's next."

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Part of MedMen's mission is to make marijuana mainstream, as illustrated by its latest marketing campaign, "Forget Stoner." The visual ads attempt to buck the "stoner" stereotype with photos of professionals and others who say they use marijuana.

It could even help stem the opioid epidemic sweeping the United States by offering individuals an alternative solution to prescription pills, Bierman said.

"The concept of a stoner or a stoner image is something that's yesteryear," the CEO said. "This is about Chardonnay moms. This is about working dads. This is about marijuana substituting and replacing, you know, other things that people are already utilizing that, in some instances, are detrimental to their health."

All of the Obstacles To Marijuana Legalization in Georgia

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Four months ago, HT writer Chris Roberts asked if Georgia would be the next state to legalize marijuana. As a resident of Greater Atlanta, I hate to break the news but the answer is “no.” Georgia House Bill 645, allowing for “lawful possession or control of certain amounts of low THC oil” for “certain circumstances” did not pass during the most recent legislative session. Neither did HB 865, which would have made possession of certain quantities of herb a misdemeanor. Even before the vote, the law was given a 7 percent chance of passing.

Just a reminder: This is Georgia we’re talking about. There are not many surprises here.

Changes in the State

That doesn’t mean things aren’t changing. Term-limited Georgia governor Nathan Deal did sign HB 65 into law, which added post-traumatic stress disorder and “intractable pain” to the state’s growing list of conditions considered treatable by cannabis oil. And, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, somewhere around 4,000 people are listed in Georgia’s medical marijuana registry and are carriers of the state’s Low THC Oil Registry Card.

Progress is progress, and in the deeply conservative South, it’s easy to be amazed at the giant steps Georgia has taken to legalize medicinal marijuana, particularly over the past eight years under Governor Deal. But progress isn’t the goal, and while it’s great that we’ve moved the ball forward on legal cannabis, the reality of the current situation here in the Peach State is pretty terrible, thanks to all sorts of problematic issues that hover above like a cloud of mids, keeping everyone stuck in a hazy limbo on exactly where we are now and what will happen next.

 

You could be completely colorblind and still know without a doubt that Georgia is a red state. And there’s a chance it could become significantly redder, depending on the outcome of the upcoming 2018 gubernatorial election.

There’s going to be a runoff on the Republican side between Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Between the two, Cagle is seen as the moderate, even though his recent retaliation toward Delta Airlines over the company’s severing of ties with the National Rifle Association shows that he’s not above grandstanding to please his base when it’s voting/fundraising time. Whether you think that’s the lesser of two evils when compared to Kemp’s primary campaign ads, like the one in which he promised to “round up criminal illegals” in his own big truck might depend on what kinda stuff you like to smoke (from the way things appear it might not even be weed).

Politicians and Pot

Assuming history knows best and Georgia elects another Republican, you can expect Cagle to be more open to expanding the state’s legalization efforts (at least according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution), while Kemp will fight any in-state cannabis cultivation in a state with boundless agricultural capability. Neither of these situations point to the sort of systems in place in states like California prior to wide legalization.

 

It’s unclear what motivates Cagle and Kemp, and those who would support them. But it is notable that an AJC poll of 940 Georgia voters (administered by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center) showed that Georgians like weed: 77 percent of participants said the state’s medical marijuana law should be expanded to “allow the harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana with strict controls.” Even when it comes to recreational and miscellaneous marijuana use, those polled voted 50 percent to 46 percent in favor of legalizing it.

On the other hand, Democrat Stacey Abrams, who won a historic primary to become the nation’s first woman of color to become a state’s major party nominee for governor, seems to be clearly in favor of relaxing marijuana policy in Georgia, and quite heavily. She tweeted in February that with the creation of “a strong substance abuse network,” she would back recreational use, and until then she’d continue to be a supporter of decriminalization, medical marijuana, and local cultivation.

There’s also a lot of conflicting information—and, with that, a lot of confused people. I looked into this back in April, before Governor Deal’s recent PTSD and pain inclusion move. It’s definitely worth educating yourself if you plan to use marijuana, particularly since there seems to be no possible way to legally get it right now.

 

And with all the celebration that occurred when former mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council announced the decriminalization of weed, many people don’t seem to realize that you can absolutely still be arrested for having or smoking it anywhere in the city or state.

To look on the bright side, by signing HB 645, Governor Deal has mandated the creation of a 15-member commission, which will look into how cannabis oil is accessed in Georgia, and spend time evaluating elements such as testing, manufacture, dispensing and security of the current controlled substance. And with the state registry continuing to grow, it will certainly be worth watching to see how the governor’s race affects things, and what else other than peaches Georgia residents might one day be able to grow as a result.

Marijuana Sales: Strong in Nevada, Disappointing in California

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© ThinkstockLegal sales of marijuana for recreational use began last July in Nevada and in January in California. Although California sells a lot more legal weed than Nevada, California sales are much lower than projected while Nevada's are much higher.

First the good news. From July 2017 through March 2018 (the first nine months of Nevada's fiscal year), combined taxable sales of marijuana totaled $386 million, of which nearly $305 million represents sales for recreational use. Sales in March posted a record total of just over $41 million. Through March, the state has collected almost $49 million in taxes, about 97% of its estimated full-year take of $50.32 million.

 

The less-good news about recreational pot sales comes from California, where the latest projections based on sales to date estimate sales will be about half the original estimates.

According cannabis industry analyst firm New Frontier Data, sales in California this year will total $1.9 billion, exactly half the original estimate of $3.8 billion. Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, CEO of New Frontier, told the Los Angeles Times that strict rules on growers, distributors, and retailers combined with low governmental authorization in California cities are to blame.

Only about 30% of California's 540 cities have have so far permitted commercial cannabis activity. The effect has been to send consumers to the black market where they pay no taxes and illegal sellers easily undercut legal prices.

In February the Los Angeles Police Department shut down 8 illegal pot stores but the deputy chief told the Los Angeles times that another 200 to 300 illegal stores were still operating in the city.

Marijuana tax collections in California totaled $33.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, virtually guaranteeing that the state would not reach its estimated 6-month total of $175 million in tax collections.

California's estimated legal and illegal marijuana market totals around $7.8 billion. About $2.3 billion comes from sales of medical marijuana. If the legal market is only taking about $1.9 billion of the total, the rest ($3.6 billion) is going to the illegal market.

And that illegal market is only for sales inside the state. California also exports (illegally, of course) tons of marijuana. State residents consumed about 2.5 million pounds of marijuana (most of it illegally) in 2016 and produced about 13.5 million pounds. Those 11 million pounds are sold, illegally, to out-of-state buyers.