CBD Fights Back: Lawsuit Filed Against DEARead More
by DJ Reetz
A lawsuit filed on January 13, 2017 aims to push back against a recent DEA decision to create a separate tracking number for “marihuana extracts” under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively codifying all cannabinoids derived from marijuana or hemp as Schedule I controlled substances. The lawsuit was filed by the Hoban Law Group in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the same day the new ruling was set to take effect, and seeks judicial review of the decision, claiming that the DEA has overstepped their authority in adding this definition of “marihuana extract” to the controlled substance schedule without following proper procedures to do so as outlined in the CSA. Serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hemp Industries Association, Centura Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings.
The DEA’s announcement in the federal registry published on December 14, 2016 raised concerns amongst many in the cannabis industry that the DEA would begin to target producers and distributors of hemp-derived CBD, which would fall under the definition of “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” outlined in the DEA’s final ruling.
“This is an action beyond the DEA’s authority. This final rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business compliant with existing policy as it is understood and in reliance upon the federal government," said Hoban Law Group Managing Partner Robert Hoban in a press release.
The DEA has claimed that the ruling presented in the recent federal register amounted to little more than a clerical decision carried out in order to make tracking cannabinoid extracts easier, but many in the hemp CBD industry saw it as the first step toward a federal crackdown on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has thus far operated nationally in somewhat of a legal gray area.
The true impact of the classification will likely be seen in the coming months and years.
NCIA's Seed to Sale Show - January 31st-February 1st, 2017Read More
NCIA's Seed To Sale Show is the only national show focused solely on innovative best practices, science, and cutting edge technology in cultivation, processing, and sales strategies. This January 31st-February 1st, over 2,000 of the nation’s leading cultivators, dispensary operators, extraction artists, ancillary product providers and infused product manufacturers will convene to discuss best practices, present case studies, and share information about the science and emerging technology surrounding the whole life cycle of the cannabis plant grown, processed, and sold in a regulated market. As the largest B2B cannabis event in Denver, #SeedToSaleShow will offer an impressive expo floor and will recognize the best in the industry with the Cannavation and Cannatech Awards. www.seedtosaleshow.com
Chong's Choice: An Interview with a Cannabis LegendRead More
by DJ Reetz
Celebrities are popping up everywhere in the legal cannabis industry these days, attempting to capitalize on their stoner images to form the basis of national brands. Tommy Chong, elder statesman of weed, is no different. As an icon of cannabis culture, Chong’s status has attracted attention, for better or worse. For the worse like his 2003 arrest and prison sentence for selling cannabis paraphernalia in Pennsylvania; seemingly tied to his iconic status. Currently though, that status seems to be working out for the better with the launch of Chong’s Choice, a line of cannabis products available in multiple states. Because interstate cannabis commerce remains illegal, the brand will be using different growers in different markets.
THC caught up with Chong on the eve of the launch of his recreational line in Colorado to discuss the ins and outs of his celebrity cannabis brand, and to bask in his grandfatherly stoner wisdom shortly after the November election.
THC: Chong’s Choice is launching its adult-use line in Colorado. How did you determine which companies to work with?
Tommy Chong: We try the product. It’s very simple; we try the product, we look where they grow it, we look how they process it, see how organized and how together the operation is. Usually they’re great, because if they’re together enough to know that it would be good to have us on board fronting their product, that’s half the battle.
THC: Do you see any problems with having a brand across multiple states as far as consistency? If somebody were to buy a Chong’s Choice joint in Colorado it could be something totally different from what you get in California.
TC: Well, the great thing about our product is once your try it, it’s hard to determine what your name is, let alone whether or not the product is good [laughs]. The essence of what we sell, usually the quality is only known to connoisseurs like myself who have had experience enough to know. Like everything, a good 90 percent is in the packaging and the branding.
In fact, we got rid of some people in California that were trying to put inferior product into our brand; we got rid of them right away — it didn’t take long, we get complaints, we act on them right away.
THC: The red “Get America Stoned Again” hat that you’re wearing seems to be a play on Trump’s campaign slogan. What are your thoughts on the recent election? Big win for cannabis … but maybe not?
TC: Big, big win for cannabis. Big win for the people. I’ve just given it a lot of thought last night especially; I smoked up and I did some reflecting, and I realized that we’ve got the right guy in the president. The American people did not make a mistake.
You talk about underdogs — and that’s why America likes underdogs, for the very reason that they have to be totally honest. Underdogs are stripped bare of everything, they’re stripped bare of support and they’re examined closer than anybody. And in spite of all that, it was his energy to win under all those extreme odds — I mean, that was extreme odds he was up against. They had me convinced that he would be terrible for the presidency. Once he won, I realized our system of government is so superior because of that nature. Guys like me that could be swayed easily because of decorum and etiquette, we’re not the guys that have to deal with everyday problems like the people that voted for him. The people that voted for him, they saw what I see now. The Apprentice was not an accident; when we saw how he handled people with kinda minor problems compared to world problems. But he put his energy into each show and each problem, he put his total energy into it, and he’s going to do the same with America.
Don’t let the Christies and the Giulianis and all that worry you, because [with] Donald Trump, if you don’t perform, you’re done. One and done.
THC: You were a Bernie supporter
TC: I was a big Bernie supporter.
THC: It sounds like you’re now a Trump guy?
TC: I am totally a Trump guy; I turned. In fact, I was going to tweet it, but I thought, I’m going to do an interview, so I’ll let you guys do it for me. Trump did not come out against pot. He said he would respect whatever the states decide. And even though he doesn’t smoke it, that’s the best attitude: let the people decide.
THC: There was certainly some reaction, at least with the Republicans taking the House and Senate, that perhaps this doesn’t bode well for the legal cannabis industry that’s formed under the Obama administration. You don’t see it that way?
TC: Not at all. I’ll tell you why, because the Republicans acted the way they acted because they had a Democratic president in there, and they were out to stifle everything that that president did — which is the way the American system should work, it should not be a rubber stamp. We don’t need dictators; we need people that have to answer for everything.
Like Trump now, he has to answer the backlash of the Hillary supporters or the other people that did not want him in, and now they’re the ones that are protesting. Isn’t it weird? It’s so ironic that Hilary’s people are the ones that are protesting the election. And it wasn’t a close election, it was over that night. It wasn’t the next day you had to count and recount or anything like that. Trump won, and I’m with people that think he’s going to be the best president we’ve had.
THC: If there is a crackdown on the legal marijuana industry, seems like there’s at least one US attorney that might want to have another shot at you.
TC: Me? Not really. [When] I got busted it was my fault, because I didn’t protect myself legally. There were a lot of people in the business that knew enough to protect themselves legally. What I did wrong was I [used] my name and I did not protect myself behind corporations. Like, if I had a Trump advising me, I wouldn’t have went to jail; he would have said, ‘Ok, but make sure you’re protected.’
THC: It just seemed like the US attorney that prosecuted your case had a personal issue with you.
TC: It was more the Attorney General, Ashcroft. What happened was I would do radio — I was on the road by myself, I would do stand-up with myself and my wife — and I’d go to right-wing radio. Right wing loved me because I’m controversial. So I was on right-wing radio and I was outing everybody that smoked pot, and I was making up names just to bug ‘em. And so I said Danny Sullivan, the race car driver, he’s a friend of mine. And I said, ‘Oh, Danny Sullivan, he smokes pot.’ I said that in St. Louis, and that was Ashcroft’s home state. I’m quite sure that radio show got to him [...] and so they put a hit on me, they said, ‘Take this guy down.’ Plus it was the Iraqi war was just beginning so the Bush administration wanted to deflect some of the press to get the radical hippie side of it. And that’s when Bush came out and said that us potheads were supporting terrorism by selling bongs — we were supporting terrorism because all that money went into terrorist organizations […] And so they put a hit out on me and they created that Operation Pipe Dreams, and as a result, I was the only one that went to jail, because I was famous.
THC: It seemed like you were targeted because you were famous and had been a generational icon for cannabis consumption.
TC: And I was also an anti-war guy. I was totally against the war. I was against the war in Vietnam, I was against the war in Iraq; I had no idea.
THC: You’ve been pretty vocal about treating your prostate and colon cancer with medical cannabis. How’s your health these days?
TC: That’s another reason why I smoke pot. Luckily, I got cancer [laughs] so I could get my medical marijuana card. If I get stopped at the border or anything, I can just show them my medical marijuana card and tell them ‘I’ve got cancer guys.’ But the way it helped my cancer — this is the warning I try to put out to everybody: don’t rely on one method to cure anything […] make sure you get experts looking at your problem. That’s what I did. So, the doctors and oncologists they told me, ‘Yeah, use pot. But we’re still going to have to irradiate the area, you’re still going to have to get the operation to take out the tumor, and other than that, smoke all the pot you want. But this is what we have to do.’ And you have to do chemo, which I did. And now I’m cancer free.
What pot does to you when you’re sick, it gives you an appetite. Not only an appetite for food, but an appetite for life. You get your sense of humor back. That’s how you’re going to get through, you got to have your sense of humor and you’ve got to eat, because if you don’t eat, you die. As soon as I started smoking pot my operation healed, everything healed, and now I’m back on the road. I’m probably in the best physical shape of my life.
THC: That’s good to hear. Some people treat cannabis as a kind of wonder drug that can cure cancer all on its own, sounds like you think that’s a dangerous outlook.
TC: It’s totally dangerous. Do what you’ve gotta do, but it’s not a miracle drug. Just Google marijuana […] it’s been effective on brain tumors, it’s been effective on skin cancer, but [only] on some people. Now that we’re getting it legal, doctors are going to be able to experiment with it. Up until now, it’s been illegal to even try to experiment with it, to test it. And now there’s testing. In fact, I saw an ad in the paper looking for people to volunteer to be smokers [chuckles] and you get paid something like $5,000.
THC: Now that you’re cementing yourself as a figure in legal cannabis, do you think that the cannabis industry is still holding on to some of the ideals that you had in your younger days?
TC: More so. The thing is, I learned very early from very wise people. I got turned on by jazz musicians, and they’re probably the wisest people on the planet because they’re not only accomplished artists, they’re also intelligent gurus. You talk to any jazz musician and he’ll tell you the meaning of the universe, if you ask him. So I was taught very early.
What the cannabis did to me, it made me realize this is all I really need. I’m a body builder, I work out with weights, and I’ve been around very successful body builders, like Arnold Schwarzenegger for instance. I watched Arnold train during his reign when he was Mr. Olympia. The only substance he would do — he would not drink soda pop if it had any trace of sugar in it, he would not drink a bit of alcohol while he was training — but he would smoke a ton of pot. He’s six-time Mr. Olympia, he could smoke pot.
THC: Do you think he could smoke more pot than you?
TC: It’s funny you should say that. I was at a session that they had — they used to have a pot smoking session — and they had a giant bong, and all of these big muscle heads would put almost a half an ounce in the bowl and they would light it with a torch and then they would inhale. The whole trick of it was to breathe in so much that the pot would glow like a light bulb and then get sucked into the water and make an explosion sound.
Dave Draper was there, he did it, Arnold, a guy named Zaybo, Peanuts, there were all these big muscle heads, and I was there. They handed me the bowl and I took the smallest toke ever [chuckles] because I’m a one-toker. I took that one little toke and they all looked at me like ‘Ugh, who invited this guy?’
THC: Sounds like the conclusion there is that Arnold smoked you under the table.
TC: Anybody could. You could probably smoke me under the table. Here’s the trick though: it’s not how little you do, it’s how often you do it. I take that little bit, but I’m almost 80 years old and I’m still here. Arnold’s got bad knees and he’s limping around, but I can probably run down the block faster than he can.
THC: It seems like the character you created in the ‘70s is now used by the anti-cannabis crowd as a caricature of weed smokers, what are your thoughts on that?
TC: Rightly so. It was a conscious decision of mine. When Cheech and I got together, we had a ton of characters; we had 200 characters that we could have done. But what we did when we were going to put two characters on the screen, I took sort of a page from Charlie Chaplin. Charlie, when he started his career, he had a lot of characters too. But the one that resonated with everybody was the tramp, because he was the lowest common denominator. So my character basically is based on Charlie Chaplin’s lowest common denominator. That’s why my character […] you can’t get much lower than him and still survive. And that’s another reason why I understand Trump, because he’d be right with him. I did that on purpose.
But my real persona is the guy that lasted longer than anybody on Dancing With the Stars, and I use that. I’ve got people of all ages that come up and say, ‘Hey man, you did great on Dancing With the Stars.’ I tried to do the stoner thing on Dancing With the Stars, but the producer said, ‘Oh Tom, every time you do that weed salute I have to cut to the mirror balls, so will you not do it?’
THC: Two hundred characters and the one that resonated with everybody is the Cheech and Chong character that we all recognize.
TC: Cheech the Chicano, the low rider who didn’t even have a door handle on his car, and Chong the ‘hey man.’ We called him ‘man’ because all he ever said was ‘hey man.’
Do you know the origin of ‘man’ by the way? I got it from the jazz musicians. The reason they used to call each other ‘ hey man,’ ‘good to see you man,’ was because back in the Jim Crow days they used to call black people boy. ‘Hey boy,’ ‘get over here boy,’ so as a protest they would call each other ‘man,’ because they’re not boys, they’re men. So I got that character right from the jazz guys.
THC: Any other characters that you still reflect fondly on, that you wish you would have continued to do?
TC: Ralph and Herbie, the doggies. But we’re too old to do what we used to do. That got us arrested one time in Tampa, Florida. We being Ralph and Herbie on our hands and knees, being little dogs, and Cheech went over and grabbed a cop — he was at the bottom of the stage looking out at the crowd — and Cheech leaned over and took the cop’s hat off of his head with his teeth. And then he peed on the cop. The next thing that we know we’re riding in a cop car going to get booked in jail.
THC: Seems like Cheech has gone on to establish himself as more of a mainstream actor, not associating himself with cannabis the way that you have continued to. But you’re doing a good amount of acting these days, like your appearance in “Zootopia”, Disney’s allegory for the drug war.
TC: Isn’t that something? I turned down Disney — I turned down “The Lion King” — much to everybody’s dismay, because Cheech made probably half a million dollars off of that, maybe more.
THC: It was supposed to be Cheech and Chong as the hyenas, right?
TC: Yeah, and I turned it down because it was Disney. I was making a protest, you know. If they won’t let me in their amusement park because I’m wearing a pot t-shirt, I’m sure not going to be in their movie. When they asked me to do “Zootopia” they knew exactly who they were getting, in fact they wrote the part around my ‘hey man’ character. Oh yeah, we’ve come a long way baby.
THC: An allegory for the drug war is certainly an interesting topic for Disney to tackle.
TC: Everybody’s evolving. That’s what I say with this country, this country is evolving. We’re going to be the Amsterdam of the continents.
THC: You come to Colorado fairly frequently.
TC: As much as I can.
THC: Where’s your favorite place to smoke weed in Colorado?
TC: In the mountains. In Aspen there’s a little grove they call the Jerry Garcia [Shrine], there’s a little shrine, I think Jerry Garcia’s picture is up there. The skiers come down and we meet there and we smoke. That’s one of my favorite places.
And then any hotel room that says no smoking, that’s my favorite place.
THC: You ever get in trouble for doing that?
TC: I got yelled at a few times. In Boulder, it’s weird, we’ve been going there for a few years and the hotel [management called us], ‘Mr. Chong, we’ve got a report of some smoke coming out of your room.’ And I said, ‘Ah, no worries, there’s no fire here.’
THC: So you guys are launching the adult-use line of Chong’s Choice here. California just went rec, I assume that’s in your future?
TC: Chong’s Choice in California! All over.
THC: The Chong’s Choice website even shows your line available at a medical dispensary in Arizona, which is certainly not known for a robust medical marijuana market or cannabis culture.
TC: There are people everywhere. You know the most popular state probably is New York, and it’s not [recreationally] legal there either. New York [City] used to be the hub of marijuana use in the financial district. You could walk down the financial district and people would be just puffing away. But then you got guys like Giuliani and idiots like that. But it’s going to be all over the world, believe me.
THC: There was definitely a broad referendum on cannabis this election cycle.
TC: They did it. Look at Trump’s stance on cannabis.
THC: You think you could get Trump to smoke weed with you?
TC: I don’t think so. Trump has got his own agenda; he’s got his own addictions, and pot’s not one of them. There are certain people that I would prefer, ya know, to be very straight, and Trump’s one of them, or the president — unless you need it. Only smoke it if you need it, that’s my thing. Don’t smoke it if you don’t wanna.
THC: Anything else you’d like to add?
TC: I just want to thank everybody. I want to thank the people that support Chong’s Choice, because if it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t be in business. So I really owe a debt of gratitude to everybody out there that uses my product, buys my records and supports my dancing and everything else. I love my fans. Without you guys, I would be just a stoned pot head somewhere.
After our interview, THC was contacted by a representative of Mr. Chong to clarify that while he is optimistic about the presidency of Donald Trump, he does take issue with the appointment of climate-change denier Myron Ebell to head the EPA. Chong’s Choice is grown locally by the good folks at Verde Natural using organic, soil-based techniques. Look for the line at any number of adult-use dispensaries around Colorado.
LivWell Announces Solidarity with Pueblo Cannabis GrowersRead More
Colorado’s leading cannabis company announces Pueblo-grown cannabis now available in its stores to support the county’s cannabis industry in light of efforts to ban recreational sales.
DENVER—October 27, 2016 — LivWell Enlightened Health announced today that it will begin offering Pueblo-grown cannabis for sale at its adult-use stores to support Pueblo’s legal cannabis industry, which is currently under dire threat by Issue 200. Were 200 to pass this November, it would ban all legal and regulated adult-use cannabis sales in the county, devastating the area’s growing industry and breathing life back into the shrinking criminal market.
LivWell will immediately begin offering its customers $89.99 pre-weigh recreational ounces of cannabis grown outdoors by Pueblo cultivator, Los Sueňos Farms. LivWell historically produces the bulk of the cannabis it sells, but company owner and CEO John Lord believes that the threat facing Pueblo deserves more than just the monetary and political support the company has provided so far.
“Issue 200 seeks to overturn the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved of recreational cannabis with the passage of Amendment 64,” said Lord. “This is not just an issue for Pueblo, but for all of Colorado. We are proud to support those companies bringing good-paying jobs to Pueblo by offering the fruits of their labor to our recreational customers across the state.”
Despite having no retail presence within the county, LivWell is already one of the top-5 financial backers of the effort to defeat 200. LivWell’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Neal Levine is also serving as part of the campaign leadership team. Earlier this year, Levine helped to lead the successful effort to keep a statewide measure off of the ballot that would have wiped out most of the adult use cannabis industry in Colorado.
“We cannot sit idly by and allow the prohibitionists to wipe out 1,300 good paying jobs in Pueblo based on falsehoods and scare tactics.” said Levine, who also serves as a board member for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the cannabis industry’s national trade association
The cannabis industry in Pueblo has brought a much-needed economic boost to an area still dealing with the aftershocks that accompanied the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980’s. The cannabis industry has contributed directly to the creation of more than 1,300 jobs there, and cannabis-related companies accounted for more than 65% of all the commercial building permits issued in the county last year. As of May 2015, the county’s unemployment rate of 7.1% is far higher than the state overall (4.2%). Passage of Issue 200 would devastate economic prospects in this southern Colorado jurisdiction, which have otherwise looked quite promising thanks to the hundreds of cannabis companies that currently comprise the region’s budding marijuana industry.
“200 is another deceptive effort in an increasingly long line of deceptive efforts to roll back Amendment 64 piece by piece,” said Lord. “We expect the entire industry to continue to step up and fight these threats wherever and whenever they pop up.”
By offering Pueblo-grown cannabis to its customers, LivWell aims to raise awareness about this important issue among its large customer base and to demonstrate solidarity with its fellow southern Colorado cannabis workers.
LivWell Enlightened Health is among Colorado’s largest cannabis companies, with fourteen locations across the state. LivWell provides its patients and customers with the best value, quality and variety of cannabis products including flower, topicals, tinctures, edibles, smoking accessories and more. LivWell’s team of innovative farmers and scientists grow more than 40 strains of cannabis to meet the varied and evolving tastes of its customers. LivWell’s searchable strain library can be found at http://www.livwell.com/product
NO MEANS NO: Prohibition in PuebloRead More
By Jennifer Knight
Pueblo County may not be on the top-three list of famous cannabis-growing spots in the United States, but it does stand to lose a large number of tightly run businesses if a measure there being pushed by the group Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo is enacted by voters this November. Ballot question 200 would ban all adult-use retail, testing and grow facilities in Pueblo County, while question 300 would do the same for the city of Pueblo itself.
Roughly 1,300 members of the active marijuana workforce including the employees of twenty-one retail licensees, one hundred-twenty cultivators, and twenty-three MIP (Marijuana-infused Product) licensees will be negatively impacted if voters choose to ban retail marijuana establishments in Pueblo County.
“If things go well, then everything will remain the same. If things go badly, what the opposition has put on the ballot is a request for the closing of all retail cannabis facilities in the county of Pueblo which would be about 180 licenses that would have to be given up by October of 2017 - every retail business in the county, over 180 businesses, would be closed,” says Bob Degabrielle, chairman of the group Growing Pueblo’s Future, which was formed to opposed the measure. In addition to chairing the group, Degabrielle is a partner at Los Sueños Farms, a 36-acre cannabis farm in Pueblo County that would be shuttered if question 200 is approved, leaving the farm’s roughly 90 employees out of work.
Pueblo typically ranks as one of the most impoverished areas in the state, and since the passage of Amendment 64, the county has seemingly embraced the legal cannabis industry as a means of replacing the steel industry that once thrived there. Favorable regulations and a conducive climate have allowed for businesses like Los Sueños. Colorado State University is in the process of creating the preeminent cannabis research center in the country at its Pueblo campus, and high school graduates in the county receive an automatic $1,000 scholarship to attend either of the colleges there, funded entirely by cannabis taxes. Passage of these two ballot questions could mean an end to all of this, as well as an end to the associated economic activity that comes from ancillary businesses working with but not directly involved in the cannabis industry.
“Think of the harm that would happen if that many businesses just up and disappeared,” says Chris Lindsey, Senior Legislative Council with the Marijuana Policy Project. “I mean, you’ve got leases, you’ve got contracts for equipment, you’ve got a lot of money that keeps coming into the system. For all that to stop, that would be bad. Bans don’t work. We know that banning fails. We tried that for decades. The solution is not to ban everybody. The solution is better regulation, and Colorado is leading the way on that. Other states are learning from what they’re doing. And that’s a good position for a state to be in and I think the community ought to work on it.”
“In Colorado, virtually all counties have three commissioners and they’re each elected county-wide. You just have to live in your commissioner district, so I roughly have 160,000 people in Pueblo,”says Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who supports the legitimate and fully-regulated local marijuana industry. Because of the dual ballot questions, voters in the city will be making the decision on adult-use cannabis twice. “Your voice will be heard on 200 and 300. Question 200 is a ban for the county, but all city residents are also residents of the county. Question 300 is a ban in the city,” says Pace.
So in effect, the voice of a private citizen from within Pueblo’s city limits may or may not carry a bit louder than a county-only voice. A “no” vote means no prohibition and a “yes” vote equals prohibition.
Dan Corsentino is a former sheriff in Pueblo County, elected for seventeen years, and a former Chief of Police in Fountain, Colorado, he currently provides security and private investigation services. Recently, Corsentino was head of security for an event called Bands in the Backyard, where he led a team of more than 100 security professionals and walked something like 12 miles over the course of one day. He awoke the next day unable to walk, until he tried a non-psychoactive CBD ointment, which was introduced by his significant other. Two hours later, he was walking. “I believe [the cannabis industry] is the best regulated industry there is right now anywhere. They’re much better regulated than liquor. They’re almost equal to the lottery in the state of Colorado. The only thing we’re missing in this industry is the banking industry, and the feds need to wake up and alleviate some of those concerns. My position is very strong. Cannabis is here to stay and if Pueblo voters decide to opt out [of legalization] they’re really positioning themselves for an extremely myopic perspective on the whole industry as it’s starting to explode nationwide,” he tells THC.
"Cannabis has been an economic driver to our community, including $25 million worth of construction expenditures in the last two years accounting for 40 percent of all construction permits in the city and county combined. It's employing 1,300 people and it's providing tax revenue for a number of really important, innovative programs like college scholarships for local kids to attend one of our two colleges, funding for medical marijuana research, and the creation of the Cannabis Studies Institute at Colorado State University, Pueblo. I'm of the opinion that people didn't start using cannabis with Amendment 64, we simply created a mechanism for researching, regulation, taxing, and testing that previously did not exist," says Pace.
Writer bio as follows:
Jennifer F. Knight (http://bathtubjenn.com) is a Colorado-based gonzo journalist, podcaster, and part-time editorial consultant. She studied Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (for approximately 90 days) where she inadvertently became hooked on literature, music, comedy, weed, freedom and the American dream. Jennifer is also an ordained Dudeist priest. Knight can be reached by talk, text, email, or astral projection. She prefers astral projection.
Making Sense of Marijuana Tax DollarsRead More
by Matthew Van Deventer
In 2014 and 2015, Colorado brought in more than $200 million in tax revenue from about $1.6 billion in recreational and medical marijuana sales. It’s widely known that much of the tax revenue is earmarked for Colorado schools, but the specifics of how that revenue is distributed and who gets it is something less talked about.
As Colorado’s marijuana taxation rules go, both medical and recreational marijuana see a state tax of 2.9 percent. That goes into the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund (MTCF), which the legislature set up in 2014. A 10 percent special sales tax is levied on all recreational purchases and an excise tax is levied when retail stores buy plants from cultivators. The first $40 million of the excise tax goes towards the Building Excellent Schools Today Fund (BEST); any amount over that, including 85 percent of the special tax, goes into the MTCF. The other 15 percent is remitted back to Colorado municipalities, but only those that allow recreational marijuana.
The MTCF is allocated to a number of state departments to assist in health care, abuse prevention and treatment and enforcement. It is also directed to the Department of Education for its School Health Professional Grant Program, which addresses behavioral health issues in public schools, according to a Colorado Legislature publication.
Cities like Colorado Springs, which opted out of recreational marijuana when it went legal, are not directly remitted funds from the excise or the special tax. However, their school districts may receive it. Jeremy Meyer, assistant communications director for Colorado Department of Education (CDOE) clarifies BEST funds are distributed to school districts and not municipalities. Therefore, a school in a city or town that has opted out of recreational marijuana could be receiving funds from the excise tax.
“This money goes to school districts, which can span across cities and counties,” says Meyer. Meyer continues, saying Jefferson County School District spreads across dozens of cities and towns, some of which have opted out of recreational marijuana. Similarly, Jamestown and Superior are in Boulder Valley School District and don’t allow recreational marijuana, but could be eligible for BEST funds.
The fund was set up in 2008, well before marijuana was being taxed. 87 percent of contributions come from the State Land Trust; marijuana taxes account for only 5.4 percent. The remainder comes from Colorado Lottery spillover and interest. Since its inception, BEST has funded more than $1.2 billion of $2.84 billion requested. About 65 percent of the money has gone towards school replacement and 16 percent towards renovations. Also, applicants match funds to those provided by BEST.
Last year applicants were awarded $47 million in assistance according to financial documents from CDOE, and $60 million was awarded to this year’s 31 applicants who matched BEST contributions with $101 million. So far, marijuana taxes have contributed just under $27 million in two years, about $3 million in 2014 and $23 million in 2015, according to the CDOE.
Perhaps a more significant effect of the marijuana tax is in the CDOE’s School Health Professional Grant Program, which received $2.1 million from the MTCF in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. While BEST funds focus on the construction of schools, this program works to fund improvements in a school’s internal health.
Manitou Springs School District 14 received $51,739 through this grant program last year according to the CDOE.
Adams-Arapahoe 28J got the most in grants last year receiving $311,164; followed by Boulder Valley School District RE-2 receiving $280,604; and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 receiving $244,179.
District 14 Assistant Superintendent Tim Miller says they used that one-time grant money to bring on a second full-time nurse to help tend to about 1,500 students in the district’s four schools. That nurse stayed on to replace the original nurse who retired.
“At least the grant gave us, one, double coverage for the year, and then helped us identify our new district nurse,” said Miller.
In contrast to his neighboring city, Colorado Springs, which is staunchly in opposition to adult-use marijuana, Miller isn’t worried about where funds for his school come from, because he is concerned about the well being of his district and his students.
In regards to the $40 million excise tax that goes into the BEST fund, Miller says it’s a drop in the bucket. Neighboring Cheyenne Mountain District passed a bond issue a year and a half ago for $45 million; $42.5 million of that is going to one high school. “I’m not concerned about the source of the money, if the state is going to give me the money, I’ll apply for it and if we get the grants we’ll take them. I’m concerned about the school, and the children are younger, we want to do the best we can for the children who are here and that’s why we have this program,” says Miller,
referring to a district wide program promoting healthy choices and lifestyles.
“They’re spending more on one high school than is available for the entire state through the recreational marijuana tax that goes to BEST. So $40 million, I would love to have that much, but when you consider there are 178 school districts in the state and 800,000 and some odd school children in the state—that’s 50 bucks a kid—It’s a pittance.” Miller continues, saying many Colorado schools in smaller towns that don’t have local funds available should be first in line.
It’s been just two years since the legalization of recreational marijuana and many aspects are still being dialed in. Tax revenue has thus far made a small, but beneficial impact on Colorado’s schools, an impact that will continue to prove itself in the coming years.
Planning the Cannabis Industry: An interview with NCIA’s Event Planner Extraodinaire, Brooke GilbertRead More
by DJ Reetz
In a small office across the street from the state capitol building, the National Cannabis Industry Association is hard at work advocating for the cannabis industry. From humble beginnings in the early days of the legal market in Colorado, the group has grown, now operating a lobbying arm in Washington D.C. in addition to its office in Denver. Part of that growth is seen in the roughly 50 events the group hosts every year, aimed at educating the public and connecting cannabis hopefuls with the opportunities for them to thrive. Organizing these events is no small task, and at NCIA’s Denver office, that challenge is met by Director of Events and Education Brooke Gilbert.
Gilbert began her work with the NCIA in 2013. At the time, she was only the third full-time staff member hired on at the non-profit, bringing with her several years of experience in the advocacy world.
For 28-year-old Gilbert, who has spent the entirety of her professional career in the world of drug policy reform and advocacy, the journey began in college, when a traffic stop forced her to confront the harsh realities of the war on drugs. “The police officer told me that he smelled marijuana in the car, said that he was going to perform a search. I was naive and scarred at the time and allowed him to do that. He found parts of a broken bowl in my car that had resin on it, and I got arrested for that,” says Gilbert.
The stop lead to a year of probation, but more importantly a more personal understanding of the war on drugs. “I really, you know, kinda went through the system; But at the same time, because I’m white and privileged and rich and in college, I saw the very, kind of, easier side of getting arrested for cannabis possession. So that kind of opened my eyes to how ridiculous drug policies in our country are.”
The ordeal, and the understanding gained from it, led Gilbert to Students for Sensible Drug Policy and a newfound purpose in life. “Once I saw how terrible the drug war really was, I switched my major to public policy and administration and just sort of dedicated myself to changing these failed policies,” she says. “It really just opened my eyes to this bigger movement that was going on.”
At SSDP, Gilbert’s passion for live music steered her toward the AMPLIFY project. “Basically the program was partnering with live musicians who travel around the country that agreed that the war on drugs was a failure and would let volunteers come and set up at their shows to talk to attendees about what local initiatives might be going on, how they can get involved in the broader drug policy reform debate, but then also it obviously touched on drug use that was going on at these shows,” says Gilbert.
From there, the next logical extension for Gilbert was joining DanceSafe, a non-profit organization that educates concert goers with a focus on harm reduction. Part of DanceSafe’s mission involves testing drugs at concerts for purity, as well as fact-based education on the effects of drug use. The mission appealed to Gilbert, whose passion for live music still draws her to dozens of concerts each year, and after a year of volunteering with the organization she found herself on DanceSafe’s board of directors. “I saw it as a very effective means of harm reduction for what I was seeing happen in the music community,” she says. “It was interesting when cannabis became legalized here in Colorado, especially from a harm reduction perspective, because people would come in from out of town, not be educated with concentrates, infused products, edibles, that sort of thing, and so DanceSafe was actually seeing these types of people have bad experiences at shows.”
Gilbert’s resume also includes a stint as the outreach and events coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, where she helped to organize the group’s first ever national conference. These days, She’s staying busy with the ever-increasing number of events that NCIA puts on, including the third annual Cannabis Business Summit that took place in Oakland last June and NCIA’s quarterly cannabis caucuses that take place all over the country. The advance of cannabis legalization has grown the need for NCIA’s services, and the number of events the group puts on has doubled over the past year. With the changing attitudes, the challenge of hosting cannabis-centric events in non-legal states is starting to lessen, says Gilbert, and the work being done at the NCIA is helping with that.
“The stigma is starting to die away,” she says. “Places like Florida, they definitely are like, ‘Well, can you tell me more about this event? There’s cannabis in the name, is anyone going to be smoking?’ those sort of questions. We’ve done enough events at this point that we’ve put together a portfolio so that we can show that to event venues that might be a little cautious about working with us, because it is something that we get somewhat frequently.”
While the stigmas attached to cannabis are slowly rolling back thanks in part to groups like NCIA, Gilbert still sees work that needs to be done to quell the harm done in the broader war on drugs. “If you saw the failure of cannabis prohibition systemically… I think those arguments can definitely be made for other drugs,” she says. “It does behoove us to be involved in the larger conversation around other drugs.”
The cannabis industry is in full bloom, attracting progressively minded entrepreneurs, but Gilbert’s time working on harm reduction strategies still lingers in her mind, and she says it’s important to recognize that socially harmful policies still exist in this country. “I think there’s a lot of people here that are in the industry now that didn’t come from the social justice background of it,” she says. “What I think is important for organizations like us, and to continue to partner with organizations like [the Drug Policy Alliance] and [the Marijuana Policy Project] and SSDP, who work in the broader drug policy reform debate, is how we can infuse those messages so that we’re kind of this umbrella bringing in these people who might not necessarily see the social justice benefits of
ending the drug war … That’s a responsibility that we have as an advocacy group for sure.”
For information on NCIA’s upcoming events, including the inaugural Seed to Sale Show, which will take place in at the Denver Convention Center January 31 to February 1, visit thecannabisindustry.org/events.
NCIA Lobby Days: Positive Change for Marijuana on the Federal LevelRead More
by Evan Hundhausen, all photos courtesy of Cannabis Camera
This year was the sixth annual NCIA Cannabis Industry Lobby Days, where over 150 cannabis professionals, from all over the country, flew out to D.C. to talk to Congress members on May 12 and 13.
Michelle Rutter, the government relations coordinator for the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) in Washington, spoke to THC Mag about the event.
“Every year, we extend an invite to all of our members to come out to Washington DC to lobby congress on the main two issues NCIA focuses on, which is the banking and the tax issue,” Rutter says. “There were over 200 scheduled meetings with hill offices that people went and sat down and had, and then we did over 175 drop-in meetings, so we ended up touching about two thirds of Congress over the two days.”
The role of the attendees at lobby days is to be a resource and an educator on Capitol Hill. Rutter and her boss, Michael Correia, the director of government relations at NCIA, put together training webinars for attendees to help prepare them for talking to members of congress and their staff, who for the most part are not well versed in the cannabis industry.
“Some of these members of congress are from medical marijuana states, some of them are from states that have nothing, so a lot of them don’t hear from people who actually deal with cannabis,” Rutter comments. “A lot of it, I think, is just them (Congress) learning and absorbing, and then being able to follow up … about next steps.”
On the morning of the first lobby day there was a breakfast, a training session, a group photo and then a press conference. Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, spoke about the unfairness of 280e and how congress needs to “fix” it. The rest of the afternoon and following day were spent lobbying congress.
Six members of Congress attended the breakfast and seven members attended an evening reception. Representatives who attended included Rep. Earl Blumenaur of Oregon, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, Rep. Denny Heck of Washington, Rep. Diana Degette of Colorado, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Florida, and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
According to NCIA, this year’s lobby days were the largest and most influential in history. “We did see a slight up tick in a couple of co-sponsorships on some of our bills after lobby days, so that was very powerful obviously to show people that their efforts have tangible results here.”
Rutter says her job is different every day, and it has a lot to do with what’s going on legislatively throughout the year. Right now, Rutter and her office are focusing on appropriation season.
“It’s just been a lot of outreach to offices that we think may be swing offices that we can get on our side to vote ‘yes’ on our amendments,” says Rutter. “Last week, I was at a fundraiser with Ed Perlmutter from Colorado, who’s a sponsor of our banking bill in the house.”
“We have an amendment on the VA, we have an amendment on medical marijuana, we have an amendment on adult use marijuana, and we have an amendment on CBD and an amendment on hemp, and these could be coming up in the next month,” says Rutter.
In Rutter’s opinion, one of the most important things NCIA has done was pushing for the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds in arresting or prosecuting medical marijuana patients or providers that are in compliance with state law.
“We (NCIA) are the only unified voice for the cannabis industry and its businesses on the federal level and I say ‘on the federal level’ being the key words there.”
Rutter says a presence in Washington is vital for business owners in the cannabis industry. To illustrate hardships faced by cannabis businesses, she tells a story about a friend of hers who showed up at the IRS building in Denver on tax day carrying a duffel bag full of cash. She was forced to park in the fire lane because she was deemed a “liability” due to all the cash she had on her, and was escorted into the premises by IRS security.
Currently, the IRS and 280e forces marijuana businesses to pay taxes in cash unless they are lucky enough to do business with a bank and have a checkbook. To add insult to injury, they are charged a six percent penalty for paying their taxes in cash. Unfortunately, few banks work with marijuana businesses. Rutter commented that banks are “risk averse,” and they take a risk by giving marijuana businesses a bank account.
NCIA holds events all over the country for their members. If you are ever in the D.C. area, Rutter says her office would be happy to give a tour of the NCIA facilities. To learn more about NCIA or to become a member check out their website at thecannabisindustry.org.
Making Sense of Cannabis Real EstateRead More
by DJ Reetz
There’s no denying Colorado’s real estate market is getting increasingly competitive. Rents soar as homes are gobbled up shortly after entering the market, and nowhere is that squeeze felt more strongly than in the industrial areas where marijuana businesses take root. Warehouses used for growing and processing, as well as the limited number of retail spaces that meet legal requirements, are increasingly scarce in the metro area. Finding a suitable property is not an easy feat, and navigating the marketplace can be a serious challenge for entrepreneurs.
“Beyond just having a place, you have to drill down so deep into different areas and facets to make sure that a property fits for that use,” says Jason Thomas, CEO and managing broker of Avalon Realty, a company built around connecting marijuana businesses with workable properties. From municipal laws, to zoning and licensing, to special considerations that apply to cannabis businesses, such as a property’s proximity to schools, there’s a lot that needs to be considered. “Once we can identify those, then we have to find a willing and able landlord to jump into the industry. So our job is very challenging,” says Thomas. “Properties that fit for marijuana aren’t necessarily put on the market as such.”
A lot of research and investigation goes into identifying these properties, says Thomas. Even after these initial considerations are met, other factors can limit spaces. Things like a federally insured loan currently open on a property or a property investment firm being unwilling to lease to a cannabis business can still potentially derail an otherwise viable location. “Once you go through all these filters you’re left with a very finite area and list of properties,” says Thomas.
It all makes the limited pool of properties that can be used by cannabis companies even smaller, and it’s causing prices to go up. “The marijuana industry has taken so much space that we have shifted the traditional real estate economy,” says Thomas. “It’s spurring new construction, which is great, but we’ve also forced out a lot mainstream tenants. Price appreciation for the industry is two to three times what a mainstream user would pay or be expected to pay.”
The recent decision to cap the number of grow and retail licenses in the Denver may have an effect on the market as well, as city planners seek to curtail the growth of the cannabis industry in areas deemed to be over-saturated. “It’s going to have an impact on the industry. Denver’s mayor has shown recently, and for a while, that he is against the cannabis industry despite the fact that Denver and the state are collecting tens of millions of dollars,” says Thomas. “These are areas that have been neglected; they’re blighted, through no fault of anyone’s own but the city as the caretakers. And now, they’re pointing to the [marijuana] industry and saying we made it worse. Well the reality is, we have some of the most highly secured facilities there are, save for nuclear facilities; they’re as tight as a bank.”
Despite the insistence of city officials that these impoverished areas are suffering from the presence of cannabis facilities and stores, Thomas says he sees quite the opposite effect. The cannabis businesses draw more police patrols and generally have their own security presence, both of which actually serve to drive down crime, according to Thomas.
The realities of law enforcement practices aren’t just speculative for Thomas either. Before his introduction to the real estate game, he worked in law enforcement as a detention officer with the Prowers County Sheriff’s office and as a deputy marshal in Holly, Colorado, a small town near the Kansas border. The experience gave him a unique perspective on the drug war, and spurred him to join Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a non-profit organization of former law enforcement members dedicated to ending the war on drugs. “What I saw was a big disparity of the drug laws and how they were applied,” says Thomas of this period in his life. He says that arrests and unfair sentencing seemed to target poor and minority communities more so than other segments of the population. “I was fully into being a police officer, but I knew there were some things that just weren’t right,” he says.
“In terms of marijuana, I’ve always believed it should be legal,” says Thomas.
“From childhood, I saw what was happening, and I wasn’t able to put it into words or really conceptualize it until a handful of years ago when I joined LEAP.”
But working as a law enforcement officer, keeping that opinion quite is essential, says Thomas. Still, he thinks there are others like him who would prefer to be spending their time doing actual police work rather than ruining lives over drugs.
“I would say there’s a significant number of law enforcement officers that would like to speak out against the drug war, primarily against marijuana prohibition, but can’t because they would be speaking out against their company,” he says. “If you’re a cop and you put yourself in that position, perhaps you don’t get backup next time, or perhaps you’re writing traffic tickets forever. Retribution happens in some forms, sometimes.”
Through his involvement in LEAP, Thomas began to advocate for Amendment 64, and a “Yes on 64” yard sign adorned with the signatures of some of his cohorts on the measure is now an essential part of his office décor. “It goes up on my wall wherever I go,” he says. “I live and sleep this thing.”
After leaving police work behind, Thomas found work as an administrative assistant at a real estate company. The position opened the door for him, and led to a number of different job titles in the sector. “I’ve done most everything in terms of commercial real estate,” he says of the experience.
When the “green rush” overtook Colorado circa 2009, the opportunity to do something new and different drew his attention. “I saw an opportunity with a brand new industry, something that’s never been done before. Especially in the way this was done. This is on par with the dot com boom,” he says. “This is a significant time.”
After a brief attempt to parlay his law enforcement experience into a cannabis-related security company, Thomas settled back into another familiar career, one that would also take advantage of his knowledge and advocacy of cannabis, and in 2014, he launched Avalon.
Now working on projects in Oregon and Pennsylvania, the future looks bright for the company, and being steeped in the foundations of the legal cannabis industry places this small firm ahead of some of the more established names in commercial realty. “We have the opportunity to take Avalon from a very small boutique firm to what I hope someday is a national/international platform,” says Thomas.