Business

Keeping the Cannabis Industry Green: Second Cannabis Sustainability Symposium Tuesday
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by Amanda Pampuro

 

How many gallons of water does it take to grow a joint? How many watts of electricity? How many man-hours go into the cultivation, trimming, and processing?

If you’re a concerned consumer about the way your food is grown and how much the farmers were paid for it, why would you tune out when you toke up?

That is the reason d’etre behind the Cannabis Certification Council (CCC), which is hosting the second annual Cannabis Sustainability Symposium from Oct. 17 to 18 at the Embassy Suites Denver.

“One of our biggest hurdles is educating, telling people who come into the shop what can be recycled — just like anything else, it can be washed off and put in the recycle bin,” said Amy Andrle, founder of L’Eagle Dispensary and a CCC board member. “It’s about getting people asking what can be recycled? What can be composted?”

In addition to talks from cannabis industry stakeholders, the conference will feature discussions from environmental science leaders, including Derek Smith, founder and executive director of the Resource Innovation Institute, Shelley Peterson, VP of lighting technologies at Urban-Gro, and Dr. Elizabeth A. Bennett, director of the political economy program at Lewis & Clark College.

The agenda includes panel discussions on sustainable packaging and waste diversion as well as energy management and the need to implement industry-wide standards.

“A little bit of investment on the side of the business can have a big impact to lessen your footprint,” Andrle said. “As far as low hanging fruit go, something very easy to implement is to look at waste management (and consider) what can you do to offset what you’re sending to the landfill.”

According to a press release, the event was planned “with in-kind support from Denver Environmental Health and sustaining sponsorship from Denver Relief Consulting.”

For Andrle, the much-touted buzzword, “sustainability,” simply means asking, “How are we managing our resources? As a business owner, I want to make sure I’m not spending more than I need to and that I’m not using any more than I need to. The other buzzword everyone is using is corporate social responsibilities.”


Tickets and agenda are available at www.cannabissustainability.org.

Dr. D's Easy Access to Medical Marijuana
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by Amanda Pampuro, photos courtesy of Dr. Donald Davidson

Dr D's Van advertising online cannabis cards

You usually don’t want to hear “doctor” and “virus” in the same sentence, but Dr. D. is taking medical marijuana viral. Earlier this year, Dr. Donald Davidson launched the first tele-medicine platform for cannabis. Now individuals in California with pre-existing conditions can apply for a medical marijuana card from anywhere with WiFi.

“There’s always this buzzword in medicine, which is access, right? And tele-medicine creates access for people that wouldn’t actually have it, whether it’s too big of an inconvenience or they’re elderly or immobile or whatever,” Davidson said. 

Since Davidson partnered with Ease, a California-based cannabis delivery company, his patients can be approved for a referral card and obtain medicine all from within the comfort of their home.

“The way it works is this is a specialized medicine. People are coming in with chronic conditions that have been going on for years and years … so they fill out an intake form and you ask them questions, so you already know what’s going on,” Davidson said. “Our job is to educate people and to screen out people who are unstable, have mental illnesses, and screen out people with new issues. So we wouldn’t give a recommendation just seeing someone online with a new onset, like knee-pain or redness or swelling over the last few weeks or months.”

Dr. D's fleet of smart cars

Harboring an entrepreneurial spirit, Davidson’s other business ventures have included the milk and cookie delivery service. Campus Cookies, running a fishing and kayaking tour service, and being a dating coach. Describing himself as a “typical smart guy,” Davidson was first exposed to the work of Dr. Sue Sisley — famous for her extended struggle to test the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of PTSD — during his residency at the University of Arizona where he studied emergency medicine.

“The far majority of these [cannabis] doctors [in LA] were total weirdos,” Davidson said. “They had horrible malpractice and were hiding in the cannabis industry, folks prescribing narcotics, over-prescribing Adderall, and giving out fake doctor’s notes. And once we saw that, we were like, ‘Wow, okay, we have a huge opportunity to create this portal to make it safe and normal.’”

“I always loved the business stuff, promoting it, building the business, running the ad campaign, social media, all that stuff,” Davidson said, adding that he personally vets all of the doctors he works with, ensuring his staff maintains both certification and professional appearance.

While he declined to disclose who is launching it, Davidson said, “The Dr. D product line, named in my honor for all my work in the field, is being launched by a friend of mine who has licensed and legal cultivation and manufacturing operations.” While Davidson said he has no financial interest in the product line, he is giving both his name and knowledge to its development.

Dr. Davidson vape pen

“I think the greatest challenge, but it’s also the most fun, is educating people about cannabis,” Davidson said, adding that cannabis is still off the radar for most medical schools. “So me, with an MD behind my name, anything I say publicly must have science behind it. You know, I’m not a stupid staff writer … or any of that bullshit where they fill up these big articles with a bunch of spammy links that’s all fluff, meant to drive traffic to their website. I’m a doctor. What I specialize in is taking massive amounts of information fed to me fire-hose style and finding the need-to-know take away points that people can actually use in a clinically relevant way.”

In addition to using his website as an educational resource for patients, Davidson is about to take a mobile clinic on a road trip across the Golden State to retirement homes and country clubs.

By “educating people that most of these budtenders are 18-year-olds who know nothing of [the] pharmacology of cannabis,” Dr. D. hopes his consultation services will keep the ethos of medical marijuana strong. ♦

Legacy of An Outlaw: Jason Cranford Pushes The Industry Forward While Pushing Boundaries
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by DJ Reetz

Jason Cranford in his greenhouse

“I’ve been growing weed since 1979,” Jason Cranford says nonchalantly.  It’s the kind of statement you’d expect from a grizzled baby boomer sporting a long, gray beard with his long, gray hair pulled back into a ponytail. But Cranford is a spry 40-something, and while his demeanor could be described as grizzled, an old hippy he most certainly is not.

Cranford belongs comfortably to Generation X, something evident from the Converse All-Stars he wears as he sits in the office of  the grow he runs in Park County. He’s been growing cannabis for longer than many of those counted as his senior, and he’s not shy to talk about it.  

Cranford’s  tenure as a cannabis cultivator  began when he was only eight, maintaining  the plants grown by his father. “He always told me it was corn. So around the time I was 12 and I got a hold of some real marijuana and we were getting ready to smoke it, I’m like, ‘This stuff smells like corn,’” he recalls with a chuckle.

In the decades since, cannabis has remained a consistent part of his life. Cranford has gained notoriety as a firebrand medical cannabis activist and breeder, advocating for patients while developing his own varieties of medicinal cannabis and applications for it. He’s the man behind Haleigh’s Hope, a high-CBD, low-THC cannabis strain named for Haleigh Cox, who came to Colorado as an infant in order to treat her intractable seizures.  Cranford is also the founder of the Flowering H.O.P.E. Foundation, an organization dedicated to expanding patient access to cannabis medicine. He’s fought against Colorado’s crackdown on the caregiver model, he was instrumental in passing medical cannabis legislation in his home state of Georgia, and he’s been the target of a $100 million lawsuit for his involvement in a saga that exposed the alleged contaminated product of an international CBD importer.

He’s been consistently involved with cannabis since those early days growing up in Macon, Georgia. After unknowingly assisting his father’s cannabis grow for several years, he was allowed in on the secret when he was 13, watering and tending plants. “I got to see him selling weed, growing weed, stuff like that,” says Cranford of his father; behavior that would land the elder Cranford in prison for much of son’s childhood.

His father rode with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, an organization most would describe as a biker gang. But while Cranford saw some of the rowdy behavior and drug use, he says he never saw his father as the kind of criminal that would intentionally do harm to others. Instead, Cranford describes a fun-loving party animal who once brought his six-year-old son to a biker party where he snuck beers and even fired off one party goer's .357.

Cranford says he’s never been sure what the exact charge was that sent his father to prison; neither of his parents has discussed the incident with him in detail. 

Listening to him recount these stories, one gets the distinct impression that the outlaw mentality of his father still resides somewhere inside him, explaining his need to push boundaries and court the ire of rule makers. “It’s something that gave me the balls to do what I do,” he says. “There’s no way I would have made it to where I’m at if I’d have listened to my lawyers.”

With an incarcerated father, growing up in a rough area of Macon was made all the more difficult, forcing Cranford  to rely on his mother and grandparents for guidance and supervision. In eighth grade, he was kicked out of his school’s gifted program after being caught smoking weed. At the age of 13 he was shot in the chest by a neighbor following a dispute over a bike handlebar pad. That .22 round is still lodged in his sternum to this day, and the wound is the centerpiece of a chest tattoo featuring dueling dragons circling a heart of gold. The incident highlights a chaotic childhood, though he blames the shooting on undiagnosed emotional and developmental issues rather than the shooter himself. “He’s my friend on Facebook now,” says Cranford, shrugging it off.

Coming out of a seemingly perilous childhood, Cranford  continued to dabble in underground cannabis growing, including during his tenure as an intern in the greenhouses of the University of Georgia’s horticulture department. Eventually, he was called to the Humboldt County area in 2006 to put his carpentry skills to work building grows for his friends in the area. He soon found himself schooling them on the finer points of horticulture, he says.

In 2008, Cranford  came across the works of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the venerated Israeli chemist who is considered the father of medical cannabis. Mechoulam’s work opened Cranford’s eyes to the potential of medical cannabis, specifically CBD. Cranford had watched his grandfather die a slow death due to cancer, and the idea that cannabis could have helped alleviate some of his pain in those final days affirmed Cranford’s path in medical cannabis, sending him to Colorado on a quest to create more medicinally beneficial strains.

By 2009, he found himself in a small, woodland cabin in the town of Ward in the hills west of Boulder. With no access to the electrical grid or running water, Cranford was reliant on the stream running through the 20-acre property to power a small generator and provide water for his plants, which he soon had growing in abundance. “We planted about 200 plants wide out in the open in the sunlight,” he recalls. 

Part of the "cigarette" rolling machine.

Cranford  quickly established himself as a caregiver under Colorado’s Amendment 20, growing for more than 100 patients. And when the state began issuing dispensary licenses in 2010, Cranford seized  the opportunity. “I’m like, ‘I gotta get one of those,’” says Cranford. “Basically we scrimped, we saved, drained my wife’s 401k, drained my savings and we rented a farm, built a couple of greenhouses and applied for one of the state licenses.”

The couple established a modest farm in Longmont where he continued to breed his plants for CBD. Cranford’s first break was in 2010 with a strain he named Cannatol, which had  seven percent CBD. 

While Cranford had read of CBD’s potential applications,  he says, his eyes were truly opened to its effects in 2011 when one of the trimmers working for him suffered a seizure on the job. Having none of the THC-heavy oil that he would have normally used as medicine on hand, Cranford offered some of the 1:1 CBD to THC oil extracted from his Cannatol plants. The trimmer’s girlfriend administered the oil, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. “She rubbed it on his gums while he was seizing and he snapped right out of it. He got back at the trim table and he was able to keep working the rest of the day,” says Cranford. “It almost felt like I witnessed a miracle.”

The experience solidified Cranford’s commitment to producing CBD medicine, and through several generations of selective breeding he was able to create the plants that would become Haleigh’s Hope, a high-CBD strain that tests low enough in THC to be legally considered industrial hemp.

Throughout Cranford’s breeding process, the hype around CBD medicine was growing thanks at least partially to Sanjay Gupta’s seminal CNN report. The report spurred an influx of desperate parents to Colorado seeking to treat their children’s intractable epilepsy with Charlotte’s Web, the strain highlighted in the report. The company behind the strain, Realm of Caring, soon found supply outpaced by demand and approached Cranford for assistance. When his offer to provide high-CBD oil was rebuffed in favor of access to his plants, Cranford set out to supply those on the lengthy Realm of Caring waiting list with medicine free of charge. By 2014, Cranford claims he had given away more than $150,000 worth of oil, though he confesses this wasn’t for purely altruistic reasons. “I would say that I’m just that good of a person, but I’m not that good of a person. What I was doing is I was breeding. I was trying to create a Haleigh’s Hope hemp strain without giving up my terpene profile, my ratio, all the stuff I loved about Haleigh’s Hope,” he admits. “I didn’t really want the plant material or the oil, I wanted the seeds.”

The process eventually paid off. After five years of breeding, Cranford had something that would maintain much of the profile of a marijuana plant yet was still low enough in THC to be cultivated and sold as hemp. “When they set the definition of hemp, they only defined it as .3 [percent] THC or below. They didn’t say anything about CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes,” he explains. “What we have with Haleigh’s Hope is we have a marijuana terpene profile, a marijuana CBD level, with a hemp THC level.”

The strain may highlight the absurdity of the legal distinction between hemp and marijuana, originating in the category of marijuana only to be bred into what is legally defined as hemp. This isn’t lost on Cranford, who sees the de facto .3 percent THC limit being codified into law around the country as arbitrary and harmful to hemp farmers. “Who the hell made up .3?” he asks. “I’ve never seen any basis for that number whatsoever.”

While some might consider the origins of the strain to amount to gaming the system, Cranford found himself with a consistent, reproducible plant. He was soon introduced to Janéa Cox, the mother of the girl who would give the strain would be named after.  At the time, Cox was attempting to drum up support for a medical cannabis law in Georgia, where she coincidentally lived just 20 minutes away from Cranford’s childhood home. The two were introduced through Georgia State Rep. Allen Peake, who knew about Cranford’s activity in Colorado thanks to Cranford’s uncle, a Macon City Council member. Peake, who had been working with Cox to create legislation that would allow people Georgians to possess small amounts of low-THC cannabis oil, flew the young Haleigh to Colorado on his private jet so that she could receive the medicine.

That union bore fruit, giving a name to both Cranford’s strain and the medical cannabis law that would pass in Georgia. Dubbed the Haleigh’s Hope Act, the law allows patients who are suffering from one of a short list of conditions or their caregivers to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil with no more than five percent THC content. While the act has been criticized for leaving patients with no method of obtaining their medicine other than smuggling it in from more progressive states, the allowable THC content is slightly higher than many other state CBD-only programs.

Haleigh’s Hope helped establish Cranford in the medical CBD field, and he was soon approached by a concerned mother who claimed that her child had gotten sick from consuming a CBD product bought online. Without delay, Cranford had the sample tested, showing it to contain an illegally high amount of THC, he alleges.

At the time, labs like the one Cranford had used were only capable of testing for potency. To test for contaminants, Cranford took the remaining sample to a lab that typically didn’t test cannabis. The results he was given showed unsafe levels of lead, and Cranford immediately set about broadcasting his findings on social media. Unfortunately, this would make him the target of a lawsuit filed by the Medical Marijuana Inc., the parent entity to the company that had imported and sold the allegedly tainted CBD product. Medical Marijuana Inc sought $100 million in damages from Cranford, the operators of both testing labs, and Project CBD, a non-profit advocacy group that published a report with Cranford’s findings. 

At the time of the lawsuit, Cranford had recently left Kannalife Sciences after the company’s acquisition by Medical Marijuana Inc., something he believes may have played a role in their lawsuit. “I had a funny feeling that lawsuit was [about] more than just me posting a lab report,” he says.

Following a hasty settlement by operators of the lab that produced the results showing lead contamination — a settlement that consisted of a video statement claiming that the results sent to Cranford were preliminary — Cranford reached his own agreement. Though he is barred from discussing the settlement, press releases from Medical Marijuana Inc. tout the company’s legal victory, but make no mention of financial recovery, only a similarly suspect recording of Cranford that was never made public.   

To this day, Cranford maintains that there was no indication that his initial lab results were in any way preliminary. 

Currently, Cranford has some 30,000 Haleigh’s Hope plants growing on a 30-acre farm in Larkspur. Because of their low THC content, the plants are monitored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, rather than the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Adding to his legal footing is the fact that Cranford is listed as a professor at Clover Leaf University, the only cannabis training program in the state to receive accreditation from the Colorado Department of Education’s Private Occupational School Board.  This affiliation has given Cranford’s efforts an added layer of federal compliance, which he says has allowed him to export his CBD products to some 40 countries around the world and create efficacy studies in conjunction with Children’s Hospital.  

But while medical cannabis has been Cranford’s longstanding passion, he’s recently taken his expertise into the realm of adult-use. He’s now operating a wholesale grow in South Park, where a number of repurposed cigarette machines are producing a line of cannabis cigarettes sold as “Cranfords.” The accompanying ad campaign features Cranford doing his best Marlboro Man impersonation. “We’re waiting for the cease and desist,” he jokes.

While this seems like a natural extension of a lifelong cannabis farmer, it’s not hard to see that this foray into adult-use serves the purpose of supporting his other endeavors, rather than an effort to cash in on his years of experience. “[When] I got into this recreational thing, I wasn’t super excited about it; but it pays the bills,” says Cranford.

In fact, despite operating a licensed marijuana grow and medical hemp operation, he still maintains his caregiver status, serving some 150 patients; a process that is decidedly harder than it was when he first started signing up patients back in 2009.

Following recent efforts by lawmakers to crack down on the black and gray market, both at the state and municipal level, Cranford finds himself forced into precarious workarounds in order to provide medicine for those that rely on him. “It forces me to have little, small grows all over the place instead of just one big grow where I can regulate and quality control,” he says. “It’s ridiculous.”

“In their idiocracy in trying to eliminate the caregiver model, they’ve actually forced us into a model that’s harder for them to regulate,” he says. While some in the cannabis advocacy field have taken the crackdown with measured good faith, Cranford sees it as an effort to drive patients into dispensaries. But Cranford, who has previously dared the state board of health to have him arrested for providing cannabis medicine to sick kids, isn’t backing down. “I imagine the state would probably have a problem with the way I’m doing this, but they’ve forced me into this,” he says.

Statements like this demonstrate the subversive leanings that lie just under the surface of a man now fixed within the regulations of the state’s medical and adult-use cannabis programs as well as the international hemp marketplace. Cranford is a man willing to play by the rules, but it’s not where he came from, and it’s not what got him where he is today. His father, out of prison for many years now, still wears his Outlaws jacket to this day, says Cranford. And though he’s never made it out to Colorado to see the legal operation that his son has built, Cranford says he knows his old man is proud of him for turning those skills he started honing all those years ago into something real. ♦

 

Cannabis Certification Council Develops Industry Standards
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by Amanda Pampuro

Never before have cannabis consumers so thoroughly enjoyed the luxury of knowing how their cannabis was grown and by whom. When pot was (indisputably) illegal, scoring was scoring. But the Cannabis Certification Council is seeking to change this.

“Right now, at the retail level at dispensaries, most consumers don’t even think to ask the question about organic cannabis or fairly-produced cannabis, because they are just thrilled that they can buy cannabis. So [we are] educating consumers to start asking these questions,” said Ashley Preece, Executive Director of the newly formed CCC.

By establishing a system of standards and vetting, the CCC hopes that its seal will become a symbol of trust; ensuring products under its banner are both organically grown and ethically sourced.

Without trying to ring any alarms, Preece noted that some cannabis producers offer poor working conditions on rural farms, often lacking electricity or air conditioning. Preece accounts for this “because of where the industry has come from, where we’ve had to hide what we do, hide the money.”

By establishing a system of standards and vetting, the CCC hopes that its seal will become a symbol of trust; ensuring products under its banner are both organically grown and ethically sourced.

In Oregon, she specified, “During harvest, to manicure the cannabis before it goes to retail, a lot of these trim circles bring in a lot of younger women, because these are men on farms, in some rural farms, where they haven’t seen or spoken to people for a long time, so they will literally hire only women. These kinds of scenarios can create awkward living and working conditions.”

Another issue can be the lack of any work contract laying out terms and duration of employment.

On the horticultural side, the CCC’s adoption of organic standards will also give farmers an incentive to use living soils and avoid synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

The Cannabis Certification Council was formed in June when Portland-based Ethical Cannabis Alliance — founded by Preece — merged with Denver’s Organic Cannabis Association founded by Amy Andrle and Ben Gelt.

David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s All-One soaps, donated seed funding. “The CCC with its unique mission, is a perfect vessel for us to support our values in the cannabis space,” Bronner said in a press release. “We are committed to making socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and we are excited for the CCC to begin driving that ethos in the cannabis industry.”

This may also be a business opportunity for the artisanal market.

“As Operations Manager of Yerba Buena, this seal will help differentiate our brand from conventional producers, giving consumers a choice and an opportunity to establish a relationship with the farms they trust to grow clean products,” said Laura Rivero, who joined the CCC as Vice Chair. “The cannabis industry is growing rapidly without such standards, and it is incredibly important for this work to contribute to the education of consumers and provide a platform from which to elevate the legitimacy and integrity of the entire cannabis community.”

As a nonprofit, the CCC does not seek investors “because we don’t want people owning the direction of what we’re doing. We have a board of advisors to do that,” Preece clarified. As with any other agricultural standard, like Fair Trade or Organic, all applicants will be audited by a third party prior to being approved or denied certification.

Preece comes to the table with a background in horticulture and a BAS in horticultural sciences form Boise State University. Each standard is an opportunity for “multi-stakeholder engagement …[with] the community,” Preece said. “A standard is a written document and they should be available to the public, and that it is usually curated through a multi-stakeholder process where we engage with the communities nation-wide. So it’s not two people in a room writing the standards and making the decisions, it’s engaging the entire community and all facets of the community in order to write the standard.”

Individuals interested in joining the conversation or lending technical expertise to CCC can reach out to Preece via email at [email protected].

Once the CCC’s standards have been released, the organization will run a three-month pilot and Preece anticipates the seal will be ready to market January 2018. This time next year, she said, “we would like to see our seal on jars and bags and products going onto all those products on the shelves in every dispensary that is legal.”

WOMEN-OWNED CANNABIS BUSINESSES IN COLORADO HAVE ANOINTED AUGUST #BOSSWOMEN MONTH
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14 women-owned businesses are bringing recognition to the dispensaries, the brands and the services that are creating an industry

(Denver, CO) – 14 women-owned cannabis companies have come together to showcase the power of female entrepreneurship in the cannabis space. The 13 business owners are proclaiming August 2017 as #BossWomen Month!

“The owners of the cannabis businesses are promoting not just their businesses, but the tremendous amount of revenue, jobs, and taxes their stores, products, and services provide to the state of Colorado,” states Wanda James, owner and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary and the first black woman licensed in American to own a dispensary, an edible company, and grow facility.

A snapshot of the revenue power of the 13 Boss Women entrepreneurs shows not just the value of women led businesses in the cannabis space.  It also shows that women promote women, proving the importance of women in CEO and manger positions.

#BOSSWOMEN BUSINESS PROFILE

  • Combined Number of Employees: 118
  • 30 Female Managers
  • 50% of the Combined Management Teams are Female
  • 70% of the Combined Staffs are Women
  • Combined Monthly Sales Revenue: $1,149,839.00
  • Combined Monthly Mortgage / Rent / Lease amount: $62,750

The Boss Women businesses cover a wide range of cannabis products and services, infused teas, topicals, edibles and concentrates to business consulting to jewelry to greeting cards, the creativity and business acumen in this group is outstanding. Boss Women are not waiting for the world to change, they have made the decision to take action and be the change in the world, as women often do.

During the month of August, these products and services should be at the top of your shopping list. Together, the Boss Women will advertise numerous publications bringing attention to our August #BossWomen Month. The ladies have created a webpage that lists all the places these products and services are available. You can visit www.420BossWomen.com to find all the promotions, events, and discounts that will be offered during the month.

ABOUT BOSS WOMEN #BossWomen

Wanda James - Simply Pure Dispensary and Cannabis Global Initiative

Maureen McNamara - Cannabis Trainers  

Wy Livingston – Purple Monkey Teas

Olivia Mannix - Cannabrand 

Missy Bradley - Stillwater Brands  

Dahlia Mertens - Mary Jane’s Medicinals  

Julie Dooley - Julie’s Natural Edibles  

Ashley Picillo - Point 7 Consulting

Megan Solano - Canna Botica  

Genifer Murray, GENIFER M - Cannabis Inspired Jewelry

Morgan Iwersen - Canyon Cultivation  

Lauren Miele - KushKards 

Deloise Vaden - Better Baked

# # #

Kickin' it Old School: An Interview with Chris Jetter
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by DJ Reetz

With his long blond hair flowing over his shoulders, Chris Jetter doesn’t look like he belongs at a meeting in a government building. He looks like the guy you would have bought weed from in high school, a guy who’s proud of his sick van (he is, and it is a sick van) or the dude who would randomly pass you a joint at a Metallica concert even though you’ve never met him before. It’s early March, and Jetter is the last person to arrive at the first meeting of the advisory committee convened to help shape the social cannabis use regulations approved by voters in Denver. Sitting at a configuration of tables is a quorum of business owners, activist, neighborhood representatives and city officials called together to discuss what this groundbreaking program will look like. It’s standing room only by the time Jetter arrives, with a crowd of concerned citizens filling every seat in the meeting room, eager to give comments on the program. At glance, one thing is apparent, even in this room packed with those eager to consume cannabis in public, Jetter smokes more weed than any of them.

“Legalization is a complete fucking joke.”

But while some of these folks are nervous to give testimony at what is perhaps their first time stepping into the public arena to support sensible cannabis policies, for Jetter this is tritely familiar. He’s carrying a bundle of dog-eared papers containing copies of current adult-use cannabis regulations, medical cannabis regulations, current regulations surrounding the sale of alcohol for comparison against the two, a copy of Colorado’s constitutional Amendment 64 subsection 3, copies of the charging documents from the last time he tried to establish a cannabis club in Denver almost two years prior, and various other documents that he will eagerly spread in front of any bewildered law maker that hasn’t given the same amount of attention to the issue that he has.

 

When he speaks, he does so with an energetic twinge of scattered neurosis, like someone who’s seen the inside of some vast conspiracy and wants desperately for others to believe him. It’s a flood of information that pours out, veering between a lawyerly assessment of the state constitution and an accusatory diatribe about the will of the voters. His impassioned speech rambles on until the meetings organizers are forced to remind him of his time limit.

 

This isn’t Jetter’s first appearance at an event like this. In fact, you can frequently find him at policy hearings, both state and local, that concern cannabis use or cultivation. It’s part of his long-standing commitment to the plant he loves, and the liberties that he’s been denied because of his affections for it.   

 

“I’m not an activist and I’m not a lawyer,” says Jetter, speaking later at his grow op in Aurora. “I play ‘em on Facebook and in real life because [the government is] all up in my space.”

Blue Mountains Van ("sick van" mentioned above)

Sitting alone in his facility, Jetter’s old-school aesthetic is on full display as he diligently trims buds for extraction, pushing waste through a hole cut in the middle of the table. The only noticeable differentiation between this process and that of an underground grow are the RFID tags he attaches to each bag of trimmed cannabis. His brand, Blue Mountains, produces only four strains — Sour Diesel, Flo, Durban Poison and Bruce Banner — all of which he has been growing more than 17 years; well before he ever made his first foray into the legal market. In the grow, classical music plays for the plants.

 

The company currently operates as a licensed adult-use wholesale provider, but it started life as a non-profit co-op in the decidedly unregulated space of the reimbursement model. In those days, one could find the Blue Mountains bus cruising around to various cannabis-related events in Colorado, offering dabs to anyone with proof of age.  The collective sprang up in early 2013, shortly after the passage of Amendment 64, quickly drawing the attention of the public. In May of that year, Blue Mountains was featured in an exposé published by The Denver Post titled “Colorado Pot Collectives Test Limits of Amendment 64,” which was accompanied by an image of Jetter hitting a dab. The article also featured comments from Tom Gorman, the director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a multi-state law enforcement organization operating under federal jurisdiction, who questioned the validity and motivation of co-ops like Jetter’s. “Why would you do that if it’s not for money?” Gorman questioned in the Post’s article. “Are they so thrilled with marijuana and think it’s such a great thing that it’s their responsibility to offer it as cheap as possible? Why would you go through all the trouble for no profit at all?”  

 

For Jetter, the answer to this question is rooted in a passion for cannabis that stretches back decades. Growing up in Colorado, he was sent to military school after getting caught smoking weed, where he would again run into trouble for cannabis use.

 

Thus began Jetter’s struggle: to use cannabis as though it were legal. It’s a struggle that has continued to define his life, even in the current era; an era in which, as he bluntly puts it, “Legalization is a complete fucking joke.”

 

In 1992, recently out of high school, Jetter began making bongs, a trade that would lead him to the underground cannabis celebration held in the hills of Colorado known as Bong-a-thon. In 1999, Jetter Glass provided the trophies for the competitive smoke-out that gives the event its name. After the party was raided by the Larimer County Sherriff’s office, a lengthy investigation led them to Jetter’s home studio, where a team of heavily armed SWAT officers would smash down the door and destroy all the glass they found inside. Jetter claims the police evidence log listed only $13,000 of the $15,000 in cash the police took from his home that day, as well as two fewer ounces of marijuana than what he claims was taken.

 

By the mid oughts, the Bush administration’s crackdown on paraphernalia sellers in the form of Operation Pipe Dreams brought the online glass directory he had been managing to a screeching halt, but Jetter continued to blow glass under the guise of custom gearshift knobs. He’s not shy of acknowledging hat even after his run in with the law he continued to ply the craft of growing cannabis. 

 

In 2009, after Obama took office and Attorney General Eric Holder made his intentions known not to pursue state-legal cannabis activity, Jetter was among the first to open as dispensary in Colorado. He reflects fondly on those days, when home growers could drop off their own product to be sold, before the tight regulations that mark the modern industry. This time period wasn’t without it’s own hazards though, and in 2010 an errant burglar alarm brought the Adams County police to his grow, which, despite providing officers at the scene with all the relevant paper work, would lead to a felony drug charge.

 

Thus, Jetter found himself once again thrown into the criminal justice system, and although the charges would eventually be dropped, the experience left a sour taste in his mouth. Around this time, unbeknownst to Jetter, his mother and business partner had negotiated the sale of the dispensary to one of the larger chains that was moving to consolidate the burgeoning medical marijuana industry. Not long after the sale of the majority interest, Jetter was handed a pink slip, his time in the medical marijuana business brought to an unpleasant end. In the more than five years since, he hasn’t spoken to his mother; something he says he never would have expected when he entered the industry.

 

When Amendment 64 was introduced in 2012, Jetter’s love of cannabis goaded him forward once more. The promise of the government finally treating cannabis like alcohol spurred Jetter into the public arena, where he helped to collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

 

When the measure passed, he quickly moved to set up Blue Mountains, and by August of 2013, the co-op was up and running, delivering cannabis to members and providing free dabs at events. The battle seemed to have been won, but for Jetter, the war was still being fought.

 

“When we passed Amendment 64, a lot of the people and even myself, thought that the drug war was over, victory was at hand and we could go out and party,” he says.

 

Instead, what followed was a disheartening slog through regulation guided by people that didn’t necessarily have the best intentions of cannabis consumers at heart as Jetter saw it. While the intention of the amendment was to treat cannabis like alcohol, regulations around the plant quickly began to more closely resemble those of medical marijuana, and Jetter was baffled when the liquor board wasn’t consulted at all.

 

Once again, Jetter found himself as the outsider, testing the limits of the law and the tolerances of those tasked with enforcing it. As the rules began taking shape, there seemed to be little room for people like him, who just wanted to treat cannabis as if it weren’t a dangerous substance in need of the highest levels of control.

Bruce Banner Live Resin

It wasn’t long before the glaring issue of public consumption reared its head. Voters had chosen to enact cannabis legalization, but local governments in Denver and the surrounding area were choosing to interpret the section of Amendment 64 stating explicitly that the measure had not legalized “open and public” consumption as explicitly forbidding it. Cannabis clubs that popped up around the city following legalization were quickly raided and closed, and once again Jetter was reminded that his desire to not be treated like a criminal for consuming a plant would remain unfulfilled. 

 

With the battle lines drawn by the city, Jetter once again stepped up to prod at the unjust enforcement with a cannabis club of his own. Called POTUS, an acronym for People of the United States, the smoking lounge opened in a former swingers’ club in southwest Denver in February of 2015. To be sure that there would be no surprises, Jetter’s partner sent certified letters to several city officials announcing their plan to open a cannabis club that would provide cannabis to members for reimbursement. In order to gain entry, one would simply have to sign up for membership. Blue Mountain would provide cannabis, but patrons were welcome to bring their own as well.

 

At the same time that he was pushing the legal envelope with POTUS, Jetter had been tapped to head the legal grow in Aurora that he now occupies.       

 

With hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment on the line — including the $400,000 of liquid assets that the city of Aurora requires before considering an application — for most this would have been an inopportune time to tempt fate with a smoking lounge, but for Jetter this wasn’t the case.

 

Sure enough, in early March police made their move. Undercover officers infiltrated the club after signing on as members and recorded a reimbursement. The sting ended with a misdemeanor distribution charge for Jetter and his partner charged with operating an unlicensed marijuana business.   

 

For some, this would be a clear defeat, an indication that this pipe dream of social cannabis consumption would remain out of reach — Jetter had POTUS reopened by the next day.

 

The club operated without incident until the weekend of 4/20, when city officials made their intentions known by raiding the two most prominent smoking lounges operating in Denver, one of them being POTUS. The raid played out much as it had the first time, with undercover officers infiltrating the packed club for a reimbursement and police moving in for the bust less than an hour before 4:20. This time, the results were more final. Jetter and his partner faced the same round of charges as before, but the city issued a cease and desist order.

 

After a protracted legal battle, Jetter ended up taking a bargain that saw him plead guilty to a public consumption offense. This wasn’t, he says, because he didn’t want to keep fighting, but because of the potential harm that the fight would cause to his grow application in Aurora, where the incident was being discussed as possible indication of a lack of moral character.

 

These days Jetter operates entirely in the white, but it’s not hard to see the rabble-rouser that hides just under the surface. He may have settled down some out of sheer necessity, but the old Jeter, the one not afraid to face arrest for what he thinks is right, is always waiting for the right time to make himself known. His opinions haven’t softened after all these years and all the arrests that have punctuated them, and he stills sees a fight yet to be won in the world of cannabis.

 

“When it was illegal, before 2009 when I opened a dispensary, I made a shitload of money. I had absolutely no responsibilities and I really enjoyed my life,” he opines. “Since legalization has happened and I’ve tried to be completely compliant in all facets, my income has dropped by over 80 percent, my responsibilities have increased by 50 fold, and I’m not having fun anymore. This isn’t the light, regulated like alcohol industry I was promised.”

 

For the past decade, he’s taken up the mantle of hosting Bong-a-thon, but it wasn’t until last year that the party finally found a home sanctioned by local authorities. Those who attend the annual smoke-out will likely find Jetter making the rounds, orchestrating the goings on while using the platform to encourage attendees to get involved and vote.

 

He’s got no shortage of opinions about the direction the cannabis industry is headed and it’s not hard to coax them out. As he sees it, what Colorado has settled on isn’t legalization, rather another form of prohibition, just with legalized sales.

“If it was legalized, there’d be no criminal cases because it would be legal. But it’s not legalized; it’s taxed and regulated..."

“If it was legalized, there’d be no criminal cases because it would be legal. But it’s not legalized; it’s taxed and regulated, and it’s slanted in the favor of people that have, well let’s just say, assets totaling over $400,000 liquid,” says Jetter.  As for consumer rights, in his assessment, there’s not really much advocacy aimed at the cause. “I think most people think that the industry groups are looking to support consumers’ rights and patients’ rights, and in my opinion the opposite is in fact the case,” he says.

Blue Mountains Full Melt Hash

While some have moved into the industry simply for the chance to make money in a developing market, that’s not an accusation that can be leveled at Jetter. It’s a cause that he’s fought for, and taken losses for. His involvement in cannabis was most recently used against him in a custody battle for his six-year-old daughter. As he sits, alone in his grow facility diligently moving his scissors, sermonizing on the points of personal liberty with regard to cannabis, he remarks that this is the first time in the past six years that he hasn’t had a court date awaiting him. Some activists may have adopted a more straight-laced approach to cannabis reform, but for Jetter, the need to stir the pot hasn’t passed. While other cannabis advocates have moved toward suits and ties, Jetter is still firmly in the scary stoner camp, and if the people making the laws are made uncomfortable by it, that’s just fine with him.

 

“I hope they’re uncomfortable. I hope they’re really goddamn uncomfortable,” says Jetter.  “I was really fucking uncomfortable when those bastards kicked in my door in 1999; I wasn’t very comfortable standing there while they looked like the ISIS militants with their hoods on tearing the curtains off my house so everybody can stare in, that wasn’t very comfortable; it wasn’t comfortable having an AK47 stuck in my face that day; it wasn’t comfortable being charged for an illegal grow in 2010 that I had all my paperwork for, that none of the detectives wanted to review, that wasn’t very comfortable; I wasn’t comfortable getting my mouth swabbed, my picture taken and going to court for five trial dates only to be told that I was right, my paperwork was in order; I wasn’t comfortable in 2015 when they dragged me out on the street in front of POTUS and put me in handcuffs for ‘questioning;’ I wasn’t comfortable when they handed me the two distribution tickets I got in 2015. None of that shit makes me comfortable, so if they’re a little uncomfortable, I’m sorry, but fuck it.”

The Man, The Myth, The Yeti: Who is Shawn Honaker?
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photos and article by Ben Owens

“I was invited to this little hash party. And so we were smoking some really good hash. We were smoking some King Hasan out of Morocco and…just some amazing old school hash; slab hash. And I kept seeing this guy walk around and he had this big-ass bong in his hand…and I kept hearing him say ‘Bong-a-Thon, Bong-a-Thon.’ So, finally, I stopped him, and I said, ‘What the hell is Bong-a-Thon?’ ‘Oh man, the deal is it's this party that started in 1974 and it's a big smoke-off and everyone parties…[but] we don't throw it anymore.’ I said, ‘I've got a 160-acre ranch in Fairplay, it's up at 10,000 feet.’’” And so begins one of many colorful and unique stories from the man behind Yeti Farms, Mr. Shawn Honaker.

To some, Honaker is the man who hosted the clandestine smoking competition known as Bong-a-Thon on his Park County ranch for five years, setting the record for fastest quarter smoked in an incredible six minutes and 23 seconds. To others, he’s the man that turned Siloam Road in Pueblo County into the bustling recreational cannabis farming community that it is today. And yet, the imagery often associated with a Yeti, the mysterious mountain-dwelling creature that finds pleasure in the back-country, is aptly the most accurate depiction of Honaker and his passions: keep it simple and take it back into nature.

Honaker grew up in the rural Midwest in the ‘90s, where his stepfather was a police officer for more than 20 years. Needless to say, cannabis wasn’t a prominent part of life. Having filed his first tax return at the age of 11, and every year since, hard work has always been very important to him. When it came time to go to college, he paid his way, coming out without any debt to pay off. But he never actually received his degree, dropping out just six months before graduation. “In my head I made a very simple financial decision and that was [that] I don’t need a damn degree to get a job.” At the time, a good friend of Honaker’s who had graduated with the same degree was making less in a year than it would cost Honaker to finish his degree.

Fast forward a few months and Honaker had moved on to a job at Bank One in Denver as a corporate financial planner while doing outside sales for a few other companies. Having done well in this role, he was able to buy his first home in the city at the age of 22. He quickly realized that city life was not for him, and sought out solace in the mountains doing a variety of jobs; car sales, granite and tile work, even laying a Japanese soak tub in Phil Collins’ house. By 26, he’d ended up working the oil fields in western Colorado.

After a few years working the fields, Honaker started his own oil field service company that operated 24/7, 365 and was responsible for 29 oilrigs with more than 70 employees and over 100 subcontractors. This was early 2008, and the prognosis for the economy was slowly turning. Sensing a change in direction, and having the opportunity for a buyout, Honaker took the chance that April and sold all of his holdings in the oil field industry in western Colorado. Not six months later, the economy was in disarray.

Growing up in the Midwest, alcohol was prevalent in Honaker’s household while cannabis was demonized. This ever-present aspect of alcohol came to an abrupt halt after Honaker realized that every oil deal was signed at a bar or strip club, and that he was slowly slipping toward alcoholism with each deal. After leaving the bar one night, Honaker swore he’d never touch the substance again. At the time, he was dating a “hippie chick” from southern Alabama who insisted he try cannabis. He’d only tried it once or twice in high school and again in college, but after that sampling, it took him about a month to smoke his first eighth. He hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since.

“Cannabis made everything easier; I found cannabis to be nuclear powered rocket ship to galaxies I didn’t even know existed on this earth. And it just started to open up a lot of doors for me. Business became easier. Meeting with people became more fluid. And I kept doing more and more of it.”

Not long after, Honaker’s good friend, a Vietnam veteran,  posed the question, “How come when I smoke marijuana, sometimes I wake up and sometimes I sleep?” When Honaker didn’t have an answer, his friend responded, “Then fucking find out.” So, Honaker booked a ticket to Amsterdam for the High Times Cannabis Cup, telling his work he was going home for Thanksgiving, and telling his family he was working through the holiday. In Amsterdam he met Milo of Big Buddha Seeds and Arian of Greenhouse, along with many others who helped explain the difference between sativa and indica, and he immediately began poring through the books he’d purchased on his travels.

Upon his return, Honaker started cultivating; driving up to British Columbia to buy a BC Northern Lights BloomBox and meet with the team that made the apparatus. He also became one of the first people in the state of Colorado to own a professional trimmer. He managed his business during the day while growing at night to de-stress, which afforded him the ability to smoke more than he would if he were buying it at the going rate of the time of $400 per ounce.

Yeti Farms Concentrates

Eventually, Honaker’s smoking outpaced his modest hobby grow, and he needed a way to expand capacity. He buried a shipping container and began growing in this much larger space. Faced with excess product, he’d offer his extra medicine to dispensaries if they had the demand. This led to recognition of, and a demand for, his growing techniques that eventually grew into partial ownership of a dispensary in western Colorado. For two years Honaker partnered with a small shop owned by a husband and wife, focusing solely on indoor grows. But his passion was elsewhere.

At this point, Honaker had begun to grow outdoors, developing a proprietary blend of soil by comparing and mixing all of the soils available on the market. After his second year of cultivation, he’d found a winning mixture that allowed a single plant of Girl Scout Cookies to produce just over 8.76 pounds of dry material. At the time, that was a $24,000 plant that cost just under $300 to grow. He realized he was onto something, but his partners were focused on building out a new indoor grow in a brand new warehouse. So he took a buyout, and began to throw everything he had into greenhouse and his outdoor grow techniques.

Right around this time, 2009-2010, Honaker was introduced to BHO, or butane hash oil. Having hosted Bong-a-thon, participated in and won multiple competitions, and generally being known as a heavy smoker, he instantly fell in love with the potency and clarity of the high that BHO produced. Immediately after trying it, he was shown how to make extracts using 100-gallon cylinders and n-butane in a professional setting. “I’ve never used a tube, I’ve never used a can; I’ve never purchased a can...I’ve never been to Multi Line and bought a case of butane.”  He started with the best of the best, and that’s where his technique began to evolve; driven by a desire for increased purity and techniques that cooked out any residual solvents. Back in the day, there weren’t sesh’s and cups every night, Honaker explains. There were high-end, secret events that you had to be invited to, and he’d go and get everyone “super duper high.”

“I don’t dress up for people, I don’t change who I am for anybody. I don’t give a shit who you are. I wear boots, jeans and a t-shirt every day of my life, that’s just how I live my life…so I’m a noticeable guy [especially in a room of] tuxes and ballroom gowns.” He’d lay out two “flats” of hash (about two pounds of BHO, all different flavors) in ball jars, dab out a whole party of 300 people, and then drive four hours back to his residence in the mountains. That’s where the idea of the Yeti really began to take shape.

 

Life of a yeti: he doesn’t come to town; he stays in the mountains.

 

Many of the popular products only recently finding their way to the market are things that Honaker was pushing out of his small extraction setup years ago, people just hadn’t figured out why his extracts looked the way they did and had the effect that they did. “People would say, ‘Dude I just don’t understand why I’m so high. I don’t get it.” Now, we know a bit more about this technology and why these extracts produce much more intense effects.

Having left his dispensary partnership and fresh into an early retirement, thanks to the sizeable buyout of his oil field company, Honaker set his sights on Pueblo County. He bought the property that Yeti Farms stands on today on Siloam Road, a 55-acre plot with a 35-acre tract next door. He runs a tight ship; no nutrients, herbicides or pesticides are allowed anywhere on his farm. “We do everything organically. If the grasshoppers come…if they eat ‘em, they eat ‘em. I grew up in the Midwest in Indiana, and that’s all part of the gig. If bugs eat them, they eat them. That’s part of being a farmer. I’m willing to roll the dice as a cannabis farmer.”

Shawn Honaker

In this same tradition of farming, Honaker has an innate belief in the value of outdoor cultivation and believes that there is no value in separating the parts of the natural plant. “I didn’t believe in the future of indoor cultivation; [it’s] not sustainable for me…I’ve never had sweet corn from a warehouse that tasted good.” As the first hydrocarbon extraction company in Pueblo and one of the first large-scale outdoor cannabis farms, Yeti has continued this dedication to keeping it simple. They use the entire plant; fan leaves, sugar leaves, and buds, are all put into a bag together to purge for two weeks and then cure for upwards of two months. After that, the material is ground and extracted into budder, shatter, and a variety of other forms of concentrate. In addition to offering processing services for other brands and growers, Yeti Farms’ Blonde Sugar is their premium line of in-house, organically grown and extracted concentrates. “The Best Damn Dab in the West” is a full plant extract available at a variety of dispensaries throughout the state such as PotCo, Standing Akimbo and Three Rivers Organics in Pueblo.

The in-house standards that Yeti Farms uses for their products are very strict, 50 times stricter than the state’s standards, to be exact, says Honaker. No product leaves the facility if it tests over 100 parts per million for residual solvents (the state’s threshold is 5000 p.p.m.). If any sample tests above this, it is reprocessed and retested at Yeti Farms’ expense. This dedication to quality is why Honaker is in no rush to jump onto the latest trends. “We’re trying to find out what is the cool hype that will go away, and what is the thing that will stay the distance…Seems to me, when all the cool kids line up to do something, and it is the new hype, you either want to wait, or not do it... This is a long race; it’s a damn marathon. Let’s take our time.”

 

“We don’t get involved in the local politics around us”

 

Honaker is cautious to differentiate between his economic and political outlooks on the industry. While he believes he is very fortunate to be in a position to provide guidance to various agricultural groups in local, state, and national organizations, he is very clear about one thing: what he is doing is illegal on the federal level, and has been for the whole time he’s been doing it. So, he isn’t worried about how the administration change will affect his business. “If they’re going to close me down, I’m going to have to do something else anyways…Right now, I am operating illegally under federal law. These things honestly don’t ruffle my feathers and I highly suggest to the rest of the industry that it not ruffle yours.”

Locally, Honaker tries to stay out of politics, but there have been some issues that have caught his attention. In particular, a recent ballot initiative that sought to ban recreational cannabis cultivation in Pueblo County, which would have had dire consequences for Yeti Farms and other businesses in the area. To an extent, Honaker understands why people point to him as an example of the cannabis takeover of the area. When he moved into his farm, there were maybe twenty or so growers in the area, now there are licenses pending for upwards of 200. And this has him discussing the economics of oversupply with his fellow residents and business owners. “There’s a local outdoor farm selling pounds for $560 … If they’re doing that right now, this year… I’m really worried about where the future of this industry is going to go for all these growers that don’t have a license to get rid of any single thing but trim or flower. That’s all they can do. They don’t have resource to get rid of it [in any other form].”

Yeti Farms Blonde Sugar

To address this problem, Honaker is working on a few projects that would allow these businesses to contract out their material and split profits with processors. He’s constantly on the lookout for ways to help everyone in the industry stay afloat.

The authenticity of Honaker’s passion for quality drives home the underlying motif that a product speaks for itself. Yeti Farms barely advertises, and relies heavily on the reception and recommendations of its products by budtenders at its retailers. Honaker says that he’s the guy that comes in, has a great conversation with the team, and before they even know it, lunch is on its way to the dispensary. “I’m not doing it to kiss your ass. I’m doing it because you’re good people and you work very hard for me and you don’t get a paycheck from me. So let me buy you lunch or let me buy you ice cream.”

 

“I got to meet thousands of people that were all like-minded.”

 

Having hosted Bong-a-Thon on his property for five years prior to Park County officials shutting him down, Honaker is a self-proclaimed “old guy” at cannabis events, but enjoys the company and conversations of the many people he continues to meet throughout the industry.

So where does the Yeti go, and what does he do to escape the day-to-day? Honaker’s sanity finds reprieve beyond bongs and bud, to the adrenaline-inducing activities that some never engage in. When he’s not on the farm, you can find him entrenched in some combination of his current passions: cannabis, back-country snowmobiling, and free-dive spear fishing.

“When you’re under the water, and you’re holding your breath in an element where the fish now have the advantage. They’re in their element and you are not necessarily supposed to be there, that adds a new level of adrenaline. There’s obviously sharks, barracudas, stingrays; a lot of things that can make your life go bad pretty quickly. As my mind races through everything that I’m trying to achieve [I] try to find that one fish or that one lobster. It won’t allow me to think of anything else. So that’s where I really draw my happy place from is when I can’t think about anything but what I’m doing at that exact moment.”

 

Trump Threatens Adult-Use Cannabis
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by DJ Reetz

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday made the bold claim that the Trump Department of Justice would likely be targeting adult-use marijuana in the eight states that have voted to legalize it. While Spicer was clear that this would not include attacks on state medical marijuana programs, the news is troubling for the markets that have so far flourished in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, as well as the burgeoning industry in Alaska and the prospective industries in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine that have yet to take shape.

Spicer tied any forthcoming enforcement to an effort to stymie the opioid epidemic, saying that the federal government shouldn’t be “encouraging people” by allowing adult-use cannabis laws.

Drawing a clear distinction between medical laws, which have previously been protected from federal meddling by an attachment to a previous appropriations bill that barred the Department of Justice from spending money interfering with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

“That’s something that the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into,” said Spicer. “They are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana.”

Despite Spicer’s unfounded claim that adult-use marijuana somehow worsens the crisis of opioid addiction, most data shows that medical cannabis laws lessens opioid use.  A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed a 25 percent lower rate of death due to opioid overdose in states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010.

Another study out of the University of Athens looked at data from 2010 to 2013, finding that on average of doctors prescribed 1826 fewer doses of pain medications, including opioids, in states with medical marijuana programs.

A study published in The International Journal of Drug Policy found that 63 percent of respondents registered to receive medical cannabis were using the plant in place of prescription drugs.

Spicer’s claim that progressive cannabis laws lead to increased opioid use may not be based in fact, but the impact on tax revenues and local economies that enforcement actions predicated on this claim are more easily nailed down. Colorado sold over $1 billion in cannabis sales last year, generating more than $127 million in tax and fees for the state.

Earlier in the press conference, Spicer stated clearly that Trump represented a party that believed strongly in states’ rights. 

legalization-map

CBD Fights Back: Lawsuit Filed Against DEA
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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.

 

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