With Florida’s medical marijuana expansion finally in place, financial experts believe that the state’s medical marijuana market is on pace to break $1 billion by 2020.
Last year, Florida voters approved a pivotal expansion of the state’s highly restrictive medical marijuana program, a vital decision that has caused the system to rapidly bloom. While lawmakers have tried to keep legislation as limited as possible, their hesitation has been thwarted by the exploding number of registered patients and doctors.
This rapid growth now has financial experts estimating that the expansion will help Florida’s medical marijuana market to surpass $1 billion by 2020. The colossal estimate comes on the heels of the increasing number of doctors and patients registering to partake in the broadened system. There are now over 1,200 physicians signed up to recommend medical marijuana to patients, and the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana is approving about 20 of these licenses per day.
As for the amount of patients opting to join the bustling ranks of registered medical pot users, that number has nearly doubled from 16,760 to 31,051 since the program was expanded. In fact, growth has been so exponential that Governor Rick Scott signed a law enforcing a 90-day waiting period between visiting the doctor and obtaining a medical marijuana card.
Florida is the third most populated state in the country, and also has a hefty portion of senior citizens throughout the peninsula. The Sunshine State’s cannabis market is positioning itself to serve a vast amount of registered patients, which is expected to quickly climb to around 500,000. Still, dispensaries have struggled to match the rapid increase of patients and doctors, but pot shops are slowly popping up across the state.
Despite the mounting popularity surrounding the medical cannabis system, dispensaries will play a vital role in the success of the market. The law states that medical marijuana patients are not allowed to grow their own crops, leaving them dependent on others for treatment.
Although financial experts have surmised massive success for Florida’s pot market, their estimate may not account for potential pitfalls that could spring from anti-cannabis lawmakers. However, that bright and shiny $1 billion mark might just be enough to get officials fully behind the expansion, making money for the state and life easier for patients at the same time.
Netflix created 12 weed strains and sold $150,000 worth in three days as part of a marketing campaign for their new original comedy “Disjointed.”
Netflix Weed Strains Prove SuccessfulWhen we reported last week on Netflix’s line of weed strainsreleased as part of a marketing campaign for their cannabis-themed show “Disjointed,” we predicted that the launch would be successful.
But what we didn’t know at the time is exactly how successful it would be. According to AdWeek, the streaming service and their partners moved over 430 ounces in Netflix’s cannabis line.
That’s right: Netflix created 12 weed strains and sold $150,000 worth in three days. The weed strains, which were officially announced on August 25, were sold with the help of Alternative Herbal Health Services (AHHS), a dispensary based out of Los Angeles’ West Hollywood district.
The sale, which took place at a pop-up event hosted by the retailer, ended on Sunday. The work behind the campaign, which Netflix, AHHS, and the marketing firm Carrot all collaborated on, began six months ago.
Each of the twelve strains was paired with a popular original comedy created and streamed on the streaming service.
From there, the varieties were respectively tailored to suit the mood and theme of each show: for instance, indica-dominant strains were matched with “sillier”—i.e., more relaxing—proferrings, while sativa-strong types were coupled with dramedies.
While “Disjointed” had three different strains under its belt—the Omega Strain, Eve’s Bush, and Rutherford B. Haze—the rest of the shows were allotted one varietal each.
Final Hit: Netflix Created 12 Weed Strains And Sold $150,000 Worth In Three DaysAs AdWeek was quick to note, Netflix had no involvement with actually selling the strains. Carrot’s executive creative director Jonathan Santoro explained that all partners, including AHHS, worked with lawyers to make sure that all sales were strictly according to legislation in the state of California.
Ergo: while Netflix might be an international company, they in no way violated federal statutes.
“Netflix or Carrot never physically touched the flower,” Santoro emphasized. AHHS were the only co-partners to handle the actual product, as well as package it. Carrot exclusively dealt with marketing the weed strains.
When asked how they could have correctly marketed each strain without testing it out first, Santoro added, “I don’t know if I can legally answer that question, but it is fair to say that Carrot did the research necessary.”
So, can you still purchase any of the 12 weed strains if you didn’t get a chance to stop by AHHS last weekend?
Unfortunately, that’s a no; as of now, the limited event hasn’t extended its run. There’s also no word as to whether any or all three companies will reprise the pop-up.
But just in case they do, here’s a list of each show and its corresponding strain:
For anyone curious about working in the world of weed, a new resource makes job-hunting easier.
A recruiting agency for legal cannabis firms has launched a website that aims to serve as a one-stop shop for employers and job seekers. The site, Vangsters.com, allows hopefuls to apply to jobs and crate employee profiles, with a focus on marijuana-specific skills and software.
With eight U.S. states having legalized recreational marijuana, and 20 more allowing it for medical use, it's clear the field is set to only keep growing. And with that growth potential, many workers -- particularly those in other professions yet to see much in the way of raises -- might be looking over at a rapidly expanding industry offering a range of career opportunities.
But how should someone intrigued by the idea of working in the cannabis sector start searching, and what ind of jobs are available? Read on if you're thinking of taking a leap into the burgeoning new industry.
It's competitiveFirst, the good news. The legal marijuana business is set to add some 80,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next few years. By 2021, the direct and indirect effect of recreational and medical cannabis, including jobs at businesses that service the pot industry, will create an estimated 400,000 jobs, according to industry analysts Arcview Market Research.
Now the bad news. With legal marijuana hailed as the new "gold rush," competition for work is fierce as people from other industries try to break into the sector.
"There are more people who are interested in getting into the space than there are jobs," said Karson Humiston, CEO of recruiting agency Vangst, which is behind Vangsters. About 5,500 job-seekers have filled out profiles on the site since it went online in January, she said.
Where to look
SOURCE: MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT
Pick your sector
The legal marijuana industry breaks down into a few major areas: growing, retailing, infused products and ancillary services (think software development, business-to-business sales and so forth). If you're unsure where to look, thinking about these sectors and their mainstream analogs can help you figure out where to focus your efforts.
Do you have experience in hospitality, restaurants or high-end retail? Workers who've been in high-volume, customer-facing industries are in demand at marijuana dispensaries, the largest subsector in the cannabis field.
"They tend to be high-end, well-paid retail jobs," said Tom Adams, ArcView's editor-in-chief. "The cannabis industry is the classic mom-and-pop scenario. It's very labor intensive, and those mom-and-pop operators tend to pay very well to get people who are knowledgeable about cannabis and very good at interacting with a range of consumers."
Higher-end cannabis shops are luring managers away from designer apparel stores, according to Vangst's Humiston.
On the technical side, labs working on infused products, such as sweets, pizza or even gourmet food, need scientists and technicians who can help with product development and test the finished products. Then there's all the other functions that support a business: software engineers, accountants, sales reps.
"Every one of those companies needs an accountant and an executive assistant. The rules of traditional industries apply to this industry," Humiston said.
It works in "dog years"Why would someone want to move from, say, a conventional tomato farming job to one with a cannabis grower? While the entry-level jobs aren't necessarily better, the pace at which the industry is growing means there is a much better chance of moving up quickly that a worker might have in an established industry.
The challenge for many cannabis companies in the coming years is scaling up -- growing from a customer base of a few hundred to a few thousand, or how to move from having one location to five. "When you're looking at an industry with 25-plus percent growth, the demand [for workers] is going to outstrip supply," Adams said.
On the cultivation side, someone who comes in as a plant trimmer or packager and works hard can hope for a promotion in six to 12 months, according to Vangst. One of the firm's clients worked his way up from trimming to directing a large growth operation in three years.
"It's so new, it's like you're working in dog years," said Kyle Arfsten, Vangst's head of business development. "If you have one year of experience, that counts for a lot."
Marijuana jobs by sector
SOURCE: MARIJUANA BUSINESS DAILY; 2016 DATA
Look extra-professionalDressing the part is important for job-seekers in nearly every industry, but it's especially salient in the legal marijuana trade, where companies are eager to show they can be professional and law-abiding while distancing themselves from "stoner hippie" stereotypes.
Vangst surveyed recruiters at a job fair this year and found that they overwhelmingly judged casually dressed prospects to be less responsible, less qualified and lazier than those wearing formal clothes. So dress like you'd dress for any other job interview, which is to say, overdress.
You don't need to be a userObviously, familiarity with any product can help a job selling or marketing it. But that's far from a requirement in the weed business. "We're hiring people out of lots of other industries whether they're cannabis users or not," Adams said.
Some jobs, like working as a patient counselor or a budtender in a dispensary, do require a worker to know the properties of various marijuana strains and to recommend products. "You have to have some knowledge to talk to the customers, but that's just knowledge -- it doesn't have to be firsthand," he said.
Education countsThe view that companies want workers with experience, but are reluctant hire people to gain that experience, applies here as well. So in the absence of applicable experience, "The best thing is doing a class," Humiston said. These can teach you more about the laws in your particular state and how to get certified in the area that interests you.
"If you take the extra step to take a compliance course, that's one less training [for your employer]," she said. "Putting yourself out there, learning and educating yourself will set someone apart."
Within the cannabis sector, cultivators are looking for people with experience in other large-scale agricultural operations, like growing tulips or tomatoes. On the retail side, people who have worked in high-volume stores or restaurants would find themselves with a leg up. That's true at all levels. For instance, managers at high-end clothing stores or restaurants are being tapped to run dispensaries, Humiston said.
It's good to be greenIt's not hard to see parallels between cannabusiness and another green industry.
"We're pulling a lot of people from the solar industry," said Vangst's Arfsten. "That industry grew nearly as quickly as this one. People from that growth environment understand the need to scale, and what's required to make that happen." Experience working in startups is also valuable.
Finally, there's no shortage of professional help, with a slew of staffing and recruitment firms dedicated to helping those looking for jobs in legal weed at all levels (here's one list).
The storied Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark Capital has launched a slew of tech companies: Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, Instagram. Now its search for the next big thing has led it to … pot.
Benchmark recently invested $8 million in Hound Labs, a startup here in Oakland that’s developing a device for drivers — and law enforcement — to test whether they’re too buzzed to take the wheel.
And that’s just the start. Wealthy investors are pouring tens of millions into the cannabis industry in a bid to capitalize on the gold rush that’s expected when California legalizes recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. They’re backing development of new medicinal products, such as cannabis-infused skin patches; new methods for vaporizing and inhaling; and “budtender” apps like PotBot, which promises to scour 750 strains of cannabis and use lab research, including DNA analysis of each strain, to help customers find the perfect match.
Among the noted investors: tech and biotech mogul Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and made a fortune with the cancer drug startup Stemcentrx. Thiel contributed $300,000 to the California ballot campaign that paved the way for legalization. And in the first public endorsement of the industry from a major biotech investor, Thiel’s Founders Fund has sent millions to Privateer Holdings, a Seattle private equity firm that backs research into medical marijuana products, among other cannabis-related ventures.
Pot has been legal for medical use here since 1996, but with broader legalization, the industry is poised to explode. Experts say the market for marijuana and related products in California will reach $6.5 billion in 2020, and likely spark legalization efforts elsewhere.
“California is the sixth largest economy in the world. Colorado and Washington are pilot studies by comparison,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of The Arcview Group, an Oakland-based cannabis investment and research firm.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to classify marijuana — like heroin and LSD — as a Schedule I drug, defined as highly prone to abuse and having “no accepted medical use.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization, but has not yet cracked down.
Given that most states have already legalized cannabis for medical use, and seven states plus the District of Columbia allow recreational use, most investors think that federal officials eventually will relent and regulate marijuana more like alcohol.
For now, most publicly traded companies — including pharmaceutical and biotech giants with the resources to develop FDA-approved drugs — have shied away from the industry. Most large venture firms, which receive money from public companies and pension funds, also have steered clear due to both risk and morality clauses in their investor agreements.
But California legalization opens such huge profit opportunities that many individual investors have eagerly jumped in. Los Angeles-based private equity firm MedMen, for instance, has raised about $80 million for cannabis projects in the last year. It recently held its first investor conference in San Jose.
Nearly half of all investments into cannabis companies nationally come from California, according to the finance-tracking firm Pitchbook.
That’s no surprise to Ben Larson, founder of Gateway, a cannabis business incubator in Oakland.
A recent research review found that medical marijuana may be effective at reducing chronic nerve pain, known as neuropathy, common among diabetes sufferers.
Dr. Sachin Patel of the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in Nashville said the findings on MMJ and neuropathy “fit generally well with what we know.”
In the second research review, both of which were commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, researchers came up with less evidence that cannabis helps treat other types of pain or the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“That doesn’t mean that it’s not, it just means we don’t have that evidence right now,” said Patel.
The authors of the studies also decried the fact that there has not been enough high-quality research to produce conclusive evidence of the benefits or harms of cannabis for pain or PTSD.
There’s no way to come to conclusions based on the few studies currently available. But “several ongoing studies may soon provide important results,” the authors of the study wrote.
“The current studies highlight the real and urgent need for high-quality clinical trials in both of these areas,” Patel told Business Insider. “If cannabis is being considered for medical use, it should certainly be, after all, well-established treatments have failed.”
Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences released a report saying there is “conclusive” or “substantial scientific evidence” that marijuana is effective for treating chronic pain, calming muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis and easing nausea from chemotherapy.
Last May VA Secretary David Shulkin said at the White House that he was open to learning from any evidence that marijuana could be used as treatment, and that “there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful.”
“And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin said. “But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful”
Although the VA commissioned the two studies, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Curt Cashour, press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, declined to make the lead study authors available for comment on their research, according to Business Insider.
Deputy director of NORML, Paul Armentano said the recent review findings are consistent with “anecdotal reports of patients, many of whom are seeking a safer alternative to the use of deadly opioids. And it is inconsistent with the federal government’s classification of the marijuana plant as a schedule I controlled substance with ‘no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.’”
It is precisely the DEA’s intransigent and patently ludicrous labeling of cannabis as a dangerous drug that is hampering the scientific research that is sorely needed to convince the government what millions already know.
Article by High Times
Congress will likely renew protections next month for state medical marijuana laws -- but pro-pot lawmakers and advocates are still watching nervously in case Attorney General Jeff Sessions launches a last-minute sabotage campaign.
For nearly three years now, Congress has maintained a policy prohibiting the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent states allowing medical marijuana – which now number 29 plus the District of Columbia – from carrying out their own laws.
The amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), will soon expire unless Congress renews it. And it seems likely lawmakers will include the language in a spending bill keeping the government open past Sept. 30, with one possible hiccup – intervention by Sessions, who’s famously known for his abhorrence to cannabis.
Sessions, who prepared a speech in April whose initial text (later revised) called marijuana “only slightly less awful” than heroin, apparently asked congressional leaders to undo the state medical marijuana protections in a letter that became public in June. In that letter, Sessions argued the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment would restrict the DOJ from enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
Yet Sessions is up against a Congress filled with an unprecedented number of pro-pot lawmakers from a record number of states where it’s legal.
Last November’s election brought sweeping victories for the pro-marijuana crowd: Seven states plus the District now allow recreational use after voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved such measures. And four more states – Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas and Montana – approved medical use laws, making it legal in more than half the states for doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients.
It's notable that each time the House has approved the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language, it’s been by increasingly wider margins. The protections for state medical marijuana laws were included with little controversy in the spring spending bill. And last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed such protections, offered by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), by voice vote.
“This is the most sympathetic Congress we’ve ever had to issues of cannabis,” Blumenauer told me.
Blumenauer said he’s had no concrete assurances yet from GOP leaders that they’ll include the protections in the spending bill they need to pass by Oct. 1 in order to keep the government funded (and in his Arizona rally remarks last night, Trump suggested he'd be open to a shutdown over funding for his border wall). But Blumenauer is “reasonably confident” the language will ultimately be renewed, barring an intervention by Sessions.
Advocates are also expecting Congress to keep protecting states with medical marijuana laws, even though they’ve been deeply dismayed by Sessions and his past, well-documented opposition to pot.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to retain the protections,” said Justin Strekal, political director for the pro-pot group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (known as NORML).
The Obama administration made clear in the 2013 “Cole” memo – drafted by then-deputy attorney general James Cole – that it would mostly avert its eyes from state laws. The document warns U.S. attorneys in all 50 states to let states go ahead with legalization efforts, as long as pot isn’t being made available to minors or in states where it isn’t legal.
For the moment, it’s unclear how hard Sessions will try to combat the legalized marijuana trend sweeping the country (a Justice Department spokeswoman didn’t respond to my questions about his approach). The AG certainly has the power to make life very, very difficult for users and growers of the drug, which remains illegal under federal law.
Most significantly, Sessions could direct U.S. attorneys to go after those involved with recreational marijuana. He could use a process called asset forfeiture to seize money and property from them. He could choose to prosecute anyone involved in the industry.
That’s because Congress has so far rejected the next step, which would be to protect states that allow recreational use. Two years ago, the House defeated by a 222-206 margin a bipartisan amendment from Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to prohibit federal authorities from prosecuting people for use, sale or possession of marijuana in a state in which the drug is legal under relevant state laws.
Yet if Sessions tries to remove pot protections, it’s unlikely to be at the behest of the White House. President Trump said several times during his campaign that legalization should be up to the states, and even at one point expressed support for pot's medical use.
“The marijuana thing is such a big thing,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Nevada in October 2015. “I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
One thing’s for certain – in a popularity contest between the president and legalized pot, the pot wins (recent polls show that six in 10 Americans now think it should be legal). Blumenauer was happy to note the reality.
“In the nine states where both Donald Trump and marijuana were on the ballot, marijuana got a lot more votes than Trump,” he told me.
OOF: Recent government reports have indicated large increases in the number of Americans addicted to and dying from heroin, but brace yourself for some more bad news: The problem is even worse than government data indicates, The Post's Keith Humphreys writes.
The most-quoted figure is 561,000 people with a diagnosable heroin use disorder, which comes from the federal government’s annual National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This survey has two serious flaws that lead it to dramatically underestimate the prevalence of heroin use disorder: It excludes people who are incarcerated and people who are living on the street, both of whom have very high rates of drug use, and it relies on self-reports.
"The degree to which NSDUH underestimates the prevalence of heroin use disorder is enormous," Keith writes. "In 2010, a research team combined NSDUH data with that from other studies to determine that NSDUH could only identify 60,000 of the 1 million Americans who used heroin daily or near daily heroin users. As most daily or nondaily heroin users would meet diagnostic criteria for heroin use disorder, NSDUH’s most recent estimate of 591,000 probably didn’t even capture the depth of the problem back in 2010, which was before the heroin problem exploded."
"The true level of heroin use disorder today could easily be double or even triple NSUDH’s estimate, but no one can truly know," he continues. "As successive Congresses have clamped down on federal spending, many government agencies have been forced to curtail their research capacity. National programs that gathered substance use data from people entering jails and from emergency room patients fell under the budget ax in 2014 and 2011, respectively."
OUCH: We already knew top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and President Trump weren't exactly besties. But their relationship has disintegrated to the point that they've not spoken with each other in weeks, and McConnell has privately speculated that Trump won't be able to salvage his administration, the New York Times reports.
"What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership," Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin write. "Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense."
Alex and Jonathan detail a dramatic back-and-forth between the two -- including a phone call that "quickly devolved into a profane shouting match." "During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election."
For his part, McConnell has fumed over Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned the president's understanding of the presidency in a public speech. But he's made even sharper comments privately, "describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing....In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly."
The coast-to-coast solar celebration that is Monday's total eclipse of the Sun kicks off in one of the most 420-friendly places in the country: Oregon. With over 400 marijuana shops across the state and recreational-legal status, eclipse chasers looking to get celestially high will have plenty of options. Dispensaries in Oregon are stocking up for the expected influx of a million tourists in that state alone, with special spacey strains and sales.
Once it leaves Oregon, however, the path of totality cuts through some of the strictest places in the country for cannabis legalization, and activists are seeing it as an opportunity to get their message out. Between two and seven million people are expected to flock to viewing points along the path, in what's being called the greatest temporary mass migration of humans in US history. Many eclipse chasers will be journalists, descending with camera crews, notepads, and recorders. Advocates for weed reform aren't letting a megaphone this size slip away. It's not every day the national news shows up to your town.
I talked to marijuana activists in several of the 11 other states outside of Oregon in the path of totality, to find out what they're planning around the solar eclipse. Mainly, it's an excuse to meet with the community and have some astronomy-based fun, but some are taking the opportunity to make noise about marijuana reform.
The Moon's shadow makes landfall in Oregon on Monday around 10:15 AM PDT, speeding along at more than 3,000 mph. It exits the state around 10:27 AM and begins its trek east, missing marijuana haven Colorado altogether, and continuing through the heartland before departing the US through South Carolina's coast.
The path travels through the middle of Wyoming, where between 48,000 and 192,000 visitors are expected to gather—including Mr. Eclipse himself, retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak, who will give a keynote address in the city of Casper, where the group Wyoming Cannabis Activists has been holding a demonstration rally every other weekend nearly year-round since 2014. In Wyoming, anyone caught with up to three ounces of pot faces a misdemeanor conviction, with a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Activists there view this as a recruitment opportunity. "With the eclipse coming there will be more traffic, so we thought more people from other parts of the state would see us and will want to be more involved," Marcia Stuelpnagel, Secretary of Wyoming Cannabis Activists, told me in a Facebook message. "We do have chapter leaders in a few other places in the state but not all over, and with Casper being the most publicized place for the eclipse, we thought why not."
They're also hoping for the chance to talk to visiting legislators face-to-face about cannabis reform. "Our legislators failed all of our bills that we helped with," Stuelpnagel said. "We are still continuing the good fight."
Of all the states beyond Oregon to get corona-blazed in the totality path, Nebraska might be your next best bet. Marijuana is illegal but decriminalized there—and this is expected to be the state's biggest-ever tourism event. The path crosses 468 miles of the state, and estimates suggest that as many as 466,000 visitors will clamber to get a look there.
"We're touring statewide collecting signatures, we've been staying very visible," Elworth said. "We have a candidate for governor [Krystal Gabel] who will be at the event. At least two media sources say they are sending news crews out. It's just a huge event and we shouldn't miss out on it. We want to be part of the action."
I asked Elworth if he is concerned about folks attending the viewing party using it as a chance to light up in public. Since marijuana is decriminalized and unregulated, "anything goes," he said. The most someone could be fined for smoking in public is $300—a price some might be willing to pay for this unique moment.
"Our message is to legalize medicine and hemp farming, but if people are so fed up and want to light up we will not stop them," Elworth added. "I have to admit even I smoke regularly in public right on the street corner while I collect signatures. It's my life and I'll enjoy it."
A spokesperson for a Georgia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) had the opposite reaction to my inquiry about whether they'd use the eclipse-mania for their own message, telling me that even the scent of marijuana is enough to arouse suspicion in the state. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in Georgia is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum fine of $1,000 and one year incarceration, according to NORML. More than an ounce is a felony, and could mean up to 10 years in jail.
Tennessee could see between 360,000 and 1.4 million eclipse-chasers flood communities across the state, with the totality line drawn within driving distance of four major cities: Nashville, Knoxville, Ashville, and Chattanooga. Marijuana possession of a half-ounce or less is a misdemeanor with a $250 fine for the first offense, but Tennessee is a legal hemp-growing state as of 2014
Cecily Friday Shamim, executive director at the Tennessee Cannabis Coalition, told me that while she wasn't aware of cannabis activist groups planning viewing parties, the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association (TNHIA) is sponsoring a booth at the three-day celebration Total Eclipse Music Festival in Adams. Kevin Colvert at TNHIA told me they were expecting 3,000 people at the event, and that while they're not an organization of cannabis activists but rather hemp farmers, a booth at the event just made sense for visibility.
In Missouri, Blake Bell, executive director of St. Charles NORML, told me over email that they're planning a viewing event and expect several thousand people to attend. They'll be live-streaming the party and talking to people about cannabis, the eclipse, and whatever else comes up in the two full minutes of darkness Missouri will experience.
Some states' marijuana activists aren't planning viewing events this year, but also aren't ruling it out for the future. Wayne Borders, President and Executive Director at Columbia NORML in South Carolina, told me they're sitting this one out to focus on organizing their chapter. "Maybe next time there's a solar eclipse we'll at least be medical legal." Another solar eclipse won't cross through South Carolina—let alone carve a path across a dozen US states—in this lifetime.
The Board of State Canvassers gave approval Thursday to a new proposed ballot effort to amend the state constitution to fully legalize recreational use of marijuana without taxing the drug.
The proposal from Abrogate Prohibition Michigan of Midland would nullify all laws prohibiting or regulating the use of marijuana and impose no fines, taxes or penalties on its use.
"I call it the Second Amendment of cannabis," sponsor Timothy Locke told the Free Press, comparing it to the U.S. constitutional provision granting the right to bear arms.
The Legislature would still have the power to tax and regulate cannabis, but no such measures would be required as part of his constitutional amendment, he said.
The board voted 4-0 to approve only the form — but not the substance — of the petition, and not before one of the four board members questioned the organizers' intent.
Colleen Pero, a Republican appointee to the board, questioned a provision that would make the change retroactive
"I don't understand what they're trying to do," Pero said. "I don't see how something can be retroactive of this magnitude."
Locke was not able to attend Thursday's meeting and nobody else from the committee was there to address Pero's question.
Locke told the Free Press the measure would be retroactive to about 1970, when he said cannabis was first criminalized at the state level. Anyone imprisoned only for state marijuana crimes would be subject to release and criminal records would be expunged, he said. The proposed amendment would have no effect on federal drug crimes, Locke said.
An earlier marijuana legalization proposal, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has already gathered more than 100,000 of the 252,523 signatures it needs to put the question on the November 2018 ballot, spokesman Josh Hovey told the Free Press in July.
That earlier proposal would initiate state legislation, but not change the state constitution. The new proposal, OK’d on Thursday, would require 315,654 signatures, as a constitutional amendment.
Hovey said Locke's proposal sounds irresponsible.
"We just can't imagine Michigan voters supporting this proposal," Hovey said in an e-mail. "The public expects responsible marijuana regulation that includes licensing, quality control and assurances that minors will not be able to access it."
Locke, a semi-retired laborer who has used marijuana to control back pain since 1980, said his plan would help Michigan's economy by generating business since cannabis can be used to make 50,000 different products.
He said his effort will be a grassroots one without paid signature collectors and he hopes to start collecting signatures in about one week.
Also, Thursday, the board approved a constitutional amendment petition organizers say is aimed at ending political gerrymandering in Michigan, and a legislative proposal, from a group called MI Time, which would require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees under certain conditions.
The latest on a legal battle over licenses to distribute recreational marijuana to retail dispensaries in Nevada:11 a.m.A Nevada judge has cleared the way for the state's marijuana regulators to start issuing pot distribution licenses to businesses other than existing alcohol wholesalers.
Carson City District Judge James Russell lifted a temporary restraining order Thursday that had forced the state to adhere to a provision of the ballot measure voters approved in November providing liquor wholesalers exclusive rights to marijuana distribution for 18 months unless they couldn't keep up with market demand.Russell said after an hour-long hearing there's overwhelming evidence that alcohol wholesalers don't have the capability to meet the needs of dozens of recreational pot dispensaries from Las Vegas to Reno.
He says a group of alcohol distributors that filed suit over the matter is free to appeal their case to the Nevada Tax Commission, as required by law. But he says he has no power to supersede the authority of the state agency that recently determined there's an insufficient number of alcohol businesses to handle the job.6 a.m.Nevada's marijuana regulators are headed back to court in a turf battle with liquor wholesalers over exclusive rights to distribute pot products to the state's new recreational retailers.Nevada's Taxation Department says the protracted legal fight has created a delivery bottleneck that's undermining an otherwise robust marijuana industry and the state revenue that comes with it.Legal sales started with a bang July 1.
But Tax Director Deonne Contine says the tiny distribution network's inability to keep pace with demand is forcing up prices and sending buyers back to the black market.She says it's also jeopardizing worker safety at dispensaries forced to stockpile supplies and huge amounts of cash to accommodate erratic deliveries.A Carson City judge plans to hear her request Thursday to lift the latest injunction blocking licenses for anyone other than alcohol distributors.