Greenlighting marijuana for interstate trade would open new business opportunities but also expose existing state markets to a frenzy of national competitors.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has thrown his weight behind cannabis decriminalization, producing a draft bill this summer that would regulate a nationwide industry and force siloed state markets to interact with each other. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

 

Cannabis entrepreneurs spent decades longing for Washington’s blessing — but now a vocal corner of the industry is afraid federal marijuana legalization poses an existential threat.

Two in three Americans live in a state that has approved the sale of recreational weed. What has evolved in the policy gap with federal law over the past decade is a patchwork of state-sanctioned fiefdoms where cannabis markets have largely developed locally and extend just to the border.

But the prospect of lifting all federal prohibitions has some business owners, regulators and lawmakers afraid doing so too quickly will invite industry behemoths to eat up small companies and push minority-owned firms out altogether.
 
 

“It's going to open up a tidal wave of large operators ... sucking up all the capital in the capital markets and essentially rendering social equity participants unable to even get funded,” said Aaron Goines, co-owner of Emerald Turtle, a social equity-owned cannabis delivery company in Massachusetts. “In general for social equity, I think it would be a disaster at this point for federal legalization to occur.”

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Sun Provisions in Decatur is a little, family-owned marijuana shop with an extraction lab in the back.

The display cases feature six brands of flower, a couple rows of vaping cartridges and few flavors of gummies. There’s a 150-plant grow and trimming area in the basement.
Everything is done in-house. It’s one of only a few marijuana microbusinesses that exist in Michigan.
 

“It’s been a struggle,” said Helen Sun, 33, Sun Provisions operations manager and daughter of the owner. “We came really close to having to restructure, but we were able to squeeze by and make it from one harvest to another.

“I think we’ll be OK, but the difference between feast and famine is going to be allowing us to grow and do more.”

Michigan marijuana regulators say they want the industry to be inclusive -- a place where an average entrepreneur can thrive -- not just a playground for corporate money and deep-pocketed financiers.
This is why the so-called microbusiness license was created, but nearly two-years after its inception, only a few exist. With some tweaks, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency in its most-recent proposed set of rules hopes to change that. The agency has created what is called the “class A microbusiness” license.
 
The license type would create what many believe is a more economically feasible business model by doubling the allowable plant count to 300. It also permits microbusinesses to purchase or acquire mature plants from licensed growers, registered caregivers or patients, and purchase ready-to-sell edibles, concentrates, vaping cartridges and other non-flower products from licensed processors, all of which is forbidden under the initial microbusiness rules.
One tradeoff: businesses like Sun Provisions would no longer be allowed to do their own in-house processing, unless they also acquire an additional processing license.
So far, seven of the original microbusiness licenses have been issued, but only about three have actually opened their doors to customers.
 
With the current unique, self-contained, seed-to-sale microbusiness setup, some communities have been reluctant to allow licensing opportunities, and there are claims within the industry that the business model is difficult to make profitable.Sun said her family’s seven-person operation, due to the grow limitations, has come dangerously close to entirely running out of THC products on multiple occasions since opening in March.“The challenges we’ve heard about the existing microbusiness are twofold,” said Marijuana Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo, who discussed the proposed new microbusiness license during a panel at the National Cannabis Industry Association Midwest Business Conference this week at the TCF Center in Detroit Thursday.
“The first is that there was not enough biomass to be sustainable, not enough plant material or plant count. And the second was that it’s incredibly expensive to set up the processing part of it, which you have to have a variety of products to be successful ...
“And by eliminating the processing piece altogether, it eases the regulatory burden as well as helps us keep the costs a little lower.”
Sun said her mother invested heavily to build their processing capabilities and she hopes that the business can be grandfathered under the new licenses type, if approved, to continue in-house processing with the elevated plant count.
 
“We bought everything, we built this out, we built to the (Marijuana Regulatory Agency) specifications and it sucks to learn ... that this is not enough, and to have to struggle,” Sun said. Chris Jackson, the government and legislative affairs and social equity lead with Sticky cannabis company, participated in the panel discussion with Brisbo on Thursday.
“Assuming that the rules stand, they haven’t created a pathway yet for current microbusiness owners to be able to transition into the new license type,” he said.
Jackson talked about a microbusiness concept that is currently forming called the “micro-mall.”
It’s “where you have multiple microbusinesses in one space and they have shared costs, versus everyone has to do it themselves, pay their rent or franchise fees,” Jackson said. It would be like a marketplace with a separate licensed social consumption lounge on site for customers to smoke or ingest their purchases, he said. The first such operation is expected to open in Muskegon within the coming year, Jackson said.
 
The proposed rules that would create the new class A microbusiness are available for review and the Marijuana Regulatory Agency is accepting public input through Sept. 27.
 
Once a set of rules is finalized and approved by Marijuana Regulatory Agency director, they will require approval by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) before becoming law.
 
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It’s been almost a year since New Jersey voters passed by a 2-1 margin a “Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Marijuana,” as it was misleadingly labeled.

It was misleading because the title would lead you to think that once the amendment passed you might be able to go to the local pot store and buy some “Alice B. Toklas brownies.”
That was the name of the first form of edible marijuana that most Americans ever heard of.
Toklas was the confidante of writer Gertrude Stein on the 1920′s Paris scene. She wrote a book in which she included the recipe for a sort of chocolate fudge laced with cannabis.
 
 

“It might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR,” Toklas wrote. “Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected.”Not in New Jersey. As we approach the first anniversary of that amendment’s passage, the new bureaucracy called “The Cannabis Regulatory Commission” has not yet accomplished the simple task of legalizing marijuana.But the CRC has one major accomplishment: It has prohibited the sale of any marijuana products “resembling food.” The only acceptable edibles will be lozenges.

The regulations exclude brownies, cookies, and those chocolate bars that are so popular with the customers at NJ Weedman’s restaurant/pot dispensary on State Street in Trenton.

The Weedman, otherwise known as Ed Forchion, runs what you might call a “free-market” dispensary. So far the powers-that-be have let his business operate, possibly because it’s the only thriving business on that stretch of State Street.
Forchion is applying for a license. But if he gets one he’ll have to stop selling some of the most popular products in his store.
“Women buy edibles,” he said. “Women don’t want to be smoking in public, so they have a cookie in their purse and then reach in now and then and eat it.”
As for men, the male marijuana users of my acquaintance like nothing more than to bogart a big bone, if I may lapse into jargon.
 
 

But towns all over the state are strengthening their anti-smoking ordinances to counter the pot smokers. So why ban the sort of marijuana that produces no fumes?

Evan Nison of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) said that is counter-productive.

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Legislative negotiators and leaders have agreed on a draft of medical marijuana legislation, and are anticipated to ask Gov. Tate Reeves as early as Friday to call the Legislature into special session, sources close to the negotiations said Thursday.

Legislative leaders on Thursday released some details of the proposal — which had been kept close to the vest for months — such as that cities and counties will be allowed to “opt out” of having medical marijuana cultivation or dispensaries, although local voters can override this. 

Negotiations have dragged on throughout the summer on crafting a medical marijuana program to replace one passed by Mississippi voters in November but shot down in May by the state Supreme Court on a constitutional technicality.

 

House Speaker Philip Gunn in a Thursday interview on a Supertalk radio show said he believed the House and Senate leadership and negotiators are “in agreement” on a draft bill, and he believes both chambers have the votes to pass such a measure. He said he planned to get together with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, then barring any last minute glitches “inform the governor we are ready.”

Other sources close to the negotiations on Thursday told Mississippi Today they anticipate that request to the governor would happen as soon as Friday. Reeves has sole authority to call lawmakers into special session, and would set the date and parameters of a special session.

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Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering legislation that would aim to protect medical cannabis patients in the state from DUI penalties.

On Tuesday, a pair of state House representatives, Democrat Chris Rabb and Republican Todd Polinchock, announced that they had introduced a bill that would “ensure the rights of the more than 500,000 medical cannabis patients in Pennsylvania, protecting them from DUI penalties.”

“I believe that people with a medical need for cannabis, who have acted courageously to seek help for their medical condition and have been granted use of medical cannabis, should be protected from DUI penalties for their legal medical cannabis use,” said Rabb, who represents a district in Philadelphia. “I know I’m not the only lawmaker in the General Assembly who has been contacted by constituents concerned that their responsible use of medical cannabis may expose them to targeting by law enforcement when they drive.”

In a press release, Rabb noted that THC often remains in an individual’s system for weeks after use, potentially complicating the enforcement of impaired driving laws when a legal cannabis consumer is behind the wheel.

“A medical cannabis user can take a miniscule amount of medicine for their ailment and weeks later, with traces of cannabis still in their system, be subject to arrest on a DUI charge if pulled over—not because they’ve driven impaired, but because our state laws haven’t caught up with the science,” Rabb said. 

“And, if you think you don’t know someone who falls into this category—a person who has been prescribed medical cannabis and who drives and is fearful of the potential DUI charge they could face—you’re wrong. I am a card-carrying medical cannabis patient, and I drive regularly, including in and around Philadelphia and to Harrisburg conducting the people’s business.” 

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An activist group in Oklahoma said this week that it has put the finishing touches on a pair of ballot proposals that would legalize recreational pot in the state and overhaul its medical marijuana program. 
 
Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action, or “ORCA,” said on Tuesday that it had produced the “final drafts” of the two petitions that could help get the initiatives on next year’s ballot in the state.
 
Under the proposed Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act, it would be lawful for “all persons twenty-one (21) years of age and older to grow, purchase, transport, receive, prepare and consume marijuana and marijuana products,” and to “possess up to: twelve (12) marijuana plants and the marijuana harvested therefrom; one (1) ounce of concentrated marijuana; seventy-two (72) ounces of topical marijuana; seventy-two (72) ounces of edible marijuana; eight (8) ounces of suppository marijuana and eight (8) ounces of commercially sold marijuana.”
 
 
The petition explicitly addresses “impairment testing,” saying that if the initiative passed, no “test which identifies the presence of THC metabolites in a person’s blood, urine, hair, hair follicle or other body fluids or tissues shall be used as evidence of impairment or intoxication for the purposes of denying any form of healthcare, housing, employment, public assistance, license or licensed activity, public benefit, parental right, educational opportunity or extracurricular activity.”
 
The Oklahoma Marijuana Regulation and Right to Use Act would establish an “expungement program,” taking a cue from other states that have included retroactive expungement in their own legalization efforts.
 
Oklahoma Stepping it Up
Under Oklahoma’s program, a person currently serving time for a pot-related conviction “may file a petition for resentencing, reversal of conviction and dismissal of case or modification of judgment and sentence before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in the person’s case to request resentencing, modification or reversal in accordance with this Article.”
 
 
It would also open the door for a “person who has completed his or her sentence for a conviction, whether by trial or plea of guilty or nolo contendere, whose conduct would have been lawful had this Article been in effect at the time of the offense, [to] file a petition before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in the person’s case to have the conviction dismissed, expunged and vacated as legally invalid in accordance with this Article.”
 
The law would levy an excise tax rate of 15 percent for “marijuana and marijuana products purchased by persons without a valid Oklahoma medical marijuana patient license or Oklahoma caregiver license.” The tax revenue would be divided up among various agencies anc causes. 
 
Ten percent of the gross collection of taxes on retail sales would go to “the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for infrastructure financing programs to foster water supply reliability and economic and environmental resiliency,” while five percent would go to “the Department of Human Services to provide for Home and Community-Based Services Waiver Programs for the benefit of persons with physical and developmental disabilities.”
 
 
Another five percent is going to “not-for-profit organizations, whether government or community-based, to increase access to evidence-based low-barrier drug addiction treatment and to support job placement, housing, and counseling for those with substance use disorders.” 
 
Various other agencies would absorb the rest of the tax revenue.
 
ORCA’s other petition addresses Oklahoma’s new medical cannabis program, which was established after voters in the state passed a measure legalizing the treatment in 2018.
 
Under the so-called Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Enforcement and Anti-Corruption Act, a newly created state agency called the Oklahoma State Cannabis Commission would “assume all administrative, regulatory and appropriate adjudicative authority over cannabis, hemp and marijuana plants, the products derived therefrom, and the related services as established in the provisions set forth in this Article.”
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Politicians and associates in New York on both sides of the aisle are implicated in alleged involvement of misappropriated money to benefit the launch of a pot business. Two Rudy Giuliani associates—Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman—told a Russian millionaire in 2018 they offered a $125,000 straw donation to then-Governor Andrew Cuomo to curry favor in launching a pot business in New York, court filings say.

First reported by New York Daily News, the ongoing scandal continues to reveal a web of corruption in marijuana markets in multiple states.

Cuomo signed legislation on March 31 to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York, but was criticized for dragging his feet in getting the market up and running. New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who replaced Cuomo, promised to pick up where Cuomo failed, and get the state’s adult-use cannabis market off the ground. 

Political infighting stalled progress in The New York State Legislature—forcing it to end its 2021 session in July without taking action on a core piece of the state’s adult-use cannabis law. New York residents and legal advisors were frustrated about the delays on a control board, among other things.

New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act provides advanced social equity provisions. Like any other state with a legal market, competition is high to obtain licenses and establish dominance in the market. 

But allegations of corruption in the approval process could include both the former governor and the former attorney of Donald Trump.

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Cavedale Road is bumpy – steep, narrow, its asphalt broken like a jiggled jigsaw. Perhaps this is as it should be, given that it is the road to the top of the world.

“Welcome to the Top of the World,” says Doug Gardner, the owner of the property high in the Mayacamas just yards away from the Napa County line. There’s a five-bedroom cabin next door called Top of the World, though Gardner’s family sold that part of the property in 1981. But no one wants to live there full time – the road is too bumpy.

Gardner, a sturdy 38-year-old, works by himself inside the fenced cultivation site, which has an acre’s worth of planted cannabis in both fabric “Geopot” barrels and in-ground beds. About a third of this crop is just days away from harvest, and the air is redolent with a fresh tart smell. Gardner’s name is apt – but, as it turns out, this is his first crop. Even so it’s a bumper one, thanks in part to the abundant water supply that the ranch is blessed with.

Hooker Creek bubbles out of a mountain slope just on the other side his driveway, and trickles year-round to a pond on the property. That pond provides the entire water supply for the acre of plants. Gardner has installed a pump at the pond to bring the water back uphill to the cultivation site, and a system of pipes and drip irrigation hoses distribute the water.

Gardner has suffered from epilepsy his whole life, but at some point he found that cannabis – especially CBD-rich cannabis – was of invaluable help in managing the disorder. He labored through the process of getting a permit from Sonoma County starting four years ago, insisting that he was going to grow “medicinal cannabis.”

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One thing most people agree on: Federal marijuana legalization is coming.

It’s just a matter of when -- and how it will impact existing state markets, such as the one currently growing in Michigan.
With the inconsistent patchwork of state laws across the nation regarding medical and recreational marijuana, the implications of federal legalization, accompanied by new taxes, is creating some anxiety.
“Opening up interstate commerce would destroy Michigan’s cannabis industry and leave us with nothing but multi-state operators to purchase from,” said Rick Thompson, a Michigan cannabis pioneer and director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Thompson said everyone he knows “stands in opposition to at least some of the” current version of the proposed federal legalization plan.
 
Some of the worry centers on marijuana surpluses in Canada and other states, like Oregon, where producers would benefit greatly from the ability to dump cheap product into the Michigan market, undercutting existing businesses along the way.
The topic of federal legalization was the focus of a panel discussion at the National Cannabis Industry Association Midwest conference at the TCF Center in Detroit on Wednesday. The National Cannabis Industry Association is a trade organization and lobbying group that is weighing in on efforts to end federal prohibition of marijuana.
In a draft of federal legalization legislation released in July by Democratic U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York; Corey Booker of New Jersey; and Ron Wyden of Oregon, entitled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, there is a proposed 25% federal excise tax for marijuana in the fourth year after legalization. That’s on top of existing state taxes, currently at 16% for recreational marijuana in Michigan.
National Cannabis Industry Association Midwest deputy director of government relations Michelle Rutter Friberg, said that’s too much.
 
“This is on top of really onerous state and local taxes,” she said, adding that it’s unlikely those will be reduced in the wake of a new federal tax.
“The conversations that we’re having about that are: What are they trying to get out of this tax provision?,” Friberg said. “Are we just a cash cow? Are we to make up for a budget shortfall, or what are the goals that they have? Because we keep going back them and saying, ‘You cannot tax this high’; this is not going to have the intended outcome that you were trying to achieve.”
While Friberg said some businesses might view federal legalization as “the boogeyman that’s out there,” she’s never had an NCIA member company tell her they’re entirely against federal legalization.
One stated goal of federal legalization is to combat the black market, but new taxes could encourage the illicit market.
If significant new federal taxes are imposed, “the black market will have a party like you have never seen before,” Thompson said. “It was nearly impossible to eliminate illegal cannabis sales when there was no tax; it is impossible to eliminate unlicensed sales with a 10% tax rate; and if the tax climbs to 35% or higher, the regulated market will shrink rapidly as people return to their unlicensed cannabis sources forever.”
 
Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said another intent of the legislation he helped draft is to ensure big tobacco and liquor companies don’t “swoop in and take over,” but some feel that’s going to be difficult to avoid once federal legalization arrives.
“Definitely the bigger conglomerates do have the upper hand with legalization,” said Jack Owens, operations manager for Thumb Genetics, a 2,000-plant aquaponics grow facility in Lansing.
His family-owned company, which he runs with the help of his mother and father, is already competing with a growing number deep-pocketed, in-state corporate rivals able to harvest tens of thousands of plants at a time.
“You’ve got to hit a medium ground where the big conglomerates and the smaller companies work together; otherwise, it’s just going to be monopolized,” Owens said. “Once it happens, certain dispensaries and everybody can go over state lines -- and they still have a lot of gray areas to figure out -- but how quickly is that going to happen and what big companies are going to pretty much take over?
“Once that happens, you better be ready to partner up, or hopefully have enough quality product and enough clients that will support you to make it through.”
 
Michigan’s medical marijuana caregivers, who are allowed to grow up to 72 plants for five registered patients and themselves, are currently in the crosshairs of large businesses and lobbyists who want to see their ability to grow severely limited and increasingly regulated.
Michael Toles of Intentional Enterprises, a fledgling marijuana grow company that plans to open in Detroit where recreational marijuana licenses are currently on hold, supports nationwide legalization, but believes it will eventually lead to the end of loosely regulated, untested home recreational and caregiver grows.
 
“You think that’s going to last?” he asked? “It’s not tested and it’s not taxed.”
Thompson, of NORML, a supporter of Michigan’s current laws that allow caregiver and personal home grows, didn’t weigh in on whether he thinks they’ll go away, but anticipated what will happen if they do.
“Caregivers will fail to renew their registration, if federal laws are adopted, but they will not fail to continue to grow,” he said. “Eventually, government will have to realize that cannabis users will merely ignore laws that make no sense, disadvantage them or are created for the advantage of corporations, not citizens.”
 
The current draft of the federal legalization bill, which calls for an excise tax that increases to 25% after four years, not including state taxes, is unlikely to pass in it’s current form, according to Friberg.
“Do I think that this bill will come up this session? Honestly, yes, because it’s the leader’s bill,” she said. “Do I think this bill is going to pass this session? ... No, not right now -- but, you know, anything can change.”
A bright spot for marijuana at the federal level is related to cannabis banking reform, which is included with the likely-to-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022. The addendum would protect banks from federal penalties if they work with cannabis companies. Currently, because marijuana is illegal federally, many large financial institutions are not offering services to the industry.
 
Toles believes the positive tradeoffs for businesses in a federally legalized environment outweighs any negative aspects.
“Because (of federal legalization), we’ll be able to expand to other markets,” Toles said. “We learn how to do it well so we can duplicate processes everywhere within the country.
“Obviously from a financial perspective, the larger, bigger Phillip Morris of the world ... is going to be part of it, but we’ll see.”
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When California legalized cannabis for adult use in 2016, many supporters acknowledged that the War on Drugs had disproportionately impacted communities of color around the state. It was, in fact, one of the selling points of Proposition 64, which went into effect more than a year later. 

On the belief that the ballot initiative didn’t go far enough, though, social equity programs started springing up across the state in recent years to give special privileges to Black, Brown and low-income people who had been arrested and thrown in jail for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses and thereby barred from taking part in the new industry. 

One survey, conducted in 2017 by Marijuana Business Daily, found that about 80 percent of the founders and owners of cannabis businesses at the time were White. 

Neither the city nor the county of San Diego has a social equity program on the books and officials for both say they’re working to create one. By their own admission, they’re late to the game. 

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering that other municipalities in California have tried and failed to correct the injustices they previously identified. In some places, social equity programs have been portrayed as harmful to the same people they were supposed to help. 

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The second of three teens charged in an apparent robbery attempt that turned deadly last winter in Middletown has admitted guilt.

Timathy Rhodus and Elliot Shepherd II, both 17 at the time of the crime, were each indicted in April for murder with gun specifications and other felonies for the Jan. 31 incident where a woman was killed at a Wilbraham Road residence. They are being tried as adults.
On Tuesday, Rhodus pleaded guilty to murder with a one-year gun specification in Butler County Common Pleas Court. The other charges, including felonious assault, were dismissed, according to court records.
 

Judge Dan Haughey set sentencing for Oct. 26. Rhodus faces a maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 16 years.

In May, Shepherd pleaded guilty in Butler County Common Pleas Court to involuntary manslaughter with gun specification. He faces a maximum of 12 years in prison. Sentencing will not happen until after the co-defendants’ cases are completed, according to prosecutors.

A trial for the third adult suspect, Karlos Chase Philpot,18, is scheduled to begin Oct. 18. Philpot was indicted in February for murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of felonious assault and improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation.

Angela Combs, 41, was shot about 9 p.m. in an apartment in the 3100 block of Wilbraham Road by suspects who came to the door armed and apparently looking for payment of a debt, according to court documents. Combs was transported to Atrium Medical Center, where she died.

According to court documents, one of the 17-year-olds said he went to the residence armed with two other people to “get $60 that was owed to him for marijuana.”

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Two area businesswomen want to open a cannabis growing, manufacturing and retail distribution facility in a building that once housed a Roseland charter school, but some area residents say they object to that kind of business in their neighborhood. Old School Cannabis, which has applied for permission to operate at the site, will be considered by the Santa Rosa Planning Commission during a scheduled meeting Thursday afternoon.

The business’ owners say it could create as many as 50 jobs during peak production periods. Local residents would receive first consideration for any open positions and the business, itself, would attract a significant cross-section of patrons to the area.
 

“We want to ... uplift the community and build jobs and uplift the culture,” co-owner and operator Nayeli Rivera said.

Rivera said she is a first-generation immigrant whose parents moved to Sonoma County in the 1970s. She added that she grew up in Petaluma and now lives in Sebastopol.

“Being Mexican-American and being a business owner in the (Roseland) community, I think, is just a wonderful opportunity and I feel very excited and very humbled,” she said. “There’s not many Latinos in cannabis and especially not women.”

Her partner, Cede Hunter, is also from Northern California. Hunter’s father, Dennis, was a cannabis industry leader in Santa Rosa, according to a biography in the company’s permit application.

Located at 100 Sebastopol Road, the former school building is bordered by industrial facilities to its north and south. Residential neighborhoods are on its other two sides.

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The Las Cruces city council voted to pay the state back $400,000 that was going to go to a new hemp manufacturing company.

The city planned to invest $150,000 of its own funding in addition to $400,000 that the New Mexico Economic Development Department gave the city for 420 Valley, LLC.

The city's decision to retract the money was due to the fact that 420 valley was unable to meet its hiring goals.

"They we’re going to provide up to 55 jobs at a certain income level by 2023, December 31st," said Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. "And then there was also another stipulation that they would have at least 18 jobs by December 31st of 2020 and we don’t believe that they’re going to fulfill that.”

“We started reaching out to people for the hiring process, getting it lined up, but we didn’t have anybody that was fully committed to come work for us," said Rick Morales the co-owner of 420 Valley.

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At a public meeting on Saturday, Princeton Cannabis Task Force Chair and Councilmember Eve Niedergang GS ’85 said the “consensus” reached by the 24-member task force is “overwhelmingly that the benefits of having a dispensary in town outweighed the bad points.”

The meeting, held in Hinds Plaza, drew around 25 residents. Several members of the Cannabis Task Force — a group that includes council members, non-profit leaders, and business and citizen representatives — listened and tried to address locals’ objections to the prospect of allowing marijuana dispensaries to operate in the town.

Many of the objections raised were centered on the health effects of cannabis use and the potential impact on children.

“There is cannabis in Princeton, and there will be both legal and illegal cannabis in Princeton, so that’s not the issue before the task force,” said Niedergang, who has chaired the task force since its founding in March, after New Jersey voted to legalize cannabis in a November 2020 referendum.

In Princeton, 78 percent of residents voted for legalization, according to Niedergang. In August, Princeton “opted out” of the New Jersey blanket regulations on marijuana after a state-imposed six-month window to decide on regulations, temporarily banning marijuana businesses.

Not opting out would have allowed any segment of the cannabis industry — cultivation, manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution, retail, and delivery — to operate in the town. Niedergang explained that the temporary ban was enacted to give the task force time to proceed slowly and deliberately on the issue and provide sufficient opportunity for public input.

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Michigan’s hemp industry could get up to $100 million in federal funds to help it compete globally under a proposal pushed by a nationwide growers association.

The state is one of four with emerging hemp industries targeted by the National Hemp Association, along with Oregon, New York and Florida. The funding would be for developing a “regional super site” in each state to aid in the industry’s growth, said Geoff Whaling, the association’s chair.

Hemp is a cannabis plant with a very low percentage of THC, the psychoactive element of marijuana. Developing the industry could benefit Michigan environmentally and economically, Whaling said. The plant has many uses, but the state’s auto industry is what makes it a target for development.

“The biggest potential use for hemp today, outside of food, is the automotive industry,” Whaling said. “That’s why we’ve called for $100 million of that money to be allocated specifically to Michigan.”

For example BMW is planning to reduce its carbon footprint by using hemp bioplastics, a renewable resource, in production, Whaling said. The growth of electric vehicles means more opportunities because hemp rope is lightweight and can hold an electric charge like copper.

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Sometimes this job feels more like political analysis than stock market prognosticating. The reason? Marijuana stocks are intrinsically tied to politics. After all, until prohibitions against cannabis are lifted the world over, pot stocks won’t reach their full potential.

Which brings us to a tantalizing new prospect.

I’ve been writing about marijuana stocks for years now, and I’ve cooked up a number of ways federal U.S. marijuana legalization could get it done. From Congressional maneuvers, to presidential executive orders, to ballot initiatives, to Supreme Court interdictions, it’s safe to say that I’ve thought a lot about how U.S. pot legalization could happen—and happen fast.

After all, many of the pot stocks I routinely write about would skyrocket in value in the event of marijuana legalization in the U.S.

Which brings me to what I want to focus on now: the flagging Democratic Party approval ratings.

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After the FBI seized Joseph Ruiz’s life savings during a raid on a safe deposit box business in Beverly Hills, the unemployed chef went to court to retrieve his $57,000. A judge ordered the government to tell Ruiz why it was trying to confiscate the money.It came from drug trafficking, an FBI agent responded in court papers. Ruiz’s income was too low for him to have that much money, and his side business selling bongs made from liquor bottles suggested he was an unlicensed pot dealer, the agent wrote.

The FBI also said a dog had smelled unspecified drugs on Ruiz’s cash.The FBI was wrong. When Ruiz produced records showing the source of his money was legitimate, the government dropped its false accusation and returned his money.

Ruiz is one of roughly 800 people whose money and valuables the FBI seized from safe deposit boxes they rented at the U.S. Private Vaults store in a strip mall on Olympic Boulevard.Federal agents had suspected for years that criminals were stashing loot there, and they assert that’s exactly what they found. The government is trying to confiscate $86 million in cash and a stockpile of jewelry, rare coins and precious metals taken from about half of the boxes.But six months after the raid, the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles have produced no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the vast majority of box holders whose belongings the government is trying to keep.

About 300 of the box holders are contesting the attempted confiscation. Ruiz and 65 others have filed court claims saying the dragnet forfeiture operation is unconstitutional.“It was a complete violation of my privacy,” Ruiz said. “They tried to discredit my character.”

Prosecutors, so far, have outlined past criminal convictions or pending charges against 11 box holders to justify the forfeitures. But in several other cases, court records show, the government’s rationale for claiming that the money and property it seized was tied to crime is no stronger than it was against Ruiz. Federal agents say the use of rubber bands and other ordinary methods of storing cash were indications of drug trafficking or money laundering.

They also cite dogs’ alerting to the scent of narcotics on most of the cash as key evidence. But the government says it deposited all of the money it seized in a bank, making it impossible to test which drugs may have come into contact with which bills and how long ago.

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Jack Dwyer pursued a dream of getting back to the land by moving in 1972 to an idyllic, tree-studded parcel in Oregon with a creek running through it. “We were going to grow our own food. We were going to live righteously. We were going to grow organic,” Dwyer said. Over the decades that followed, he and his family did just that. But now, Deer Creek has run dry after several illegal marijuana grows cropped up in the neighborhood last spring, stealing water from both the stream and nearby aquifers and throwing Dwyer’s future in doubt. (Photo By: Shaun Hall/Grants Pass Daily Courier via AP)

From dusty towns to forests in the U.S. West, illegal marijuana growers are taking water in uncontrolled amounts when there often isn’t enough to go around for even licensed users. Conflicts about water have long existed, but illegal marijuana farms — which proliferate despite legalization in many Western states — are adding strain during a severe drought.
In California, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, there are still more illegal cannabis farms than licensed ones, according to the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Because peak water demand for cannabis occurs in the dry season, when streamflow is at its lowest levels, even small diversions can dry streams and harm aquatic plants and animals,” a study from the center said.
Some jurisdictions are fighting back. California’s Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors in May banned trucks carrying 100 gallons or more of water from using roads leading to arid tracts where some 2,000 illegal marijuana grows were purportedly using millions of gallons of water daily.
The illegal grows are “depleting precious groundwater and surface water resources” and jeopardizing agricultural, recreational and residential water use, the county ordinance says.
In Oregon, the number of illegal grows appears to have increased recently as the Pacific Northwest endured its driest spring since 1924.
 
Many are operating under the guise of being hemp farms, legalized nationally under the 2018 Farm Bill, said Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. Under the law, hemp’s maximum THC content — the compound that gives cannabis its high — must be no greater than 0.3%. Fibers of the hemp plant are used in making rope, clothing, paper and other products.
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel believes there are hundreds of illegal grows in his southern Oregon county alone, many financed by overseas money. He believes the financiers expect to lose a few grows but the sheer number of them means many will last until the marijuana is harvested and sold on the black market outside Oregon.
None of the new sites has been licensed to grow recreational marijuana, Pettinger said. Regulators, confronted in 2019 by a backlog of license applications and a glut of regulated marijuana, stopped processing new applications until January 2022.
The illegal grows have had “catastrophic” consequences for natural water resources, Daniel said. Several creeks have dried up far earlier than normal and the water table — the underground boundary between water-saturated soil and unsaturated soil — is dropping.
“It’s just blatant theft of water,” Daniel said.
Last month, Daniel and his deputies, reinforced by other law enforcement officers, destroyed 72,000 marijuana plants growing in 400 cheaply built greenhouses, known as hoop houses.
The water for those plants came through a makeshift, illicit system of pumps and hoses from the nearby Illinois River, which belongs to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, created by Congress to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values.
Daniel said another illegal grow that had 200,000 plants was drawing water from Deer Creek using pumps and pipes. He called it “one of the most blatant and ugly things I’ve seen.”
 
“They had actually dug holes into the ground so deep that Deer Creek had dried up ... and they were down into the water table,” the sheriff said.
Dwyer has a water right to Deer Creek, near the community of Selma, that allows him to grow crops. The creek can run dry late in the year sometimes, but Dwyer has never seen it this dry, much less this early in the year.
The stream bed is now an avenue of rocks bordered by brush and trees.
Over the decades, Dwyer created an infrastructure of buried water pipe, a dozen spigots and an irrigation system connected to the creek to grow vegetables and to protect his home against wildfires. He uses an old well for household water, but it’s unclear how long that will last.
“I just don’t know what I will do if I don’t have water,” the 75-year-old retired middle school teacher said.
Marijuana has been grown for decades in southern Oregon, but the recent explosion of huge illegal grows has shocked residents.
The Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, where Dwyer lives, held two town halls about the issue recently. Water theft was the main concern, said Christopher Hall, the conservation district’s community organizer.
“The people of the Illinois Valley are experiencing an existential threat for the first time in local history,” Hall said.
In the high desert of central Oregon, illegal marijuana growers are also tapping the water supply that’s already so stressed that many farmers, including those who produce 60% of the world’s carrot-seed supply, face a water shortage this year.
 
On Sept. 2, Deschutes County authorities raided a 30-acre property in Alfalfa, just east of Bend. It had 49 greenhouses containing almost 10,000 marijuana plants and featured a complex watering system with several 15,000- to 20,000-gallon cisterns. Neighbors told detectives the illegal grow has forced them to drill a new well, Sheriff Shane Nelson said.
The Bend area has experienced a population boom, putting more demands on the water supply. The illegal grows are making things worse.
In La Pine, south of Bend, Rodger Jincks watched a crew drill a new well on his property. The first sign that his existing well was failing came when the pressure dropped as he watered his tiny front lawn. Driller Shane Harris estimated the water table is dropping 6 inches per year.
Sheriff’s deputies last November raided an illegal grow a block away that had 500 marijuana plants.
Jincks’ neighbor, Jim Hooper, worries that his well might fail next. He resents the illegal grows and their uncontrolled used of water.
“With the illegals, there’s no tracking of it,” Hooper said. “They’re just stealing the water from the rest of us, which is causing us to spend thousands of dollars to drill new wells deeper.”
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Utah-based music producer Weldon Angelos was on his way to becoming a rising star in the hip-hop industry.

By the time he was 23, he had already worked with titans of rap such as Snoop Dogg and Nas, as well as former associates of Tupac Shakur. In the process of getting ready to stabilize himself with a lucrative contract with a major recording studio, he was arrested after selling $300 of marijuana to an undercover police informant on three separate occasions in 2002. (Photo Courtesy of Weldon Angelos)

It was believed by the jury at his trial that Angelos was carrying a firearm during the transactions, subjecting him to a different section of the federal code which called for a mandatory sentence for the music maker, who had no prior criminal record, of 55 years. He could have faced more than 105 years behind bars if all the stacking charges had stuck.

The punishment seemed so glaringly unfair and unfitting to the crime that even the judge who sentenced Angelos, Paul Cassell, offered an unprecedented suggestion to him as he completed the trial.

“He actually called on the president for a pardon, as he was sentencing me,” Angelos recalls to ABC4 “He called on [George W.] Bush, the president who appointed him to commute my sentence because he had no choice but to impose it and he certainly did not want to impose a 55-year sentence.”

Thirteen years later, Angelos emerged from prison after a prolonged effort that involved a group of influential American voices from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Believe it or not, folks like Utah Senator Mike Lee, former Senator Orrin Hatch, Cassell, the judge in the case, as well as entertainers like Snoop Dogg and Alicia Keys, all agreed on one thing: Angelos did not deserve to lose more than five decades of his life due to a first-time marijuana offense.

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Many New Yorkers think it is high-time for marijuana sales to start up, but some towns and villages are still grappling with this decision.

Council members in Colonie, a town in the Capital Region, have voted to ban marijuana consumption sites within their district. Marijuana consumption sites are smoking lounges, cannabis cafes and other businesses that allow for cannabis to be consumed on premises.

Melissa Jeffers, a Colonie town councilwoman, says this vote mainly boiled down to concern that people might smoke at one of these consumption sites and then drive home.  

“Without having appropriate mechanisms to test an individual's level, like with drinking while driving we have breathalyzers, we just don't have that technology,” Jeffers explained. “And it's a lot of pressure to put on our law enforcement.”

Local government officials have until Dec. 31 to decide if they want consumption sites or recreational marijuana retail stores within their town limits.

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