Legacy Cannabis Operators Shunned From Billion Dollar Industry

Legacy cannabis operators are the ones who bore the brunt of prohibition and paved the way for a new, legal market to flourish; one worth billions and one that has been unwelcoming, at best, to these industry OGs. Cannabis activists and many longtime business owners are pushing for the inclusion of legacy brands in the world of legalized pot. Otherwise, states are missing out on billions of dollars annually as illicit sales continue to thrive, even in recreational markets.  

The cannabis industry has changed a lot over the last few years, but fundamentally, we all want the same thing: progress, although that could have varying meanings for different people. For more articles like this one, and for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products, remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

What are legacy cannabis operators?  

Legacy operators are the trailblazers who started their cannabis businesses before it was legal, and are much more in-line with ‘stoner culture’ and history. The term can refer to business owners who run “grey market” dispensaries that have not yet become legally compliant, or street dealers who continue operating the same way they have been for decades. 

While some legacy operators have no intentions of going legit, an overwhelming majority say they would if the process wasn’t so expensive and permeated with red tape. With so many different and constantly changing regulations to adhere to, and startup costs in the hundreds of thousands, it’s no surprise that legality is out of reach for many.  

Take De’Shawn Avery from New York, who has been selling flowers for years and claims he “provided a very in-demand product when there was no product.” Before legalization, savvy entrepreneurs like Avery were a community staple that many of us were very grateful for; after legalization, they began to worry about the future of their businesses and what their roles would be in the new industry.  

Avery, and generations of other legacy dealers, fear they don’t fit the modern-day archetype of a cannabis businessperson. “It’s usually not Black people or people with records who are favored when it comes to money-making opportunities,” he pointed out.

And he’s not far off the mark for thinking that way. A few states have started to keep information on demographics within the cannabis industry and a study conducted by Marijuana Business Daily found that only 4.3 percent of cannabis companies are owned by African Americans, 5.7 percent were Hispanic/Latino owned, and 2.4% were owned by Asian Americans. That leaves 87.6 percent of pot business that are white-owned, most of which are also male-owned companies.  

To make matters worse, in most states people with prior felonies face additional restrictions when applying for cannabis business licensing. So, let’s say a legacy operator gets arrested on felony drug possession charges, then cannabis becomes legal in their state the following year. Despite having experience in the industry, existing clientele, and the perfect opportunity to transition from working in the shadows to being a legitimate business owner; they would have to wait 3 to 10 years before they could legally apply for a license. At that point, all the other businesses in their area would be already established, have possibly stolen some of their customers, and it would be even more difficult to get a foot in the door. 

The cannabis industry is definitely more inclusive than others, but often, still holds on tightly to that ‘old-boys club’ mentality that can make women, minorities, and those longtime legacy operators feel shut out.  

Looking West 

For a perfect example of the struggles faced by cannabis legacy operators, let’s take a quick look at what has been going on in California since the state passed proposition 215 and legalized medical marijuana back in 1996. At that point, the industry was still small and totally fringe. Most residents did not even know that cannabis had been legalized medicinally for so many years, and there were only a small number of dispensaries scattered throughout the state. 

By the time I turned 18 (in 2008) and was able to get a ‘medical card’ (which was shockingly easy and practically every pothead I knew had one), the industry had become very recreational. “Dispensaries”, or retail pot shops, were popping up everywhere. I once bought weed from a guy who was running his “dispensary” out of a detached garage on is property in the middle of Victorville, a small town in the high desert on the way to Vegas.

That “anything-goes” state of the industry led to the eventual passing of Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized the possession and recreational use of cannabis for anyone 21 years of age or older. A lot of the businesses operating under the original medical regime, or under the table as many were, could not meet all the demands of operating in the new legal market, and thus, were forced to shut down or continue running illegally.  

One of the biggest issues, aside from the exorbitant costs of licensing, were local moratoriums and that zoned only certain areas for cultivation, retail, and other cannabis operations. By July 2021, still just 31 counties and 181 cities (out of 58 and 482, respectively) allow any type of marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions.  

 “We voted for a law, and we are blocked at the local level,” says Andrew DeAngelo, a long-time California cannabis activist, industry consultant, and co-founder of legacy dispensary chain, Harborside Collective. “There are big counties that are known for growing weed where it’s banned,” he adds. 

States are losing billions 

This excessive regulation, greed, lack of consultation or legal help, and over-taxation has resulted in an estimated loss of up to 75% of potential cannabis revenues in some markets. In California, for example, data firms peg the number at around $5.6 billion dollars lost to the illicit market every year, that’s just over one half of the market’s total value in the state.  

It’s the only state so far that has seen recreational sales shrink following legalization. And the massive busts of illegal businesses rage on as high taxes and insane operating costs drive up prices, which are then passed on to the consumer. Instead of paying more money for crappier product, many people just stick to buying it from their dealers or illegal dispensaries that charge less and don’t pay taxes.  

Not to mention the convenience of buying from dealers, who have traditionally operated on a text-and-delivery or text-and-pickup basis. Even with a growing number of drive-throughs and delivery services, it’s still so much easier to buy from your local plug sometimes.  

A ‘less-than-welcoming’ industry  

The B2B side of the cannabis world is just like any other industry, and to be successful, you’ll need to be familiar with all the legislative and business jargon that comes with a billion-dollar industry. In cannabis, things can be much more complicated as far as regulations and business dealings are concerned; so the list of topics you’ll need to know, at least at a base level, can get quite expansive.  

“I’ve had to educate myself tremendously just to make sure I can speak the language that these people are speaking,” says Marie Montmarquet, co-founder of MD Numbers, a family of weed brands from cultivation to retail that previously operated a delivery business prior to legalization. “So, if I’m in a meeting and they’re talking about 1031 Real Estate transfers, I know what 1031 Real Estate transfers are.” 

The ultra-capitalistic environment coupled with constant oversight and regular contact with law enforcement and state/local governments, fosters an environment that feels stuffy, tense, and inhospitable – especially for anyone who has faced their own legal turmoil over cannabis, and still cannot fully trust those powers that be.  

Nomenclature: Legacy market vs black market  

Much like the politicized issue of the words “marijuana” vs “cannabis”, there is an ongoing debate about replacing the term “black market” with different phrases, one of which is “legacy market”. Black market doesn’t apply solely to cannabis, it refers to any economic activity that happens illegally.  

The selling of illegal products, of course, is a black market activity. But selling legal products in ways that are not prohibited also classifies. Like buying cigarettes in one state and selling them in another, for example. Cigarettes are legal in every US state, but because tobacco tax codes vary so much, you cannot legally buy cigarettes in Arizona and go sell them in California for a profit.  

The idea has been floating around that using the phrase “black market” is outdated and culturally insensitive. Danielle Jackson (Miz D), a Vancouver-born artist, advocate and entrepreneur, was one of the first to say publicly that “legacy market” should be used over “black market” when describing pre-legalization cannabis businesses. Her comment got overwhelming support from the audience.  

Many are tweeting in agreeance, such as Jennifer Caldwell , partner and technical lead at Cannabis License Experts, who added that, “To me, the term ‘black market’ implies a negative connotation of illegality and illegitimacy. Whether people are growing illegally or not is a complex topic at the moment.” 

Moving forward

Seeing how much money is on the line, legal states are beginning to offer incentives to make the transition more seamless for legacy cannabis operators. In California, in addition to the $100 million bailout, Governor Newsom has suggested expungement of cannabis-related convictions as well as an extension to allow licensees that have missed the deadlines to transition; albeit at high costs and great inconvenience, still. Other states are taking similar steps to ensure these business owners – the true backbone of the industry – are less excluded.

With legacy dealers, the experience can be a very mom-and-pop, tight-knit atmosphere, so word of out is key to the growth of these businesses. When big businesses come and take over all the available retail locations, cultivation spaces, and advertising channels, there’s little room left for any small businesses to make a name for themselves.  

“We’ve seen in lots of other states that big pharma, big tobacco, alcohol and large companies are all prepared to move in and just take over right away,” says New York State Senator Liz Krueger. “We don’t want that to be the story in New York. We want the story to be small mom-and-pop community-based businesses starting and growing and expanding…[and] we want people who are selling in the communities that they live in, in the illegal market and out of the illegal market.” 

“We don’t need anybody that’s coming in here just for the financial aspect,” added Edgar Cruz, CEO of cannabis brand Ekstrepe, based out of Long Beach, California. “We all understand that this is a cash cow now. What we need is support for our communities to make sure that we are included in this kind of cultural-based industry.” 

Final thoughts  

This is a lesson that every state or country considering legalization needs to take note of. Despite the financial success of the legal cannabis industry, we need more education and resources, and less taxes and regulatory red tape to harness the untapped knowledge, connections, experience, and economic wealth that exists in the legacy market. Otherwise, consumers will continue shopping in illicit markets, states will lose millions, and legalization will have done little more than prevent people from getting arrested for pot possession in certain areas.

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post Legacy Cannabis Operators Shunned From Billion Dollar Industry appeared first on CBD Testers.

Rexx Life Raj Creates Community Through Music

Bay Area MC Faraji Omar Wrightz—known professionally as Rexx Life Raj—is serving up music and giving back to his community. The former D-1 football player has always known music was his outlet, and his most recent album, California Poppy 2, is both a reflection on our current times and an expression of Raj’s infatuation with neo soul.

For Raj, having a platform and using it to inspire others is the true meaning of what it means to be successful. “I’m blessed to be in a position where I have all of these resources, so it was always important to me to try and give back somehow, whether it be monetarily, giving wisdom or just helping people out in whatever ways they need.”

When we connected by phone, Raj was excited to discuss his growing involvement in the cannabis industry, his vision and plans for growing a cannabis company that focuses on supporting people of color and how music is simply his tool for making lasting change on the community he came from and on the world at-large.

Courtesy of Darrin Baldridge

Rex Life Raj on Music, Representation and Cannabis

Your mother was a gospel singer. Was there always a lot of creative energy bubbling around your household?

I was always around music from the time I was small. It was one of those things where I was born into it. Like you said, my mom was a gospel singer, so we were in church every Sunday with choir practice Tuesdays and Thursdays. My aunt was the piano player for the choir; my uncle was the choir director, and my grandma was the lead singer in the main choir. They would also perform at different events as a quartet.

My parents had—and still have to this day—a delivery service in Berkeley, California called IBS Courier Service, and during the weekdays, I’d be in the backs of trucks and vans listening to all different kinds of music. Lots of oldies, 102.9 KBLX. When I got to elementary school, that’s when I got introduced to rap, R&B, neo soul and all of that.

What was it about the neo soul genre that really clicked for you?

Neo soul has so much soul, passion and pain in it. It was a sound I was familiar with growing up in church, but it was married with a new sound of rap and banging beats. To this day, I just love soulful music because it just comes from a more real place.

You also grew up playing football. Were sports and music competing interests?

I pursued music in middle school and high school. Music was really my focus. Around 11th or 12th grade, music started to compete with football, and things [for football] started to get real when I started getting scholarship offers. Suddenly, I had to put more time into football. Music had been the priority and the passion, but football had gotten to a point where it became a vehicle that could help put me through college and help get me my degree. So I used it as such.

When I went to Boise for football—at that D-1 level—you don’t really have time to do music. It’s really football from 5:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. every day. I did little shit in my closet in my dorm room, and when later I moved into apartments and houses, I’d continue to put the studio in the closets. Music remained my passion and hobby, and when I had downtime, I’d do it. But in those years, football for sure sort of trumped music. I always knew that when I finished football, I would pursue music full time. I wasn’t one of those dudes who had the NFL dreams; rather, I always knew I’d get back to music at some point.

So you knew music was for you before football ever came into play.

Yeah, I grew a passion and a love for it at an early age. I knew that football was the vehicle that would help me get a college degree and would help open my life up to experiences I’d never had. When I first went to college, nobody in my family had received a college degree. Then my cousin Joel ended up getting a degree from San Jose State, so I became the second person in my family to get a college degree, and I know that meant a lot to my parents, especially my dad.

With the analogy of using football as a vehicle and calling something a vehicle—it’s something I do with everything. Like with music. Even though music is my passion, I understand that it’s a vehicle to open doors to a lot of things, which is why I try to preach to people, “Whatever you’re doing and whatever you’re passionate about, if you have the opportunity to be big and have a big platform and make money off of it, you should use it as a vehicle to open doors to other things.” I believe in diversifying whatever you do.

Would you say the diversifying mindset is what drives you musically?

Yeah, musically in the sounds that I use and the beat selections and all of that. There are so many different worlds that you can choose from, and when you combine them, you never know what you can come up with.

How did you choose your name, Rexx Life Raj?

My boy came up with “Rexx in high school. We were a group of homies who called ourselves “Rexxes” and were Rexx Life. It’s something I’ve been rocking with forever and sort of just used it. Now, Rexx Life has become a collective of different artists in different realms—rappers, singers, producers, videographers—different types of artists that are all in this collective of Rexx Life. It started in high school as a clique of homies and has blossomed into what it is now. 

What inspired your latest album, California Poppy 2, and what went into its production?

I think all of my music is pretty heady in that it comes from an introspective place and reflects stuff that I’m going through. What’s crazy is, the original California Poppy was a lot more bright and a lot more fun—stuff you could play outside or in your car on a beautiful day type music. California Poppy 2 is similar but for sure darker. I remember talking to my manager like, “Does this project feel dark?” And he was like, “Yeah, but you’ve got to think: The world is dark.” When I thought about it from that vantage point, it made sense.

There are songs like the track “Tesla in a Pandemic,” where I’m looking at this Tesla, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to have music going well enough to be able to get this beautiful car, but I look around the world and the world is crumbling around me. People are struggling and dying, all kinds of stuff. The track “State of Mind” is more introspective because I was writing alone in the studio with a more stream of consciousness that contributes to it being a more “heady” album.

You can’t be guilty for your own success, but you have an awareness and humbleness that other people are in different situations.

Exactly. The one track that was more turned up was “Freak” with Juvenile. I can’t even remember how that came about, but I’m happy it’s in there, because I think the album needed that balance of something that was more fun.

In terms of different situations, what’s the work you do with Good And Proper?

Good And Proper is an event series that we started ourselves before COVID. The idea of it was to do these fundraiser events that weren’t your typical fundraisers. Instead, they’d be more of a longue type vibe, with art, couture DJs, drinks—more of mingling events that raise money for local organizations or charities. The first event in 2019 was in San Francisco and had a couple hundred people. In total, we raised six or seven thousand dollars. 

I’m signed to Empire right now, and they matched whatever we raised—around three thousand dollars—so we were able to donate around six or seven thousand dollars to an Oakland organization called Youth Radio. It’s an organization where kids can come and learn how to be studio engineers, learn how to start their own media platform, start their own content series or be a radio host. It’s a place for kids to come in and learn these different aspects of media.

While we weren’t able to throw one last year in 2020, whenever things open back up, we’ll throw one again.

Was using your platform for good always something you envisioned doing?

Where I’m from, a lot of people don’t get a chance to make it out, get a big platform and make a lot of money. There are some who leave and never come back. Then there were those who got successful becoming a rapper or by going to the NFL who did come back and gave it back to the hood in whatever ways they saw fit. 

Giving back is a big deal for me because I know there’s a lot of kids who don’t have resources, opportunities or support systems around them to help them to flourish to where they need to go. I’m blessed to be in a position where I have all of these resources and tools, so it was always important to me to try and give back somehow, whether it be monetarily, giving wisdom or just helping people out in whatever ways they need. It’s a big deal to give back, especially to where you came from.

Rex Life Raj
Courtesy of Darrin Baldridge

What would you say your relationship with cannabis is?

When I first started smoking in high school, I used to get really high and rap. But when I went to college and started playing D-1 football, I couldn’t smoke because we got tested all of the time. For four or five years, I didn’t really smoke. Then, when I graduated from college, it was weird because I would get middle school high. 

Mind you, I’m a bigger dude, but I would take a couple of hits and be faded. So I had to chill out for another couple of years because of how weirdly high I was getting. In the Bay Area, we call that “rapper weed.” Once clubs and dispensaries started to open up, I got my medical card and started to experiment and find weed that fit me instead of trying to smoke the stoner, rapper weed.

Finding the right weed is sort of like dating and finding the right person to be in a relationship with.

It’s literally that. I remember at one point, I was going to the club, finding different weed and rating it. Then I’d record my findings on a white board in our studio. I notated the ones I liked and didn’t like.

Now, I only really smoke when I make music. It helps me come up with different ideas, cadences and all of that kind of stuff. I think I’m more of a creative smoker. I like the headspace weed puts me in.

So for you, weed helps stimulate your mind in a particular way.

Especially if I’m in the booth. There are times where I’ll hear a beat and just start writing, but other times, I’ll hear a beat, and I’ll want to lay down different melodies and see what I come up with. If I’m in the mode of creating really unique melodies and harmonies, weed puts me in a place of freedom where I’m not really thinking too much, where I can just let go and see what comes out. That’s what I really like about it.

I’ve wanted to get into cannabis for a while, but right now, the market is pretty flooded and a lot of rappers are coming out with their own strains, though not all of them are legal. It’s easy to print a bag and put a random strain in the bag and sell it. So I’ve invested a lot of time understanding the business side of cannabis. Luckily, I have a good friend of mine—Mark—who has a company up in San Francisco called Permanent Holiday. They do flower, edibles and everything else. He actually has a delivery service connected to it, which is really clean, and has all of his licenses, distribution, warehouse facilities for proper packaging—he has everything in house to help me.

When I first started going on tour three or four years ago, Mark and Permanent Holiday were one of the earliest tour sponsors for me. When we would go on the road, we would put up the Permanent Holiday logos on banners at shows and at meet-and-greets. I watched him level up from being a grower down in Humboldt to actually having this big facility in San Francisco. Being able to see him and watch him grow has been really cool, but also he’s been great at guiding me and walking me through the process of helping me get certain licenses and insurances and making sure my packaging is adequate. He’s also introduced me to a ton of strains. Down the road, we’ll actually make a strain from scratch.

The biggest motivation for me getting into the cannabis business is because it’s one of those things I feel people of color should be doing. So many people are locked up or have served time for [marijuana-related offenses], which is why my platform—California Poppy—will be a brand that sells weed but will also be an educational tool. When the world opens back up, we’ll have webinars and seminars where we’ll bring all of these different cultivators and brands from the Bay Area together and will give people the game. 

The biggest issue I have with the cannabis business is the barrier of entry. The barrier of entry is so high, and there’s such a steep learning curve that dudes would rather print up a bag and put some weed in it and sell it on the black market rather than learning the game and actually doing it the right way. I want to open up this flood gate of information and knowledge for people who look like me and are trying to get into the cannabis business the legal way. I feel like we deserve a place in this space.

Do you foresee your company weaving in cannabis activism in some way to promote the inclusiveness of what the space can be?

We’re still trying to figure out exactly what that will be, but it’s a priority for me to work with people of color. That includes growers of color and different brands of color. For the short time I’ve been in the “cannabis game,” you see big money coming into it and how fast it’s becoming corporatized. You see these brands that are targeted toward white, Caucasian people. I just want to have a space for the urban couture brand and build something around that. There are a lot of people in that space, and there are lots of opportunities for people to do stuff there.

Have you thought about also employing folks who have served time for trumped up possession and other cannabis related offenses?

I 100 percent want to do that. Mark was telling me California has certain grants for people who were incarcerated for weed crimes that help those individuals start a business. That’s something not a lot of people know about. I didn’t even know about, but it’s something I will want to put on my platform. 

I know people who have been locked up for marijuana, and I know millions of people have relatives or friends who have been locked up and don’t realize that if they were in a certain position, there’s money, permits and insurance available to you if you apply for it. Unfortunately, that knowledge isn’t circulating in my community like it is in everyone else’s community.

Follow @rexxliferaj, and check out californiapoppy.co for the latest in Raj’s cannabis endeavors.

The post Rexx Life Raj Creates Community Through Music appeared first on High Times.

Is Cannabis Prohibition Unconstitutional?

The United States prides itself on being a nation of social and economic freedom. As a matter of fact, these are some of our founding principles and fundamental rights. Numerous documents have been drafted over the years to make sure these liberties are never taken away from us; the most important being the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  

These documents outline our inalienable rights and the responsibilities of a government that works for us to protect said rights. This all sounds amazing, but what happens when there is a major discrepancy between our legal rights and what we consider our intrinsic rights? Regarding cannabis, this is a question coming up with more regularity; because, if we are granted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, why would something natural, non-toxic, and therapeutic – something that by all definitions, “makes us happy”, be prohibited?  

Getting straight to the point here, is cannabis prohibition unconstitutional? Numerous industry advocates and legal experts are raising this question in the United States Supreme Court.  

Weed legality is incredibly complicated and constantly changing. But one aspect of it that does not get challenged enough is whether cannabis prohibition is actually unconstitutional? Is banning cannabis, legal? Maybe focusing on our most important historical documents is the key to federal legalization. In the meantime, make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter for deals on legal cannabis products, as well as all the latest news and industry stories. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights 

Now, let’s get back to these important documents. Earlier I touched briefly on the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but I would be remiss not to discuss each in further detail. After all, they are undeniably our most valued government documents.  

There are some obvious parallels between the three, starting with the fact that they all have a preamble – which are expressive, introductory statements. They were all written to ease civil unrest or general political turbulence. And most importantly, they all work together and play off each other to guarantee that our basic rights – which the founders believed came from God – are protected and that we, the people, have a way to hold our governing bodies accountable.  

That said, there are some critical differences between these documents as well – in how they are written, their history, and the purposes they serve. The Declaration and Constitution were both drafted in what is now known as Independence Hall, by a congress and convention that met in 1776 and 1787, whereas the Bill of Rights was written two years later, in 1789, by a congress that met in Federal Hall in New York.  

The Declaration was written almost entirely by Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison was the primary drafter of the Bill of Rights and Constitution, along with James Wilson. The Declaration was created as a rationale for breaking away from the oppressive British government; and the Constitution and Bill of Rights were constructed to establish a government that will defend our newly established freedoms, as per the Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights describes the rights and liberties of the American people, and the constitution details the government’s role in preserving these rights.  

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness 

Regarding cannabis, let’s focus more on the part about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In that short statement, the preamble to the Declaration of Independence basically encompasses the entire theory of a democratic, American government.  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” 

There are a few different interpretations of the “pursuit of happiness” segment, but there really are not very many ways to misconstrue that. Some describe it as the right to freely pursue anything joyous, as long as you live life in a way that is not violating the rights of another individual. Others take that definition one step further to include breaking the law as a barrier to “pursuing happiness”.  

Arguably, cannabis makes most people happy… it does me for sure. My cannabis use doesn’t harm others or infringe upon anyone else’s rights; however, it is still illegal. But legality is just about as subjective as defining happiness. I mean, interracial marriage was once illegal in the US, and the only people allowed to work, vote, and own property were white men. Laws are often unjust and society is waiting on the right people to make waves, shake things up a bit, and abolish the old, archaic ways.

So, at this point, knowing the medicinal benefits of cannabis and how it functions in the human body; and taking into consideration that the level of intoxication and risk of adverse effects are both very low; how can the government justify prohibition anymore? If alcohol is legal, then yes, keeping cannabis illegal does seem to border on unconstitutional.  

Liberty vs Personal Sovereignty  

If you’ve been following any global cannabis news lately, you’ve likely noticed that some countries, like Mexico and South Africa, are pushing cannabis legalization through Supreme Courts using personal sovereignty clauses in their constitutions.  

Personal sovereignty can be defined as follows: To be sovereign over one’s self is to be free of the control or coercion of others – to truly direct one’s own life.” Summed up, it’s the concept of self-ownership and governing one’s own body without interference from anyone else, including the government. This applies to legal/inalienable rights, body and health-related rights, and simply being the sole controller over your own body and life. Personal sovereignty is a central idea rooted in several different political ideologies including liberalism, libertarianism, and anarchism. 

Many countries that have constitutional documents and supreme courts also have personal sovereignty clauses. What’s interesting is that even these “God-given” rights do vary based on your locality. So, what’s considered inviolable in one country might not be so in another country. That being said, no, the United States does not have a personal sovereignty clause in its constitution. The closest we get is that passionate preamble, which is not absolute and can be interpreted in different ways.  

Because cannabis laws are relaxing all over the world and a greater number of large-scale studies are becoming available, it’s possible, theoretically, that the “pursuit of happiness” argument could hold up in court, but as of now, that has not happened yet.  

NORML’s amicus brief  

In an amicus curiae brief filed last year by a NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) Legal Committee member David Holland, Esq., argued that the harsh federal scheduling of cannabis is unconstitutional because all three branches of our government (legislative, executive and judicial) have supported and promoted laws and policies that directly contradict the plant’s illegal status.  

Holland said: “The Brief exposes a fundamental paradox – if cannabis is federally illegal for all purposes, and the three coordinate branches of federal government have acted to allow for cannabis businesses, then the federal government is nullifying its own law. Simply put, under the Constitution, something cannot be illegal and legal at the same time especially when it comes to state laws that conflict with federal laws. The only resolution to this constitutional conflict is for the Supreme Court to invoke the doctrine of estoppel to prevent the federal government from reversing course and retroactively penalizing that which it has protected in fostering state cannabis programs and effectively legalizing it.” 

He added: “Federal precedent exists for the Court to invoke the doctrine and Attorney General William Barr has testified before Congress about his belief that it would be fundamentally unfair to penalize those who in good faith relied upon those government statements and policies because it would violate Due Process. Due Process and fairness are the very heart of the reasoning for the Court to invoke the doctrine of estoppel.” 

Click here to read the full text.  

What about Justice Clarence Thomas? 

A sudden and unlikely proponent of cannabis legalization is Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members. Thomas is challenging federal cannabis prohibition based on the government’s inconsistent policies and enforcement. He asked whether the federal government had the right to undermine state-regulated markets, and what to make of all their contradicting messages.  

“Once comprehensive, the Federal Govern­ment’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana,” Thomas wrote. “This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the un­wary.” 

Thomas’ newfound views stem from a case brought against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by a medical cannabis dispensary in Colorado. They sued over a tax code that blocked cannabis retailers from claiming regular business deductions that other industries were able to do.

cannabis unconstitutional
Justice Clarence Thomas

In 2009 and 2013, the Department of Justice issued memorandums instructing prosecutors to let cannabis businesses in legal states operate without interference. Additionally, congress passed a law in 2015 that completely prohibits the Justice Department to spend any money going after these legal operators. “Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana,” Thomas wrote. 

“If the Government is now content to allow States to act ‘as laboratories’ ‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’ then it might no longer have authority to intrude on ‘the States’ core police powers . . . to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens,’” he wrote. “A prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal ap­proach.”  

Jim Thorburn, the attorney who is representing the Colorado dispensary whose lawsuit Thomas commented on, believes there’s a way to legalize marijuana federally through the Supreme Court. “Justice Thomas is providing the roadmap to the end of Prohibition,” says Thorburn. “He’s trying to end the federal prohibition.” Thorburn believes that Thomas’ statement was a suggestion to attack Gonzales v. Raich head-on. “When he says this is straining the core of federalism, and calling Gonzalez v. Reich into question, whether the Court could support that case today—I think he’s suggesting that cannabis prohibition might be unconstitutional,” says Thorburn. 

Conclusion – Is cannabis prohibition unconstitutional or not?

The fight for cannabis, Thorburn says, could very well be decided by the Supreme Court, similar to how marriage equality, abortion rights, and other social issues have been historically resolved. Only time will where that final push to legalization will come from, but looking at some of our oldest and most important government documents may hold the answer.

Hello and welcome! You made it to CBDtesters.co, your one-stop-shop for the most up-to-date and thought-provoking cannabis and psychedelics-related news, offering up the most relevant stories of today. Join us frequently to stay informed on the quickly-moving universe of legal drugs and industrial hemp, and sign up for The THC Weekly Newsletterto make sure you always know what’s going on first.

Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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Cannabis Around the World: the History and Culture of Ganja in Jamaica

Jamaica is known internationally for its associations with cannabis. Yet, most people still have a muddled view of the history and culture of ganja in Jamaica. Stumbling into sensationalism and exoticization when talking about cannabis cultures worldwide is easy. Hopefully, these factoids about the cannabis culture of Jamaica will help you have a clearer view […]

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Is CBD the Secret Ingredient in Successful Beauty Products?

The search for endless beauty has been going on for more than a millennium. From ancient mythologies (hello Cleopatra) to high fashion magazine articles, beauty has always been the focus for many women. The beauty industry strives to accomplish one mission: eternal youth. It’s promoted and sold to consumers on a day-to-day basis. In the […]

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Grassroots vs Industry: Cannabis Culture Clashing with Big Business

For many people, smoking weed is not just a thing you do, it’s a lifestyle; and one that we take great pride in. I, for one, am always eager to share my knowledge and passion for all things cannabis. This attitude is rooted in a longstanding ‘stoner’ culture that is very intimate to the cannabis community and has been created and finetuned over the last few decades. But almost as soon as legalization started sweeping through the US, we started to see a shift.

Old pot culture gave way to a trendy, standardized, multi-billion-dollar industry. Today we see sleek, modern dispensaries that resemble apple stores, farm-to-table cannabis restaurants and caterers, some of the most potent weed products your heart could desire, and an overall change in how the world views all these products, and the plant itself.

It’s exciting to see how far we have come. But at what point does our homegrown, laid-back stoner culture that felt so down-to-earth and made this plant as popular as it is in the first place, become completely unrecognizable? Will it turn into just another ‘big business’ industry like alcohol, tobacco, wellness, pharma, and so many others. We’re already beginning to see a clash between business interests and grassroots activists, but the industry has room for both sides, and actually NEEDS as much diversity as possible.

The cannabis industry has changed a lot over the last few years, but fundamentally, we all want the same thing: progress, although that could have varying meanings for different people. For more articles like this one, and for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products, remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

What is stoner culture?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few attributes or social behaviors, but there are some are pretty characteristic of “stoners”, and we’ve seen it time and time again portrayed in the media. From Animal House or Cheech and Chong in the 1970s – an iconic time that many describe as the “golden era” of cannabis, psychedelics, and activism – to the 1990s which I personally remember as comedic haze of stoner movies and music that spilled over well into the next decade.

Although the image was tweaked a bit over time, a few constants remained – the portrayal of a “stoner” was upbeat yet unmotivated, quirky, below average intelligence, friendly, aaaaand usually sweet and personable in their own goofy type of way (think Travis from Clueless).

Over time, that harmless, loveable image (be it a huge misconception anyway) morphed in a few different types of personalities. For example, the lady-next-door ‘momtrepreneur’ that’s making a quick buck off a growing industry and broken system, like Nancy from Weeds. Or the casual modern-day smokers that do what they do and just mix pot use into their day-to-day lives, like Abbi and Ilana from Broad City.

It’s uncommon now to see that oblivious and totally unaware stoner from years prior. One of the few shows I can think of that plays into those tired old clichés is Disjointed on Netflix, which was met with overwhelming criticism from people are just no longer interested in seeing potheads depicted as idiots anymore. Today’s cannabis users encompass many different personalities, from the 30-year-old underachiever smoking weed and playing video games in their parent’s basement, to the 20-something-year-old researcher and CEO who just developed a state-of-the-art form of nano emulsion technology to bring cannabis medicine to thousands of patients… and literally everything in between.

State of the industry today    

Despite federal prohibition and regulatory uncertainties, bottlenecked supply chains, an ongoing fight against the still-thriving black market, and let’s not forget, a global pandemic that has impacted so many different industries throughout the world – cannabis is still flourishing, in the United States and globally.

According to data collected by Marijuana Business Daily and shared at this year’s MJBizCon in Las Vegas, legal cannabis sales in America hit $20 billion in 2020 and are expected to surpass $26 billion by the end of this year. Their projections for the future are that the US industry will explode to about $46 billion by 2025. Just a few years ago, multimillion-dollar deals were few and far in between but now they’re a regular occurrence.

“The nearly $46 billion in sales would make the cannabis industry larger than the craft beer industry, said Chris Walsh, chief executive officer and president of MJBizDaily. “And these are potentially conservative numbers with what we see playing out. Sales continued to accelerate at a record pace in markets across the US — notably in established states, such as Colorado, Washington and Oregon. You’re seeing the next phase of a maturing industry take hold here.”

It’s not at all shocking to hear, considering most Americans now live in a state where cannabis is legal in some capacity, be it medical, recreational, or both. In total, 36 states have legalized medical marijuana – 18 of which, plus Washington D.C., have also approved recreational adult-use programs. So, based on this rapid growth, not only do more citizens have access, but the cannabis is also creating tens of thousands of new jobs annually. By the start of 2021, roughly 321,000 Americans held employment in the cannabis industry either directly or through some ancillary company, and that number is growing steadily.

“Take a look around,” said Karson Humiston, CEO and founder of Vangst, which runs a cannabis industry-centric job recruiting site, gesturing to bustling crowds in the exposition hall. “People want to get out of their old-school, dying industry, and they want to move into cannabis. This is it. Now is the moment to get involved, because it’s never going to be this small again.”

Cannabis industry gentrification?

All this is not to say that I’m against legalization. I’m 100 percent pro-progress and vehemently against the War on Drugs that has torn communities apart with racist enforcement, widespread arrests, and mass incarcerations of citizens simply for possession personal amounts of pot. I think everyone can agree that we’re in a much better place now than we were 50 years ago.

The main problem people are having, as I see it, is the rush to corporatization and industrialism that’s slowly chipping away at the casual, unique, and authentic vibe that cannabis culture has always been synonymous with. I mean, even Tommy Chong is having trouble placing his strains in dispensaries because he’s “too stoner” for the modern cannabis connoisseur, or more aptly, cannasseur. “We represent the stoner image of Mexicans,” Chong said. “They don’t want that anymore. They can’t market that to millennials.”

Things certainly are different now from what I, and many of the people I grew up with, are used to seeing. “Someone who has always been in the mindset that (cannabis) is their alternative to a highball at the end of the night might not appreciate how cannabis is being used now on the medical side,” said Danny Mann, general manager at Modern Cannabis, a Logan Square dispensary. “Worrying about the counterculture being replaced by new cannabis culture is on people’s minds now. But it can also reek of nostalgia.”

He’s not wrong. The industry is in an amazing position right now, poised only to succeed even more. The main reason we resist many of these changes is simply because it’s sad to see the classic trends go. To think that the rasta-hippy-grunge-total stoner persona may one day be a thing of the past, is just a tad bit disappointing.

Think back to when our parents were growing up, the rallies they had, and the type of people who were truly advocating for cannabis legalization, promoting the therapeutic potential, pushing for safe access, arguing for the industrial benefits of hemp, and denouncing existing regulations and striving for reform – it was the potheads! Not businesspeople, influencers, celebrities, and so forth; it was your diehard, weed-smoking activists that were the heart and soul of cannabis advancement in the US; and eventually they became a sort of lifestyle-brand in their own rights, a symbol of indepence and rebellion, paving the way for changes in marijuana and psychedelics laws. In my opinion, everything about these past eras will be dearly missed but I welcome positive changes with an open heart and mind.

“Clash of the Titans”

According to five marijuana industry insiders, including CEOs and farms, discussed these issues during a panel at MJBizCon called “Clash of the Titans.” They noted that despite tensions between these two often opposing heads of the industry, when you look at the bigger picture, both sides play their own very important role for the “wider legalization movement”.

“Big business cannot survive without what cannabis culture has brought to the table,” said Wanda James, owner of Denver-based Simply Pure, a vertically integrated cannabis company. James lambasted much of the industry, arguing that women and minorities have had too hard a time getting a toehold in the business. She decried that as a disservice to the legacy of the marijuana plant and its cultural roots.

“Setting up this dichotomy of ‘Big Business versus cannabis culture’ is a false dichotomy,” mentioned another panalist, Ayr Wellness co-Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Drake. “There’s going to be plenty of room for everyone to succeed.”

Overall, the general tone of the discussion was that more direct effort needs to made to encourage alliance and collaboration between entrepreneurs who are focused on various financial interests like tax structures, banking access, business licensing; and advocates who are striving to improve policies regarding home cultivation, medical cannabis patient and caregiver rights, support for female and minority entrepreneurs, and so on.

Final thoughts

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in going to different cannabis industry trade shows and talking to people from all over the world, it’s that the cannabis industry absolutely has room for everyone. New points of view keep everything fresh and exciting, and that’s one of the wonderful things about the industry that has stayed relatively unchanged over time, cannabis represents inclusivity and that needs to be reflected in business dealings as well as cultural traditions.

Hello all! Welcome to CBDtesters.co, your ultimate online destination for the most relevant and thought-provoking cannabis and psychedelics-related news globally. Read-thru the site regularly to stay on top of the constantly-moving world of legal drugs and industrial hemp, and sign up for The THC Weekly Newsletterso you never miss a thing.

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Ontario Malls Will Begin Welcoming New Cannabis Stores

Some major Ontario malls will begin welcoming new cannabis stores soon. This could spell a new chapter for the wider acceptance of cannabis in Canada. Right now, most cannabis dispensaries and chains situate themselves in more discreet locations like in a strip mall or on the street. By comparison, shopping malls are large gathering spaces […]

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How Cannabis Has Changed The Workplace

With legalization spreading across the globe at a rapid pace, many are wondering how cannabis is changing the workplace. In the United States alone, 21 states have lifted the band on cannabis as many people use hemp for medical and recreational. But as this new wave of wellness and care continues to spread across the globe, it […]

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Can Cannabis Help With Weightloss?

The weightloss industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. Countless gyms, diets, retreats, products, and even online programs — there’s no shortage of resources in how to lose weight. Weight loss in western culture is considered the mecca of overall health and wellness. Society has told us for years that losing weight is a good thing. When […]

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Cannabis in the Creator Economy

The cannabis market was worth USD 22.10 billion, according to 2020 figures. Still, like all other businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic made it miss its projected 13.9% CAGR trajectory during the 2021-2026 period. Due to the restrictions on buying from physical outlets, cannabis manufacturers relied on social media and online shopping more than ever before. One […]

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