Big Tobacco’s War on Cannabis Ignites: Are Pre-Rolls and Cones Under Attack?

The claims made by Big Tobacco against major cannabis companies and the celebrities behind them are often outrageous, if not laughable. In recent trademark lawsuits, a tobacco company claimed that pre-rolled cones, organic hemp papers, and more staples of the rolling paper industry amount to paraphernalia.

The latest claim is that pre-rolled cones, organic hemp papers and hemp gum are intended for use with pot—but not traditional rolling papers—which some tobacco companies sell. 

“Big Tobacco is coming for legal marijuana,” The Boston Globe reported, referring to Marlboro owner Altria’s endeavors in pot. And while some Big Tobacco companies are attempting to buy their way into the industry, others have a different tactic: attacking competitors. Here’s a few trademark lawsuits targeting the industry that appear to have ulterior motives.

Big Tobacco’s Trademark War on Cannabis

High Times was informed of a smear attempt on cannabis consumers—and a hypocritical argument, at best. Republic Brands, a tobacco company owned by Don Levin, manufactures and sells OCB, Top, Job, and Zig Zag rolling papers. Republic sued RAW’s parent company, HBI International in an injunction announced on Feb. 9, and RAW founder Josh Kesselman recently took a lot of heat. (RAW is a more popular rolling paper brand.) High Times was eventually pulled into the vortex of this lawsuit as well as evidence that rolling papers are intended for pot. 

RAW was under fire for alleging its papers were made in Alcoy, Spain, home of legendary Bambú papers, among other claims. In Republic’s filings, they sought to invalidate RAW’s trademark by arguing that Republic wanted to make cones and other materials used for the consumption of cannabis illegal. Republic’s attorneys argued in federal court that “…cones were developed in the 1990’s specifically to hold marijuana. They are marketed primarily for that purpose today.” Republic’s attorneys argued pre-rolled cones are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act as related to drug paraphernalia. 

The court filings include several social media images of Miley Cyrus and Wiz Khalifa using the cones, drawn from RAW ads. Republic further pointed to RAW’s ads with High Times Magazine as evidence that the rolling papers are used primarily for pot and should be illegal. Court filings included photos involving The Emerald Cup, High Times back issues, and Cannabis Cup posts.

HBI International also filed a counterclaim against Republic. The jury found that HBI International violated the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act by claiming its rolling papers were manufactured in Alcoy. The jury, however, sided with HBI’s counterclaim that Republic infringed on one of its copyrights and trade dress, awarding HBI with over $1 million in lost profits and statutory damages.

The company has repeatedly brought lawsuits against smaller competitors to bolster their market presence, the counterclaim contends. 

Trademark Wars Continue

RAW isn’t the only business under fire. Law 360 reported last February that Kool menthol cigarette maker ITG sued Capna Intellectual, which does business as Bloom Brands, claiming that the company violated state and federal trademark law by stealing the Kool’s signature logo. (Some have argued that menthol cigarette makers unfairly targeted Black communities.)

In this case, the interlocking O’s of the logos were under scrutiny, though one could argue that other logos like the Dolce & Gabbana logo look similar as well.

Court filings say Bloom filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2019 seeking to register the similar mark for e-cigarette and vape sales. The company called Bloom’s acts deliberate “and intentionally carried out in bad faith, or with reckless disregard for or with willful blindness to ITG’s rights in the Kool marks, for the purpose of trading on ITG’s reputation and diluting the Kool marks.”

“Here, a fundamental part of ITG’s argument is that the interlocking ‘O’ design is iconic and distinctive enough to be afforded broad protection, and that a mark that incorporates this design on smokable cannabis products could lead consumers to believe that the brands are affiliated or originate from the same source,” Harris-Bricken reports in its Canna Law Blog.

Candy companies, and food companies such as Tapatio have gone after copycat cannabis brands as well. Often lawsuits of this nature have multiple motives at play, with the goal of taking out competitors.

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Colorado Cannabis Industry Continues to Face Uncertainty

A recent report from The Denver Post analyzes the fallout of the post-pandemic cannabis industry in Colorado. While once the state reached a peak of $226 million in combined recreational and medical cannabis sales, current sales have decreased and small businesses struggle to stay afloat.

“The market’s just bad. It’s bad right now,” cannabis salesperson Val Tonazzi told The Denver Post. “There’s businesses closing, left and right.”

In February, Colorado’s medical cannabis sales decreased to $15 million, the lowest collection since retail sales began in 2014. March brought a slight increase in medical cannabis sales, approximately $17 million, but was $5 million less than March 2022. Likewise, March recreational sales were recorded at $122 million this year, but it’s a $17 million decrease from last year’s numbers.

On May 9, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a fact sheet detailing the “End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” While the nation and many of its industries return to normal operations, cannabis business owners continue to see ripples of oversupply of cannabis products, lack of demand, pricing dropping to record lows, and lack of cannabis tourism.

Over the past few years, many states bordering Colorado have approved recreational cannabis. This includes Montana and Arizona in 2020, and New Mexico in 2021, creating competition for Colorado.

Vangst, a cannabis job company, recently released its 2023 Vangst Jobs Report. The report states that there was a 2% drop in cannabis jobs, and Colorado was ranked as the second highest state for cannabis job losses. It was also ranked number six on a list of top cannabis jobs with less positions than states like California, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, and Massachusetts.

It isn’t just small cannabis businesses falling under hard times. Bigger companies, like Curaleaf, are also pivoting as well. In January, Curaleaf  closed down its offices in Colorado, California and Oregon, “as part of its continued effort to streamline its business.” According to Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin, this move was also made due to thriving black market competition. “We believe these states will represent opportunities in the future, but the current price compression caused by a lack of meaningful enforcement of the illicit market prevent us from generating an acceptable return on our investments,” Darin said in a press release.

The closure of cannabis businesses is affecting the real estate market as well. A National Association of Realtors report recently explained “a decline in commercial property purchases by marijuana industry-related businesses and a corresponding increase in leasing activity.”

The Denver Post spoke with local entrepreneur Renée Grossman, who founded five retail storefronts in Colorado since 2013, and also moved into cultivation and manufacturing as well. “There’s too many stores, there’s too much cultivation, there’s too many products,” Grossman explained to The Denver Post. “Right now, all the investors are sitting on the sidelines, and kind of waiting to time the bottom—and nobody knows exactly when that’s going to happen.”

Amidst the uncertainty of the situation, Grossman and many other business owners have had to lay off many of their staff to continue paying the bills. “Most companies I know are losing money, or they’ve shut down and scaled back,” said Grossman. “A lot of companies that are my size or smaller are really feeling the burn.” She also suggested that more mergers may take place in order to help bolster smaller businesses against larger companies.

Initially there was a drive for cannabis tourism to bring people to Colorado, but even as travel has become safer in the wake of COVID-19, the increase in states with recreational cannabis has caused a shift in interest. According to Native Roots Cannabis Company vice president of marketing, Buck Dutton, sales for 4/20 decreased from recent years: “…people don’t see the need to travel here to spend their 4/20 with us,” Dutton told The Denver Post. “The only expectation that it lived up to is that we thought it was going to be bad.”

Marijuana Industry Group executive director Truman Bradley likens Colorado’s current situation to “the ghost of Christmas future.” The excitement that drove sales for Colorado as the first state to legalize recreational cannabis has since slowed. Bradley stated that the only way Colorado can survive now is for the industry to “get leaner,” in terms of competition being thinned out. He also calls on state legislators to reevaluate legalization. “It’s critical that lawmakers understand that decade No. 2 of legalization needs to look fundamentally different from decade No. 1,” Bradley stated.

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A Year Being Weird, and Where We Go From Here

Damn, can y’all believe we’ve been doing this WEIRDOS thing for a year already? It seems like just yesterday I was writing the introduction, and trying to convince my superiors that calling this new section ‘WEIRDOS’ made sense, inspired by an earlier, random submission I received that I wanted to create more space for.

Today we’ve generated over 1 million impressions to this section alone, and created a social coefficient that’s hard to measure. The conversations that have been generated around these topics were the goal of this initiative, and as more of you keep talking about these issues, the entire industry benefits from our collective understanding. That said, I didn’t expect as many of you to respond as quickly as you did, and it’s been a joy to keep all these conversations going with you all in real life, and on our social platforms.

But let me put that into perspective real quick. We post ~27 pieces a week to our .com, every week of the year. That’s over 1,400 pieces a year, of which this section totals just 52. The bulk of our content is news, and features on the individuals and brands that make our community great. That means that these rants account for less than 4% of our annual content, yet were alone responsible for a solid chunk of our digital and social reach over the past year. You see, these aren’t the same as our typical news pieces, which are boosted by SEO and news roundups. No, these are seen because YOU share them, and respond to them, and debate them. We thank you for that. Even if you come to object to the point we’re making, you’re fueling the conversation, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re not right all the time, but we don’t get anywhere by standing in place. We’re willing to be wrong if it means moving forward, and I think there’s a freedom in that. As I said in the beginning, many of these issues don’t have clear answers, and the only way we’ll solve them is by talking this out. Together.

The First Wave

Over the past year we’ve begun to tackle some of the biggest issues facing our industry and culture today. From THC % being bullshit, to the sexism that still flourishes across our ‘inclusive’ space, there have been a lot of stakes thrown in the ground in this section already. We’ve had on-going discussions, like our Indica / Sativa debate, which was most recently addressed by legendary cultivator and High Times alum Todd McCormick, and tried to guide the industry through thought pieces like ‘Our Escape’s Gone Corporate’ and ‘Shit Talk’. At times we’ve straight up thrown stones, like Joe’s ‘Standards’ piece, or Jackie‘s ‘I’m Over Cannabis Brands That Don’t Like Cannabis Users’, which found that most of the community feels a similar way, despite what the brands that are making products for ‘us’ seem to think. We’ve asked important questions, and tried to defend the trap, but we’ve just started to scratch the surface…

Although, that makes it sound like kind of a drag… it wasn’t all serious! We’ve also welcomed comedians like Frank Castillo, Mike Glazer and Steve Furey into our fold, and heard their stories, ranging from a day in the life to what it’s like trying to score on the road. Mike even wrote us a short play about being online lately! Our Canadian friend Ben told us about the first time he took DMT, and Cody made up a fake study that not everyone understood was fake. Javi reminded us that we can’t do whatever we want. We’ve gone back and forth about including tobacco in your smoke, as well as what actually qualifies as a blunt. Jimi uncovered that microdosing is just a PR conspiracy, and Ellen even waxed on her love for eating hash

There’s been as many laughs as there have been arguments, but that’s kind of analogous to life, isn’t it? Peaks and valleys, man. It’s not all gravy, but it can be fun.

Falling Down The Weirdo Rabbit Hole

Now selfishly, I can’t believe how big my baby has grown. I knew this would work, but I wasn’t anticipating the support, or the amount of people who would want to participate. I didn’t expect the number of people to talk about it offline, or the stature of individuals it would reach. I honestly expected to have to work a little harder to get the community involved, but the sheer number of ideas that have been thrown my way for this column specifically is stunning, and it reminded me of the power of this brand, and its reach. It reminded me why I love this culture. The creativity, and off the wall ideas that pour out of our community is in my opinion the most vibrant in the world. I know a lot of people have already counted us out, or are praying for our downfall, but I’ve never been prouder of the work we’re doing. 

In that regard, we’ve already booked basically every Friday through the rest of the year. The schedule says we’re full, but there’s still so much more ground to cover! And this rabbit hole goes far deeper than it seems…

So, we’re going to start trying some more stuff. Some of it might suck, all of it will be weird, but we’ll see how you rock with it. We’ll start small. Over the next few months you’ll start seeing WEIRDOS on different days of the week. More creative pieces. Short stories, allegories. Sometimes even on the weekend. You’ll see some more rich media than you’re used to over here, and maybe even some live rants on Instagram. Maybe even some music. Who knows?

While we’re not jumping into an everyday feature or anything there are so many more opinions, and voices, we can’t wait to share with you. Some insane talent has volunteered to get involved, and we look forward to providing an even wider perspective on this culture we all love so dearly. From our highest highs, to our deepest lows.

This is far from over – in fact, we’re just getting started. We hope you’re enjoying the ride! 

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Cookies’ VP of Retail Crystal Millican Discusses What It Means To Be a Woman in the Cannabis Industry

Moving from a position in a consulting firm advising Fortune 10 companies to VP of Retail for one of the world’s leading cannabis brands may seem like a daring career transition for some, but for Crystal Millican, a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Mexico, it was a no-brainer. When Millican’s company took on globally-recognized cannabis brand Cookies as a client and the cannabis giant offered her a chance to come on board, she took the opportunity and never looked back.

Founded in 2010 by rapper and entrepreneur Berner and Bay Area cultivator Jai, in 2021, Cookies became the first cannabis brand to be named one of America’s Hottest Brands by AdAge. In addition to boasting more than 2,000 products and 58 retail locations in 18 markets across 6 countries, the company prides itself on its work to help communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. High Times sat down for a sesh with Millican to talk about her journey in the cannabis space.

To start out if you just want to talk a little bit about how you got into the industry, and then how you started working with Cookies and what your journey has been.

I was an executive at a management consulting firm and [I] was the executive who was like “We need to be studying the cannabis space.” Also [I] notice[d] all the intellectual and regulatory hurdles that companies and brands were going to have to jump over and through in order to be successful. I really thought the businesses that could turn those challenges into opportunities were going to get head starts in the cannabis industry. And [I] really felt passionately that brands would win at the end of the day, true, authentic brands. Thankfully, Cookies became a client and, pretty soon after that, offered me an opportunity. [I] knew it was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to make that leap and [I am] grateful I did every day.

I know that for you—and I know this is true for Cookies in general—it’s really important to make sure that BIPOC people have a seat at the table when they historically have been behind the scenes of cannabis. So why is that so important to you and what do you do to try to make sure things are more equitable?

I think that really starts with [our] founder, Berner, who’s Mexican-American and, thankfully, has one of the most commanding and compelling voices in cannabis. As I think about it—as Cookies thinks about it—I think what we do and how we ground ourselves is all about honoring the plant. The people who grow it, the people who pack it, the people who sell it, the people who experience it, that’s really our focus. And BIPOC people touch every aspect of that seed-to-sale process. 

And, of course, I think the same can be said for women and femme-identifying people that were involved with every process in cannabis as well. So how do you try to make sure that’s included as well and how do you feel as a woman in the industry that you’ve been received and the challenges you still face?

As a woman in the industry, I feel incredibly bullish and inspired. Still, there’s plenty of work to do in the future. I see the cannabis industry having the opportunity in front of us to leave behind glass ceilings, leave behind pay gaps, leave behind bias and stereotypes and other constructs that have made it much more difficult for women and femme-identifying individuals to achieve their dreams. 

Executive teams, board rooms, investors, we’re all on the hook for growth when it’s not easy in cannabis. I think we have this unique opportunity in cannabis, where there is time to take DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and put it as a core value. That’s something we grow upon which is an opportunity that we have now versus other industries that have been in play for decades or hundreds of years.

I’m very grateful that, probably for the first time in my career, I can come to work as my authentic self. That’s a big thing for Berner, whether it’s a budtender or me and my role, that you are you and that you’re not trying to be anyone else. What it means as a woman [is] I’m not having to expend energy and time bending myself like a human pretzel to get my voice across. 

But I’d be lying if I said I never feel bumps and bruises, because that can exist in every industry. I’ve got two daughters. I have to leave work trips early to change diapers and put my kids to bed. Am I feeling so great and inspired about womanhood that that doesn’t register in my mind as something I’m having to do? No. I think there’s more work for all of us to do. Every woman and femme-identifying person I’ve had the privilege and honor to interact with and work with in the cannabis industry is seeking the same thing, which is to smooth out that path so that, with each generation that comes after us, there’s less bumps and bruises along the way. We’ll just keep that cycle going.

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Cannabis Industry Paid $1.8 Billion in Excess Taxes in 2022

According to data from the cannabis research firm Whitney Economics, the cannabis industry paid an excess of $1.8 billion in additional taxes in 2022 alone. And, spoiler alert: This article doesn’t have a happy ending. Cision PR Newsletter reports that this number is expected to jump to $2.1 billion in 2023. 

As High Times continuously writes, with deep frustration, so far, the legal cannabis industry has largely not succeeded in creating an accessible business model. California, among other states, is seeing a mass exodus as legal cannabis companies, such as Jerry Garcia’s legacy brand, leave the state due to exorbitantly high taxes and red tape. Despite ongoing efforts to help communities most impacted by the War on Drugs enter the legal market, if celebrity brands can’t make a profit, how is one starting life after the financial and mental turmoil of going to prison for a non-violent cannabis offense supposed to make a decent living? 

So why are the taxes so damn high for cannabis businesses? Don’t forget that your pretty pre-rolls and vegan edibles are technically still a Schedule I substance, meaning that, according to the Feds, cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This is scientifically inaccurate and regressive, not to mention hypocritical, as 38 states and Washington D.C. currently have medical marijuana programs. The taxes inflicted on folks in the legal market indicate that legalization is not the utopia we hoped for and may help the black market, which continues to flourish. Overtaxing legal cannabis companies is not only harmful to business owners, but it raises prices and thus isolates potential clients. 

Cannabis companies are subject to the federal tax provision 280E, which “penalizes traffickers of Schedule I or II drugs by disallowing the deduction of “ordinary and necessary” business expenses—such as below-the-line deductions—after reducing gross receipts by the cost of goods sold, or COGS, essentially resulting in federal income tax liability calculated based on gross income, not net income,” according to Bloomberg Tax

If you pour the stress of 280E on top of other cannabis business hurdles, such as difficulty accessing banking services and regulations against any interstate commerce, the result is that for many companies, it’s impossible to make a profit in the legal cannabis biz. The effective tax rates are often higher than 70% for cannabis retailers.

As Cision PR Newsletter reports, as a result, 24.4% of cannabis operators surveyed indicated that they are profitable. And things are becoming more dire last year; the figure was 42%. And, while it’s tempting to blame a post-pandemic economy, other industries are actually flourishing. According to Bloomberg, in 2022, U.S. corporate profits saw the largest margins since the 1950s. 

As warned earlier in this article, don’t expect the legal market to have a breakthrough and get better anytime soon. Whitney Economics is releasing a survey later this month stating that cannabis businesses are hanging on by the skin of their teeth and should not expect a positive shift in the immediate future. 

“The cannabis industry is under extreme economic distress, and the current regulatory and taxation environment is untenable, even in the short term,” says Beau Whitney, chief economist at Whitney Economics, according to a press release. She adds that many state markets are on “the brink of systemic collapse.” The report suggests that tax reform is the only answer to the problem. Under the right tax laws, the cannabis industry could be bringing in billions—and not just for the government to collect in taxes. Whitney Economics predicts that with the proper reform of 280E and cannabis policy, industry employment will increase, and economic activity will rise by $35.2 billion over ten years.

Reuters reports that three Senate Democrats introduced a bill to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act in July of 2022, thus nullifying Code Sec. 280E. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would impose a top excise tax of 25% on products sold by large cannabis businesses. At time of reporting, it is still pending. 

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Angela Pih Is a Master of Brands

Angela Pih knows how to market to consumers because she’s perceptive and sensitive to her audience’s unique needs. Coming from an advertising and fashion background, Pih understands that branding is all about understanding the consumer. She now works as the head of marketing for StateHouse Holdings, which may sound like the name of some sort of hedge fund but is actually one of California’s leading cannabis companies and home to such brands as Dime Bag, Kingpen, and Urbn Leaf. High Times sat down with Pih to talk about how she helped build some of The Golden State’s most recognizable brands.

So if you just want to talk about how you got into this field and how you got to where you are today.

My current trajectory came from two decades of being in the global advertising agency world, predominantly working on Fortune 500 tech brands. Brands have always been a part of my career in terms of what inspires me. I’m not sure if you are familiar with a woman by the name of Christina Wong of Fruit + Flower. She is a cannabis culinary writer and influencer. She and I were having breakfast one day before she was in cannabis, and she goes “There’s a job at Papa & Barkley and they’re looking for a CMO. Why don’t you go get that job and hire me because I really want to get into the cannabis industry?” And I remember saying to her, “What is it about this company that you really love and that you think that I should look at?” And she goes “Well, it’s one of the really well-respected companies. It’s education-first. And it creates and develops really wonderful products that have helped people.” And so that was my hook. I reached out directly and really fell in love with the brand story of helping those who you love the most with incredible products. Six weeks later, I was hired and then four weeks after that I hired Christina.

Being in the industry with a Chinese background and being a woman, do you feel accepted? Or do you feel like the industry still has a lot more work to do when it comes to treating people who just aren’t white men as equals in industry?

I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve not experienced any level of discrimination from being a woman or being Asian. I do notice that BIPOC [are] not as well represented within the cannabis industry. A seat at a table to be a decision maker, to be a leader within the industry, should not [be] tied to what you look like and what the color of your skin and your origin [is]. It should be tied into what you contribute to that conversation.

One of the things we’re starting to feel here in Colorado is the boom busting with cannabis. Which can be scary, but I also know it’s inevitable as more places legalize and there’s not necessarily the same type of market for tourists. So what advice are you giving brands currently that you’re working with when it comes to this unprecedented time in cannabis?

You need to understand who your core customers are. Continue to make sure that you’re taking care of them. And really be able to look for affinities with underserved consumers who you may not have had conversations with or invited into certain events. Be able to speak to their needs so that you have a wider, addressable market. [Cannabis is] very much a boots-on-the-ground type of business. [It requires] conversations, education, understanding consumer behavior. 

I know another big thing that you advocate for is sustainability. So how do you work that in when you’re working with a brand and making sure that they’re successful, but also sustainable?

Here at StateHouse, since we’re fully vertical on our farms, we’ve switched over a lot of our power usage, working directly with PG&E in terms of using less electricity in our cultivation practices. Looking at packaging, which often is wasteful, how can we reduce that? And we’re looking at ways of being able to make sure that we are conscious in terms of how we’re making all of our products.

Do you have anything that you want to specifically make sure we highlight or talk about?

We have recently opened our West Hollywood Urbn Leaf dispensary right on the Sunset Strip. So someone was asking me, “Why are you so excited about having a cannabis store on the Sunset Strip?” It’s [a] prime location. First generation cannabis retailers have been in industrial areas and zoned in places [that are] hidden somewhere [and] kind of difficult to find and look a bit shady even though it’s a legal, properly licensed facility. Being right on the Sunset Strip, we’ve really come a long way. [The store has an] open shelf shopping experience, so you can just pick up a little basket and drop your products in and actually shop as if you were in a grocery store. I love the experience of self-select where you get guidance with a budtender and have one-on-one conversations, but more importantly, you can actually pick up a product, look at the label and not feel that you’re being rushed.

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Missouri Cannabis Sales Top $1 Billion

Missouri has a new billion-dollar industry. 

Cumulative sales for marijuana reportedly topped that lofty threshold in the Show Me State earlier this month, just three months after the adult-use marijuana market launched there, and nearly three years after medical cannabis was made legal in Missouri.

Local news station KOMU reports that “Missouri surpassed $1 billion in legal cannabis sales on May 2,” an impressive milestone driven by strong recreational pot sales.

According to the station, in the three months since the state’s recreational cannabis market launched on February 3, “Missouri has sold $350.2 million, including $256.2 million of adult-use cannabis and $94 million in medical marijuana.”

Medical cannabis sales in Missouri began in October of 2020.

“For comparison, Illinois, which has twice Missouri’s population, sold a total of $188.1 million in the first three months of adult use sales in January through March 2020,” the station reported.

The early returns were promising after the state’s recreational cannabis industry launched in early February. 

In that first month, Missouri dispensaries raked in more than $100 million in marijuana sales, with $72 million coming from recreational cannabis sales and $31 million coming from medical cannabis.

Andrew Mullins, executive director of the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association (MOCann), said that the opening month of regulated sales of adult-use cannabis in the state eclipsed the launch of recreational pot sales in neighboring Illinois in 2020.

“That’s more than double what Illinois did in a state with twice the population,” Andrew Mullins, the executive director of the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association, said at the time. “So it really shows the interest and excitement for the new adult-use industry in Missouri.”

“Canna-tourism folks that may decide to come to Missouri to access and utilize cannabis,” Mullins added. “That seems to also be having an impact on the amount of sales that Missouri’s experiencing.”

Mullins sang a similar tune in comments to KOMU this week.

“Missouri’s newest billion-dollar industry is experiencing significant job growth, providing great products and services to Missourians, and becoming an integral part to the local economy throughout the state,” Mullins said, as quoted by the news station. “Missouri has avoided so many of the early hiccups that other states have experienced transitioning from a medical cannabis program focusing on quality, affordability, access and selection. Missouri’s cannabis program could not have gotten off to a better start. A sincere thank you to all the patients, customers, and small business owners that helped Missouri reach this impressive milestone.” 

Voters in Missouri last year approved Amendment 3, which legalized recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older in the state.

The amendment passed by a vote of 53% to 47%.

According to KOMU, the state “has now surpassed 14,800 direct jobs in the [cannabis] industry, and early indications are that these jobs pay higher than cannabis jobs in many other states.”

The new law has also resulted in the expungement of thousands of prior pot-related convictions in the state. 

The Riverfront Times reported in March that the “majority of expunged convictions so far [were] misdemeanors.” At that time, the paper reported, courts in the state had “granted 6,121 expungements for misdemeanors related to nonviolent cannabis offenses that did not involve selling to minors or driving under the influence of cannabis,” while more than 1,200 “felony convictions have also been expunged.”

Local news station FOX4 reports that, as of this week, “more than 31,000 past marijuana convictions have been expunged.”

“Part of the 6% sales tax buyers pay on adult use marijuana sales funds automatic expungements. The state believes the number of expunged cases will increase quickly in coming months,” the station reports.

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Kiva Confections Co-Founder Kristi Palmer Talks Inclusivity in the Cannabis Industry

Kristi Palmer, along with her husband Scott Palmer, founded Kiva Confections in their home kitchen in the early days of cannabis legalization when it was easier for smaller, mom and pop companies to find a place in the market. Today, Kiva has a foothold in several different states where cannabis is legalized. Kristi Palmer sat down with High Times to talk about her company’s journey from its humble beginnings to the booming business it has become, as well as about what the industry is currently doing for women and why that inclusivity is important.

Let’s start off with how you first got into the cannabis industry and how you eventually became co-owner of a cannabis company.

I got my start in the cannabis industry back in about 2008. My now-husband and I started a cultivation in our garden shed here in the Bay Area, trying to make ends meet when the economy was completely crashing. That got us exposed to the market to see what consumers were really demanding. We were like “Okay, I think edibles is the place where we can stand out.” First, we thought, “We need a product and a package.” We met with some designers and brand builders that we knew from our photography days, and they were like, “You need a brand.” So we sat down and [asked] what would Kiva stand for? Kiva would be professional, honest, information-forward, holistic principles that we’ll stand by today.

So this is truly a story of scaling the brand from a tiny startup to a huge company versus getting a job at a company that was already huge. As a woman in this industry, do you feel like it would have been much harder to join an existing company like that?

I think there was a lot of opportunity, even in the early days [of the cannabis industry], for women. When we were building on our sales team in the early days, we had hired a sales director and he pointed out that all of the sales reps were women. The culture of including women was just written in from the get-go.

We’ve gotten feedback in the past that Kiva used a female marketing company to appeal to women. That wasn’t explicitly the intention; that was the rumor. That was the vibe that the company was giving off: We were very approachable. We didn’t exclude anyone. We didn’t look like we were designed for the cannabis connoisseur. Our brand was just friendly and welcoming, and I think that got interpreted to mean that we specifically had women in mind.

Kristi Palmer / Courtesy Kiva Confections

What have you continued to do to make sure that the brand is inclusive and accessible for everyone?

Information-forward is huge for us. Now it’s required for regulations, but just simply displaying THC content on the front of the label [and] the specific attributes of the product. We have products for sleep; we have products that [have] uplifting effects or relaxing effects. Products like that, when they’re use-case specific or tailored to the realities of your everyday life, those tend to be easier for female consumers to get on board with.

Is there anything specific you wanted to promote and highlight right now?

We’ve got five items in our sleep lineup now. The newest ones are the Camino Sours sleep product. That one is 10 milligrams of THC, and three milligrams of CBN. It’s our blackberry flavor, and it’s incredibly delicious. 

Why do you think that’s such an important thing to highlight?

Sleep is the number one reason that consumers are looking to use cannabis. We want to put sleep front and center because so many folks are looking for help with sleep. We were in the cannabis industry 12 years now so we have a bit of experience launching items but, man, you launch a sleep product and people just flock towards it.

Courtesy Kiva Confections

Looking 5-10 years down the line, what are some of the broader goals for the brand that you hope to see come to light?

We’re continuing our out-of-state expansion efforts. There’s just incredible demand for safe, tested, trustworthy, edible products. New York is such an interesting market because it hasn’t truly opened up quite yet, but Kiva products can be found there because consumers are carrying them in their suitcase.  And then [we’re] also looking at other types of cannabinoids [such as] THC-V and CBG that offer consumers a more targeted effect than you get with THC. 

There’s a lot of women in the industry, but when you go to the conferences you don’t necessarily see women. You don’t necessarily see women around the boardroom table or in those executive-level roles. That’s something that we’re working on at Kiva. So if you have this job in marketing, what are the other jobs that you can have that you can work up to? What skills do you need to progress your career? So that would be something I would like to encourage the rest of the world, in cannabis and outside of cannabis, to try to do. In cannabis, we need to do better at moving people up and creating diversity at all levels.

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Emerald Mirror Pt. 2: The Money Left the Worm and the Apple

Let go of some of the nuanced or specific issues some of these big box canna brands have. Let go of the spiritual relationship ideology we have with plants. (Honestly most people create romantic mythics around relationships between living things, like humans and plants, while still lacking a detailed understanding of the mechanisms behind them. The order of it all.) The mythos becomes nuanced the more it stands as a placeholder to reality, a shadow on the cave walls. It doesn’t mean that the relationship between human and plant isn’t even more critical, but the early mythos has placed humans above plants in the hierarchy of order and complexity. Does that change the critical role of plants? No, of course not, and in all of our scientismo and mythical stories, plants preceded humans. They are older in existence and because of that fact, they will exist before and after human life, always. Does that make them a god? No. They are an element in the symbiotic order of all life here, in this moment, on this planet. All connected in some way by the life that preceded them. We were and are here to benefit by their position in existence, play our role as caretakers and give them a name. Perhaps go even deeper and reciprocate thought and intention so like us, that form of critical life is also evolved. 

Zoom back in a little. 

What’s going on in the cannabis space?

Here’s my guess. Things were going south prior to COVID. The pandemic created a false world in many industries. Cannabis was one. Operators in the cannabis space are gamblers. It’s in the blood. Every run is a gamble, every sale, every call or meeting. When you clean up the odds it’s an incredible high. Also, like most gamblers, degenerate behavior is concentrated. Some of it we can live with, some of it we can’t. And almost everyone in this space has been guilty of creating terribly muddy deals where the space for ethically faded behavior can thrive and grow. Those two elements collided with the pandemic false world. Now we are back where we were and everyone is scratching their heads like the last three years wasn’t a sugar laced death pill.

If you’ve been on the sidelines just watching and not participating or if you have entered the space in the last ten years it would be easy to think that all of these bad deals are the result of some newly maligned precedent. I can tell you, it is not. It is the same behavior from back in the medical days just amplified by more money and the majority acceptance of the people. That can change. Big time. There are already pushes for that and the current state is volatile. Things are chaotic in the overall world, and new trends or ideas from another world view can easily emerge. 

So if we are watching the old guards’ degeneracy bloom into a self eating parasite, there needs to be a quick shift with whoever is still operating and isn’t planning to sell their company to big pharma, tobacco, AG, beverage, or worse, investment groups like Blackrock. Those of us who still have gas in the tank, still love the craft and have some equity in the industry, we have to bury the hatchet, clean up the mess and move forward with a new mission statement and an evolved order of how we work with each other. 

I’ll provide an example of how this is not happening and the cost. New York is coming online and the clandestine growers of New York are now stepping out. Some of the best weed I’ve ever smoked was grown in New York. What’s happening is that products from flooded markets are hitting New York at flooded prices rapidly reducing the early value that existed in early markets prior. The New York growers are now sitting in the same world as many small growers in California but without the time those growers have to at least make an attempt using early market pricing to build and grow. The resentment is there and it will grow. Another tribe will form. 

The possible value that Cali growers supporting New York growers would have for the overall global market has now been reduced. The advantage lost to territorial pissing. 

On the licensed end it wouldn’t surprise me if some NY conglomerate sues the state of California for utter negligence in managing their program. They have a case. It’s an ugly one. 

So my proposal to everyone is that we at the very least begin to try something else. We can start by letting go of this Pinky and the Brain pursuit and make choices that benefit more of the whole and less for the one. The benefit for the one is also not a good look or flex. In fact if your persona is based on material gain and wealth you are not reading the room well. That is a dead way. So table the degeneracy, the one-upmanship, and the motley-crew-meets-death-row trajectory. Stop practicing the role of the predator and start practicing the role of the caretaker. In service to the people (your customers), the future of the industry and the enjoyment that comes from working with this plant. The drama is tired. It used to have a bit more humor, but it’s hard to laugh because the humor of it all is what’s supposed to initiate the change in behavior. It’s not funny when it doesn’t fire off. This era has fucked all our heads up. It’s becoming a black mirror. 

The garden is the mirror of our actions.

This tech world is a mirror of self-centered illusions. Which isn’t surprising. It was built by nerds obsessed with fantastical superheroes in fit forming tights.

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STIIIZY Offers MJ Production Jobs to 400 Laid-Off Burger King Workers in Michigan

STIIIZY, a prominent cannabis brand best known for its vaporizers, has offered to hire laid-off Burger King workers after a franchise owner closed 26 locations last week, mostly in the Detroit metro area. More than 400 total workers were laid off as a result of the closures. STIIIZY is based in California and has three retail locations and a production facility in Michigan.

The cannabis company announced the move on Twitter Monday, “We recently offered 400+ jobs to Burger King employees that were laid off due to closures in/around Detroit!” The STIIIZY Twitter account also shared a link and screenshot to a Crime News Detroit Instagram post, which provides further details.

Ahead of the social media announcement, STIIIZY Managing Partner Ryan Jundt also appeared on WWJ 950 News Radio on April 22 to dive into the company’s decision.

“Last night, I actually read the Detroit News article, where it spoke about 400-plus people losing their jobs from Burger King,” Jundt told host Mike Campbell. “And, at the same time when there’s a depressing message, we wanted to bring a message of hope.”

The workers were offered jobs at the STIIIZY production facility in Orion Township, where the company produces a variety of cannabis products, including its pod vape line, infused blunts and pre-rolls. Jundt mentioned that positions within the manufacturing department have a very similar skill set to fast food work.

“So, they would be rolling blunts, joints and filling vape cartridges,” Jundt said. “So, they would be going from burgers to blunts and joints.”

According to Jundt, the company is offering to fill “a little over 200 positions near immediately.” Over the “next three to four months,” Jundt said, STIIIZY may also hire the remaining 200-plus former Burger King workers if there is enough interest. Workers would have the option to choose between part-time or full-time work.

“It’s a great work environment, full-time hours. You get benefits after 90 days, and people seem to enjoy it,” Jundt said.

The new jobs start at $16 an hour for the day shift and $16.50 for the night shift, plus benefits, more than Burger King’s average pay for non-managerial positions. Campbell mentioned that the rate is a “nice start” but still challenging for employees to make a living on.

Jundt replied, estimating that about 80-90% of the company’s management team started in entry-level positions.

“We’re growing crazy,” Jundt said. “Here in Michigan, we’ve actually only been able to launch about half of our product lines. So we need many, many jobs. And when there’s more jobs, we need more managers. So as long as you’re willing to work hard and be dedicated to what you do, you can move up very quickly in this company.”

According to the Texas-based Burger King franchise owner, EYM King of Michigan, the closings were due to “unforeseen business circumstances” and failure to reach an agreement with Burger King Corp., according to a WARN notice sent to Michigan’s labor department and a Detroit Free Press report. 

In the letter, EYM King of Michigan stated the 26 locations would close beginning March 17 and be completed by April 15. Burger King Corp. are also alleging “breaches of written agreement,” in a lawsuit filed against Eduardo E. Diaz, EYM King of Michigan, LLC and EYM King, L.P.

Jundt said laid-off Burger King workers simply need to send their full name, phone number and email address to Resumes can also be attached via email, but they aren’t required. 

“We’re really excited to have people apply,” Jundt added.

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