Week in Review: Snoop Goes Global; Colorado’s Cannabis Consumption Bus; A Big Chicago First

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” said Matthew Broderick as 1980s’ icon Ferris Bueller. The same can be said for the cannabis industry. There’s always something new happening.

PHOTO Sterling Munksgard

Snoop Inks Partnership With Atlas Global Brands

Snoop Dogg’s eye on global domination took another step forward following an announcement that the entrepreneur and hip-hop legend signed an “exclusive international licensing agreement” with Canada-based global cannabis company Atlas Global Brands Inc.

“Consumers love Snoop, and our collective goal is to deliver premium products in all cannabis categories that will consistently exceed consumer expectations,” Bernie Yeung, Atlas Global CEO, said in a statement.

The five-year agreement will allow Atlas Global to selectively “source, package and distribute directly in Canada and through approved distribution partners internationally,” including medical cannabis products in Germany, Israel and Australia.

This significant deal also gives Atlas Global exclusive rights to the artist’s name, likeness and other intellectual property “to produce, package, manufacture, distribute, sell, advertise, promote and market cannabis flowers, pre-rolls, concentrates, oils and edibles, and personal vaporizers” in legal markets.

“I chose Atlas to represent and launch my new brands because of their innovation and global reach. I am excited to work with their team to select my favorite strains for my brands and fans,” Snoop Dogg said. “You know they’ll be amazing because they’ll be personally approved by me.”

Sarah Woodson of The Cannabis Experience
The Cannabis Experience founder, Sarah Woodson. PHOTO Kush & Canvases

Roll Up and Roll Out on the Cannabis Experience

Toking tourists and weed-loving locals alike can now enjoy the sights of Denver on the country’s first licensed cannabis consumption bus. Founded by local entrepreneur Sarah Woodson, the Cannabis Experience is meant to provide safe, legal cannabis tours, airport transportation and private party buses that are cannabis friendly, as well as visits to cannabis farms and dispensaries. Private party bus rentals will also offer food and art themes such as “Toking and Tacos” and “RiNo Mural Tours.”

The Cannabis Experience is Woodson’s latest foray into cannabis tourism in the city. The former consultant for Marijuana Industry Group also founded the highly popular consumption-friendly cannabis art class, Kush & Canvases, and says she is “helping move the needle forward in the legalization fight.”

“The Cannabis industry is extremely regulated and not diverse. It took us almost a year to become operational, so we’re excited to be the country’s first safe, legal, licensed mobile hospitality business,” Woodson says. “We’re social equity and African American. We’ll have amazing tours, and grow our fleet over the next 24 months and work on expanding into other local cities such as Aurora. We’re proud to be in the cannabis industry.”

Although there have been previous cannabis buses operating in Colorado, they weren’t officially permitted and were all shut down by authorities. The Cannabis Experience, on the other hand, possesses both a local license and a state-issued cannabis hospitality permit. Here’s how to book your seat.

Grasshopper Club founders
Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck celebrate the opening of the Grasshopper Club.

The Grasshopper Club Opens in Chicago

A family-owned company just made history as Chicago’s first independent, Black-owned dispensary. Located in Logan Square, in the 2500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, the Grasshopper Club is owned by Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck, along with some “minor silent investors.”

“We don’t have a relationship or get support or have an arrangement with one of the large, publicly-owned cannabis companies,” Matthew told ABC 7 Chicago.

“I’m working on the accounting aspects of this business,” Dianne said. “I’m totally excited. I retired 12 years ago and here I am working again.”

For Chuck, the opening is something of a full circle, as he was arrested for cannabis possession a few times in his youth. “For me to be doing this legally with my brother and my mother…it’s priceless,” he said.

When Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act went into effect in 2020, “social equity” provisions were included in legislation to help communities harmed by past drug policies access the economic benefits of cannabis legalization. But, according to Dianne, it’s been a struggle for some, and her family has pledged to support other African Americans to open more independent dispensaries. “They call it social equity, but you’ve got to have the money to be able to open, and many African Americans don’t have that money,” she says.

The Brewer family plans to open a second Chicago-based dispensary this summer.

California cannabis
PHOTO Konrad

Cannabis Sales Drop in California

According to the latest statistics released by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (DTFA), annual cannabis sales in the Golden State declined in 2022 for the first time since its adult-use market launched in 2018, reports MJBiz.

The fourth quarter’s taxable sales fell 8.2% to $5.3 billion from the $5.77 reported in the same period last year, marking the third consecutive quarterly decline. Additionally, tax revenue was close to $1.1 billion in 2022, a 21% decrease from around $1.4 billion in 2021. Despite the decline, California continues to account for about 20% of the $26 billion market.

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Aaron Rodgers To Speak at Denver Psychedelics Conference

NFL star quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be a featured speaker at a psychedelics conference to be held in Denver this summer, less than a year after Colorado voters decriminalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms. Touted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) as the “largest psychedelic gathering in history,” the Psychedelic Science 2023 conference will take place in June at the Colorado Convention Center.

Last year, the Green Bay Packers star quarterback revealed that he had traveled to South America to try the psychedelic ayahuasca on more than one occasion. Rodgers said that the experience changed his mindset and had a positive effect on his mental health, crediting the drug with helping him subsequently be selected as the NFL’s most valuable player two seasons in a row. In December, he added that using ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms has helped him cope with a strong fear of death he has had since he was a teenager.

Rodgers has been very open about his use of psychedelics and has said he hopes that sharing his experience can help dispel the stigma attached to the powerful compounds. And in June, he will be one of more than 300 speakers to address the Psychedelic Science 2023 conference in Denver. Presented by MAPS, the gathering has been hailed by the psychedelics research and advocacy nonprofit organization as the “definitive event of the psychedelic renaissance.”

“Aaron Rodgers will be interviewed by Aubrey Marcus at Psychedelic Science 2023 about his experiences with Ayahuasca, which he’s previously spoken about on Aubrey’s podcast,” said MAPS founder and executive director Rick Doblin. “We’re delighted Aaron is open to sharing his views at what will become the world’s largest psychedelic conference ever.” 

Psychedelic drugs including LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca have received renewed interest from researchers for their potential to treat a wide range of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance misuse disorders. In November, Colorado voters took new steps in psychedelic policy reform with the passage of Proposition 122, a ballot measure to legalize the possession and therapeutic use of certain natural psychedelic drugs including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline, for people age 21 and older. The measure also authorizes the establishment of “healing centers” where adults can obtain access to natural psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. The measure, which passed with more than 53% of the vote, is now in the process of being implemented by state officials.

Aaron Rodgers And Psychedelics

Last weekend during an appearance on the The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers said that he would make a decision about retiring from professional football after he takes a four-day “darkness retreat” later this month. The 18-year NFL veteran said that the retreat will include “‘sensory deprivation isolation’ that will simulate the drug DMT with the potential for hallucinations,” according to a report from CBS Sports. 

“It’s an opportunity to do a little self-reflection in some isolation and after that, I feel like I’ll be a lot closer to that final, final decision,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “I’ve had a number of friends who’ve done it and they had profound experiences.” 

In August, Rodgers revealed that he had traveled to South America to take ayahuasca before being selected as the league’s most valuable player in back-to-back seasons, saying the traditional psychedelic brew changed his thinking and significantly improved his mental health. Rodgers made the revelations about ayahuasca experiences during an appearance on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast, saying that the psychedelic drug helped him find self-love and mental wellness.

The Super Bowl champion quarterback said he made the trip to South America before winning the MVP award for the third and fourth time. Following the ayahuasca experience, he said, he “knew that [he] was never going to be the same.”

“For me, I didn’t do that and think ‘oh, I’m never playing football again,’” Rodgers said, as quoted by USA Today. “No, it gave me a deep and meaningful appreciation for life. My intention the first night going in was ‘I want to feel what pure love feels like.’ That was my intention. And I did. I really did. I had a magical experience with the sensation of feeling a hundred different hands on my body imparting a blessing of love and forgiveness for myself and gratitude for this life from what seemed to be my ancestors.”

The Psychedelic Science 2023 conference takes place at the Colorado Convention Center from June 19 through June 23. Other featured speakers include Doblin, groundbreaking researcher Robin Carhart-Harris, wellness guru Deepak Chopra, and Amanda Feilding, the executive director at the U.K.-based psychedelics advocacy organization the Beckley Foundation.

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Denver Drops Charges Against Rabbi Ben Gorelick

The Denver district attorney’s office has dropped felony drugs charges filed against Rabbi Ben Gorelick, citing voters’ approval of a psilocybin legalization ballot measure in last month’s midterm elections. At a preliminary hearing in the case on December 8, prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against Gorelick and a chemist arrested in a police raid last winter, saying the motion was filed “in the interest of justice.”

Carolyn Tyler, a Denver District Attorney’s Office spokesperson, said that the decision to dismiss the felony charges against the defendants was made “in light of the voters’ decision” to approve Proposition 122. Colorado voters approved the initiative measure, which legalizes psilocybin for therapeutic purposes, in the November 8 election with nearly 54% of ballots cast.

“I don’t know what everything got dismissed on or for,” Gorelick told The Denver Post. “At this point in time, what I can tell you is I’m very, very, very grateful to the DA’s office for dropping the case. It’s been a long year for the community, it’s been a long year for us, and we look forward to getting back to practicing our religion, which is what the whole point of this is.”

Gorelick is the founder of The Sacred Tribe, a religious group based in Denver that uses psilocybin and other methods as paths to spiritual enlightenment. In January, police raided a warehouse in Denver where he was allegedly growing more than 30 varieties of psychedelic mushrooms. Gorelick was arrested the following month and charged with possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance, a first-degree felony. In June, he told High Times that he intended to fight the charges, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of at least eight years, on religious freedom grounds.

Group Ends Psychedelics Services After Raid

After the police raid earlier this year, The Sacred Tribe temporarily suspended its activities. The group has since begun meeting again for religious dinners and other events without the use of psilocybin. Elle Logan, who has been a member of the group since last year, said the case “broke the community in a lot of ways,” but added that she was not surprised when the charges against Gorelick were dropped.

“The psychedelic movement, the plant medicine movement, and with Prop 122 passing, there’s amazing momentum going into a brand new future that looks really different for a lot of people in terms of mental health and spiritual wellness,” Logan said. “Ben’s heart has been in that place from the get-go… I’ve known his heart the whole time, that’s never been in question and I’m glad the court saw it too.”

Gorelick maintains that there is a long tradition of psychedelics in Judaism, although other Jewish leaders who advocate for the use of psychedelics dispute his assertion of their history. One of those advocates, Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, who was ordained by an Orthodox rabbi in Israel, formed the psychedelics advocacy group Shefa and hopes that one day the powerful compounds will become an accepted part of Jewish spirituality. 

Kamenetz took part in a study that researched the effect psilocybin has on religious leaders. He supports the use of psilocybin for spiritual purposes, although he warns that until they are legalized, psychedelics should only be taken as part of approved research.

“I’m one of the very few people who can say they’ve had a legal experience with psychedelics in this country,” Kamenetz said last year. “To be able to speak freely about it without the stigma — because it’s not just people talking about doing illegal things — it’s allowed people to start having a more open conversation about it. When there’s the opportunity to hear from someone who did this in a legal environment, people will listen more.”

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Report Breaks Down the Best and Worst U.S. Cities for Cannabis Vacations

Upgraded Points, a travel information site, released a data report on Oct. 24 detailing which U.S. states are best and worst for a “canna-cation.”

For the top best places, the first three included Colorado cities of Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs; followed by Oakland and San Jose, California; Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada; and lastly, Portland, Maine (the only east coast state to make the list). “In these states, economies of scale have been built over the last decade, bolstered by a booming weed market that includes dispensaries, farm tours, and cannabis lounges,” said Alex Miller, Upgraded Points founder. “The industry supports over 83,000 jobs in California alone.”

Upgraded Points analysts based their report on a four-day cannabis vacation for one person. They based their results on numerous averages, such as roundtrip airfare, fast food meats and other meal prices, nightly lodging, local rideshare rates, the current price of 1/4 ounce of weed, and the cost of a 100 mg pack of edibles.

The report shows that in western states, cannabis flower prices are more affordable than eastern flower, and northern states also have a higher price for vacation factors as well. The top most expensive states include Burlington, Vermont; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Boston, Massachusetts. “Canna-cations in eastern states like Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts can be much pricier… as the infrastructure for using, purchasing, and producing cannabis is far less established in these areas,” Miller said.

The most cost-efficient locations were Oakland, California ($1,068 per day) and Spokane, Washington ($1,135 per day). Both of these locations were noted as 22% cheaper than the national average, which is $1,262.

Unsurprisingly, Denver was at the top of the list because of its many cannabis-related attractions, such as bus tours and a plethora of licensed dispensaries. Other more affordable locations include states on the west coast, especially those with an adult-use market that has been in place for anywhere between 6-10 years.

Locations such as Washington, D.C., Illinois, and Vermont record some of the highest flower prices, such as $590.50 for one ounce.

According to Miller, the U.S. cannabis tourism industry will only continue to grow. “Cannabis tourism is flourishing. The U.S. cannabis industry now supports more than 428,000 jobs and is anticipated to exceed $72 billion in sales by 2030. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 19 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam, and weed tourism will only grow as more states are poised to legalize recreational retail sales of marijuana later this year. If you’re looking for the ideal destination for your ‘canna-cation’ this year, the grass is greener in cities like Denver, Oakland, Boulder, and Portland.”

A report released in June 2022 projected that the U.S. cannabis tourism industry could be valued at $17 billion. “By 2025, 50% of travelers in the U.S. are going to be millennials,” Cannabis Travel Association Founder Brian Applegarth. “And their relationship to cannabis consumption is extremely normalized compared to the stigmatized industry leaders of today.”

On an international scale, the tourism industry is beginning to open up. While Canada’s adult-use program is thriving, bringing cannabis over the border was prohibited, as of July 2021. In Amsterdam, cannabis tourism is being discouraged. However, in November 2021, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates ended jail time for travelers with THC.

Aside from the usual cannabis attractions, such as grow tours and having multiple dispensaries to choose from, cannabis-themed museums have continually begun to grow. In June, a hemp museum opened in Spain, and continues through February 2023. A Croatian museum also opened up back in April in the city capital of Zagreb. In 2019, the University of California, Berkeley had a limited exhibit called “Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances.” Of course, Las Vegas will soon become home to a museum called the Cannabition Cannabis Museum, and the city council also recently approved consumption lounges in September which is expected to boost tourism numbers.

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Denver Signs off on Weed Delivery for Social Equity Companies

The Denver City Council on Monday signed off on a measure designed to bolster the city’s cannabis delivery services, and do right by individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs.

Axios reports that city lawmakers “approved a measure that will make delivery exclusivity permanent for social equity transporters, or business owners considered disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs,” and will also slash “licensing fees for social equity delivery companies and the retailers they partner with.”

The new ordinance is a lifeline of sorts to struggling delivery companies. As Axios explains, Colorado’s capital city “launched its weed delivery program last year — which requires dispensaries to deliver through social equity transporters through July 2024 — nine of Denver’s 206 pot shops offer the service.”

“With few businesses to deliver for, the licensed social equity transporters are faced with ‘severe challenges’ to avoid going out of business,” Axios reports.

City officials in Denver passed a measure permitting cannabis deliveries in the city last year, designating the licenses exclusively for social equity candidates for a period of three years.

With that rule scheduled to expire in 2024, the ordinance passed by the city council on Monday makes it permanent.

Molly Duplechian, the executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, said last year that the word on the street was that a number of cannabis dispensaries were waiting for the three-year exclusive period for social equity applicants to end before entering the delivery business.

“What we’ve heard is that some of the existing industry may have been waiting the exclusivity period out, or they could have been investing in a social equity transporter and then planning to move to do their own delivery in two years,” Duplechian said.

But weed delivery in the Mile High City has been a slow burn thus far. As Axios reports, the Denver cannabis market “might be so oversaturated with dispensaries that delivery will struggle to catch on,” and the “reality is that many people would rather pick up their pot than pay extra for delivery.”

Eric Escudero, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Excise and Licenses, said that cannabis delivery services have been slow to get off the ground in Denver.

“It is easy to see that Denver preventing stores from doing their own delivery so social equity businesses have the first crack at this business type is resulting in the industry choosing profit over supporting more equitable access to the industry,” Escudero told local news station 9News.

The station reported that Escudero “said only one in 20 Denver dispensaries offer delivery services,” compared with “80% of stores in Aurora, where the dispensaries can do their own delivery.”

According to the station, the social equity requirements “mandate delivery services be owned by people who lived in disadvantaged areas, make less than 50% of the state’s median income, or who have a personal or familial past marijuana charge or arrest,” and Escudero contends that “extending that requirement forever will incentivize dispensaries to make a deal” with delivery drivers.

“[It] gives the market regulatory certainty so any stores holding out for the opportunity to do their own delivery in two years have no reason to hold out anymore,” Escudero said, as quoted by 9News.

The newly passed ordinance may be enough to keep struggling delivery companies in business.

The station highlighted Michael Diaz-Rivera, owner of Better Days Delivery, who “said his company would likely not make it without city council intervention.”

“It has been tough getting dispensaries to match with us, and we can’t do anything without dispensaries buying in,” Diaz-Rivera said. “Business has been slow.”

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Denver Weed Delivery Services Face Mile-High Challenges

When city officials in Denver, Colorado authorized home delivery of cannabis products in April of last year, licenses for cannabis delivery services were reserved for social equity businesses for a period of three years. Under the plan, delivery services owned by entrepreneurs who have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs would partner with the city’s licensed marijuana dispensaries to complete customer deliveries.

The goal of the plan was to help create a diverse cannabis industry in the city while giving people who had been harmed by marijuana prohibition policies a path to business ownership in the regulated market. To qualify, owners or a family member had to have an arrest or conviction for a marijuana offense, or applicants had to meet certain residency requirements. But more than a year into the program, the social equity cannabis delivery service business owners in Denver are facing challenges that threaten the viability of their enterprises.

The business owners and regulators cite high licensing costs, a saturated cannabis market and a lack of support from retailers as some of the barriers to success in the industry. Of the 206 licensed cannabis dispensaries in Denver, only nine have opted to partner with a social equity business to provide delivery service for their customers. Molly Duplechian, the executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, said that many dispensaries might be waiting for the three-year exclusivity period for social equity delivery services to expire before launching their own home delivery programs.

“What we’ve heard is that some of the existing industry may have been waiting the exclusivity period out, or they could have been investing in a social equity transporter and then planning to move to do their own delivery in two years,” Duplechian told local media.

The High Cost of Getting People High

Some retailers cite the high permitting fees associated with launching home delivery services while others note steep delivery fees and difficulties updating existing software for placing orders to integrate with the delivery partners’ operations. Others say with so many weed shops in town, most customers would rather shop in person than pay extra to have it delivered. Whatever the reason, the challenges have become unsurmountable for some delivery business owners.

In August 2021, the marijuana delivery service Dooba made news when it became the first company to deliver cannabis in Denver legally. Ari Cohen, the owner of the business, qualified as a social equity applicant because of a past marijuana conviction. But less than a year after the initial headline-grabbing delivery, Cohen’s business is faltering and he is shutting Dooba down.

“About a month before licenses were due for renewal, we decided not to go forward,” Cohen told Westword. “There were significant costs associated with it, and we’ve had limited and stagnant growth.”

“The more regulations we have to follow and fees that pile up, the harder it is for businesses, and the more resources it takes to meet those requirements,” explained Cohen. “Cannabis is one of Colorado’s most highly regulated industries, and that comes with a lot of high costs. Businesses are closing down because they can’t make ends meet. You’re seeing it with store groups and cultivations out here already.”

At least one additional business, Mile High Cargo, is also declining to renew its license, according to Eric Escudero, a spokesperson for the Excise and Licenses Department. Michael Diaz-Rivera, a social equity owner who operates the Denver-based Better Days Delivery, said that the fact that Dooba is ceasing operations does not bode well for other cannabis delivery services in Denver.

“[Cohen] had the business chops. … He had more dispensary partners than me,” Diaz-Rivera told Politico. “Am I just throwing money into a bottomless pit because I’ve been sold this dream of generational wealth that might already be gone?”

Noting how few cannabis dispensaries in Denver have partnered with social equity delivery services, Diaz-Rivera believes that many retailers are waiting for the three-year exclusivity period to end before they launch their own cannabis home delivery services.

“A year and a half has already gone up [with] this exclusivity. And the dispensaries are just waiting it out,” Diaz-Rivera said. “What good does it do for us if they know that they can just wait?”

Denver Proposes Extending Social Equity Exclusivity for Cannabis Delivery

To help support the city’s social equity cannabis delivery services, Denver officials have proposed making licenses for cannabis delivery services exclusive to social equity businesses on a permanent basis.

“We’re one year into one adopting delivery, but also adopting our social equity program. And based on feedback we’ve heard from our transporters and the industry, there’s just not a high level of industry participation,” said Molly Duplechian, Denver Department of Excise and Licenses executive director. “So what we want to do is we want to provide certainty to our social equity transporters that they have a path going forward beyond just the next two years.”

The proposal also includes a reduction in licensing fees for social equity delivery services and the retail dispensaries that partner with them to provide home delivery.

“Some fees are going from $2,000 all the way down to $25. So we’re really trying to reduce and remove any barrier that stands in the way,” Duplechian said.

The Excise and Licenses Department expects to finalize its proposed changes to the social equity program before presenting them to the Denver City Council. If the proposal is adopted by the council, it would go into effect within a few weeks, according to media reports.

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New Cannabis and Hemp Certification Acknowledged by Attorney General Alliance

Attorney generals from across the U.S. agreed to officially recognize the launch of The Public Health & Safety Cannabis Financial Service Certification, which was announced at the Attorney General Alliance’s (AGA) Cannabis Project Conference in Denver, Colorado on April 20-21.

The certification serves as a way to assist both “law enforcement and state regulators” in identifying legal cannabis businesses from illegal operations, and addresses banking issues as well. “In absence of federal regulation and oversight, the need for an independent versus self-certification is imminent. As the cannabis industry grows, we must have banking safeguards to mitigate illicit and criminal conduct. This is an important first step to give guidance to state attorneys general and lawmakers while raising the bar for the industry,” said AGA Executive Director Karen White. “The certification brings banking and financial transparency to ensure the safety of the monetary system for institutions banking hemp and cannabis.”

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas presented certifications at the conference as well. “It is crucial to know where cannabis and hemp operators are banking to maintain a level of compliance,” said Balderas. “This certification will give regulators that insight. Additionally, hemp and cannabis operators can stand by their own financial and operational integrity as they subject themselves to volunteer audits.”

A pilot program was completed for the certification in October 2021, which was the culmination of work of ASTM International, an organization that spans more than 900 members, and 28 different country governments. “I am pleased to see that what was envisioned over a year ago is complete,” White said last year. “A program such as this which provides support to law enforcement and assists in issues related to public health and safety, consumer protection, and rule-of-law are necessary in this maturing industry where compliance is a distinguishing attribute.”

Banking continues to be major problem in the cannabis industry. Most recently, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act in February, and while there has continually been support for banking legislation, full support of congress has not yet occurred. The need for safe banking is necessary, especially in light of recent events in Washington state where multiple cannabis dispensary robberies recently occurred. Two minors, 15 and 16 years old, killed dispensary employee Jordan Brown, who worked at World of Weed in Tacoma, and are also responsible for numerous other robberies.

The SAFE Banking Act was first introduced by Ed Perlmutter in 2013, during a time when only Washington and Colorado had legalized recreational cannabis. On April 19, Perlmutter wrote a letter to Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Booker, Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, and Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Sherrod Brown. “The SAFE Banking Act is an immediate solution to get cash off our streets and ensure state-legal, legitimate businesses can operate like any other type of business, particularly small and minority-owned cannabis businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by the lack of banking services,” Perlmutter wrote. “It will also make our communities safer from the increased risk of robberies facing cannabis businesses and employees which continue to occur, including three people who died during robberies in one-week last month in Washington state.”

Perlmutter implores his addressees to embrace the SAFE Banking Act. “We share the same goals to fully reform federal cannabis laws. We cannot let our fight for comprehensive cannabis reform stall progress this year. This would be to the detriment of thousands of state-legal businesses, their employees, and the safety of our communities,” he concluded in his letter. “As you work through the summer to finalize comprehensive cannabis legislation, I ask you and your colleagues to take the first step in reforming our cannabis laws and pass the SAFE Banking Act in the America COMPETES Act or as a standalone bill as soon as possible.”

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Cannabis Hospitality Licenses Approved in Denver

Applications were accepted starting in November 2021, and the first licenses were granted earlier this month. One such business, Tetra Lounge which is located in downtown Denver, is both a social equity applicant and a soon-to-be owner of a hospitality license (once the proper inspections have been completed), as of March 21.

Tetra Lounge owner Dewayne Benjamin hopes that things will be finalized soon, since there is less than one month to go before the arrival of 4/20. “The goal has always been to prove the model to the city. Back when I opened in 2018, they just released the first hospitality rules, which didn’t allow smoking. The plan was to get the license with that smoking provision,” Benjamin told Westword. “People travel from all around the world to smoke cannabis in Denver, and a lot of them don’t know how it affects them or where they can consume.”

Benjamin shared his thoughts on the importance of having a legal place for both locals as well as visitors to consume, especially since Denver is a hotspot for tourism. “We’re already one of the biggest tourist attractions for the cannabis industry in Colorado, and we want to use Tetra as a social place and a spot for education for the state,” Benjamin adds. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long, and we’re ready to get started.” In the past, the Tetra Lounge operated as a private social club.

In an interview with 9News, Benjamin also shared that his business offers a daily membership that gives customers access to the lounge for a full day, as well as a monthly or annual membership for residents or frequent visitors.

The Coffee Joint also now has a hospitality license. Previously, it was the only operator permitted to allow on-site consumption, as long as it happened outside. The city’s program was reworked, and The Coffee Joint’s license has been grandfathered in for the new hospitality rules.

Two more applications for hospitality licenses are still pending. The Patterson Inn, a popular destination for ghost hunters, recently received a recommendation from a hearing officer to be approved for a cannabis hospitality license, as of a March 4 hearing. “Today was an important step in this process,” Owner Chris Chiari said after the hearing. “Licensing businesses of this kind is the best route forward for the city to be able to regulate and take enforcement action when needed.” Chiari has plans to feature a cannabis-friendly area for hotel guests, although consumption in hotel rooms would not be permitted, and guests must bring their own cannabis, as there would be no sales on site.

The Denver Weed Lounge is also applying to be both a hospitality license owner, as well as offering sales, and if approved it would allow customers to purchase cannabis and consume it on-site.

The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Communications Director Eric Escudero told The Denver Gazette about the program’s social equity focus. “For the first six years of the program, only people designated as social equity applicants are authorized to apply for a hospitality establishment,” Escudero said. “We want to achieve the full promise of legalization, and that in our mind is making sure there’s equitable access so more people can benefit economically—not just those who have financial advantage or advantage of connections.”

It has taken some time for this program to come to fruition. The Denver City Council approved smoking lounges in April 2021.

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Brand Spotlight: Mary’s Medicinals

From a young age, Allie Greenstone had known that she wanted to work with cannabis. When, during her college years in Michigan, medical marijuana ended up on the ballot, she printed over a hundred T-shirts that read “Yes to Prop 1” in a kitschy, leafy font. Fittingly, she started her career as a budtender in Denver, while also keeping up with the latest in cultivar and cannabinoid research.

Greenstone’s well-rounded knowledge of and appreciation for cannabis would eventually land her a place at Mary’s Medicinals, where she now works as a brand representative and national educator. The first job speaks for itself, but the second might require a bit of an explanation. In short, Greenstone is responsible for educating the brand’s budtenders and informing its consumers.

The role of educator isn’t exactly common among cannabis companies, many of which prioritize marketing over R&D. But for Mary’s—a Denver-based, female-led business founded in 2013—learning and growing have always been part of the curriculum. Even as the brand expands into uncharted territory, its mission to “distill the wisdom of plants” continues to govern day-to-day operations.

Courtesy of Mary’s Medicinals

Mary’s Medicinals Presents: Pens and Patches

Bridging the gap between technology and horticulture, Mary’s Medicinals delivered one of the first patented cannabis products in the United States: the transdermal gel pen. The pen, which has been released in CBD, CBN, Indica and Sativa varieties, provides consistent and reliable effects the likes of which—according to consumers, at least—purely recreational cannabis simply cannot offer.

Greenstone and her colleagues would concur, as Mary’s was the first and—to this day—one of regrettably few cannabis brands that tests products at its own locations in addition to third-party research facilities. Armed with its own team of in-house scientists and lab-testing equipment, Mary’s is able to maintain the strictest of quality control guidelines.

That’s good news, especially considering many patrons use Mary’s products to treat or find relief from a variety of physical and mental ailments, ranging from inflammation to anxiety. According to Greenstone, customers have also found success in using Mary’s products with regards to brain fog, motivation, focus, and—on some occasions—specific medical conditions such as ADHD and endometriosis.

Topical Versus Transdermal 

Just as, if not more, infamous than the transdermal pens are Mary’s transdermal patches. These patches, which come in similar varieties as the pen, work best when they are applied on veinous parts of the body, such as the top of the foot or the inside of the wrist. Once applied, the effects usually take between 15 and 30 minutes to kick in, and can last up to 12 hours. 

One of Greenstone’s tasks as an educator is explaining how these innovative products work. “Nine out of 10 budtenders do not understand the difference between transdermal and topical,” she tells High Times. Whereas topical solutions only affect the surface area of the skin, Mary’s pens and patches go past the epidermis. As a result, their effects not only reach farther, but last longer too.

Another benefit of the patches and pens is that their usage is discreet. They do not require bongs or pipes to be consumed, and customers are able to experience their benefits without first having to fill their living room with smoke. In a way, these products helped cement Mary’s as a brand which is more interested in cannabis’ therapeutic properties than its recreational value.

The Benefits of Having a Regimen

Though the industry gets more saturated with each passing year, Mary’s has been able to separate itself from the competition by presenting itself as the go-to cannabis brand for everyday consumers. Sure, there are many businesses that sell to people who consume some form of cannabis every day. However, Mary’s is the only one that’s been specifically designed for the benefit of this target demographic.

Currently, everyday users are faced with two large problems: tolerance and money. The more often they use cannabis products, the more their tolerance goes up. And the more their tolerance goes up, the larger the quantity of cannabis products they will have to buy. This would be fine, if we lived in a world where cannabis was considered an essential medicine and those who need it received financial support.

Unfortunately, we don’t. While medicinal cannabis has been legalized in a number of states, in general, it is still seen—and treated—as a luxury product, one that tends to come with a hefty price tag. Mary’s aims to solve this issue. Not only are their pens, patches and other creations affordable, but the research-focused environment in which they are developed ensures that your tolerance levels stay constant.


Instead of encouraging customers to buy more products, Mary’s focuses on developing products that provide them with everything they need. “Bioavailability,” is the word that Greenstone keeps coming back to during this part of our discussion, and it refers to the percentage of and rate at which the active ingredients of Mary’s products are absorbed into the bloodstream. 

The higher a product’s bioavailability, the more consumers will be able to get out of that product. And the more consumers will be able to get out of a product, the better suited that product will be for long-term use. This is Mary’s ultimate goal—to sell cannabis products that provide a safe, sustainable and predictable experience for people consuming marijuana on a regular basis. 

Consequently, Mary’s products work best when they are part of a regimen, rather than on-the-spot treatments for unexpected issues or cravings. “You won’t experience the optimal benefit when you are 10 or 20 days into it,” Greenstone exclaims. “But once you hit that four, six or eight-week mark of regimen usage, you’ll start to notice.”

Mary's Medicinals
Courtesy of Mary’s Medicinals

From Entourage to Ensemble

In a world where so many people use cannabis recreationally or when they are in need of a quick fix, this approach may seem confusing at first. However, the way in which Mary’s products are designed to be used is greatly informed by ongoing research into the mysterious chemical makeup and promising medicinal properties of cannabinoids.

Until recently, there was only one cannabinoid everybody cared about: THC. The letters were used as a major selling point when the first American dispensaries opened their doors, and the letters continue to be plastered over packaging to this day. Back when she was still a budtender, Greenstone recalls how customers would flock to the products with the highest THC percentages, regardless of their quality or potency.

As time went on, companies became more sophisticated and consumers better educated. Different cannabinoids like CBD and CBG arrived at the scene, and they now sell just as well if not slightly better than their older, rowdier brother. Still, a majority of brands seem to stick with just one cannabinoid, emphasizing their presence over the countless chemicals they interact with.

The Future of Mary’s Medicinals 

Greenstone refers to this mindset as the “entourage effect.” Google’s dictionary defines an entourage as “a group of people attending or surrounding an important person,” and that’s exactly what these aforementioned cannabis products are. In most cases, THC or CBD is the star of the show, while the terpenes and flavonoids are forced to play second fiddle.

As research into the properties of and interplay between the eighty or so cannabinoids present in marijuana chugs along, Mary’s urges cannabis companies to move away from entourage and towards ensemble. In an ensemble, all active ingredients stand on equal footing, meaning the strength of the whole is derived from the sum of its parts.

Needless to say, the future for Mary’s Medicinals is looking bright. The company just released a sublingual oil called FORMULA, which combines as many as eleven different cannabinoids and terpenes. Greenstone, for her part, is suiting Mary’s products with QR codes that provide consumers with all the information they could ever need on their recent purchases and the ensemble effects they elicit.

Read this story originally published in High Times February 2022 Issue in our archive.


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MJBiz Acquired by Emerald Holding for $120 million

Denver-based MJBiz, well known for its online B2B news and business content, has been acquired by Emerald X. Emerald is a subsidiary of Emerald Holding, a media and event company based in New York, and acquired MJBiz for a total of $120 million.

The acquisition includes MJBizCon, MJBizDaily, Hemp Industry Daily, MJBiz Magazine as well as The Emerald Conference, which MJBiz acquired back in 2020. According to Hervé Sedky, Emerald’s president and CEO, this acquisition will greatly benefit his company. “We have long admired MJBiz’s sterling reputation for being the most trusted event and content producer serving the business side of the cannabis and hemp industries and their respective participants. MJBiz’s leading event and content portfolio coupled with their 365-day engagement platform, which connects the entire cannabis supply chain, will diversify our collective product offerings, enhance our growth profile and enable us to deliver even greater value to our customers over the long term.”

MJBiz’s CEO Chris Walsh also shared that this move represents the cannabis industry’s growth. “This really highlights the rapidly growing interest in cannabis from all corners of the business world, the market’s vast potential and the success of not only MJBiz, but also of the entire industry,” Walsh said. “We’re seeing these types of deals across cannabis as pioneering companies such as ours level up to more effectively tap and foster the industry’s next wave of growth.”

MJBizCon’s most recent event was held in October 19-22, 2021, and attracted approximately 27,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada. The event boasts that it’s one of the largest and long-lasting cannabis business events, and will be celebrating its 11th year of operation in 2022 with the expectation that attendance will reach up to 30,000. Tentatively, the event date is set November 15-18, 2022. The Emerald Conference is slated to occur between February 27-March 1, 2022.

Emerald works on over 142 events and 16 media projects that cover a wide variety of markets, including design, equipment, retail, safety and security, and technology. The Outdoor Retailer Snow Show, International Pizza Expo, Modern Day Marine, Retail Innovation Conference & Expo, Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show, to name just a few events, are all hosted by Emerald.

According to MJBizDaily, the current team of about 40 people will continue working under its new company ownership, while Emerald employs over 600 people. CEO Chris Walsh, Senior Vice President of Events and Sales Jess Tyler and Senior Vice President of Content and Audience Development Pam Moore have been confirmed to continue working as part of MJBiz’s day-to-day activity.

Co-founders Cassandra Farmington and Anne Holland will also continue to consult. MJBiz Co-founder Cassandra Farmington is confident that MJBiz being absorbed into another will only strengthen both companies. “Our organization has experienced massive growth since its inception, initially as a how-to resource to help dispensary owners run their businesses better, into our position today as the leading commercial resource for the cannabis sector,” Farmington said. “Integrating with a larger organization provides the additional resources and channels to unlock the next phase of MJBiz’s growth and is the right next step in our evolution as a business. We chose Emerald because they clearly value the unique aspects of our brand and are committed to serving the industry’s expansion.”

Aside from the $120 million acquisition amount, but MJBiz notes that the earnout is based on future financial performance calculated as “an amount equal to the average MJBiz EBITDA over the past two years minus $13 million—multiplied by 9.3.” Emerald’s Chief Financial Officer projects that this earnout could amount to somewhere between $30 million to $50 million in early 2023.

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