Nipsey Hussle’s TMC Hosts Documentary Screening for ‘The Marathon (Cultivation)’

As the brand expands and “The Marathon Continues,” Hussle’s team announced an upcoming documentary. High Times was invited to an advanced screening on the rooftop of their new store on Melrose.

The aptly-named documentary, The Marathon (Cultivation), explores the life of Nipsey Hussle, the entrepreneur. We get a deeper dive into how Nipsey and his older brother Blacc Sam built a million-dollar cannabis business from the ground up, and the challenges they faced during a time when selling weed was not as popular as it is now.

Guests trickled into an empty white building at a prime location near Melrose and La Brea. After folks took photos on the red carpet, they were led up the stairs to an intimate rooftop with white chairs lined up in front of a screen. 

In true entrepreneurial fashion, The Marathon Clothing set up shop in a small store displaying the latest drops and iconic Crenshaw tee shirts. His platinum records hung behind the register and Puma shoes were perfectly lined up on shelves around the room.

Courtesy of Mark Escalante

Delicious hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the night and there were even two beautiful women lounging in a hot tub Jacuzzi to set the vibe. 

As people mingled, Nipsey’s presence was strongly missed. His dad greeted friends, Sam said hi to familiar faces, and All Money In rappers like J Stone came to support the screening. Less than 100 people gathered for an exclusive look into this never before seen footage.

Puffs of smoke filled the air and the lights went down to signal people to take their seats. Sam then took the microphone and shared a few words about what the film would entail. “We’ve been in the marijuana business for a minute, illegally,” Sam said, “We always had our eyes on a legit license and we wanted to put together something that explains the journey.”

Courtesy of Mark Escalante

From the beginning, Hussle was known for having the best of the best. To this day, Marathon OG maintains a consistent reputation among stoners craving an old-school LA flavor. Recognized by High Times as one of The Cure Company’s best strains, it has become a favorite among long-time smokers that enjoy a heavy-hitting Indica.

The film starts where Nipsey Hussle’s journey initially began, on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson. Images of him smoking at this memorialized intersection flash on the screen as the lyrics from his music narrate the clips. This was the block where he jump-started his career, selling shirts, CDs, and according to many, the best weed in town. Cameos from customers like Snoop Dogg, give context to how potent this stuff was.

Clips of Nipsey smoking and talking about their dream to open a legal weed shop feel surreal as the audience sits atop this beautiful roof in Hollywood. A stark contrast to the life they once knew in South Central and a bittersweet moment, knowing that Nipsey cannot be there to relish in the fruits of his labor.

We get an inside look into the first dispensary they opened, located down the street from The Marathon Store. This is where they first pushed Marathon OG, a strain Nipsey specifically hand-picked because it was a “pure OG.”

The highlight of the film was Nipsey giving a walk-through of the Marathon OG grow room. “This is all Marathon OG,” Hussle says, as he opens the door to a brightly lit room, “there is nothing else growing here except for Marathon OG.” Hussle pinches a nug and invites the cameraman closer, you can almost smell the screen as we see the crystals on each bud.

Courtesy of Mark Escalante

As the documentary caught up to the present day, Sam expressed the lengths they would go to get the highest quality flower. “It doesn’t matter the price, we just want to get what people want,” he said as he fiddled through bags of inventory. Shots of him traveling from Oakland in sprinter vans show just how far they had to go. 

The audience was left inspired by Nipsey Hussle’s words from the song “Perfect Ten”:

“That’s why I call my thing The Marathon (yeah)
Because I, I’m not gon’ lie and portray, um, this ultimate poise
Like I been, had it figured out
Nah, I just didn’t quit”

The song faded into the background and the audience gave a round of applause. Nipsey’s dad took the microphone and shared a few words to express how hard Sam worked to make money for their family. “I don’t know how he [Sam] got into this, he doesn’t even smoke, but he looks at it and smells it and he knows better than the people that do smoke,” he said, making the crowd burst into laughter. 

This documentary is but a slice of Nipsey Hussle’s legacy and is stamped in time for the cannabis industry as laws continue to change across the country. Entrepreneurs of any business can take inspiration from Nipsey’s ability to adapt to his circumstance. His journey exemplifies how difficult it is for people of color to break into the legal cannabis business, even if you are an award-winning musician.

Courtesy of Mark Escalante

Today, The Marathon (Collective) in Canoga Park is a one-stop shop for a variety of THC and CBD products. Their rewards program allows customers to save on future purchases for several different brands. However, their Marathon OG is a must-try but my personal favorite is the Uncle Sam OG. 

The documentary officially drops on Friday, May 20th. Keep an eye out for the grand opening of The Marathon Store on Melrose and follow The Marathon Clothing for more information.

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Miami Finally Gives OK to Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

More than five years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2016, city leaders in Miami finally relented and have voted to allow a business to pursue opening a medical dispensary within the city limits. With a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the Miami City Commission ended its de facto ban on medical cannabis retailers and cleared the way for businesses to begin applying for permits to operate.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla said at Thursday’s meeting, according to a report from the Miami Herald. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Medical Cannabis Legalized in Florida in 2016

Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the approval of a constitutional amendment ballot measure in 2016. The amendment passed by voters gave local governments the authority to ban or regulate medical pot dispensaries, but the Miami city government failed to pass measures to take either step.

The passage of the amendment prompted entrepreneur Romie Chaudhari, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor, to apply for a permit for his business MRC44 to open a medical pot dispensary at a site in downtown Miami. Chaudhari was denied a permit for the dispensary, with the Miami city attorney arguing that the ballot initiative is in violation of the federal prohibition of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

Chaudhari and MRC44 then sued the city of Miami in federal court for a permit to open a medical dispensary. The judge sent the case to state court but ruled that the city had “failed to act” by not banning or regulating dispensaries.

Miami’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board ruled in favor of Chaudhari’s plan to open a dispensary, but the city zoning director appealed that decision in April 2021. On Thursday the city commissioners voted to deny the appeal, clearing the way for Chaudhari and MRC44 to continue its quest to gain the proper permits and license to operate.

Commissioner Ken Russell, who is a registered medical cannabis patient and has publicly voiced his support for cannabis policy reform, voted to deny the appeal and allow Chaudhari to seek approval for the dispensary.

“I believe the state constitution is clear that we had the right to ban this use in our city and we have not done that,” Russell said, as quoted by the Miami New Times. “[Chaudhari has] applied in earnest under the lack of that ban, and I believe therefore we should grant their certificate of use.”

He said that it is time for the federal government to catch up with state and local governments that have legalized cannabis for medical use.

“Florida voters decided that it should be accessible in our state,” Russell added. “Because of the conflict between state and federal law, however, our City Commission had to settle the dispute as to whether our residents would get that access. We voted that they will.”

Regulations Still To Come

Russell was joined in Thursday’s vote by City Commissioners Alex Díaz de la Portilla and Christine King, who said that the city government was on the wrong side of the issue. Díaz de la Portilla said that the will of the voters should be respected and that the city should regulate medical cannabis dispensaries to avoid a proliferation of the businesses.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” he said. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes voted against the measure, arguing that the city should first implement a plan to regulate medical pot dispensaries to prevent a mass influx of the operations.

“I’m of the opinion that before we move forward in voting on this we need to establish our ordinance that what are the procedures and guidelines for someone to open up such an establishment,” Carollo said at Thursday’s meeting of the city commission. “Otherwise, we’re kind of making this into a sort of Cheech and Chong free-for-all.”

Reyes echoed his colleague’s sentiments, saying “You know how it is. They are going to be all over.”

“Wherever you go and they are permitted, you see people smoking pot in the streets,” he said.

Diaz de la Portilla agreed that the commission should act to regulate dispensaries.

“With the understanding that we are going to address the issues because Commissioners Reyes and Carollo are correct that we have to have a policy so we don’t have a proliferation of these dispensaries throughout our city,” Diaz de la Portilla said as he seconded Russell’s motion to vote in favor of Chaudhari.

An attorney representing MRC44 declined to comment after Thursday’s vote.

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Billings, Montana Lowers Minimum Age to Work at Weed Shops

Turning 18 means being able to vote, buy a lottery ticket, and—now in Billings, Montana—own a cannabis dispensary.

The city council there on Monday night “brought its marijuana laws in line with state marijuana laws and lowered the age a person can work for or own a marijuana business from 21 to 18,” according to local television station KTVQ.

Montana’s recreational cannabis law permits adults aged 21 and older to possess and consume pot, but the statute also allows anyone 18 and older to own or work at a cannabis retailer.

The law also allows cities in Montana to set up their own age threshold, prompting Billings, the state’s most populous city, to establish 21 as the minimum age for cannabis businesses there under a new ordinance passed by the city council last year.

That didn’t sit well with Montana Advanced Caregivers (MAC), a dispensary in Billings that filed a lawsuit against the city late last month.

The suit, filed by MAC and three employees, alleged that the “ordinance regulating the sale of medical marijuana in Billings unlawfully restricts the age of those who work at the business,” according to KTVQ.

The plaintiffs sought “a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance and an order declaring the city ordinance invalid and unenforceable,” KTVQ reported, arguing that “the city ordinance is more restrictive than the state laws established to regulate medical marijuana sales which allow a person not ‘under 18 years of age’ to work for a licensed marijuana provider.”

The city ordinance made it “unlawful for the Employee Plaintiffs to work in MAC, or any other marijuana business within the jurisdiction of the City of Billings,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit, as quoted by KTVQ.

“As a result, the Employee Plaintiffs will be forced to lose their jobs, even though each of the Employee Plaintiffs meets all the requirements to be an employee in a medical marijuana business under the laws of the State of Montana,” the lawsuit said, according to the station.

On Monday, members of the Billings City Council essentially sided with the plaintiffs, voting 8-3 to lower the age to 18.

The change doesn’t sit well with everyone, with some, like Billings Mayor Bill Cole, noting an obvious discrepancy in the state law, which says that individuals under the age of 21 cannot enter the establishment.

“Even if we allow 18-year-olds, assuming they are in a marijuana business, there is still an issue, isn’t there? On whether to do so is a violation of state law. And that’s between the marijuana business owner and the state of Montana, not us,” Cole said, as quoted by KTVQ.

Montana continues to work out the kinks with its new recreational cannabis law. In March, the state Supreme Court approved temporary rules regarding the expungement protocol for individuals who were previously convicted of pot-related offenses.

As local news outlet KPAX explains, the new cannabis law in Montana “says anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense.”

In its approval, the court offered procedures for individuals to seek expungement.

Voters in Montana approved a measure ending prohibition on pot in 2020, and sales began there on New Year’s Day.

In the first weekend, the state generated more than $1.5 million in cannabis sales.

Earlier this month, the state reported that the new adult-use cannabis program had generated $8.7 million in tax revenue in the first three months of the program.

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Cookies Partners With Good Day Farm To Launch Company’s First Dispensary in Arkansas

One of the most recognizable cannabis brands in the world is teaming up with the largest medical weed producer in the southern United States. Their destination? Chenal, Arkansas. That will be the location of “Berner’s By Good Day Farm,” a new medical cannabis dispensary from Good Day Farm and Cookies.

With more than 4,000 square feet of retail space in Chenal, a suburb of the capital city of Little Rock, the store represents “Cookies’ entry into the Arkansas medical cannabis market and will provide the state’s patients with an expanded assortment of curated cannabis products and exclusive merchandise,” the companies said in an announcement on Tuesday.

The store is slated to have its grand opening on Friday, which will include food, giveaways, and an appearance by Cookies founder and CEO, Berner.

“I never imagined our first store in the South being in Arkansas; I actually never pictured opening a store in the South in general,” Berner said in the announcement on Tuesday. “We are extremely excited about our partnership with Good Day Farm and look forward to providing real menus and a curated customer journey for those in Arkansas, especially those who have never experienced cannabis before. The last time I was in Little Rock, I was on a tour with Snoop and we had a blast. I look forward to setting the tone with Good Day Farm and giving Arkansas a taste of California.”

Only two years after its founding, Good Day Farm bills itself as “the largest licensed medical cannabis producer in the South, supplying the region with an abundant selection of cannabis products in a diverse range of formats, including premium flower, edibles, vapes, concentrates, syringes, tinctures and topical creams.”

Cookies, meanwhile, was founded more than a decade ago and has grown to be one of the best known cannabis companies in the world, with thousands of products and retail locations in four different countries.

Both companies view cannabis as more than just business. Good Day Farm says it “prides itself on being an ambassador of this healing plant in the South, where every day the Company is on a relentless quest to grow, nurture and share really good cannabis,” while Cookies has worked actively “to enrich communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs through advocacy and social equity initiatives.”

The companies said that Berner’s By Good Day Farm “will carry products from both Cookies and Good Day Farm, including exclusive merchandise such as bespoke skateboards and apparel designed with the spirit of Little Rock in mind.”

“As ambassadors of cannabis in the South, it’s an honor to be the first cannabis company to bring the iconic Cookies brand to Arkansas patients,” Laurie Gregory, the chief marketing officer at Good Day Farm, said in the announcement. “Our new dispensary will offer the best of both brands, featuring 30+ new cultivars and all the products Good Day Farm’s customers know and love, from honey, gummies, chocolates and vapes, to our newly launched live resin collection. This store is the first of many planned collaborations between Good Day Farm and Cookies across the South, a partner who shares our commitment to helping good people and providing good cannabis.”  

Arkansas voters approved a measure legalizing medical cannabis in 2016. Sales began three years later.

The state said there were $264.9 million worth of medical cannabis sales last year, bringing the total sales figure to more than $500 million since dispensaries opened in 2019.

And there’s reason to believe than Arkansans would be receptive to more than just medical cannabis.

A poll earlier this year found that 53% of voters in the state believe that weed should be legal for adults aged 21 and older.

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Arizona Awards Cannabis Social Equity Licenses

Arizona state regulators awarded cannabis social equity business licenses last week, selecting 26 lucky winners out of a lottery pool of nearly 1,200 applicants. The Arizona Department of Health Services Offices selected the winners at its office on Friday after a judge ended a challenge to the state’s program to award licenses for recreational cannabis dispensaries to applicants negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.

State officials and applicants crowded the health department’s Phoenix office on Friday as the winning applicants were randomly selected using Smartplay International state lottery software. The process was operated and audited by Henry & Horne LLP to ensure the security of the selection lottery. The selected applicants will now begin the process to open licensed adult-use cannabis dispensaries.

Legalization with Equity

Proposition 207, the historic voter initiative to legalize recreational cannabis passed by Arizona voters in 2020, included provisions to “promote the ownership and operation of marijuana establishments and marijuana testing facilities by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.” Applicant Arianna Munoz told reporters before the lottery that the social equity program has the potential to change her life.

“It would create generational wealth for me and my family. It would give me more opportunities to create other business ventures,” said Munoz, who was not selected in Friday’s lottery. “I’ve always wanted to be a brand owner and dispensary owner and it was the perfect time.”

Arizona’s legalization initiative included provisions to grant recreational cannabis business licenses to the state’s existing medical dispensaries, which began selling cannabis products to adults in January 2021. But social equity retailers will not be able to sell cannabis for medicinal purposes.

“Prop. 207 didn’t amend the Arizona Medical Marijuana act at all, so the reason why the currently established medical licenses can be kind of co-located is because they already existed,” explained Sam Richard, executive director of the Arizona Dispensary Association. “The only new licenses Prop. 207 created were adult-use, recreational licenses.”

Jon Udell, the director of politics for the Arizona branch of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that a bill to fix the issue has died in the state legislature.

“Right now there just isn’t really a realistic path forward” for a legislative solution,” Udell said.

On Wednesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled against three social applicants who filed a legal action to delay Friday’s lottery. Paul Conant, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the social equity licenses should not be awarded before the health department conducted background checks on the applicants. He argued that the process could lead to the selection of unqualified applicants.

“This is a one-time deal in Arizona,” Conant argued at a hearing on Wednesday. Awarding licenses to unqualified applicants only to revoke them later “would be unfair to all the other people who have submitted applications, paid their $4,000 application fee, and otherwise have gone through the process of trying to qualify.”

But the judge rejected the argument and declined to issue an injunction to block Friday’s lottery.

“The Court finds that the Department properly exercised power that Proposition 207 expressly gave it, used proper procedures, and used its discretion when deciding whether to hold the drawing before or after completing the checks,” Smith wrote in a ruling quoted by the Phoenix New Times.

Other challenges to Arizona’s cannabis social equity program focused on the details of business ownership. Under the regulations, qualified individuals must own 51% of a social equity business, allowing large corporations and multi-state operators an avenue to partner with applicants to operate under the program. Business owners are also permitted to sell their licenses to companies that are not owned by social equity applicants. Critics charge the rules for the program fail to live up to its social equity objectives.

Because Arizona’s recreational cannabis regulations include a cap on the number of adult-use dispensaries that can be licensed by the state, the social equity licenses awarded last week will be the last to be awarded for the foreseeable future. The selected applicants have 18 months to open their dispensaries. A list of the lottery winners is available online.

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The Wonder of Wonderbrett

Los Angeles is a place where, if one applies their trade with equal parts passion and skill, they can make a name for themselves as the best at what they do. Kobe. Clayton. Dre. Snoop. And when it comes to cannabis—Wonderbrett.

One of the industry’s most sought-after cannabis producers, a man more humbly known as Brett Feldman, earned his acclaim providing choice batches of the West Coast favorite OG Kush to supreme clientele such as Eminem and Cypress Hill’s B-Real, all while California was just beginning to allow medical use. 

“Even since the early 2000s, I was always hoping and dreaming that cannabis would become legal and we would be able to make a very prestigious brand one day,’’ Feldman says. “It was always in the back of my mind. I would think, ‘I can’t wait for this to be legal so we can grow, put it out there, and share good cannabis with other people around the world.’”

That time has come, as Wonderbrett recently launched its first retail shop in LA’s Fairfax District. Visitors can take in a double feature at Quentin Tarantino’s movie theater, shop for high-end sneakers at Undefeated and now purchase high-quality retail cannabis—all within a few miles.

“We’re LA guys,” Feldman says. “Our whole base of followers has been built in LA. We built our reputation in the music and entertainment community here. To have a store on La Brea Avenue in this location is paramount for our brand.”

With his flagship store now firmly tucked into a coveted Los Angeles retail district, Feldman looks back on the days when this legitimate business was once considered criminal more than two decades ago. 

“I just start thinking about the time I got extorted or the time I got robbed,” Feldman says. “All of these horrible things that you were victim to in that part of the business, whereas now the business is so different. It’s a grown-up, sophisticated business world. The stuff I went through then seems so irrelevant now.”

Wonderbrett’s understated and earthy interior design makes for an appealing, if stark, contrast from the colorful packaging and branding lining the store shelves.

Wonderbrett is divided into sections, with the flower wall facing the concentrates wall, and smalls, edibles and pre-rolls encased in the center.

“With the natural woods, hand-pounded pendant fixtures and the irregular wood on the floor, it’s not perfect—purposefully,” says Wonderbrett co-founder David Judaken.

“That adds to the comfort and vibe and energy of the space. When that’s in conflict with some of the branding, I think it sets each off and makes them better and more important because they’re juxtaposed to one another.”

As the retail shop passes its three-month anniversary, the founders say to expect more surprises.

“Wonderbrett is all about the drop,” Judaken says.

The company’s brick-and-mortar HQ may not even be the biggest news: For Wonderbrett, it’s all about the strains. The company’s strains have been available in a few dispensaries in small quantities, but the new location guarantees that customers can get their hands on some of the finest boutique genetics in the current market. Strains such as Pink Picasso and Orange Banana burst with flavor from each toke, while indicas such as OZ Kush and Black Orchid carry tinges of pine and gas.

Wonderbrett Grow Facility
One of 36 grow rooms at Wonderbrett’s Long Beach facility.

And, on this particular December 2021 weekend, the Wonderbrett Los Angeles location premiered the release of Feldman’s latest genetic achievement, Blueberry Purp.

“It’s got a blueberry flavor, also a sweet grape aspect and a savory cookie type flavor too. It’s been a long breeding process to create this strain. The OZK Cookies and Cream, Beyond Blueberry into Grand Daddy Purp. It’s a legendary strain. It’s one of those strains where people miss it so much and wish it would come back. But you need to polish it up and that’s what we did.”

But even before he takes time to enjoy his labor’s fruits, Feldman is already plotting his next genetic marvel.

“In my mind, I want to cross [Blueberry Purp] into the Pink Picasso and make a Blue Picasso. My gut instinct tells me that those two terpene profiles are going to make something very special. I’m really hoping for a blueberry champagne flavor.”

Feldman continues this theme.

“Now that I’m talking about it, I need to go home and roll up a joint that’s half Pink Picasso and half Blueberry Purp, and give myself a sneak peak,” he says. “Sometimes that inspires breeding as well.”

A genetic résumé as impressive as Wonderbrett may seem to be full of secrets, but for Feldman, crossing strains is just as easy as blending flowers together and lighting up.

And what would the THC percentage of a Blue Picasso be? According to Feldman, that’s not the right question to ask. 

“There are too many misnomers out there right now with people trying to seek out strains that are 30 percent THC or higher,” he says. “Those tend to be not the better of the strains if you were to do a blind taste test. You’re going to tend to like strains with higher terpene profiles, not just THC.”

Wonderbrett’s elevated menu may prove to be a bit overwhelming, so Feldman himself decided to offer some of his own personal picks.

Orange Sunset

“New customer, never smoked, I’m going to say Orange Sunset because the flavor is so undeniable that even somebody who doesn’t have a developed cannabis palette will immediately have a great experience,” Feldman says. “For someone’s first time trying cannabis it should taste like something they can relate it to. Most people have had orange juice or candy. It’s undeniably orange. It’d be really hard for someone to have a bad experience with that flower as a first-time smoker.”

For the experienced enthusiasts, Feldman turns it up a notch or three.

“For the elevated connoisseur who’s looking for the most unique, special terpene profile, I’d go with Pink Picasso,” he says. “It’s one of those strains where I should probably have that in my Instagram bio, you know, ‘creator of Pink Picasso’.”

As far as his all-time favorite strain, Feldman is quick on the draw: Cherry Trop.

“I’ve been smoking Cherry Trop every day,” he says. “It’s one of the most beautiful strains I’ve had the pleasure of growing. In the last two weeks of growing, it turns so purple and red. It doesn’t even look like a bag of weed; it almost looks like a cartoon. The terpene profile is delicious, too. It’s derived from Trop Cookies and Cherry Cookies, so it’s savory and has hints of Tangie, and it’s very potent.”

Exclusive strains are far from the only reason why enthusiasts should visit the new shop. The remarkable selection of flowers lining the west wall, the pre-rolls and edibles found in the middle displays showcase a blend of the industry’s top brands in addition to in-house product. 

“We like to bring in brands that we’d actually smoke,” Feldman says. “I want people to come in and not be overwhelmed. I want them to be able to have a selection that they can actually digest when they walk through here.”

Brett Feldman at Black Start Studios in Studio City, where the cultivator also spends time recording music.

But don’t rely on your new favorite flavor being available at Wonderbrett for too long. 

“You have to have things come and go. We’re constantly breeding and creating new strains and pheno-hunting,” Feldman says. “Our goal is to put out at least one new strain every three months, and if we can do more than that, we will.”

Feldman continues to support the hip-hop community that once helped launch his own career. One of his favorite brands to promote is Coffee and Kush, created by Los Angeles rapper Problem.

“I’m really proud of Problem,” Feldman says. “He’s doing it right, doing it himself. He found good growers to work with. It’s a good example of how a celebrity should approach this space versus just trying to get a royalty by giving their name out. I really applaud him—he’s an LA legend doing it right in this space.”

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Talking Cannabis and Oakland Roots with Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.

“I’m walking the path that I guess was already laid out for me, man,” Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr. said. It’s been quite a path, as the owner of Blunts and Moore tells it. For over 15 years, Tucky tried to set up shop in the city of Oakland with almost every possible challenge thrown his way. 

In 2018, after a long journey that’s only getting started, Tucky finally created Blunts and Moore, which is the first equity owned cannabis retail facility. Since opening its doors, the company has prided itself on bolstering the community, as well as providing one of the Bay Area’s largest selection of top shelf cannabis products.

How’s a Wednesday like today at the store?

Man, Wednesday so far is good. I haven’t been into the store today. I had some stuff to do at home, but so far, so good. I haven’t heard no complaints. I’ll be in there tomorrow, though. After I finish class, got to go down there.

What’s the class?

I’m teaching Dispensary Operations for the Harrington Institute.

How’s that going?

It’s actually been dope. I’m in week four of six. I got picked to do another six weeks, and to go from trapping, to Oaksterdam, to owning the store, to now teaching it, is amazing. It’s pretty cool. 

When it comes to teaching, are you hoping to help open doors for others? Show others the path you’ve gone down and that it can be done?

Exactly, and to also show the good and the bad. A lot of people only talk about the good that they can see. Everybody thinks everything is cookies, and people don’t understand that behind the scenes, everything’s not cookies, especially in California. It’s just good to be able to help people figure out how they want to move in this space, and to have a voice that people trust is crazy. I’m just taking it all in as it comes.

What’s the bad side?

Just to make sure you’re educated to come in this space, picking your partners. Knowing that you need SOPs. A lot of us get a license in this space and have no business acumen at all. So to jump into a space that’s a billion dollar space and only a dollar worth of knowledge, you can run into some problems. Bad partnerships, predatory lending practices, over taxation in California, so it’s just letting people know what they getting into and what to expect from what I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been on the legal side. So just dealing with the pros and cons. I love being an equity owner. I love having a store, but if I knew, coming in, what I know now, I would’ve done things differently. I’ll put it like that.

What would you have done differently?

For one, found a different partner, but it was good that I met them because I wouldn’t be here. They were put in my path in order for me to get the dispensary, and then they can go about their business, so it worked out. It’s just a lot of us that I talk to, a lot of the inboxes that I get, everybody is all, “I want to sell weed and grow weed,” and it’s like, “Okay, well, do you have $3 to $5 million that you can just waste right now and not get back for three to five years? If you can do that, jump on in.”

But if you can’t really afford that, let’s look at some other options of other things you can do to get in this space, and not have to worry about the taxation. So it’s just exploring all options, and being able to share all options for people to get in this space, because everybody that wants to get into this space, just want to grow and sell. That’s all they want to do, and it’s like, there’s so much more you can do.

So, what about the good side you teach?

Being able to be a store owner, and talk to my team, talk to my customers, and not be up in an office somewhere, being actually on the floor, budtending. I budtend at my store. You know what I’m saying? Being an inspiration to people that you’ve never met before, but are inspired by you, that is something I will take with me to my grave. I’m only used to inspiring my kids or my wife, but I’m inspiring people I’ve never met before, and I’m also putting people in my store in position to do better in the space. 

You’re doing something for your community, you’re giving back. I’m hosting expungement clinics at my store. I have a bunch of food trucks that I have at my store every day, that I don’t charge a dime, and let them make as much money as they can. Just being able to do stuff like that and share my space, those are the good things I look forward to doing every day. I like that. It’s a lot. It’s a lot.

There are a lot of people, whatever the industry, that get to where they are without much help, but when they get there, to choose to give the help and give back? That’s a great thing.

Yes, sir. I think that’s what you have to do. I tell people all the time, “I didn’t sign up for this.” I sold weed since ’96, I got arrested for it. Tried to open a store in like, ’03, ’04, didn’t work out, and just kept grinding, but to be in a position now, to be able to help people when, like you said, I didn’t have that type of help, man, and I would be doing disservice if I didn’t do that.

For me to be the first of what I’m doing, to not help other people come along behind me would be stupid. It’d be like a slap in the face. You know what I mean? I have to do that, and I think that’s missing a lot from this space, because a lot of the people, a lot of the newbies, in the space, don’t understand what the plant is supposed to do. The plant is about compassion. It’s supposed to bring people together, and we’re missing that. It’s a lot of separation in the space right now, and it shouldn’t be like that. 

Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.

And a lot of people who get into the business are so unfamiliar with cannabis, where they just think, “This is booming. We should get in on this.” It’s often not coming from just a passion for it.

They don’t care. I mean, just be honest. I mean, they’re getting in it because of the money that they see in it, and that’s great. Don’t get me wrong, I like to make money, too, but I’m coming from a place of, cannabis has been in my life forever. I’ve always looked at selling cannabis as a profession. So to actually have that as a profession, I want that to be explored by other people. 

So you tried to open a store, back in around ’03, and then 15 years later, you did it. What was going on between those 15 years?

So from the time I initially tried to open the store, until 2017, when I found out about the equity program, I stayed in the environment of the cannabis clubs. I worked at a bunch of different clubs, grew weed for clubs, managed clubs, but never could get to the ownership level, and it kind of bothered me a lot because I felt like, “Why can’t I do this?” But I kept working, I always had a job. I kept hustling, but I wanted to own a store, but I just realized after ’03, ’04, based on what had been going on, it wasn’t going to happen. At least it wasn’t going to happen then. I did kind of get discouraged, because I was at the point of, “I’ve been trapping since ’96, I’m tired of trapping.”

I’ve always approached it as a business. I’m still trapping it like it is a business, but I kind of reached the ceiling. You know what I mean? What else can I do? Kept doing my music, kept doing my promotions, kept doing my parties, kept doing my work, met my wife. It was just a whole lot going in, went to Oaksterdam. Oaksterdam opened my eyes up to a lot. I graduated from there in ’08. I was in their third class, I think, in Oakland. So that was pretty eye opening to see that they had a school that was teaching us how to move correct in the cannabis space. I had never heard of that before.

I just kept doing that, stayed on it, and then, quite honestly, bro, in 2017, by then, I had gave up on opening store. I kind of gave up around 2013 and retired completely. I retired from my job, took my 401k, or whatever, and I put all that money into my auto detail business, and I just went full into my auto detail, stopped selling weed. I would only keep weed around for my friends and family, but I stopped, and everything was going good.

Tesla reached out to me in 2017, and I thought it was a joke. I thought it was spam. They hit me on LinkedIn, and was like, “Yeah, we want to bring you in to come teach people how to detail cars,” and I’m like, “Whatever.” I ignored it. About three months later, they hit me back and was like, “Hello, can you come talk to us?” I’m like, “Sure, what do y’all want from me? Is this like you want me to come detail the cars? I own a detail business; what do you want from me?” They’re like, “No, we want you to teach people how to detail cars, but we don’t even have the position created. Can you create a position for us?” So I created a position. I’m the first Certified Detail Trainer in Tesla history.

Congratulations on that.

Thank you. Created the position, going great. I had a good two months in. Everything was on point, and then the guy who interviewed me and hired me, tried to fight me, because basically, I was doing my job, and it was making his job look bad, and instead of him just approaching me like a business saying, “Hey bro, slow down a little bit. You moving too fast. I appreciate your work, but it’s making me…” We could have talked. He didn’t want to talk. He tried to literally fight me, and in the midst of him charging at me, I just politely stood back, and told him, “If you get any closer, I’m going to beat your ass.”

The witness to this conversation was one of his friends, who just so happened to be another supervisor, and being that I was the lowest on the totem pole, I got fired. It was hard, because I had good benefits, good position. I went from detail on the street, making good money. I was making $5k a month, but I went to a position making $85K a year, gone. Completely gone, and I was at a rough patch. It was like, what do you do? Like, “Okay, I can go back to detailing. I could go back and get a job, but what do you do?”

I get a call from Mike Marshall, who’s the voice of “I Got 5 On It.” The guy that’s actually singing, “I got 5,” that’s him. He called me, and was like, “Hey, Tuck, have you ever caught a weed case in Oakland?” And I was like, “Yeah,” hella random, “Yeah, I’ve caught a weed case, why?” He was like, “Man, they got a program giving people opportunities to own in the cannabis space if you had a case. You got to fit certain criteria.” I’m like, “Well, what is it?” He said, “A social equity program.” I pull up my laptop, the laptop that I got from Tesla, crazy, and I’m searching the equity program, and it pop up. I see it, I see what they’re talking about. I see the requirements.

He was like, “I got two people out of Atlanta. They moved to Denver, and then they moved to Oakland, and they’re looking to partner with somebody that fits the criteria, so they can open a store.” I was like, “What they want from me?” He was like, “Nothing. They just want to sit down with you. If you fit the criteria, y’all can come up with whatever agreement y’all come up with, and y’all go from there.” 

I met my previous partner in ’17. We applied for the license in December of ’17. We won the license in January of 2018, and then we opened the store in November of ’18. Literally that fast, just met them, got in bed with them, opened the store, had a good year run, and then all hell broke loose. So that’s kind of, in a nutshell, how it went from me wanting to open a store, and being told I couldn’t, to opening the store 15, 16 years later.

Tucky
Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.

I’m always interested in expectations versus reality. How’d they compare?

So day one expectations was initially, “I’m going to have a thousand people in the store.” I didn’t know no different. I thought, “That’s a good number, we can do it.” So coming in, we didn’t know we were going to be the first. So when we were doing all this stuff to open, I didn’t anticipate being the first social equity store to open. It just happened that way. I didn’t anticipate that. I anticipated having a good outing. I knew my name was good in the streets of Oakland and the Bay Area. I knew I could bring the crowd. I knew I could bring support, because people always supported me. I knew I had that. 

Let’s get back to another expectation. I expected I had a good partner. I expected that they were going to teach me the things I didn’t know in this space, and we were going to build together and build a future. Reality, that wasn’t the case. Reality, we did have a good first year. 2018, we’re not going to count, because we opened in November, so it was only two months, but 2019, we had close to a $3 million year. It was reported that we did a $5 million year, but my previous partner reported it incorrectly, in order to gain some other money to run off and open her dispensary. 

The overall expectation versus reality, I had high expectations. The reality is I’m overtaxed. I was underprotected in the sense of the police helping me when robberies happened, but that has, since I yelled at them, has greatly changed. I have a good relationship with OPD now, but reality is, I’m overtaxed, I had a shitty partner, if I can just be frank.

Of course.

And the obstacles that were in front of me were a lot to overcome, but if we talking a revamp of when we restarted in March of last year, when I reopened, after being closed for the robberies, I got robbed twice. George Floyd murder, I was robbed, and my whole store was cleaned out. 

How’s insurance in those cases?

You can file a claim all you want. They’re not going to give you the majority of it, and they’re going to overrate you, and then you won’t be able to get insurance with anyone else. So insurance has become, and this is something I’ve told to New York Times, and whoever wants to listen, insurance really needs to be looked at in cannabis, because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. So out of the $1 million loss I took in June of 2020, I got $126,000 back total, and that was for loss of business. I never got anything for my product. I got a little bit of loss of business, and it paid for my TVs that was in the store. That’s it. That’s it, nothing else.

Then we got hit in November. Recently, we got hit in November. That was about a $60K loss. We’re not even filing a claim for it, because if we file a claim, we’re going to get kicked off the policy, and then I have to file with someone else. Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s crazy what they’re doing with insurance. Insurance in California is a scam for cannabis businesses, a true scam. 

To go through all of that, to go through the bad partner, to go through the learning experience, because I took that as a learning experience. I was mad at her and her mom, initially. That’s the initial action you want to have, but in all honesty, I had to take that on the chin, and realize that was a lesson I had to learn. That was a lesson to me. Read your contracts better, read your operating agreements better, know what these terms mean. Even if it’s the same thing over and over on 15 different pages, make sure you understand what it means on each different page. So I can’t fault them, they got over on me. It happens.

How do you move up from that? You know what I mean? I got a good partner now, who ended up being my landlord, previously, Grizzly Peak Farms. We’re doing good things together. They actually just launched a brand with Soulja Boy, so they’re doing things with him now. They did Cannabis Talk One-on-One, I think yesterday, but I’m just a resilient person. 

I’m a solution based person. You give me the problem. Okay, yeah, it was a problem, but how do we fix it? How do we come out on top? I think that’s why I’m still in the position I am, because I have that attitude. When we did get robbed, we put on a concert, me, Berner, Weedmaps, and some others. It was called “I Got 5 On It,” as crazy as it would sound, and we raised money for dispensaries and other cannabis businesses that were affected when the George Floyd murder happened.

Out of all the money we raised, I or Berner never took a dime for our respective brands. We gave it to the others, and I did it, for one, because I felt like that’s what I should do. I feel like Blunts and Moore would be cool, would be able to recover. I didn’t know we didn’t have good insurance, because my previous partner changed the insurance. 

My heart was, “Give,” and it worked out. My whole testimony to whatever’s been going on is, my expectations are, “Man, Blunts and Moore should be all over the world. We should be a brand that everybody should know about,” but reality is, “Yeah, they know about it, but now it’s just time to expand on it.” 

Courtesy of Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr.

That’s something I respect about Oakland, that sense of community. You can give back, not expect anything, and get back so much more.

Yes, bro, we’re planning another “I Got 5 On It” live, too, and then we’re planning on doing it in Oakland, at the Oakland Coliseum next 4/20. We’re working on that now. I believe what cannabis can do for Oakland is mind blowing. Cannabis has the potential to make Oakland really a real life Oaksterdam, and really have people coming into Oakland for cannabis, and I want to be a part of that. I’m really, really, really, really, really from Oakland. You understand what I’m saying? 

To be able to have something in Oakland and represent Oakland the right way, I’m all for it. I’ve talked to the people that I need to talk to in Oakland. I’m basically trying to get a seat at the table to talk to who I need to talk to. They’re like, “Dude, you are the table. We need to be talking to you.” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know.”

I’m still trying to be as humble as I can with all the stuff that’s going on, but from what I’m gathered, they’re like, “No dude, you’re the one that we need to be talking to.” So I’m just trying to keep my presence good, and just attack. 

Do you want to franchise?

I need to franchise. I believe that that model will work for me, and I’m taking a note out of Berner’s book. I don’t want to own all the stores. I just want to sell the licensing to the Blunts and Moore. Pay me for the licensing; give me my licensing fee, and 5% of the ownership, I’m out your hair. I don’t want to run 38 stores. No, I have kids, a wife, a life. I like traveling, but I can take 5% of 38 stores. If they all making $3 million a piece, you do the math. 

What else are you planning for the future?

I definitely want to work on more speaking engagements. I have five kids. My youngest daughter’s in the eighth grade. She came home about a month ago, and they’re doing a debate in her class about cannabis legalization. Eighth grade.

So, for me, it triggered, “I need to start going to schools now. I need to reach out to these schools, and these colleges, and go talk to them.” Not just about weed, but about the business of weed, you know what I mean? So just to know that they’re doing that, for me, I want to get, like I said, more speaking engagements, more teaching. 

I want to do whatever I can do to spread the word about this plant, that doesn’t have to be overtaxed. We call it ancillary. I’m trying to build up my ancillary job game. Yes, I’m now a dispensary owner. Yes, I want a franchise. That’s all great, but what else could I do besides opening stores? How could I give back to my community? How can I give back to other people, who may not want to own stores? You know what I’m saying?

I’m also doing some stuff with Redman. He has a cannabis political party, a lot of people don’t realize. It’s been up a year. It’s called the National Cannabis Party. I’m working on being a part of that, and then I’m on the NCIA board, I’m on Minorities for Medical Marijuana. I’m tapping into all the resources. I’m doing all the interviews, I’m promoting, I’m traveling all around the country on my own dime, making sure people know about Blunts and Moore. 

I do want to circle back to ’96 when you were starting to sell cannabis.

Yep.

How did it compare to running the store?

This is legal trapping. Real talk, the cannabis industry right now is legal trapping. There’s no difference. The only difference is, with me and what I was doing back then in ’96, I was in control, and I mean, I’m in control of my store, but I can’t control the taxes, I can’t control the police. When I was in the streets, all I needed was my pistol, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t need nothing else. I have to have insurance. I have to worry about my staff, but the comparisons to the street, as far as just selling weed, selling weed is selling weed. 

What I have to worry about, aside from just selling weed, is the key difference. The things that people don’t see. The staff I have to worry about if they’re going to make it home at night, because people are going to want to follow them home. The security, I have to worry about, wondering if they’re secure. My family, I got to worry about. I don’t own a key to my store. I don’t have any of the passwords to the safe, all because I don’t want anyone to jump me, and then take me to the store, thinking they can unlock stuff. 

I didn’t have to worry about that on the streets, and for me, that’s a key difference. I was safer on the streets, to be totally honest with you. You only knew I was selling weed if I wanted you to know I was selling weed. Now, you know I’m selling weed, because everyone knows I’m selling weed. It’s a little different. The same, but different.

Anything else you want to say about Blunts and Moore as we wrap up?

Blunts and Moore is a cannabis company, a cannabis brand, that just so happens to be black-owned. We here to stay. I’m not going anywhere. I want people to come. When they come to Oakland, to know that they want to go to Blunts and Moore, to come check out the vibe. Our colors are orange for a reason. Orange makes people happy.

The post Talking Cannabis and Oakland Roots with Alphonso Tucky Blunt Jr. appeared first on High Times.

Warrants Issued For Two Teens in Fatal Washington Dispensary Shooting

Warrants are out in Washington for a pair of teenaged boys allegedly involved in an armed robbery of a cannabis dispensary in the state that left an employee dead, as well as a number of other armed robberies in the area.

The Chronicle newspaper reports that Montrell Hatfield, 16, and Marshon Jones, 15, “are wanted in connection with a fatal shooting at a Tacoma marijuana dispensary and at least 10 armed robberies at pot shops in Pierce and King counties.”

On March 19, an employee at World of Weed in Tacoma, later identified as 29-year-old Jordan Brown, was fatally shot in the neck.

The Chronicle, citing court documents, reported that, during the incident, “Hatfield fought with an employee behind the cash register and Jones fatally shot the employee in the neck.”

“After ordering everybody to get on the ground, Hatfield allegedly fired a warning shot into the ceiling and approached the manager and other employees. He handed them garbage bags and ordered them to put all the money inside,” the newspaper reported. “Brown tossed the garbage bag back at Hatfield, put his hands in the air and stepped backward, records say. Hatfield and Brown then began fighting on the ground, according to witnesses and surveillance footage. Jones allegedly broke up the fight by shooting Brown in the neck. As the teens ran for the door, Jones told Hatfield ‘Don’t worry about them,’ records say.”

Prosecutors in Pierce County, Washington “have charged Hatfield with first-degree murder and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm,” while “Jones has also been charged.” A “third man who acted as their lookout while they robbed the stores at gunpoint has not been identified,” according to The Chronicle.

The newspaper said that prosecutors “expect to file charges against the teens in the future for four marijuana dispensary robberies in Tacoma and one in Pierce County,” and that the teens are also “suspected in five similar robberies in King County.”

On the same day as the fatal robbery, Hatfield and Jones allegedly robbed a dispensary in Seattle, and tried unsuccessfully to rob another in Tacoma.

Armed robberies of cannabis dispensaries have risen at an alarming rate in Washington, which made history when it legalized recreational pot use for adults via a ballot initiative in 2012. Last week, citing data from the in-state trade group the Craft Cannabis Coalition, the Seattle Times reported that “there have been around 67 armed robberies so far in 2022,” up from 34 and 27 in 2021 and 2020 respectively.

The trend has prompted lawmakers and other officials in Washington to sound the alarm over the vulnerability of cannabis establishments, which typically have large amounts of cash on hand. Earlier this month, state treasurer Mike Pellicciotti traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge passage of the Secured and Fair Enforcement Banking (SAFE) Act, which would allow banks to provide financial services to cannabis businesses––something the federal prohibition on pot currently precludes them from doing.

“You rob the places where the cash is,” Pellicciotti said, as quoted by local television station KING5. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”

Last month, Republican state Sen. Jim Honeyford introduced a bill that would have added an extra year to the prison sentence of anyone convicted of first or second degree robbery of a cannabis shop, the same penalty that’s reserved for individuals who rob a pharmacy.

“When people would ask the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, Sutton simply replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Well, that’s why people rob marijuana retailers,” Honeyford said at the time. “Due to federal banking rules, these businesses are almost entirely cash-only operations, making them a target for robberies and a magnet for criminals.”

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New Jersey Gets More Than 170 Cannabis Dispensary Applications On First Day

New Jersey began accepting applications on Tuesday from individuals hoping to get in on the ground floor of the state’s coming recreational cannabis industry. By day’s end, state regulators had attracted plenty of interest.

NJ.com reported that the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said that by 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, it had received 172 applications from individuals interested in opening a cannabis retail store.

“Today is the day where the CRC (Cannabis Regulatory Commission) portal opens and applicants who wish to apply for a retail license to sell cannabis … are allowed to do so,” said Michael DeLoreto, a director at Gibbons’ Government and Regulatory Affairs Department, as quoted by NJ.com. “This is a day that a lot of businesses have been waiting for.”

New Jersey voters legalized recreational adult-use cannabis in 2020 when they approved a ballot measure (three other states –– Montana, Arizona and South Dakota –– likewise passed legalization proposals at the ballot that year).

In December, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission began accepting applications for recreational cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs. The commission said that by early afternoon on the first day of the application period, “the application platform was averaging 155 new users per hour.”

Within the first four hours, the commission said that it had received applications from nearly 500 individuals.

“We are happy to reach this milestone,” Jeff Brown, executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said at the time. “Applications are coming in, the platform is performing well, and we can officially mark the launch of the state’s recreational cannabis industry. Getting cultivators, manufacturers, and testing labs licensed and operating will set the framework and establish supply for retailers who will start licensing in March 2022.”

Late last month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said that he believed adult-use sales would begin “within weeks.”

“If I had to predict, we are within weeks—I would hope in March—you would see implicit movement on the medical dispensaries, some of them being able to sell recreational,” Murphy said at the time. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

Along those lines, NJ.com reported that Tuesday “also marked the day when the state panel expected to finish reviewing applications from eight of about [a] dozen alternative treatment centers that sell medical marijuana and are looking to the expand to the recreational market.”

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission has said that it is prioritizing applications from “designated target communities, for people with cannabis convictions (expunged or not), and for minorities, women, and disabled veterans.”

The three groups that will receive priority consideration from the commission are “minority-owned, woman-owned, or disabled veteran-owned,” businesses “owned by people who have lived in an Economically Disadvantaged Area of the state, or who have convictions for cannabis-related offenses (expunged or not),” and businesses “located in an Impact Zone, owned by people from an Impact Zone, or employing residents of Impact Zones.”

Expanding access to the cannabis industry for disadvantaged groups has become a common feature of recreational laws across the country. New York announced last week that at least 100 of the first licenses for adult-use cannabis retailers in the state will be designated for individuals convicted of a previous cannabis-related offense, or a family member of someone with a cannabis-related offense.

Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board in New York, said last month that the state is trying to “build a supportive ecosystem that allows people to participate no matter their economic background and we want everyone to know they have a real opportunity at a license as well as support so that their businesses will be ongoing enterprises that are successful and have the opportunity for growth.”

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Are States Redlining Cannabis Dispensaries?

“Urban decay” in America speaks a universal language, a vernacular seen and heard in movies, political ads and in real life. It sounds like this: Broken windows, vacant buildings, graffiti-covered walls and doors. Ne’er do-wells loitering outside liquor stores and pornography merchants (less visible in the online era but still a part of this classic trope). But thanks to cannabis legalization, struggling areas in America have another feature: legal cannabis dispensaries. The higher concentration of dispensaries in America’s lower income areas may be due to the destructive practice of “redlining.”

According to recent research out of Washington state and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, along with other elements “polite society” may deem unsavory, cannabis dispensaries also tend to coalesce in lower-income areas, which in turn—since race so often correlates with class—also tend to be less white. 

The wealthier, whiter areas, by contrast, tend to limit or ban cannabis businesses outright. This in turn fuels a vicious cycle: Because cannabis dispensaries are lumped in with the pawn shops and liquor stores of Skid Row, cannabis dispensaries acquire an unsavory reputation—and then they’re shunted towards seedier parts of town in cities that newly legalize. 

This all adds up to a sort of post-legalization redlining—a phenomenon several scholars as well as activists are noticing. 

Though this new research was conducted in Washington, previous studies also found that adult-use cannabis stores “are more likely to concentrate in economically disadvantaged areas.” Similar situations are seen across the country. When a city council or county planning department determines the local “green zone”—the area of the city declared open for cannabis businesses—that area tends to be an industrial or low-income area. 

“Most cannabis green zones are in low-income areas, and it’s been causing problems for both the residents and cannabis businesses,” said Amber E. Senter, an Oakland, California-based cannabis entrepreneur and social-equity activist who co-founded Supernova Women, which advocates for BIPOC participation in the legal cannabis industry (and was not involved with the study). 

Keep in mind how cannabis legalization was pitched to policymakers and the public after decades of cannabis-centered drug war overpolicing and incarceration. The fact that these cannabis businesses are more often than not owned by white investors and entrepreneurs who are extracting revenue that once went to “traditional market” sellers from Black and Brown communities only further highlights what’s yet another shortcoming in marijuana legalization’s social-justice mission.

In the study, researchers from the University of Washington and the Oregon Public Health Division surveyed 10,009 people aged 18 to 25 living in Washington state. Surveys were collected from 2015 to 2019. Respondents were asked to report their cannabis use, whether cannabis was easy to access, and whether cannabis was deemed “acceptable” in their community. 

Respondents’ “neighborhood disadvantage,” a metric derived from “five US census variables,” was also assessed. And “neighborhood disadvantage” tended to indicate weekly or daily cannabis use as well as “greater perceived acceptability of cannabis use.” People who lived within one kilometer “of at least one cannabis retail outlet lived in census tracts with greater neighborhood disadvantage,” the researchers found.

Study authors noted it wasn’t immediately clear if people in low-income areas smoked cannabis because that’s where the cannabis was, or if coping with the stresses of living a disadvantaged, over-policed area meant more cannabis use. 

Authors did not respond to emails seeking comment on the redlining of cannabis dispensaries. However, “If similar findings continue to emerge,” they wrote in their study, “this may suggest that states should seek to limit the geographic availability of retail outlets in order to prevent population-wide increases in cannabis use and related harms.”

Cannabis Redlining Explained

What does de-facto cannabis redlining look like in action? New York State offers an example. The state legalized adult-use cannabis last year, but communities had until Dec. 31, 2021, to decide whether to ban dispensaries and consumption lounges. (In a departure from other states, cities and towns could not ban cultivation.) And according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, about half of the state did pass bans.

Where was cannabis banned? In Westchester County, a wealthy suburb immediately north of New York City and the second-wealthiest county in the state after Manhattan, most cities chose to ban. In St. Lawrence County, the second poorest (ahead of the Bronx), most cities, towns and villages have opted in.

New York is only the most recent example. In New Jersey, about 70 percent of the state “completely opted out of the recreational cannabis industry,” the New Jersey Herald reported last summer. Those 98 municipalities that did allow dispensaries—“mostly in South Jersey and Central Jersey,” according to the paper, with working-class and industrial areas in Newark allowed, but not the tonier suburbs of New York City—limited them to “one particular redevelopment area or zone.”

In New Jersey, at least some areas opted out because they felt the process was moving too quickly, or that they didn’t get enough guidance from the state. But some others associated cannabis with “quality-of-life” issues, like the fear of the Skid Rows described above. 

As Michael Soriano, the mayor of Parsippany-Troy Hills said, redlining (or marijuana zoning), his community “fits what our residents would allow and what our infrastructure had to offer.” And as a cannabis business consultant told the paper, the towns that opted in had lower median incomes and were eager to supplant their budgets with cannabis tax revenue.

There is nothing inherently seedy about a weed store, in the same way there is nothing inherently seedy about a store that sells liquor. Think of a high-end wine shop. Now think of a neon-lit storefront offering plastic bottles of cheap vodka from behind bullet-proof glass. They’re both in the same line of work; they both have a license from the same state regulator. 

The same is true with cannabis. Yet Americans and American policymakers think differently. Until they do, cannabis stores are victims of a policy that, regardless of intent, falls into the same patterns of behavior of cannabis prohibition. 

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