Cheech and Chong Launch Dreamz Dispensary Partnership in New Mexico

Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin of the iconic comedy duo Cheech and Chong announced their company’s entrance into the New Mexico cannabis market with a statewide partnership. According to a Sept. 14 press release, Dreamz Dispensary is partnering with Cheech and Chong Cannabis Co. to enter the New Mexico market.

The duo celebrated the partnership in a new state market, while remembering what is most important to most consumers. “Our partnership with Dreamz is all about making folks’ lives better through cannabis,” said Chong. “New Mexico deserves the best, and that’s what we’re here to offer.” 

Cheech agreed, as both recently toured dispensaries in the state in recent months to get a closer look. “Together with Dreamz Dispensary, we’re weaving our story into the fabric of New Mexico,” said Marin. “This partnership is about embracing and celebrating local culture.”

Courtesy Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co.

Dreamz Dispensary locations span the full length of the state, and you can find them using the company’s dispensary locator. It’s another strategic move by the rapidly-growing company that’s operating in multiple states.

“The Dreamz Partnership with Cheech and Chong brings two powerhouses together,” Dreamz Dispensary CEO John Fisher told High Times. “This collaboration will allow Dreamz Dispensaries to deliver the highest quality cannabis products to the state of New Mexico with the most iconic name in cannabis culture. Together we are creating a unique and memorable experience for all cannabis enthusiasts, ensuring that every visit to Dream Dispensary is an unforgettable journey into the world of Cheech and Chong.”

The company formerly known as Eighth Icon Holdings rebranded as Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. in 2021. Part of the plan was to develop better and more potent products. Bringing in Dreamz Dispensary will put it into the hands of more consumers. The duo has been in the game a lot longer than most, company representatives remind us.

“While some celebrity brands just stick their label on products and call it a day, we’re all about true partnerships,” said Brooke Mangum, CMO of Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. “Our goal is simple: empower outstanding cultivators and retailers with the digital and social credibility they need to stand out against competitors and succeed.” 

The state’s cannabis industry is off to a blazing hot start: Adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico totaled more than $300 million in the first year of regulated sales, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last April 3.

Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act into law two years ago in April 2021, legalizing the use of cannabis for adults and creating a framework for regulated sales. Then one year later, in April 2022, licensed sales of adult-use cannabis began at retail locations across the state. 

As of last April, New Mexico regulators have issued around 2,000 cannabis licenses across New Mexico, including 633 cannabis retailers, 351 producers, 415 micro producers, and 507 manufacturers, the governor’s office reported.

Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. is a Family-Run Business

Cheech and Chong Cannabis Co. is a family-run business, with numerous brands and product lines. The brands include Cheech & Chong’s, Cheech’s Stash, Tommy Chong’s Cannabis, and their delivery service Cheech & Chong’s Takeout, featuring THC and CBD products delivered to your door.

That includes flower lines like Lowrider, Yesca, Ahhberry, and Love Machine. On the website, you can read about the terpene profiles. Love Machine, for instance, is loaded with myrcene and ocimene, while Ahhberry is loaded with terpinolene and linalool.

Cosmic, Cheech and Chong Cannabis Co.’s concentrate line, features sugar, badder, diamonds, sauce, and disposable carts.

The company also operates with many partnerships. Last July, High Times reviewed the Cheech & Chong Mambo Herb Stick from XVape. They also partnered with Z2 Comics to release their own comic book line. Cheech and Chong’s Chronicles: A Brief History of Weed was released in a soft and hardcover editions in finer comic shops and bookstores on April 20, 2022. 

Chong has appeared in High Times numerous times, most recently in 2021, and you map their growth as artists throughout old interviews, when their fame first exploded. (You can read this scintillating interview of both comedians with former editor Ed Dwyer from the August, 1980 issue of High Times magazine, for instance, or Chong’s vivid 2020 account of Operation Pipe Dreams and unjust prison time with the real Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belafonte.)

Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. and Dreamz Dispensary’s partnership marks a new shift into the state of New Mexico, which holds high potential for economic rewards as its industry unfolds.

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Maven Genetics is One of the Rec Stars of 2023

If you’re a regular consumer in California’s recreational market, it’s pretty hard to miss Maven Genetics these days. Since the team broke out of their shell, they’ve made an epic run on shelf space up and down the state this year. The growth has been backboned by a solid spread of house genetics, and a few new accolades they received for their flower recently won’t hurt either. We sat down with the team at Maven Genetics a couple of days removed from their top-five finish with French Laundry in The Emerald Cup’s hyper competitive indoor division.

Maven’s co-founder and President Mike Corvington started the tale by noting how long the team had been working together previously to Maven being formed as an entity in the era of adult-use legalization.

“We obviously all come from the traditional side and have collectively been doing our thing since the late ’90s, early 2000s and kind of slowly scaled up our endeavors throughout that time from backyards and house grows to entering into the warehouse game,” Corvington told High Times.

Pink Monet / Courtesy Maven Genetics

Corvington’s partner, Maven CEO David Bosworth, was the first of the group to get a warehouse going in the early 2000s. From there they went off in downtown LA for a bit. But while Maven is now known for having a giant spread of flavors to pick from, they weren’t at that point back then.

“We were strictly OG,” Corvington stressed. “We were blessed with the original Triangle Kush cut from Miami. Essentially the same one Josh D had. Our other buddy Chad had a pre-98 that we traded for that back in the late ’90s. So we grew a little bit of Bubba here and there, but predominantly from the early 2000s all the way until, I think 2016-17, we just cranked out lots and lots of OG. We basically flooded the valley with OG and just really top-quality OG.”

In 2015, the team would eventually start to work with the XXX OG cut they run to this day. It’s still a staple of their lineup and breeding work, and Corvington swears by the cut.

“That one is just super special,” he said.

XXX OG is one of the strains they don’t expect to cycle out from the 20 or so they have in production at the moment. It’s a mainstay on their menu.

While Corvington isn’t spending as much time in the garden as he did back in the day, he’s a critical piece of the Maven brain trust that determines what they’ll be growing, how much, and when, to make sure they keep a constant supply of product.

Before formally establishing the company, Maven sold genetics. Now they offer flower and concentrates featuring their genetics. Corvington explained that Maven officially became an entity when they got the trademark for the logo in 2017.

Blue Agape / Courtesy Maven Genetics

“The logo kind of evolved through a few different iterations. I mean, we had the brand established in like 2015. And then it kind of went through a couple of iterations,” Corvington said. “I think it’s 2017 we actually officially trademarked it as an apparel brand federally.”

Corvington went on to note that 2015 was also the year they really saw the writing on the wall as far as the need to become their own brand, as opposed to dudes just pumping out fire OGs.

“We entered a few competitions and we started to see the slow transition from deli-style and then realizing that people are entering our flower into competitions and winning,” Corvington said. “And so we’re like, ‘We just need to do this.’ And kind of early on we saw that brands were going to be the way of the future so that’s why being vertically integrated has always been our approach.”

Corvington added that Maven has never been looking to have a massive retail footprint but instead wanted to have a few flagship shops to distribute the flower they work so hard on. Their two shops make up a small fraction of a percent of the shelf space they now have throughout over 400 dispensaries across California.

2017 was the year that Maven started hunting down all the flavors they’re now famous for. The decision to start hunting new terpene profiles coincided with the transition to the recreational market.

We asked Corvington if the team hadn’t hunted anything in 15 years at that point.

“Yeah, pretty much man. I mean, you know, small scale. There were a few packs of seeds here and there that we’d pop but very rarely at that point was I finding anything that was worth growing on any kind of scale,” Corvington said. “So 2017 was really when we started pushing a larger genetic line.”

Maven Genetics
White Dahlia / Courtesy Maven Genetics

Maven will pop about 100 seeds when they’re hunting for new flavors. Some hunts have gotten up to 200 but they find that 100 number to be their sweet spot. Corvington noted they are looking for everything. Sure, the economics of things are critical, but they’re still excited to see those wild flavors and outliers that might not make sense in a full production run.

Maybe Maven can do something else with them given how robust the inhouse breeding program got in 2020 a few years after they started popping all the seeds.

“I’d say the breeding program was not really in full swing ‘till like 2020. We definitely popped different gear, but it wasn’t until 2020 that I would say we had any kind of impactful programming,” Corvington explained.

Some of the early successes of the program included the Blueberry Skunk. Maven would go on to run a few more Blueberry lines—such as Blueberry Zkittlez which is still in production—but Corvington argued they have evolved a lot since those early wins in the breeding room.

“I feel like you know, we’ve really kind of made some impacts in the past year and a half because initially even in the breeding that we’re doing, it was kind of more we were kind of feeling our way through it and finding more things that were commercially viable, but that I don’t know if I would at this point say we’re long term keepers like our XXX OG and things that, you know, we’ll forever hold on to at this point,” Corvington said.

Right now Maven is running about 1,100 lights. They’re also deep in the process of converting a couple of their spaces to double-stacked LEDs. They had previously run HPS exclusively, but they’ve already done some test runs with Hawthorne as they look to dial it in on the LED side.

Corvington believes a lot of the people who have struggled with LEDs aren’t handling the environmental conditions the right way. But he also admits some cultivars seem to do better under LED compared to HPS despite many being convinced it’s always the other way around.

“I think with LEDs you really have to have your environmentals tuned in properly,” Corvington said. “A lot of people will not be getting the yields—are not getting the quality—and it’s just a result of their photosynthetic photon efficacy being off or just their environmental not being dialed in properly. You really have to have your stuff on point to grow well with LEDs.”

French Laundry / Courtesy Maven Genetics

We asked Corvington if their cultivation standard operating procedures were strain-specific or if the genetics needed to fit into the system that Maven has built out. He argued it’s a little bit of both. While they certainly cater to the plant, they try and group the room with things that have similar tolerance levels to the environment.

Some of those rooms can get up to 162 lights. Corvington admits they obviously have a bit more control on the stuff in the smaller rooms where it’s easier to keep a tight rein on things. That being said, he’s happy with what the big rooms are putting out.

Corvington went on to speak about concerns that the big menu makes it hard for their rock stars to shine.

“I mean, that’s always there and I thought we could reduce the menu, but, you know, I feel like our cadence with our strain offerings works for the buyers that we work with in our relationships,” Corvington explained. “Because you get some groups that just kind of want six different strains and they’re happy with that. But inevitably, there are other groups that they’re perfectly happy. They want variety because the customer base wants variety.”

This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

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North Carolina Tribe Votes To Legalize Recreational Cannabis

For North Carolina, where both recreational and medical cannabis are both illegal under the state’s law, the outcome clears the way for the Tar Heel State’s first dispensary.

The Associated Press reported that unofficial results of the vote on Thursday showed “that 70% of voters said ‘yes’…in a referendum that opens the door to the western North Carolina reservation being the first location in the state where pot for recreational use can be legally purchased.”

“The question put to a vote by the Eastern Band tribal council asked whether members supported legalizing the possession and use of cannabis by people at least 21 years old, and requiring the council to develop legislation to regulate a market,” according to the Associated Press.

Local news station WLOS said that the matter will now go to the Tribal Council “to pass legislation governing the sale of marijuana,” and that if the council approves, “it would make the reservation the first place in North Carolina where marijuana could be legally possessed and used.”

For the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the vote has been two years in the making. In 2021, the tribe passed an ordinance that decriminalized pot on its land. That same year, the tribe also passed an ordinance legalizing medical cannabis.

“The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain,” Richard Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said following the vote in 2021.

The tribe has been planning to convert an old bingo hall into a “cannabis superstore.” But there have been disputes over the cost of the project.

In May, Sneed wrote in a post on Facebook that he had “vetoed the Tribal Council’s recent approval of the final $64 million for the project because the original proposal said the entire project would be completed for $50 million.”

“The fact that this project’s original cost for an outdoor grow, an indoor grow and an indoor dispensary was $50m, and we are now being told it is $95m, demonstrates that there is an immediate need for a full accounting of the money that has been expended to date,” Sneed wrote at the time.

The Charlotte Observer reported then: “Sneed told French he ‘fully supports cannabis, both medical and adult use.’ He also is ‘encouraged and inspired’ by tribal workers at the growing operation at Cooper’s Creek on the tribe’s Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, he added. The operation is run by Qualla Enterprises LLC, the tribe’s for-profit medical cannabis arm. Yet, Sneed told French, ‘I am very troubled by the lack of accountability for the managing of the business side of the operation. The current projected cost is almost 100% over budget as compared to the original RFP projected cost.’ RFP stands for ‘request for proposals.’”

Thursday’s vote marks a significant development in the reform effort. According to WLOS, the referendum passed 2,464 to 1,057.

Some outside the tribe have raised objections to the effort. Earlier this month, Chuck Edwards, a Republican congressman who represents a district in western North Carolina, introduced a bill to “withhold 10 percent of federal highway funds for governments that violate federal law under the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits recreational marijuana and classifies it as a Schedule I drug.”

The legislation was explicitly aimed at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ referendum.

“The laws of any government should not infringe on the overall laws of our nation, and federal funds should not be awarded to jurisdictions that willfully ignore federal law,” Edwards said in a statement after introducing the bill. “During a time when our communities are seeing unprecedented crime, drug addiction, and mental illness, the Stop Pot Act will help prevent even greater access to drugs and ease the strain placed on our local law enforcement and mental health professionals who are already stretched thin.”

In a press release, Edwards’ office noted that the “Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will vote on September 7 whether to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana on tribal lands,” and that if the referendum were to pass, “the Qualla Boundary will be the only place in North Carolina to buy marijuana legally for recreational use.”

The congressman’s office noted that the bill “does not apply to jurisdictions that authorize medical use of marijuana when prescribed by a licensed medical professional.”

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Kern County, California Cops Shut Down Seven Unlicensed Dispensaries

Seven unlicensed dispensaries in Rosamond, California were shut down by Kern County Sheriff’s office deputies Wednesday, reports the Sierra Sun Times. The dispensaries were stocked with quality pot, offered loyalty programs, and offered raffles and other promotional items. They appear to be almost indistinguishable from legal dispensaries in nearby communities that allow retail stores.

While home growing is allowed in Kern County, dispensaries are not permitted to open in most towns and communities. The latest sting reflects the constant battle to contain illegal businesses that ignore the county’s strict stance on cannabis.

“Kern County Sheriff’s Office officials report that on September 6, 2023, at approximately 7:45 p.m., the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Kern County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (KC-HIDTA), along with Investigators from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, executed search warrants on seven illegal marijuana dispensaries operating in the community of Rosamond,” the department posted on Facebook.

The post continues, “Wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife/Cannabis Enforcement Program (CEP), detectives from California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and officers from the Kern County Probation Department also assisted in the execution of the search warrants and arrests of numerous subjects found to be involved in operating the illegal marijuana dispensaries.”

The photos show great bargains, such as two grams for $15 or four grams for $30. Cheap shake bags are also visible in the photos.

Per usual with Facebook posts about cannabis busts, it wasn’t entirely well-received by the public. “Lame waste of county resources,” one commenter said. Another wrote, “unlicensed so Bakersfield isn’t getting their cut, that’s why they were busted.” The post also contained seven photos of the inside of the dispensaries as well as a weapon that was found on one of the suspects.

Officers List Busted Dispensaries and Suspects

All seven dispensaries were found to be in violation of County and State Health and Safety Code ordinances and laws as a result of the investigation. Investigators from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) assisted detectives from the sheriff’s office in the overall operation. The following dispensaries were found to be in violation for the illicit sales of cannabis and cannabis products:

  • Lights Out Wellness on 1739 Poplar Street
  • Wicked Weed on 2763 Sierra Hwy
  • The Location on 2613 Diamond Street
  • Mr. 5 Gramz on 2665 Diamond Street
  • AV Wellness on 2689 Sierra Hwy
  • Plum Tree Collective on 2873 Sierra Hwy
  • CBD Plus on 2753 Diamond

Sheriff deputies found numerous building code violations at all seven locations. Based on the violations, the businesses were deemed unsafe for occupancy and posted by Kern County Code Compliance.

Officers listed the suspects who were arrested with various charges of allegedly breaking the law, and booked into the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Central Receiving Facility or Mojave jail. Police listed 17 individuals, along with their ages and specific charges they received during the wave of raids. At least two of those individuals had outstanding warrants.

Kern County’s Continual Buzzkill

Not all communities in California accept cannabis, especially inland communities. Cannabis retail stores are not legal in most areas of Kern County, California Cannabis Information explains. Pursuant to Cannabis Ordinance, Section 19.08. 55, the local law explicitly bans commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis businesses within the county—with the exception of California City and Arvin.

Neighbors in the area generally don’t like cannabis coming into their communities. In 2018, 52.38% of Kern County residents voted against Prop. 64, legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in California. The county routinely cracks down on illegal cannabis activity, as well as hot hemp and other illegal operations.

A few years ago, Kern County officials found 10 million cannabis plants deemed too hot to be hemp with an estimated value of over $1 billion. On October 25, 2019 law enforcement descended on the fields. The growers claimed to be growing non-psychoactive hemp. They were, in fact, raising marijuana plants that clocked in at over the .3% THC content allowed under California law.

After a tip was sent to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in 2019, police found hot hemp about 11 fields sprawling out over 459 acres in the small town of Arvin. An investigation was launched in collaboration with the FBI and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that resulted in the October 25 search warrants.

“Preliminary testing showed the levels of THC in these fields were well over the legal limit for industrial hemp production and were in fact cannabis,” announced the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook post. “The investigation is ongoing.”

California law does allow for THC content over .3% if the hemp is being grown for research purposes.

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First Cannabis Ads Coming Soon to Spotify

Chicago-based marijuana company Cresco Labs Inc. announced on Thursday that it will become the “first cannabis company to launch cannabis advertisements on Spotify, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service with more than 551 million users and 220 million subscribers.”

The ad campaign will promote Sunnyside, a chain of dispensaries operated by Cresco Labs and will include “30 second audio and in-app digital banners that drive to the retailer’s proprietary e-commerce platform,” the company said in a press release.

Those ads will be specifically targeted to Spotify listeners (and would-be Sunnyside customers) in Illinois, where recreational cannabis is legal.

“Audio streaming services represent a major opportunity for brands to reach large audiences in a targeted manner, and we’re excited to collaborate with Spotify to launch the first-ever cannabis ads from our Sunnyside national retail brand,” Cory Rothschild, Cresco Labs’ National Retail President, said in a statement on Thursday. “Our Sunnyside advertising strategy is built on a data ecosystem enabling best-in-class targeting and measurement. Spotify’s platform will enable our marketing team to target our ads compliantly and profitably to our core shoppers in Illinois where we have a leading share in retail. This important partnership is not only a step in normalizing cannabis, but it also showcases the sophistication and quality of marketing that we have unlocked at Cresco Labs.”

Advertising has been a tricky area to navigate for cannabis companies looking to market in the United States, where marijuana remains subject to federal prohibition. 

Marketing Brew ran a story in 2021 detailing those challenges, and highlighted how the publicly traded Cresco Labs “has a podcast advertising strategy that is just as nuance-filled as you’d expect,” and that its “core strategy hits at the intersection of host-read and programmatic ads.”

The outlet reported that the company “only advertises in states where cannabis—and therefore, marketing cannabis products—is legal.”

“We follow the letter of the law in terms of our content in our delivery,” Matt Pickerel, senior director of performance marketing at Cresco Labs, told Marketing Brew. “So, because we’re dynamically inserting podcast ads, we only serve in the states where we have a footprint and where we have all the licenses that we need.”

Pickerel explained that the podcast company Headgum allowed Cresco Labs to “dynamically insert pre-recorded host-read ads in states Cresco wants to advertise in.”

“Because podcast measurement is still ‘in its infancy,’ Pickerel said, Cresco tracks success with ‘some pretty elementary metrics.’ Those include number of impressions, completes, discount-code redemptions, and website visits if the podcast mentions Cresco’s URL,” Marketing Brew reported at the time.

“While Cresco hasn’t jumped into the podcast advertising landscape headfirst due to those measurement concerns, Pickerel told us it’s doing more than dipping a toe in, with about 15% of its marketing budget going toward podcasts.”

Cresco says that its mission is to “normalize and professionalize the cannabis industry through a CPG approach to building national brands and a customer-focused retail experience, while acting as a steward for the industry on legislative and regulatory-focused initiatives.”

“As a leader in cultivation, production and branded product distribution, the Company is leveraging its scale and agility to grow its portfolio of brands that include Cresco, High Supply, FloraCal, Good News, Wonder Wellness Co., Mindy’s and Remedi, on a national level. The Company also operates highly productive dispensaries nationally under the Sunnyside brand that focus on building patient and consumer trust and delivering ongoing education and convenience in a wonderfully traditional retail experience. Through year-round policy, community outreach and SEED initiative efforts, Cresco Labs embraces the responsibility to support communities through authentic engagement, economic opportunity, investment, workforce development and legislative initiatives designed to create the most responsible, respectable and robust cannabis industry possible,” the company said in Thursday’s press release.

According to Business Insider, Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell “is a keynote speaker at the upcoming Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago on September 27 and 28, where he will undoubtedly share more insights regarding the new partnership with Spotify.”

In addition to the Benzinga conference in Chicago later this month, Cresco Labs said that Bachtell will also appear at the ATB 2023 Life Sciences Institutional Investor Conference on September 20 in New York City, and the AGP Annual Virtual Cannabis Conference on October 4.

Sunnyside has dispensaries across seven states: one in Arizona, 33 in Florida, ten in Illinois, four in Massachusetts, four in New York, five in Ohio and 14 in Pennsylvania.

Sunnyside opened a new location last month in Palm Bay, Florida.

“We continue to expand the Sunnyside brand and increase access to top-quality cannabis products in the most meaningful Florida markets,” Bachtell said at the time. “Palm Bay is the most populous city in Brevard County with over 129,000 residents, and the city’s location just southeast of Orlando will enable Sunnyside Palm Bay, along with our many other stores in the East Central Florida region, to serve tens of thousands of patients with their cannabis needs.”

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The Importance of Consumption Spaces

Canada’s federal and many provincial governments have neglected the importance of cannabis consumption spaces, according to a case study published in Contemporary Drug Problems. Its authors looked at the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club (VCBC), particularly the consumption space known as “The Box.” The study found numerous benefits to a medical cannabis smoking lounge.  Benefits that have either been ignored or glossed over by policymakers and specific actors in the “public health” field.  Instead of getting praise for its community-centric cannabis […]

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Chinese Heroin vs. Canadian Cannabis

In Canada, especially in Vancouver, British Columbia, it’s a battle between Chinese heroin (fentanyl) and Canadian cannabis. Outside the allowable parameters of the debate is the solution: how cannabis is used for rehabilitation and how to safely self-rehab with cannabis usage. You can quit meth with cannabis rehab. Rehab for alcohol should include cannabis-based medicines. Or forget the rehab centre altogether. Safely self-rehab with cannabis usage from the comfort of your home. People are struggling with substance use. It’s not […]

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Arkansas Medical Cannabis Sales Set To Surpass Last Year’s Record Of $270M

The people of Arkansas spent $23.2 million on medical cannabis in July, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. According to the Department of Finance and Administration, such recent spending is set to surpass the state’s record sales from last year. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, said July’s sales numbers demonstrate that Arkansas will exceed 2022’s record medical marijuana sales, which reached $270 million.

Arkansas medical marijuana patients spent $164.6 million on cannabis from January to July of 2023, which marks a $7.3 million increase from the first seven months of 2022. That figure accounts for a whopping 5,157 pounds of bud, bringing the year’s total to 34,214.

“If sales remain consistent for the next several months, we will complete 2023 with total sales reaching more than $280 million,” Hardin shared in a news release. “The state collected $2.5 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana in July. This brings total medical marijuana tax revenue in 2023 to $18.5 million, and $108 million since the first dispensary opened in May 2019.”

July came in fifth in 2023 for sales compared with other months, showing that even an impressive $23.2 million isn’t the biggest figure Arkansas can brag about. The highest-earning month of the year is March, which raked in $25 million worth of sales. The state’s lowest earning month of the year still comes in at $22.4 million, Hardin shares. 

However, while sales are up, the tax revenue generated does not necessarily reflect sale numbers. For example, the $18.5 million in tax revenue the state has collected from medical marijuana sales through July 2023 is slightly down from 2022’s figures around this year, which clocked in at $18.7 million.

The highest-earning dispensaries that sold the most medical marijuana were Suite 443 of Hot Springs, selling 551.7 pounds in July, and Natural Relief Dispensary in Sherwood, which sold 462.1 pounds.

Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment in 2016. The state saw its first dispensaries open shop in 2019. Since then, as these figures reflect, there’s been a gradual and continual increase in the number of medical patients. The current figure clocks in at 94,059, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Health. This number is up from the 88,893 registered cardholders in 2022. 

Despite such gains in medical sales, in Arkansas, the state has yet to embrace recreational marijuana. Back in November of 2022, voters rejected Issue 4, a measure that would have legalized adult-use cannabis, to the dismay of Arkansas cannabis advocates who worked so hard to push the bill through.  

Those pushing the failed measure were led by Responsible Growth Arkansas, an advocacy group concerned with reforming drug law, prison sentencing, and healthcare research. The bill would have amended the constitution to authorize the possession, personal use, and consumption of cannabis by adults 21 and over, as well as legalizing the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities.

However, the measure did face criticism. Some complained that it didn’t include expungement provisions or allow for home growing. There were also questions about the method of implementation. As a constitutional amendment, it would take a lot of work to make those changes further down the line. As a result, even die-hard pro-cannabis reformers weren’t over the moon excited about Issue 4. 

And Arkansas is a conservative state, making any change towards cannabis reform trickier, even in a time where some conservatives show bi-partisan support for cannabis and psychedelic legalization. State officials, such as Arkansas’ secretary of state, challenged the measure’s validity.

While those in support submitted more than the number of signatures required for the proposal to qualify for the ballot, the state Board of Election commissioners still rejected the measure, arguing that the ballot title didn’t adequately explain what the measure meant to voters. 

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson even held a joint press briefing on October 31, 2022, at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in Little Rock to speak out against Issue 4. “This puts us at a disadvantage in [the] recruiting industry if Issue 4 passes,” Hutchinson said, citing how workplace drug testing would be affected.

So, for now, Arkansas only has (quite profitable) medical cannabis under Amendment 98. Hutchinson’s concern regarding workplace drug testing comes at a time when changes regarding drug testing are sweeping the nation. 

For instance, The Michigan Civil Service Commission recently passed a change that would end drug screenings for cannabis for applicants for many state jobs. This rule would overturn previous state policy that automatically disqualified applicants to state positions that tested positive for cannabis (although applicants to some jobs will still be required to pass a marijuana screening before hiring). 

Additionally, as noted regarding bipartisan support in the country, despite what the Republicans in Arkansas believe, Matt Gaetz of Florida recently proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would cease cannabis testing for military members. 

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New York Supreme Court Judge Lifts Injunction for Small Number of Cannabis Licenses

New York Supreme Court Justice Judge Kevin Bryant recently lifted a temporary injunction that previously halted approval for any state cannabis licenses on Aug. 25. However, only 30 licensees are currently affected by the decision compared to the statewide total of more than 400 applications that are still on hold. 

“As such, those licenses identified by the office of cannabis management will be deemed exempt from the injunction,” Bryant said about his decision.

Those 30 licensees were labeled “ready to open” by both the Cannabis Control Board and the city in which they will operate. According to a PIX11 news report, applicants could potentially become exempt from the injunction if they need their dispensary income to help them financially. “The Judge’s August 18 order outlined certain factors and our job as attorneys representing CAURD licenses is to ensure that our clients are protected and that they fit within an exemption so we need to work to make sure they’re in line with the judge’s order,” said Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) attorney Jorge Luis Vasquez.

In response to Byrant’s most recent decision, the Office of Cannabis Management issued a statement regarding exemptions for those provisional licensees. “While today’s ruling is a disappointment, we are committed to working with the Cannabis Control Board to find a way forward that does not derail our efforts to bring the most equitable cannabis market in the nation to life.”

The lawsuit began on Aug. 2 when a group of military veterans introduced a lawsuit against the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and New York Cannabis Control Board, claiming that those agencies did not set up a properly working cannabis industry as stated in the state’s CAURD license, state officials prioritized “justice involved” applicants over disabled veteran applicants.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was originally signed in March 2021 by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and includes a list of five “social and economic equity” groups that would receive priority for a cannabis license: distressed farmers, individuals who live in areas disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, minority-owned businesses, service-disabled veterans, and women-owned businesses.

The lawsuit includes Carmine Fiore (who served eight years in the Army and National Guard), Dominic Spaccio (who spent six years in the U.S. Air Force), William Norgard (a former Army veteran), and Steve Mejia (with six years spent in the Air Force), who are represented by attorneys Brian Thomas Burns, Selbie Lee Jason, and Patrick Joseph Smith, of Clark Smith Villazor.

According to plaintiff Fiore, he and other veterans helped get cannabis legalized, but now are being denied an opportunity to take part in the state’s legal industry and “cast aside for a separate agenda,” Fiore told CBS News.

“From the beginning, our fight has always been for equal access to this new and growing industry,” a joint statement from all four veterans said. “We look forward to working with the state and the court to open the program to all eligible applicants.”

As a result, Judge Bryant issued an injunction on Aug. 7 that prevented the New York Office of Cannabis Management from approving licenses for any new cannabis stores temporarily. In a hearing on Aug. 18, Bryant extended the injunction and said that the CAURD program is in “legal jeopardy,” and predicted that the OCM’s decision not to award licenses to the veteran defendants caused “irreparable harm.”

Clark Smith Villazor released a statement on LinkedIn in response to Bryant’s decision last week. “In a ruling today in favor of Clark Smith Villazor LLP’s four service-disabled veteran clients seeking to enter New York’s nascent retail marijuana industry, a New York State Supreme Court Justice issued a preliminary injunction that largely halts the processing of allegedly unconstitutional conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) licenses in the cannabis industry,” the firm wrote about the ruling on Aug. 18. “In a 16-page decision, Justice Kevin Bryant found that CSV’s clients ‘presented persuasive and compelling authority’ that the state regulators ‘failed to follow the clear language of the applicable legislation’ by failing to open the retail-dispensary application period to everyone at the same time, including to priority groups like service-disabled veterans.”

Currently, only 23 licensed cannabis stores are open for business in New York, and the decision has halted all progress and is negatively impacting cannabis owners across the state.

Last week, CEO of CONBUD, Coss Marte told High Times how prior to cannabis legalization in New York, 94% of cannabis-related arrests included Black and Latino residents. “We’ve paid our dues. We’ve done the time, and if there’s one thing we hope for the world and the court to know, it’s that like cannabis, we’re here for good and we are here to stay,” Marte said. “We had the opportunity to be heard and to fight on behalf of all of our fellow CAURD licensees who will experience irreparable harm if they’re barred from operating their businesses, and we are confident and hopeful that the court wants a swift resolution that honors the original promises made to justice-impacted license holders.”

The Cannabis Control Board is set to hold a meeting on Sept. 12 to vote on state licensing regulations. “I want this to be as easy as possible, I don’t want to waste unnecessary time,” Bryant said, who also scheduled the next hearing of the case for Sept. 15.

The post New York Supreme Court Judge Lifts Injunction for Small Number of Cannabis Licenses appeared first on High Times.

Harlem Set To Open First Legal Dispensary

It is a celebratory time in one of New York City’s most historic neighborhoods, which will open its first legal marijuana dispensary next week. 

The dispensary, known as Gotham Buds, has a “tentative grand opening” scheduled on September 5 at its location just across the street from the iconic Apollo Theater, according to CBS New York.

The local news station noted that the opening of the business has faced “some pushback from the community.”

A Harlem-based business group called the 125th Street Business Improvement District filed a lawsuit in April with the New York Supreme Court, claiming that the “the process was conducted secretly in order to avoid opposition from the community.”

“We’ve taken this action to really create transparency and to create a channel of communication to understand why this location,” Mukaram Taheraly, chairman of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, said at the time, as quoted by CBS New York.

The station explained that it was “the first case challenging the process state regulators use to choose dispensary locations,” and that the lawsuit “accused the state of violating its own law against having a dispensary within 500 feet of a school, with Touro College, which teaches high school students, just a few doors away.”

But in a statement this week ahead of the scheduled opening of Gotham Buds, the 125th Street Business Improvement District hit a more welcoming note.

“We want all of our Harlem businesses to thrive, so we will do everything in our power to help make this be a success for Gotham Buds and our community,” the group said, as quoted by CBS New York.

New York legalized recreational cannabis for adults in 2021, when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a measure into law. 

Many parts of the law took immediate effect, most notably the provision that enabled those 21 and older to have weed in their possession and to toke up wherever smoking is permitted. 

After Cuomo resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct in August of that year, he was succeeded by Kathy Hochul, who made it a priority to get the regulated marijuana market up and running.

The state’s first legal marijuana dispensary opened in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood in December of last year.

“We set a course just nine months ago to start New York’s adult-use cannabis market off on the right foot by prioritizing equity, and now, we’re fulfilling that goal,” Hochul said in a statement at the time. “The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities.”

Under an unprecedented social equity initiative, at least the first 100 dispensary licenses awarded in the Empire State are being awarded to individuals with previous cannabis-related convictions.

“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said in her announcement of the initiative last year. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”

Known as the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, the program “guarantees support for future equity applicants, and secures an early investment into communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” the governor’s office said at the time.

“Our state’s Cannabis Law sets a high goal for creating an equitable industry that puts New Yorkers first,” Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright said in the announcement at the time. “The Seeding Opportunity Initiative puts us on a path for achieving that goal and hopefully models a way forward for reaching those goals while building a stable market. I am thankful for the support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature, which made it possible for us to get this initiative off the ground quickly, establish a supply chain from our farmers to equity, retailers, and generate the resources to help revitalize communities that were harmed by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.” 

The allocation of dispensary licenses has so far been delayed by legal challenges. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, a group of military veterans challenged the policy of awarding licenses to those with prior convictions. As a result of the lawsuit, a New York judge extended an injunction on the issuing of additional cannabis dispensary licenses until the matter reaches a resolution. 

“That pushes this from being late to the party to potentially exiled from the process,” Brian Burns, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said earlier this month.

“I don’t think you can quantify how being subjected to an unconstitutional program impacts a person,” Burns added.

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