Silicon Valley Meets Humboldt County: Nabis Fills Supply Chain Gap

There’s a cannabis founder stereotype that’s bemoaned by the old-school legacy community: white boomer men with lucrative pasts in corporate finance and ample access to venture capital money, but scant connection to traditional cannabis culture. The creators of business-to-business cannabis distributor Nabis not only defy this stereotype, but they’ve also managed to build the largest wholesale marketplace and distribution network in California.

Nabis founders Jun S. Lee and Vince Ning are Korean Americans; Lee was born in Seoul, while Ning is a first-generation American born to Korean immigrants. The late-20s millennials and childhood friends were raised in Northern Virginia and can still reminisce about hiding their teenage pot consumption from parents, teachers and cops. They’re also academic and tech industry powerhouses: Ning earned his B.A. from the University of Virginia and worked as a software engineer at Microsoft, while Lee followed up his B.A. from Harvard with a systems architect position at Facebook.

Now they spend their time handling logistics, payment and warehousing for a portfolio of more than 100 brands in the world’s biggest cannabis market.

Nabis’ story is a testament to the exponential growth that’s possible when technological innovation collides with on-the-ground experience, carefully cultivated relationships and practical problem solving.

Recognizing Opportunity

Ning and Lee’s journey to establishing Nabis began in July of 2017 in a San Francisco bar. They were having drinks with a college friend who was running a pre-roll brand and struggling to transport product to dispensaries successfully. When he told Ning and Lee that distribution was his biggest pain point, their interest piqued. Moving several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of federally illegal plant material while collecting massive amounts of cash wasn’t part of their work experience. They decided to learn by doing: the next day, they called their friend and volunteered to make his deliveries.

“We were 23-years-old and had no capital,” Lee said. “We needed to understand the cannabis supply chain, and delivery driving seemed like the best way to do it. We never wanted to be the tech guys that came in to disrupt the space either – we wanted to respect the history and the culture that California cannabis had, and shipping was a humble way to join the industry, in a way that actually added value for those who came before us.”

They spent the next eight months behind the wheels of their own cars, delivering cannabis all over the Golden State. Because this was pre-adult use legalization, many transactions took place in various parking lots and fields, and all-night-long hauls from Humboldt County to San Diego became the norm. The duo credits that delivery driver stint as the foundation of their wildly successful business model.

“I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything,” Lee said.

By wading feet first into the choppy waters of cannabis distribution, Ning and Lee learned how to build their own boat. They developed contacts and established relationships. One client led to the next, and the next, and so on.

“For every order, there’s a network effect,” Lee said. “The fact that we put the time in to make deliveries and learn what those interactions were like made it much easier to train future employees and build software that can help automate that flow.”

Today, Nabis operates a fleet of 55 trucks, commands 46,000 square feet of warehouse space, and according to BDSA, distributes close to 10 percent of the legal cannabis sold in California. The rapidly growing tech company’s plans to scale continue. Since securing $5 million in Series A funding last fall, they’ve added several large brands to their portfolio and opened a new fulfillment center in Los Angeles, allowing them to increase weekly orders by 300 percent.

The secret to their success? Doing great work.

Delivering On Promises

Nabis takes pride in their lightning-fast shipping experience, which Ning compares to Amazon Prime, as all orders can be delivered within 36 hours of being placed. For retailers, Nabis simplifies ordering, delivery logistics and cash remittance, automating the massive amount of compliance paperwork required to ship cannabis. Operational excellence is paramount to their business philosophy.

“We execute on our promises of providing clients with service that is quick, responsible, professional, secure and on time,” Lee said. “Earning the trust of brands is all the marketing we need.”

Distribution may not be the sexiest topic in the cannabis space – but nailing it is a make-or-break for brands. The best products in the world will go nowhere if they can’t get product into dispensaries efficiently and cost-effectively. Ning and Lee see distribution as the connective tissue that links cultivators, manufacturers, retailers and end consumers. And whether cannabis buyers realize it or not, supply chain efficiency has a significant impact on the cost of the products they buy, as well as on the environment.

“By providing extensive support for our partner brands, our goal is that more consumers will be able discover cannabis products and develop the same passion for the plant that many of us have,” said Ning, co-founder and CEO of Nabis. “We hope to continue growing our platform outside of California to provide that infrastructure for the entire country.”

The cannabis supply chain is particularly complex, especially when extensive compliance and documentation are factored in. Self-distribution can be inefficient and costly, and Ning and Lee see their services as enabling cannabis operators to reserve their resources for what they do best.

“We take the distribution process off the plates of our clients, and free them up to tell their story and sell their product,” Lee said.

Nabis’ criterion for distributing a brand is simple. “If you are compliant and able to generate demand for your product, we will work with you, no matter how large or small your company is,” Lee said. “We strive to democratize access to shelf space, where the best products can compete to rise to the top.”

In addition to empowering brands, Nabis also aims to give consumers more choices. “It is Nabis’ goal to create a system in which cannabis consumers and patients have the power to choose which brands and products they want to support, and to make sure those products are available at licensed dispensaries,” Ning said.

As any cannabis business owner will attest, building a company without access to banking services is no easy task. That challenge is multiplied when the business in question is taking in millions of dollars in payments.

“Lack of a stable financial infrastructure is a challenge for all of us in this space,” Lee said. Although Nabis is now part of a pilot banking program with a publicly traded bank, 70 percent of the 10 million Nabis takes in monthly is in cash. The security necessary to safeguard both cash and product is yet another major expense. “We have five full-time employees counting cash forty hours a week.”

But once again, Nabis’ ability to design the labor system to process huge cash volume efficiently shows how they’ve surmounted the hurdles that doom so many nascent cannabis businesses. They’ve even launched a capital arm that offers competitive rates on short-term financing solutions for businesses in need of working capital to produce inventory and reinvest in production.

Investing In Community

Nabis is deeply committed to their local cannabis community. Both founders feel strongly about addressing the harms caused to marginalized communities by the drug war. Since day one, Nabis has been a social equity incubator in Oakland, providing financial and educational resources to equity partners. And while Lee frankly states that California’s equity program needs to do better and do more, Nabis is committed to providing financial and structural incentives to help Black-owned businesses succeed. For example, starting in 2019, they implemented a blanket 15 percent discount on all their distributed products made by equity and Black-owned businesses.

“While we pride ourselves on remaining neutral when it comes to the brands we represent, we feel the current moment requires a different response in the name of equity,” Lee said.

He also commented on what it’s like navigating the cannabis industry as an Asian American. “It’s actually been an exciting place for someone of AAPI heritage, as it’s an industry that’s being formed from scratch,” he said. “Because of that, we have the opportunity to create a workforce and supply chain that represents America today. While I am aware and concerned with the discrimination Asian Americans feel at large, I do think it’s encouraging to see important issues being discussed with such focus, especially this year.”

Lee and Ning both explained that Nabis’ mission of empowering the world to discover cannabis also communicates a desire to destigmatize the plant. “In Korean culture, cannabis is associated with things like crime or lack of productivity,” Lee said, further explaining that Nabis can play an important role in changing that outlook.

Ning encourages other aspiring business owners interested in cannabis to apply their own unique skills and expertise to this evolving industry. 

“Normalizing cannabis includes professionalizing the business of cannabis,” he said. “And in order to do that, we need more solution-driven entrepreneurs entering the space…The industry is far from perfect right now, and the problems we solve today will directly impact consumers of tomorrow.”

Originally published in issue 41 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE.

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Report Shows Decreased Percentage of Women and Minority Executives in Cannabis Industry

MJBizDaily released a report on October 4 called “Women & Minorities in the Cannabis Industry,” which reviews new statistics about female and people of color executives and business owners in the cannabis industry.

According to MJBizDaily’s findings, the percentage of women and minorities in executive level positions in the cannabis industry have dropped between 2019-2021. The national average of women who hold executive positions in the industry throughout the country is 29.8 percent, but over the past two years, women in those positions in the cannabis industry has fallen to 22.1 percent.

In 2019, approximately 36.8 percent of executive positions in cannabis were held by women. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the percentage of women in higher level positions in other industries is significantly higher, around 30 percent (in 2018, it was 21 percent).

Likewise, the percentage of people of color in executive positions decreased as well. Currently, only 13.1 percent of those positions are held by people of color, compared to 28 percent in 2019.

In the report’s introduction, MJBizDaily author Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier shares that in this third iteration of this report, much has changed in the industry. “However, racial and gender diversity in the marijuana industry is still lacking—especially in ownership and executive positions,” she wrote. “So too is the amount of hard data by which to benchmark the current state of diversity in the marijuana sector, understand the obstacles standing in the way of a more equitable industry and contextualize the initiatives states are putting in place to address the issue.”

The report was written with data collected from various governmental agencies, as well as statistics gathered by MJBizDaily surveys.

Representation of People of Color and Women in Cannabis Broken Down

The report covers 12 charts reflecting “deficiencies” in the industry’s diversity. On a national level, 19.9 percent of women own a cannabis business. Twenty-five percent operate out of Nevada, 19 percent in Colorado, 10 percent in Ohio and five percent Massachusetts, which makes a stark comparison between older markets, newer markets, and those that currently only support medical cannabis versus recreational cannabis industries.

The report also exhibits the breakdown of women in executive positions, the highest being at testing labs (53.9 percent), consumption lounges/events (48.1 percent), wholesale cultivators (40.1 percent) and ancillary service providers (39 percent). The lowest percent of women in certain roles includes investors, vertically integrated businesses and ancillary technology or products.

“The low rate of executive positions held by women at cannabis investment firms is worrisome, as access to capital has become a critical component of creating and running a successful marijuana company,” the report states. “While cannabis businesses could be started with only $50,000 five years ago, licensing alone in most markets will run into six figures today. With men accounting for such a large portion of leadership in cannabis investing—and possibly favoring management teams led by other men, whether consciously or unconsciously—female executives could have a tougher time raising money.”

Percentages of minority business owners remain small when viewing data collected from Colorado, Michigan and Nevada, according to this breakdown.

Asian American/Pacific Islander: Four percent in Colorado, 3.8 percent in Michigan and 6.3 percent in Nevada.

Black or African American: 2.7 percent in Colorado, 3.8 percent in Michigan and 5.1 percent in Nevada.

Indigenous: 0.4 percent in Colorado, 0.8 percent in Michigan and 2.5 percent in Nevada.

Latino: 7.7 percent of owners in Colorado, 1.5 in Michigan and 12.8 percent in Nevada.

White/Caucasian: 83.7 percent in Colorado, 79 percent in Michigan and 63 percent in Nevada.

“While the data is limited in scope and might not be an indicator of minority representation in the broader cannabis industry, it provides an accurate snapshot of the level of diversity in these three markets and shows a distinct difference in the effect early focus on diversity can have on building the market,” the report notes about the limited data available.

The number of minority executives has also changed. In 2017, the report shows the percentage of cannabis business led by minority executives at 16.8 percent, with a jump to 28 percent in 2019. As of 2021, that number has since decreased down to 13.1 percent, which is only 0.1 percent of the national average.

MJBizDaily suggests that the strong push for social equity could increase these numbers. “Social equity programs are a critical aspect of new regulated marijuana markets, and several of the first markets are looking for ways to fix this gap,” the report states. “But most programs have fallen short of their goals. Some of the contributors to these hurdles include licensing delays, challenges to how the policies are implemented and a lack of access to capital for economically disadvantaged communities.”

The second portion of the report identifies the challenges that minorities face in the cannabis industry, which includes the high price of entry in application and licensing fees, as well as other startup costs such as real estate, renovations, utilities and security necessities. The median household net worth of Black or African Americans ($24,100), Hispanic or Latino ($36,200), or those of other/multiple races ($74,500) is significantly lower than that of White individuals ($188,200).

The report concludes with the suggestion that two things need to change: access to capital must be increased, and social equity programs need to continue to be established. It recommends support for numerous organizations whose goals are to improve general access and social equity efforts.

The post Report Shows Decreased Percentage of Women and Minority Executives in Cannabis Industry appeared first on High Times.

Connecticut Ready to Pass Recreational Legalization Bill

It looks like Connecticut is going to be the 18th US state to adopt a recreational cannabis legalization policy. After talks of vetos, and fighting over provisions, the bill is up for its final vote before being signed by the governor.

Another state falls as Connecticut gets ready to pass a recreational legalization bill! The whole country is going cannabis-crazy, and new markets mean more products and more options, which is great for you. Like delta-8 THC instead of delta-9 THC. All the same health and wellness benefits, but with slightly less high, no anxiety, and a clearer head. We love helping people find the products they need. If you’re a delta-9 user who wants to try something else, check out our array of Delta-8 THC deals and take advantage of the growing offering of cannabis products.

Connecticut and recreational cannabis legalization

On Tuesday, June 15th, the Connecticut senate passed legislation for the second time this week, for the recreational legalization of cannabis, and to establish an adult-use market. The original bill was passed on June 8th, during the regular congressional session, with a vote of 19-17, however it never made it to the House before adjournment by the General Assembly on June 9th. Before the second vote, revisions were made to the bill, which the governor decided were not appropriate. The revised version passed the Senate again Tuesday during a two-day special legislative session in a vote of 19-12, only to have the governor threaten a veto if it passed the House in the same form.

Recreational cannabis legalization efforts started about five years ago in Connecticut, but floundered over the years. This year, there was renewed vigor, and support by Governor Ned Lamont. The bill should have come up before the end of the legislative session, but as tends to happen in government, it stalled for months, before finally coming to light right before congressional sessions ended. Regardless, its there now, and it looks like Connecticut will be state # 18 following New York and New Mexico, which both legalized a couple months back.

What is the issue?

The issue making a mess of things has to do with a provision about equity, which was specifically designed to help those who had faced prosecution as a result of cannabis criminalization, to get something back. The idea being to allow this population the ability to more quickly obtain licensing to cultivate or produce cannabis products, and be a part of the legal market. Unfortunately, when the provision was added after the first Senate vote, lawmakers went a bit crazy, expanding that equity to other drug offenders, other criminal offenders, and even their families, which earned the ire of the governor, and rightly so.

cannabis bill

The bill, says Lamont, would open the cultivation and production industry to many people who don’t deserve to get an expedited pass. The governor’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds, issued a statement with a promise of the governor’s veto if the bill passed the House with the current language.

According to Mounds, the legislation: “Simply put, does not meet the goals laid out during negotiations when it comes to equity and ensuring the wrongs of the past are righted. To the contrary, this proposal opens the floodgates for tens of thousands of previously ineligible applicants to enter the adult-use cannabis industry… This last-minute amendment creates equity in name only by allowing these individuals expedited opportunity to obtain access to the marketplace.”

While admittedly not all criminals should have this access, he specifically stated “just about anyone with a history of cannabis crimes” would have access. Don’t we want that? Isn’t that the point? I mean, traffickers wouldn’t ever have access, so he’s talking about personal possession and use cases, which theoretically would be expunged. Yet these people shouldn’t have access to cultivation and production licenses at an expedited rate? Does the governor not want people who have already paid a price for something that wouldn’t even come with criminal implications anymore, to have expedited access to the legal market they were once punished for being a part of?

Apparently not. This is what he stated: “If a rich suburban kid is selling pot outside of a high school and he gets busted all of the sudden he’s at the front of the line to get a license, that didn’t seem to make much sense to me. I really think it’s the community, not the person, that ought to be prioritized.” Weirdly, I think it’s the person who had to serve the sentence who should get the help, and it shouldn’t matter who they are. But that’s just my opinion.

Sen. Gary Winfield, who co-chairs the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, and who is a major sponsor of the bill, did show an understanding of going a bit too far with including so many groups:

“I think what we were doing was trying to address the concerns of some people who felt like people who had records, particularly on cannabis, in the criminal justice system, would be able to participate under the system… I think that the initial change we made definitely allowed this to go too far, and so we made an attempt to bring it back along the lines of some of the concerns of the governor … In doing that, clearly the governor feels as though we missed the mark.”

cannabis crimes

Second thoughts?

Only hours after threatening to veto a bill that passed the Senate twice, Governor Lamont changed his tone a bit. Considering his only issue is in who gets expedited licenses, and not in the actual legalization of cannabis (which he actually was a huge proponent of), its not that surprising that something worked out in the end.

Not 24 hours after asserting his desire to veto the bill if it passed the House in the same form passed by the Senate, Lamont stated he expected a final vote to go through this week. House Speaker Matt Ritter stated that most members of the democratic caucus were happy enough to change the language, given that the bill already passed the Senate once without the revised equity provision (which originally was based on location). This means that the ever-important part about helping those who have already faced criminal penalties for cannabis, wouldn’t be a part of it.

Said Lamont of the bill going to the House: “The Senate passed a really good marijuana bill a week ago, a bill that had been carefully negotiated over a period of time… There were a couple of curveballs that came in at the very last moment late last night, and I think you’re going to see the House go back and pass what was the originally agreed-upon bill, and I think we’re going to get something passed within a week.”

As it turns out, the House did pass the bill June 16th, but with the original equity allowance based on location, not the amended one. Rather than simply changing the language to not involve other criminal offenders, the provision to help those who had been previously convicted of cannabis crimes to get expedited licensing, was dropped. Along with that, a second provision was dropped, which would have made it so that anyone earning over a certain amount wouldn’t have eligibility for equity at all, regardless of other circumstances. This sends the bill back to the Senate for yet another vote, since the House and Senate have to pass the same version of the same bill. The bill passed in a vote of 76-62 after debates on the floor. The Senate is scheduled to go at it again on Thursday the 17th.

To give an idea of the craziness that exists in marijuana thought, Representative Tom O’Dea, made this statement: “Mark my words… people will die because of this bill, because of marijuana being sold in Connecticut.” He seems to misunderstand that there isn’t really a death count associated with cannabis. Perhaps he should worry more about the 1,359 reported overdose deaths in 2020 in Connecticut, and how 85% were related to fentanyl.

What are the provisions of the bill?

Assuming the bill does end up passing, and getting signed, it would legalize cannabis for those 21 and above, starting July 1st. The new law would allow individuals to have up to 1.5 ounces on their person, and up to five ounces in a home or vehicle that is secure.

cannabis legalization bill

Products will be required to have THC labeling, and home-growing, which originally was not going to be a part of it, will be allowed. If it passes, residents will be able to have up to three mature plants, and three immature plants, in their homes by 2023.

The retail market would not be up and running until around May of 2022, and possibly later than that. And the bill would actually ban any state lawmakers from entering into the market in any capacity until at least two years after leaving office.

Conclusion

Politics sure are messy, and the majority of the time, we regular citizens have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, or why. Connecticut will almost definitely be passing a recreational cannabis legalization bill on the 17th, but unfortunately, it won’t afford extra help to those who have already been damned by the system. On the other hand, this now makes 18 states. Can’t be upset about that!

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

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Friday, February 5, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Friday, February 5, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Illinois Sets New Marijuana Sales Record In First Month Of 2021 (Marijuana Moment)

// New York Lawmakers Slam Governor’s Marijuana Legalization Plan While Touting Legislature’s Own Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills Clear Procedural Floor Hurdles Ahead Of Friday Deadline (Marijuana Moment)


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// Legal recreational cannabis sales in Canada outstrip illicit spending for first time (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Jazz Pharmaceuticals Is Buying GW Pharmaceuticals in $7.2 Billion Deal (Green Market Report)

// Funding for marijuana companies surges after Democrats win control of White House Congress (Marijuana Business Daily)

// California cannabis agency creates uproar by revoking 300-plus business permits then reinstates most (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Washington Lawmakers Introduce Long-Awaited Bill To Decriminalize All Drugs And Expand Treatment (Marijuana Moment)

// MassRoots Wants To Be The Greatest Come Back In the Cannabis Industry (Green Market Report)

// Michael Thompson Freed After 24 Years In Prison For Marijuana Sale Now Crowdfunded Campaign Buys Him A Home (Inquisitr)

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Tuesday, February 2, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Three US senators announce plans for major federal marijuana reform (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills Sail Though Committees As Key Friday Deadline Nears (Marijuana Moment)

// Black entrepreneurs are underrepresented in Michigan’s recreational marijuana industry (Detroit Metro Times)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical and adult use marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 350,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// Top Minnesota Lawmakers File Marijuana Legalization Bill For 2021 (Marijuana Moment)

// West Virginia awards medical cannabis dispensary licenses many to MSOs (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Biden’s USDA Takes First Meeting With Hemp Industry To Learn About Market Needs (Marijuana Moment)

// Arizona’s new recreational cannabis firms see strong sales possible supply issues on horizon (Marijuana Business Daily)

// New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Clean-Up Marijuana Bill To Resolve Governor’s Underage Concerns (Marijuana Moment)

// Idaho Lawmakers Approve Resolution That Would Quash 2022 Marijuana Legalization Initiatives (Marijuana Moment)

// Oregon first U.S. state to decriminalize possession of hard drugs (CTV News (AP))

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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California Controversies Over ‘Social Equity’ Licenses

More localities in California are putting in place “equity license” programs for cannabis dispensaries, prioritizing applicants from those communities that had been most gravely affected by cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs. Such programs are now officially encouraged under state law.

But the continuing conflict over the equity program in Los Angeles casts a harsh light on the challenges of implementation and the social stakes involved.

Last month, prospective cannabis entrepreneurs agreed to drop a lawsuit challenging Los Angeles’s contentious process for granting licenses, after the city government agreed to increase the number of applicants. The suit was brought by the Social Equity Owners & Workers Association (SEOWA), who argued that, even with equity measures officially in place, the process was designed in a way that still effectively excluded the prohibition-impacted communities.

Gaming the System

As the Los Angeles Times reports, principally at issue was the first-come-first-serve aspect of the application process. SEOWA asserted that more than 200 applicants who accessed the online platform before 10 a.m. — the official opening time—got an unfair advantage. Mere seconds could make the difference between getting a license or not. Those with the time and resources could essentially game the system, filling out the application beforehand and hitting “submit” at the precise stroke of 10.

SEOWA, which called on the city to halt new licenses while the suit was pending, contended that “it is fundamental to any fair race that the competitors must start at the same time or, at the very least, be given accurate information about when the race will begin.”

Under the settlement agreement reached July 8, the city agreed to changes in the program, including a prompt review of the next 100 applications that were in line. This could double the number of licenses granted to the current round of applicants. Those changes were voted up by the City Council and received the approval of Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

SEOWA co-founder Kika Keith, called the settlement “a great victory for us.” In her statement, she also said, “Social equity applicants banded together and raised the money for legal fees to fight the injustice of the application process.”

Keith is one of the next 100 applicants in line. But, as the LA Times notes, hundreds more will still be left waiting. Which is why another SEOWA co-founder, Madison Shockley III, characterized the settlement as a compromise. “We made the decision to settle because we don’t see any way to make what happened fair—it’s kind of too late for that,” Shockley said. “So we felt it was for the greater good to accept the settlement that included 200 licenses.”

New Rules for LA Licensing 

The new rules approved by the City Council will also narrow the criteria for applicants who qualify for the equity program, limiting it to those with a cannabis arrest record in the state of California. The new rules also reconfigure the method for identifying areas with disproportionate arrests for cannabis offenses. 

Lynne Lyman, who led the Drug Policy Action campaign for legalization in California, welcomed the changes. According to the LA Times, she commented on the changes at a city meeting where she said, “We all know social equity has been a failure, here in LA and across most jurisdictions. Too many loopholes… This is the first real hope for social equity to succeed.”  
 
The program had previously designated the areas to be prioritized by ZIP codes – but this often meant that wealthier and whiter areas got lumped in with poorer ones that suffered higher levels of cannabis arrests. As the LA Times noted, one of the eligible ZIP codes was 90027, which covers affluent stretches of Los Feliz neighborhood. Under the new system, equity-prioritized areas will correspond to police reporting districts. 

“We agree that this process needs improvement,” admitted Cat Packer, head of the city Department of Cannabis Regulation.  

But plans to replace the first-come-first-serve system with a lottery are raising questions about whether this will really be any more equal. The California Minority Alliance, which also advocates for greater representation by Black and Latino business operators in the cannabis industry, warned that exclusive reliance on a lottery emphasized chance to the exclusion of merit. 
 
SEOWA launched its suit in April, weeks after release of an official audit giving the old system a clean bill of health. It found that although some applicants made it into the system ahead of time, the Department of Cannabis Regulation took “reasonable and appropriate” measures to correct for any unfair advantage.

Unequal Access Means Unequal Arrest Rates

Los Angeles announced its Social Equity Program a year ago, with its stated aim to “decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities and to address the disproportionate impacts of the War on Drugs.” A California state law passed the previous year, the Cannabis Equity Act, created incentives for such programs.

But those disproportionate impacts persist in Los Angeles. Cannabis arrests continue to disproportionately target Blacks (as in New York City, even after a new policy de-emphasizing pot enforcement). In Los Angeles, arrest figures for Blacks have actually increased in absolute terms since cannabis legalization – certainly a perverse irony. An urban affairs website Crosstown cites the official figures, and they are staggering. In 2017, when adult-use cannabis was still illegal in California, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested 173 Black people for cannabis-related offenses. The next year, after legalization took effect, the LAPD arrested 239 Black people for cannabis offenses. In 2019, the number leapt again, to 261. 

In 2016, Blacks accounted for 32.2% of cannabis arrests in the city. Last year, that share rose to 42.3%, LAPD data indicates. Black folk make up 8.9% of the city’s population. 

And by Crosstown’s analysis, this is due to Blacks basically being forced into the illicit market by the continuing death of dispensaries in their neighborhoods: “Wealthier and predominantly white areas, such as Studio City, North Hollywood, Fairfax and Westwood are home to dozens of dispensaries. Meanwhile, the entire south part of Los Angeles, including areas with larger Black populations, such as Hyde Park and Watts, has fewer than 10 dispensaries registered with the city.”

Equity’s Catch-22 

The neighboring city of Long Beach is grappling with similar dilemmas. According to a recent report in Long Beach Business Journal, since the inception of the city’s Cannabis Equity Program two years ago, just one of 50 qualifying applicants has entered the industry as a business owner. 

Some frustrated aspiring entrepreneurs are protesting that the program has done little more than help with paperwork. “There wasn’t really anything more than showing us how to apply,” said Brian Delahoussaye, 35, who has several years of experience in the cannabis trade. “I’m sure that’s great if you have funds to apply.”

Establishing a cannabis enterprise can cost upward of $1 million for construction, rent, building modifications and equipment. This results in a kind of Catch-22 for equity applicants.

“It’s a strange crux because you’re not supposed to have any money to be in the program, but you need money to make it work,” said Delahoussaye, referring to the income and asset limitations set forth as qualification requirements. 

This contradiction was addressed in an open letter to Mayor Robert Garcia and the Long Beach City Council sent in February by acting City Manager Tom Modica. According to Modica’s letter, the equity program was set up to make “legal cannabis business ownership and employment opportunities more accessible to low-income individuals and communities negatively impacted by the prior criminalization of cannabis.” Yet, “in speaking with prospective applicants, the primary reason for the discrepancy between interest in the program and actual business license applications received, is the substantial amount of capital necessary to start a cannabis business.”

Delahoussaye told the Business Journal that by working in the medical marijuana industry before full adult-use legalization, he had been able to pay for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. But with full legalization, the costs of licensing, owning or renting property in areas zoned for cannabis jumped (a phenomenon elsewhere described as “cannabis gentrification.”) Delahoussaye said that he and his partners were priced out.  

And, once again, this process disproportionately affected Black entrepreneurs, Delahoussaye said. “We’re locked out of this industry in a major, major way,” he soberly concluded.  

TELL US, how do you feel about cannabis “equity” programs?

The post California Controversies Over ‘Social Equity’ Licenses appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Thursday, January 23, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Thursday, January 23, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// ‘Cruel and unusual’: Kansas resident faces decades in prison for medical marijuana use (Leafly)

// 40% of All US Drug Arrests in 2018 Were For Weed Possession (Merry Jane)

// Marijuana Legalization Will Advance In Connecticut This Year, Top Lawmakers Say (Marijuana Moment)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// Oregon’s Cannabis Sales Continue To Climb (Green Market Report)

// New Vermont Bill Would Decriminalize Psychedelics And Kratom (Marijuana Moment)

// Is Constellation Brands Making a Big Mistake? (Nasdaq (Motley Fool))

// Congressman Visits Marijuana Dispensary On Behalf Of Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Campaign (Marijuana Moment)

// Mexican Lawmakers Plan To Pass Amended Marijuana Legalization Bill Before End Of April (Marijuana Moment)

// Illinois adult-use cannabis stores might face more shortages (Marijuana Business Daily)

// OLCC’s Drawn Out Application Process A Burden To The Industry (Bend Source)


Check out our other projects:
Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Photo: Dominic Milton Trott/Flickr

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, January 22, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Rumors Are That MedMen Is Unable To Pay Vendors (Green Market Report)

// New Mexico Governor Says It’s ‘High Time’ To Legalize Marijuana (Marijuana Moment)

// Arizona climate blamed for ‘off the charts’ THC failure in first hemp crops (Marijuana Business Daily)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// New York Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization In New Budget Plan (Marijuana Moment)

// Colorado Tries to Beckon Tourists With Buy-and-Try Pot Lounges (Bloomberg Government)

// 1 in 13 Oklahoma Adults Are Now Using Medical Marijuana Legally (Merry Jane)

// New Zealand to overturn cannabis vaporizer ban, clearing the way for imports (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Free Weed: Sicily Is No Longer Charging Patients for Medical Cannabis (Merry Jane)

// Pete Buttigieg wants to end the war on weed- but not in South Bend (Leafly)

// Chart: Florida sales of smokable marijuana topped 22,000 pounds in less than six months (Marijuana Business Daily)


Check out our other projects:
Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Chris Goldberg/Flickr

Sister Somayah Kambui: An Early Visionary of Cannabis Equity

Today, “equity” is a watchword in the cannabis legalization movement, as state and local governments try to craft models for an adult-use market designed to correct the social harms of prohibition and the War on Drugs. But this public consciousness is due to the work of many who pushed the issue long before doing so was entirely socially acceptable.

Sister Somayah Kambui, a veteran Black Panther turned cannabis advocate, was one of those who brought issues of racial justice to the forefront of the cannabis movement. And before her untimely death, she won a groundbreaking “jury nullification” victory, upholding her right to provide cannabis to treat sickle-cell anemia.

Sister Somayah, as she was ubiquitously known (she was born Renee Moore), used cannabis to treat sickle-cell anemia, under the terms of California’s Proposition 215 medical marijuana measure after its passage in 1996. But her vocal advocacy made her a target of the authorities — resulting in her unprecedented legal victory. 

Sickle-cell anemia is a genetic blood anomaly that occurs in one in every 70,000 Americans, particularly those of African descent. It can cause debilitating pain, fatigue and swelling of the hands and feet. It took Kambui a while to figure out that cannabis was the most effective treatment for her.

Kambui was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where she served several years during the Vietnam era. At VA and public hospitals, she was given morphine for her pain from the disease. 

“I couldn’t do anything on the morph,” she told High Times reporter Peter Gorman. “And neither can a million other people. That’s why you see so many middle aged and older black folk sitting on stoops looking like junkies. They are junkies. They’re U.S. government junkies.”

After finding that cannabis helped, and after the passage of Prop 215, she founded the Crescent Alliance Self Help for Sickle Cell collective, or “buyers’ club.” With a doctor’s recommendation, she began cultivating in her South Los Angeles backyard.

But the police raided her garden in October 2001 and confiscated, by their estimate, 200 pounds of cannabis plants. 

The LAPD brought in a helicopter for the raid, menacing the block of single-family homes.

“I was sitting having a cup of coffee with a little hemp oil when they broke down the door,” Kambui told the Los Angeles Times. “I said, ‘I’m legal, I have a doctor’s note and I’m compliant with the law.’”

She said the officers told her she had too much for her personal use. “I said ‘OK, why don’t you take what you think I don’t need and leave me the rest?’” she recalled to the LA Times. “They took it all.” 

She also disputed the police estimate of the haul. “That is 200 pounds wet, with dirt and stalks,” she said.

Kambui was arrested, spent 60 days in jail and was charged with multiple felonies including cultivation, sale and shipping marijuana out of state. Worse still, she was facing a life prison term under California’s “Three Strikes” law. Her two prior convictions, involving illegal firearms possession and explosives, stemmed from her work with the Black Panthers in the early 1970s. During her time as a legendary Panther, she was known as “Peaches,” and was a leader of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party, alongside Geronimo Pratt.

When she went before the judge at Los Angeles County Court in January 2002, Kambui said the cannabis was not for her use alone, but was to be shared with some dozen sickle-cell sufferers in her club. “They’re all mine,” she said, taking full responsibility for all the uprooted plants. She also admitted shipping to sufferers who were too far away to come see her. 

And she asserted that her advocacy had made her a target, noting that she’d been similarly raided in 1998 — although the charges were dropped after she spent two weeks in jail.  

Making a medical necessity defense, Kambui spoke to the court of the long centuries of medicinal cannabis use in African traditional healing. Using her own idiosyncratic lingo, she referred to the African continent as “Nigretia,” and to her cannabis as “Nigretian Kif.”  

Sister Somayah Kambui

The trial ended in an outcome that The Leaf Online website hailed as a “jury revolt or jury nullification,” in which a defendant is acquitted on moral or ethical grounds, in spite of uncontested evidence that she or he acted as charged. On March 18, 2002, Sister Somayah Kambui was found “not guilty” of all charges.

In addition to being a rare victory for the doctrine of nullification, Kambui’s legal battle also anticipated a change in California law. It was the following year that the “medical marijuana collective defense” was enshrined in the Medical Marijuana Program Act, the notorious Senate Bill 420. 

Pushing Racial Justice in the Cannabis Community 

By the time of her court case, Kambui was already a leading figure in Southern California’s cannabis activist scene. She was the key mover behind the first Los Angeles Global Marijuana March in 1999, and all the subsequent ones until her death. And she was particularly aggressive in calling out the cannabis community one what she saw as its internal racism — for instance, in failing to emphasize sickle-cell anemia in medical marijuana advocacy, and failing to make the link between prohibition and militarized policing of black and brown communities.

But she bridged a cultural divide in 1997, when she teamed up with B.E. Smith, a brazen and police-defying cannabis grower of white redneck roots in the backwoods of Northern California’s Trinity Alps. Smith became “designated caregiver” for Kambui, among a handful of other medical users around the state. Alas, she never got to use B.E.’s bud, as his cultivation site was raided by federal agents that harvest season—resulting in his own landmark legal battle. Smith died earlier this year.

Unfortunately, Kambui’s run-ins with the law were not over after her court victory. In October 2003, her garden was again raided — this time by the DEA. A dozen plants were uprooted, although no charges were filed. 

California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer decried the raid as a “mean-spirited, gratuitous attack on a seriously ill woman who has been judged guiltless by her peers under California law. Like other victims of DEA’s medical marijuana raids, Somayah was targeted because she was a vocal, legal patient activist who was a thorn in the side of the law enforcement establishment.” 

Like many front-line activists who put a commitment to community ahead of personal gain, Kambui received little material reward for her efforts. When she died on Thanksgiving 2008, at the age of 57, the website Time4Hemp wrote that economic hard times likely contributed to her demise: “Many close to her believe she died of a broken heart based on lack of financial support. All those dispensaries in Los Angeles and not one would help her save her home from foreclosure.” 

Twelve years after her passing, Sister Somayah Kambui reminds us of the need to preserve the memory of those who sacrificed for such freedom and consciousness as we have now achieved. And more poignantly, of the need to honor and support our freedom fighters while they still walk among us. 

TELL US, what did you learn from Sister Somayah?

The post Sister Somayah Kambui: An Early Visionary of Cannabis Equity appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Peddler’s Licenses & Co-Ops: Chicago Brainstorms Ways to Make Cannabis More Equitable

Cannabis became legal in Illinois on New Year’s Day, and now Chicago’s administration and community leaders are brainstorming ways to implement a model for the industry that addresses the social harms of prohibition.

Chicago is one of the cities that has been most impacted by the drug war dystopia, so it is fitting that some unorthodox and cutting-edge ideas are being broached in the Windy City. The current unique cannabis ideas the city is considering include a city-owned cultivation co-op which residents could join and earn a stake in and a “peddler’s license” for individuals to sell cannabis themselves.

“Ensuring this emerging industry brings unprecedented economic and social benefits to our communities has been at the heart of our efforts since day one,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times.

With some Illinois municipalities already experimenting with alternative models like cannabis-tax funded “reparations,” Chicago is still in the phase of weighing proposals.

Cannabis buyers spent nearly $40 million in the first month days of the adult-use market, according to numbers reported by the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 4. This was despite widespread supply shortages, long lines and a limited number of licensed outlets across the state.

“Illinois had a far more successful launch of cannabis than many of the other states that have legalized, but this is about more than money, it’s about starting a new industry in a way that includes communities left behind for far too long,” Toi Hutchinson, the governor’s senior adviser for cannabis control, told the Evanston Patch.

Some 40 new dispensaries have opened already this year across Illinois, adding to the approximately 30 pre-existing medical marijuana dispensaries that have been grandfathered into the adult-use market.

But Chicago may be trying something very different — indeed, unprecedented in the nation.

A City-Owned Cannabis Co-Op?

In December, Mayor Lightfoot said her office has plans for a city-owned cannabis cultivation co-op would especially offer residents, especially those from black and brown communities, an opportunity to buy in with a “modest cash investment,” or, for those who can’t afford it, with “sweat equity” — labor in lieu of money.

Lightfoot portrayed the “cooperative cultivation center” idea as a means of assuring that Chicago’s cannabis market will not be dominated by big capital, or the city’s most privileged.

“This is a very, very expensive business to get involved with,” she told the Sun-Times in announcing the idea. “The basics to be a cultivator requires about a $13 million to $15 million investment. There are not a lot of people that have that, particularly in a market that a lot of banks and traditional lenders won’t touch. I think the only way to really crack this nut is for the city to invest its own resources to get engaged, get diverse entrepreneurs involved in the most lucrative part of the business, which is cultivation.”

Alderman Jason Ervin of Chicago’s 28th ward expressed outrage that African Americans have “zero representation” among the 11 grandfathered medicinal dispensaries that offered the city’s first adult-use sales on New Year’s Day.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s office voiced tentative support for Lightfoot’s proposal — but said it would have to wait until next year, when the new law allows the Illinois Department of Agriculture to decide whether to increase the number of large-scale cultivators in the state.  

“The administration is excited that people are discussing new and innovative approaches to equity and we look forward to exploring those options when the application for cultivation centers begins in 2021,” a Pritzker representative said in a statement.

But the Department of Agriculture, contacted by the Sun-Times, hedged on whether the new law allows issuance of cultivation licenses to a public entity.  

“The rules are still being written on that,” said department media rep Krista Lisser. “We really haven’t been posed with that question as of right now.”

A ‘Peddler’s License’ for Pot Dealers?

Another proposal, likely to be more controversial still with state authorities, has emerged from community activists led by Tio Hardiman, a longtime anti-violence campaigner with the group CeasefireChicago. Hardiman on Jan. 22 issued his call for the creation of a “peddler’s license” that would allow a retailer to sell cannabis at farmer’s markets or out of the backs of trucks. Hardiman said the idea could help “ease some of the conflict with the illegal drug trade,” and help ease the city’s crisis of gun violence.

“This way you can take the criminal element out of [selling cannabis] and allow these young guys to make some legal money. And then you can help reduce unemployment in the African American community,” Hardiman said at a press conference outside the Herbal Care Center, one of the city’s grandfathered medical dispensaries.

According to the Sun-Times, Hardiman said these small retailers would be required to keep a “paper trail,” and drew a parallel to operations such as Grubhub or Uber that use mobile apps and log transactions.

Contacted by the Sun-Times, the offices of Gov. Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot issued statements that “didn’t directly address” Hardiman’s proposal. Pritzker media rep Jordan Abudayyeh noted that legal cannabis is currently only sold by licensed dispensaries “to ensure that products are regulated and safe.” But she added that as new licenses are handed out, priority will be given to “social equity candidates,” who have cannabis offenses on their records or live in areas hit hard by the drug war.

Pat Mullane of Lightfoot’s office similarly said the mayor is committed to ensuring that all Chicagoans, but especially those from “disadvantaged communities,” will be able to “benefit from jobs and economic opportunity created by the newly legalized cannabis industry.”

Chicago over the past decade has suffered from blatantly racist police practices in drug enforcement, and what can only be called human rights abuses. In 2015, grim revelations emerged of “black site” or clandestine prison run by the city police force — completely outside the law or any public oversight.

Correcting this legacy will clearly be one of the biggest challenges for legal cannabis in the nation. Advocates coast to coast would do well to watch how things unfold in this heartland metropolis.

TELL US, would you want a license to sell pot at a farmers market?

The post Peddler’s Licenses & Co-Ops: Chicago Brainstorms Ways to Make Cannabis More Equitable appeared first on Cannabis Now.