National Coalition Formed to Protect Small-Scale Cannabis Growers

The National Craft Cannabis Coalition, comprised of state-level advocacy groups from Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, was formed with the goal of promoting state and federal policies that support small-scale growers, starting with the SHIP Act introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).

The SHIP (Small and Homestead Independent Producers) Act would allow craft growers to ship and sell weed directly to their consumers if and when marijuana is federally legalized. If passed, the bill would take effect once marijuana is removed from its current Schedule 1 status and once all criminal penalties are removed under federal law concerning marijuana.

“Too often, the federal government falls behind, and the gears of Congress work too slowly to keep up with the pace of a changing economy,” Representative Huffman said.

“Under my bill, folks in our state will be able to ship their products straight to consumers when the antiquated federal prohibition on cannabis is finally repealed. As large, commercial cannabis operations squeeze out local producers from the market, this legislation is critical for farmers to survive and expand their small businesses.”

Under the SHIP act, a qualifying cannabis grower would be anyone who cultivates:

  • One acre or less of 18 mature flowering marijuana plant canopy using outdoor cultivation
  • 22,000 square feet or less of marijuana plant canopy using greenhouse cultivation
  • 5,000 square feet or fewer of mature flowering marijuana plant canopy using indoor cultivation

Small and craft growers have lamented they don’t stand a chance in markets dominated by large multi-state operators capable of growing exponentially more canopy space for a fraction of the cost, especially when the final product has to be packaged and sold through third-party businesses. This results in a lot of large, vertically-integrated companies essentially pricing out the little guys who can’t afford to buy and operate their own dispensary, grow facility, and packaging facility.

“These producers operate on a much smaller scale than traditional agriculture with many cultivating less than an acre of total canopy,” said Amanda Meztler of F.A.R.M.S. Inc Oregon.

“With federal legalization on the horizon, it’s critical that craft cannabis producers organize across state lines to ensure that federal policy includes a level playing field for small and independent businesses.”

Thus, members of the NCCC have collectively proposed that the only way small growers can survive is if they are allowed to sell directly to their customers.

“The direct-to-consumer model is a necessary resource for any small-scale craft-producing community that is deeply tied to the land on which it creates — whether it produces wine, whiskey, cheese, beer, cannabis, or honey,” said Genine Coleman, Executive Director of Origins Council in a prepared statement.

“The legacy cannabis community that has worked so long in the shadows should have the opportunity to join the ranks of other artisan producers across the United States and enjoy the privilege of connecting personally with their adult customers.”

To date the NCCC represents over 1,000 small and independent commercial cannabis growers through their state-level organizations including Origins Council (CA), F.A.R.M.S. Inc (OR), Washington Sun & Craft Growers Association (WA), Vermont Growers Association (VT), Maine Craft Cannabis Association (ME), and Farm Bug Co-Op (MA).

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Massachusetts Governor Signs Cannabis Social Equity Bill

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation on Thursday to amend the state’s marijuana laws, approving the addition of social equity provisions and other changes to cannabis regulations in the Bay State. Baker approved all but one of the provisions of the bill, which is the first overhaul of the state’s cannabis regulations since voters approved recreational pot use in 2016.

Baker said in a statement that he supports “many of the provisions that this bill adopts to improve regulation of the cannabis industry” as well as “the bill’s efforts to expand opportunities for social equity businesses.”

The compromise bill, which was passed by state lawmakers in the early morning hours of August 1, aims to increase diversity in Massachusetts’ cannabis industry by creating a new social equity trust fund. The program will receive 15% of the revenue from the Marijuana Regulation Fund, which is funded by cannabis taxes, application and licensing fees and penalties levied on licensed cannabis companies. Funds in the social equity trust fund will be dedicated to providing grants and loans to prospective cannabis business owners, focusing on communities of color and those harmed by the nation’s failed prohibition policies.

“This law will rebalance the playing field, where so far wealthy corporations have been able buy their way through the licensing process and too many local, small business owners and Black and brown entrepreneurs have been locked out,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, the co-chair of the state legislature’s Cannabis Policy Committee. “The reforms and funding we fought so hard for will be game changers, putting Massachusetts back among the leading states for racial justice in our economic policy on cannabis. I’m so grateful to the many community members and grassroots leaders who came together and held the state’s feet to the fire to make this happen.”

At a meeting of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) held on Thursday before Baker signed the legislation, commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion encouraged her fellow commissioners to “take a moment today to recognize the significance of this moment and the magnitude of this impact.”

“By no means am I saying that this single piece of legislation will solve every issue that’s facing the cannabis industry, but it is a massive step,” Concepcion said. “This is monumental.”

Cannabis Activists Applaud New Legislation

Shanel Lindsay, a cannabis advocate who campaigned for the 2016 ballot measure that legalized pot in Massachusetts, said that the governor and lawmakers “have made history with this vital — and overdue — grant and loan fund.”

“This bill is an important step forward in undoing the harms of prohibition and over-policing and will provide an important path for families of color to create jobs in their community and generate generational wealth,” said Lindsay, the co-founder of Equitable Opportunities Now.

The bill also gives the CCC the authority to review and approve host community agreements, which cannabis businesses are required to develop with the local jurisdictions where they are located. The agreements will also be limited to the first eight years a business operates, with limits placed on fees required of the companies. Community impact fees will be limited to 3% of a company’s gross receipts and must be “reasonably related” to costs incurred by local governments to implement cannabis legalization and regulation.

Additionally, the legislation allows cannabis companies to be treated as legal businesses under the state tax code, giving them access to standard business deductions denied under federal tax regulations. Sieh Samura, owner and CEO of the Yamba Market dispensary in Cambridge and an advocate for minority representation in cannabis, said that businesses in the industry can face tax burdens of up to 75%.

“It makes the barrier to entry higher and presents a lot of obstacles for entrepreneurs, especially for those with less resources,” he said.

Samura added that the new law will make taxes fairer and provide oversight to the stiff competition for host community agreements while giving funding to help minority entrepreneurs enter the business.

“We’ve got to see the money start flowing, and the earlier it starts flowing, the earlier we’ll see an effect in the bigger market on how many equity businesses there are, how much diversity there is,” Samura said.

Other sections of the bill approved by Baker include provisions to simplify expunging past weed-related convictions and a process for local communities to hold a vote for the approval of cannabis consumption lounges.

Governor Nixes Exploring Medical Pot in Schools

Baker vetoed a provision in the legislation that would have studied the feasibility of allowing students to use cannabis-based therapies in schools. Under that section, the CCC, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health would be directed to study and develop recommendations for “eliminating obstacles and expanding accommodations to possess, administer and consume medical use marijuana and public and private schools” among students who possess valid medical cannabis cards.

In a statement to lawmakers, Baker said that the measure as written “is highly prescriptive — making it clear that the agencies charged with producing the study must identify ways to make medical marijuana widely available within schools, rather than considering whether such an allowance is advisable.”

”The voter initiatives that legalized medical marijuana in 2012 and 2016 included strong measures to keep marijuana away from K-12 schools and school children. Both laws explicitly stated that marijuana would in no circumstance be permitted on school grounds,” Baker added. “Because the study proposed in section 26 clearly works against these important and well-established protections and disregards the clear intentions of the voters in legalizing marijuana use, I cannot approve this part of the bill.”

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Now You Can Find Award-Winning West Coast Strains in Massachusetts

On the hunt for Runtz in Beantown? Look no further. Ayr Wellness, leading vertically-integrated multi-state cannabis operator, has announced its new partnership with flower brand, Lost in Translation (LIT for short) to bring the finest of West Coast genetics to the Massachusetts market via legacy seed breeders and pheno-hunters, Tahoe Hydroponics. Acquired by Ayr Wellness in June 2021, the six-time Jack Herer Cup winners boast famous cultivars such as Sundae Driver and Gelato 45, with Tahoe Hydro co-founder and CEO Ray Schiavone at the helm of the new Massachusetts cultivation facility.

The indoor operation, according to Schiavone, “is grown [with] the highest level of … hydroponic equipment, Athena nutrients and the latest and greatest lighting.” Running new, unreleased strains like Red Velvet Runtz, Miami Vice and Watermelon Sugar alongside tried and true flagships like The Soap—an Animal Mints cross—he continues, “Our model has always been to innovate with unique terpene profiles and fill specific consumer demands and trends within our menus.”

Bubble Bath / Courtesy of LIT

Ayr: The Price is Right

Eighths and quarters of the midrange-priced flower are currently available in select strains at their two newly-opened greater Boston Ayr Wellness Dispensary locations in Back Bay (for adult use and medical) and Watertown (adult use only), as well as wholesale. When asked about their lower-than-normal price point for typical indoor-grown products, Schiavone says, “Massachusetts consumers are now going to have access to these new high-quality options at a price better than the competition.”

Multi-state operators (MSOs) are historically good at providing decent, if not quality products at reasonable prices—the typical result of master planning and proper financial backing. Holding some level of care for the plant, the environment, and the people taking care of the plant normally takes a backseat, but as founder, chairman, and CEO of Ayr, Jonathan Sandelman says, “LIT flower is a testament to our commitment to taking the best ingredients – facilities, people, genetics – and cultivating excellent cannabis at scale throughout our organization.”

When asked why he felt so strongly about working with an MSO like Ayr, Schiavone explains that “I really respect and appreciate Ayr’s commitment to quality and willingness to incorporate our management and methodologies into their platform.”

Temptation / Courtesy of LIT

Flower to The People

Ayr and LITs commitment to their customers and team is evident in conversation with Schiavone, who says their strain selections are based on consumer demand and feedback. He also mentions how much he looks forward to working with Massachusettsans and gushes, “I have personally spent a lot of time not only meeting Ayr’s retail team but visiting many other operators such as Nova Farms, Caroline’s and North East Alternatives. Everywhere we have [gone] we have had a warm welcome and everyone is excited to experience a West Coast flower brand. Not only does everyone enjoy great flower, it’s humbling to see how many people enjoy wearing our hats and clothing that haven’t even tried our flower yet. It truly is amazing to see.”

He continues, “I think with any brand you have to treat [it] … like your own child. I take tremendous pride in making sure that everything from the clothing, flower and derivatives are all of the highest quality with the intent of having a lasting relationship with whoever it comes in contact with.”

The future’s looking bright for the brand family, as they make plans to expand, which includes a pheno-hunting passion project from Schiavone. What does he hope to bring to Massachusetts besides decades of cultivation experience and a smile? The master grower says that the East Coast needs some good purps. “I think something the Massachusetts market needs is a high quality purple flower with lemon terpenes, which is something I’ve been working on in R&D for years, so I’ll be excited to introduce that to the market eventually.”

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Massachusetts Lawmakers Pass Compromise Bill on Cannabis Industry Reform

Lawmakers in Massachusetts passed a bill late Sunday night that will bring a host of different reforms to the state’s recreational cannabis industry.

The legislation “aims to promote greater diversity in the legal marijuana industry, ratchet up oversight on the host community agreements that marijuana businesses are required to enter into with municipalities, and to lay the groundwork for cities and towns to green light on-site cannabis consumption establishments within their borders,” NBC Boston reported.

The compromise bill “emerged just before midnight Sunday after nearly a month of negotiations and quickly passed through both the House and Senate,” according to the station.

It will now head to the desk of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who expressed hope this month that lawmakers would get something passed.

Democratic state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, who co-sponsored the measure, called it a “great bill.”

“It will rebalance the playing field, where so far wealthy corporations have been able to buy their way through the licensing process and too many local, small business owners and Black and brown entrepreneurs have been locked out,” Chang-Díaz said in a statement, as quoted by The Boston Globe.

The bill will usher in changes to the state’s nearly six-year-old legal weed industry. According to NBC Boston, it will “direct 15 percent of the money in the Marijuana Regulation Fund, which is where revenue brought in by the state’s marijuana excise tax, application and licensing fees, and industry penalties is deposited, into a new Social Equity Trust Fund,” while also giving “the Cannabis Control Commission the authority to review and approve host community agreements before a business obtains its final license, and clarifies that a community impact fee in an HCA cannot exceed 3 percent of gross sales and must be ‘reasonably related to the costs imposed upon the municipality by the operation of the marijuana establishment.’”

Voters in Massachusetts approved a ballot initiative in 2016 that legalized recreational pot use for adults. Lawmakers in the state subsequently rewrote the law the following year, and it has been the subject of legislative dispute ever since.

As The Boston Globe reported, some legislators have “spent years lobbying for a rewrite, arguing a few straightforward fixes would address glaring problems,” most notably an “onerous municipal approval process that has been implicated in two federal corruption investigations, and a lack of institutional financing that has allowed larger corporations backed by wealthy private investors to dominate at the expense of smaller, locally owned businesses with more diverse ownership.”

Proponents celebrated the bill’s passage on Sunday night.

“Legislators tonight made history with this vital — and overdue — grant and loan fund,” said Shanel Lindsay, a cannabis attorney and the cofounder of advocacy group Equitable Opportunities Now, as quoted by The Boston Globe. “This bill is an important step forward in undoing the harms of prohibition and over-policing and will provide an important path for families of color to create jobs in their community and generate generational wealth.”

Despite the problems with the law, the cannabis industry is booming in Massachusetts.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts officials reported that the state collected more in taxes from pot sales than it did with alcohol sales, a first since the cannabis industry went live in the state.

The growth of the legal weed market has been accompanied by some concerns. Late last year, Baker introduced legislation aimed at curtailing stoned driving.

“This bill will provide law enforcement officers with more rigorous drug detection training and will strengthen the legal process by authorizing the courts to acknowledge that the active ingredient in marijuana can and does impair motorists. The bill draws on thoughtful recommendations from a broad cross-section of stakeholders, and we look forward to working with our legislative colleagues to pass this bill and make our roads safer,” Baker said at the time.

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Just Announced – High Times Cannabis Cup Massachusetts: People’s Choice Edition 2022

We’re proud to announce that our newest cannabis cup competition will be uniting the many unique products in Massachusetts! The state is already home to a blossoming cannabis industry with plenty of unique products to experience.

Products can be submitted for consideration at NETA dispensaries in Franklin, MA. between September 7-9. Kits will be sold starting on September 24 (first come, first serve availability). Judges will have until November 13 to check out and review everything Massachusetts cannabis companies have to offer, and the winners of the cup will be announced on November 27 through a digital awards show.

Massachusetts Cannabis Cup Entry Categories:

  1. Indica Flower (28 total slots available; 2 entries Max per Company) 
  2. Sativa Flower (28 total slots available; 2 entries Max per Company)  
  3. Hybrid Flower (28 total slots available; 2 entries Max per Company) 
  4. Pre-Rolls (10 total slots available; 1 entries Max per Company) 
  5. Concentrates (10 total slots available; 1  entries Max per Company) 
  6. Distillate Vape Pens & Cartridges (10  total slots available; 1 entries Max per Company) 
  7. NON-Distillate Vape Pens & Cartridges (10  total slots available; 1 entries Max per Company) 
  8. Edibles: Sativa Gummies (10 total slots available with 50mg THC max; 1 entries Max per Company)
  9. Edibles: Indica Gummies (10 total slots available with 50mg THC max; 1 entries Max per Company)
  10. Edibles: Chocolate Non-Gummies (10 total slots available with 50mg THC max; 1 entries Max per Company)
  11. Edibles: Fruity Non-Gummies (10 total slots available with 50mg THC max; 1 entries Max per Company
  12. Edibles: Beverages (10 total slots available with 50mg THC max; 1 entries Max per Company)
  13. Topicals + Tinctures + Capsules (10 total slots available; 1 entries Max per Company)

Once the judges have submitted their feedback, we’ll announce the first place winners that have earned themselves the renowned High Times Cannabis Cup trophy—an honorable award that proves that their product rises above the rest of the competition.

Courtesy of NETA

The trophy, which was designed by Alex and Allyson Grey, is made of zinc and 24K gold plating. First-place winners will also be given a full page advertisement in High Times magazine, a complete report of the competition scores and comment feedback, winner decals to place on your product packaging, a mention in our online article featuring the winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup Massachusetts: People’s Choice Edition 2022 (as well as being recorded as a winner on cannabiscup.com) and of course, inclusion of the winning brands for each category on High Times social media channels (shared on the High Times timeline, story and story highlights).

Second place winners will receive a silver medal made of pewter and a silver ribbon with your winning category inscribed on it, as well as a half-page advertisement in High Times magazine, second place art assets for product packaging (along with all of the aforementioned judge’s report, and inclusion of the win online and on social media).

Third place winners will receive a bronze medal, made from pewter and bronze plating, with a matching bronze ribbon and the winning category inscribed on it, and a half-page advertisement in High Times magazine as well.

Even the products that do not win first, second, or third place in their respective categories can win in other ways. All products and brands will be included and tagged on social media in order to support Massachusetts cannabis companies and everything they bring to the table. During our Awards Show, we also do a shout-out and thank all competitors for participating in our competition. Best of all, the High Times Report is available upon request, should you like to learn more about what the judges thought of your product, and where it is ranked through our scoring system.

All products must be licensed by CCC and we cannot accept caregiver product.

A special thanks to our official intake partner, NETA.

www.cannabiscup.com

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Massachusetts House Approves Bill To Amend Cannabis Laws

The Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday to approve a bill amending the state’s weed laws, including significant social equity investments and the addition of cannabis consumption cafes to the state’s roster of regulated pot businesses. Lawmakers in the House voted 153-2 to approve the bill, which is nearly identical to a measure passed by the Massachusetts Senate in April.

House Speaker Ron Mariano issued a statement quoted by the Boston Globe, saying the bill aims “to create a fair and successful cannabis industry, fostering equitable opportunities to those disproportionately impacted by the systemic racism of historic drug policy.”

The bill makes several changes to existing cannabis laws in Massachusetts, where voters approved a ballot measure to legalize cannabis for use by adults in 2016. Since then, recreational pot retailers in the state have sold more than $3 billion in weed products, according to a report from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission that was released the same day the bill was approved in the House.

Adam Fine, a partner with the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, says that the “legislation marks the House of Representatives’ first significant movement on cannabis since adult-use legalization.”

“Components of the bill address some of the concerns that have been identified over the past five years, particularly around social equity, host community agreements and movement towards allowing social consumption sites,” Fine wrote in an email to High Times. “The proposal creates the Social Equity Trust fund for social equity operators and provides a mechanism for money to be raised to help applicants enter the cannabis space.”

New Investments in Social Equity

Under the bill, 20% of the pot taxes collected in the state will be dedicated to investments in cannabis social equity businesses. The share of revenue is higher than the 15% detailed in an earlier version of the bill and double the 10% included in the Senate bill.

The increased funding would be substantial. From July 2021 through April of this year, Massachusetts has collected $124.5 million in recreational cannabis excise taxes. Under the House version of the bill, that amount of revenue would equate to more than $25 million in funding for social equity cannabis businesses in the state.

Under the state’s current social equity program, only 23 of the state’s 253 licensed cannabis businesses are owned by entrepreneurs qualified for the economic empowerment and social equity programs administered by the Cannabis Control Commission. Shanel Lindsay, the co-founder of the advocacy group Equitable Opportunities Now, praised lawmakers in the House for the change and urged senators to retain the higher percentage in a compromise version of the bill.

“Without this funding, our equity goals are just hollow promises,” Lindsay said.

Both versions of the bill require local governments to consider social equity factors when issuing local permits. The House bill also simplifies the expungement process for past weed convictions and arrests by making more offenses eligible for relief. The legislation also directs judges to approve all eligible petitions for expungement, removing much of their discretion to deny requests without explanation.

“We mean it when we say our residents have the right to keep these records from following them around for life,” said state Representative Michael Day.

Massachusetts Bill Reforms Host Community Agreements

Another provision of the legislation would reform the contracts cannabis businesses sign with local governments to obtain local licensing approval known as host community agreements. Cannabis operators and applicants for licenses have argued that community impact fees included in such agreements by local governments exceed the cannabis industry’s negative effects on the community.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill limit impact fees by requiring local governments to detail any negative impact and set commensurate fees. State regulators would have the authority to reject plans that require excessive payments.

“Without enforcement, we’ve seen some communities push the bounds further than allowed by law, this legislation will make local permitting straightforward and allow more social equity applicants to move through the local process,” said Fine.

The House version ends impact fees once a weed business has been open five years and gives the Cannabis Control Commission 45 days to review local agreements, while the Senate bill allows up to 120 days.

“The municipality literally has the upper hand in these negotiations, and many have used it to a fault,” said state Representative Daniel Donahue. He added that the legislation would help create a “legal, fair, and honest” cannabis industry in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association of local governments opposed the change, saying the changes to impact fees were a way for cannabis operators to keep more profit for themselves at the expense of local communities.

“The key issues for cities and towns include making certain that the final version of legislation doesn’t interfere with existing host community agreements, and making sure that communities can collect adequate community impact fees going forward,” said Geoff Beckwith, the associate director of the group.

Beckwith added that reducing or eliminating the impact fees “could be a disincentive for additional communities to accept cannabis establishments.”

Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association president David O’Brien praised the changes to the state’s cannabis laws included in the legislation.

“By providing start-up capital, empowering the [cannabis commission] with proper oversight of greedy municipalities, and allowing cannabis operators to deduct normal business expenses,” O’Brien said, “entrepreneurs now will be able to pursue their dreams of starting a small business with fewer barriers in their way.”

Before the legislation can become law, a conference committee will have to rectify the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Both bodies would then have to vote in favor of a final bill before sending it to Governor Charlie Baker for approval.

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Sacha Baron Cohen Drops $9 Million Lawsuit Over Bogus Weed Ad

Last year, High Times covered Sacha Baron Cohen’s massive $9 million lawsuit filed against a dispensary that ran a billboard ad with his image without permission, but the actor and plaintiff have reached an agreement to drop the lawsuit.

CBS News reports that a document filed in Boston federal court on Tuesday said “the two sides have agreed to dismiss the case.”

According to court documents filed on July 12, 2021, Sacha Baron Cohen filed a $9 million lawsuit against Somerset, Massachusetts-based Solar Therapeutics, a dispensary, for running a billboard ad with his image without his permission.

Solar Therapeutics erected a billboard on an interstate highway in Massachusetts that features a picture of Baron Cohen as Borat, with his thumbs up and the words “It’s Nice!,” one of Borat’s catchphrases. It also read “Happy 4/20!” The billboard appeared in Somerset near exit 10B.

“By use of the billboard, the defendants falsely have conveyed to the public that Mr. Baron Cohen has endorsed their products and is affiliated with their business,” the 2021 complaint reads. “To the contrary, Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life. He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money.”

It continues, “In addition, Mr. Baron Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish family; he is an Observant Jew; and he is proud of his cultural heritage. He does not wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs, and rules—a controversy in which many rabbinical leaders have stated that cannabis use is a violation of Jewish law.”

Baron Cohen and his California-based company Please You Can Touch LLC originally were seeking $9 million in damages for the misuse of his image.

While Baron Cohen, Please You Can Touch LLC, and Solar Therapeutics reached an agreement, it is not being made public whether or not a settlement was involved. It may signal a symbolic warning not to use the intellectual property of Baron Cohen improperly without a fight.

The misuse of celebrities to sell cannabis is an ongoing problem. Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, and Montel Williams—who has a legit cannabis company—have all fallen victim to CBD and cannabis scams that claim to be endorsed by celebrities.

Yes, We’ve Interviewed Sacha Baron Cohen

If you’re scratching your head, we understand. Baron Cohen has joked many times about cannabis, usually as the character Ali G. But the lawsuit clearly states that he hasn’t ever actually smoked cannabis in his life.

Baron Cohen interviewed with Dan Skye for High Times for the October 2003 cover of the magazine—but interviewed as Ali G, his fictional stoner character, not himself. The new lawsuit explains why Baron Cohen openly jokes about cannabis, but does not consume due to his faith.

“Me can role up two spliffs using one hand,” Baron Cohen as Ali G told High Times in 2003. “Dat iz why I iz known as bein double-joined a’ight. From de moment me woz born de chronic has been at de centre of everythin me do—when me mum squeezed me out of her punani me woz cryin so much dat she let me have a drag on her joint. Den three years later me first word woz ‘reefer’.”

“[…] U iz de only mag dat pay in weed,” he said. Ali G then told High Times that his favorite weed is “grown in a small part of Jamaica called Somalia.”

Baron Cohen’s Ali G may be a big pothead, but Baron Cohen plays many characters. And just because he jokes about it, doesn’t mean that he’ll allow a business to steal his image for profits.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Look to Ban Out-of-State Cannabis Ads

Lawmakers in Connecticut on Tuesday took a big step toward banning out-of-state cannabis advertisements within its borders, with a bill easily winning approval in the House of Representatives.

The measure passed the state House by a vote of 98-48, according to the Associated Press, which said that the legislation seeks to prevent “anyone without a Connecticut cannabis-related license from advertising the product and cannabis-services within the state.”

The Associated Press reported that billboard ads have recently appeared on Connecitcut’s border with Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis is also legal for adults.

The move by lawmakers comes after Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said last year that he wanted to crack down on those billboards luring customers across the border to Massachusetts.

Local television station WTNH reported that Tong had “reached out to the billboard companies and dispensaries directly with mixed results.”

The bill that was passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday builds on the state’s legalization measure that was signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

As in other states, parts of Connecticut’s new cannabis law took effect immediately, most notably the ability for adults aged 21 and older to have as many as 1.5 ounces of pot in their possession. Sales are expected to begin in the state next year.

When signed the bill into law last June, Lamont hailed it as a victory for civil rights.

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement at the time.

“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” he added.

In addition to a ban on out-of-state cannabis ads, the bill that was passed by the House on Tuesday would also prohibit “Connecticut licensees from using images of the cannabis plant as well as from advertising on an illuminated billboard between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and from advertising within 1,500 yards of a school or church,” according to the Associated Press.

“Look, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves splayed all across them, within 1,500 yards across from a school or church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about that?” said Democratic state House Rep. Mike D’Agostino, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The bill also seeks to impose restrictions on “gifting,” through which retailers pay for a product like a T-shirt and are then given a “gift” of cannabis.

The practice has emerged as a go-to loophole for businesses operating in markets where cannabis has been legal, but regulated sales have not begun.

According to the Associated Press, “D’Agostino stressed that lawmakers are not banning people from giving someone a gift of marijuana, but rather trying to reign in these commercial exchanges.”

“You can gift to your friends and relatives. You can host a brownie party at your house,” D’Agostino said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

In his statement following the signing of the legalization bill last summer, Lamont said that the new law “will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”

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Police Link Rash of New England Cannabis Facility Burglaries

Police have linked a rash of burglaries targeting New England cannabis dispensaries to a trio of suspects in Massachusetts, according to a report from the Portland Press Herald. Law enforcement officers say that a man from New Bedford, Massachusetts and two brothers from Boston are suspected in the string of burglaries of licensed cannabis enterprises going back to 2020.

Police began connecting the crimes after a burglary at a cannabis grower in Gorham, Maine in October of last year. In that caper, three individuals wearing face coverings, hats and long sleeves cut their way through an exterior wall of the business located in an industrial park while a fourth person stood watch outside. The three burglars inside the building moved cautiously from room to room, trying to avoid detection by motion sensors. When the team finally left a couple of hours later, they took 30 pounds of cannabis and 500 THC vape cartridges with them.

During their investigation, police reviewed video from the cannabis cultivator’s security cameras. One camera caught the image of the Massachusetts license plate of a pickup truck that entered the parking lot two hours before the crime. And inside the building, one of the camera’s microphones recorded the burglars talking to one another.

“Where the (expletive) is Dario?” one burglar clearly said to another.

“He’s putting the trunks in the truck, ” the accomplice replied.

Investigation Yields Three Suspects

The license plate led law enforcement officers to Dario Almeida, a 21-year-old man with an address in New Bedford, Massachusetts. When Gorham police Detective Stephen Hinkley called New Bedford police, they gave him a cellphone number for Almeida, who had had a recent contact with the department.

A week later, police in New Bedford contacted Hinkley via email to inform him that Almeida and his brother Rafael were suspects in a similar burglary of a cannabis cultivator in Warwick, Rhode Island, where the same pickup truck was also caught on video. Police believe that the brothers are from South Boston and a third suspect is from New Bedford, according to Mass Live.

After reaching out to other New England law enforcement agencies, Hinkley learned of seven similar burglaries that had occurred in Maine since June of last year. Another Gorham cannabis business was also burglarized by criminals who cut through an exterior wall on Thanksgiving night in 2020. Burglars also targeted a cannabis business in South Portland, Maine. In January, a Portland, Maine judge issued a search warrant for evidence including location data from one of the suspect’s cell phones for the times that two of the burglaries occurred. No arrests have yet been made, and the case is still being investigated.

Police in South Portland and Warwick did not reply to reporters’ questions about the burglaries. Gorham Police Chief Christopher Sanborn also declined to comment on the rash of burglaries.

“This is an open investigation that we are currently working on,” Sanborn said. “I’m sorry, but I cannot comment any further at this time.”

Maine’s cannabis regulatory agency, the Office of Marijuana Policy, requires licensed cannabis businesses to report burglaries, robberies and other crimes. But David Heidrich, a spokesperson for the agency, said that many businesses are not familiar with the procedure to submit such reports. The reports the regulator has received are confidential and an analysis of the information they contain has not been conducted by the agency.

“We are not a law enforcement entity, and our role in regulating cannabis is to ensure licensee and registrant compliance with Maine’s adult and medical use of marijuana laws,” Heidrich wrote in response to a request for information on crime reports at cannabis businesses. “Thefts and burglaries are crimes, and the best source for information about criminal activity is and has always been law enforcement.”

An executive at Tetrapoint LLC, a South Portland-based cannabis security firm that transports pot and cash for cannabis businesses, told the Portland Press Herald that many companies are lulled by Maine’s reputation as a low-crime state into being complacent about security. But he said that the threat to cannabis businesses still exists.

“The tendency is to say, the bank’s only a half-hour away, why would we pay people to drive there?” said the executive, who requested anonymity to prevent being targeted for robbery while he’s on the job. “We have clients who are next door to a bank, and they still utilize our services.”

The executive also noted that despite pot’s continued illegality at the federal level, many local police departments are treating cannabis businesses just like other crime victims.

“In several different communities, we’ve found that local law enforcement are very friendly because it’s driving new business,” the security executive said.  “Some folks may not be particularly happy about the industry, but it’s here, it’s now and it’s happening.”

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Weed Sales Outpace Alcohol for First Time in Massachusetts

Cannabis tax revenue in Massachusetts is performing better than projected, over four years into the state’s adult-use market. According to the most recently available data, Massachusetts reported collecting $74.2 million in marijuana excise taxes—much more than the $51.3 million in alcohol excise taxes that were collected. 

Alcohol sales continue the downward trend that began two decades ago, according to data collected by Gallup polling, despite a temporary sharp uptick in alcohol sales amid COVID. Analysts have wondered if there is a correlation between cannabis reform and alcohol sales.

The trends seen in Massachusetts are no different. Fortune reports that alcohol excise taxes imposed on each gallon of alcohol produced also remained flat over the last five years, at $0.55 per gallon of wine, and $4.05 per gallon of hard alcohol. 

Massachusetts collected over $112 million in adult-use cannabis sales excise tax revenue in 2021—206 percent higher than projected—according to a Monthly Public Meeting presentation from data from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission. 

“This number also underscores the entire agency’s tireless efforts, particularly those of our hardworking staff, to thoughtfully regulate a safe, accessible, and effective adult-use marketplace that keeps critical tenets of our mission—public health, public safety, and equity, among others—front of mind,” Commission Executive Director Shawn Collins said in a statement on January 25. 

The state charges an excise tax of 10.75 percent on the projected retail price of recreational cannabis in addition to a 6.25 percent state sales tax, plus a local tax of up to three percent. 

Cannabis sales are doing much better than anticipated, despite all of the hiccups along the way such as COVID. But analysts say the surge in cannabis sales in Massachusetts comes at no surprise.

Vivien Azer, a Wall Street research analyst and managing director at Cowen who covers the emerging cannabis sector told local news station WCBV that when states convert from medical cannabis to adult-use, it typically leads to a doubling or even tripling of revenues “almost overnight.”

Kicking off recreational cannabis sales in any state is something of a spectacle to be celebrated.

Mikayla Bell, community outreach manager for NETA, one of the largest cannabis retailers in the state. “I think that people are looking for an alternative to make them feel better,” Bell told WCBV. “Oftentimes people are turning to alcohol for relief. And now they found another product with without the hangover, without the calories.”

Cannabis sales in Massachusetts high a milestone last September when sales in the state eclipsed $2 billion.

During the first year of cannabis sales, from November 2018 through 2019, 33 cannabis retailers generated $393.7 million in gross sales. Sales for all of the 2019 calendar year reached $444.9 million. 

In 2020, 91 adult-use cannabis retailers tallied $702 million in gross sales, despite being closed for two months due to the pandemic.

Most states impose a relatively high excise tax rate on cannabis. California’s cannabis tax hike didn’t go over well with legacy growers, for instance. But cannabis isn’t the only industry that faces steep taxes.

Alcohol taxes in Massachusetts could soon see a hike as well. State Representative Kay Khan filed a bill to double the excise taxes on beer, wine and liquor with H 2973. The state spends $2.6 billion each year to combat alcoholism and addiction, and should consider making the industry pay for that themselves.

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