Las Vegas City Council Approves Cannabis Consumption Lounges

The Las Vegas strip is about to get even more lit.

Members of the city council cleared the way for the opening of cannabis consumption lounges, voting 5-1 on Wednesday against a motion that would have had Las Vegas opt out of allowing those businesses, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The vote came after the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board in June gave its final sign off on the establishments.

The board laid out procedures for would-be lounge owners at the time.

“In addition to outlining the licensing and operation of consumption lounges, regulations approved today lay the groundwork for greater inclusion within Nevada’s cannabis industry,” the board said in a June release. “All applicants must submit a diversity plan, summarizing actionable steps and goals for meaningful inclusion. Additionally, half of the independent consumption lounge licenses in the initial round must be awarded to social equity applicants.”

“Prior to an open licensing period, the [Cannabis Compliance Board] plans to roll out tools and resources including worksheets, video tutorials and live webinars in order to ensure interested parties have access to the same information and are able to successfully submit an application,” the release continued. “The CCB expects to open the first licensing round for consumption lounges in the Fall, allowing for the first consumption lounges to open as early as the end of the year.”

That final regulatory approval came nearly a year after Nevada state lawmakers approved funding for the Cannabis Compliance Board, which has been charged with overseeing the consumption lounges in the state.

Cities in Nevada could opt out of allowing the consumption lounges in their jurisdictions. According to the Review-Journal, by “not responding to a letter from the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board earlier this month, the city automatically opted in to the licensing process, but still had an opportunity Wednesday to change course.”

Councilwoman Victoria Seaman filed the motion to opt out, but it was voted down 5-1 on Monday.

Seaman said constituents had told her that “they would rather not have them in the residential areas and have them more in the tourist areas, so, I’m not going to be supporting this,” as quoted by the Review-Journal.

But others view the lounges as yet another boon for Las Vegas’ vibrant tourism industry. It will also provide refuge for the thousands of out-of-towners who descend upon the city each week. As local news station KSNV put it, the state’s “current law leaves many from out of town consuming the drug illegally, either on the streets or a hotel room,” but the cannabis lounges will change that.

According to the Review-Journal, the lounges “will allow marijuana customers to smoke the drug legally for the first time outside of private homes since voters legalized recreational use in 2016.”

“I think it’s important for the city to consider the business opportunity that consumption lounges will bring, and also some relief of issues we’re currently hearing about a lot because we’re not offering a place for folks to actually consume when they buy,” Councilwoman Olivia Diaz told the Review-Journal after the vote on Wednesday. “We have still some way to go and some more work to do.”

The newspaper reported that there will be 20 licenses awarded throughout the state for cannabis consumption lounges, half of which will be given to social equity applicants, individuals from communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

The Cannabis Compliance Board announced earlier this month that the application period for prospective cannabis consumption lounge owners will open on October 14 and conclude on October 22.

The post Las Vegas City Council Approves Cannabis Consumption Lounges appeared first on High Times.

Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Highlights Women, Minorities

Social equity, preferably known as equity empowerment, was the name of the game at the 15th iteration of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference (BCCC), which took place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago on September 13 and 14.  Adult-use cannabis consumption, possession and sales of cannabis products are legal in the State of Illinois.

Through the BCCC series, Benzinga “strives to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations that are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” according to the company event’s website.

​Keeping in line with that mission, Benzinga offer​ed​ discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses​ that​ have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.

Women + Minorities

Additionally, Benzinga offers scholarships for women and minority-owned businesses. To that end, the company partnered with organizations, including WomenGrow, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, to showcase their associates on Benzinga’s conference stages and in the exhibit hall.

One of those presenters included Amber Senter of Supernova Women. Despite suffering from Lupus, Senter leads the charge via her 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to empower BIWOC to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space through education, advocacy, and network building.

In the expo hall, female-represented brands were out in full force, including Chicago Norml’s Edi Moore, My Bud Vase’s Doreen Sullivan, MtoM’s Christine Wilson, Illinois Equity Staffing’s Shawnee Williams, HerHighness’ Allison Krongard and Laura Eisman, Budwell’s Sara Hussain, and CannaBellaLux’s Tiffany Woodman, among others.

Women-led brands who pitched from the stage included House of Puff’s Kristina Lopez Adduci, Black Buddah’s Roz McCarthy and 40Tons’s Loriel Alegrete.

In The Ring

Apart from the strong representation of female brands, Benzinga also welcomed more than 150 speakers from top-performing cannabis companies. Three executives of Tyson 2.0, including the legendary heavyweight boxing champion himself, landed on the roster. While retired from the sport, Mike Tyson is now a regular on the cannabis conference tour. During his press conference in the expo hall with former iconic WWE superstar Rick Flair, the latter said, “I love being relevant; and being in marijuana keeps you relevant.”

Mike Tyson, Rick Flair at Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference

Benzinga’s VP of Events, Elliot Lane, is pleased with the level of participation from all avenues.

“Chicago was our 15th iteration of the Cannabis Capital Conference and second this year,” he said. “The turnout of industry executives, investors and media was overwhelmingly positive, and the response from our attendees has been glowing.”

The Envelope Please…

Of special note were the first annual Benzinga Awards. “Finding the best of the best in cannabis is no easy feat, but someone has to do it. So, we assembled a panel of high-level judges to help us determine who are the people and organizations driving the cannabis industry forward,” said Chief Zinger Jason Raznick.

According to Benzinga, the awards celebrate new, creative, innovative and outstanding people, solutions and companies in the cannabis industry.

Benzinga Cannabis Awards

The winners of this year’s Benzinga Awards are as follows:

  • MOST IMPACTFUL CANNABIS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Ben Kovler, CEO, founder and chairman of Green Thumb Industries 
  • “BRETT ROPER AWARD” FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO of Wana Brands
  • FRIEND OF THE INDUSTRY AWARD: Rep. David Joyce (R) of Ohio told the audience: “God bless you all for taking on this fight. I am going to keep doing my best to help you.”
  • CANNABIS ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Mary Bailey of the Last Prisoner Project
  • SOCIAL EQUITY AWARD: Desiree Perez of the The Parent Company
  • BEST CANNABIS LEADER UNDER 40: Luke Anderson, co-founder of Cann
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN BUILDING TRUST: Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon Investment
  • MOST EFFECTIVE CELEBRITY CANNABIS BRAND: Cookies, founded by Berner
  • CANNABIS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR: US Cannabis Council
  • CANNABIS LIFESTYLE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jon Cappetta, High Times Magazine
  • CANNABIS POLICY REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment
  • CANNABIS FINANCE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Tim Seymour, CNBC
  • CANNABIS BUSINESS REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Berke, Insider
  • BEST EUROPEAN CANNABIS COMPANY: TILRAY Brands
  • BEST LATIN AMERICAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Khiron Life Sciences
  • BEST CANADIAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Village Farms
  • HOTTEST CANNABIS TECHNOLOGY: Weedmaps
  • BEST CANNABIS LAW FIRM: Foley Hoag, LLP
  • BEST CANNABIS ACCOUNTING FIRM: Crowe LLP
  • BEST INVESTMENT RESEARCH: Scott Greiper, Viridian Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS INDUSTRY ANALYST: Matt Bottomley, Cannacord
  • BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS LENDER: Pelorus Equity Group
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS ETF: YOLO – AdvisorShares
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – INSTITUTIONAL: Ricky Sandler, Eminence Capital
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – PRIVATE EQUITY / VC: Mitch Baruchowitz, Merida Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS RETAIL EXPANSION STRATEGY: Trulieve
  • BEST CANNABIS PARTNERSHIP: TILT, which brought a true social equity partnership to the Shinnecock Indian Nation
  • BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
  • BEST M&A DEAL: Flora Growth
  • MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY OPERATOR: Geomat Patented Water Recovery Systems
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS BRAND: Miss Grass
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS SMALL BUSINESS: House of Saka – Cannabis-infused wines from Napa Valley

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Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Wows Participants

Social equity, preferably known as equity empowerment, was the name of the game at the 15th iteration of the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference (BCCC), which took place at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago on September 13 and 14.  Adult-use cannabis consumption, possession and sales of cannabis products are legal in the State of Illinois.

Through the BCCC series, Benzinga “strives to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations that are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” according to the company event’s website.

​Keeping in line with that mission, Benzinga offer​ed​ discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses​ that​ have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.

Women, Minorities, More

Additionally, Benzinga offers scholarships for women and minority-owned businesses. To that end, the company partnered with organizations, including WomenGrow, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, to showcase their associates on Benzinga’s conference stages and in the exhibit hall.

One of those presenters included Amber Senter of Supernova Women. Despite suffering from Lupus, Senter leads the charge via her 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to empower BIWOC to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space through education, advocacy, and network building.

In the expo hall, female-represented brands were out in full force, including Chicago Norml’s Edi Moore, My Bud Vase’s Doreen Sullivan, MtoM’s Christine Wilson, Illinois Equity Staffing’s Shawnee Williams, HerHighness’ Allison Krongard and Laura Eisman, Budwell’s Sara Hussain, and CannaBellaLux’s Tiffany Woodman, among others.

Women-led brands who pitched from the stage included House of Puff’s Kristina Lopez Adduci, Black Buddah’s Roz McCarthy and 40Tons’s Loriel Alegrete.

Another Tyson KO

Apart from the strong representation of female brands, Benzinga also welcomed more than 150 speakers from top-performing cannabis companies. Three executives of Tyson 2.0, including the legendary heavyweight boxing champion himself, landed on the roster. While retired from the sport, Tyson is now a regular on the cannabis conference tour. During his press conference in the expo hall with former iconic WWE superstar Rick Flair, the latter said, “I love being relevant; and being in marijuana keeps you relevant.”

Benzinga’s VP of Events, Elliot Lane, is pleased with the level of participation from all avenues.

“Chicago was our 15th iteration of the Cannabis Capital Conference and second this year,” he said. “The turnout of industry executives, investors and media was overwhelmingly positive, and the response from our attendees has been glowing.”

The Envelope Please…

Of special note were the first annual Benzinga Awards. “Finding the best of the best in cannabis is no easy feat, but someone has to do it. So, we assembled a panel of high-level judges to help us determine who are the people and organizations driving the cannabis industry forward,” said Chief Zinger Jason Raznick.

According to Benzinga, the awards celebrate new, creative, innovative and outstanding people, solutions and companies in the cannabis industry.

The winners of this year’s Benzinga Awards are as follows:

  • MOST IMPACTFUL CANNABIS EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Ben Kovler, CEO, founder and chairman of Green Thumb Industries 
  • “BRETT ROPER AWARD” FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Nancy Whiteman, founder and CEO of Wana Brands
  • FRIEND OF THE INDUSTRY AWARD: Rep. David Joyce (R) of Ohio told the audience: “God bless you all for taking on this fight. I am going to keep doing my best to help you.”
  • CANNABIS ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR: Mary Bailey of the Last Prisoner Project
  • SOCIAL EQUITY AWARD: Desiree Perez of the The Parent Company
  • BEST CANNABIS LEADER UNDER 40: Luke Anderson, co-founder of Cann
  • ACHIEVEMENT IN BUILDING TRUST: Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon Investment
  • MOST EFFECTIVE CELEBRITY CANNABIS BRAND: Cookies, founded by Berner
  • CANNABIS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR: US Cannabis Council
  • CANNABIS LIFESTYLE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jon Cappetta, High Times Magazine
  • CANNABIS POLICY REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment
  • CANNABIS FINANCE REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Tim Seymour, CNBC
  • CANNABIS BUSINESS REPORTER OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Berke, Insider
  • BEST EUROPEAN CANNABIS COMPANY: TILRAY Brands
  • BEST LATIN AMERICAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Khiron Life Sciences
  • BEST CANADIAN CANNABIS COMPANY: Village Farms
  • HOTTEST CANNABIS TECHNOLOGY: Weedmaps
  • BEST CANNABIS LAW FIRM: Foley Hoag, LLP
  • BEST CANNABIS ACCOUNTING FIRM: Crowe LLP
  • BEST INVESTMENT RESEARCH: Scott Greiper, Viridian Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS INDUSTRY ANALYST: Matt Bottomley, Cannacord
  • BEST USE OF CAPITAL: Jushi Holdings
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS LENDER: Pelorus Equity Group
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS ETF: YOLO – AdvisorShares
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – INSTITUTIONAL: Ricky Sandler, Eminence Capital
  • CANNABIS INVESTORS AWARD – PRIVATE EQUITY / VC: Mitch Baruchowitz, Merida Capital
  • BEST CANNABIS RETAIL EXPANSION STRATEGY: Trulieve
  • BEST CANNABIS PARTNERSHIP: TILT, which brought a true social equity partnership to the Shinnecock Indian Nation
  • MOST INNOVATIVE CANNABIS SMALL BUSINESS: House of Saka – Cannabis-infused wines from Napa Valley

The post Benzinga Chicago Cannabis Capital Conference Wows Participants appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Denver Signs off on Weed Delivery for Social Equity Companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New York: The Taming of the ‘Wild East’?

The storefront on Allen Street, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, proudly sports a cannabis leaf logo on its awning. Beyond the security workers who check ID at the door, buds, edibles and pre-rolled joints are on open display in glass cases. There isn’t the slightest hint of stealth or disguise.  

Don’t Call It A ‘Loophole’ 

This is one of three Empire Cannabis Clubs locations around the city—the others are up the island in Chelsea and across the East River in Williamsburg. Co-owner Jonathan Elfand says three more are planned—for Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper East Side and Greenpoint.  

Speaking to Cannabis Now in a small park across from the establishment, Elfand boasts of his legacy credentials. “I’ve been messing with the marijuana trade in New York City since the 1980s,” he says. “I’ve grown weed in New York, sold weed in New York. I’ve been arrested numerous times, including on federal cultivation charges.” 

Elfand says including the 10-year term from that bust in ’98, he’s spent 14 years behind bars for cannabis. 
“We want to make sure cannabis goes to the community, the way it’s supposed to. I refuse to get into the system,” he expounds. “After 215 in California, millions of dollars came in from people with no history in cannabis. Corporate cannabis is not taking over New York City, that’s not happening. We don’t want it to be just CuraLeaf and MedMen.”

And Elfand insists the law is on his side, dismissing the terms used in the media to describe his enterprise.  

Jonathan Elfand, co-owner of Empire Cannabis Clubs. PHOTO Bill Weinberg

“I’ve read through the law. This isn’t a ‘gray area’ or a ‘loophole,’” he says. “As long as you are transferring it hand-to-hand without profit, it is not a sale under the law. I make money off membership fees, not the cannabis. I am not selling, I am facilitating transfer. The cannabis is sold for the price I pay to acquire it and get it on the shelf.” 

Elfand says the club received a “cease and desist” letter from New York’s Cannabis Control Board in February. He says they replied to it with a letter explaining their legal position, and never heard back. 

A press release issued by the business at that time stated: “Empire Cannabis Clubs is a not-for-profit cannabis dispensary (NFPCD) that aims to serve the goals of its members while ensuring an inclusive marketplace built upon social and economic justice for this rapidly growing industry before billion-dollar corporations are allowed to dominate the market and corrupt the process.” 

And indeed, the official New York Courts website states that under the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March 2021, “it is now legal for a person 21 years of age or older to give or transfer up to three ounces of cannabis and up to twenty-four grams of concentrated cannabis, to another person 21 years of age or older, as long as it is given without any payment.” 

Elfand emphasizes that he is conforming to every industry standard. “Everyone is scanned in; everyone is over 21. It’s all above-board. All products are lab-tested.” 

Now the testing is mostly done out of state, he says, but adds that he hopes to open a laboratory in New York.  Quantity per sale is limited to three ounces of flower or 24 grams of concentrate—the permissible quantities for personal possession (outside the home) under MRTA. 

Elfand is one of four co-owners, including his sister and brother. He says Empire Cannabis Clubs has some 100 employees, the majority with criminal records. “We try to get people who have been victimized by the war on drugs,” he says. 

The business is paying sales tax (even though it denies making any “sales,” as legally defined), and is among several listed on the New York Dispensary Events website. 

“Others may be flying under the radar in New York City, but that’s not me,” Elfand insists. “We’re paying taxes, we have a social equity program, and we’re providing top-quality product safely and securely while making sure mom and pop can take some of that money back to the Bronx for their families.” 

Legacy Operators Favored

Do businesses on the model of Empire Cannabis have a future as the licensed retail market is about to come online?

Officially, New York’s legal cannabis program is being crafted to prioritize legacy operators. 
On July 14, the Cannabis Control Board issued long-awaited regulations allowing entrepreneurs to apply for licenses for retail establishments. The first round of Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses will go to “justice-involved individuals”—that is, those with past cannabis convictions. 

The first 150 will be eligible to receive aid from a $200 million Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund.  

“This is a tremendous stride in the right direction,” Control Board chair Tremaine Wright, a former Assembly member from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, told the Daily News. “We’re leading with equity in this state.” 

The Office of Cannabis Management, the Control Board’s parent agency, is headed by a figure with major activist creds. Chris Alexander, a native of Hollis, Queens, is a veteran leader of the Start SMART NY campaign that pushed for the MRTA—and a lead drafter of the law. He told the New York Times that he’s committed to “pulling the legacy market into the legal market.” 

On Aug. 5, the Control Board issued the first 15 licenses for cannabis processors, and announced regulations for testing labs to apply for licenses. On that occasion, both Wright and Alexander made statements pledging inclusion for legacy operators. 

“Processors aren’t just an important part of the cannabis supply chain, they are creators, who take a raw plant and transform it into tested, consistent, high-quality products that consumers can trust,” Wright said. “When we open New York’s first stores, owned and operated by New Yorkers harmed by the misguided criminalization of cannabis, the shelves will be lined with infused edibles, topical creams and concentrated oils. None of those products would be possible without these first processors launching New York’s cannabis industry.”

Alexander adds: “These processors aren’t just expanding their own businesses; they are committed to also mentoring the next generation of cannabis processors. They’ll be teaching vital manufacturing skills to those with a passion for cannabis…New York’s entire cannabis ecosystem will create opportunities for those who have been shut out of jobs and industry, and will bring those skills to communities across the state.”

 A Unified Legacy Operators Council (UNLOC) has been founded by a group of 25 entrepreneurs to advocate for this sector. Among the members are veteran rappers Umi and M-1 (formerly of Dead Prez).  

Umi recently told the Albany Times-Union, “I’m not hearing enough about the culture that’s behind the actual plant.” Added M-1: “There’s no way that the same capitalist exploitation that has happened in America can be good for cannabis.” 

But Big Bud Is Circling In 

New York City Mayor giving welcome remarks at this year’s CWCBExpo. PHOTO CWCBExpo

And indeed the notorious multi-state operators (MSOs) are making no effort to hide their ambitions for the Empire State.  Their representatives were certainly out in force for the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBE) held at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center the first week of June—featuring an “Industry Yacht Party” on the Hudson River.  

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (a former NYPD cop) addressed the CWCBE, famously quipping to the crowd: “I’m a bit disappointed. I thought I’d walk in the room and have a nice scent of weed goin’ on in here.” (This despite the fact that the Javits Center does not allow smoking of anything.) 

A more telling comment was offered by Gretchen Gailey, chief strategy officer for the CWCBE. She told the assemblage: “We say brands are born in California but made in New York. The real money is going to happen in this part of the country. This is where the population of the US is.” 

MSO CuraLeaf has four medical marijuana retail locations in New York state, including one in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills. It’s already applying to begin recreational sales at its location in New Jersey’s Bordentown, and is expected to follow suit in New York. 

The 10 “registered organizations” that are licensed to distribute medical marijuana in New York are “scrambling” to position themselves for the adult-use market, in the words of the New York Times. The paper notes that some of these “ROs” donated to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign, and nearly all have hired lobbyists, spending more than $2 million this year in expectation of a big share of a projected $6 billion market. 

CuraLeaf got into a spot of bother with regulatory authorities in August, when it was forced to pull thousands of products from the shelves of its New York dispensaries for misleading labeling. CuraLeaf apparently began calculating THC content by “dry weight” rather than “wet weight” (the state norm) in order to jack up percentages. The Office of Cannabis Management said it couldn’t do that without prior official approval. 

Speaking to the environmental contradictions of Big Bud, MSO Vireo Health apparently needs more electricity for its new cultivation and processing facility than can be provided by the technology park where it has set up shop. The Leader-Herald in upstate Gloversville reported that Fulton County industrial development officials were “shocked” to learn from Vireo that the county-financed transmission line into Tryon Technology Park wasn’t sufficient for the MSO’s planned operations. 

And some perceive there are still obstacles for the little guy. The $2,000 non-refundable application fee for adult-use retail outlets is far below the $10,000 fee for medical marijuana dispensaries. But applicants must submit tax documents showing they’ve owned and operated a profitable business for at least two years. And Bloomberg Tax recently noted: “Those fortunate enough to obtain one of New York’s recreational cannabis licenses will be forced to contend with a gauntlet of state and local taxes.” 

Since June 1, the Cannabis Control Board has issued some 160 cultivation licenses for the adult-use market, with many hemp farmers getting in on the act.  

In April, the state legislature passed a bill allowing already-operating hemp farms to get early adult-use cultivation licenses, to supply retail businesses as soon as they open. But the MSOs are certain to be next in line. 

Crackdown on Independent Operators…Sort of

NYC weed dispensary
Granny Za’s is one of NYC’s “Green Mile” dispensaries. PHOTO Courtesy of Granny Za’s

In New York City, there has been much media hyperventilation about the proliferation of unlicensed retail establishments—often derided as “line jumpers.”  

Typical is a recent story in the New York Post, “New Yorkers Worry Over Flowering Weed Market.” It sensationalizes about a “Green Mile” that has emerged within “Hell Square”—the name for a section of the Lower East Side filled with noisy bars and eateries that irk the locals. The article mentions both Empire Cannabis and Granny Za’s on Rivington St., where patrons are “gifted” a quarter-ounce of cannabis if they pay $75 for a piece of digital artwork. The Post calls this using “clever loopholes.” 

Such coverage has contributed to calls for a crackdown by the New York Police Department. On July 8, the unlicensed open-air cannabis market that’s been operating in Washington Square Park, the heart of Greenwich Village, won some bad press. A Parks Department worker tried to confiscate one of the tables that had been set up—and got into a physical scuffle with the merchants. Two were arrested and charged with assault

There are growing calls from well-heeled area residents to shut down the Washington Square market, and the NYPD earlier this year announced a “zero tolerance” policy for unlicensed cannabis sales in the park. But in fact, the open-air market persists as summer fades into fall. 

In the first significant move toward a crackdown, on Aug. 16 the NYPD seized 20 of the trucks that rove the city to make sidewalk cannabis sales. The Department’s Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey proudly tweeted: “If you are looking to buy illegal cannabis from the Weed World Bus located on 5th Avenue & 40th Street, it is no longer open for business. We do not anticipate it opening for business anytime soon!” 

Technically, however, the seizures were made because of parking violations.  

And in May, Liz Kreuger, the same Manhattan state senator who shepherded through the MRTA, won approval in the Senate for S.9452—a bill that would change the language of the MRTA to expressly prohibit unlicensed monetary transfers of cannabis. It failed to pass the Assembly before the legislative session ended in June. 

Jonathan Elfand believes his Empire Cannabis Clubs set the standard for responsible practice in the unlicensed sector. He has this to say to the sector’s critics: “Tell all the people in line for licenses that I’ve been in this all my life, and I don’t want to see it taken over by corporate money.” 

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Benzinga Cannabis Conference Kicks Off in Chicago Next Week

Thousands of cannabis entrepreneurs and activists are expected to descend upon Chicago next week for the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference.

The two-day event kicks off on September 13 at the Palmer House Hilton, where attendees will be given an opportunity to broaden their network and listen to a who’s-who of keynote speakers.

It is the 15th edition of the cannabis conference, which Benzinga, a financial media outlet, bills as the top cannabis conference in the world, and a summit where “where stars are made and real deals happen.”

The outlet says that a recent cannabis conference “was the very site where Trulieve Cannabis team met Harvest Health & Recreation, which ultimately led to a $2.1-billion acquisition.”

“At this modern day gathering, you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the most important cannabis stars at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference where you’ll rub shoulders with executives of top-performing companies, glean priceless insights from the world’s leading cannabis investors, entrepreneurs, social equity leaders, women who have taken the industry by storm and so many more,” the outlet said in an announcement earlier this summer.

“Now in its 15th edition, the CCC is where countless companies, from large to small to startups, have met investors who supported them with tens of millions. Sit in on the numerous presentations, fireside chats and exclusive interviews. Enjoy friendly access to companies representing more than 90% of the cannabis industry’s market capitalization in one place.”

Courtesy of Benzinga

Benzinga is offering three different ticket packages for the conference. For $797.00, attendees can receive a general admission ticket, which will get them two-day admission to conference content tracks, two-day admission to the exhibit hall, as well as access to cocktail receptions.

A VIP Pass will cost you just under $1,300, but it will get you the following: “Access to Conference VIP Lounge; Access to VIP area at the Afterparty; Special Invites to Dinners & Parties; Express Check-In; VIP name badge; Reserved Seating; 2 Day Admission to conference content tracks; 2 Day Admission to the Exhibit Hall; Access to Cocktail Receptions both days; Access to Conference Networking App.”

A third option, the Investor Pass, is “for institutional and accredited investors,” and costs just under $300.

Those in attendance will have the chance to listen to several luminaries from the cannabis industry: Charlie Bachtell, CEO Cresco Labs, LLC; Kim Rivers, CEO Trulieve Cannabis Corp.; Chris Beals, CEO WeedMaps; Wendy Berger, Board Member Green Thumb Industries; Boris Jordan, Executive Chairman of the Board Curaleaf; and Michael DeGiglio, CEO Village Farms.

In addition, the conference will be highlighted by dozens of other notable speakers, such as Vic Mensa, who recently launched Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand 93 Boyz; NFL Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, the founder of Michigan-based cannabis company Primitiv; boxing legend Mike Tyson, the co-founder of the cannabis company Tyson 2.0; and former professional wrestler Ric Flair, who is involved in Tyson 2.0.

Three members of the U.S. House will also speak at the conference: Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL); Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA); and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH).

The conference will also have a special emphasis on social equity.

“Through our Cannabis Capital Conference series, we strive to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations who are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” Benzinga says. “Additionally, Benzinga has committed to donating a percentage of all event ticket sales to Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. We are also proud to offer discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses who have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.”

The post Benzinga Cannabis Conference Kicks Off in Chicago Next Week appeared first on High Times.

Applications for Recreational Cannabis Licenses Open in Detroit

Two lawsuits filed in Michigan earlier this year challenged the recreational cannabis ordinance in Detroit. However, the lawsuits have now been ruled on, and the city can proceed with recreational cannabis license applications.

One lawsuit was originally filed by House of Dank (which owns four dispensaries) in May, and argued against the ordinance’s rule that prevents medical cannabis dispensaries from applying for a recreational cannabis dispensary license until 2027.

Wayne County Judge Leslie Kim Smith on Aug. 30, who presided over House of Dank v. City of Detroit, wrote about the ruling in his opinion. “Although the city’s 2022 marijuana ordinance is a complicated scheme, it is unambiguous and provides a fair licensing process, which comports with the mandates of the MRTMA [Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act],” Smith stated.

Additionally, Detroit City Spokesperson John Roach said that “the law department is reviewing the recent rulings and we will know more about the licensing process and application timeline in the next couple of days,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit’s first round of recreational applications were set to begin on Aug. 1, but Judge Smith issued a restraining order that prevented Detroit city officials from proceeding.

The second lawsuit was issued on June 3 by JARS Cannabis, which owns two dispensaries in Detroit, and more throughout the state. The lawsuit claimed that it violates state law, and presented issues with the city’s scoring system.

Recreational cannabis sales began in Michigan in December 2019, but the city of Detroit didn’t introduce its ordinance to allow recreational cannabis sales until November 2020. Now with the resolution of the two lawsuits that were putting the plans on hold, those who want to apply for a license to operate a dispensary, microbusiness, or consumption lounge, can do so as of Sept. 1.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan spoke at a press conference on Aug. 30, explaining how the last two years of litigation has slowed Detroit’s progress. He described medical cannabis being “controlled by wealthy folks who don’t live in the city, and Detroiters have not benefited from it. Since the beginning, Councilman [James] Tate has said we want recreational marijuana businesses in the city but not if that means Detroiters are going to be excluded.”

Duggan also expressed his confidence that the system is fair. “Everyone is entitled to apply tomorrow but we are going to make sure there is equity,” Duggan said

Registration is open between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1 through homegrowndetroit.org. During the first phase, 60 licenses are available (40 dispensaries, consumption lounges, and 10 microbusinesses. Half of these licenses will be awarded to social equity applicants, which are individuals who either living in “any community where marijuana-related convictions are greater than the state of Michigan median and where 20% or more of the population is living below the poverty line.”

Later on, 100 more retail licenses, 30 consumption lounge licenses, and 30 microbusiness licenses will become available, spread out in three phases.

Councilman James Tate was also at the press event. “The city’s 2022 marijuana ordinance is unambiguous and provides a fair licensing scheme,” Tate said, reading out a portion of the opinion written by Judge Smith.

In his own words, Tate also spoke about the future of cannabis in Detroit. “I am excited that we are on the verge of having Detroiters and other equity applicants having a fair process that will allow them to participate in this multimillion-dollar industry. It is complicated, it is challenging, but it is now possible and that’s the beauty of this fight.”

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Who’s Funding Your Favorite Cannabis Company?

“Money has no nationality” (and variations thereof) is one of those clever-sounding aphorisms that, upon close examination, fall apart quickly. Just look at the cannabis investors in the industry. Who funds the company that sells you weed and therefore profits off of every transaction? The answer may surprise you.

A flood of money from newly legalized Canada created the first (legitimate) unicorns in the industry, before that country’s bubble burst and capital markets dried up. Now, with US investor confidence currently hurt and confused by President Joe Biden’s unwillingness to create a constitutional crisis on behalf of their stonks, money is coming into cannabis from all over the world—wherever it can be secured, really.

This is true for any publicly traded company in any industry, but not every industry was made possible because of legalized adult-use marijuana. Legalization came packaged to voters and the public with social justice promises. And cannabis companies market themselves today as socially conscious and responsible companies.

Fighting the War on Drugs, Again

This all begs a question: Can capitalists right the wrongs of the War on Drugs—and can they do so if their venture capital was earned in, say, Russia—where Brittney Griner was just sentenced to nine years in prison for scraps of cannabis oil?

One state lawmaker doesn’t think so.

In May, Pennsylvania State Rep. Danilo Burgos, a Philadelphia Democrat, introduced a bill urging the state Department of Health to “investigate each entity… with a permit to open and operate a medical cannabis business” and to “take steps to revoke the permit” if there’s a connection to Russia.

“It’s crucial that we work as a body to ensure no Pennsylvania government programs are utilized to benefit those who are complicit in the Russian war effort,” Burgos said in a statement when his bill was introduced May 2. “We must take every effort to support Ukraine in their struggle against this unprovoked Russian invasion.”

In a later phone interview, Burgos said he introduced the bill to use the Ukraine war and increasing scrutiny on Russian oligarchs and US firms doing business in Vladimir Putin’s country to highlight an ongoing problem with cannabis legalization: The economic benefits are going to outside investors rather than Black and brown locals harmed by the War on Drugs, whom legalization backers promised would be uplifted.

“This will help bring more attention to the overall problem in the entire commonwealth,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do: Trying to use current events that are catching peoples’ attention to shed light on the larger problem.”

There are 165 permitted medical-cannabis dispensaries currently in Pennsylvania, according to the state health department. These include some of the biggest companies selling cannabis in the US. However, Burgos insists his legislation has nothing to do with any particular company.

“I did this to bring to light the lack of willingness, by government in general over the years but particularly here in Pennsylvania, where we seem to miss the target when it comes to helping communities of color,” he said.

“There’s very little push for communities of color to have access in the cannabis world,” he added. “It’s extremely prohibitive for people of color to invest in cannabis.”

In addition to a lack of access to cannabis investors, capital, onerous permit fees and limited licensing have been blamed for depressing BIPOC participating in legal marijuana. 

The Non-Response Response

In an e-mailed statement, a state Department of Health spokesperson said the agency “does not have a formal position” on Burgos’ bill. The spokesperson noted that under Pennsylvania law, applicants for medical marijuana permits must provide a criminal background check that the health department uses to “determine the… character, fitness and suitability” of the applicant. They must also provide documents identifying “each financial backer and principal.” However, there are no restrictions on sources of capital. Nor must an applicant declare where their money came from—after all, it’s green. It has no nationality! But it does have a source—and, maybe, the source matters.

Or maybe not.

Burgos admitted it’ll take an “uphill climb” for his bill to become law, and for there to be a first state to closely examine the source of money in its cannabis industry.

Current indications are that the bill will go nowhere. With their 23-seat majority, Republicans hold all the strings in Pennsylvania’s 203-seat House of Representatives, including when—or if—to call a bill for a hearing. Burgos’ bill is currently assigned to the Pennsylvania House Health Committee, chaired by Republican State Rep. Kathy L. Rapp. In a phone message last month, Rapp said Burgos’ bill isn’t a priority.

“As of now, I don’t have any plans to call a hearing,” said Rapp, who claimed “there’s not a lot of days in the Fall to do hearings. So I don’t think I’ll be doing a hearing on this resolution but thank you for reaching out to me.”

Despite support from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Republicans have also successfully blocked proposals to legalize cannabis for all adults 21 and over in the state.

And there may be resistance within the cannabis industry to Burgos’ bill—if there’s any attention paid to it at all.

In an e-mail, Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, an advocacy organization whose members include some of the other biggest cannabis companies in the US, called the Burgos bill “a reaction to a reactionary sentiment that there were multistate operators that had Russian ties. I believe that sentiment has been widely dispelled at this point,” she said. In any event, “it’s not an issue I’ve heard any buzz about.”

There may be too many other issues competing with Americans’ attention. There may also be unclear answers to straightforward questions. And, for now, there won’t be any requirement for cannabis companies to tell the public exactly where their capital originates.

The post Who’s Funding Your Favorite Cannabis Company? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

San Diego’s Social Equity Proposal Could Provide Needed Fixes

San Diego’s proposal to establish a social equity program would present eligibility criteria that would help participants find locations, get financing, and get critical mentorship from existing members of the cannabis industry.

It would create a revolving loan fund that would begin with $5 million in city cannabis tax revenue. That probably won’t be an issue, as San Diego recorded over $24 million in cannabis tax revenue that was collected during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Only those who meet these two criteria will be eligible:

  • Applicants must have been convicted of a cannabis crime, or have had a family member convicted of a cannabis crime, after Jan. 1, 1994, within the San Diego city limits.
  • Applicants must be a current or former resident, for at least five cumulative years between 1980 and 2016, of Barrio Logan, Linda Vista, southeastern San Diego, Encanto, Golden Hill, North Park, City Heights, the College Area or San Ysidro.

Applicants must also meet two of these four criteria:

  • Have a household income under 80% of the area median income.
  • Lost housing in San Diego through eviction, foreclosure or subsidy cancellation after 1994.
  • Attended school in the San Diego Unified School District for at least five years between 1971 and 2016.
  • Placed in the foster care system at any time between 1971 and 2016.

“We’re no longer talking in abstractions,” Kim Desmond, Chief of Race and Equity for the City of San Diego, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “It’s an industry that is riddled with racial disparities.”

Bruce Mayberry, chief executive of the San Diego Central Black Chamber of Commerce, echoed those statements, adding that the city must take action.

“If you look at the number of African-Americans that were incarcerated and had their lives turned upside down when cannabis was illegal, and now you look at the number of African-Americans that are benefitting from cannabis now that it’s legal, you can make an argument that another crime is being committed,” Mayberry said.

San Diego’s Equity Problems

The problems of the city and county of San Diego have already been laid out.

On July 7, the City of San Diego released the Draft Cannabis Equity Report, detailing how Black and Latino people make up about 50% of total cannabis arrests since 2015, despite representing only 29% of San Diego’s population.

Ownership misrepresentation problems represent another facet of the problem: The study found that in San Diego County, 68% of cannabis business license holders are white, while white people make up 44% of the county’s overall population.

Latinos make up 34% of the overall population—yet hold only 14% of cannabis business licenses. Black people make up 5.6% of the county population and hold about 7% of cannabis licenses, perhaps due to recent efforts.

The study also found a huge disparity between men and women business owners.

San Diego’s proposal for a cannabis equity program will receive its next hearing in City Council on Sept. 20. It must be approved by late October in order to meet a state-imposed deadline for the next round of cannabis equity funding, which is expected to be close to $2 million, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Voice of San Diego reports that cannabis sales, distribution, manufacturing, and cultivation continue to be banned in the unincorporated areas, but a countywide ordinance is expected to include a social equity provision. That ordinance could roll out next year with a vote from the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The post San Diego’s Social Equity Proposal Could Provide Needed Fixes appeared first on High Times.

Arizona Cannabis: Recreational Sales Sky-High While Medical Sales Plummet

The two regulated cannabis markets in Arizona are currently heading in different directions.

For the Grand Canyon State’s newly launched recreational pot industry, business is booming. Arizona’s medical cannabis decade-old market, meanwhile, continues to see lagging sales.

Citing figures from Arizona’s Department of Revenue, the AZ Mirror reports that “sales of medical cannabis dipped to slightly less than $45 million in May, their lowest total since January 2021, when adults were first allowed to purchase marijuana for recreational use,” while “initial estimates from tax collectors peg recreational sales at $76.5 million, the fifth time adult-use sales surpassed the $70 million mark.”

In addition, the state Department of Revenue “revised April’s sales upward to $81.2 million, up from the initial estimate of $75.5 million, making it the best sales month yet for recreational cannabis,” according to the AZ Mirror, topping the previous record of $80.4 million in March.

But while recreational pot sales have continued to climb, medical cannabis sales have gone the other way.

“Medical cannabis sales dropped precipitously for the seventh month in a row to slightly less than $45 million in May, only the second time in the past year medical sales dropped below the $50 million mark,” the AZ Mirror reported. “Preliminary numbers for June indicate $33.7 million in medical sales with recreational sales already on pace to hit another record, with $66.4 million reported so far.”

Arizona legalized medical cannabis in 2010, and the first sales launched two years later. In 2020, voters there approved a ballot proposal that legalized recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. Adult-use sales began in January 2021.

In the first year, medical cannabis sales still outpaced recreational sales. The state reported that its two cannabis industries combined to generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2021, with medical sales generating $703,803,194 and recreational sales pulling in $528,001,278.

“Rarely does an industry produce over $1.2 billion in revenue in its first year. This number shows that the legalization of cannabis is something Arizonans believe strongly in and the many benefits it contributes to the state’s economy,” said Samuel Richard, the Executive Director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association (ADA), after those figures were released in January.

Much like in other states that have also legalized adult-use cannabis, Arizona’s new recreational law contains social equity provisions designed to provide individuals from communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs with opportunities to the regulated pot industry.

The state has planned to award dozens of dispensary licenses to individuals who were adversely impacted by erstwhile marijuana laws. And last summer, Arizona introduced classes for social equity applicants “to ensure that social equity applicants are prepared for the application process and the challenges of running a marijuana business,” the state’s Department of Health Services said at the time.

The classes entailed “two days of content and education focused on a number of aspects of operating an adult-use marijuana business, including legal requirements, business practices, regulatory compliance, and fundraising, as well as marketing and strategic growth.”

“The social equity ownership program is intended to promote the ownership and operation of licensed Marijuana Establishments by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws,” the department said in the announcement last August. “Social equity license holders will be required to comply with all statutes and rules that govern Adult-Use Marijuana Establishment licenses, including obtaining approval to operate before opening their retail location. Additionally, social equity license holders will be required to develop and implement policies to document how the Marijuana Establishment will provide a benefit to one or more communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws.”

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