CBAI has taken decisive action to ensure that social equity applicants have the best chance of success entering the marketplace:The CBAI Minority Access Committee, wholly comprised of social equity applicants, is negotiating with members of the General Assembly and other social equity groups on the association’s behalf for legislation that advances the interests of minority applicants.
CBAI prioritizes issuing licenses to social equity applicants above all other changes in cannabis law and continues to call on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to focus its efforts on getting licenses into the hands of those the law was designed to help.
CBAI has called for Illinois to reimburse social equity applicants for costs associated with the delay in awarding licenses.
CBAI incubates, coaches and mentors social equity applicants, and established the Minority Business Associate Membership to give minorities a stronger voice in our association and in the industry statewide.
From the moment the cannabis bill became law, CBAI has advocated for policies that provide greater ownership opportunities for minority cannabis entrepreneurs, including set-aside licenses, innovative incubation and co-location programs, and omnibus legislative packages that would move the state forward on awarding social equity licenses.]]>
Flanagan was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2005, then to the state Senate in 2009, where she served two terms. In 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker appointed her to serve as the first public health representative on the newly formed Cannabis Control Commission. During her time as a commissioner, she led efforts to protect public health and patients’ rights, including the award-winning “More About Marijuana” public education campaign.
“Jennifer devoted 25 years to public service in Massachusetts, and we are honored to welcome her to Vicente Sederberg,” said Adam Fine, managing partner of the firm’s Boston office. “Her experience as both an elected official and regulator, combined with her career-spanning advocacy work, offers her a unique perspective on cannabis policy. She will be an invaluable asset to our clients and to government officials across the country as they work to develop and implement responsible cannabis and hemp regulations.”
Now in its 11th year of operation, Vicente Sederberg continues to grow in its service offerings and geographical reach as cannabis policy reform spreads across the U.S. and around the globe.
“Throughout my four years with the commission, I watched the Vicente Sederberg team passionately and effectively advocate not only for their clients, but also for thoughtful public policy and the collective welfare of the regulated cannabis industry,” Flanagan said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to take on a new role that ties together my cannabis regulatory experience with my commitment to public health advocacy. I look forward to working with VS and other cannabis industry leaders on matters that advance the industry in a responsible, inclusive, and compliant manner.”]]>
Cannabis lounges, where patrons can smoke a joint, rip a bong, vaporize a dab or do just about anything else you can think of with the plant, appeared to be a certainty as part of a Las Vegas ordinance back in 2017—and then again in 2019. They’ve been talked about for over four years in the entertainment capital of America.
But this time around, after years of setbacks and political meddling from the rival gaming industry, a bill at the Nevada State Legislature is on track to settle the score once and for all.
Assembly Bill 341 would pave the way for an unlimited number of lounges to open across the state, in counties where local governments allow cannabis businesses to operate. That includes in Sin City, where over 40 million tourists visited each year before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This would really open the floodgates for something marijuana users have wanted for a long time,” said Assemblyman Steve Yeager, a Democrat from Las Vegas who sponsored the bill. “And there’s a social equity part to it where we’re not restricting this just to licensed dispensary owners.”
Yeager, in his third term at the state’s biennial legislature, has felt the frustration himself. Long considered the heir apparent to former State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who was known as Nevada’s “Godfather of Marijuana,” Yeager watched as the fledgling industry offered all of its spoils to a tiny group of anointed business owners, most of whom were lawyers, doctors, casino operators, lobbyists and former public officials.
But even in the pioneering marketplaces like Denver, Colo., there is much to revisit and much to reconsider. The city recently passed its first major policy overhaul, allowing delivery and hospitality businesses to set up shop as soon as this summer. It’s a good example of local legislators working diligently to fine-tune regulations in a city that was on the vanguard of legal cannabis seven years ago—a lifetime ago in our concept of time.
Assistant Editor Andriana Ruscitto has the story in the links below. And don’t miss Associate Editor Tony Lange’s report on unionization efforts in the cannabis space.
We’ve rounded up some of the key cannabis headlines from the week right here.Cultivation and dispensary employees from Massachusetts and Rhode Island join UFCW union as part of a national labor organizing wave. Read more Cannabis deliveries and hospitality locations will be allowed under the proposed changes to Denver’s cannabis laws. Read more Adult-use cannabis legalization remains uncertain in South Dakota, where the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments April 28 on the constitutionality of a voter-approved amendment from the November 2020 election. Read more The Louisiana House Criminal Justice Committee advanced House Bill 524, which would establish the regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis in the state. Read more Vessel Brand, a community-led company focused on uplifting the cannabis consumption experience, announced a new partnership with GAIACA Waste Revitalization in an effort to combat the ongoing waste issue facing the cannabis vape industry. Read more
And elsewhere on the web, here are the stories we’ve been reading this week:Politico: “As more and more states legalize marijuana, companies are facing new pressure from lawmakers across the country—and Capitol Hill—to limit the strength of their products.” Read more Taos News: “Now that a regulatory committee is being formed and rules are being drafted [in New Mexico], the citizens and the government of Taos are preparing for a potential influx of cannabis businesses.” Read more The Denver Channel: “New Mexico's legal marijuana market could cut off a huge line of revenue for Colorado dispensaries at the border. Cities like Trinidad, which sits just north of the border with New Mexico, boasts dozens of dispensaries and has come to rely on the ‘border model’ to survive.” Read moreBangor Daily News: “As with any evolving industry, we should remain flexible moving forward. However, lawmakers should understand that the forthcoming oversight measures are part of a much-needed upgrade for medical cannabis in Maine.” Read more Benzinga: “Vertically integrated cannabis company Ascend Wellness Holdings has opened a new store in downtown Boston.” Read more
RWB Florida is licensed to operate medical cannabis dispensaries, a processing facility and a cultivation facility in the state of Florida. The deal also includes the sale of property in Sanderson, Florida that includes more than 15 acres of land, an approximately 11,000-square-foot facility for cultivation and a 4,000-square-foot freestanding administrative office building. In addition, RWB Florida has eight leased stores in prime locations throughout the state.
“The Florida cannabis market is poised for tremendous growth and is forecasted to be a top-five state by the year 2025,” Red White & Bloom CEO Brad Rogers said. “With approximately 450,000 medical cannabis patients currently registered in Florida, we see this as an amazing growth opportunity for the company. Combine this with a population of 20 million and we are delighted this deal has been finalized and look forward to delivering the highest quality medical products to the market.”
Jim Frasier, formerly of Acreage, has been appointed the position of Florida general manager for Red White & Bloom. “Our employees are impressed with Red White & Bloom’s commitment to the local communities as they expand their ESG program around the environment, jobs, social justice and governance,” he said. “We are excited to play a major role in the benefits cannabis can bring to the state of Florida.”
RWB, RWB Florida and High Street Capital entered into a definitive stock purchase agreement on Feb. 21, 2021, as amended on April 27, to acquire Acreage Florida and the Florida real estate from High Street Capital for an aggregate purchase price of U.S. $60,000,000 in cash, stock and other considerations including:
Not only would the emergence of a domestic cannabis sector help stimulate the U.K. economy post-pandemic, but it would also transform access for the estimated 1.4 million individuals currently sourcing cannabis illegally for medical reasons, who are in desperate need of affordable cannabis medicine.
In November 2018, the government announced medical cannabis could be prescribed for patients by specialist doctors, but so far just three National Health Service (NHS) prescriptions and 6,000 private prescriptions have been issued. Despite being one of the largest exporters of medical cannabis in the world, currently, the U.K. imports 100% of its cannabis medicine and the majority of its CBD products, due to the contradictory legislation on medical cannabis, and the convoluted licensing and regulatory processes required for businesses entering the space. Sadly, patients themselves have largely footed the bill for these issues, with the majority of prescriptions paid for privately by patients and their families.
Written by Maple Tree Consultants and Mackrell.Solicitors, the discussion paper is supported by 16 industry heavyweights including Prohibition Partners and the Primary Care Cannabis Network. Its findings refer to distinct areas of the cannabis industry, including CBD, hemp and medical cannabis.
Recommendations to Government:Reform the high-THC cultivation/controlled drug license system.Allow the cultivation of the hemp flower to extract CBD under an Industrial Hemp license.Increase the THC limit from 0.2% to 1% to align with international competition.Ensure the application of the Novel Foods Regulation to cannabis-related wellbeing supplements does not impinge upon smaller market participants.Encourage wider, appropriate patient access by allowing general practitioners to prescribe medical cannabis.Introduce an “Office for Medicinal Cannabis," as implemented by other jurisdictions such as the Netherlands.
Findings on Medicinal Cannabis:
The entrance of big money into the industry certainly provides a solid jumping-off point for businesses that partner with investors to increase profitability and valuation. However, it could also come back to haunt the seasoned cannabis entrepreneur who enters into a partnership without fully understanding the terms of the agreement.
This is why it is imperative for industry veterans to know how they can protect their stake in a business at the beginning of a new venture and avoid potentially expensive and time-consuming legal battles down the road, should things turn sour.
The strategies presented here can be effective in protecting your stake in a developing business, but remember that big money investors often have a “take-it-or-leave-it” mentality. However, that doesn’t mean a venture capital investor holds all of the power and leverage in the negotiation just because he or she is putting up money. Without your unique skill, product, process or experience—whatever forms the base of the business and sets it apart from competitors—the investment opportunity wouldn’t exist in the first place. If you are critical to the success of the business, you have leverage to steer the deal or walk away if the terms aren’t beneficial to you.
When you’re in the early stages of building a business, it’s easy to get caught up in the euphoria of the new possibilities and future success of your new venture. While developing a vision in collaboration with new teammates and investors, there is not as much desire to pause the momentum and ask difficult but important questions like:How will we make management decisions?How much of this venture do I own, and how much do my partners own?How would we deal with potential disputes between partners?How would my interests be protected if: The venture just muddles along or is a bust? Everything goes as planned and the business is a moderate success?You hit a home run and your founder’s shares are worth millions?
That’s why it’s essential to put the terms of the business relationship on paper early, so expectations are clear and there are no misunderstandings or surprises in the future. You should start documenting once you’ve found your core business partners, even if you don’t have all of your investors on board yet.
Vessel Brand offers a high-end line of vape pen batteries and accessories made with quality materials and premium finishes. Helmed by CEO and founder James Choe, Vessel stands apart as a company that puts people and the planet first. Thoughtfully designed with the user experience top-of-mind, Vessel batteries power any oil in style with optimized airflow technology, low-temperature settings and extra-long battery life.
Leading the charge in industry sustainability, Vessel’s batteries last nearly 300 charge cycles, and optimized power settings ensure that users don’t burn through oil too quickly, meaning oils last longer and fewer cartridges and batteries end up in the trash.
By joining forces with GAIACA, a leader in providing compliant and environmentally focused solutions for cannabis waste, Vessel will make it easier for consumers to recycle batteries.
“At Vessel, we are committed to holistic wellness, whether that’s personal wellness, that of the community, or in this case the environment—we believe it is all interconnected and equally important,” Choe said.
Utilizing GAIACA collections services includes:
The court’s hearing stems from a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Amendment A, which passed with a 54.2% majority. The ballot measure read: “An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana; and to require the legislature to pass laws regarding hemp as well as laws ensuring access to marijuana for medical use.”
The plaintiffs in that case argued that the measure violates the state’s one-subject rule and does not simply amend the state constitution but, rather, revises the constitution. Therefore, the revision would require a constitutional convention to be called for by a three-fourths vote of members from both chambers of the state legislature.
The defendants, who represent South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind Amendment A, argued the measure contains one subject—cannabis—to which all provisions are essentially related. In addition, they argued the state constitution’s definitions of “amendment” and “revision” are permissive, not obligatory.
During the hearing in front of the five South Dakota Supreme Court justices on April 28, Brendan Johnson, an attorney in support of Amendment A, argued the state’s one-subject rule as it has been applied by the high court has historically serviced as a shield, not as a sword, he said.
“It is designed to shield the people from legislation, from crafty legislators, who before the legislation passes, they’ll insert … something that the people weren’t expecting,” Johnson said. “They would have no reason to expect that this could happen. That has been the purpose of this single-subject. Same when it comes to amendments.
Republican Rep. Richard Nelson sponsored the bill, which passed in a 7-5 vote after an "impassioned" debate on April 27, The Advocate reported. Two additional Republicans and several Democrats supported the legislation, while mainly district attorneys and sheriffs opposed it.
Nelson said he believes the state’s cannabis prohibition is a failed experiment and needs to end, according to The Advocate. He also argued that legalizing and then regulating and taxing adult-use cannabis could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Louisiana—revenue that the state is currently missing out on.
But opponents of the legislation said that the potential revenue from legalizing and regulating cannabis would cause a host of other problems, like safety issues, KPEL reported.
The legislation still has a difficult journey before it becomes law. It must get approved by the Republican-dominated full House and Senate and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said he opposes adult-use cannabis, The Advocate reported.
However, the committee’s recent vote on the legislation indicates that opinions on cannabis are starting to change in the Louisiana legislature, as more conservatives are beginning to show support for legalization.]]>
The court’s hearing stems from a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Amendment A. The state-passed ballot measure read: “An Amendment to the South Dakota Constitution to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana; and to require the legislature to pass laws regarding hemp as well as laws ensuring access to marijuana for medical use.”
Less than a month after voters approved the ballot measure with a 54.2% majority, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller filed a lawsuit challenging Amendment A, arguing it violates the state’s one-subject rule, and the amendments and revisions article of the South Dakota Constitution.
The plaintiffs argued that Amendment A has five subjects: legalizing cannabis, regulating cannabis, taxing cannabis, requiring the South Dakota Legislature to pass laws regarding hemp and ensuring access to medical cannabis.
Commenting on the litigation, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Legalization opponents cannot succeed in the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Thus, they are now seeking to overturn election results after the fact. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.”
South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind Amendment A, filed a response in court on Dec. 7, arguing that the case should be dismissed because voiding Amendment A would overturn the people’s will. Citizens from that group also argued that Amendment A had one subject: cannabis.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328, which represents more than 11,000 workers in a range of industries throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, filed for the Curaleaf Hanover union election April 20, 2020—during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballots went out to the Hanover team in May, and the original vote count was June 26. That vote came back 5-2 in favor of joining the Local 328, excluding 10 challenged ballots, which were determinative, meaning there were more challenged votes than the difference between yeses and noes.
“There was some fighting back and forth—because it was during COVID—about people that they were bringing in from other areas and having them work there,” UFCW Local 328 President Tim Melia said. “But they weren’t part of the Hanover group. The company was arguing that they should be part of the unit and should be able to vote on the contract. And we were arguing back the other way. So, there were some charges about who was eligible and who wasn’t when the vote came.”
The challenged ballots took nearly 10 months to sort out. A federal investigation and hearing by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) examined the circumstances of the challenged ballots, which stemmed from which workers were employed at the Hanover location before government shutdowns and which workers were not. The Boston regional office of the NLRB determined that six of the 10 challenged ballots should not be counted. Curaleaf appealed that decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C., where the labor board declined to hear the case, essentially upholding the ruling of the regional director in Boston.
The final vote was 8-3 in favor of the Curaleaf Hanover workers unionizing, which became official on April 9, 2021, roughly a year after the workers’ campaign was organized.
Local 328 organizers first connected with dispensary workers at Curaleaf Hanover in March 2020, a month before filing the unionization vote and before pandemic-related government shutdowns were enacted. At the time in Massachusetts, the shutdowns affected adult-use dispensaries while medical dispensaries like Curaleaf Hanover were deemed essential.
Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) offers the hemp industry commercial promise, with the potential for fresh markets and new products. But as delta-8 products increasingly land on store shelves and online shopping carts, they also invite legislative scrutiny and, in some cases, action.
The cannabinoid already has provoked bans in 12 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island and Utah, according to Marielle Weintraub, president of the U.S. Hemp Authority, which certifies hemp products (and has recently decided not to certify delta-8 products). Meanwhile, legislative bans are brewing in other states, including North Dakota, Alabama and Oregon.
Florida lawmakers, moving in the opposite direction, have established a legal framework for delta-8.
The emergence of commercial delta-8 simultaneously thrills and worries hemp industry leaders. Prior to delta-8, no hemp products got people high.
“The  Farm Bill passed with the understanding that hemp is nourishing, hemp could be food, used in supplements, used as fiber or grain. And hemp is not intoxicating,” Weintraub tells Hemp Grower. “Delta-8 defies the intention of the laws and the rules. I think it’s incredibly short-sighted and can bring down the entire hemp industry before we’ve had the chance to show people what this plant can do. Delta-8 makes me so angry.”
To make Denver's cannabis industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive, city officials have been working on making changes to the industry's cannabis laws for several years, The Denver Post reported.
The first bill would lift Denver's license cap on new stores and cultivation facilities, which has been in place since 2016. According to The Denver Post, it would also permit dispensaries to hire third-party vendors to deliver cannabis directly to consumers.
As previously reported by Cannabis Business Times, social equity applicants are the only people who would be able to receive a delivery license until 2024, while permits for hospitality businesses, stores, transporters, cultivation and manufacturing facilities would be limited to social equity applicants until 2027.
The second measure would legalize cannabis consumption facilities such as bars and clubs, where customers could bring cannabis to consume, and clubs could sell small amounts of cannabis for consumption, The Denver Post reported. The measure would also allow the city to implement cannabis tour buses or shuttles, where people can consume cannabis on board while being taken on a tour around the city.
While city Mayor Michael Hancock supports both measures, over a dozen Denver public school principals wrote a joint letter to the city council expressing their concerns. The letter stated that increasing cannabis availability could lead to a rise in cannabis consumption among young people, the Associated Press reported.
As more states come online and as legal cannabis picks up traction as a normalized segment of the American business sector, consumer interest seems to rise steadily. States like Maryland and Arkansas (in the medical market) and Illinois (with a booming adult-use market) issued updates this week that provide some serious revenue numbers.
In Illinois, in fact, as Assistant Editor Andriana Ruscitto reports, "dispensaries and wholesalers had to adjust daily operations to effectively manage the influx of sales.”
Not a bad problem to have.
We’ve rounded up some of the key cannabis headlines from the week right here.
And elsewhere on the web, here are the stories we’ve been reading this week:Miami Herald: “A high-profile effort to legalize marijuana was all but killed by the Florida Supreme Court Thursday.” Read more Local Coast Outpost: Papa and Barkley Social, “the chic, new-concept cannabis consumption lounge” from the hemp-CBD business, opened in Eureka, Calif. Read more Yahoo! Finance: “Long-time marijuana legalization advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.) is optimistic about the chances of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress.” Read more Asbury Park Press: “For the first time since New Jersey legalized marijuana, its constituents had a chance to sound off on the regulators who will oversee it all. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission held its second-ever meeting on Thursday, the first time members of the public had their chance to make comments on the state's existing medical marijuana and, eventually, recreational legal weed industries.” Read more North Bay Business Journal: Nicole Elliott, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top adviser on cannabis told a 4/20 crowd that, “with California legalizing adult use in 2016, the feds may compromise with a relaxing of rules on interstate commerce — which would essentially allow for transportation of related goods over state boundaries.” Read more
According to the proposal, the Board considered three key factors when deciding to expand the number of dispensary licenses: the state’s population, the number of patients seeking to use medical cannabis and the geographic distribution of dispensary sites.
The Board initially issued 57 dispensary licenses; however, there are currently only 52 operating dispensaries. Compared to bordering states’ medical cannabis programs, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, Ohio’s current number of permits is low based on the state’s population, the proposal states.
For example, Pennsylvania has 109 medical cannabis dispensaries, and its population is about 12.8 million, equaling 0.85 dispensaries per capita. Ohio has 57 medical cannabis dispensaries, and its population is roughly 11.69 million, equaling 0.48 dispensaries per capita, according to the proposal.
And as of January, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) reported over 135,000 registered patients, a significantly higher number than the initial estimates of acquiring 12-24,000 registered patients within the first two years of the program, the proposal states. (Medical cannabis sales began in Ohio in early 2019.)
The Board also found that there are currently “three dispensary districts without an operational dispensary, thus indicating a need to increase the number of dispensaries to ensure geographic distribution and patient access.”
The series, sponsored by Quest, is hosted by Cannabis Business Times Digital Editor Eric Sandy, and includes interviews with executives at Terrapin, Sinse, Harbor Farmz, Apothca, Trulieve, Napa Valley Fumé and other businesses operating in the legal cannabis space.
“Launching a cannabis cultivation business is a complicated and often expensive endeavor, and this series presents listeners with a great opportunity to gain insights from those who have successfully navigated the process,” Sandy said. “We are excited to launch the podcast to help those interested in entering the legal cannabis cultivation industry increase their chances of success.”
How to Win a Cannabis Cultivation License can be found at cannabisbusinesstimes.com, and on Spotify, Google Play and Apple Podcasts. The podcast’s first episode aired April 9, with weekly episodes airing every Friday through June 11.
About Cannabis Business Times
Cannabis Business Times was founded in July 2014. Its focus is to help accelerate the success of legal cannabis cultivators by providing actionable intelligence in all aspects of the business, from legislation, regulation and compliance news to analysis of industry trends and opportunities, as well as expert advice on cultivation, marketing, financial topics, legal issues, business management and more.
The cost and risk of handling cash have been persistent problems in the cannabis industry. The companies’ collaboration delivers an integrated solution to cannabis operators, financial controllers and chief financial officers with secure cash custody processes and real-time visibility on company cash across the organization.
“The cannabis industry is oftentimes the last to see its business processes streamlined with tech-forward solutions because of compliance and development costs,” Abaca Chief Strategy Officer Brian Bauer said. “Abaca’s partnership with Staley Technologies and CIMA brings our clients, whether multistate operators or single dispensaries, a seamless solution. Clients can log into Abaca Online Banking and see a real-time cash position and transaction log, in addition to being able to manage financial operations and send money.”
The integrated back-office, cash-recycler solution is also having an operational impact at the retail dispensary level. Store management saves 20 to 40 hours a week in cash handling, freeing up time for managing revenue-producing activities.
“CIMA smart safes allow dispensary staff to easily count, deposit and record cash in seconds,” CIMA Vice President Vik Devjee said. “This solution formalizes the cash handling system. Employees drop cash into the counter, then it is deposited in the safe, and finally our smart safe prints a receipt for an accounting log. Our recyclers allow operators to prepare floats and access change, too. Owners and management can log into Abaca Online Banking to view all safe activity.”
Information gathered during physical cash counting and depositing into CIMA’s smart safe is displayed real-time in the Abaca Online Banking portal. Hardware installation and support is provided by Staley Technologies.
The state’s legislative chambers overcame differences to pass a compromise bill on Feb. 27, after each body passed different measures—Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312—to legalize cannabis possession, personal cultivation and retail sales for adults 21 years and older.
The problem? Those legalization efforts, including possession laws, would not have gone into full effect until Jan. 1, 2024. Following the legislature’s passage, Jenn Michelle Pedini, Virginia’s executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said that timeline wasn’t good enough and she hoped to continue working to accelerate specific facets of legalization. Northam agreed and pushed to expedite certain components of the legislature’s bill.
On April 7, the General Assembly approved the Democratic governor’s amendment package by way of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax casting the deciding vote in a split Senate. As a result, adults 21 years and older will be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and grow up to four plants per household starting July 1, 2021—speeding up the timeline 2 1/2 years.
“As of July 1, 2021—who’s counting, but 71 days from now—Virginia will no longer police adults for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Northam said during his signing ceremony Wednesday. “What this really means is people will no longer be arrested or face penalties for simple possession that follow them and affect their lives. We know that marijuana laws in Virginia and throughout this country have been disproportionately enforced against communities of color and low-income Virginians.”
According to Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC)—the state’s non-partisan research arm—the average arrest rate of Black Virginians for marijuana possession was 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate for white individuals from 2010-2019, and their conviction rate was 3.9 times higher than white individuals.
With 21 existing cultivation centers, the state has taken the approach to ensure this cash crop leads the way toward earth-friendly industrial agriculture. Regulation for the best growing environments, however, has some tradeoffs, and there are barriers to environmental entrepreneurship that intersect with equity. What is clear is that MSOs like Cresco Labs and groups like the Illinois Environmental Council are each doing their part to create an equitable and environmentally conscious industry.
We listen and share with Cary Shepherd, former policy director for the Illinois Environmental Council, and Jason Nelson, senior vice president of horticulture at Cresco Labs, to learn a little bit about how Illinois legislation got to be so green—and what it all means for a budding industry in these challenging times.
Mila Marshall: The Illinois Environmental Council represents more than 90 environmental organizations across the state. Cary, can you share a little bit about how the IEC came about to working on the recommendations for the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act?
Cary Shepherd: We worked with the University of Chicago Abrams Environmental Law Clinic to do a policy and law review on sustainable cannabis growth to help us draft language that was reflective of the priorities and concerns of the network. The focus of the bill was not on the environmental, which isn’t a bad thing—Illinois’ bill was a criminal justice reform bill—but we were able to work with IEC members to create legislation that protects the environment very similarly to how other agricultural industries are held accountable, for example.
MM: Some people may feel some apprehensive about the additional environmental legislation in H.B. 1438. It seems as though the environment and the economy are always pitted against each other. What were the actual concerns from the environmental community? Why were these elements necessary to include?