Happy Friday everyone, this is Richard Lowe again here to bring you the top 5 marijuana news stories of the week for The National Marijuana News. I say marijuana but in truth we write about CBD, hemp and anything else having to do with the Cannabis Sativa plant. It’s important that we make that clear, weed isn’t just weed anymore you know. It is April 5th, 2019 and this week Guam’s governor made adult-use marijuana legal. I reported last week that the bill to legalize recreational marijuana had passed both in the U.S. Territory’s House and Senate and only needed the Governor’s signature. Well it happened, and so if you feel like going to a Western Pacific island and enjoying some weed, go knock yourself out! Let’s see what else has been happening with weed around our country.
Adult Use Marijuana Bill Passes New Hampshire’s House Ways and Means Committee
So, the Northeast has been a big focus for the cannabis industry as of late. Especially with the buildup for the potential of legal adult-use marijuana in New Jersey and New York that fell to absolute pieces. No matter what, weed is now a big deal in the Northeast with Massachusetts selling recreational marijuana, Connecticut is working on legalizing adult use marijuana and both Maine and Vermont have legalized adult-use but not yet created a commercial regulated market for the sale of marijuana. What about the other two New England states you ask? Well Rhode Island is tiny with just about 1 million residents, but it does have a medical marijuana program. The state has a demand problem though which has caused the price of marijuana to drop considerably from $2,000/lb to $1,200/lb. There are basically 3 producers in Rhode Island which people have referred to as a monopoly, but they have struggled finding profits. Sales have been on an upswing lately though as Rhode Island started honoring out-of-state medical marijuana cards last summer and people from Connecticut and Massachusetts have been buying. The big news though in New England is that New Hampshire’s House Ways and Means Committee approved H.B. 481 sending it on to the Senate. This is the first time the committee has allowed an adult-use marijuana bill to make it to the State Senate. If passed the bill would legalize adult-use and its commercial sale. It’s about time too, you do know New Hampshire’s state motto don’t you? Live Free or Die. I mean, come on.
New Mexico Decriminalized Weed Instead of Legalizing Adult-Use
Let’s move out west. New Mexico had us all buying into the idea that it would legalize recreational marijuana, but instead they decriminalized it this week. That’s good, not as good as legalization, but still good. If you are caught in New Mexico with less than half an ounce of weed, they will slap you with a $50 citation. No jail time, no convictions. But, it allows the illegal market to flourish. Decriminalization is great for criminal justice reform, but not good for those wishing the the black market would go away. Cannabis consumers may feel more comfortable buying marijuana now and their friendly neighborhood drug dealer will be their guy/gal.
The STATES Act is Back
Sticking with marijuana law reform but moving to the national picture, the STATES Act was reintroduced this week in Congress. You remember this bill from last year, don’t you? The bipartisan bill sponsored by R-Sen. Cory Gardner and D-Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would not actually reschedule or deschedule marijuana but put provisions in place to protect states that want to legalize weed from federal regulators. Sen. Gardner refers to it as a “states rights approach” to marijuana legalization. This is why it has gained more Republican support with R-Sen David Joyce also sponsoring the bill and last year the President said he would probably support the bill too. While many marijuana legalization advocates may feel like marijuana must be removed from the Controlled Substance Act, the biggest challenge to the cannabis industry’s growth is access to banking. Last year the seven states that are commercially selling recreational marijuana brought in over $1 billion combined in tax revenue from marijuana sales according to a recent report.
You will find more infographics at Statista
Even the banks think it is a big problem. Just listen to 3 CEO’s of federal reserve banks speaking at the American Bankers Association summit this week. Please jump to minute 49 of the video to hear them speak about cannabis and banking.
I have one more story about the national implications of marijuana prohibition on the federal level, but first I just have to mention this. I like Colorado a lot. It’s a beautiful state and Aspen was the first place I ever bought legal weed at the Silver Peak Apothecary back in 2015. Researchers at the University of Northern California decided to test the federally legal marijuana used for research out of the University of Mississippi. The notorious marijuana grown at OleMiss is very challenging for scientists to access and the story is that it is awful weed relative to what you find at legal dispensaries. Well the researchers found that the OleMiss weed is actually closer to hemp than marijuana. Hemp is defined by having a THC level of .3% or less, and while hemp is great, it is not medical marijuana. The inability of scientists to access marijuana for research due to federal prohibition may be the most confounding part of prohibition. Now we have confirmation that the weed scientists could access was never the weed they should have been testing. If that is not hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.
MedMen’s Financial Troubles
I’ve been in MedMen dispensaries before. They’re cool. They say to you when you walk through the door, “Welcome to the Apple Store of marijuana.” Okay, I think, so this is expensive weed then. I have an iPhone, they’re great. Anyways, what distinguishes MedMen, in my opinion, is their presentation with the tablets you find above each marijuana product. The tablets tell you what you want to know and shows the ever important certificate of analysis. MedMen is probably also the most well known marijuana dispensary brand here in the United States. Here is a big key difference between MedMen and Apple though, other than the fact that weed is not technology. MedMen is a financial mess. A financial statement issued by MedMed in February showed they were almost out of money. They were forced to secure an unsavory loan with very high interest of $100 million last week just to stay alive. Why is MedMen not booming like everyone is led to believe the cannabis industry as a whole is booming? Well, the reality is that state taxes can make legal weed pretty expensive relative to black market weed, and Tax Code 280E doesn’t allow cannabis companies to write off normal business expenses to the federal government. It is hard to turn a profit in the cannabis industry, simple as that. Especially considering MedMen’s base of operations, and where the majority of their stores sit is California. That state just cannot get control of its black market. The war on drugs just ramped up recently in California as the governor has even called upon the National Guard to help local authorities eliminate growers in Northern California national parks. He also asked for federal funding to eliminate illegal growers. Those growers have supplied the majority of the illegal marijuana to the United States for the last 60 years. Last year, MedMen’s market capitalization was over $3 billion, today it is less than $1.5 billion. That just doesn’t work.
Legal Immigrants Working in Cannabis Industry Denied Citizenship
Finally, a couple of legal immigrants in Colorado have been denied citizenship because they worked in the cannabis industry. Oswaldo Barrientos came to the U.S. as an infant, received a green card when he was 13, has graduated from high school and has no criminal record. However, immigration authorities are forced to follow federal law and sent him a letter denying citizenship due to his employment at a Colorado dispensary back in 2014. The state of Colorado has issued a statement warning all legal immigrants to be cautious taking jobs in the cannabis industry.
That’s it for this week everyone. I hope you have a delightful happy hour and you enjoy your weekend. Remember to follow our Youtube channel, The National Marijuana News, along with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages @NationalMJNews. I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.