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Amsterdam Weed Market Slowly Falls

Amsterdam Weed Market Slowly Falls

When you think of the marijuana capitol of the world, what comes to mind? For many people, the first place they think of is Amsterdam. But, this might change as the Amsterdam weed market starts to fall.

Amsterdam has always been world-renowned for its marijuana coffee shops that allow the Dutch as well tourists from all over the world to partake in recreational cannabis use without fear of persecution. However, few know the true cannabis laws of Holland, and how those laws are slowly tearing down the Amsterdam weed market and the rest of the Dutch nation.

Laws Limit Success

Although it may seem that Holland is very lenient on the use of cannabis in the country – which compared to other nations they certainly are – the laws they passed in recent years have made it difficult for coffee shops to operate. Holland’s cannabis law maintains a decriminalization status; meaning there is no penalty for personal use and consumption. To show a little contrast to the flaw of Holland’s laws, sex work, i.e. prostitution, is completely legal.

It may come off as odd that a country would permit the sale of legal sex yet be opposed to the full legal use of cannabis, which much of the country already consumes. Yet the government of Holland is not backing down.

Eighteen coffee shops have closed in Holland over the past two years, many due to being too close to a school. Even the oldest dispensary in the country, Mellow Yellow, closed in January for being too close to a hairdressing academy in which the students were over eighteen, making them eligible customers.

Government Crackdowns

Eighteen coffee shops in two years may not sound like much, when there are still 573 licensed sellers and coffee shops in Holland, 173 of which are in Amsterdam. That’s about thirty-three percent of the coffee shops in the country. Despite the ever-increasing constraint of new laws, businesses are staying afloat in Amsterdam and other parts of Holland, and many have come to accept the current laws in the country as the way things will stay.

Recently the country’s government passed what was known as the “Weed Pass,” which permits only Dutch nationals to partake in the marijuana market there, which so far has become somewhat of a prohibition, mostly resisted by the Amsterdam weed industry, the main tourist spot in Holland. However, these developments have led to an internal reflection within the U.S., as despite our changing laws, there are still many complications, much like our European friends.

What Can We Learn?

While cannabis has been legalized in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and other states, there are no coffee shops like those in Amsterdam, or anything relatively close for that matter. Many cannabis connoisseurs have flocked to places like Denver and Portland, only to be let down when told by dispensary workers that they cannot smoke there, or at any licensed coffee shop.

Even though Colorado recently passed new laws that allow private businesses to apply for licenses permitting cannabis use on-site, the laws are strict. No alcohol can be sold where marijuana is used, nor can marijuana be sold where it is consumed. Due to these complicated and seemingly counter-intuitive restrictions, a lot of the businesses that are eligible for these licenses may not even bother.

Next Cannabis Capitol

So where will we find the next marijuana capitol of Europe? A sleeper city in Spain may be coming up as the new champion, as Barcelona has hundreds of marijuana “clubs”, much like the coffee shops in Amsterdam. The difference between the two cities however, is that all the clubs in Barcelona are private, meaning there is a required fee to be a member at any given marijuana club.

However, as some of these places offer great deals for yearly memberships, the costs for these new pseudo-coffee shops may well be worth it. Locals and tourists alike have started referring to Barcelona as the new marijuana capitol, but with similar strict private use laws much like the Amsterdam weed market, the city still has much ground to cover.

Mirror Opposites

We seem to be in some weird time-warp where marijuana laws are one way in a certain country, and mirrored the complete opposite in another. While Amsterdam has plenty of places to consume marijuana, the restrictions on businesses and those that can actually partake have begun the tightening of the noose on the falling marijuana capitol. Yet in the United States, where it is completely legal in some places with no potential backlash from authorities, there is no safe public or private place to consume it other than one’s own home.

The world is learning together as marijuana becomes more accepted nationally in the U.S., as well as globally, with more countries considering the plant’s potential benefits as medicine or as a recreational product. So, while Amsterdam may slowly fall, a new marijuana market will rise from its still smoldering ashes; a market with freedom, accessibility, and mutual understanding, whether it be in Europe or America. It will be there.

Jeff Sessions: Cannabis Enemy No.1

Jeff Sessions: Cannabis Enemy No.1

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. A fittingly obnoxious and frustrating name to match the unbearable character of the United States Attorney General; the same man that is single-handedly attempting to take down the recreational and medical marijuana industries.

It’s no surprise that Jeff Sessions, whom even Trump now wants to quit, would take such a negative stance on the medical marijuana industry as well as the legal market. Considering he is a conservative with ties to the private prison industry, in which almost half of the drug-related crimes for which people are placed in these prisons is marijuana-related, one can’t be too shocked that he would take this path.

Stuck in Prohibition

With restrictions on private prisons all but removed completely, Jeff Sessions has set his sights on one of the fastest growing markets in American history. Marijuana still maintains a Schedule 1 status federally, meaning it has a high risk of abuse with no accepted medical use and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

Although I do agree with the last part about lack of safety for use, that is only due to its schedule status which makes it near impossible for research funding and efforts to create a safe all-encompassing set of guidelines for the industry. Ironic, I know.

What is even more ironic is the fact that a conservative government – which if I recall correctly from my gen-ed history courses in college is meant to be small and hands-off with state decisions – would want to go after states that have deemed in their laws the legal or medicinal use of marijuana. So much for respecting the states, right Jeff?

Grabbing at Straws

While we appear to be in the midst of the largest opioid epidemic in our country’s history, Sessions insists that marijuana is a growing flame that needs to be snuffed out, citing increased violence as his reasoning. Maybe I’m crazy or I’m not seeing things properly because I smoke a little too much, but I can’t recall any recent breaking news stories of someone getting stabbed or shot over some marijuana, let alone any reported death from a marijuana overdose in the history of recorded human existence.

Mr. Sessions has taken it upon himself to begin the process of rolling back the Obama administration decision that restricted federal funds being spent on efforts to counteract state’s legal measures regarding medical marijuana. To sum up this federal budget change, the administration basically told the DEA and other drug task forces to leave alone states that decided to legalize marijuana whether medicinally, recreationally or both, despite the federal status.

Jeff Sessions is Stuck in the Past

Now I can see how an old traditionalist such as Jeff Sessions might be scared and nervous that the younger generations are recognizing the vast medicinal benefits of marijuana, such as its use in aiding those with epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and more. If only Jeff Sessions moved forward instead of backward, states could gain even more funding to research the true potential of marijuana.

I remember not long ago hearing the terrible stories of children being taken away from their parents because they tried using medical marijuana instead of harmful prescription drugs. I heard other stories of families picking up and leaving their home state to find a legal medical marijuana state to treat their children or themselves without risk of persecution.

The legalization efforts across the country are creating major waves that are reshaping the modern view on marijuana as it becomes less stigmatized and more accepted for its medical benefits. So why should we go backwards?

Can’t Stop Us

Jeff Sessions is attempting to tear down an exploding market that could be worth upward of $50 Billion by 2026. We are at a tipping point in the marijuana industry where it can continue to skyrocket at its current pace, or get knocked down a few pegs by an impeding government. Do I think the industry will fall completely and disappear like Jeff Sessions probably wants? No.

The cannabis industry has too much momentum and growing support to just die because of an overbearing Attorney General, and with most conservatives maintaining their original stance on state rights, there is sure to be some division among the party once the issue hits the senate floor. Despite this, Sessions will surely keep pushing his hard head into the concrete wall that is the cannabis industry.

The Train Keeps Moving

I think Jeff Sessions knows his time is coming. Trump has spoken out against him numerous times, as well as others in the republican party, and I don’t think I have ever met a person that claimed to like him. The guy sucks, but we shouldn’t worry.

There is so much opposition against Sessions both on the republican and democrat side as well as from the majority of the American public on this issue. It will always blow my mind that the government has yet to learn anything from alcohol prohibition or the war on drugs. When will they just accept their fault and work to make a safer and more accessible market? Colorado and other recreational states have already shown it can be done to great success and effectiveness. Just look at their decreasing opioid use rates and excess taxes going toward schools.

The evidence in favor of legalization and medicinal use of marijuana is growing more and more every day, with new studies revealing effective medical uses, and legal states showing the potential revenue and job creation that can be achieved with a monitored and regulated market. Despite Jeff Session’s best efforts to reverse the progression of the marijuana movement, the train can’t be stopped.

Marijuana saves lives, creates jobs, builds communities, and makes people happy. Jeff Sessions will never be able to take that away.

Cannabis Research in Israel

Cannabis Research in Israel

While the United States makes great strides in medicinal cannabis research, Israel has been doing the same for nearly 35 years.

Israel has become the recognized leader in medicinal cannabis research and innovation. In the US, legal states like California and Colorado opened the door for scientific and medical research in the late nineties. Israel, however, has a nearly 35 year head start.

Unlike in the US, the Israeli government has supported medicinal cannabis research, despite its prohibition among the general population. Israel’s recent decriminalization and pledge to support cannabis initiatives marked a shift in global attitudes toward cannabis and has drawn new investors looking to get into what could be a transformative industry for the nation.

A History of Cannabis Research in Israel

Israel has played a major role in the modern history of cannabis. It was an Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who identified CBD and THC in the 1960’s, allegedly from a piece of Lebanese hash he obtained from police. His research served as the basis for Israel’s own medical cannabis distribution program that went into effect in 1992, years before California followed suit.

Along with decriminalization, Israel has announced its intent to provide additional funding for research with the goal of helping new cannabis products find their way to the market and to develop a further understanding of cannabis’ role in medicine.

Expanding and Progressing

The announcement made it clear that Israel is intent on greatly expanding the medical marijuana market. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development plans to invest approximately $2.1 million dollars into thirteen new cannabis projects including medicinal applications,  biochemistry and improving cultivation techniques.

One of the more exciting projects on the horizon is the development of national catalog of strain genetics. Mapping the cannabis genome and developing the ability to identify specific traits associated with genetic markers could have incredible implications for the development of new strains that target specific ailments.

The main difference between the US and Israeli cannabis research field, is that scientists in the US have struggled to work around federal law which has always had a strict prohibition on cannabis. The federal government’s inability to see past the politics of the drug war has set the US back decades in cannabis research.

Israel’s approach, while socially prohibitive, allowed researchers to do the work they needed to do to fully understand the potential health benefits of the cannabis plant. The result is that they are now the recognized world leader in cannabis science.

American Investor’s Dream

A medical marijuana market that has the full support of the government is an investor’s dream. In the US, the uncertainty of a future national market has held back large investors. Knowing that politics won’t get in the way of making a dollar in Israel’s medical cannabis industry, American investment firms are believed to have sunk at least $50 million into companies actively working to develop new products for the burgeoning market. Many involved in Israeli’s cannabis industry believe that it will grow to become a $100-million-dollar industry by the end of 2017.

With the past distribution system limiting the number of legal consumers to the 23,000 or so medical marijuana card holders, the industry itself was limited to around $20 million dollars on the high end.

The shift in public policy and investment in the industry as a whole will undoubtedly help the country reach its goal of $100 million dollars in sales, which itself seems like a conservative estimate. The industry’s recent developments come after decades of cutting edge research, which ultimately forced the government to recognize not only the incredible health benefits but the economic advantages to legalization as well.

 

Cannabis Retailers Compete in Denver: Survival of the Fittest

Cannabis Retailers Compete in Denver: Survival of the Fittest

Colorado’s cannabis industry hasn’t fallen short of record breaking, even three years after the first recreational sale. In fact, the industry continues to grow, surpassing the previous revenue records each year.

In the month of March, Colorado hit another record for the highest amount of revenue collected from licensed cannabis retailers, according to the publicly available state sales tax data, at $131.7 million. The Colorado Department of Revenue announced that they collected a hefty $22.9 million in tax revenue during the month of March alone.

Denver, the state’s Capital, is the most populated city in Colorado, home to a whopping 5,540,545 people in the 2016 consensus, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Naturally, this means that Denver has the highest concentration of cannabis retailers in the state, hosting roughly 400 of the 698 licensed businesses in Colorado.

Cannabis Retailers Compete

With such a large concentration of licensed cannabis retailers in the city, what does this mean for competition? For some of the larger brands, it doesn’t mean much. To smaller business owners, it is becoming much harder to compete with the established brands, and many owners find themselves selling their licensed businesses.

MJBizDaily interviewed the owner of cannabis dispensary 3D Cannabis Center, who went from worldwide media attention for the state’s first legal recreational sale in 2014, to selling her once widely recognized business for $2 million because of the fierce competition.

Many smaller “mom and pop” dispensaries have started to see a decline in sales, even though the state continually hits record high sales numbers. The smaller businesses are especially hurting with the rapid growth, as the prices for licensing, application fees, utilities and rent continue to rise.

colorado cannabis retailers compete for the best marijuana

Overcoming Obstacles

Another hurdle for competition among the industry is the limited advertising ability for cannabis brands due to the strict state laws. Alas, that has not hindered ads through outlets such as print magazines, radio stations and events, which target a large portion of the Denver population – millennials. Larger companies usually pay to have their brand front and center on a full page ad, or on the front cover of magazines, while smaller brands may only to be able to afford a quarter page ad, if any at all.

Some smaller companies may not have the supply or resources to be able to offer discount coupons, aimed at bringing in more business. You will often see larger brands offering product discounts such as 15% off for first time customers, making it extremely hard for smaller companies to compete if they cannot offer discounted products.

Many companies have now come up with a reward system for customers, marketing directly to their phones or email addresses. Businesses have to come up with extremely creative ways to market their products, because there is a good chance another competitor sits just a few blocks away.

Denver has seen so much growth in cannabis business that they have put a moratorium on new store fronts and cultivation centers, in hopes that they can slow down the competitive industry, and focus on responsible growth.

Cannabis Laws in Colorado Tighten: Do they Limit Industry Success?

Cannabis Laws in Colorado Tighten: Do they Limit Industry Success?

New cannabis laws and regulations are stacking up in Colorado, making it difficult for the industry to operate. While regulations are effective, many businesses are suffering.

In 2012, Colorado was the first state in America to allow adult use of cannabis consumption through Amendment 64. Since the Amendment was adopted, cannabis laws and regulations for adult use in Colorado have continually become more strict, almost aiming for a failure of the industry as a whole.

Cannabis laws change constantly, sometimes overnight, and some business owners cannot keep up. When adult use was enacted, dispensaries did not have the harsh regulations like they do today. In fact, there were minimal limitations on how much product you could purchase at once as a consumer, which type of pesticides you could use to cultivate, and who store owners could receive their supply from.

Not So Wild West

Since Amendment 64 passed with such a short timeframe to enact the encompassed cannabis laws, there weren’t many limitations set forth that hindered a successful business. If you are new to the cannabis industry, you may not be familiar with the “Wild West” days from 2012 that ultimately gave small business owners a large chance for success, setting forth their own unique standards.

Since the success of recreational legalization, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) has continually come up with harsh, almost unrealistic expectations for compliance within the industry. One of the regulations, enacted with HB 1284, is that business owners must track every plant in their possession from seed to sale, and report those numbers daily through a software system known as METRC.  If businesses do not track every seed and sale through METRC and confirm each night before closing, they could risk having to shut down their entire business.

That said, many of the POS systems used in retail stores to track the cannabis sales have a track record for crashing, which does not allow for business owners and managers to be able to track the sales if they choose to allow them while their systems are down. This sets businesses up for failure either way – whether they choose to allow sales or halt sales until the system is restored, which can cause a huge monetary loss depending on the time of day.

Cannabis Laws Hurt Small Business

As for applying for or owning a cannabis business license, the process has become so extensive (and expensive) that most small business owners cannot afford to continue renewing their licenses and are forced to sell their stores or go out of business. Currently, licensing fees can run upwards of $15,000, depending on how many licenses are being applied for and in which city. This does not even include the price of rent, which can be quadruple the base price of rent in Denver, specifically to cannabis businesses. The rent increase includes cultivation facilities and infused product manufacturers (MIPS) as well.

Additionally, these locations now cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare facility or rehabilitation center, and in some cities, another cannabis business. To date, since these new cannabis laws have been enacted, there have been about 50 cannabis businesses that have received a letter from the MED to close their doors due to being too close to one of the “off limits” facilities. In addition to the strict location laws, the State of Colorado has more recently adopted very strict pesticide laws for cultivation centers.

When the State updates their regulations, it is uncertain whether or not they will alert the public, or give you any timeline as to when these new cannabis laws will be enforced. If the MED randomly audits your facility and detects any “off limits” pesticide particles in the air, even if they have been discarded due to new regulations, they will issue a violation, destroy every plant in the facility, and cause the business owner an exorbitant loss of product.

New Laws, New World

Most recently, Green Man Cannabis was forced to destroy every plant in their facility as the MED found “residual particles” of illegal pesticides in their air system – pesticides that were legal to use shortly before the incident had occurred. The rules enacted by the MED seem to be aimed at daunting the success of cannabis in Colorado – but as we remain compliant and law-abiding, their restrictions cannot stop the ongoing success of this industry.

420 Rally Banned in Denver for Three Years

420 Rally Banned in Denver for Three Years

Denver’s 420 rally has been banned from Denver’s Civic Center Park for the next three years, but does anyone really care?

The ban comes after city council members say that the organizers of the Denver 420 rally/festival left the park a complete disaster, with trash strewn everywhere. While the city’s decision may seem to put a damper on things, the reality is that the spirit of 420 will live on…just somewhere else.

Complicated Circumstances

The circumstances surrounding the banning are questionable at best. While it is true that trash was indeed left in an ugly heap all around the 420 rally venue, how the trash got there may not have been the organizers fault. As fast as the reports of the incident hit social media, so did claims disputing the announcement. Dozens of local residents who either took part in the cannabis festival or were passers by, reported that when the event was concluded trash was cleaned up and the park was, for the most part, in order.

It Wasn’t Us

According to Miguel Lopez, the rally’s organizer, the problem came about when a man with a knife, intentionally tried to scuttle the efforts of the festival clean-up crew, who had already bagged up most of the trash. Around 80 to 120 bags were cut open and thrown around by the lone individual, who when confronted, pointed his knife at the workers.

Police were called around 2am to respond, Lopez says. The Denver PD showed up, but made no attempts at taking a report on the incident, a blatant violation of DPD policy. When questioned about it, they acknowledged they had responded but “didn’t know” anything else about the incident at the 420 rally .

Was it ever about the trash?

Despite the revelations by Lopez, the city wasted no opportunity to inject their own personal views on the Denver cannabis festival and the message it permeates. The ban was an opportunity the city council couldn’t pass up, yet it had very little to do with trash. According to Lopez, the ban is the city’s way of silencing the festival’s message. He plans to fight the ban, as the rally was pulled off without a hitch, until an act of sabotage spoiled the fun for everyone.

Another point of contention, according to Lopez, is that the 420 festival had until noon the next day to do clean-up, a deadline which was met. Lopez was also fined almost $12,000 for the incident, while according to the city, damages totaled only $190.

Here, there, 420 everywhere

The one thing that the city of Denver can count on is that the spirit of the 420 rally is not defined by its location. The 420 rally is about freedom, and embracing a culture of togetherness. It’s about loving your neighbor, and coming together as a community. The one thing that the city will never get is that cannabis unites people, and nothing will ever change that, no matter how hard they try.

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