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Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga

Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga

New Jersey finally legalizes cannabis officially.

More than three years after he took office with hopes of legalizing marijuana in 100 days, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills that together launch a marijuana industry in New Jersey and put an end to thousands of arrests.

 

But it took more than a marijuana-friendly governor to make reform a reality. There were years of failed legislative attempts, a ballot question that garnered more than 2.7 million votes in favor and three months of negotiations on tax revenue, licensing rules and the ultimate hangup that nearly killed the effort: penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana.

Murphy signed the bills Monday morning without the usual fanfare, putting his pen to paper just before the deadline to take action struck. If he had done nothing, two measures seeking to launch a legal marijuana industry and to end arrests would have become law without his signature.

“As of this moment, New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise — are no more,” he said Monday afternoon during his briefing on the coronavirus in Trenton.

The governor signed the bills after both the Senate and Assembly held last-minute voting sessions Monday morning to pass a third bill establishing civil penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana. Protracted debate drew the voting sessions out, and the bill passed both chambers with only 20 minutes left for Murphy to act on the first two measures.

The legalization and decriminalization bills languished on Murphy’s desk for more than two months awaiting the proposal. The governor said he would not sign them until lawmakers made penalties clear, but refused to issue a conditional veto calling for the change.

As the bills awaited action in 2021, police issued more than 2,000 charges for minor marijuana possession.

And a few plans developed and collapsed In that time. Lawmakers extended the deadline for Murphy to sign the bills by more than two weeks and the lengthy, sometimes tense, negotiations continued.

They finally proved fruitful Monday morning.

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of applicants apply for just six Georgia marijuana licenses

From nearly 70 applicants, six companies will be chosen to begin manufacturing medical marijuana oil for Georgia patients.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission announced this month it will review the proposals and then award licenses to six companies, possibly in late spring or early summer.

The winning companies will then have one year to begin operations, according to state law, providing medicine for 14,000 registered patients for conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Though they’re allowed to consume the medicine, there’s no legal way to buy it until the companies come online.

“The goal is to ensure that patients have access to the highest-quality medicine that we can arrive at in our state with these production facilities,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “I’m very impressed with the quality and caliber of applicants.”

Licenses will be awarded based on criteria set in a state law creating the cannabis oil program in 2019. Companies submitted plans for production, business operations, facilities and seed-to-sale tracking, Turnage said.

Under the law, six companies will be licensed to cultivate medical marijuana, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. They’ll be allowed to grow the drug on a total of 400,000 square feet of indoor growing space statewide.

“The only thing we should be thinking about is how we can get the safest oil and the best medicine to Georgia patients,” said state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville who sponsored legislation starting the program. “The licensees should be the six companies who are capable of creating a lab-tested, trusted, safe oil, and have a tested and proven product in other states.”

Lawmakers limited the number of licenses as part of a compromise between House and Senate leaders who had struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana distribution.

Minnesota recreational cannabis bill clears first hurdle

Minnesota recreational cannabis bill clears first hurdle

Minnesota recreational cannabis bill has passed through its first committee

House Majority Leader Winkler’s adult-use cannabis bill would legalize marijuana in Minnesota and set up a framework for regulation, production and sales.

ST PAUL, Minn — The latest effort to legalize recreational pot in Minnesota got through its first committee Wednesday afternoon, once again highlighting the political divide on marijuana at the State Capitol.

All 10 yes votes on the adult-use cannabis bill came from the DFL members of the House Commerce Committee while all seven no votes came from the Republicans on the panel. The Labor and Industry Committee will be the next stop for the measure on its journey to a vote in the full House.

The bill is an effort by House Majority Ryan Winkler to put in a regulatory framework for growing, processing, retailing and taxing marijuana in this state.  It will also set up an expungement process for those who were convicted of marijuana possession, something proponents say is essential due to racial disparities in enforcement in the past.

Supporters say it will also connect medical marijuana patients with more effective treatment options. They also assert it will create jobs and new small business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.

“Nationally we know the industry added 77,000 jobs last year despite the COVID pandemic,” Anthony Newby, a longtime Minneapolis neighborhood organizer who works for a CBD company, told lawmakers during Wednesday’s hearing.

“This is an opportunity in the age of COVID and political and racial disruption and economic uncertainty to open the doors to grow our local economy and bridge the outrageous racial disparities in our state.”

Rep. Winkler said he’s trying to get ahead of the curve as a growing number of states legalized marijuana for recreational use, something South Dakota voters did in 2020. The drug will become legal there in July, pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by that state’s governor to try to undo it.

“It is coming. It is time for us to get it right and that’s what this bill represents,” Winkler told his colleagues.

“It becomes too easy to get it from too many places that are legal where they purchase it.”

N.J. cops filed 6,000 charges for weed since voters passed legalization initiative

N.J. cops filed 6,000 charges for weed since voters passed legalization initiative

New jersey still charging citizens with cannabis

Police across New Jersey have filed more than 6,000 charges for minor marijuana possession in the three months since 2.7 million voters said yes to legalizing weed in the Garden State.

The arrests continue as lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy work on a last-minute compromise for stalled marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills — and as people mistakenly believe that state has already reformed its laws prohibiting marijuana.

Police filed 2,378 charges for possessing less than 50 grams of marijuana during the month of January, according to a report from the state judiciary.

That’s lower than the pre-election average of arresting 100 some people a day, but higher than in November and December, when police across the state filed 2,125 charges and then 1,703 charges, respectively.

Many thought marijuana would be legal by Jan. 1. — and some argue it is.

But ongoing debate on two bills — one to launch a legal marijuana industry and another to end arrests for possessing small amounts — has left laws barring the drug’s use on the books.

“We’re in a terrible limbo,” said Chris Goldstein, of the cannabis activist group NORML.

“It is a huge concern,” he said. “I think the confusion — the dangerous confusion — isn’t among consumers. I think there’s a dangerous confusion among the police and prosecutors out there. The problem is police are still enforcing prohibition. I think they need a clearer directive.”

New Jerseyans voted 2 to 1 to legalize marijuana, but that didn’t overhaul prohibition immediately. Instead, it gave lawmakers a mandate to create a framework for a legal marijuana industry and to pass a bill to stop arrests.

They did that in mid-December, thinking Murphy would sign it by the start of 2021.

US cannabis jobs surpass 321,000 full-time jobs

US cannabis jobs surpass 321,000 full-time jobs

cannabis jobs surpass 300,000 in the US

How many jobs are there in America’s legal marijuana industry?

The 2021 Leafly Jobs Report, issued earlier today, found 321,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2021. That total includes both plant-touching and ancillary jobs—everyone from budtenders to bean-counters.

To put that in perspective: In the United States there are more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers. There are more legal cannabis workers than EMTs and paramedics. There are more than twice as many legal cannabis workers as dentists.

cannabis jobs exceed 300,000 in the US

The annual Leafly Jobs Report, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics, is the nation’s cornerstone cannabis employment study.

Federal prohibition prevents the US Department of Labor from counting state-legal marijuana jobs. Since 2017, Leafly’s news and data teams have filled that gap with a yearly analysis of employment in the legal cannabis sector.

Whitney Economics, a leading consulting firm that specializes in cannabis economics, policy, and business consulting, has partnered with Leafly on the project since 2019.

Twice the job growth as 2019

Cannabis job growth in 2020 represents a doubling of the previous year’s US job growth. In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new US jobs for a total of 243,700.

Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States in 2020. That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II.

Cannabis now an $18.3 billion industry in the United States

In 2020, Americans purchased $18.3 billion worth of cannabis products, a 71% increase over 2019.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, many in the cannabis industry worried about a potential industry-wide shutdown. Instead, governors in most states declared cannabis an essential product. Dispensaries and retail stores responded by offering online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery as COVID-safe options for their customers.

Customers responded by stocking up for months of stay-at-home advisories and social distancing. After a brief dip in late-March revenue, most stores saw a significant bump in April—and then the bump became a plateau.

Is now the time to invest in cannabis stocks?

Is now the time to invest in cannabis stocks?

How to invest in cannabis stocks

Legalization talk and Reddit stock warriors are driving more people to invest in cannabis stocks, but the stocks aren’t returning on the investments yet.

The industry is booming and growing at an exponential rate, but due to federal law, there are very few publicly traded “cannabis” companies. For this reason, investors in the US looking to cash in on cannabis will look to Canada.

Aphria, Tilray, and Canopy Growth are a few of the big players in Canada, with billions in investment assets. However anybody who actually follows the industry in Canada could see plain as day that these companies are not performing.

So why are people just now deciding to invest in these companies?

Legalization and Reddit

Unless you’ve been living under a few rocks for the last month, you have likely heard about the GameStop Reddit controversy. If not, here’s what happened; hundreds of users of the social media platform’s subreddit r/WallStreetBets found out that a billion dollar hedge fund was shorting GameStop stock, buying stock in advance to drive down price with the goal of being bought out at their original buying price.

Investors from r/WallStreetBets decided to buy up as much GameStop stock as possible, forcing the hedge fund to cover its losses and pay out for the increased stock price. If it hasn’t become obvious, I’m not a stock expert, so excuse the lazy explanation.

Long story short, GameStop’s stock price rose from $34 to $340 in a couple days, making those who cashed out a lot of money, while others bought in late thinking the stock would continue to rise, only to watch it tank days later.

Now, with a democrat majority in the House and Senate and control of White House, the party is pushing for cannabis reform, and likely federal legalization. With multiple party members publicly speaking about their intentions, the Reddit swarm caught wind and started talking cannabis stocks. But unlike GameStop, Reddit couldn’t manipulate the cannabis stocks in the same way.

Tilray and Aphria Merger

After news surfaced that two of the largest cannabis companies in Canada would be merging together, a lot of investors tried to cash in on the opportunity. In December of 2020 when the merger was initially announced, the stock began to sore as more began to invest.

The investment experts at Reddit appear to have caught on a little too late, pushing everybody on the platform to invest in these companies just in the last week. Unfortunately they couldn’t drive up the price in the same way as GameStop, and the stock eventually fell 4% despite the increased activity.

In other words, the stock spiked temporarily, and smart investors who already bought in at $23/share at the beginning of February were able to cash out at $63/share on February 10th. By February 11th the stock price was halved.

All of this drives the questions a lot of enthusiasts and investors are asking; is now the time to invest in cannabis stocks?

Wait for legalization?

The reality is that for most Americans trying to cash in on cannabis, the market is very small, niche and not very profitable in the United States market. This is why you see so much attention focused on Canada’s cannabis companies, because they federally legalized cannabis in 2018.

While there are some companies in the United States that work within the cannabis industry and are listed on the stock exchange, they are typically ancillary businesses, in other words businesses that don’t work directly with the plant. Equipment supply companies, pharmaceutical companies that research cannabis, etc. are the typical companies you’ll find in the US market.

With little information and education regarding these companies and the industry as a whole in the US due to no federal reporting, now is not the best time to invest in cannabis stocks in the US. Keep in mind that THIS IS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE, WE ARE NOT FINANCIAL EXPERTS, WE JUST LOVE CANNABIS.

Politicians in the US have been talking about legalizing cannabis for close to a decade, and it has yet to even be decriminalized. To put hope into our politicians and betting money on them (literally) actually making progress toward legalization would be unwise at this time.

Consider that it wasn’t Republicans, but moderate Democrats in the House that refused to pass the MORE Act last October, opting to wait until after the election because they had their own seats to protect. With more elections coming up in 2022, we can expect a similar approach by moderates in the party, inadvertently blocking any sort of legalization from passing.

For now, the smart move is to closely watch the Canadian market, and push your local legislators to support legalization in your state and on the federal level. It’s your money, so spend it wisely!

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