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Biden’s proposed budget keeps a block on recreational weed sales in Washington, DC

Biden’s proposed budget keeps a block on recreational weed sales in Washington, DC

A rider that has effectively blocked recreational cannabis for years in Washington, DC appears in President Joe Biden’s proposed 2022 budget, which may keep weed on the back burner yet again.

Even though residents of DC voted to legalize possession of recreational marijuana in 2014, the measure has been in limbo since then, derailed by a rider to DC’s appropriations bill first introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), that prohibits the District from spending its local funds on commercialization of recreational cannabis, such as dispensaries. And Biden’s proposed 2022 budget includes the rider’s language yet again.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a statement she was having a hard time reconciling the Biden administration’s support for DC statehood with its budget that would prevent DC from commercializing recreational cannabis. “With Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate, we have the best opportunity in over a decade to enact a D.C. appropriations bill that does not contain any anti-home-rule riders,” Norton said.

Asked if the president plans to remove the language from the proposed budget, a Biden administration official said in an email to The Verge that the president “continues to strongly support DC statehood, under which the people of DC could make policy choices just like other states.”

DC has long had a so-called “gray market” for marijuana, with medical cannabis legal, and recreational cannabis technically legal, but unable to be taxed or regulated because of the Harris rider. DC voters first approved medical marijuana in 1998, but it too was initially blocked, by the Barr Amendment, legislation that Congress finally overturned in 2009.

Biden, once a leading voice in the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s and ’90s, said during the 2020 presidential campaign that it was “time to decriminalize” marijuana use, but so far during his administration there’s been little action to do so at the federal level. Dozens of US states have legalized medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, or both, and public opinion supporting legal weed is at an all-time high. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), have said they would work together to advance comprehensive cannabis reform.

In February, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed legislation “to create an equitable adult-use cannabis program” in DC, which would impose a 17 percent tax on cannabis sales. But it’s unlikely to take effect if the rider remains in Biden’s proposed 2022 budget.

Another Big Beverage Maker Is Getting Into Cannabis

Another Big Beverage Maker Is Getting Into Cannabis

boston beer company potentially making cannabis infused drinks

When Constellation Brands announced it was investing in pot producer Canopy Growth back in 2017, it marked a major turning point for the industry, with outsiders beginning to show a lot more interest in cannabis. Since then, Molson Coors has gotten involved in the development of cannabis-infused beverages, as has Anheuser-Busch. With the volume of beer sales declining by 2.9% last year, the industry could benefit from more growth opportunities, so it may not be surprising if companies turn to a hot new sector like cannabis.

One more big name that is starting to explore cannabis is The Boston Beer Company(NYSE:SAM). Last month, management announced it would be dipping its toes into the industry and begin researching nonalcoholic beverages. Is a move into cannabis drinks inevitable for Boston Beer, and if so, does that make the stock a must-buy?

Is Boston Beer going to start developing cannabis-infused beverages?

On May 14, Boston Beer announced that it was going to set up a subsidiary that would be a “research and innovation hub” for cannabis beverages in Canada (where pot is legal federally). The company did not offer a date as to when it might sell the beverages, but that’s understandably hard to estimate right now given the federal ban on cannabis in the U.S. And while management is researching cannabis beverages north of the border, they haven’t given any indication of plans to sell them there.

The focus appears to be on the U.S. market. CEO Dave Burwick stated in the release that the company “[wants] to be ready for future opportunities in the U.S.”

Boston Beer is simply focusing on innovating the next wave of products and making sure that it is ready to go when the federal government legalizes marijuana in the U.S. Although more states are legalizing pot (New York, New Mexico, and Virginia are among the latest to pass legislation), it’s unclear when pot will be legal federally; President Joe Biden has only gone so far as to talk about decriminalizing pot, not outright legalization.

Many potential partners out there

While Boston Beer is going to create a subsidiary, it’s possible that it could also join forces with a cannabis company to expedite the process. Many cannabis producers would likely be eager to partner up with the top beer maker.

In the past, Aurora Cannabis was looking for a deal and was even rumored to be in talks with Coca-Cola. Sundial Growers, which is sitting on lots of cash, presents another option — management there could be looking to make a big move to bolster their sales numbers. And those are just some of the bigger names out there; Boston Beer wouldn’t have a problem finding potential suitors to work with if it went that route.

 

Why cannabis looks to be a great fit for the company

Boston Beer has been growing phenomenally over the years; sales of $906 million in 2016 grew to nearly double that in 2020, reaching $1.7 billion. In its most recent quarter, for the period ending March 27, the company has still done incredibly well.

It posted sales of $545 million ,which were up 65% year over year due to a 60% increase in shipments. Boston Beer’s willingness to change and adapt to consumer trends have led to this fantastic growth. The most recent example is hard seltzer products; its Truly brand has captured more than 28% of the market, according to the company’s latest results.

Legal cannabis sales rose $17.5 billion during pandemic

Legal cannabis sales rose $17.5 billion during pandemic

cannabis sales rose over 17 billion dollars in 2020

Shortly after Nevada officials announced that licensed cannabis stores and medical dispensaries could reopen after lockdown, Nicolas MacLean said cars were lined up for five blocks waiting for curbside pickup.

Like many industries in Las Vegas, the cannabis industry used to rely on tourists for sales, but that changed when the pandemic hit, MacLean, who serves as the CEO of Las Vegas-based cannabis producer Aether Gardens, told The New York Times.

“Locals are very discerning – they want something they aren’t going to find on the black market,” MacLean said. “Especially when you are stuck at home.”

The year of 2020 saw extraordinarily strong sales of legal cannabis in the US, up 46% from 2019 to a record $17.5 billion (R245 billion), according to cannabinoid market research firm BDSA.

“I expect this will be the first year Nevada does over a billion in cannabis sales,” MacLean said. “And it happened on the back of what I think no one expected.”

In western Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis use is legal, Meg Sanders, CEO of Canna Provisions, said government restrictions and later social-distancing requirements forced her to radically change her sales strategy.

At first, only medical dispensaries were allowed to remain open, while recreational-use retailers were forced to close.

“To have liquor stores deemed essential and not adult-use cannabis – especially when the law passed in Massachusetts was about regulating cannabis like alcohol – was surprising and unfortunate,” Sanders told The Times.

As Canna Provisions was allowed to re-open, the shop’s particular boutique-style in-person shopping experience had to change in favour of over-the-phone preorders.

“Our county is an internet desert,” she explained.

Now when customers call, they speak with a salesperson who can answer their questions and walk them through the available topicals, edibles, and smokables – a method, she said, is “working” for business.

“In our Lee store, preorders have become almost 100 percent of our business, so we bought more handsets and hired more people to answer the phones, and our revenue is up,” she said.

Colorado Hemp and Marijuana Growers at Odds Over Proposed Cannabis Farming Law

Colorado Hemp and Marijuana Growers at Odds Over Proposed Cannabis Farming Law

Colorado hemp and marijuana growers can't agree on new legislation to help farmers plan for weather

A bill in the Colorado State Legislature attempts to cut outdoor marijuana farmers some slack in the face of bad weather and reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp grows. However, not all of the Colorado hemp industry is on board yet.

House Bill 1301 — a beefed-up version of a similar bill last year that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — would allow outdoor cannabis growers to create a contingency plan to prevent crop loss during extreme weather conditions. The measure would create working groups to reduce cross-pollination between marijuana and Colorado hemp plants, as well.

Home to spontaneous weather, Colorado is more than capable of an untimely freeze for outdoor cannabis farms, which only harvest once per year, during the fall. Representative Daneya Esgar, the prime bill sponsor, says that these farmers deserve more protection for such financial impacts.

“This bill was introduced last year in response to outdoor grows having very stringent regulations and losing millions of dollars because of adverse weather,” Esgar told her colleagues on the House Finance Committee during HB 1301’s first successful vote, on May 24. “We’re just bringing it back and making it better than it was.”

The best practices to prevent crop damage from bad weather would be created and enforced by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, according to Esgar’s bill.

The other outdoor cannabis issue HB 1301 hopes to address — cross-pollination between plants — could be more polarizing among farmers. Although marijuana and hemp are regulated and grown differently, they’re still of the same plant genus and can easily cross pollinate miles away from each other if grown outdoors. Marijuana plants grown for THC content are feminized and don’t have seeds, just like hemp grown for CBD. However, industrial hemp grown for grain and fiber is full of seeds and pollen, which can pollinate seedless cannabis plants, including hemp.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can educate everyone, because there are some unintended consequences of cross-pollination,” Esgar said.

When cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp occurs,  a handful of problems with regulations, including loss of yield and profit, are presented, according to Zack Dorsett, a Colorado hemp farmer for Blue Forest Farms in Longmont.

“It’s so bad,” he says in an interview with Westword. “We had a neighbor one year that grew un-feminized seeds and was spraying pollen all over the place, and the whole crop pretty much got ruined that year.” Hemp can also be harmed in the cross-pollination process, with some Colorado hemp crops testing above the federal THC limit of 0.3 percent after being pollinated by other cannabis plants.

There is pushback against the bill from some hemp industry members, however.

Colorado marijuana regulation bill overwhelmingly passes in House

Colorado marijuana regulation bill overwhelmingly passes in House

A Colorado marijuana regulation bill has been passed in the state house

It would restrict teens’ access to high-THC products and tighten rules for medical marijuana

The Colorado House of Representatives passed the state’s most substantial marijuana regulation policy since legalization on Thursday, intending to crack down on youth access to high-potency THC products and tighten rules for the medical marijuana market.

HB21-1317 passed overwhelmingly, 56-8, and moves on to the state Senate, where it is also expected to pass.

Some of the few House members who did criticize the bill argued data collection would lead to discrimination against consumers, as well as a slippery slope toward a fresh round of prohibitionist lawmaking.

Garnett disagreed, saying on the House floor just before the vote that he supports “making sure we all understand where this market has gone, how this (high-potency) market has expanded. … I just want to make sure that if there is an impact on the dev brain then we have public health research.

“We have waited too long to get to this point.”

Colorado’s legislative session must end no later than June 12, meaning this bill will move to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis in the next two weeks if it passes as expected.

Skittles Manufacturer Sues Cannabis Brands for Trademark Infringement

Skittles Manufacturer Sues Cannabis Brands for Trademark Infringement

Skittles is suing Zkittles cannabis brands

Skittles-maker Mars Wrigley has filed lawsuits against cannabis companies in Illinois, California, and Canada for trademark infringement.

New Jersey-based candy maker, Mars Wrigley, is suing cannabis companies in Illinois, California, and Canada to stop them from using its brand names and marketing for infused edibles, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, accuses the companies of infringing on the Starburst and Skittles candy brands, Ganjapreneur reports.

Mars Wrigley strongly condemns the use of popular candy brands in the marketing and sale of THC products, which is grossly deceptive and irresponsible. The use of Mars Wrigley’s brands in this manner is unauthorized, inappropriate and must cease, especially to protect children from mistakenly ingesting these unlawful THC products. – Mars Wrigley in a statement via the Sun-Times

The lawsuit names Terphogz and five companies that sell a cannabis strain and related products called Zkittlez, the report says. The unnamed defendants are “unknown” to  Mars Wrigley but they are accused of purchasing the goods in question to resell to Illinois customers.

The California lawsuit targets products called “Medicated Skittles,” “Life Savers Medicated Gummies,” and “Starburst Gummies” – marketed by GasBuds – which appear to mimic the packaging of the popular, non-cannabis, confections.

The legal actions are the latest against cannabis companies for trademark infringement of popular consumer products.

Atlanta, Georgia-based Edible Arrangements in September sued Chicago’s Green Thumb Industries for using their brand name in their Incredible product, according to the Sun-Times. Two months later, Ferrera Candy Co. sued California-based Tops Cannabis over its “Medicated Nerds Rope.”

Other lawsuits have brought over the “Woodstock” brand; the logo of a Massachusetts lumber company; the Citibank name, parodied as “Citidank;” the Tapatio hot sauce name and logo; the Gorilla Glue brand; and the logo of the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, among others.

Mars Wrigley is seeking $2 million for each counterfeit trademark named in the California lawsuit, along with attorneys’ fees and costs in both cases.

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