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How Oklahoma Became the Nation’s Hottest Weed Market

How Oklahoma Became the Nation’s Hottest Weed Market

How oklahoma became the largest cannabis market in the country

Oklahoma entered the world of legal cannabis late, but its hands-off approach launched a boom and a new nickname: ‘Toke-lahoma.’

WELLSTON, Oklahoma—One day in the early fall of 2018, while scrutinizing the finances of his thriving Colorado garden supply business, Chip Baker noticed a curious development: transportation costs had spiked fivefold. The surge, he quickly determined, was due to huge shipments of cultivation supplies—potting soil, grow lights, dehumidifiers, fertilizer, water filters—to Oklahoma.

Baker, who has been growing weed since he was 13 in Georgia, has cultivated crops in some of the world’s most notorious marijuana hotspots, from the forests of Northern California’s Emerald Triangle to the lake region of Switzerland to the mountains of Colorado. Oklahoma was not exactly on his radar. So one weekend in October, Baker and his wife Jessica decided to take a drive to see where all their products were ending up.

Voters in the staunchly conservative state had just four months earlier authorized a medical marijuana program and sales were just beginning. The Bakers immediately saw the potential for the fledgling market. With no limits on marijuana business licenses, scant restrictions on who can obtain a medical card, and cheap land, energy and building materials, they believed Oklahoma could become a free-market weed utopia and they wanted in.
Within two weeks, they found a house to rent in Broken Bow and by February had secured a lease on an empty Oklahoma City strip mall. Eventually they purchased a 110-acre plot of land down a red dirt road about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City that had previously been a breeding ground for fighting cocks and started growing high-grade strains of cannabis with names like Purple Punch, Cookies and Cream and Miracle Alien.“This is exactly like Humboldt County was in the late 90s,” Baker says, as a trio of workers chop down marijuana plants that survived a recent ice storm. “The effect this is going to have on the cannabis nation is going to be incredible.”Oklahoma is now the biggest medical marijuana market in the country on a per capita basis. More than 360,000 Oklahomans—nearly 10 percent of the state’s population—have acquired medical marijuana cards over the last two years. By comparison, New Mexico has the country’s second most popular program, with about 5 percent of state residents obtaining medical cards. Last month, sales since 2018 surpassed $1 billion.
To meet that demand, Oklahoma has more than 9,000 licensed marijuana businesses, including nearly 2,000 dispensaries and almost 6,000 grow operations. In comparison, Colorado—the country’s oldest recreational marijuana market, with a population almost 50 percent larger than Oklahoma—has barely half as many licensed dispensaries and less than 20 percent as many grow operations. In Ardmore, a town of 25,000 in the oil patch near the Texas border, there are 36 licensed dispensaries—roughly one for every 700 residents. In neighboring Wilson (pop. 1,695), state officials have issued 32 cultivation licenses, meaning about one out of 50 residents can legally grow weed.
Retail sales drive application surge among Missouri medical cannabis patients

Retail sales drive application surge among Missouri medical cannabis patients

Missouri medical cannabis

Patient, caregiver applications increase more than 60 percent as dispensaries open statewide.

The continuing rollout of retail medical cannabis sales across Missouri appears to be fueling a new surge in prospective patient and caregiver interest, state records show.

On Monday, the state Department of Health and Senior Services reported approving nearly 70,000 patients and caregivers — with another 17,000-plus application (including those deactivated or that expired without renewal) pending review.

The six weeks since the state’s first sale of medical cannabis by St. Louis County dispensary N’Bliss on Oct. 17 have seen a weekly average of more than 1,600 new patient and caregiver applications to the state.

By comparison, the state had received roughly 1,000 such new applications each week since the program’s June 2019 start. Excluding the shortened holiday week of Thanksgiving, the short-term increase tops 70 percent.

“As the Missouri medical cannabis industry literally takes shape before our eyes, it’s no surprise that more patients and caregivers are signing up,” said Andrew Mullins, executive director of MoCannTrade (Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association). “Patient participation has already exceeded levels seen in other states at similar junctures, and we fully expect interest to only grow as more businesses come online.”

As of Wednesday, Nov. 25, the state had approved 30 medical cannabis businesses for operation, including 16 retail dispensaries and 10 cultivation sites. Another 35 businesses are awaiting final state inspections.

The end-of-2020 green rush also means the rollout of thousands of new jobs for Missourians. Through Monday, DHSS reports receiving more than 900 agent ID application requests as part of the screening process for medical cannabis workers, with 857 approved to date.

US House passes historic bill to legalize cannabis at federal level

US House passes historic bill to legalize cannabis at federal level

US house passes historic cannabis legalization bill MORE Act

In a groundbreaking vote, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a comprehensive bill that removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, ending the federal government’s decades-old prohibition on the plant.

Lawmakers in effect voted to legalize marijuana by approving the social justice-focused Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act by a margin of 228-164 after an hour of debate. A handful of Republicans voted for the measure.

The vote – while largely symbolic because the bill still must pass the Senate – comes only two days after the United Nations took the historic step of reclassifying cannabis as a less dangerous drug.

Opponents of the MORE Act criticized Democrats for prioritizing marijuana during the coronavirus crisis and voiced concerns about health risks for youth.

The MORE Act

The legislation could potentially open up an already fast-growing, multibillion-dollar industry to billions of dollars of additional business opportunities and interstate commerce over time.

However, the vote Friday will prove to be emblematic unless Democrats gain control of the U.S. Senate by winning two run-off races in Georgia on Jan. 5.

Even then, the more conservative Senate might be resistant to such a major change in federal marijuana policy.

“I have been waiting for this historic moment for a long time. It is happening (Friday) because it has been demanded by the voters, by facts and by the momentum behind this issue,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement distributed late Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill a year ago in what then was seen as a landmark development.

What’s misunderstood about the MORE Act

The measure wouldn’t create a federal licensing or federal regulatory framework. States would, however, continue to regulate marijuana as they see fit, without federal interference.

The MORE Act decriminalizes and deschedules cannabis,” said Randal Meyer, the executive director of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce.

“It would allow state-legal businesses to operate in a federally legal environment, with business-tax deductibility and access to legal processes, and permit states to set their own cannabis policy, be it total prohibition or not.”

Steve Fox, strategic adviser to the Cannabis Trade Federation, said: “The MORE Act is a wonderful piece of legislation that would end cannabis prohibition at the federal level and take some critical and much needed steps toward restorative justice. It would provide major benefits to cannabis businesses, which would become legal at the federal level.”

Businesses, he said, would have greater access to financial services and be freed from Section 280E of the federal tax code, which currently prevents marijuana companies from taking deductions for ordinary business expenses.

“The MORE Act does not, however, establish a regulatory framework for cannabis at the federal level. So, from an industry perspective, the MORE Act is just one step in a longer process,” Fox said.

Vincent Sliwoski, a cannabis attorney at Harris Bricken in Portland, Oregon, echoed Fox, noting that licensed marijuana commerce will remain in place unless changed by states or local jurisdictions.

“What the MORE Act actually does is remove marijuana from control under the federal Controlled Substances Act while adding a 5% federal excise tax and tacking on key provisions like expungement for past marijuana convictions under federal laws. As with alcohol, there will be no federal business licensing element.”

He also emphasized that there would be “a lot of benefits here for state-licensed cannabis businesses, including everything from banking options to tax relief under (Internal Revenue Service) code 280E to federal trademark availability.”

Experts also note that they expect a number of federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Agriculture, to weigh in on various issues, including health claims, cultivation standards and banking issues.

United Nations votes to reschedule cannabis in historic vote

United Nations votes to reschedule cannabis in historic vote

UN cannabis vote to list as medicine

The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on Wednesday accepted a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The historic vote in Vienna could have far-reaching implications for the global medical cannabis industry, ranging from regulatory oversight to scientific research into the plant and its use as a medicine.

The eagerly awaited approval of Recommendation 5.1 had a slim majority in favor with 27 votes for, one abstention and 25 votes against.

The CND – the main drug policymaking body within the United Nations – turned down all five remaining recommendations.

The passage of Recommendation 5.1 carries broad symbolic significance for medical cannabis, as it could help boost medical cannabis legalization efforts around the globe now that the CND tacitly acknowledges the medical utility of the drug.

“The medical cannabis wave has accelerated in recent years already, but this will give it another boost,” Martin Jelsma, drugs and democracy program director at the Netherlands-based Transnational Institute, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“And for those countries that basically mirror the U.N. scheduling in their domestic legislation, it may lead to national descheduling and remove obstacles to use cannabis for medical and research purposes.”

The vote could encourage countries to reevaluate how cannabis is classified on their own lists of narcotic drugs, potentially paving the way for more research into medical marijuana and its use as a treatment for a variety of ailments and conditions.

“While the move doesn’t totally free the plant from treaty control, it’s a giant step toward the normalization of cannabis in medicine above all but also in our societies generally,” independent researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli of CND Monitor told MJBizDaily.

“Decades of efforts have been necessary to remove cannabis from Schedule IV, with implications that will slowly but surely be seen over the next decades.”

Drugs in Schedule IV of the 1961 treaty – where, until Wednesday, cannabis sat alongside heroin – are a subset of those already in Schedule I.

Schedule I – which includes fentanyl – already requires the highest levels of international control.

The schedules of the international drug-control conventions categorize drugs considering their medical utility versus the possible harm they could cause.

Only the 53 current member states of the CND had an opportunity to vote, but the decision applies to all signatories of the international drug control conventions.

What should not be expected is a loosening of international controls governing medical cannabis.

 

Read the rest of the story from Marijuana Business Daily

Mexico Cannabis Legalization Could Change The Industry

Mexico Cannabis Legalization Could Change The Industry

mexico cannabis legalization the real dirt podcast

The United States will soon be sandwiched between two nations with federally legalized cannabis.

The United States of America is close to becoming stuck between two countries with legal cannabis. Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, and Mexico is currently moving forward legislation that would legalize cannabis across the country.

The U.S. missed the opportunity to get its own markets, the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange, involved when Canada legalized due to the Department of Justice’s leadership at the time. However a legal cannabis market in Mexico would be bigger, and likely already well-established due to the illicit markets there compared to Canada.

United States Legalization

The full blown legalization of cannabis on the federal level in the United States hasn’t even become a part of the conversation. While likely president-to-be Joe Biden has said he wants to decriminalize cannabis, and the MORE Act sits in the House aiming to do the same thing, a federal legalization that would establish an nationwide legal marketplace, tax system, etc. is not on the horizon yet.

Many don’t see an issue with the country’s lack of legalization at this point considering there are only six states left in the Union that still keep cannabis fully illegal, i.e. not decriminalized, medical or recreational. That means that the other 44 states all have cannabis laws on the books that either reduce penalties for cannabis or legalize it medically or recreationally.

The real issue is that if Mexico does indeed legalize cannabis, the country would have a massive cannabis industry. Due to the current laws in the United States, we would be missing out on a huge opportunity. Unfortunately that is looking like the most plausible outcome at the moment.

Interstate commerce in the cannabis industry doesn’t even exist in the U.S., let alone a system that would allow American cannabis companies to work alongside, collaborate or do business with Mexican cannabis companies. If the Mexico cannabis legalization passes, it should be a wake up call to the U.S. government that we are missing out on massive financial opportunities with our neighbors to the north and the south.

Mexico Cannabis Legalization

The Mexico cannabis legalization bill will establish a regulated cannabis market to allow those eighteen and older (the drinking age in Mexico is also eighteen) to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of cannabis. It also allows a personal cultivation provision for individuals to cultivate up to four plants for personal use.

While the bill is looking promising, there are still some technical requirements that need to be hammered out before outright passage, including whether or not the government should be able to track personal cultivation use. Mexico seeks to regulate and legalize the plant, put strict controls on ownership and the supply chain in place, and to engage in domestic and, most importantly, international commerce surrounding cannabis.

International commerce surrounding cannabis in which the United States likely won’t be allowed to participate. However it won’t be an easy path for Mexico either.

Mexico has a long history of drug-related crime ran by gangs known as cartels which control distribution of a plethora of narcotics to entire regions of the country and South America. Cannabis has been a staple of cartels for decades, and took a major hit when states in the U.S. began to legalize, followed by Canada’s federal legalization which did even more damage.

While it is too soon to say who will be running and operating in the industry when/if it becomes federally legal, it is likely a safe guess that some cartels will “go legal” and distribute their cannabis across the country legally in order to profit again.

The Growing International Cannabis Industry

Mexico wouldn’t be the first neighbor to our south that has legalized cannabis. Uruguay legalized cannabis for recreational use all the way back in 2013. It wouldn’t be until 2017 that the country began sales of legal cannabis, but the country has seen success.

Additionally in Latin America, some form of medical cannabis is allowed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru. Ecuador has reformed its Criminal Code, which opens the door to developing access to cannabis for “therapeutic, palliative or medicinal” purposes. A legal market in Mexico could encourage more Latin American countries to follow suit, creating a new international cannabis industry.

The United States has been a leader in cannabis reform and legalization despite cannabis still remaining illegal on the federal level. However with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, that could all change. As these markets develop and grow, they will be able to compete, outpace and outperform the American cannabis industries that still operate at the state level.

If Mexico cannabis legalization goes through, the entire conversation surrounding cannabis legalization in the U.S. will likely shift. We have to decide if we want to stay stuck in the past with dated, discriminatory laws that do more harm than good, or move forward with our neighbors and the rest of the world as cannabis becomes an unstoppable global industry.

Michigan Designated Consumption Establishments Explained

Michigan Designated Consumption Establishments Explained

cannabis cafes coming to Michigan

Michigan legalized cannabis in 2018, and passed emergency rules to get the industry rolling in July 2019.

In addition to creating your run of the mill rules regarding licensing for growers, processors, distributors and retailers, Michigan also created some new license types. These new licenses include a Marijuana Event Organizer license, a Temporary Marijuana Event license and an Excess Marijuana Grower license.

But what has the consumers excited is a different license. A Designated Consumption Establishment license.

Michigan Designated Consumption Establishments

A Designated Consumption Establishment (DCE) license allows the license holder, with local approval, to operate a commercial space that is licensed by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and authorized to permit adults 21 years of age and older to consume marijuana and marijuana products on premises. A DCE license does not allow for sales or distribution of marijuana or marijuana product, unless the license holder also possesses a Retailer or Microbusiness license.

It is common for public cannabis possession public arrests to rise after a state legalizes cannabis. This happens because most states only allow consumption on private property, and many people who rent may have to go outside to smoke. Michigan saw this problem in other states and is aiming to deal with it before it grows with DCEs, more commonly known as cannabis cafes or lounges.

This license is available to any applicant regardless of if they are currently holding any other licenses. The DCE license is also open to marijuana retailers, microbusinesses or anyone wanting to operate a “bring-your-own-cannabis” model.

DCE Requirements

Applicants for a DCE license must have met a multitude of key criteria. The foremost is a location approved and supported by the local municipality. Next, the facility must have:

  • An identified area specifically suitable for marijuana consumption, as well as smoke-free areas. DCE rules do allow facilities in which only non-smokable cannabis is consumed; in these spaces, no specified place for smoking cannabis is required.
  • A smoke-free area for employees to monitor the marijuana consumption area. Facility operators must ensure employees are not subjected to indirect or unintended cannabis consumption while working at the facility.
  • The facility must have a ventilation system that directs air from the marijuana consumption area to the outside of the building, through a filtration system designed to remove visual smoke and odor.
  • The facility must have sufficient walls and barriers to ensure smoke does not infiltrate into nonsmoking areas or adjacent spaces.

Additionally, when applying to be a Designated Consumption Establishment for marijuana in Michigan, microbusinesses will need to submit the following information as well:

  • A Designated Consumption Establishment Plan, or diagram of the facility that explains layout, defines facility locations, and indicates distinct areas or structures distinguishing a DCE from other licenses that may be applicable in adjacent locations.
  • Building, Construction and Zoning Details so the MRA can verify a safe operation including building and fire safety review, plus ensure a detrimental impact will not occur on adjacent businesses and residences.
  • A Business Plan that must include proposed hours of operation and, if part of the plan, the intended mechanisms for consumers to acquire cannabis at the facility.
  • A Plan for Responsible Operations such as an employee training program, how consumption will be monitored, plus prevention of over-intoxication, underage access, and the illegal sale or distribution of cannabis within the establishment.
  • Waste Management Plan for handling and disposal of any waste at the facility, including unconsumed cannabis products left by patrons of the facility.

Applicants for a Designated Consumption Establishment for Marijuana in Michigan also must undergo a preliminary background check. The Initial Applicant fee for a Designated Consumption Establishment is currently $1,000 and is valid for one year. The renewal fee is also $1,000. Like all other Michigan dispensaries and other licenses, MRA reserves the right to increase fees collected by 10% each year.

A model to follow?

Many states have the same issue that Michigan is trying to deal with right now. As previously mentioned, most states require cannabis consumption to take place on private property, but very few states have cannabis consumption establishments. This leads to more public consumption, and more arrests or citations.

A few states like Colorado have attempted to create consumption establishments, but have fallen short due to restrictions on smoking indoors in Denver. While dabbing and vaping is popular, most people are comfortable doing that in a place they rent since the smell doesn’t stick around.

We have yet to see how the Designated Consumption Establishments will pan out in Michigan or if certain municipalities will ban them all together. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency plans to finalize their rules and begin implementation in January 2021.

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