by Travis C | Sep 23, 2020 | 420, 420 News, Blog, Cannabis Law, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Culture, Opinion, Stranger Than Fiction
Has cannabis always been political?
While in most of our lifetimes cannabis has been illegal, it wasn’t always that way. In fact it was the complete opposite until the early 1900s.
Believe it or not, cannabis has been used for thousands of years, with traces of the plant being smoked as far back as 2,500 years. Its first use dates all the way back to 2727 BC in China where it was considered a legitimate medication. Traditional uses of cannabis for medicine might not have been as popular in the west, but that doesn’t mean the cannabis plant wasn’t just as essential.
A very brief prohibitionist history
Not only was cannabis legal prior to the 1930s, it was an essential crop. The ships that brought the colonists to America had sails made entirely from hemp fibers. Colonists were “encouraged” by law from the Queen to grow hemp as one of their staple crops.
In the 1700s and 1800s, extractions from the hemp and cannabis plant were used for medicine all over the country. In 1830, it was used to treat insomnia and migraines, and it acted as a pain reliever. From 1850 to 1942, the United States Pharmacopoeia recognized it as a legal medicine by the name “Extractum Cannabis.”
It wouldn’t be until the 1920s that the United States government would begin to lay restrictions on cannabis cultivation in the form of taxes put on farmers. After a racist, propagandized anti-cannabis movement led by Henry Anslinger, the government eventually created the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. This made it basically impossible for farmers to buy, sell or profit off of cannabis production.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The rise of the cannabis movement
Cannabis use and production certainly continued in the illicit markets across the country after prohibition in the United States. Almost 40 years after cannabis was made illegal, genetics and cultivation techniques from Europe (Holland specifically) where hydroponics was a rapidly growing industry made their way to the states.
This revolutionized how we cultivated cannabis, creating more potent cannabis with higher yields. An explosion in cannabis consumption during the 60s and 70s when the “hippy” movement took off created a perfect storm that birthed a new and booming, albeit illegal, industry in the U.S..
With a growing interest in cannabis came a renewed desire to look at why it became illegal in the first place. The reality being that the main propaganda used to make cannabis illegal was based on racist ideologies against Latinos and African Americans. A thirst for justice and the knowledge of a shameful past created a movement that continues to this day.
The movement to legalize cannabis.
The politics of cannabis legalization
The United States is a unique beast. It is the collation of 50 different states, all of which can create their own laws as long they abide the federal law put forth by the federal government. This is why half the country has legal cannabis, and the other half will still throw someone in jail for years just for having a little bit of cannabis in the car.
In a way this makes sense, as the people of the state dictate how the politicians vote. This would imply that in states where cannabis is still illegal, the people there must want it that way. But this is rarely the case. In fact, roughly two-thirds of Americans support legalization of cannabis.
So if the majority of people think cannabis should be legal, and over half the states in the country have gone ahead and just done it themselves, why hasn’t the federal government done anything?
Well that answer is easy…politics.
This article was written shortly after the news of the House of Representatives delaying their vote on the MORE Act. This bill would remove cannabis from the controlled substances list (where it is currently listed as Schedule 1 alongside heroin) and expunge criminal records of those convicted of small cannabis-related crimes.
In the United States, Democrats are considered the “progressive” party. Meaning they are the party that would normally push for something like cannabis legalization. The MORE Act itself was drafted with bipartisan efforts from Republicans and Democrats alike. Yet it was moderate democrats that voted to postpone the vote on the bill.
Why would this be? After all, the Democrats hold the majority in the House and could easily vote the bill through to the senate to begin deliberations.
But they didn’t.
Additionally the Democrats didn’t decide to postpone the vote just a few days or a couple weeks, they postponed it until at least after the election in November between now sitting President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. It might seem irrelevant, but there’s a real, shady, shitty reason that they did this.
The “BIG” announcement
You see, it just so happens that coincidentally, and totally by chance, that the same day that the House of Representatives (i.e. Democrats) decided to postpone the vote, Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris (the Democrat nominees) pledged to decriminalize cannabis, remove it from the scheduled substances list and expunge criminal records.
It’s almost as if the Democrats postponed their House vote until after the election, so that Biden can use it to score points and gain more votes from those who want legal cannabis.
Now, if you haven’t gotten any hints of opinion thus far in this piece, here comes some.
I have a prediction.
Call me crazy, but I think there’s just a slim chance (that’s sarcasm) that if Biden is elected, the House will pass the bill through to the Senate the same week. But if Biden loses, the bill will sit dead in the House for eternity, while Democrats blame Republicans for not letting it pass.
That, my friends, is the true politics of cannabis legalization. It isn’t about figuring out if it’s safe, or can be taxed, or if it’s profitable. We know all of that is true already.
It’s about who gets to take credit, and the letter (D or R) next to their name. For politicians, legalization isn’t about the people. It isn’t about the hundreds of thousands of people in jail for small-time cannabis crimes.
It’s about them!
by Travis C | Sep 17, 2020 | 420, Blog, Broscience Mythbusters, Culture, Science & Technology
A new study wants to suggest that it can.
The American Heart Association is warning people that smoking or vaping cannabis could create an increased risk for long-term heart-health problems.
In some cases, inhaling the substance could trigger a heart attack or palpitations, AHA doctors said in a new report based on previous research. That’s because THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis that gives users a high, can cause the arteries to constrict and blood pressure to rise, leading to such a response.
Research hasn’t found a direct link between cannabis use and heart problems
Like seemingly every study that claims cannabis is harmful, there were caveats to the doctors’ suggestions about cannabis and heart health.
The studies they cited throughout their paper were short-term and used self-reported data, so experts couldn’t conclude whether cannabis use directly causes heart attacks and palpitations.
For that reason, Page said there’s an “urgent” need for more in-depth and conclusive studies on potential links between cannabis use and heart health.
Additionally, some research has shown CBD, one of the non-psychoactive components in cannabis, could potentially be beneficial for the heart due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This seems to go against the narrative that cannabis is bad for your heart, when CBD can actually help it.
Are Edibles the Answer?
While this study has some holes in it, the response from participants still leads to the question of whether there are safer alternatives.
It’s no secret that combusting plant material and inhaling it isn’t great for your health. So if edibles remove inhaling smoke entirely, it would make sense they would be the safe alternative.
However, plenty of cannabis users claim that they can only get the desire effect they seek through smoking. Due to the differences in how edibles and smoking interact with your body, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done comparing the two ingestion methods.
More Research Needed, As Always
As with every pre-emptive cannabis study that is released, more research is needed to actually confirm the relationship between smoking cannabis and hearth health. This is just one study, conducted in a short time frame, with self-reporting from participants.
We wouldn’t call that the strictest testing environment.
With that said, more research is needed. But not just into the issue of cannabis and heart health, but everything! Due to federal law, it is extremely difficult for scientists and health officials to truly study cannabis in all of its forms.
These restrictions aren’t just delaying the spread of information about the benefits of cannabis, they also cause harm to those that may have adverse reactions to cannabis, but no trustworthy studies to confirm their problem comes from cannabis.
Always remember when reading cannabis studies that research is very limited and the material used to test isn’t always the same that you would get at a dispensary due to the scientists’ access. Never take a single study as fact, as you can likely do a google search to find the opposite results from another study.
Research is important, especially when it comes to your health!
by Travis C | Jul 15, 2020 | 420, 420 News, Blog, Business, Culture
Cannabis sales in Colorado set a new monthly record in May, hitting their highest level since recreational sales began in 2014.
Dispensaries sold $192,175,937 worth of products in May, according to data from the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. That’s up about 29% from April and an increase of 32% from May 2019.
Sales at both medical and recreational pot shops hit monthly all-time highs, at $42,989,322 and $149,186,615, respectively. Collectively, both sectors have sold more than $779 million in 2020 and paid more than $167 million in taxes and fees to the state.
Roy Bingham, co-founder and executive chairman of BSDA analytics firm, said a confluence of several factors caused by the pandemic are likely causing the increase in sales. For one, many people may have more leisure time and are spending more time at home, where cannabis is typically consumed. Existing marijuana consumers also are buying more each time they go to the dispensary, a trend that started with stocking up in March when Colorado went under a statewide stay-at-home order.
“Everyone has perhaps become more used to consuming a little more,” Bingham said.
After losing market share to products like edibles, flower is seeing a rebound in sales likely driven by drops in price, he said. According to BDSA, cannabis buds were going for $4.37 per gram in May, down from about $4.71 per gram in January.
“It’s beginning to look like cannabis is anti-recession, or at least COVID-recession resistant,” Bingham said, adding Colorado has experienced “spectacular growth” this year.
Liz Connors, director of analytics for Headset, which also tracks consumer trends, expects sales will continue to build on that in June and July as tourism increases.
Dispensaries in the Centennial State were deemed essential businesses during the early days of the pandemic and the statewide stay-at-home order. So far, monthly cannabis sales this year have consistently outpaced 2019, which was the highest-grossing year on record.
by Travis C | Apr 7, 2020 | 420, 420 News, Blog, Business, Cannabis Law, Culture, Stranger Than Fiction
What happens to a federally illegal business during a national pandemic?
We are all about to see what happens in real time. As Coronavirus rapidly spreads across the United States, businesses everywhere are shutting down.
Restaurants are only doing delivery and takeout, and the only other businesses allowed to operate are those marked as “essential”. Doctors offices, pharmacies and grocery stores are understandably essential, but states are also marking liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries essential.
But not all dispensaries are so lucky to get the essential treatment.
The dispensary dilemma
Nobody would really argue that medical dispensaries are not essential. Medical cannabis users must get a doctor’s recommendation to use it, making cannabis their medicine. But recreational cannabis dispensaries are a whole different monster.
Different taxes, different regulations, different requirements. Recreational and medical cannabis, though identical in actual product, have been split into two different industries due to the progression of cannabis advocacy. While medical cannabis is just that, medicine, recreational cannabis has been put in line more with alcohol.
But while those who suffer severe alcohol addiction can actually die if they don’t have alcohol — presumably the main reason liquor stores have been deemed essential — recreational cannabis users can go cold turkey relatively easy with little side effects. And that’s why they haven’t been deemed essential in several states.
Although California and Colorado, among others, have deemed all cannabis businesses essential, Massachusetts has made headlines for shutting down all recreational cannabis sales. While it might not seem like a big deal considering hundreds of businesses have had to close down, there’s one crucial difference between recreational cannabis businesses and all others; federal legality.
No federal assistance
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we all live and will live for quite some time. With a lot of businesses being forced to close, many have resorted to lay-offs, furloughs or completely closing down. In an effort to support small businesses, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27.
The legislation provides economic assistance to small businesses, in the form of interest free loans, a paycheck protection program and more. But this is a federal program, and a business that is considered illegal on the federal level can’t receive help from federal programs.
In other words, cannabis businesses both recreational and medical cannot receive any government assistance from the federal government. So while medical dispensaries have been deemed essential, recreational dispensaries in states like Massachusetts have not. So they are forced to close with no government assistance, leaving them with no option but to close down, lay-off or shut down completely.
To simplify, recreational dispensaries in states like Massachusetts are up shit creek without a paddle.
Can recreational cannabis survive Coronavirus?
Most recreational cannabis businesses might just have to tighten up a little bit over the next couple of months in most states. But the future is cloudy for recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts. If they can’t operate at all, they can’t make money, can’t pay rent on their location, and eventually can’t keep the business running.
It would be speculation to say that the governor of Massachusetts is doing this because of his lack of support for legal cannabis — even though it took Massachusetts over 3 years to open a recreational cannabis dispensary after legalizing in 2016 due to plenty of barriers — but it’s not hard to imagine a government official using a position of power to punish an industry they do not support.
Unlike other small businesses that might have to close down but can still receive government support, recreational cannabis dispensaries are pretty much on their own to make it through the Coronavirus pandemic, with no clear end in sight. It took four years for Massachusetts to get up and running with recreational cannabis, and it only took two weeks for the state to shut it all back down.
While the future is unclear, it’s going to be a tough road ahead for all cannabis businesses in the United States.
by Travis C | Mar 25, 2020 | 420 News, Blog, Business, Cannabis Law and Compliance, Culture, Opinion, Stranger Than Fiction
Cannabis dispensaries are being labeled “essential”. Should that also mean legal?
COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, has completely changed the way we all live. As much as we don’t want to admit it, our everyday lifestyles are changing pretty drastically and the nation, its states, and businesses big and small are all struggling to find a solution.
With several states beginning to shut down “non-essential” businesses, the decision has to be made what businesses are essential. There’s the obvious essential businesses like grocery stores, doctors offices and pharmacies.
But one business most people probably didn’t expect to be marked essential is cannabis dispensaries.
Cannabis dispensaries are essential?
While most states are shutting down all non-essential businesses, exceptions have been made for a variety of businesses in different states. Most states are permitting restaurants to stay open for carry-out only, and in Colorado, you can now get alcohol to go from restaurants that serve beer.
Now in Los Angeles, amid an entire state-wide stay-in order, cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses that can remain open.
Unfortunately for recreational users, the rule only applies to medical dispensaries, which makes sense. People with a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis, especially those with serious or debilitating conditions still need access to their medicine.
But if medical dispensaries are essential, and New York has even deemed liquor stores essential, then why shouldn’t recreational dispensaries be essential too?
The question that this really beckons to be answered though, is if medical cannabis dispensaries are essential businesses, why shouldn’t they be federally legal?
A sign we should legalize?
The fact that state governments across the country have deemed medical cannabis dispensaries essential and sales of recreational cannabis have skyrocketed over the past two weeks should be a sign that it is a product that is in great demand, right?
But that doesn’t mean recreational cannabis is as essential as medical cannabis, and as much as we hate to say it here at The Real Dirt, even alcohol.
The reason liquor stores are being permitted to remain open is likely due to the 15 million people across the country who suffer from alcoholism, and a smaller minority that suffers from serious addiction that could lead to serious health problems if they were to quit drinking cold-turkey.
If we continue to insist that cannabis is non-addictive (or at least not as harmfully addictive as alcohol and other pharmaceuticals), then there is no reason for recreational cannabis businesses to be deemed essential.
Nobody needs recreational cannabis to survive, unlike those with medical cards who could seriously rely on it. Where the debate lies, is in the differences between medical and recreational cannabis and how the line drawn between the two is so subtle and blurry.
Where does this lead?
A day after I started writing this, Colorado announced a stay-in-order, including the closure of liquor stores and recreational dispensaries. Not even four hours later, they were forced to walk it back.
There was so much backlash that the Governor of Colorado has now made recreational dispensaries and liquor stores essential businesses.
So while only medical dispensaries are deemed essential in California, recreational dispensaries are added to that list in Colorado. If other states follow behind Colorado and include recreational and medical dispensaries in their essential business orders, it could be a big bargaining chip in the fight for legalization.
If every state with medical and legal cannabis deems the businesses as essential — just as essential as grocery stores, doctor offices, and pharmacies — then how someone seriously argue that it should be illegal? We know the fight we’re in, however, and we know it won’t be that easy.
A more likely advancement that cannabis consumers can get excited about is the rise of cannabis delivery. Colorado is only allowing the first medical dispensary in Boulder to deliver starting this spring, with plans for recreational to follow in 2021.
But with current developments and a need to provide cannabis to thousands of consumers, more dispensaries will start to ask the government to move faster.
The fact remains that cannabis dispensaries are the only business across the country that have been deemed essential, while also being federally illegal. It’s pretty crazy when you really think about it. Read that first sentence again for maximum impact.
by Travis C | Mar 9, 2020 | 420 News, AP News, Blog, Business, Culture, Growing
Jessica Baker takes a cutting of a plant at the Baker’s marijuana nursery at Baker Medical, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Oklahoma City. When voters in conservative Oklahoma approved medical marijuana in 2018, many thought the rollout would be ploddingly slow and burdened with bureaucracy. Instead, business is booming so much cannabis industry workers and entrepreneurs are moving to Oklahoma from states with more well-established pot cultures, like California, Colorado and Oregon. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
OKLAHOMA CITY — From their keen taste for sun-ripened pot to their first meeting at a pro-marijuana rally in college in the 1990s, everything about Chip and Jessica Baker fits the stereotype of cannabis country in Northern California, where they lived for 20 years.
Jessica, with wavy hair that falls halfway down her back, is a practicing herbalist, acupuncturist and aromatherapist who teaches classes on the health benefits of cannabis. Scruffy-bearded Chip wears a jacket with a prominent “grower” patch and hosts a marijuana podcast called “The Real Dirt.” They started their pot business in rugged Humboldt County when it was the thriving epicenter of marijuana cultivation.
But the couple bid goodbye to the weed-friendly West and moved somewhere that might seem like the last place they would end up — Oklahoma.
They’re part of a green rush into the Bible Belt that no one anticipated when Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana less than two years ago. Since then, a combination of factors — including a remarkably open-ended law and a red state’s aversion to government regulation — have created such ideal conditions for the cannabis industry that entrepreneurs are pouring in from states where legal weed has been established for years.
Though 11 states have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, Oklahoma’s medical law is the closest thing to it: Anyone with any ailment, real or imagined, who can get a doctor’s approval can get a license to buy. It’s not hard to do. Already, nearly 6% of the state’s 4 million residents have obtained their prescription cards. And people who want to sell pot can do it as easily as opening a taco stand.
“Oklahoma is really allowing for normal people to get into the cannabis industry, as opposed to other places where you need $20 million up front,” said Jessica Baker.
The Bakers have a marijuana farm about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Oklahoma City, along with a dispensary, nursery and gardening shop in a working-class part of town where virtually every vacant shop and building has been snapped up by weed entrepreneurs in the last year.
When he leased his place, which had been vacant for 10 years, Chip Baker said, “to celebrate, the owner went to Hawaii for a month.”
Unlike other states, Oklahoma did not limit the number of business licenses for dispensaries, growers or processors.
In less than two years, Oklahoma has more than 2,300 pot stores, or the second most per capita in the U.S. behind only Oregon, which has had recreational marijuana sales for five years. Oklahoma has four times more retail outlets than more populous Colorado, which pioneered full legalization.
“Some of these states are regulating cannabis like plutonium,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the national trade group for marijuana businesses. “And the financial burdens that are placed on licensed businesses are so onerous, that not only is it very difficult to stay in business, but it’s also very difficult for the legal, state-regulated systems to compete with the illicit market.”
Marijuana taxes approach 50% in some California communities and are a factor in some business closings.
California requires a $1,000 application fee, a $5,000 surety bond and an annual license fee ranging from $2,500 to $96,000, depending on a dispensary’s projected revenue, along with a lengthy application process. Licenses can cost $300,000 annually.
In Oklahoma, a dispensary license costs $2,500, can be filled out online and is approved within two weeks.
Arkansas, next door to Oklahoma, also has medical marijuana, but like most such states, it allows purchase only for treatment of certain diseases, such as glaucoma or post-traumatic stress disorder. It also requires a $100,000 surety bond. Louisiana, which also tightly restricts prescriptions, has only nine licensed dispensaries.
Ford Austin and his sister opened the APCO Medical Marijuana Dispensary in a gentrifying part of Oklahoma City after he gave up on plans for a California weed store. “There’s way more opportunity here,” he said.
Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish, an Oklahoma attorney specializing in cannabis law, said about 15% of her cannabis clients are coming from out of state.
“I frequently receive calls from people in the cannabis industry in California,” Gossett Parrish said.
People in some rural towns are worried about the Wild West atmosphere of the boom, particularly where shops with funny weed-pun names, waving banners and blinking signs have opened near schools and churches.
A Republican state legislator, Jim Olsen, has proposed a bill banning dispensaries within 1000 feet (305 meters) of a church. “While I recognize that some people do find pain relief from medical marijuana, with children we really don’t want them to think that when they reach problems in life, that marijuana is a good answer to that.”
But Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and the GOP-controlled Legislature have shown no interest in reining in the industry since the ballot measure authorizing it passed overwhelmingly. The industry has mostly fought off local attempts at zoning.
Many communities are welcoming cannabis shops because of the sales tax revenue. In college-town Norman and in Oklahoma City, at least a half dozen businesses have joined the chambers of commerce.
“In our community, I think most businesses view them as equals,” said Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve even had a handful of ribbon cutting ceremonies.”
Marijuana sales generated $54 million in tax revenue last year, accounted for the sharpest ever annual decline in empty mid-sized industrial properties in Oklahoma City, and booked up electricians around Tulsa outfitting new grow rooms with lights and temperature controls.
Even some longtime opponents of marijuana legalization have softened their tone.
Sheriff Chris West in Canadian County, one of many law enforcement officers who decried the 2018 legalization ballot measure, says a number of farmers he knows have decided to switch crops.
“I’ve had them call me and tell me, ‘Sheriff, we’re going to venture into this business and we’d like for you to come out and see our facility, because we want you to know what we’re doing.’ And these are longtime, good, godly, Christian families that see it as an income opportunity.”