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Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol

Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol

Illinois cannabis tax revenue has surpassed alcohol for the first time

Illinois took in more tax dollars from marijuana than alcohol for the first time last quarter, according to the state Department of Revenue.

From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales.

Those following the cannabis market in Illinois might not be entirely surprised, as the state has consistently been reporting record-breaking sales, even amid the pandemic. In March alone, adults spent $109,149,355 on recreational cannabis products—the largest single month of sales since retailers opened shop.

It was in February that monthly cannabis revenues first overtook those from alcohol, a trend that continued into March.

If the trend keeps up, Illinois could see more than $1 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in 2021. Last year, the state sold about $670 million in cannabis and took in $205.4 million in tax revenue.

Officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from all of these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The funds are part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. It requires 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars to be put in that fund and used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support.

Awarding the new grant money is not all that Illinois is doing to promote social equity and repair the harms of cannabis criminalization. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced in December that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.

Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.

But promoting social equity in the state’s cannabis industry hasn’t been smooth sailing. The state has faced criticism from advocates and lawsuits from marijuana business applicants who feel officials haven’t done enough to ensure diversity among business owners in the industry.

New Mexico Cannabis Legalization Signed into Law by Governor

New Mexico Cannabis Legalization Signed into Law by Governor

New Mexico cannabis legalization has passed

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Monday legalizing recreational marijuana use within months and kicking off sales next year, making it the seventh state since November to put an end to pot prohibition.

The governor, a Democrat, has supported marijuana reform as a way to create jobs and shore up state revenue.

On Monday, she also touched on concerns about the harm inflicted on racial and ethnic minorities by drug criminalization and tough policing, noting that the new law could free about 100 from prison and expunge criminal records for thousands of residents.

“It is good for workers. It is good for entrepreneurs. It is good for consumers,” she said of legalization. “And it brings about social justice in ways in which we have been talking about and advocating for, for decades.”

The signed bill gives the governor a strong hand in oversight of recreational marijuana through her appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department.

Agency Superintendent Linda Trujillo said people age 21 and over will be allowed start growing marijuana at home and possess up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of cannabis outside their homes starting on June 29.

Recreational cannabis sales start next year by April 1 at state-licensed dispensaries.

PepsiCo debuts hemp beverage

PepsiCo debuts hemp beverage

rockstar hemp beverage revealed by PepsiCo

PepsiCo has announced its first foray into the hemp beverage sector, although U.S. consumers will have to wait before they can try the product.

According to a report in the trade Just Drinks, the Purchase-headquartered company is rolling out Rockstar Energy + Hemp exclusively in Germany. The new product contains caffeine, guarana, taurine and hemp seed extract. PepsiCo stated that the final ingredient creates an “intense hemp taste.”

PepsiCo acquired Rockstar in March 2020 for $3.85 billion and the brand commands a 35% share of Germany’s energy drink market.

“With outstanding category growth of 58% compared to the previous year, hemp products are the trend of the year 2021 in the (fast moving consumer goods) sector,” PepsiCo said in a press statement. “With Energy + Hemp, Rockstar is now expanding its energy portfolio to include three varieties with the ingredient hemp seed extract.”

Hemp comes from the cannabis family, but does not include the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) psychoactive compound that creates the high sensation.

Although the 2018 Farm Bill updated federal policy to consider hemp as an agricultural product, there is no consensus among state laws regarding the sale of hemp-based consumables, which is why PepsiCo is not offering its new product in the U.S.

A surprising oasis for medical marijuana: Oklahoma

A surprising oasis for medical marijuana: Oklahoma

When you think of Oklahoma, marijuana is probably not a thing you associate with the state.

OKLAHOMA (NewsNation Now) — Drive about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City and you’ll land on Chip Baker’s hundred-acre farm.

At first glance, it looks like any plot in rural Oklahoma. Spacious fields studded with work sheds and tarped greenhouse tunnels. Roosters roam freely next door.

Throw open the barn door and the golden light doesn’t reveal amber waves of grain but a different kind of cash crop.

It’s a marijuana operation and it’s all “baker’s brand.”

“Tokelahoma, cushlahoma, weedlahoma [and] gongelahoma” Baker says are just a few of the brands he sells.

“I think Lester Grinspoon said it best when he said “I smoke marijuana every chance I get.” and it’s true! Every chance, I do! ” exclaimed Baker.

Baker has grown weed around the world since he was 13. From the woods of Georgia and the lakes of Switzerland to Colorado and California.

“I love California weed, I love California growers. But there’s a certain snobbiness and we’ve done it all,” said Baker. “But like Oklahoma it’s this newness, adventure, that’s partly why we’re here.”

The 48-year-old and his wife Jessica moved to Oklahoma a couple of years ago after 57 percent of statewide voters literally greenlit medicinal marijuana through state question 788.

David Lewis is a lifelong Oklahoman and coo of Stability Cannabis, one of the state’s largest indoor grow facilities.

“I think people underestimate how much of a culture shock this was. This was a state where you couldn’t buy wine in a grocery store, yet we passed medicinal marijuana,” explained Lewis. “Born and raised in Oklahoma, I never would have thought we’d have almost 400,000 patients consuming medical marijuana. It’s shocking.”

According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, there are more than 380,000 Oklahomans with active medical marijuana cards, about 10 percent of the population. That’s more than any other state in the country and double that of New Mexico, which comes in second.

In a state whose politics are as red as its dirt, the numbers almost seem wrong.

“Oklahoma and Texas are the home of outlaw country, right? Just because people are conservative or work on the land, or fish or hunt as relaxation, or even go to church, doesn’t disbar them from using cannabis and enjoying it,” said Baker.

“What I would say is look around the congregation at your church, and that’s our customer base,” added Lewis.

They’re consumers who get to come out of the shadows like Taly Frantz-Holly.

“I’ve been on the black market, as far as cannabis, as a smoker and everything from the time I was 19,” said Frantz-Holly.

She suffers from PTSD and says certain prescription pills left her suicidal. She found relief in cannabis.

“I went from taking 8 pharmaceuticals—8 medicinal pills every day. And now I’m down to 2. I only have panic attacks once ever few weeks and I was having panic attacks every single day,” stated Frantz-Holly.

Frantz-Holly says, without a doubt, the plant saved her life. So enamored by its medicinal powers, she now grows it herself.

“I literally got drug charges when I was 21 for a joint. And did 30 days in county jail. For a joint! And now I’m picking up 75 marijuana plants to go home to my commercial grow,” said Frantz-Holly.

She’s not alone. There are 7,000 other commercial growers across the state. Baker says it’s never been easier or cheaper to break into the business.

“Oklahoma just made it so easy to get involved that the average and normal person could,” said Baker. “There just no boundaries here.”

The application fee for growers, processors, dispensaries and transporters is $2,500. For patients, it’s $100. $20 for disabled veterans. Baker says it took him 15 minutes to apply in other states? He’s waited two years.

 

“Well if you look back at the political cycles, Oklahoma is the reddest of the red states. And I think what that translated to in medical marijuana was a free market approach,” said Baker. “The government wanted the free market to settle out who the winners and losers would be, and as a result you saw very limited restrictions on getting into the market and a lot of people participated.”

And many doctors, especially during a pandemic, have signed off on cards for patients suffering from anxiety, depression and insomnia.

“Oh COVID was a boom to the industry! Turns out if you’re trapped at home I guess with your kids and your in laws, you might have to medicate a little bit more every now and then,” said Lewis.

“The other thing is people aren’t sharing cannabis as much because of COVID. So people have been having their own bowls and their own joints,” stated Baker.

Baker says industry-wide, the business grew 50 percent last year.

If you’re surprised by Oklahoma’s booming numbers, Baker says you shouldn’t be. People just haven’t been able to talk about it but singing it.

“Oklahoma has a cannabis history. The cross Canadian ragweed, the famous song from 20 years ago. Oklahoma boys roll their joints all wrong. Its famous! It’s been famous for years!” said Baker.

 

Virginia Cannabis Legalization Will Now Take Effect July 1, 2021

Virginia Cannabis Legalization Will Now Take Effect July 1, 2021

Virginia cannabis legalization has been moved forward by a new provision

Following today’s legislative approval of Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, Virginia becomes the first southern state to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults. 

Senate Bill 1406, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Senate President Pro Tempore Senator Louise Lucas (D-18), and House Bill 2312, patroned by House Majority Leader Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46), establish a statutory timeline for the legalization of the commercial marijuana market in Virginia. The measure also permits for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis by those ages 21 or older.

Last week, Gov. Northam recommended changes to the legislation to permit the personal use provisions of the law to take effect on July 1, 2021 rather than on January 1, 2024 — the enactment date initially approved by lawmakers. Today, a majority of the legislature concurred with that change.

Therefore, beginning July 1, 2021, adults will be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household without penalty.

The timeline by which state regulators have to enact provisions licensing commercial cannabis production and sales remains July 1, 2024.

Commenting on the final passage, NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said: “This is an incredible victory for Virginia. Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth — ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.” 

Majority Leader Charniele Herring added: “It is a huge day for equity in the Commonwealth. Virginia is now the first state in the South to legalize recreational marijuana use, and I am so proud to have been able to carry this monumental legislation. I am ever grateful for the commitment and advocacy from NORML on this topic. Getting Virginia to this day would not have been possible without their hard work and dedication to the cause.”

Senator Adam Ebbin said: “The passage of SB1406 caps off years of struggle to reform our broken and outdated marijuana laws and begins the deliberate steps to repeal the harms of the failed prohibition. I am thankful to NORML, the Governor, and my colleagues for moving this 283 bill from inception to passage over the last four months, and look forward to continuing to partner with them to establish a regulated, equity focused, adult-use marketplace in the coming years.”

Newly released statewide polling data finds that 68 percent of registered voters in Virginia, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, support legalizing marijuana for adults.

“Virginians were very clear that they are ready for legalization this year, sending over 8,800 emails in support of these measures,” Pedini added.

Michigan university becomes first to offer cannabis chemistry scholarship

Michigan university becomes first to offer cannabis chemistry scholarship

A university in Michigan is adding a cannabis chemistry degree to its curriculum

A degree in cannabis chemistry? Yes please.

Lake Superior State University established the nation’s first chemistry program focused on cannabis when it launched The Cannabis Center of Excellence in 2019 — and now, the school is offering its first scholarship.

Steadfast Labs, a Michigan-based research facility with the goal of ensuring access to safe cannabis medicine, has established an annual $1,200 scholarship for cannabis chemistry students at LSSU, the school announced Monday.

To qualify, applicants must be sophomores or older and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students who live in Wayne and Oakland Counties, areas that the company services, will also be given preference.

“This donation not only continues our trendsetting ways in this vital new field but also makes our already affordable tuition even more reasonable,” said Dr. Steven Johnson, Dean of the College of Science and the Environment at LSSU. “By funding this scholarship, Steadfast Labs again demonstrates their commitment to supporting future chemists who will enter the workforce and provide public safety in the cannabis field.”

“It is our great pleasure to grant this unprecedented scholarship for a cutting-edge program in an innovative industry,” said Avram Zallen, founder and CEO of Steadfast Labs. “This grant is another opportunity for Steadfast to help LSSU students pursue careers in this exciting and important industry. “

The school offers degrees in cannabis chemistry, cannabis production, cannabis science and cannabis business, with the goal of “positioning cannabis studies as a national leader of academic inquiry.” The program markets itself as the first in the U.S. to focus on the quantitative analysis of cannabis-related compounds and contaminants, including THC, CBD and terpenes.

“The scholarship reinforces key components of our vision statement: being vanguard-focused and driving social mobility,” said LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley.

Last month, officials announced the university upgraded its cannabis analysis instrumentation to analyze residual pesticides and mycotoxins in cannabis products, as well as identify persisted pollutants.

Other schools around the country, including Cornell University and the University of Maryland, have introduced classes that focus on the cultivation and use of marijuana, along with the legal issues surrounding cannabis. There continues to be growing employer demand for college graduates with expertise in marijuana, with job growth in the sector rapidly expanding as states legalize the cannabis.

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