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The Future of Legal Cannabis in Florida

The Future of Legal Cannabis in Florida

legal cannabis in Florida

The passing of the MORE Act in the House has gotten Floridians talking about their future.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to decriminalize marijuana. Most Democrats supported the bill that would enact that change. Most Republicans did not. The bill is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Was Congress’ historic vote an early sign of momentum to legalize marijuana across the United States? Or is was it a low-stakes move on a splashy issue that’s unlikely to go anywhere?

Florida is home to plenty who are interested in the answer.

“We talk all the time on the right about the need to empower people and empower states,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said in an impassioned speech on the House floor in support of the bill, the MORE Act. “Right now, the federal policy on cannabis constrains our people. It limits our states.”

Gaetz, who helped author Florida’s very first medical marijuana program as a state representative in 2014, was one of just five Republicans to support the bill. Another Florida Republican, Brian Mast, R-Palm City, also voted for the measure. Mast’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

In addition to essentially legalizing marijuana at the federal level, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act establishes a federal tax on cannabis products. That tax money would be set aside in a trust fund for people and businesses that have been affected by the federal war on drugs. A 2020 study by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that Black Americans are nearly four times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite using the drug at a similar rate.

The MORE Act, if signed into law, would also start a formal process for expunging federal marijuana convictions. People serving federal sentences for cannabis-related crimes would get review hearings.

It’s unclear how many Floridians are in federal prison for marijuana-related crimes. But FBI data showed that in 2018, 40 percent of all state and local drug arrests were for marijuana-related offenses. More than 90 percent of those arrests were for possession, according to the Pew Research Center.

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.
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.

The Shady Politics of the MORE Act Vote and Cannabis Legalization [Opinion]

The Shady Politics of the MORE Act Vote and Cannabis Legalization [Opinion]

MORE Act house vote delayed

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.

Sound familiar?

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!

Are ALL Dispensaries Essential?

Are ALL Dispensaries Essential?

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.

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