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Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

Connecticut cannabis legalization has passed in the Senate

The Connecticut Senate early Tuesday morning passed a bill to legalize marijuana, sending the proposal to the House for final approval with just days left in the legislative session.

House leaders say they plan to take up the legislation in that chamber before Wednesday’s end-of-session deadline but after first tackling the state budget.

The cannabis bill is the product of weeks of negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) office. Finalized language was introduced only on Saturday, giving lawmakers little time to review the roughly 300-page proposal.

But during a marathon floor debate that stretched into the early hours Tuesday morning, the Senate passed the bill in a 19–17 vote.

“We have seen what has been wrought by having a war on drugs,” Sen. Gary Winfield (D) said on the floor before the vote. “Whole communities have been decimated. And some people will say, ‘Well, there are not a lot of people in our state in jail for cannabis today,’ but there are vestigial ways in which communities are still impacted by what we were doing.”

Noting that cannabis was once available in American apothecaries, Winfield ran through the history of the drug war and argued that marijuana prohibition’s racist origins and consequences continue to be felt in Connecticut today.

“The reason I think we should legalize cannabis is not because of the money—that’s an important part of this,” he added, “but because we should have never made cannabis an illegal drug. It should never have been prohibited. It should never have been a Schedule I drug, particularly given how it got there.”

Asked whether there will be enough support in the House to pass the measure, Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) said earlier Monday that he believes the votes will be there—but he’s “still answering lots of questions” from members about specific provisions.

“I’m confident that we’ll get there,” he said.

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) added that “we do expect it to pass.”

“We don’t think we’ll have 97 votes,” he said, referring to the total number of Democratic members in the Connecticut body. “We understand there will be noes in our caucus … But we’ve heard from a few people on the other side of the aisle too that have had a chance to digest and stuff, and I would say there’s a few people involved in conversations there too.”

Cannabis growing facility proposed for former New York prison

Cannabis growing facility proposed for former New York prison

A New York prison that closed in 2011 may be repurposed for cannabis and hemp production.

When Mid-Hudson Correctional Facility closed in 2011, it freed up 740 acres of prime property that its host community, Warwick, readily bought for $3.1 million.

During the past decade, the town has actively worked to repurpose the property and has seen positive results from its efforts. With Covid-19 fading and the state reopening, business is again percolating on the former prison property, now known as Wickham Woodlands.

Along with a new Warwick Valley Office and Technology Corporate Park on the campus, where the town’s business accelerator is working with three-startup companies, business is growing along its winding State School Road: a former administration building has become the trendy Drowned Lands Brewery; the prison’s old guard tower is now the gateway to Hudson Sports Complex; and the land surrounding Wickham Lake, which inmates could view from behind barbed wire fencing, has been turned into a town park.

The Warwick Valley’s fertile landscape also offers ample opportunities for those who grow hemp and its soon-to-be-street legal counterpart, marijuana, and is seeing that business beginning to boom within Wickham Woods’ borders.

When the United States eased federal regulations on growing hemp in 2018, the floodgates of products produced from hemp’s byproduct, cannabidiol — better known to the public as CBD — started hitting the shelves.

Medical marijuana has been legal since 2016, and the state also relaxed its regulations for CBD-infused food and beverages. In April, 2021, the New York state Legislature approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, which has opened a whole new revenue stream for cultivators.

Those measures have propelled Wickham Woods into the spotlight for those with a vested interest in both legal hemp/cannabis cultivation and CBD production.

Chicago-based Fiorello Pharmaceuticals/Green Thumb Industries is poised to build a 100,000-square-foot cannabis growing and processing facility on 40 acres in the technology park.

The company received approval in May from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency for subsidies that include a sales and tax use exemption, mortgage recording tax exemption and a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes, as well as approval for the issuance of taxable revenue bonds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Big Beverage Maker Is Getting Into Cannabis

Another Big Beverage Maker Is Getting Into Cannabis

boston beer company potentially making cannabis infused drinks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many potential partners out there

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

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

 

Why cannabis looks to be a great fit for the company

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

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

Legal cannabis sales rose $17.5 billion during pandemic

Legal cannabis sales rose $17.5 billion during pandemic

cannabis sales rose over 17 billion dollars in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religious Americans Split Over Cannabis Legalization

Religious Americans Split Over Cannabis Legalization

Christian cannabis support is higher than evangelicals

When it comes to supporting the legalization of cannabis, the religious community in the US is divided.

According to the latest polling from Pew Research Center, 60% of all US adults support legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, with only 8% that want to keep it illegal and 31% supporting medical cannabis only. 

However when these results are broken down and analyzed on the community level, the polling is much more complex, and interesting.

Christian Cannabis Legalization Support

Overall, religiously affiliated individuals are less likely to support broad cannabis legalization. White evangelical Christians were the least supportive of legal cannabis, with only 44% supporting full legalization and another 43% supporting medical only.

However, the protestant population — that is the general Christian population that isn’t evangelical or Catholic — is much more supportive of cannabis legalization at 53%. Additionally, white, non-evangelical Christians support broad cannabis legalization by a margin of 62%.

That’s 2% higher than the national average.

Black non-evangelical Christians are nearly identical in their support, with 63% supporting full legalization. Catholics are similar to protestants in their support also at 53% overall with 58% support specifically from the white Catholic community but only 51% support from hispanic Catholics.

Religiously Unaffiliated Most Supportive

Compared to the former, religiously unaffiliated individuals are the most supportive of broad cannabis legalization. Overall, 76% support legalization, with 88% and 86% support coming from Atheists and Agnostics respectively.

Opinions about whether marijuana should be legal for recreational and/or medical use also differ based on how often people pray and how important they say religion is in their lives. 46% of adults who pray every day say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, compared with roughly seven-in-ten (72%) of those who pray less often.

Similarly, people who say religion is “very important” in their lives are less likely to favor broadly legal marijuana than those who say religion is less important (44% vs. 71%).

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