Los Angeles will expunge tens of thousands of past cannabis convictions. How cannabis companies skirt state rules on ownership. Pro-marijuana lawmakers in Illinois hope to avoid the recent missteps of New York and New Jersey. Also: A Chicago-based cannabis company acquired a California distributor for $850 million. 🌳
California counties to expunge cannabis convictions. Prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties are partnering with Code for America to automatically expunge past cannabis convictions using an algorithm that can quickly determine which cases are eligible. An estimated 54,000 cannabis convictions are eligible for expungement in the two counties. Meanwhile, Code for America hopes to expand the program across the state and clear 250,000 convictions by the end of the year. The Los Angeles Times Related: Regulators put $10 million in state grant money for social equity programs on hold, saying it would “review and revise the grant program guidelines.” The state initially planned to give out the grant money by June 30 and did not give a reason for the change. Marijuana Business Daily
The struggles facing black cannabis entrepreneurs. Megon Dee-Cave faced unique challenges as a cannabis entrepreneur: While dealing with PTSD from interactions with law enforcement, Dee-Cave had to navigate a complicated process to expunge cannabis-related charges on her record before developing her career as a cannabis chef. Now, she’s one of the few black women entrepreneurs in Oregon’s cannabis industry. “Black chefs cooking with cannabis… are more than just vanguards: Their work represents a reclaimed self-determinism of medicinal cooking.” Eater Black farmers make up 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers. “Black farmers have long been discriminated against by lending institutions like the USDA.” Individuals and organizations are working to ensure black farmers can get a piece of the hemp boom, which has been touted by lawmakers as a lifeline for struggling farmers. Pew Trusts / Stateline
On diversity in the Massachusetts marijuana industry. Suffolk county district attorney Rachael Rollins, who is the first woman of color in her job, railed against the lack of diversity in the state’s marijuana industry during a panel at Tufts on Friday. “These are convictions black and brown people (had) years ago. And now everyone making money from cannabis is white. It is a racial disparity, it is disgusting, and we need to speak out loudly about it,” she said. Only 2.3 percent of the 305 completed cannabis license applications were from minority applicants. Only 4.1 percent of people who work in the industry are black. Boston Business Journal Industry experts and regulators say New Yorkers are right to be worried about corporate cannabis. Despite efforts in Massachusetts to promote diversity in the industry, “it’s pretty clear it’s wealthy, white men who have moved into this space,” said a health policy researcher. Gothamist
How cannabis companies skirt Colorado rules. As Colorado’s legislature considers reforming marijuana regulations to allow out-of-state investors and publicly traded companies, existing cannabis businesses in the state have already found a way to flout those rules. MJardin owns 13 cultivation facilities, 14 acres of outdoor grow-ops, and seven dispensaries in Colorado. It also went public in November on the Canadian Securities Exchange. The Denver Post Related: States and cities across the U.S. have struggled to enforce license limitations on large cannabis companies, which use complex corporate structures to get around ownership rules. The Boston Globe
Can Illinois avoid NY and NJ’s missteps? Despite strong support for marijuana reform in New York and New Jersey, recent legalization efforts have fallen apart largely thanks to the debate surrounding equity and criminal justice. Now, the pressure is on Illinois legislators to avoid the same fate. Lawmakers have delayed introducing legalization legislation until the end of the month, giving lawmakers a short window to pass it before the session ends in May. A state rep. who is sponsoring the legalization measure hopes the state will become “the nation’s gold standard for its equity and social justice provisions.” Cannabis Wire
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Cannabis lobbying and political influence. Those in New York’s medical cannabis industry have spent millions on lobbyists since 2013. “Some newly reported lobbying contracts, costing up to $15,000 per month, got signed within days of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pro-recreational pot speech in January, suggesting a scramble to influence the legislation.” Most of the money behind marijuana lobbying in New York leads to “companies behind growing cannabis empires across the country.” Here’s a look at the top lobbying spenders in the state including Etain, Columbia Care, and Vireo Health. Journal News
Oklahoma’s green rush. Last year, Oklahoma had the nation’s highest incarceration rate, and drug possession was the most common felony offense. Now, the state is home to a marijuana boom after voters passed a strikingly liberal medical marijuana program: No list of qualifying conditions, home cultivation for patients, and a lack of license caps that has given way to more than 1,100 dispensaries so far. Entering into the industry might be relatively easy, but early entrepreneurs now face a glut of competition when everyone from patients to cops are eager to get into the newly legal industry. Leafly
Researching cannabis. The Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $12,000 grant to a student-led research team studying the sustainable production of hempcrete. The current method for pulping hemp fibers to make into hempcrete produces a substantial amount of toxic waste. The researchers hope to develop a more sustainable pulping process. Marijuana Moment Researchers found that using marijuana individually or with a partner increased short-term intimacy among couples. “Shared cannabis experiences increased the likelihood of intimacy within two hours of use. Additionally, they found that these positive experiences were also more likely to occur if only one person toked up as compared to neither partner reporting use.” Marijuana Moment
Elsewhere in cannabis business news… The cannabis industry has been stifled by over-regulation. Lawmakers in both Colorado and Washington are now moving to ease the restrictive regulations. The Associated Press The Paiute tribe became an unexpected cannabis powerhouse in Las Vegas. Tribes across North America are now looking to follow its example. Cannabis Now Chicago-based Cresco Labs is acquiring cannabis distribution company Origin House for $850 million as the company seeks to expand its California footprint. The Chicago Tribune Seeing a funding gap in the cannabis industry, three women joined together to launch a private equity firm focused on investing in companies founded by women and minorities. Leafly
Elsewhere around the world… Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth has turned to English countess and psychedelic advocate Amanda Feilding to lead a research venture in hopes of boosting the cananbis market in Europe. BNN Bloomberg A regulatory agency in Mexico revoked its guidelines for low-THC import licenses, putting dozens of granted permits into question. The regulators said the guidelines “contravene the decree that allowed for medical cannabis in the country.” Marijuana Business News The Supreme Court of the Philippines voted to release tens of thousands of documents related to president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug crackdown. The documents include “reports related to the 20,322 killings by both vigilantes and policemen in the war on drugs.” Rappler
Word on the States
- In California, a bill to allow cannabis donations to patients is gaining ground in the Senate. San Bernardino will decide on whether it will participate in a DEA cannabis eradication program. The real problem with the cannabis market is expiring licenses, not oversupply.
- In New York, the governor vows to pass marijuana legalization by June.
- In Texas, the House considers dozens of marijuana-related bills, which face more opposition in the Senate.
- In Arkansas, a new bill would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
- In New Mexico, the governor signed a bill to regulate hemp in the state.
- In Illinois, how employers are thinking about potential marijuana legalization.
- In Wisconsin, a Rastafari cannabis sanctuary opened in Madison.
- In Iowa, the Senate passed a bill to reduce marijuana penalties, sending it to the House.
- In Montana, the Senate approved a bill to restore medical marijuana taxes to 4 percent.
- In Idaho, the Senate approved legislation to legalize hemp, which faces trouble in the House.
- In Oklahoma, the House and Senate advanced industrial hemp measures.
Word for Word
“You know we’ve come a long ways in the last decade with our society. Before they were like, ‘Josh is using cannabis for his epilepsy… That sounds like some kind of home remedy that is not going to work and he needs to be on his medication. This is not right…’ [Now] they’re saying, ‘Buddy, we’re sorry we ever doubted you.’” – Medical marijuana patient and cannabis entrepreneur Joshua Haupt, CNBC