The Effects of COVID-19 on Cannabis Legalization & Legislation

Cannabis Legalization

As the U.S. continues to wrestle with an epic health crisis there is no “business as usual.” COVID-19 has taken the steering wheel and health experts are riding shotgun in an attempt to grab it back as we try to keep the economy alive. Meanwhile, those with an interest in cannabis legislation and legalization are keeping their eyes on the road ahead. We have insights from a seasoned cannabis industry CPA, a marketing strategist, and a cannabis industry archivist/data analyst to help shed some light on the current situation and what the future may hold.

Continue reading

Emerging Cannabis States: Michigan, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Colorado

Emerging Cannabis States: Michigan, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Colorado

This month our focus is on Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Oklahoma. For Colorado and Massachusetts, Social Equity has been a subject of contention. Michigan opened a licensing opportunity in May and Oklahoma has opted to test breathalyzer technology to find tools to better determine whether a driver is impaired.

Oklahoma Cannabis Market

Scott Fegatter, a Republican Oklahoma State representative, has proposed expanding access through full adult-use cannabis legalization in order to generate tax revenue for the state budget, up to $100 million annually. His proposal is just one measure to alleviate the $250 million deficit anticipated for 2021 due to the pandemic. Oklahoma had a ballot initiative effort in the form of a petition prior to March 15, however that was before the shut down when the governor declared a State of Emergency due to COVID-19. There is however, concern that there is not enough support within the state legislature to legalize cannabis.

Something that might aid in decreasing opposition to expanding access to cannabis to full Adult-use is the pilot program for a cannabis breathalyzer which has recently been approved. The bill, approved in May, would require the Department of Public Safety to spend $300,000 on creating a pilot program for testing breathalyzers designed to detect cannabis impairment, the results of the test would not be admissible in court. This could really alleviate some issues with cannabis use and DUI laws for determining impairment. This is one of the first programs to make sure that the breathalyzer system can work to solve the problem of identifying drivers who are actually impaired due to cannabis use as

Michigan Cannabis

In early March 2020 Michigan began phasing out caregivers’ ability to sell cannabis to adult-use cannabis companies and are scrapping the ability to for caregivers to supply the Adult-use market entirely. Medical cannabis dispensaries may still obtain products from licensed caregivers, but the Adult-use market cannot. This opens up opportunities for licensed cultivators and producers to ramp up production and be able to meet demand within the privileged licensee supply chain.

In a move that might prompt employees to vote themselves into a union, an update has been made to Michigan’s cannabis industry regulations to no longer require operators to maintain labor peace agreements. This can be seen as controversial as there are many states that are starting to require labor peace agreements to protect both the industry and its workers. Considering unfolding events in Massachusetts where reactions to the pandemic are prompting employees to vote to go union, it will be interesting to see if the same would happen in Michigan and other states.

emerging cannabis states

Colorado Cannabis Market

This year Colorado has taken another step towards greater social equity by passing and signing into law HB1424 changing the Accelerator Program to a Social Equity Program by more clearly defining what the state is looking for in terms of social equity applicants. The legislation also allows for a social equity applicant to own a marijuana store or dispensary this is a change from the original Accelerator Program, which only allowed social equity licenses for manufacturing and cultivation. According to the law an Accelerator Endorsed Licensee is a retail marijuana cultivation, production, or store who has, pursuant to the rules, been endorsed to host and offer technical and capital support to a Social Equity Licensee. These Accelerator Endorsed Licensees may qualify for incentives such as reduced application or licensing fees. A Social Equity licensee is considered a natural person who meets criteria is established in section 44-10-308 (4). A Disproportionately Impacted Area will be defined to the extent relevant State of Colorado data exists or is available and is used for the purpose of determining eligibility, which means that depending on the data sets that are available to determine the areas that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, Colorado will set guidelines. There are requirements for social equity licensees for operating in the same licensed premises or on a separate premise possessed by an Accelerator Endorsed Licensee. Accelerator Endorsed Licensees are not required to exercise the privileges of their license on the premises where a social equity license he operates. The implementation deadline has been moved from July 1, 2020 to  July 1, 2021.

 

This legislation also has created an exception to the felony restriction for social equity applicants. A marijuana conviction shall not be the sole basis for a license denial. Effective January 1, 2021 a social equity applicant may apply for a license and the qualifications for a social equity licensee are as follows:

  • The applicant must be a Colorado resident
  • They may not be a beneficial owner of a license subject to legal action
  • They must demonstrate the following
    • Residence in Colorado for at least 15 years between 1980 and 2010 in any census tract designated by the office of economic development and international trade as an opportunity zone or designated as a disproportionately impacted area as defined by section 44-10-203 (1)(j).
    • They have a parent, legal guardian, sibling, spouse, child, or minor in their guardianship that was arrested for a marijuana offense or was subject to civil asset forfeiture related to a marijuana investigation.
    • Having a qualifying household income can also be a determining factor
  • Applicant must hold 51% or more of the beneficial ownership of the company applying for a social equity license.

 

State licensing for marijuana Accelerator store licenses is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2021.

Massachusetts Cannabis

Massachusetts Cannabis Market

Massachusetts intends to speed up cannabis license there cannabis licensing process from application applicants having to wait 121 business days down to only 60, that is if COVID-19 hasn’t ruined the chances for that in the budget. The Governor of Massachusetts deemed adult-use dispensaries as non-essential over concerns that adult-use cannabis dispensaries attract clientele from neighboring states and closed them only weeks after the market’s opening, jump-starting a considerable fight over whether or not Adult-use dispensaries should remain closed. A judge ruled in favor of the governor’s position and Adult-use dispensaries were eventually reopened on May 26 along with other businesses.

Whether or not to determine Adult-use cannabis dispensaries as essential hasn’t been the only controversy in Cannabis licensing. Cannabis activists are currently in opposition to Massachusetts changes to Social Equity guidelines. This was due in large part to regulatory change that decreased the percentage of the ownership percentage from 51% down to 10% of minority ownership. There is currently a petition to revise it. The drop down to 10% does directly conflict with many city and town ordinances that require 51% ownership for social equity applicants. Cambridge Massachusetts is also dealing with a social equity issue. The municipality chose to only allow social equity applicants for the first stage of license applications and is being sued by a current medical marijuana licensee That is demanding to have the opportunity to have a co-located adult-use facility. The city appears to have established the special licensing for social equity applicants in an attempt to provide social equity licensees an opportunity to establish market share before non-social equity applicants are able to dominate the market. Massachusetts also began accepting business license applications for cannabis delivery on May 28 though it is unclear as to whether or not an application period is currently open.

In a move to protect employee interests, Massachusetts Mayflower Medicinals employees have voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1445. The employees chose to join the union due to Coronavirus related issues such as a lack of consistent treatment from management, inadequate

healthcare coverage, and slow responses to the pandemic. They are obviously not the first in Massachusetts to choose a union, however, it is a trend that is worth watching because it’s occurring in multiple states not just Massachusetts

Conclusion

While none of the states in this report have legalization efforts in their legislatures or on the ballot there are developments occurring that have implications for the cannabis industry as a whole. Social Equity programs are becoming more than token efforts to address the cannabis industry’s issue with diversity while the continued efforts of labor unions to unionize the Industry’s labor force showcase a need in some markets to address labor concerns and management practices.

Share this Article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Stephanie Till - Green Rush Indexed Data

Stephanie Till - Green Rush Indexed Data

This article was written by Stephanie Till of Green Rush Indexed Data with data compiled and provided by Bridge West CPAs. Stephanie is a Compliance Expert as well as a Historian who is currently archiving the Green Rush of the cannabis industry. The mission of her company is help clients by providing quality research services, custom tailored cannabis compliance consulting, dynamic training materials and exceptional customer service for those in the young cannabis industry.

Learn More About Green Rush Indexed Data

The Latest from our cannabis consulting blog

Hemp CBD: A Current Look at the Industry

hemp cbd consultants

On October 29, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a rule establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. States and Indian tribes must submit plans to the agency for approval to regulate hemp production in their areas through this new program. Additionally, the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program provides a federal plan for producers in states or territories without their own policies. We have some tips to help you navigate the emerging hemp CBD market.

Continue reading

The Future of Cannabis in the U.S. & Emerging Markets in the Industry

ammerican cannabis consulting

As the saying goes, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. However, when it comes to the future of cannabis in the U.S., an experienced prognosticator can help predict the next state likely to launch a legal cannabis market or provide insight to help you win an industry license. However, passing a law is just part of the story. We’re here to help you find the facts and identify opportunities.

Continue reading

Cannabis Branding and Marketing: Building Your Brand Identity

Image of an escalator leading to the stars. In this podcast, you’ll be enlightened with the latest in marijuana news and more.

As cannabis brands now number in the thousands, the importance of distinguishing your offering is growing daily. It’s vital to define yourself through creatively calculated choices that pique consumer interest. The best cannabis branding and marketing creates an indelible impression of your product in the psyche of the consumer. From a certain shade of yellow to a particular font or the words you use, there are infinite ways to mold your image. That’s good news. The challenge lies in putting it all together in a meaningful, cohesive, and effective fashion.

Continue reading

Cannabis Legalization and Emerging States – New York, Texas, New Jersey, and Mississippi

American cannabis consulting

Cannabis Legalization and Emerging States – New York, Texas, New Jersey, and Mississippi

Lawmakers and policy advocates have been facing tremendous obstacles related to the COVID-19 epidemic and the resulting government closures. Facing budget shortfalls in connection to these public health measures many states and municipalities are exploring their options for additional revenue sources, including establishing or expanding existing cannabis markets. This report addresses the emerging cannabis markets in Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York.

New York – An Emerging Cannabis Market

New York lawmakers were set to consider expanding access to Adult-use cannabis in the Governor’s budget bill 1617-C early on in 2020 until COVID-19 necessitated the closure of government offices and a stay at home order that effectively ended the legislative session early. However, legalization of cannabis for Adult-use in 2020 is not entirely off the table. As the state is now facing a revenue shortfall it may see lawmakers return for a special session to address budgetary shortfalls and the means to address them. As cannabis business licenses and businesses provide additional revenue for the state it is possible to see the legalization issue pop up in these discussions. 1617-C goes into great detail about the framework and requirements for establishing an Adult-use market in the state and whether it is picked up in an emergency session or in the next legislative session, the bill showcases the priorities for the framework for an adult-use market.

Assuming New York keeps most of the language of the bill that deals with cannabis, New York will be establishing the Cannabis Control Board and Compliance Council.

The following cannabis license types would be available if the legislation passes:

  • Cultivation, Processor, Dispensary, Distribution (designed for existing Medical Cannabis Dispensaries)
  • Cultivator Processor
  • Small Business Adult-use Cooperative Adult-use Distributor
  • Adult-use Retail Dispensary Microbusiness
  • Delivery Nursery
  • Adult-use On-site Consumption

Priorities for Processing Privileged License Applications:

  • Is the applicant a social equity applicant?
  • Will the applicant be able to maintain effective control against illegal diversion of cannabis?
  • Will the applicant be able to comply with applicable state laws and regulations?
  • Will the applicant be ready, willing, and able to properly carry on the activities for which the license is sought (including with help from the social and economic equity and incubator program)?
  • The applicant possesses or has the right to use sufficient land, buildings, and equipment to properly carry on the activity the license is for or has a plan to do so if applying as a social or economic equity applicant
  • The applicant qualifies as a social and economic equity applicant or sets out a plan for benefitting communities and people disproportionately impacted by enforcement of cannabis laws
  • Good moral character
  • Labor peace agreement (25 or more employees)
  • Contribute to communities disproportionately harmed by enforcement of cannabis laws
  • Environmental and energy impact of the facility Follows all other regulations drafted by the Board
  • Is a registered organization with the state of New York?

An examination of the language of the proposed bill clearly outlines the importance New York is placing on social and economic equity in its cannabis market.

Texas – Growing Support to Legalize Cannabis

Texas lawmakers are seeing increasing pressure to consider cannabis legalization from groups like Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. Texas officials, now facing budget shortfalls, are gradually considering options for decriminalization and potential legalization. That is not to say that 2020 holds much promise for significant movement toward legalization beyond greater potential interest. Current CBD retailers still face raids from officials even with CBD being a legal product.

New Jersey – Looking to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis in 2020

New Jersey lawmakers placed SCR 183, a ballot initiative to amend the state’s constitution to legalize adult-use cannabis. If passed it requires the state to establish a Cannabis Regulatory Commission and would mandate that the tax on retail sales of cannabis not exceed the state’s standard sales tax of 6.625% with municipalities being afforded the option of imposing a 1-2% sales tax. In a healthy economy, the state could potentially see tax revenue of $95 million per year according to projections from Bridge West CPAs, who also note that if the state were to follow in the footsteps of states that expanded access to adult-use before and imposed an additional 10 % excise tax the tax revenues in a healthy economy could potentially be as high as $143.6 million per year.

Mississippi – 2 Deceptively Similar Medical Marijuana Initiatives On the 2020 Ballot

Policy advocates successfully collected enough signatures to get Initiative 65 onto the ballot which would legalize medical cannabis in Mississippi. State lawmakers voted to include Initiate 65A on the ballot which would also legalize cannabis for medical use for significantly fewer qualifying conditions than Initiative 65 while affording the state greater control over the potential medical cannabis industry market the Initiative would establish. Concerns have been raised that Initiative 65A has been added to the ballot to potentially split the vote and defeat both measures by confusing voters, which it has the potential to do. If Initiative 65 passes it is likely to establish a medical cannabis market similar to its predecessors with an opportunity of social equity applicants.

Conclusion – Emerging Cannabis States and Markets in 2020 and 2021

Though 2020 has been a rough year for cannabis legalization efforts it has none-the-less shown that even states that have previously been reluctant to consider legalization are now entertaining the idea. Mississippi could signal a positive shift in the legalization movement and provide opportunities for established multi-state operators to expand if Initiative 65 is successful. New York, though somewhat of a long shot at this point, does indicate with the language of 1617-C that this progressive state is making a concerted effort toward social and economic equity at a time when the call for it has never been louder.

Share this Article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Stephanie Till - Green Rush Indexed Data

Stephanie Till - Green Rush Indexed Data

This article was written by Stephanie Till of Green Rush Indexed Data with data compiled and provided by Bridge West CPAs. Stephanie is a Compliance Expert as well as a Historian who is currently archiving the Green Rush of the cannabis industry. The mission of her company is help clients by providing quality research services, custom tailored cannabis compliance consulting, dynamic training materials and exceptional customer service for those in the young cannabis industry.

Learn More About Green Rush Indexed Data

The Latest from our cannabis consulting blog

Maximize Your Cannabis Yield By Understanding Seeds & Genetics

Maximize Your Cannabis Yield By Understanding Seeds & Genetics

Cannabis yield is about more than quantity. Plant vigor and the desired prominence of cannabinoids like THC and/or CBD also play a role. If you’re looking to maximize your cannabis yield, you’ll also want to consider the presence of certain terpenes and flavonoids that essentially distinguish an individual strain. With that in mind, a general understanding of seeds and genetics is essential for every cannabis grower. We’ve broken down some of the basics to serve as a growth medium for your eventual success.

Continue reading

How to Maximize Your Cannabis Yield: Floor Plans & Equipment Systems

How to Maximize Your Cannabis Yield: Floor Plans & Equipment Systems

Any cannabis operation — whether you’re cultivating extracting, infusing, packaging, or dispensing — has dozens of moving parts. A thorough planning process ensures a more efficient operation that can maximize your cannabis yield in terms of plants and profit. Professional planning to make the best use of your space can help guarantee that your cannabis operation runs efficiently. We’ve got a few tips to help your business bring in the best return per square foot.

Continue reading

How to Invest in the New and Rapidly Expanding Marijuana Market

cannabis investment services

How to Invest in the New and Rapidly Expanding Marijuana Market

To date, more than half of the United States has some form of legalized cannabis program, which has led to a boom in marijuana entrepreneurship. Thanks to the trends in marijuana legalization, there is now a whole new industry for investors and entrepreneurs to explore business and investment opportunities.

And with hemp recently legalized on a federal level with the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act or 2018 Farm Bill, industrial hemp joins medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as a new sector worth looking into for business ideas or investments. In this guide, we will discuss how you can invest in the new and rapidly expanding marijuana market.

Become a Marijuana Entrepreneur

Starting your own cannabis business is ideal for entrepreneurs who prefer to be on the front lines of the industry. If your state has both legalized recreational and medical programs, you have more opportunities to explore. There’s also the industrial hemp sector, which is predicted to become a multi-billion industry.

There are a few primary kinds of marijuana companies – marijuana growers, cannabis retail stores, extraction labs and manufacturers, and ancillary product and service providers. Marijuana growers are also referred to as cultivation or grow facilities. Cannabis retail stores or dispensaries are ideal for the entrepreneur who enjoys interaction with the consumers. Ancillary product and service providers are businesses that provide relevant cannabis services, such as marketing agencies, security companies, payment processors, and so on. This is ideal for the entrepreneur that prefers not to “touch” the plant.

Because the legal cannabis industry is fairly new and highly regulated, becoming a business owner will come with its challenges. Most states with marijuana programs, whether medical, recreational, or both, will have a limited number of business licenses to award. Therefore, the application process was designed to be rigorous and highly competitive. Licensing is merit-based, and securing a coveted application will require the expertise of cannabis advisors and industry experts.

Invest in Cannabis Companies Listed on the Stock Exchange

Not all states have a marijuana program, leaving many hopeful investors wondering how they can take advantage of the explosive cannabis marketplace. The good news is that business ownership isn’t the only channel for you to participate in what is predicted to be a highly lucrative industry. Beyond business ownership, you can still profit from cannabis by investing in marijuana stocks.

Between 2014 and 2018, the cannabis industry has more than tripled in worldwide sales – making it a $10.9 billion industry by 2018. Experts predict that the global cannabis market will reach over $66 billion by 2025. With forecasts like these, it’s no wonder the marijuana industry is attracting more and more investors.

Investing in the stock market exchange is an excellent way for you to enter the marijuana scene as a beginner. It’s also the ideal place to start if you have plans to put up your own cannabis business in the future. A good place to start is to put your money into marijuana businesses listed on the stock exchange. The following are the types of cannabis businesses that you could potentially invest in:

  • Agriculture technologies
  • Ancillary products and services
  • Biotech companies
  • Consulting services
  • Consumption devices
  • Cultivation and retail
  • Cannabis products and extractions
  • Holding companies
  • Industrial hemp
  • Organic farms

Before you invest in anything, do your research and understand the potential risks. Be thorough in your analysis of the opportunities available to you. This will help you narrow down your list.

Tips on Investing in Marijuana Stocks

Some may say that marijuana stocks or pot stocks are some of the most volatile. However, they are not any more unpredictable than any investment in the stock market. Therefore, approach investing in marijuana stocks with the same principles you would for any kind of stock. It requires the same diligence to research the company and identify whether its poised for growth. Pay attention to trends, monitor the news for relevant changes in the industry, and understand all the factors that may impact the company’s future profitability. Here are essential steps to take before buying cannabis stocks:

Understand the different types of cannabis products – There are two primary types of marijuana products – medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. Generally, there are more business opportunities in the recreational cannabis or adult-use marijuana sector. Medical marijuana typically only applies to patients with qualifying conditions; therefore, use and purchase is only allowable by prescription.

You should also understand the difference between cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and industrial hemp. CBD is only legal on a federal level if it was derived from hemp and has THC levels of no more than 0.03%. The psychoactive THC remains illegal. The federal government has recently legalized hemp, which is said to have over 25,000 industrial and commercial applications.

Evaluate the company’s potential – Look at the strength of the company’s management team. What is their growth strategy and competitive position?

When analyzing a marijuana company, learn more about their value proposition to see if the company can demonstrate what differentiates them from the competition. While many cannabis businesses are still in their early stages and may not yet be profitable, it will help to check if they already are. You can do this by following the company news. A strong balance sheet is also a good indicator of near future profitability.

Understand the risks – Because the legal cannabis market is still in its infancy, and rules and regulations are ever-changing, it’s crucial to understand the legal and political risks of investing in pot stocks. The marijuana industry dynamics shift rapidly because the marketplace is still learning and evolving. This is where it pays off to monitor cannabis laws, industry news, market trends, top marijuana stocks, and investing strategies.

Conclusion

Cannabis business ownership isn’t the only option for you to invest in the cannabis industry; you can also become a stock investor and buy pot stocks from the marijuana companies listed on the stock exchange. But before you start investing, it’s important for you to learn as much as you can about the cannabis industry, the different business types, and marijuana products. To lower the risks of investing in cannabis stocks, evaluate the company’s potential for growth and profitability.

Share this Article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting

Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting

Higher Yields Consulting is a Marijuana Consulting Group comprised of industry experts with decades of combined experience in the legal industry. Whether you are looking to get into the business or already have a license we can help your business succeed. Call (844) HI-YIELD to schedule an initial consultation.

The Latest from our cannabis consulting blog

How to Maximize Your Cannabis Yield: Commercial Real Estate — Part 2

How to Maximize Your Cannabis Yield: Commercial Real Estate — Part 2

Choosing the best available property for your cannabis business is no small task. Will you build your own facility or adapt an existing building for your use? Is it better to lease or purchase? There are endless decisions to make when considering how to maximize your cannabis yield. Before you sign on the dotted line, we have some tips to help you choose a property wisely.

Continue reading