Cannabis Legalization & Decriminalization: What You Should Know

To many, cannabis legalization and decriminalization are the same. But as professionals in the industry, we know the two are very different. One is a quick fix, and the other can dramatically overhaul a community — yet both are big steps on the path toward a 420-friendly future.

Higher Yields Consulting Cannabis Legalization & Decriminalization: What You Should Know

However, legislation surrounding cannabis use is constantly changing. For this reason, it can be tough and confusing for businesses to successfully navigate the changing landscape of full legalization or simple decriminalization. Fortunately, we’re here to help.

Here’s everything cannabusiness owners need to know about legalization and decriminalization.

The Realities of Cannabis Decriminalization

When it comes to cannabis legalization, decriminalization is a quick fix. Similar to a Band-Aid on a large wound, decriminalization only solves part of the problem. Nothing is done to facilitate a legal market for cannabis and no framework for regulation or taxation is offered.

Without a regulated market, the illicit sale of cannabis will continue to exist. Although users may no longer be criminally prosecuted, there will still be those who benefit from unregulated products that are not required to guarantee safety.

Furthermore, decriminalization itself is a forward-thinking idea and does nothing for previous offenders. Only the expungement of previous offenses can completely remove cannabis users from the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, decriminalization and expungement don’t always go hand in hand.

In fact, there are 26 states (including the District of Columbia) that have decriminalization laws on the books. However, of those states, only 15 have legislation expunging, vacating, or otherwise removing past offenses from the public view.

Although decriminalization is not an outright fix to this problem, it can be a stepping stone. Decriminalization can be used as a tactic to make progress toward full legalization. Here in the United States, we are living in one of the most politically charged times in our history. As a result, partisanship is bound to get in the way of cannabis legalization.

When full legalization or even just medicinal use is held up, a decriminalization bill can work to satisfy legislators on both sides of the aisle. Such a bill would take huge burdens off of law enforcement, the judiciary, and the all-important taxpayer.

Decriminalization may only be a quick fix, but if it’s all that can be done — or all that some are willing to do — it’s still a step in the right direction.

How Full Cannabis Legalization Does More

Full legalization is the real deal. Legislation legalizing the recreational use — or even medicinal use — of cannabis lays the groundwork for a safe, regulated, and taxed cannabis industry.

Cannabis legalization benefits both communities and economies alike. In fact, the significant tax revenue that comes from cannabis is one of the strongest arguments for full legalization. For instance, in 2019, California boasted more than $600 million in tax revenue from cannabis. Additionally, Washington has seen an influx of more than $1.3 billion since the state legalized cannabis back in 2012.

Higher Yields Consulting Cannabis Legalization & Decriminalization: What You Should Know


That being said, money isn’t the only reason for legalizing cannabis. Full legalization helps communities heal from the devastation of the war on drugs. For decades, communities have been ravaged with cannabis-related criminal charges and plagued by the dangers of unregulated and sometimes unsafe products.

Of course, legalization allows members of these affected communities to enjoy their cannabis freely, but it also does more than that. Cannabis legalization allows these individuals to succeed in the industry with a product that they’ve known for so long. Through social equity programs, many states are creating even more opportunities for minorities to succeed in marijuana.

Cannabis Legalization & Decriminalization Going Forward

Full cannabis legalization is the way of the future — there’s no getting around it. The best option is to accept and recognize legalization in your community. You’ll find that many legislators are beginning to realize this as well.

Lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation to further legalization efforts. In particular, the STATES Act decriminalizes state-legal cannabis on a federal level. Somewhat of a “decriminalization-plus” act, the STATES Act requires federal funding of research into the safety of cannabis use. With plenty of states in which cannabis is legal, the data to determine its safety is surely there.

Cannabis is here to stay and so is confusion surrounding legalization and decriminalization laws — at least for now. Any new legislation can alter or disrupt an already-established industry. At Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, we have the know-how to help you navigate this changing landscape.

Book a free consultation today and learn how your operation can handle any legal challenge.

Bermuda Prepares for Legalized Cannabis

Bermuda Prepares for Legalized Cannabis

Crystal blue waters and pink sands may be the key to Bermuda’s charm, but thanks to a new proposal from the island’s government, Bermuda looks to be moving towards legalizing cannabis. On June 3, 2020, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Kathy Lynn Simmons announced the Bermudian government’s intention to fully legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use by the end of the year.

Higher Yields Consulting: From Pink Sands to a Green Rush: Bermuda Prepares for Legalized Cannabis

Simmons has released a draft of the Cannabis (Licensing and Regulation) Act 2020 for public comment. For anyone paying attention, this comes as no surprise. Change has come incrementally to Bermuda, first with a decriminalization bill in 2017, and then with a move to legalize hemp in 2019.

With full adult-use legalization on the horizon, a new world of opportunity is emerging in Bermuda. Here’s what you need to know.

Bermuda & Cannabis: How We Got Here

Though Bermuda’s government has taken swift and decisive steps to legalize cannabis in 2020, regulation is hardly a new topic of discussion. In 2018, the possibility of expanding patient access to cannabis-based treatment was being explored. However, when the proposal was brought forward for public consultation, it was met with unexpected criticism — and not in the way one would assume. The overwhelming consensus was that the government’s aspirations, impressively proactive though they were, didn’t go far enough.

Full legalization was demanded. Bermudians wanted a simplified framework that would allow all citizens to participate, no matter their economic standing. They also wanted help to bring a semblance of social equity, which was especially important because of the stark economic disparities that have long been a part of island life.

Bermuda’s population is basically made up of rich and poor with no prevalent middle class to speak of. As an island nation, Bermuda relies on imports for many everyday staples, which pushes up the cost of living and further widens the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these circumstances. With international travel ground nearly to a halt, Bermuda’s tourism-based economy has taken a catastrophic hit, leaving an overwhelming number of Bermudians with no way to make ends meet.

It’s no coincidence that the Bermudian government has now decided to accelerate the cannabis legalization process. In fact, the pandemic’s economic impact has been directly cited in documents for public consultation on the topic. As of July 3, 2020, the window for submission of public comments officially closed, setting the stage for the bill’s final adjustments ahead of becoming law.

Setting Up the System

Public documents released thus far have cited the regulatory frameworks of Canada and neighboring Caribbean nations as Bermuda’s inspiration. However, U.S. industry operatives will also find similarities to the framework of Colorado.

Higher Yields Consulting: From Pink Sands to a Green Rush: Bermuda Prepares for Legalized Cannabis

Regulations will be overseen by a five-member board — the Cannabis Advisory Authority — selected from the “disciplines of health, scientific research, business, planning, and agriculture.” The Authority will be responsible for advising on policy matters, the distribution of educational materials, the execution of training programs, and the receipt and submission of licensing applications. The Authority will also give recommendations on approvals and refusals. Let’s take a quick look at the broad strokes of the proposal:

  • Adults age 21 years and older will be permitted to carry up to seven grams on their person.
  • Personal cultivation will be allowed but will require an annual license of $750.
  • Individuals with prior cannabis convictions will NOT be automatically barred from participating in the new industry.
  • Retail cannabis outlets will be required to submit to an inspection by the Commissioner of Police a minimum of once every six months.
  • Retail cannabis outlets will be permitted to allow consumption on their premises with the proper licensing.
  • Licensing will be required for every level of the vertical, including cultivation, importing, exporting, manufacturing, retail, transportation, and research.

The Bermudian government is implementing rigorous protocols to ensure that the system can’t be scammed. Still, excessive regulations are being adamantly avoided so as not to unduly burden aspiring participants.


Despite the overwhelming popularity of legalization among Bermudians, not everyone is happy with all of the details of the proposal. According to an article in the Royal Gazette, Social Justice Bermuda — an activist organization — has taken issue with the $750 licensing fee for home cultivation. The group argues it will disproportionately exclude Black citizens from taking part in the legal growing scheme. Moreover, Social Justice Bermuda argues that such an exclusion would only further encourage illegal activity.

While there has been no direct response to this objection as of yet, the statements that have been released do bode considerably well for Social Justice Bermuda’s agenda. In her update on the public consultation,  Attorney General Simmons stated emphatically that all comments submitted by the public were being considered. The update also noted that license fees were being re-evaluated in hopes of finding a balance between the costs of all available licenses and “to achieve the best participation for under-represented or marginalized groups.”

The Island Way

Throughout all of this—the language of the bill, the process by which they created it, and the consultations by which they refined it, one thing is abundantly clear: This piece of legislation is for the people.

bermuda cannabis consulting

There’s no buying or selling of licenses allowed, meaning it won’t become a game of Monopoly for the rich. Bermudian citizenship is also required for participation. Most importantly, the Bermudian government has made it clear that their goal is to tip the scales in favor of the underclass. They’ve doubled down on that assertion through a rare attentiveness to the populace and a dynamic response to their concerns.

Still, even the most reasonable of regulations can prove to be an arduous regimen for the average entrepreneur to tackle. Having a green thumb or a silver tongue doesn’t typically correlate with a propensity for bureaucratic details. Those are the Devil’s domain, according to the old cliché.

As the Bermudian government takes the final few steps to make the dream of legalization a reality, an entirely new territory of opportunity will be opening. If you’re a Bermudian approaching this new opportunity with a plan and a passion, make sure you’re equipped to stake your claim.

If you’re not sure where to start, we here at Higher Yields Consulting can help. Since 2008, we’ve been putting our diverse skillset to work for the cannabis industry — both in the U.S. and abroad — and have consistently garnered stunning results for our clients.

Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation.

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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 a free initial consultation.

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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.

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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


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.

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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.

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