Tuesday, January 26, 2016


It couldn't be put more plainly.  The 'Marijuana Weekly News Roundup' on the 24/7 Wall street site (published 24th Jan 2016) highlights the opening extract from '15 Post-Prohibition Wants from Cannabis Consumers and Businesses':

'It should abundantly clear to all but the most cloistered politically that nearly 80 years of cannabis prohibition is ending with states (notably on the West coast, Colorado, and in New England) leading the way to national legalization.

In 2016, there will be more pro-cannabis law reform bills introduced into both federal and state legislatures than any previous years, and more states than at any previously time will have legalization ballot measures before apparently willing voters (California, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Maine; Gallup polling currently pegs nationwide support for cannabis legalization at 58 percent). 

In addition, the major political party candidates for the office of President of the United States have been, for the first time ever in American politics, regularly debating the topic of cannabis policy (i.e., Sen. Bernie Sanders favors legalization, and Gov. Chris Christie favors “stopping the states” pot party on Day One).

In the waning days of national cannabis prohibition, historically speaking, cannabis law reform organizations that have been at the vanguard of public advocacy to replace pot prohibition with tax-and-regulate policies, along with the millions of cannabis consumers these groups represent, have 15 areas of concern that will be pursued post prohibition.

The original piece was written by Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML  - the National Organisation to Reform the Marijuana Laws, formed in 1970 and based in Washington, D.C. (www.norml.org). The article appears in full on the Cannabis Business Executive website.
24/7 Wall St is a Delaware corporation which runs a financial news and opinion company with content delivered over the Internet. Its name pops up again in news story from USA Today (4 Jan 2016).
The paper reports that marijuana has been illegal in the US for nearly 80 years and that nationwide, from 2001 to 20010, there have been 8.2 million arrests for marijuana. Medical use of marijuana was first made legal in California in 1996 and is now legal in 23 states. Four of these have legalised marijuana for recreational use as well.
'Despite evolving opinions among voters and legislators, some states still seem unlikely to pass any kind of meaningful reform in the near future. Based on a review of marijuana laws and penalties for possession, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 11 least likely states to legalize marijuana - which includes Alabama, Georgia, Idaho and Indiana.


'Many top companies cashing in on legal cannabis are considering a bet on Mexico after a Supreme Court decision raised hopes for a legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in a country reeling from years of gruesome drug violence. [More than 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug wars in the past decade]

From medical marijuana growers to pot private equity firms, many weed entrepreneurs see Mexico as a tempting new business opportunity even though cannabis is still illegal and the market is currently controlled by ruthless drug cartels.

"Me personally, I'm not afraid to go to Mexico," said Daniel Sparks, head of government affairs at BioTrackTHC, a U.S.-based provider of marijuana supply-chain software.

He said that just as mafia groups and bootleggers gave up on illicit moonshine after Prohibition ended in the United States, Mexico's drug gangs would have little interest in a legal marijuana market, especially if it lured in reputable pharmaceutical and tech firms.

"I am not so optimistic to think that a cannabis business in Mexico would not encounter opposition or violence from the cartels. However, their profit margins are being eroded daily, monthly and yearly by the continued expansion of medical and recreational marijuana programs in more and more U.S. states."

'Canada's new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has promised to legalize the drug and a Supreme Court decision in November opened the door for Mexico to one day follow suit, prompting the ruling party to present a bill to regulate medical marijuana.

'...Uruguay blazed a trail in 2013 by becoming the first country to allow the commercial cultivation and distribution of weed. But it has struggled to roll out the project and legal marijuana won't be available on pharmacy shelves until mid-2016, about 18 months later than planned.

Source: 'Marijuana Inc. eyes Mexico as drug liberalization looms' by Gabriel Stargardter [Reuters/20 Jan 2016]

'Marijuana is the latest craze to sweep through the tech world, as entrepreneurs and investors look to cannabis to be the next big thing. Legislation is in place in four states and the District of Columbia, while a further 19 states have legalised medical marijuana, even while it remains illegal at the federal level. California is already the biggest medical marijuana market in the country, and the line has blurred between medical and recreational users because medical recommendations are easy for anyone to obtain. The state is expected to vote [in 2016] on a referendum that would fully legalise it for recreational use.'
'The Silicon Valley version of the "green rush" looks a little different. It involves slick apps, software and founders who talk about big data and algorithms.'
This article by Leslie Hook was published August 8/9th 2015. She says that AngelList, a site for micro start-ups and investors lists more than 300 marijuana start-ups in the US. We checked the site today and that figure has risen to 435 with 2703 investors. Hook says investment in marijuana-related companies reached $200m in the past twelve months, four times the level the previous year (CB insights).
There's a race on for delivery services. Hook profiles Keith McCarthy who set up Eaze - "the Uber for pot". It already delivers marijuana to  60 cities across California; some cities' laws are more friendly towards cannabis deliveries than others. On paper and technically Eaze iss a software service that connects customers with dispensaries. The customer orders, the driver works for the dispensary and the customer pays him in cash which goes back to the dispensary who pay Eaze a fee. McCarty says: "We don't touch the plant".He pays 10,000 ambassadors to promote the service; they earn $10 per referral.
Hook explains how the legal system works. At a federal level, marijuana is highly illegal and is ranked alongside heroin, Ecstasy and LSD. but the federal ban is not enforced in states where medical marijuana is legal. In December 2014, Congress passed a bill protecting states' medical marijuana programmes.
However banks will not allow marijuana businesses to open accounts so the industry is cash based.
The story gets more interesting when Hook comes to Privateer, a private equity company that 'founds, incubates, acquires and invests in cannabis companies globally. They raised $75m in investment, the biggest single investment in the industry to date. It is active in Canada, Jamaica and Uruguay.
In November 2014, Privateer launched Marley Natural, which they described as the "first world cannabis brand", developed in conjunction with Marley's family and descendants.

The advert for Marley Natural, designed by the people behind the Starbucks logo 
There is a great story by Max Dailey in Vice (November 2014)  which angrily trashes the whole deal.See: ' Marley Natural: The Weed That Manages to Sell Out Both Bob Marley and Jamaica

While companies like Privateer have their eyes on creating killer brands, the pot farmers of the Emerald Triangle are getting organised. They believe cannabis should remain  in the hands of small farmers rather than large commercial operations. 
The Emerald Triangle  in Northern California  covers three counties - Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity - which have just the right conditions for growing this delicate plant. 
Hook claims that this area (slightly smaller than Belgium) supplies about half the cannabis in the US and his been in business since the 60s. No-one knows for sure the total size of the marijuana crop but one estimate for Mendocino County alone was 5 million plants generating $2.6bn to $5.4bn at wholesale prices.
For many years the Mexican cartels importing illegal cannabis into the US but now the flow is in the other direction, according to the DEA.
Flow Kana, a business aimed at delivering organic outdoor grown cannabis direct to discerning customers. Run by Venezuelan/Aamerican entrepreneur  Michael Steinmetz. He told the Financial Times: "Cannabis is going to be so huge."
This is a remarkable cover story from  National Geographic focusing on the science of marijuana. There's a lot of loose talk and dumb 'facts' about the subject so this well-researched article with stunning pics is extremely valuable.
Its author Hampton Sides says: "For nearly 70 years the plant went into hiding and medical research largely  stopped. Now the science of cannabis is experiencing a rebirth. We're finding surprises, and possibly miracles, concealed inside this once forbidden plant."
The main problem is the fact that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Bills to reclassify it to Schedule II have been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Unless this change is made, scientific research in this area will be hampered.
Sides quotes Vivek Murphy, the US surgeon general, who concedes that preliminary data shows that "for certain medical conditions and symptoms" it can be "helpful".
Sides' first interview is with an eminent professor named Raphael Mechoulam who, as a young organic chemist, decided to investigate the chemical composition of marijuana which, amazingly, had never been done before. It was not known at that time what the psychoactive ingredient of the plant was. He says: "It was a mess, a melange of unidentified compounds."
Long story short,  Mechoulam and his colleague discovered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and, in addition, cannabidiol (CBD), another key ingredient that has medical uses but no psychoactive effect.
He has subsequently authored 400 scientific papers, holds 25 patents and has established in Israel, the world's most advanced medical marijuana programme which, writes Side, 'has more than 20,000 patients being treated with cannabis for such conditions as glaucoma, Crohn's disease, inflammation, appetite loss, Tourette's syndrome and asthma.'
In 1992, he and colleagues also discovered the first of several endocannabinoids - chemical compounds that humans and animals naturally synthesise, which activate the same receptors as THC. They act on our brain in much the way endorphins do. Machoulam named his first discovery anandamide - a Sanskrit word meaning "supreme joy".
 After a lifetime's study he still calls cannabis a "medicinal treasure trove waiting to be discovered...We have just scratched the surface and I greatly regret that I don't have another lifetime to devote to this field, for we may well discover that cannabinoids are involved in some way in all human diseases."
Side goes on to interview Botanist Philip Hague who runs one of the largest cannabis companies in the world named Mindful.  He comments: "We have to recognise that humans evolved with it practically since the dawn of time. It's older than writing. Cannabis is part of us, and it always has been. It spread from Central Asia after the last ice age and went out across the planet with man."
Manuel Guzman is a biochemist who has been studying cannabis fore 20 years investigating its effect on brain tumours. Following successful animal trials, the first ever human trials are underway. It seems a cocktail of THC, CBD and another conventional drug works best.
Finally, Side meets Nolan Kane who specialises in evolutionary biology and is attempting to map the genome of cannabis - a sequence of some 800 million nucleotides. He has already mapped the sunflower's genome which has 3 1/2 billion nucleotoides!. What he has to say is inspiring. He believes cannabis is "an embarassment of riches" and that the scientific investigation of it will be transformative.
"Transformative not just in our understanding of the plant but also of ourselves - our brains, our neurology, our psychology. Transformative in terms of its impact across several different industries, including medicine, agriculture and biofuels. It may even transform part of our diet - hemp seed is known to be a ready source of a very healthy, protein-rich soil."

The full version of this great article can be read here: 
Courier is a quarterly London-based publication covering stories of modern business. In their Summer 2015 issue they asked the question: Are You Ready For Consumer Cannabis? 

Inside their eight-page feature is billed 'Making A Killing On Cannabis'.

'Rarely does an enormous, totally virgin industry emerge with guaranteed demand, where startups are better placed to capitalise than big corporates. Beyond the ethical debate around legislation of cannabis, it's this tantalising commercial prospect that's getting a growing number of people excitedly sizing up opportunities and making business plans in anticipation of a change in law.'

The first part: 'The State of Play' provides some interesting information on the UK situation.

Some 1,000 tonnes of cannabis are grown illegally in the UK each year and a further 200 tonnes are imported from the Netherlands, Morocco and elsewhere. This is consumed by 2.5 million users and this industry turns over £6.8bn per annum.

The UK is consuming less cannabis than ever. Weed smoking amongst 15-34-year-olds has halved over the last 15 years.

80% of the weed consumed in the UK is now grown domestically, up from 20% ten years ago.

A 'Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol' party  in the UK is campaigning for a Royal Commission on cannabis...we are confident that the experts would recommend legislation.' See: http://cista.org/

The epicentre of recreational cannabis use in Europe has switched to Spain where sales are effectively legal through increasingly popular weed growing clubs. This, it seems, is partly due to the deteriorating situation in Amsterdam, whose coffee houses were for decades a symbol of tolerance towards cannabis smoking, designed to avoid criminalising large numbers of young people.

Whilst its legal for the coffee shops to sell cannabis it illegal for them to buy it or grow it. This meant the supply chain was taken over by criminal gangs. More recently there has been a boom in cannabis growing in the Netherlands and an explosion of weed tourists.

As a result, recent governments have cracked down hard on the trade. Prosecutions of suppliers have shot up, grow shops have been raided as have some fertiliser companies.

As for coffee shops, in 2012 attempts were made to ban foreigners from them. It worked in some cities but not in Amsterdam. Foreign-owned coffee shops have been closed and 28 other coffee shops which were ruled as being too close to schools have also gone in the capital.

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