Insiders share their stories from the 'fastest-growing industry in America'; marijuana isn’t included in mainstream jobs reports, but another report says pot outsold Girl Scout cookies in 2015
Some have messy buns and sleeve tattoos. Some have salon cuts and $2,000 suits.
Some are joining blue-collar unions, getting health benefits as they grow and sell a plant they’ve long loved. Some say they never touch it, but they’re standing guard outside shops and fiercely lobbying legislators in Sacramento to ensure that others can.
As public support and legalization of cannabis spreads, those who’ve quietly worked in California’s medical marijuana industry are slowly emerging from the shadows. And professionals who never would have considered joining the industry a couple of years ago are leaving behind traditional careers in law, real estate and finance as they flock to what they see as the next big boom.
“The fastest-growing industry in America is marijuana, period,” said Jake Bhattacharya, who recently quit his information technology job to open a cannabis testing lab in Upland.
With medical marijuana legal in 25 states and recreational use allowed in four, pot outsold Girl Scout Cookies in 2015, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, a 5-year-old news website covering the industry.
Pot retail sales are expected to hit $4 billion this year, and Marijuana Business Daily is projecting that number could nearly triple by 2020.
The actual size of the industry may already be much larger, too, since California hasn’t tracked its massive medical marijuana market in the 20 years since it’s been legal. And it could skyrocket if voters here and a handful of other states approve recreational use Nov. 8.
The lack of reliable data coupled with the “niche” aspect of the industry is why cannabis — and the connected marijuana jobs — isn’t included in mainstream economic and jobs reports, according to Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.
“It’s still too fly-by-night,” Thornberg said.
California’s Employment Development Department doesn’t track the diverse daisy chain of cannabis jobs either. And several recruitment firms said they don’t deal with the industry.
Job seekers and employers instead turn to Craigslist or specialized sites. There’s a recent post on WeedHire.com for a $75,000-a-year account manager at GFarmaLabs, which makes marijuana products in Anaheim, and one on 420careers.com for growers and trimmers at Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles.
Working in the industry isn’t without complications.
It remains illegal at the federal level, which limits access to financial services and causes lingering concerns over raids by federal authorities.
California’s market is also emerging from two decades of nearly nonexistent regulation and intense battles with local governments who were less than welcoming to “potrepreneurs.” That legacy means newly licensed shops often still rely on growers and manufacturers in the gray market, and they struggle to survive alongside unlicensed operators who aren’t paying the same hefty taxes.
Then there’s the glaring disapproval that comes from shrinking (per the polls) but vocal pockets of the public. Fear of backlash from conservative family members or future business associates kept a number of cannabis workers from speaking on the record for this story.
“Let’s face it, of course there is a stigma,” said Juliet Murphy, a career coach who runs Juliet Murphy Career Development in Tustin.
Murphy expects that it would raise eyebrows for more traditional employers to see a weed industry job on someone’s résumé. However, Murphy sees it as less of an issue going forward as the industry becomes more mainstream and as millennials continue to transform the workforce.
“There are still a lot of kinks that are being worked out. But I think this presents an opportunity for a lot of jobs, provided that people do it right,” Murphy said. “I think in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to be huge.”
Ads running to legalize marijuana in three states
By Carl Marcucci
In November, voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Although similar initiatives have failed in the past, this time the groups fighting to legalize pot are well-organized, professional and backed by high-dollar donors willing to outspend the competition, reports Raycom News Network.
In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) has produced several ads that say marijuana is healthier than alcohol. The campaign’s website points to medical studies that claim marijuana, unlike alcohol, has not been linked to cancer, brain damage, addiction or high healthcare costs.
CRMLA was given nearly $1.2 million from the Marijuana Policy Project, a DC-based lobbying group, as well as more than $800,000 by Peter Lewis, the founder and chairman of Progressive Insurance. Lewis has been a vocal proponent of marijuana legalization for several years and donated millions to legalization efforts around the country.
In an online video ad campaign, CRMLA has young adults explaining to their parents they prefer marijuana to alcohol. In one of the ads, titled Dear Mom, a 20-something woman tells her mother marijuana is “better for my body, I don’t get hung-over and honestly I feel safer around marijuana users.”
In Washington, rather than comparing marijuana to alcohol, New Approach Washington (NAW) is focusing on legalization, arguing outlawing cannabis does more harm than good, by wasting tax dollars on law enforcement while letting gangs control the money. She describes the possible benefits of legalization through saved law enforcement dollars and extra tax revenue.
The TV spot has a professional/executive looking woman, “I don’t like it personally, but it’s time for a conversation about legalizing marijuana. It’s a multi-million dollar industry in Washington state, and we get no benefit.”
These efforts appear to be working. In Washington, 50% of voters say marijuana should be legal while 38% say it should not, according to an Elway Research poll. And in Colorado, a Denver Post poll showed 51% of Coloradans were in favor of legalization, while 41% opposed it.
In Washington, the effort to legalize marijuana is being fought with a bankroll of between $4 and $5 million, according to the Raycom News Network story. NAW used those funds to put $1 million into television advertising during August, and hope to put triple that amount into the weeks preceding the November vote.
In total, groups in Colorado fighting to get marijuana legalized have a war chest of $2.5 million.
The campaigns are especially targeting women ages 30 to 55, whom tend to be less supportive of legalization and regulation than men.
The only visible group opposing the marijuana ballot, SMART Colorado, has been given less than $200,000 – most of it from Save Our Society, a Florida-based anti-drug group.
RBR-TVBR observation: Interesting that the Chairman of Progressive Insurance is donating so much money in this legalization effort. Perhaps legalizing it would create fewer accidents/injuries from police chases and save the insurance industry money? We doubt drivers with the stuff in their car would try to flee if it’s no more illegal than a pack of cigarettes. Who knows, but Progressive is a big corporation and Lewis seems to not be concerned about sticking his neck out on this.
Arizona may add more uses for medical marijuana
By PAUL DAVENPORT businessweek.com
Arizona is considering requests to expand its fledgling medical marijuana program to allow use of the drug for an array of conditions, including post-traumatic stress syndrome and migraines, beyond those allowed under the law approved by voters two years ago.
The Department of Health Services, which is required under the 2010 law to consider requests to expand coverage, holds a public hearing Friday on the first batch of requests.
Besides PTSD and migraines, the requests for covered conditions include depression and general anxiety disorder. The law already permits medical marijuana use for such medical reasons as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic pain, muscle spasms and hepatitis C.
Even as the state considers expanding the program, it is still implementing a key part of the law.
Friday is the deadline to submit applications to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. Up to 126 dispensaries will be permitted statewide, but only one per designated area. Those typically are either rural towns or parts of metropolitan areas.
The process of awarding licenses to dispensaries that will sell marijuana to users was delayed by Gov. Jan Brewer's reluctance to implement that part of the law.
The state has awarded medical marijuana user cards to more than 28,000 people. Chronic pain is the most common medical condition, though users can have more than one. Most of the users also got permission to grow marijuana until there is a dispensary in their area.
Arizona is among 17 states that have enacted laws allowing medical marijuana use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
States' programs vary, and some already cover the additional medical conditions being considered by Arizona. For example, New Mexico allows medical marijuana use for PTSD, while California's covered "serious medical conditions" include migraines. Meanwhile, Colorado's decade-old program has denied petitions to add more than a dozen conditions, including PTSD, hepatitis C and depression.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the Veterans Affairs Department in 2011 issued guidelines that permit patients treated at VA hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The guidelines don't allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.
Consideration of possible expansion of Arizona's medical marijuana program follows efforts by the state to crack down on early abuses.
State medical regulatory boards already have disciplined doctors for failing to adequately consider patients' needs and conditions before recommending medical marijuana.
The state Medical Board in February reprimanded one physician who wrote certifications for 483 patients without making required checks of a controlled-substance database.
The Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board suspended another doctor's license for failing to adequately examine patients and document their conditions before certifying them for medical marijuana.
In advance of Friday's hearing, Health Services Director Will Humble said he is most interested in peer-reviewed scientific studies, not personal testimony.
"To me, it's really about presenting good science," Humble said. "To me, that's the compelling information that we need."
Humble's department has contracted with the University of Arizona to identify research relevant to the requests for expanded coverage. "I'm not aware of very much published literature to support adding those," he said.
Humble said he feels a need to be cautious about adding conditions because he doesn't want patients to forego traditional medical treatment to opt for questionable benefits from marijuana.
And he said Arizona's law doesn't allow the agency to remove a condition once it's listed, so it would be troubling if scientifically reliable information later surfaces that undermines the value of approving medical marijuana for a particular condition.
Brewer last year balked at allowing dispensaries, saying she feared state employees could face federal criminal prosecution. She later acquiesced after a judge ruled the state had no discretion on implementation of the dispensary portion of the law.
The state already had received about 200 dispensary applications through close-of-business Wednesday, and Humble said he expected many more before Friday's deadline.
Arizona Could Be First To OK Marijuana For Depression, Anxiety
The Arizona Department Of Health Services Will Review Petitions To Add Four New Debilitating Conditions To Medical Marijuana Program
By Staff Report
Modern Times Magazine
April 21, 2012 — Arizona would become the first state in the U.S. to approve marijuana use for depression and anxiety if petitions requesting the addition of the conditions are approved later this summer, according to Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“The voter approved language in the AZ Medical Marijuana Act directs us to periodically accept and evaluate petitions to add new debilitating medical conditions. We’ve made it through the first phase of considering whether to add four new debilitating conditions,” Humble posted on his official blog Friday. “Post-traumatic stress disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; migraines; and depression.”
New Mexico and Delaware are the only states that permit medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder. California is the only other state that permits medical marijuana for migraines.
Humble posted Friday afternoon that a public hearing would be begin at 1 p.m., May 25, in the State Lab, 250 N. 17th Avenue, Phoenix. The public hearing is the next stage for the four petitions requesting that four conditions be added the list of debilitating conditions that were passed by voters by way of Prop. 203 in Nov. 2010. The resulting Arizona Medical Marijuana Act also created a regular acceptance protocol for petitions to the department of health services, or DHS. The four potential additions were filed with the DHS in January.
According to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, the DHS has 180 days to review the petitions and to approve or deny the application. In order to schedule a public hearing, the DHS must determine that the condition can impair one’s daily life and that it has been cited that marijuana is efficacious to the treatment of the condition. Since the DHS restricted petition submittal to Jan. 23 to 27, the deadline for the state to act on them is sometime during the last week of June.
Humble said in his blog that his department will consult the highest levels of the medical community before reaching a final decision.
“If we decide to add PTSD or any other debilitating conditions, we want to make sure we’re on solid medical ground. I’m heading down to a conference in Tucson next weekend where physicians can get Continuing Medical Education credits for learning about medical cannabis,” Humble posted.
The conference to which Humble was referring is The National Clinical Conference On Cannabis Therapeutics. The conference is in its seventh year and will be held April 26 to 28 at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson.
According to the DHS petition information, the department is also working with the University of Arizona, Colleges of Public Health and Medicines to review the petitions.
“The University will be able to provide ADHS valuable support, including further research of each condition or treatment and summary reports with recommendations by accessing its extensive public health and medical expertise,” according to the DHS website.
Current accepted conditions include: cancer; glaucoma; human immunodeficiency virus; acquired immune deficiency syndrome; Hepatitis C; ALS, Crohn's disease; agitation of Alzheimer's disease; cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; epilepsy; and severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
May will be a busy month for the DHS, as it announced earlier this month that it will begin accepting dispensary applications May 14.
Arizona Medical Marijuana Law: Gov. Jan Brewer Signs Measure To Ban Medical Marijuana On College Campuses
But if you have a script for oxy or vicodin, bring some extras. -UA
PHOENIX - Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed into law on Tuesday a bill to ban medical marijuana from being used on the campuses of state universities and community colleges in the latest salvo in a long-running battle over legalization of the drug.
Arizona's move to bar the drug's use on campus is the latest in a drive to roll back laws legalizing the therapeutic use of marijuana, which remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. federal law.
Supporters said the Arizona law was designed to protect federal funding for institutions of higher education, which they said was at threat if medical marijuana use was allowed in state schools.
"With the health and safety of Arizona's students, as well as literally hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, this legislation is critically necessary," State Representative Amanda Reeve, a Republican, said in a statement.
"Our children and adult students are far too important to risk. I'm proud to say we acted swiftly and decisively when confronted by this obvious concern," she added.
The measure sailed through the state legislature with bipartisan support. The law, due to take effect this summer, is expected to face a legal challenge by medical marijuana proponents.
Arizona voters passed a medical marijuana measure by a razor-thin margin in 2010, and the state is among 16, plus Washington, D.C., with some sort of legalized medical-marijuana statutes, according to the National Drug Policy Alliance.
Reeve said more than $666 million in federal dollars could be jeopardized if Arizona allowed medical marijuana on its higher education campuses. Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer, said that the drug has "no place on a college campus."
"Marijuana remains a federal controlled substance, regardless of whether it is being used as a medicinal agent," Benson said.
The Arizona move comes as the federal government has sought in recent months to shut down storefront medical weed shops and greenhouses in California and other mostly Western states deemed by federal investigators to be serving as drug-trafficking fronts, as well as those located near schools and parks.
On Monday, U.S. federal agents in California raided a San Francisco Bay-area college known as the "Princeton of Pot" and briefly detained its founder. The school, Oaksterdam University, offers courses in growing and dispensing marijuana.
Federal authorities have also intensified their crackdown in Colorado and Washington state, where voters will be deciding in ballot initiatives in November whether to make those states the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Bill Would Bar Medical Marijuana on Campus
If passed, the law would apply to preschools, colleges and universities. However, the restriction would not apply to private schools.
Arizona voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2010.
When this year's proposal goes before the full House for a formal vote, it must be affirmed by three-fourths of the members because it would change a voter-approved law.
House passage would send it to the Senate.
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Legislation would make medical pot illegal for students living on campus
PHOENIX -- State lawmakers are moving today to deny university and college students living on campus the right to use medical marijuana even if they have the legally required doctor's recommendation for the drug.
Legislation crafted by Rep. Amanda Reeve, R-Phoenix, would make it illegal not only to use but even to possess marijuana on the campus of any public or private post-secondary institution. That would include not only the state university system and network of community colleges but also various private schools that offer degrees or certificates.
And that means not only keeping it out of classrooms and open areas.
HB2349, set for debate in the House Committee on Higher Education, also would preclude students from using the drug in dorm rooms, even if the person is drinking an infusion rather than lighting up a joint. And it would mean not having the drug among personal possession for use somewhere off campus.
"This is an attack on patients ... who are abiding by state law," said Joe Yuhas, spokesman for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association. More to the point, he said the move is illegal and vowed to sue if the measure is enacted.
The 2010 initiative spells out a list of ailments and condition that qualify an adult to seek a doctor's recommendation to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
Yuhas, whose group represents those who crafted the initiative, said the law was crafted to ban the use of the drug on public school campuses. But nothing in the voter-approved law precludes adults who have the legally required doctor's recommendation from using it elsewhere.
He said the Arizona Constitution specifically bars legislators from altering anything approved at the ballot unless the legislation "furthers the purpose" of the underlying measure. And this, he said does not.
The problem, Reeve said, is federal regulations governing universities require that they forbid students from having illegal controlled substances. She said schools that do not comply lose federal funding and financial assistance for students.
Regents spokeswoman Katie Paquet said those federal rules do have exemptions for students who have prescriptions for otherwise illegal drugs, including codeine and other narcotics. But she said -- and Reeve agreed -- that's no help for a student with a state-recognized doctor's recommendation.
"The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the possession, use or production of marijuana, even for medical use," Reeve said.
And what of students who live in a dorm, who a doctor says can benefit from marijuana?
"They're not going to be able to use or possess marijuana on campus," Reeve responded. "That's how we deal with the issue so we can stay in compliance" with federal laws.
In any event, Reeve said the needs of a majority of students who depend directly or indirectly on federal funds outweigh those of a few students who need medical marijuana.
"Do we punish all the students so a few can have their ability to do this?" she said. "Why should all the students suffer?"
Yuhas said Reeve and others are making too much out of this particular conflict between state and federal law. He said the same conflict exists elsewhere, yet Arizona is going ahead and implementing its medical marijuana law.
"Universities aren't being asked to dispense (the drug) or host a dispensary," Yuhas said. That, he said, would raise other issues.
Yuhas also brushed aside Reeve's concern that the federal government is suddenly going to cut off aid to Arizona colleges and universities simply because they do not actively ban students with medical marijuana recommendations from having the drug, saying 15 other states have similar medical marijuana laws.
"This has not been an issue," Yuhas said. "This is a solution in search of a problem."