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.”
Say goodbye to the bear
It’s important to ensure the safety of children; Keeping medications, cleaning products and other dangerous materials put away and out of reach of curious fingers. When it comes to THC-infused edibles, the strategy should be no different.
However, some people believe gummies shaped like bears, worms, people and fruit slices are just too appealing and tempting to children and need to be banned promptly.
On Friday, Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, signed a bill banning the sale and disruption of THC-infused gummies shaped like animals, fruit slices or people. The hope is, with the new bill in order, children will have less access to THC treat that looks all too familiar to them.
The infused version is nearly indistinguishable from standard gummy bears, making it easier and more likely for children to mistake the THC treat for their regular confection.
Colorado edibles must come with a stamp or sticker stating the product contains THC, but apparently that’s not enough for some. Supporters of the ban believe the gummies are simply “too attractive” for youngsters, making it nearly impossible for them not to eat if they should stumble upon them.
Um, what? When was the last time someone’s child ate an entire bottle of gummy antacids? They’re fruit shaped and can cause serious problems if too many are ingested, but responsible parents keep things like that stashed away, just like THC edibles should be.
With the gummy bear ban taking effect July 1, the cannabis market will undoubtedly bounce back, but with less fun shaped THC gummies. Squares and disc-shaped edibles are likely to be seen popping up on shelves of local dispensaries, as many manufacturers have already begun phasing out the illegal shapes.
If customers, for whatever reason, have an issue with the new shape, time is running out to stockpile the cute gummies. In less than three weeks, gummies shaped like worms, bears, people, fruit slices and any other whimsical shape will be removed and destroyed; not resold or given away as part of a compassionate care program.
Parents should be held accountable if edibles fall into the wrong hands. Just like Tylenol, Xanax or Adderall, medications are not meant to be in places where children have open access to them. If Colorado is experiencing an issue with kids accidentally ingesting THC gummies, the parents should be at fault.
Flintstone vitamins are people shaped, but we don’t ever hear about children consuming mass amounts of those. Why? Because parents know enough to keep them put up and away. Unfortunately, lesser intelligent people can’t seem to do the same with their cannabis edibles, meaning all of Colorado must suffer from poor parenting.
A tip for American farmers: Grow hemp, make money
By Doug Fine latimes
june 25 2014
After a 77-year break, hemp plants are growing in American soil again. Right now, in fact. If you hear farmers from South Carolina to Hawaii shouting "God bless America," the reason isn't because Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper (he did). Nor is it because the canvas that put the "covered" in pioneer covered wagons was made of hemp, nor that the hemp webbing in his parachute saved George H.W. Bush's life in World War II.
Nope. It's because U.S. policy is finally acknowledging that hemp can help restore our agricultural economy, play a key role in dealing with climate change and, best of all, allow American family farmers to get in on a hemp market that, just north of us in Canada, is verging on $1 billion a year.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis — and thus a cousin of marijuana — that contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive component THC. (Marijuana plants typically contain 5% to 20% THC.) You can't get high from hemp, but starting in 1937, U.S. drug laws made cultivating it off-limits.
Finally, the U.S. hemp industry is back. A provision in the 2014 farm bill signed by President Obama on Feb. 7 removed hemp grown for research purposes from the Controlled Substances Act, the main federal drug law.
Not a moment too soon. American farmers have been watching as Canadian farmers clear huge profits from hemp: $250 per acre in 2013. By comparison, South Dakota State University predicts that soy, a major crop, will net U.S. farmers $71 per acre in 2014.
Hemp takes half the water that wheat does, and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate change era. — Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin
Canada's windfall has been largely due to the American demand for omega-balanced hempseed oil. But hemp is also a go-to material for dozens of applications all over the world. In a Dutch factory recently, I held the stronger-than-steel hemp fiber that's used in Mercedes door panels, and Britain's Marks and Spencer department store chain used hemp fiber insulation in a new flagship outlet. "Hempcrete" outperforms fiberglass insulation.
Farmers I've interviewed from Oregon to Ohio have gotten the memo. In a Kansas-abutting corner of eastern Colorado, in the town of Springfield, 41-year-old Ryan Loflin wants to save his family farm with hemp. "It takes half the water that wheat does," Loflin told me, scooping up a handful of drought-scarred soil so parched it evoked the Sahara, "and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate-change era."
From an agronomic perspective, American farmers need to start by importing dozens of hemp varieties (known as cultivars) from seed stock worldwide. This is vital because our own hemp seed stock, once the envy of the world, was lost to prohibition. This requires diversity and quantity because North Dakota's soil and climate are different from Kentucky's, which are different from California's. Also, the broad variety of hemp applications requires distinct cultivars.
Legally, farmers and researchers doing pilot programs in the 15 states that have their own hemp legislation (including California) now have the right to import those seeds. The point of the research authorization in the farm bill is explicitly to rebuild our seed stock. Such research is how the modern Canadian hemp industry was kick-started in 1998.
But one final hurdle has been placed in front of American hemp entrepreneurs. In Kentucky, U.S. Customs officials, at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in May seized a 286-pound shipment of Italian hemp seed bound for the state's agriculture department. After a weeklong standoff, a federal agency had to be reminded by the federal courts that the law had changed and Kentucky's seed imports were legal.
The problem is as much an entrenched bureaucratic mind-set as the ink drying on the new federal hemp policy. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told a law enforcement group last month that the hoisting of a hemp flag above the U.S. Capitol last July 4 was "the low point in my career."
It should have been a high point. Hemp's economic potential is too big to ignore. When he was China's president, Hu Jintao visited that nation's hemp fiber processors in 2009 to demand that farmers cultivate 2 million acres to replace pesticide-heavy cotton. Canada funded its cultivar research for farmers, with today's huge payoff.
Even Roger Ford, a politically conservative Kentucky utility owner, told me his Patriot BioEnergy's biofuels division would be planting hemp on coal- and tobacco-damaged soil the moment it was legal. Why? To use the fiber harvest for clean biomass energy. "We have a proud history of hemp in the South," Ford told me.
Congress knows the farm bill hemp provision is just a baby step. The real solution is the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would allow nationwide commercial hemp cultivation. Colorado, already ahead of federal law on legalizing psychoactive cannabis, is also in front on hemp; it has a state law allowing commercial hemp cultivation. At least 1,600 acres were planted this season.
Wyden's bill should be fast-tracked. In the meantime, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) believes hemp is so important for the Bluegrass State that he's not waiting for another brouhaha over seed imports. He added an amendment to a bill that controls the DEA's budget to specifically protect imported hemp seeds from seizure. It passed in the House 246 to 162 on May 30.
It's a necessary move: Just last week at the Canadian border, the DEA seized another shipment of hemp seeds, this time bound for Colorado farmers. This counterproductive nonsense must stop.
American farmers and investors need our support to catch up with Canada's and the rest of the world's hemp head start. Now. As Loflin put it when I toured his family's 1,200-acre Colorado spread, "I'm planting hemp to show my neighbors that small farmers have a real option as businesspeople in the digital age."
We're down to 1% of Americans farming; it was 30% when our world-leading hemp industry was stymied in 1937. The crop is more valuable today than it was then. We should be waving flags and holding parades for the farmers ready to plant the crop that Thomas Jefferson called "vastly desirable." I know I'm ready. To cheer, and to plant.
May 2, 2016
But, but...weed is for the people, it's the people's weed.
On Friday, longtime weed enthusiast Woody Harrelson lost a Hawaii-wide bid for licensing a medical marijuana dispensary through his company Simple Organic Living LLC. The State of Hawaii Department of Health opened applications for "a total of eight dispensary licenses: three for the City & County of Honolulu, two for Hawaii County, two for Maui County and one for Kauai County." According to Reuters, the state "did not specifically say why the actor's application was denied." Sure, he's not too upset, though. He'll find something else to do with all that would-be dispensary money.
by Peter Cohan
Brendan Kennedy wants to make the world safe for investing in marijuana. Kennedy, CEO at Seattle’s $5.5 million (assets under management) Privateer Holdings, believes that he can make a profit and make the world better by investing in marijuana companies.
Kennedy earned a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Engineering from the University of Washington and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. And I think Kennedy embodies Yale’s missionary values – of both doing good – making society better and very well indeed – as in making big bank.
As he explained in a July 1 interview, Kennedy passionately believes that marijuana will be legal and that he should be a profit pioneer by investing in the “$40 billion to $50 billion industry.”
Kennedy is no stranger to trying to put numbers to an inherently uncertain future. “I was recruited eight years ago to Silicon Valley Bank to be senior vice president of its turnaround group. I grew it from three employees to 50 in the U.S. and 75 in India. We focused on appraising the value of technology-based ventures. It was hard to be right. I tended to over-value companies like [now bankrupt solar energy company] Solyndra and to under-value ones like [booming publicly-traded electric-power car maker] Tesla,” said Kennedy.
In May 2010, Kennedy saw a pitch for a venture “on the inventory side of cannabis.” But when he tried to learn more about the industry, he could not find information. “I tried to study the industry but I couldn’t find much. That same week, I heard a story on National Public Radio about Proposition 19 [California’s medical marijuana legalization ballot initiative]. I got interested in the industry and talked to some colleagues from Yale about building a private equity firm to invest in the industry – while spending nights and weekends doing research.”
In June 2010, Kennedy came across Leafly, “the Yelp of marijuana, run by three engineers in Orange County, Calif.” He liked the company so much that he ultimately bought it and is now its CEO. As he explained, “They were using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of how different strains of cannabis made them feel. And I was trying to learn more about the industry to see if there was an opportunity. But there is no Gartner Group. So over nine months, I talked to growers, medical marijuana dispensary owners, lawyers, and political activists over coffee, lunch, dinner, and beer.”
Kennedy concluded that there was a big opportunity. As he said, “Investing in the marijuana industry is the biggest opportunity I’ve seen. The market is between $40 billion and $50 billion, there are no public companies, no venture capitalists, no private equity firms, and no competition – just green fields galore. It didn’t require a technological leap; I didn’t have to believe someone had the ability to solve a technological problem. I knew the demand was there. It was already an industry but it was loosely knit.”
But Kennedy was also aware that investing in marijuana posed legal risks but concluded that it would soon be legalized. As he said, “We researched medical cannabis on a patient-by-patient, state-by-state basis. We concluded that marijuana would be legalized faster than everyone thought. Gallup has been asking whether Americans think marijuana should be legalized for the last 40 years and 52% answered ‘yes’ while 80% of Americans believe that medical marijuana should be legalized. Moreover, money votes for legalization – as it did in Washington State’s [marijuana decriminalization] Initiative 502 — where $6 million supported those who favored I-502’s passage and $6,000 went to those against it.”
Meanwhile, Kennedy sees enormous social costs to keeping marijuana illegal. “There are 50,000 to 60,000 Mexicans who die every year due to cannabis. There is mass incarceration of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans in the U.S. The changing fiscal status of states and the federal government means that the public is asking whether the costs of keeping marijuana illegal exceed the benefits. And unlike gay marriage or gun control, there is no powerful political support that favors keeping cannabis illegal.”
Despite his optimism for the future of legalized marijuana, Kennedy took great pains to assure himself of the soundness of Leafly’s founders and its legality. “We liked Leafly’s business and found it team to be intelligent, self-aware, and possessed of strong aesthetic skills in its web design. We’ve spent enormous sums on legal fees to make sure that nothing we do violates local, state, or federal laws,” said Kennedy.
Leafly is achieving a beneficial social mission as it grows. Kennedy explained, “Leafly is the largest clinical trial of medical marijuana in the world. It has 60,000 marijuana strain reviews. A user can read Leafly’s reviews to find out the right strain for her disease – e.g., epilepsy, cancer chemotherapy, glaucoma, or HIV.”
He continued, ”And once the user finds the right strain, he can read our 30,000 reviews to figure out which of 3,000 marijuana dispensaries is the right place to buy that strain.”
Meanwhile, Leafly is expanding – both inside the U.S. and to other countries such as Israel and Canada. It had 2.5 million visits in June 2013; is generating about $100,000 per month from dispensary advertising – which consists of colored dots on a map – and is growing its traffic at 15 percent to 20 percent a month. We are adding people – with 14 now and we expect to have 30 by the end of 2013.”
Kennedy is using different ways to measure whether Privateer succeeds. “This is a unique opportunity to build a series of successful companies,” explained Kennedy. I believe that business is an agent of change – it’s the best form of political activism. When — not if — we are successful, we will have helped to end the harms caused by cannabis prohibition in the U.S. That success will be measured by incarcerating fewer people.”
Click On Magazine below to View Issue 14
In This Issue:
Strains: StarDog & Lambs Bread
Articles: Secret Life of Water, Little Black Book of Marijuana, CHAMPS preview Special, Releaf report, CannaBuzz, CannaChef Interviews: "Joey's Mom" Mieko Perez
HomeGrown Gadget: Compact Ebb & Grow System
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