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.”
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.
A Taylor, MI man was resting at a Best Western motel in Arlington, Va., today after riding his motorized wheelchair about 600 miles from his home to the White House.
Curtis Kile, 52, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, said he made the trip — on sidewalks and road shoulders, through small towns and big cities — to raise awareness about the importance of medical marijuana for those with serious health problems.
After arriving at the White House gates about 8 p.m. Wednesday, “I just sat there for about 20 minutes — I was really amazed that we made it,” he said. Kile was accompanied by his son, Curtis Kile Jr., 17, who drove the family’s 2006 Econoline van equipped with a wheelchair lift.
The elder Kile returned to the White House on Thursday, spoke to a crowd gathered for a human rights rally and hoped to speak to President Barack Obama about how medical marijuana has helped him. But he said he had no appointment with the president or anyone else in the White House, and “I didn’t get a phone call or nothing from them.”
Still, he said, he was glad he made the journey, during which — short on money — the father and son often camped outdoors, with Kile sleeping in his wheelchair.
“I don’t think the trip was a waste. We were able to draw attention to the issue,” Kile said today. He said a Free Press article on his trip, published Monday, helped “double or maybe triple” donations to his effort. The duo plan to spend their return trip in motels because of that.
Kile’s pilgrimage drew attention “across the country,” said Rick Thompson, publisher of the Flint-based Cannabis Chronicles website. Those who support “legal and safe access” to medical marijuana have been disappointed in the Obama administration’s continued use of federal agents and drug laws to prosecute users of medical marijuana, even in states that have state laws that allow medical use, including Michigan, Thompson said.
Law Talk: Marijuana law guide fits in your pocket
Ever wondered when a marijuana seed legally becomes a plant?
Wondered how someone gets their medical marijuana?
Curious about whether having medical marijuana entitles police to search your home, car or person without a warrant?
Those answers and others may come from local attorney Bruce Alan Block who specializes in representing defendants accused of marijuana offenses.
Block has written and is selling “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers.”
The pocket-sized manual outlines the law in layman’s terms and looks at the vagaries of a law considered poorly written and lacking clarity since it was passed by 63 percent of voters in 2008.
“It’s not a ‘how to’ for growing,” said Block. “I’m no advocate.”
Block said he sees clients who either use medical marijuana or are so-called caregivers and have no prior run-ins with the law but suddenly find themselves facing drug charges.
“This is just cutting through the misinformation,” Block said. “It’s amazing, the stuff you see on Internet blogs.”
Block said the law is so convoluted, even he needs a quick reference for dealing with it, which led him to write the guide for Michigan law.
“If you have this, you won’t need me,” Block said.
The law is so vague, that its enforcement is inconsistent and can change depending on where it is enforced with some prosecutors going after marijuana, medical or not, with vigor. Other counties are not so quick to prosecute those who appear to be following the law.
Block said West Michigan counties fall in the middle of the enforcement spectrum.
Assistant Prosecutor James Benison is Kent County’s medical marijuana specialist when it comes to law enforcement.
“The difficulty is people who treat the act as if it is decriminalization,” Benison said.
Benison read Block’s guide and finds it generally objective and explains the law as it currently stands.
Of course, things could look very different by the end of 2012, The Michigan Supreme Court is looking at a pair of cases related to medical marijuana and will likely issue opinions over the summer. Those cases include what constitutes a proper area for growing the marijuana and whether cases from before the law passed in November 2008 are able to use the medical marijuana defense.
But the true game changer could come with the November ballot if advocates are able to collect the 322,000 signatures needed to put a repeal of marijuana prohibition up for a vote.
In the meantime, Block says people need to take great care because, while Michigan has a law, the federal government does not recognize the state laws and continues to prosecute where possible, even in states like California, Colorado and Vermont.
Block outlines the 10 Commandments (plus one) of medical marijuana that includes advice to put plenty of cash aside for lawyer fees, pay taxes on any monies received and “when in doubt (about what'slegal) – don’t.”
So, what constitutes a plant? A seed is not a plant, but once it sprouts – even though completely unusable—it is considered a plant.
Where does someone get their marijuana? It must be provided by a caregiver who is growing for a single patient in one area. The safest route is for the marijuana card holder to grow it themselves in the allowed amounts.
Police cannot search a house or car simply because someone has a medical marijuana permit. There is no such thing as compliance officers, and police must gain a warrant, consent from the resident or owner or have other probable cause.
Block said there is a desperate need for the law to get some definition from the legislature or the State Supreme Court, but he believes it is a coin toss whether it will happen.
The guide is available for $15 at Block’s website.
- Happenens again... Surprise Suprise...
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour dismissed the case against Dr. Manuel Aquino-Villaman following a hearing Friday. Samour said Aquino-Villaman's actions were lawful under the Colorado Constitution, according to a court summary of the hearing. He also said the charges should be dropped because officials failed to preserve key evidence. Aquino-Villaman had been charged with felony conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in addition to forgery and attempt to influence a public servant.
It is rare for a judge to dismiss charges before trial, but this is the second time it has happened for a medical-marijuana doctor this year in Arapahoe County. In May, a different judge dismissed the case against Dr. Toribio Robert Mestas, also saying that the doctor's actions were protected by the Colorado constitution.
The Arapahoe County district attorney's office declined to comment on the most recent dismissal, saying it has not yet decided whether to appeal.
Attorney Lauren Davis, who represented Aquino-Villaman, said both cases show a hostility toward medical marijuana by prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe County.
"Their bias against medical marijuana in Arapahoe and Douglas counties is an affront to the constitutional rights of patients and recommending physicians," Davis said.
Although the doctors — two of more than 1,000 physicians who have recommended medical marijuana in Colorado — are no longer facing criminal charges, neither is currently practicing medicine.
In March, Aquino-Villaman voluntarily surrendered his license in the midst of a state Medical Board investigation into a marijuana recommendation he wrote for a pregnant woman. Aquino-Villaman denied wrongdoing and said the woman never disclosed her pregnancy. But his attorney said Aquino-Villaman, now 71, could not afford to continue fighting for his license.
Last month, Mestas agreed to temporarily stop practicing while he is the subject of a Medical Board investigation. A public document about the investigation says only that a Medical Board inquiry panel "had significant concerns that (Mestas) provided substandard care to multiple patients."
In both Aquino-Villaman's and Mestas's criminal cases, undercover police officers posed as patients who complained of injuries or other aches in attempting to obtain a medical-marijuana recommendation. After brief exams, the doctors provided the recommendations.
Prosecutors argued that the exams were substandard and that the officers never complained of "severe pain" — the condition for which they were recommended marijuana. But the judges ruled the doctors' diagnoses were reasonable based on the officers' statements.
"The presumption is that doctors are entitled to rely on what patients tell them in the course of an examination," Davis said. "It's not the doctor's job to play policeman."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: Medical-marijuana case against Aurora doctor dismissed - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_19542409#ixzz1gUpCPTtT
Click on Magazine to see December 2011 Issue!!!!
Brian Dickerson: Schuette wages war against the people's law
If there's anything Bill Schuette has established in his first year as Michigan's attorney general -- besides an appetite for media attention rivaling that of Sarah Palin or Geoffrey Fieger -- it's that he won't stand for the federal government to trample on the rights of the people of Michigan.
Unless, or course, the right in question is one that Michigan's top law enforcement official never cared for in the first place. In which case any pretext for ignoring, circumventing or violating the state law that guarantees it is welcome.
I speak, of course, of Schuette's maniacal campaign to single-handedly repeal the Medical Marijuana Act that Michigan voters adopted in 2008 -- by a considerably wider margin (63%-37%), it should be noted, than Schuette enjoyed in his own victory (53%-42%) over a weak Democratic opponent two years later.
Since then, virtually everyone affected by the MMA -- police, state and federal prosecutors, medical marijuana users and prescribing physicians -- has come to understand that the law as written is seriously flawed and requires a legislative overhaul to spell out more clearly the rights and responsibilities of all involved.
State lawmakers in Lansing are already at work on such an overhaul. And that's good for everyone -- as long as legislators keep in mind the objective Michigan voters embraced in 2008, which was to authorize the therapeutic use of marijuana by patients suffering from certain medical conditions or symptoms.
Abuse of authority
Schuette stands proudly among the minority of Michiganders who opposed the MMA and continue to lobby for its repeal. Nothing wrong with that.
But the AG has also exploited his office to target medical marijuana users and providers -- precisely the people Michigan voters sought to protect from criminal prosecution when they adopted the MMA. That's a flagrant abuse of authority -- one that undermines respect for the law in general, not just the statute Schuette seeks to subvert.
In his latest initiative, Schuette has opined that police have a legal obligation not to return pot seized from licensed medical marijuana patients because possession of marijuana is still prohibited under federal law. (Never mind that the U.S. Justice Department, which has bigger fish to fry, especially in Detroit, has made clear its lack of interest in prosecuting patients in Michigan and other states that have authorized medical marijuana.)
In fact, the AG warned in an opinion issued late last week, officers who return illegally confiscated marijuana (in seeming compliance with a provision of the MMA that specifically bars its seizure from medical users licensed by the state) are themselves risking criminal prosecution as drug dealers.
Really? And what sort of prosecutor would file charges against a police officer for that? Even Schuette isn't that deranged.
Uphold the law
Schuette's respect for the superiority of federal law, you may be assured, is entirely situational. When the federal law in question is one he opposes -- such as the American Health Care Act of 2009, or EPA rules designed to limit air pollution -- he has been in the vanguard of Republican attorneys general suing to stop it. He's been a ranking member of the executive branch -- that's the one that was established to enforce the law, not to write it -- for almost a year, but he can't stop acting like a legislator.
I have no dog in the MMA fight. I don't use marijuana, medically or recreationally. And I share the skepticism of those who worry that the MMA, which depends on a black-market distribution network that bears no resemblance to the one used to distribute every other prescription drug authorized by law, is problematic in its current form.
But more than 3 million Michigan residents have made it clear they want licensed patients to be able to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. That's almost twice as many as voted for Schuette in 2010.
So Schuette's campaign to emasculate the MMA isn't just unprincipled; it's an affront to democratic rule -- and to the rule of law he took an oath to uphold.