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.”
Marijuana dispensaries to begin selling Jan. 1
The three-year wait for marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island is about to end. The state Health Department is currently in the final stages of revising the original legislation approving medical marijuana dispensaries, meaning that the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence; Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick and Greenleaf Compassionate Care in Portsmouth can soon submit their licensing applications. Spokesmen for Greenleaf and Slater expect to begin selling marijuana by Jan. 1.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed state-licensed marijuana dispensaries into law in May; three years after Rhode Island originally authorized dispensaries in 2009. The three-year delay was primarily the result that the original legislation contained loopholes that may have invited unwanted federal involvement.
Under the revised legislation, the dispensaries will now be able to grow up to 99 mature marijuana plants and stock a maximum of 1,500 ounces of marijuana at any given time. There are presently about 4,500 patients enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program.
RI Gov. signs bill decriminalizing marijuana
June 13, 2012 boston.com
Chafee announced the signing Wednesday night after the General Assembly ended its formal session. Chafee, an independent, had been expected to sign the bill into law.
Adults caught with an ounce or less of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine. Minors would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service.
The previous state law made possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor. Violators had faced possible jail time and fines up to $500.
Fourteen other states have decriminalized possession of limited amounts of marijuana.
Marijuana Decriminalization: Efforts To Relax Pot Rules Gaining Momentum In U.S.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Catharine Leach is married and has two boys, age 2 and 8. She has a good job with a federal contractor and smokes pot most every day.
While she worries that her public support for marijuana decriminalization and legalization could cost her a job or bring the police to her door, the 30-year-old Warwick resident said she was tired of feeling like a criminal for using a drug that she said is far less harmful than the glass or wine or can of beer enjoyed by so many others after a long day's work. Like others around the nation working to relax penalties for possession of pot, she decided to stop hiding and speak out.
"I'm done being afraid," she said. "People in this country are finally coming around and seeing that putting someone in jail for this doesn't make sense. It's just a changing of the time."
Once consigned to the political fringe, marijuana policy is appearing on legislative agendas around the country thanks to an energized base of supporters and an increasingly open-minded public. Lawmakers from Rhode Island to Colorado are mulling medical marijuana programs, pot dispensaries, decriminalization and even legalization. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now authorize medical marijuana and 14, including neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, have rolled back criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of pot.
Rhode Island is poised to become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana possession. The state's General Assembly passed legislation last week that would eliminate the threat of big fines or even jail time for the possession of an ounce or less of pot. Instead, adults caught with small amounts of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine. Police would confiscate the marijuana, but the incident would not appear on a person's criminal record.
Minors caught with pot would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said he is inclined to sign the legislation.
One of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. John Edwards of Tiverton, has introduced similar proposals in past years but the idea always sputtered in committee. Each year, though, he got more co-sponsors, and the bill passed the House this year 50-24. The state Senate passed it 28-6.
Some supporters of decriminalization say they'd like to go even further.
"America's 50-year war on drugs has been an abysmal failure," said Rep. John Savage, a retired school principal from East Providence. "Marijuana in this country should be legalized. It should be sold and taxed."
Opponents warned of dire consequences to the new policy.
"What kind of message are we sending to our youth? We are more worried about soda – for health reasons – than we are about marijuana," said one opponent, Rhode Island state Rep. John Carnevale a Democrat from Providence.
A survey by Rasmussen last month found that 56 percent of respondents favored legalizing and regulating marijuana. A national Gallup poll last year showed support for legalizing pot had reached 50 percent, up from 46 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in the mid-'90s.
Medical marijuana helped bring marijuana policy into the mainstream back in 1996, when California became the first state to authorize the use of cannabis for medicinal use. Other states followed suit.
"It's now politically viable to talk about these things," said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports the reduction or elimination of penalties for medical and recreational pot use. "The public understands that there are substances that are far more harmful – alcohol, tobacco – that we regulate. People are realizing just how much money is being wasted on prohibition."
Colorado and Washington state will hold fall referendums on legalizing marijuana. A ballot question on legalization failed in California in 2010.
This month, Connecticut's governor signed legislation to allow medical marijuana there. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting the penalty for public possession of small amounts of pot.
Liberal state policies on marijuana have run into conflict with federal prohibition. Federal authorities have shut down more than 40 dispensaries this year in Colorado, even though they complied with state and local law. In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee blocked three dispensaries from opening last year after the state's top federal prosecutor warned they could be prosecuted. Chafee and lawmakers then rewrote the dispensary law to restrict the amount of marijuana dispensaries may have on hand.
Robert DuPont, who served as the nation's drug czar under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, said Americans should be wary of a slippery slope to legalization. While marijuana may not cause the life-threatening problems associated with heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, it's far from harmless.
"It is a major drug of abuse," he said. "People ask me what the most dangerous drug is, and I say marijuana. Other drugs have serious consequences that are easy to recognize. Marijuana saps people's motivation, their direction. It's a drug that makes people stupid and lazy. That's in a way more dangerous."
House, Senate Pass Marijuana Decriminalization Bills
The full Senate and House approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) to eliminate the criminal charge for carrying one ounce or less of marijuana.
Instead, the new law, if approved, would impose a civil penalty of a $150 fine, plus forfeiture of the drug. A third offense within 18 months of the previous offense would be treated as a misdemeanor.
The legislation passed the House in a 50 to 24 vote and passed the Senate in a 28 to 6 vote. Each bill must now travel across the rotunda to pass the opposite chamber in order to become law.
Under the provisions of the Senate and House bills (2012-S 2253Aaa, 2012-H 7092Aaa), offenders who are minors would also have to complete an approved drug awareness program and community service. The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal would have jurisdiction over these cases.
Currently, possession of even very small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor under state law and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500.
This legislation could save the state millions of dollars each year, clean the judicial dockets for more serious issues and take away the criminal stigma from an otherwise youthful indiscretion, Rep. Edwards said.
“I introduced this bill for three reasons,” Edwards said. “Firstly, I don’t think people should have a charge on their record that stays there forever because of a bad decision made during their teen years. Secondly, the state is going to save a little money from this because we won’t be incarcerating as many people.
"But most importantly, I think this is the right thing to do. Fourteen other states have done this, and Rhode Island and Vermont are the only exceptions in New England right now. This legislation brings equity to the state of Rhode Island."
Senator Miller said the Special Senate Commission to Study the Prohibition of Marijuana hearings that took place in 2010 really made a difference in how some of his colleagues and members of the public viewed the prospect of marijuana decriminalization.
“I think the commission lured out some of the real benefits that can come from this legislation,” said Senator Miller, who served as chairman of the commission. “Not only will it have economic benefits tied to law enforcement, judiciary and incarceration costs, but it will be especially beneficial for young people. During the commission hearings, it was clear that education and treatment was the favored way of dealing with minors’ use of pot.
"No one wants to see opportunities in higher education closed off to someone because of criminal charges related to marijuana.”
The senator also pointed out that teens who can afford a good defense in court tend to fare better than those who can’t.
If enacted, Rhode Island would become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana.
In 2008, Massachusetts voters carried passage of a similar law with 65 percent of the vote. Connecticut’s legislature established a decriminalization law last year.
The Rhode Island legislation would go into effect on April 1, 2013.
Co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill include Senators Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5,Providence), Rhoda E. Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6,Providence) and Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket).
Reps. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Brian C. Newberry (R-Dist. 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville), Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) and Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) co-sponsored the House bill.
Rhode Island May Replace Criminal Marijuana Possession with Fines
PROVIDENCE – The House and Senate Judiciary Committees just voted in favor of two bills that would reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana to a $150 civil fine for most offenses. H 7092 and its companion bill, S 2253, would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil infraction, similar to a parking ticket, and would remove the criminal penalties that currently exist.
Marijuana possession is now punishable in Rhode Island by up to a $500 fine and up to a year in jail. The bills will now go to their respective floors for a full vote.
A January poll from Public Policy Polling showed an overwhelming 65% of likely voters supported decreasing the penalties for simple possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by removing the possibility of jail time and making the offense a civil citation. Such a change received support from across the political spectrum, with 73% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans, and 60% of independents in favor of the measure. The bills are also supported by a number of social science and public health professionals.
“H 7092 and S 2253 represent the beginning of a new way forward for marijuana policy in the Ocean State – an approach that moves away from punitive law enforcement tactics by placing a greater emphasis on public health,” said Dr. Glenn Loury, professor of social science and economics at Brown University. “In addition to the issuance of a civil violation, the bills require minors who are caught in possession of a small amount of marijuana to attend a drug education course and perform community service. Community service, parental discipline, and honest education on the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use are more humane ways to deal with marijuana than incarcerating adolescent users.”
“My forty years as a public health advocate have convinced me that decriminalizing marijuana possession is a sensible move for both public health and public safety,” said Dr. David Lewis, professor of community health and medicine and founder of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. “From a public health perspective, marijuana presents far fewer health risks than cigarettes or alcohol. Public safety will benefit after a shift from criminal to civil penalties for marijuana possession because law enforcement officials will be able to attend to more serious crimes. Contrary to common fears, the evidence from many states shows that decriminalizing possession does not result in a significant rise in marijuana use. I’m grateful that Rhode Island is moving toward a less punitive policy.”
“Committee approval sets the stage for Rhode Island to join the ever growing number of states that have removed the threat of jail time for the non-violent act of simply possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut have done so as well, with no ill effects. In fact, most of the states that have decriminalized marijuana possession did so in the 1970s, and none of them have suffered in any way by doing so. Rhode Island law makers should be proud to sensibly reform state law.
Job agency plans marijuana rally
OpenDoors, a nonprofit agency based in Providence, tells the Providence Journal ( http://bit.ly/JMZGzG) it is seeking smaller penalties for the possession of small amounts of pot.
The rally is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the State House rotunda.
State Rep. John Edwards, D-Tiverton, who has sponsored a bill that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, is among those expected to speak.
Medical Marijuana Vote Set for Today
Dan McGowan, GoLocalProv News Editor
Members of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare today are expected to vote on legislation that would allow medical marijuana compassion centers to open Rhode Island.
The House bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and the Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Dist. 3, Providence). The bills amend “The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act.”
The General Assembly first approved legislation to create compassion centers in 2009, but Governor Chafee ordered a temporary halt to the licensing process last year when the federal government suggested it might begin targeting the centers or patients using their services.
But as a result of an agreement reached earlier this year between legislative leaders and the governor, Slater and Perry were given the green light to continue to move compassion centers forward. The bill would clear the way to allow three compassion centers to open while protecting them from being shut down or raided by federal agents.
Chafee Will Sign Bill
Governor Chafee, who faced criticism from those in the medical marijuana community for deferring to the federal government, has indicated he will sign Slater and Perry's legislation into law if it is approved by the General Assembly.
“Since the Rhode Island medical marijuana law invited federal action, I have been working with advocates on a remedy,” Chafee said earlier this year. “I applaud Senator Perry and Representative Slater for their work and I look forward to passage of a bill that will avoid federal intervention and bring needed medicinal relief to those who stand to benefit.”
Bill Regulates Limits on Growing Amount
The legislation will allow the Department of Health to regulate limits on the amount of marijuana that a compassion center may grow and possess, since the magnitude of the marijuana and the resulting income it generates for privately run compassion centers appears to be a key element of concern for federal officials. It also allows registered patients or caregivers who grow up to their allotted maximums, but do not need the entire amount for themselves or their patients, to sell the excess to a compassion center, as long as the limits of the grower and the purchasing center are not exceeded. That provision is designed to address concerns about the illegal sale of excess marijuana.
“This is a good compromise that strengthens the safety of compassion centers," Slater said earlier this year "We just want patients to get some relief, soon. While we believe the existing law is good, this change will make it better by making our centers less of an issue for the federal government. Nobody in Rhode Island would want to see patients get caught up in some federal raid or lose access to their medicine, and if these changes further minimize that issue, they are positive for patients."
The three centers that were already approved by the Department of Health after a public bidding process to be licensed will be able to operate under the new limits, so it is expected the centers will be able to open quickly upon passage and enactment of the legislation.
“Our main concern is getting compassion centers up and running for the many suffering patients who still have no legal way to obtain their prescription medicine,” said Senator Perry. “It’s been three years now since we approved compassion centers. That’s a long time for patients to wait for relief from pain and illness. We already have three legitimate organizations that have been approved and are ready and willing to serve Rhode Island’s patients and the quicker we move on these amendments, the less time Rhode Island’s sick and dying will spend suffering."
RI lawmakers to take up marijuana dispensary rules
The Gov will take the lead from the Feds......Narahona said no, there's your answer. -UA
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Rhode Island's state-licensed marijuana dispensaries could open within months, but they may not last long if the state adopts strict rules on the amount of marijuana they can have, medical marijuana advocates said Tuesday.
State lawmakers are set to review a proposed compromise on Wednesday that was crafted to let the three state-picked dispensaries to open, potentially within six months. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, blocked the dispensaries from opening last year after the state's top federal prosecutor warned they could face prosecution.
The compromise seeks to avoid federal intervention by setting limits on the amount of marijuana the dispensaries could have. But medical marijuana supporters said the dispensaries must be allowed to have enough marijuana on hand to meet demand. Otherwise, they might not be able to pay their bills, said JoAnne Leppanen, director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.
"Everybody wants this to happen," she told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "But the fear is that we're going to come in too low, that we're going to put such a burden on the compassion centers that it may not be possible for them to sustain themselves."
It would be up to the state's Department of Health to set the limits once lawmakers approve the compromise. The Health Department plans to hold public hearings on the regulations once the bill passes.
Lawmakers who brokered the compromise with Chafee said it's designed to be flexible. If federal authorities again threaten to prosecute, the limits on the dispensaries could be tightened. If the dispensaries complain the limits are too strict, they could be relaxed.
"The challenge was getting a bill that will pass," said Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence. "Yes, some of these details may be problematic. But we're moving ahead."
Perry said she hopes the General Assembly can pass the legislation quickly to allow the dispensaries to open, perhaps within six months.
The uncertainty means the dispensaries must plan to open without knowing how much marijuana they will be allowed to dispense.
Seth Bock, chief executive of the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center of Portsmouth, said he'd like lawmakers to suggest a rough idea of how much marijuana would be allowed. The state could fine-tune the restrictions later, he said.
"Give us something in the law that allows us to move forward," said Bock, who practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine. "Without any guidance on volume it's impossible to decide if it's worth investing X amount of money to get this off the ground."
Greenleaf is one of the three dispensaries chosen by the state. The other two are the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence and Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha said federal authorities have not endorsed the compromise and remain opposed to large-scale commercial operations for medical marijuana.
In his letter to the state last year, Neronha warned that while patients wouldn't face prosecution, dispensary operators might.
Rhode Island enacted a law in 2006 allowing patients to legally possess small amounts of marijuana to treat conditions including chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures and multiple sclerosis. In 2009, lawmakers passed legislation to set up nonprofit dispensaries -- known as compassion centers -- where patients could obtain marijuana in a state-regulated environment.
More than 4,400 Rhode Islanders are now enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program.
George DesRoches said the dispensaries will play a critical role in the state's medical marijuana program by giving patients a safe and reliable place to purchase their medicine. The 45-year-old Providence man grows his own marijuana to treat chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
Earlier this month four men held him at gunpoint and stole marijuana and his laptop computer. DesRoches said Tuesday that the dispensary compromise is good news, but he's waiting to see how the state decides to regulate the facilities.
"I'm pretty jaded at this point," he said. "I'm hopeful they can find a way to do it, but if you set people up to fail, they will."