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Opening Bell: Here’s Why the Mainstream Media Doesn’t Offer Much When It Comes to Legal Marijuana

I always chuckle when the media discovers something basic about the Cannabis Industry that anyone who works in the profession has been struggling with for years.

So it goes for New York and the famous alternative weekly, The Village Voice.

With a headline that makes it sound like this is a brand new issue that no one in the industry has ever had to deal with before, The Voice discovered that — guess what? — new medical marijuana businesses coming to New York will have to operate as cash-only operations.

They wrote:

When it arrives in New York, the medical marijuana industry will be an all-cash business.

New York’s five companies licensed to grow and sell medical marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act must grapple with the security, safety, and legal challenges of dealing in cash because they can’t keep it in banks like other businesses.

Federally regulated banks are often unwilling to work with clients whose money comes from the business of medical marijuana, the legality of which varies state to state. Licensees, dispensary employees, patients, and other affiliated vendors are therefore barred from using credit or debit cards, or holding banks accounts that contain money made from cannabis. The payroll and all business transactions go down in cash. Thousands and thousands of pounds of cash, sometimes in duffel bags.”

I never have a problem with the mainstream media digging into issues that the Cannabis Industry has been dealing with for years, but you would think that The Village Voice would have dug into the all-cash issue confronting legal marijuana long before now.

And honestly, a bigger issue in New York than the all-cash business problem (and that is very old news) is a lot more critical — the lack of clear rules and regulations concerning how the state’s medical marijuana industry will operate. As the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle noted:

Beyond posting on its website somewhat general answers to frequently asked questions, the (state) Department of Health has not issued specific guidance to patients or providers. Rochester Regional Health and UR Medicine are each working on their own policies, but both are waiting for the state before they can fill in all their blanks.

In response to when the state would be more forthcoming, a spokesman emailed, “The Department is actively working on the implementation of the medical marijuana program and anticipates posting information on practitioner education by the end of the month. Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.”

It could take more than the next four months to get everything sorted out, and no one will be surprised if it’s later. In fact, the state hedges by saying Jan. 5, or when the system is certified by the health commissioner and superintendent of State Police that it can be implemented safely.”

Here’s the problem, and something I wish well-meaning media like The Village Voice would focus on: Why are state’s like New York that are new to the legal marijuana environment dragging their feet on rules and regulations and trying to reinvent the wheel?

With so many states now allowing medical/legal marijuana, aren’t there best practices out there that state’s like New York can simply pick up and tweak a little? Don’t they look at what other state’s are doing?

That would be the easy and logical way to launch medical marijuana in the Empire State, but politicians and bureaucrats never want to admit that someone else might have a better idea.

In this regard, New York is no different from any other state, and the bureaucracy wants to take it’s time and drag out the process by writing their own rules and regulations instead of building on what other smart people have done.

The lesson here? It’s that marijuana rules and regulations will continue to be a hodge-podge of both the good and the bad, the silly and the stupid, as long as the states keep trying to ignore what other states are doing.

New York is no different than anywhere else, and unfortunately, the mainstream media isn’t helping very much. The Village Voice, for one, used to be a bastion of interesting and provocative coverage that dug into issues no one else was writing about.

That’s not what The Voice seems to be about today.

Their focus on the banking issues that will confront New York’s medical marijuana industry isn’t bad, just short-sighted. The Voice isn’t really offering New Yorkers anything new, and instead, seem to ignore the bigger regulatory issues that are being written right under their nose.

If you’re in the Cannabis Industry, you need to accept that is about as good as it gets from the mainstream media today. New York is just the latest to join the club.


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