Ok, that headline is probably not even news in the cannabis industry. The past 12 months have brought dramatic change to the landscape of the cannabis marketplace, and a shocking shift in the U.S. acceptance of cannabis as both a medicine and a recreational product.
Most people seem to know that cannabis is quickly becoming accepted across the U.S. Some people know that we now have 31 states with either medical or recreational cannabis laws (likely to be 35-40 states after the 2018 election). A smaller group know that California accounts for over 40 percent of all cannabis sales in the U.S. Today, we are going to talk about some of the issues that are even less commonly known.
A leading U.S. poll recently showed that the majority of Republicans now support recreational cannabis. Heck, even Orin Hatch – the leading Republican Senator from Utah with a record that is strongly against drugs – is supporting cannabis now. Things are definitely changing, and the momentum is almost overwhelming those against cannabis.
Sadly though, even good Americans who are hurt in natural disasters can’t get support if they are associated with cannabis in any way.
This past month, the crowdfunding site YouCaring.com wasn’t so caring when they shut down the California Growers Association fire relief fund. This was a crowdfunding account for good people whose lives had been incinerated by the fires in Napa and Sonoma County. But apparently even victims of devastation are subject to additional desecration if they are associated with cannabis in any way. My company, Sunstone Distribution, donated $1,000 to help support the victims of the fire, and YouCaring uncaringly returned my donation, and all other donations to help these people who have lost their homes and lives. Would you say that is sad, shocking, or pathetic? I would say all of the above.
We feel the effects of this government pressure everywhere. On a more local level, we see laws and regulations that are sometimes so overbearing and controlling it leaves you scratching your head.
For example, I have a permitted store in San Diego, and the security standards set by the city are nothing shy of ridiculous. Retailers in San Diego are literally mandated to bullet proof all of the walls and windows in cannabis stores, and even get custom bullet proof hinges! Yes, even bullet proof hinges (apparently in case someone tries to aim a gun through the hinges). This would lead any reasonable person to think cannabis is similar to plutonium, but it is literally just an herb that grows in the wild.
However, I can go down to the local Rite Aid or CVS and literally just walk behind the counter and into the actual pharmacy and steal any number of highly dangerous drugs with very little to stop me (I’m sure the nice little pharmacy lady would say something to me, but if my intent was to steal, would I care?). All of their highly addictive and very expensive drugs are just sitting in the open office in the back. But cannabis stores all over the U.S. need to have security standards that rival Fort Knox.
There is unquestionably an increasing understanding that cannabis is not heroin, and instead offers many great benefits. At the least, we see the greater portion of society beginning to publicly acknowledge that cannabis is no worse than alcohol or tobacco. But it’s surprising that we still see these overbearing controls and ridiculous constraints.
Accordingly, we also see completely conflicting laws that just don’t make sense. For example, distributors in California will be required to pick up raw flower and transport it to an extract manufacturing company to make CO2 oil. And then the distributor will be needed to pick it up again to take it to an edible manufacturing company so they can make edibles. Then, naturally, the distributor will need to pick it up and take it to the retailer.
How does this make sense as an effective market model? Why not just use a transporter for transporting product, per the regulations that have been created the past few years? Oh, because California eliminated the transporter license this summer, and now the distributor is responsible for even simple transportation. This is a lose / lose for everyone.
Interestingly, this is a 100 percent contrast from Colorado, where they have mandated transporters and don’t allow distributors. Seriously.
In pretty much every state, there are sales taxes on cannabis products, with additional excise and local taxes – generally adding up to some very big numbers. But the government won’t let us have a checking account to make these payments? And then some departments won’t accept cash payments! It’s a problem almost everywhere.
So, what can we do? I think we need to keep doing what we are currently doing as an industry: Building a more successful, increasingly professional market that proves the importance and underlines the potential of what the cannabis industry can offer Americans.
The pressure is building, and the federal government is finding it tougher and tougher to ignore that cannabis needs to be reclassified. At some point, the pressure will be too great. I‘m guessing that with everything happening next year between the election (meaning more legal cannabis states), multiple states going recreational (including California), and yet another year of positive statistics proving it’s not heroin, it will be almost impossible for the government to continue to maintain that cannabis should be a schedule 1 drug.