Aspen High Summit

Jim Lewi, a music industry veteran of both Red Light Management and Goldstar Management, created Aspen Live in 1996, which has grown and gone on to become the premier think-tank for music and live entertainment. They hosted their 22nd annual conference this year at Limelight Lodge in Aspen, Colorado just this past week, from December 6 – 9. Aspen Live has long been considered the “Sun Valley Conference for the music industry” and has truly become one of the most fun and tightly-knit conference, chock full of gatherings, fun events, and a finely curated curriculum.

After his immense success with Aspen Live over the last 22 years, Lewi has launched Aspen High, a brand new cannabis conference in the same location, which is one of the first states in the U.S. to have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Lewi is partnering with Steve DeAngelo to bring this summit to life.

DeAngelo is a national cannabis leader, author, entrepreneur, and activist who founded Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the world, as well as is the President and co-founder of Arcview Group, an investor matchmaking firm to connect investor with the cannabis community. DeAngelo is also an ardent believer that cannabis is a medicine and should be used for wellness, not intoxication. He is a leader in the industry and teaches businesses how to enter the cannabis industry.

Lewi has said that he and DeAngelo created this new conference mainly for people in the medical and recreational cannabis business and hopes it helps prepare the country for the inevitable nationwide legalization of cannabis use.

“It’s hard for any company that does business, especially on an international or national level, to get involved with cannabis right now,” Lewi said. “It’s not like Live Nation can just start selling cannabis at their amphitheaters tomorrow. [sic] It’s already being consumed at their events and they’re not getting a piece of it,” Lewi said. “And I think that it’s certainly proven to be a lot safer in terms of fights and accidents and breakups than alcohol.”

Happening At the Summit

Aspen High Summit is an invitation-only event bringing together thought leaders and disruptors in the music and cannabis industries.

Aspen High is happening this Monday, December 11, and running for three full days. According to Billboard, there will be panels on “cannabis sales at music events, a panel on the influence of media featuring Voice Media CEO Scott Tobias along with Ricardo Baca, founder of the country’s first newspaper-backed marijuana news site The Cannabist and star of the 2015 documentary Rolling Papers. Also speaking is John Boyle with Insomniac, Tripp Keber with Dixie Elixirs, Nikki Lastreto with Swami Select and Andrew Kline with the National Association of Cannabis Businesses.”

Each day of the three-day summit starts at 12:30 pm with an optional on-mountain get together to go skiing and if you are not a skier, don’t worry! They thought of everything. Monday the event at the same time for non-skiers is a lunch at Justice Snow’s, Tuesday is snowmobiling at the T-Lazy 7 Ranch, and Wednesday is a cooking class. Panels start at 4 pm daily, with one from 4-5pm, the next is 5:10-6:10 pm, and the final is 6:20-7:20 pm and a group dinner each night at 8:30 at different locations.

The panels at the summit are:

  • Cannabis Sales, Consumption, & Music: The Future of Marijuana Onsite at Mainstream Events.
  • The Influence of Media in Music and Cannabis
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Investing in Cannabis: Strategy and Due Diligence
  • The Legal Landscape for Music and Cannabis
  • Brand or Die: The Intersection of Branding, Entertainment, and Cannabis
  • Canada: The investment landscape in the world’s (soon-to-be) largest adult-use market
  • Corporate v. Underground
  • Political Landscape of the Cannabis Industry

The Lift Canadian Cannabis Awards

Thursday, November 30, 2017, was the fourth annual Lift Canadian Cannabis Awards in Toronto, Canada.

The Event

The Canadian Cannabis Awards (CCA) began in 2014 and truly celebrate and honor all aspects of the cannabis industry, bringing to light leadership, innovation, and excellence in the industry across all of Canada. They shine a spotlight on people, companies, ideas, and products that are innovating and changing the industry and moving it forward across the country.

Anyone can vote online through the CCA website for their favorites in a vast range of categories, such as voting for their favorite cannabis strains, products, growers, dispensaries, clinics, advertisements, and even people within the industry.

This year, Lift added a new beautiful tradition by hosting a gala with dinner and the awards ceremony, which was held at the gorgeous and historical Carlu Concert Hall in downtown Toronto, while also being live-streamed on the CCA website. The event was invite-only at first and then tickets were released to the public later.

Lift CEO Matei Olaru said of the event, “The CCAs have always been a point of pride for the industry, but this year is special. For the first time, we’ll be gathering the industry’s best to celebrate our shared success and shine a spotlight on Canadian cannabis. Our industry is filled with talented and hard-working professionals, and we’re excited to recognize their contributions while adding a little glamour to their year.”

Also for the first time, the Carlu Concert Hall allowed vaping inside with a very cool vape lounge, hosted by vaporizer e-retailer TVape in the Carlu’s Circle Room.

How Were Winners Chosen?

There are three classes of categories in the Canadian Cannabis Awards: those that are picked by public voters, those that are chosen via a committee of experts, and “special” categories. Each category has a different way of determining the winner.

Consumers were able to vote or rank their favorite products, social media influencers, companies, and more on the CCA website from September 1st through 30th in the following categories: Top LP, Cannabis Crusader, Top Social Media Account (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), Top Podcast, Top Advertisement, Top Testing Lab, Top Trimmer, Top Seed Company, Top Extraction Equipment, Top Nutrients Company, Top Lighting Company, Product of the Year, Best New Cannabis Product, Top LP Customer Service, Top LP Compassionate Pricing, Top LP Packaging, Top Portable Vaporizer, Top Desktop Vaporizer, Top Clinic (East and West), Top Cannabis Accessories Shop (East and West), Top Vape Lounge (East and West), Top Glassblower, Top Cannabis Chef, Top Hydroponic Retailer (East and West), and Top Home Growing Box, as well as all awards for dispensaries and dispensary products.

Product awards were also voter-driven, including both the licensed producer (LP ) and dispensary categories for: Top Indica Flower, Top Sativa Flower, Top Hybrid Flower, Top High THC Strain, Top High CBD Strain, Top High THC Oil, Top High CBD Oil, Top Blended/Value Variety, Top Edible, Top Oral Extract, Top Vaped or Smoked Extract.

For the first time in 2017, Lift introduced a new class of awards which were not voted on by consumers but were chosen by a committee of business and technical experts who have significant experience within the cannabis industry.

This first gathering of experts for the CCAs was made up of Alex Revich (Committee Chair), Jonathan Zaid, Marc Wayne, Jamie Shaw, Trina Fraser, Rosy Mondin, David Hyde, Antuanette Gomez, Aaron Salz, Marcus “Bubbleman” Richardson, Mike Lickver, Dr. Natasha Ryz, Sarah Jasma, Jenna Valleriani, John Fowler, Dieter Macpherson, Dr. Shane Morris, Remo Colasanti and Adam Greenblatt.

The committee had to consider many aspects of each nominated company and also be careful not to have any conflicts of interest. Committee-driven categories include: Lifetime Achievement Award, Startup of the Year, Product of the Year, Deal of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Innovator of the Year, Top Non-profit, Most Progressive Public Office, Most Progressive Researcher, Top Effort Affecting Policy Change, Writer of the Year, Top Charitable Initiative, Campaign of the Year, Most Promising Licensed Producer.

Each of the four special award categories award winners is determined by Lift itself, though often considers the results of voter nominations, which ran from August 1-31st this year.

The special categories are:

  • Brand of the Year – This award considers the results of voter nominations, as well as nominees’ impact on the industry over the preceding 12 months through their innovative storytelling, consistently applied brand elements, and novel approach.
  • Celebrity Advocate – This is an honorary award and honors a prominent individual for his or her well-publicized cannabis activism and efforts to normalize the plant.
  • Top Lift Reviewer – Chosen based on the volume and quality of personal contributions to the Lift.co website.
  • Employer of the Year – Over 60 companies were nominated for Employer of the Year during the nomination process running Aug 1 – 31. An employee survey was then sent to each employer for their staff to fill out, which included numerous questions on the employee’s experience with the company. Based on the responses, average scores were calculated and an overall winner was selected. The next nine winners were also selected to make up the Top 10 Employers of the Year.

A Few of the Winners

Licensed producers were winning awards all night long, but the two biggest winners by far were MedReleaf and OrganiGram. MedReleaf picked up the Best High CBD Strain, Best CBD Oil, Top THC Flower, and won the much-coveted Top Licensed Producer award. OrganiGram won the award for Best Sativa Flower, Best Value Variety, and Best Licensed Producer Compassionate Pricing Program.

Adam Miron’s company, Hydropothecary, won the awards for Best New Product for their activated cannabis powder Decarb, as well as Top Licensed Producer Packaging, and teared up while accepting the former award while discussing his late father who was his very first customer.

Arizer Air easily won the award for Top Portable Vaporizer, and the top three in the running for Top Cannabis Chef were Cody Lindsay, Jeff the 420 Chef, and Chef Derek Butt, with Lindsay taking it home. Top Podcast was won by The Cannabis Show, beating out other fan favorites like Expert Joints and The P.A.C.E. Radio Show.

World-renowned pain specialist and medical cannabis researcher Dr. Mark Ware, director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), took home the committee-driven Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other committee-chosen winners of major awards include Chuck Rifici, a Canadian entrepreneur, former CEO of Tweed Marijuana Inc, and former CFO of the Liberal Party of Canada, winner of the Innovator of the Year award, The Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids winning Top Nonprofit award, Arizer Solo as Product of the Year, Wheaton Income for Startup of the Year, Canopy Growth Corporation for Top Charitable Initiative, and Tweed Main Street as Innovation of the Year.

In the four Lift-chosen special categories, James E. Wagner Cultivation won Employer of the Year, Tokyo Smoke won Brand of the Year, Melissa Etheridge for Celebrity Advocate, and Michael Pasini won for Top Lift Reviewer.

See the full list of all winners here.

MassRoots Massive Problems

In October, the board of directors at MassRoots officially fired founder/CEO, Isaac Dietrich. MassRoots was founded in 2013 and is a Denver-based cannabis-focused technology and social media company and Dietrich has raised over $20 million in funding for it since its start. The firing occurred after he allegedly stole more than $250,000 from the business.

The board voted to remove Dietrich and then installed Vice President Scott Kveton as the new CEO while new company president, Amanda Ostrowitz, is out of the country traveling in Europe.

Ostrowitz was named President after Dietrich purchased her company, CannaRegs, for $12 million, which was hotly protested by the board as being too expensive.

New Vice President Scott Kveton was the Director of Business Development at Odava, a company that makes compliance and supply management software for marijuana businesses, which MassRoots purchased in July of this year.

Recently, MassRoots has been hemorrhaging money and seeing declining sales and revenue. Dietrich was on a mission to move from being seen as just a cannabis social media platform to a technology and compliance giant. Part of his firing was based on him being under suspicion of stock promotion. Though he denied it, a promoter who remained anonymous claimed he was offered and took money for a promotion.

Forbes reports that the board is not entirely happy with the firing of Dietrich. Once he learned of the upcoming vote for his removal, they are told Dietrich spoke with the individual shareholders to gain their support of him, and actually got a majority of the shareholders to vote for him to remain in place and remove the current board of directors.

No official account of the formal vote is available and there is a concern the vote did not take place, though no 8-K filing was done, which would have been necessary to remove the board. Nonetheless, the board did fire Dietrich, and the only way the shareholders would be able to reinstate him is to remove the board and vote him back in. It is being said that the shareholders are displeased that the board did not abide by their wishes.

Dietrich remains a member of the board of directors.

In the immediate wake of the firing, MassRoots’ (MSRT) over the counter stock took a dive from 44 cents per share to 29 cents per share, and at the time of this writing is currently at 21 cents per share.

Now, on November 14th, MassRoots filed a civil lawsuit against Dietrich in Denver District Court.

The lawsuit specifically alleges “Due to evidence of serious misconduct by Dietrich, which included illegal drug use at the workplace, improper sexual activities involving the workplace, and misappropriation and misuse of Company funds” and also says that when Marijuana Business Daily interviewed Dietrich for an article published on November 9, Dietrich made disparaging remarks which violate the nondisparagement agreement section of the official Separation Agreement. In the same interview, Dietrich made it clear he plans to call for a vote to remove or take over the MassRoots board of directors, which is in direct violation of the “standstill provisions” in the same Agreement.

MassRoots now claims that these breaches of the Separation Agreement caused “substantial damages, including those resulting from diminution in its market value.”

The suit asks for five claims of relief for breach of Separation Agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, civil theft, and unjust enrichment.

Marijuana Business Daily reports that Dietrich has denied all claims and called the suit “frivolous” and that “he would proceed shortly with efforts to oust the other three board members.”

Cannabis Start-Up Competition at Boston University

Boston University’s BUzz Lab held a Cannabis Start-Up Competition at the school’s Questrom School of Business this past Tuesday, November 14th.

175 people showed up to participate in the Shark-Tank-style competition, which was open to all Boston University students and alumni who had an interesting new idea or business venture in the burgeoning cannabis industry. The winners were awarded $10,000, a booth at the upcoming December Harvest Cup cannabis-industry event in Worcester, MA, and advisement from Green Lion Partners, a business strategy firm in Denver focused on early stage development in the regulated cannabis industry. GLP has worked with over a dozen successful cannabis startups, runs three of its own startups, and was founded by two Questrom alumni, Jeffrey Zucker and Mike Bologna.

Flyers and promotional materials for the competition state “Cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the US and is expanding all around the world. It’s rare to be in an industry where you know there are established customers even in markets that aren’t yet developed. Beyond the incredible opportunity though, there are millions of redacted patients that need better access to their redacted medicine and many people in jail for growing plants who don’t deserve to be there. For us, the bottom line is: people are consuming this herbal medicine everywhere, why not make it safe, regulated, and taxed. States like Colorado and Oregon are showing tremendous benefits a sustainable market framework can provide.”

They also clarify that the venture can be established and not created specifically for the competition. In the guidelines for the competition as a whole, BUzz Lab and GLP were clear that they were not looking for non-innovative vaporizers, band-aid solutions to any issues that will be solved with full legalization (such as bank solutions), and copies of companies or products that are already out in the market. They also touch on branding, warning startups to stay away from saturated cannabis leaf symbols and stereotypical “stoner” images in an effort to continue to move the perception of the cannabis industry forward in the world.

This competition was looking for “ancillary” cannabis companies, meaning they are not growing and producing cannabis itself, but are supportive and involved in the cannabis industry in other ways, such as software, research, tools, accessories, and other supporting elements within the industry.

People and companies selected to compete in the Cannabis Start-Up Competition were required to have the following materials ready for review and discussion, along with being able to discuss their impact on the industry, branding, investor opportunities, scalability ideas, and marketing plans.

  • A clear and concise one-page business summary
  • Pitch deck
  • Supplemental financial information
  • BUzz Lab Application
  • A  Social Component – “Policy reform and social responsibility are an important aspect of the cannabis industry. It’s imperative for new companies to have a plan for how they will integrate supporting the cause into their business models.”

The winner of the competition was the think tank–like Cannabis Center of Excellence, founded by Marion McNabb and Randy MacCaffrie. McNabb came up with the idea for CCoE while earning a doctorate at the BU School of Public Health, where she learned how to do research and then put it into practical application. She says, “We need to advance the research related to cannabis. We need to develop public health programs and train clinicians and study that over time.” Her company’s vision is to support Massachusetts to be the leader in designing, documenting, and scaling Cannabis industry best practices. This includes advocacy for cannabis research, networking events, and documenting best practices within the industry.

GLP founder and BU alum Jeffrey Zucker decided it was time to bring this type of competition to BU after adult-use recreational cannabis became legal in Massachusetts at the end of 2016. “I want BU to be on the forefront of cannabis education and show they realize it’s an industry that is coming,” he says.

 

Guidelines for the Recommendation of Cannabis for Medical Purposes

Just this week in California, the State of California, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Medical Board of California released their “Guidelines for the Recommendation of Cannabis for Medical Purposes” and sent them out to hospitals and medical cannabis companies and dispensaries.

As a medicinal provider, Humanity has received their copy and we would like to go into some detail about the report so you understand it thoroughly.

The Medical Board of California begins with a preamble assuring physicians that they are not going after them, even if a complaint is received, just for recommending or prescribing cannabis to their patients. “The Board wants to assure physicians who choose to recommend cannabis for medical purposes to their patients as part of their regular practice of medicine, that they will not be subject to investigation or disciplinary action by the Board if they arrive at the decision to make this recommendation in accordance with accepted standards of medical responsibility.”

These new guidelines are a continuation and refinement of Proposition 215, passed on November 5, 1996, which became known as the Compassionate Use Act and was meant to ensure that very ill California resident  could have the right to obtain and use cannabis for serious diseases like cancer, AIDS, migraines, and other illnesses it can help with, and also stated that neither the patients nor the doctors would be “subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.”

As they say, this book of guidelines is not a mandated standard of care, they are simply guidelines and suggestions and can be different for individual patients.

What is the Medical Board of California?

According to their website, “The mission of the Medical Board of California is to protect health care consumers through the proper licensing and regulation of physicians and surgeons and certain allied healthcare professions and through the vigorous, objective enforcement of the Medical Practice Act, and to promote access to quality medical care through the Board’s licensing and regulatory functions.”

In practice, what does this mean? Through the MBC, you can check up on your doctor’s license and see their status with the Board and search through scanned, public-record documents relating to administrative actions taken by the Board against licensed and unlicensed individuals, including public letters of reprimand (posted for 10 years), citations (for 3 years), and suspensions and other enforcement actions.

You can also use their site to file a complaint against your physician, look up outpatient surgery requirements, and find any and all forms you may need relating to your healthcare.  

All in all, the MBC is the authority of healthcare professionals in California and are there to protect YOU as the patient through regulations and guidelines.

What do the new guidelines entail?

The new guidelines for the recommendation of cannabis for medical purposes covers the following:

 

  • Patient-physician relationship: Emphasizing the need to establish and document and appropriate and trusting relationship with patients.
  • Patient evaluations: Discusses what makes up an adequate full evaluation and how important it is to document it and reminds doctors that recommending cannabis as a medication without a thorough exam and medical reason constitutes unprofessional conduct.
  • Informed and shared decision making: Makes sure that doctors are sharing all risks and benefits of cannabis use with their patients and making the decision together.
  • Treatment agreements: Discussing the importance of written treatment plans with objectives, and being sure it is individualized to the patient. This includes any other planned treatments and the duration for cannabis use, no longer than 12 months.
  • Qualifying conditions: This states that recommending cannabis is at the discretion of the physician, but reminds them that there is a lack of evidence for the efficacy of it for some illnesses and diseases. It is highly recommended that in all cases of recommending cannabis use, that the doctor is basing the determination on clinical trials, medical literature and reports, and other physician’s experiences.
  • Ongoing monitoring and adapting treatment plans: Emphasizes the need for the physician to regularly and consistently assess the patient’s response to cannabis usage as treatment and its effect on the patient’s overall health, and revising the treatment plan as needed.
  • Consultations and referrals: This guideline reminds physicians that in some cases they may want to consult with or refer their patient to a specialist, especially in the case of one with substance abuse history or mental health disorders.
  • Medical records: Discusses the need for accurate record keeping of patient records and how every entry must be dated and signed, as well as lists the necessary information which should be in each patient’s records.
  • Physician conflicts of interest: Explains that it is illegal to recommend cannabis from a facility which the doctor or their family has any financial interest in, and explains it is a misdemeanor, considered ‘unprofessional conduct,’ and is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5000 fine. Physicians are also not allowed to have their offices located at a dispensary or cannabis cultivation center, and they cannot be a direct or indirect employee of them.

 

You can find the full guidelines here.

Oh, Oh, Ontario

Canada’s Senate & the Cannabis Deadline

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still promising a July 1 deadline for recreational cannabis legalization, but both Liberal and Conservative senators appointed by various PMs are not certain the deadline is attainable.

Independent Senator André Pratte said getting the legislation right is more important than the deadline, CBC News reports. “The deadline is a political deadline. It’s not a court that imposed that deadline. It’s the government that set that deadline. We have to take it into account, but we also have to do our job seriously and that’s what we’ll do,” Pratte recently said.

Once the elected members of the House of Commons pass Bill C-45 – which is expected to happen before Christmas this year – the marijuana legalization bill heads to the Senate for their perusal.

Tony Dean, the senator sponsoring the bill, is promising to keep the bill on schedule, but as Conservative Senator Ghislain Maltais sums it up, “There are 95 senators and as many opinions.”

Marijuana Business Daily explains:

  • Senators have the ability to hold up and revise legislation, but rarely ever reject it.
  • Senators are appointed by prime ministers and serve until they reach age 75.
  • Canada’s unelected and unaccountable senators are tasked with studying and sometimes amending legislation already approved by the elected members of the House of Commons.
  • Trudeau famously kicked all 32 Liberal senators out of the Liberal caucus in 2014 in a bid to reduce partisanship.

Oh, Oh, Ontario

Canada’s province of Ontario is proposing the Cannabis Act, 2017, which was presented by Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in Queen’s Park on Wednesday, November 1.

The Ontario government has a goal of overseeing cannabis sales and distribution in the province and shutting down the province’s popular but illegal dispensaries. The Cannabis Act, 2017 follows through with legislation that gives the provincial government full reins of the cannabis industry.

As reported by Leafly, the legislation would safely regulate the use and distribution of recreational cannabis when it is legalized by the federal government in July 2018 and would support the province’s safe and sensible transition to the federal legalization of cannabis. One specific note, the provincial government announced that it will stamp out the province’s black-market dispensaries by “introducing new provincial offenses with strict, escalating penalties.”

Under the new regulations, recreational cannabis in Ontario will be sold online and in 40 storefronts, all open and ready by the Canada Day legalization deadline, with plans for expansion to 150 stores across the province by 2020.

From the Ontario Newsroom press release, the proposed legislation would:

  • Create a new provincial retailer, overseen by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), to ensure safe and socially responsible distribution of recreational cannabis through stand-alone stores and an online order service. Under the proposed approach, approximately 150 standalone stores will be opened by 2020, including 40 stores by July 2018 and rising to 80 by July 2019. Online distribution will also be available to service all regions of the province.
  • Protect youth by setting a minimum age of 19 to use, buy, possess and cultivate cannabis in Ontario.
  • Focus on harm reduction by allowing for the diversion of people under the age of 19 from the justice system into programs focused on education and prevention, avoiding unnecessary contact with the justice system.
  • Ban the use of cannabis in public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, similar to alcohol.
  • The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 will be updated to include vaping and e-cigarettes, in an effort to protect people from secondhand smoke. It currently regulates medical cannabis use and tobacco products.
  • Help eliminate the illicit market including illegal storefront dispensaries, by introducing new provincial offenses with strict, escalating penalties.
  • Keep Ontario’s roads safe by establishing even tougher drug-impaired driving laws, including a zero-tolerance approach for young, novice, and commercial drivers.

Ontario is continuing to move forward with plans to help and protect young people with a public information campaign to raise awareness of the new rules and when they will be in effect. They are also looking to prevent and educate young people under the age of 19, as opposed to putting them through the criminal justice system or be on their record.

Ontario is also looking to keep a low price point for all strains of cannabis, to further deter buyers from going to the black market. The price could be as low as $10 per gram.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne stresses that the government would not be making huge financial gains from cannabis sales. “This, actually, isn’t about money from my perspective,” Wynne told the Toronto Star. “This is about making sure that a substance that needs to be regulated is regulated in a safe and responsible way. And that’s exactly the approach we are taking.”

Gossamer: The New Face of Cannabis Media

Greenwave Advisors recently released a report saying that the cannabis industry is up 35% year over year, with approximately $6.5 billion in recreational marijuana sales in 2016. Not to mention, the market for CBD is projected to reach $2.1 billion by 2020, almost ten times its value of $202 million in 2015, according to a 2016 report released by the trade publication Hemp Business Journal. Well over half of the states have legalized marijuana in one form or another, up to 29 now (plus DC), with more on the way.

As Business of Fashion states, “It was only a matter of time, then, that a media company with a fresh take on the rapidly growing industry would aim to disrupt the market.”

Say hello to Gossamer. It is a lifestyle and cannabis publication which has just launched on Friday, October 27th, 2017. The two co-founders, Verena von Pfetten and David Weiner, say they plan to examine and write about travel, food, and general culture through a “green lens.” They are launching this new publication for their peers, saying that their generation consumes marijuana, but does not define themselves by that alone. It is simply a part of life.

“We tend to sort of joke that cannabis is the least interesting part of cannabis,” Verena said. “Everything that happens before during and after is a lot more compelling to us.”

Verena and David met 10 years ago while they were both working for the Huffington Post and their media and branding experience meant they know what it takes to bring this new venture to life. Verena has experience as a brand consultant and former digital editorial director of Lucky Magazine, while David was a digital strategist and former chief creative officer of Digg, among other roles. They are launching Gossamer following a “sustainable and scaleable” rubric that prioritizes engagement overreach.

Verena and David are excited to be launching a publication that doesn’t turn cannabis into the stereotypical “pothead” or “stoner” motif that is seen in so many places in the media, from “That 70’s Show” and Netflix’s “Disjointed” to the movie “Pineapple Express” and more.

Fashion, Beauty & Cannabis

The fashion industry specifically seems to agree and be taking notice. Major labels like Alexander Wang, Creatures of the Wind, Baja East, and Jeremy Scott are incorporating cannabis motifs into their work. And just in March of this year, Clement Kwan, former Yoox Corporation president, launched Beboe, a luxury marijuana brand, with tattoo artist Scott Campbell. Companies like Marley Natural, named after the late Bob Marley, are already producing more than just apparel, and have lines of personal care products and accessories. Marley Natural was launched in February 2016 by Privateer Holdings, a cannabis-focused private-equity firm that has raised $122 million in funding and is based in Seattle, Washington.

The beauty industry is also getting involved. Longtime fashion editor Claudia Mata of Sausalito, California, is a newly minted entrepreneur on the cusp of launching Vertly Balm, a luxe beauty line infused with CBD and THC.  And Toronto-based physician and cannabis expert Dr. Andrew Kerklaan started his own line of CBD and THC wellness and beauty products this past summer.

Opportunities for the luxury industry, in general, to capitalize on the continued and seemingly inevitable legalization of marijuana go far beyond incorporating a cannabis leaf into clothing designs. One such foray has been into accessories like vaporizers and pipes, now being reimagined through a high-design lens. The same way flasks and cigarette cases have had designer makeovers previously, it is very likely that pro-cannabis fashion brands will begin to create paraphernalia of their own (if they haven’t already) and continue to be able to market themselves as cutting edge.

In addition, liquor and wine companies, such as Diageo, which owns Bulleit and Cîroc, and LVMH, which owns Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, may be interested in branded marijuana as new revenue opportunities soon, especially as alcohol sales plateau or even decrease in the west, like how they dropped a bit in 2015 for the first time in 15 years. In fact, at the end of 2016, Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands was in the news telling Bloomberg that they were investigating opportunities in the marijuana industry. “We’re looking at it,” he said. “Why wouldn’t big business, so to speak, be acutely interested in a category of that magnitude?”

Gossamer is not the first in this media space. High Times is the most well-known brand in the cannabis media space and was recently sold to private equity firm Oreva at a $70 million valuation. Soon after, Oreva merged with Origo and this second acquisition is making High Times valuation go way up. They plan to be listed on NASDAQ before the end of the year at $250 million.

“The market is enormous and underserved and misunderstood, and I think we are all influenced by decades-old stereotypes of who consumes cannabis,” says Gossamer investor Teddy Goff, a partner at digital strategy firm ‎Precision Strategies. “[Gossamer] is a media brand that is not doing click bait, that is not trying to be cheap, is not trying to be too disposable, but is actually investing in beautiful design…and real journalism that reflects a certain taste and a certain level of quality.”

Gossamer is planning to start with newsletters, Instagram events, and live events right away, and a print publication issue coming out twice per year starting next year in 2018. A newsletter series that is already in the works will feature interviews with people David and Verena think would be interesting dinner party guests, from both in and out of the cannabis space.

For now, Gossamer intends to generate revenue through commercial partnerships and just wants to stay focused on finding and keeping a loyal, dedicated audience. In the future, they intend to have physical products for sale.

In discussing challenges in finding corporate partners and brands to advertise with them, Verena says, “Gossamer is elevated and sophisticated enough to not feel like they are doing something illicit or illegal.” And explains that they intend to really take care of brands and alleviate concerns. They are currently talking to hospitality, fashion, and liquor brands.

Cannabis Job Board

We recently discussed the U.S.-based and Canadian universities starting to offer cannabis courses and certificates to teach a new generation of workers the legal ins and outs, horticulture, and even marketing within the cannabis industry.

More of the world is recognizing its benefits and legalizing marijuana each week. Just last week, New Zealand confirmed their newest Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who says she is going to hold a public referendum on whether to legalize recreational marijuana for personal use at some point over the next three years. The Associated Press reports that “The referendum would make New Zealand the first nation to hold a countrywide vote on legalizing marijuana.”

Cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use is clearly here to stay and is slowly moving across the world.

But once we have trained and educated cannabis specialists, how do they find jobs? And how can the cannabis industry as a whole bring hiring into the 21st century?

Enter: Vangsters

Cannabis Job Board

24-year-old Karson Humiston is the founder of Vangsters, the first cannabis-specific online job board and aggregator for employers and potential candidates to post and apply to jobs. Like most job boards, it is free for candidates to look for and apply to jobs, and the employers pay $69 per month to post unlimited job ads.

In 2015, Karson was about to graduate from St. Lawrence University and decided to attend a cannabis trade show in New York. Companies were talking about jobs being available in lesser-known parts of the cannabis industry, like needing marketing interns and retail associates, and Karson wanted to help them fill those jobs with interested and qualified young people.

“The types of positions that were available in the cannabis industry, even in 2015, blew my mind,” she tells CNBC Make It. “So I decided to start a business, which used to be called ‘Gradujuana,’ where we would connect college students and recent grads with jobs in the emerging cannabis industry.”

Putting her idea into action immediately, Karson came back to the trade show the next day with brand new business cards and started advertising her business. She told companies that she could find them interns and recent college graduates, and she generated enough interest and follow up conversations to know this was a viable idea.

Karson relocated to Denver, Colorado, where many cannabis companies were located, to build her business from the ground up. That July, Karson got her first signed client, O.penVape, who needed an Accounting Intern. Karson offered them an unbeatable deal: She would do the recruiting, interviewing and reference checking for $500. They signed.

Karson did not have any experience in recruiting agencies and was unaware that many in the industry were charging 20% or more of the annual salary for the recruiting fees. Her next break came in late August 2015, when she connected with business consulting firm Canna Advisors, who said they would no longer pay other companies the high 20% fee, and offered her a starting deal of $2000 per position she filled. She started with three open roles: Project Manager, Technical Writer, and Executive Assistant.

“At this point, I had this coming-to-Jesus moment that I needed to go out and hire other people who had experience in recruiting, who had experience in client acquisition — and that’s really when our business started taking off,” she says. As of now, her company has 25 employees.

In 2016, as the company started to fill more senior-level positions, Karson changed its name from Gradujuana to Vangst Talent Network. “Vangst means ‘catch’ in Dutch,” says Humiston, “I’m part Dutch, and the idea was we were catching the top talent, and it wasn’t just interns and recent grads.”

As Vangst Talent Network continued to grow quickly and fill more positions in the industry, Karson created and held a Cannabis Career Summit in Denver in 2016 and then launched Vangsters, the first cannabis-centered online job board, just this summer in August 2017.

Currently, there are 12,000 candidates, 53 companies, and roughly 200 job openings on the platform, and Karson says one of her biggest challenges is helping companies overcome the stereotypes associated with the industry.

“Convincing people to leave being a manager at Neiman Marcus or Chanel to manage a dispensary is a transition, and people aren’t exactly comfortable with the industry yet,” she said to CNBC Make It. “So, as a company, we have an obligation to educate our candidates on the industry, on where the industry is going and where the opportunities are.”

Considering that by 2026, the marijuana industry is estimated it will be worth $50 billion annually, Karson has created a necessary platform and is pioneering a way for cannabis companies to get top talent in today’s competitive market and continue to show their validity to a sometimes skill skeptical populous.

Natural Disasters & Cannabis Crops

MMJ Devastated in Puerto Rico

It has been almost a month since devastating Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th with winds of up to 200 miles per hour, heavy rain, and causing flooding and devastation throughout the island. The number of deaths is above 44 and it is said to have caused over $100 billion in damage.

Some of that damage includes PR’s medical marijuana industry. Not one outdoor marijuana cultivation facility survived the disaster, though a few physical dispensaries are continuing to operate and serve patients for as long as their stock allows. As the damage is assessed, it is important to remember that the medical marijuana industry does not receive or qualify for any federal aid due to very strict restrictions.

This is a huge setback to the medical marijuana industry, which PR was hoping may help them with their $72 million debt and assist them out of economic crisis. Those goals, at least for medical marijuana, are now pushed back a minimum of six months.

“We were expecting a lot from this industry,” Ingrid Schmidt, the president of the Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Association, said to NBC News. “It’s the only industry that was creating jobs and a lot of hope was put into this industry because it was critical to the financial circumstance that our island is going through.”

After the devastation, the board of Puerto Rican Department of Cannabis approved an emergency rule that allows medical marijuana patients to go to any open clinic and dispensary and not the single assigned one from previous rules. This new temporary rule is allowing people to get the medication they have come to depend on.

Medical marijuana is legally used in Puerto Rico to address more than a dozen conditions, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and more, and PR has over 12,000 registered patients, with original estimations to be around 100,000 over time.

According to MJBizDaily on October 11, there were 8 or 9 total indoor cultivation facilities still operating and 19 of 29 dispensaries, but they were still operating with the help of water tanks and diesel generators. Over a quarter of the island was without potable water and over half still without electricity.

According to reports from people on the ground (as of 10/11/2017):

  • 5% of the electricity is back on the island, mainly in hospitals, the airport and some government buildings.
  • 40% of the 3.4 million people on the island have no access to running water.
  • Only 20% of internet and cell communications are back online.

Wildfires Destroying Operations in California

Wildfires are continuing to rage through Northern California, and have already destroyed over 200,000 acres of land, including devastating vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, and scorching some of the largest marijuana operations in the state, especially in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

“We have a lot of people who have lost their farms in the last 36 hours, and their homes,” said Tawnie Logan, chair of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance on Tuesday. She knows of a $2 million crop in a Santa Rosa greenhouse that was reduced to ash last Sunday night.

The New York Times reports, “Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, said Thursday that at least seven farms had been destroyed, and that he expected the number to “increase significantly” as people returned to their homes. Tens of thousands of cannabis growers live in Northern California.”

One of the devastated counties, Mendocino County, is one of three counties in California that make up the “Emerald Triangle,” the locations where much of the entire US’s marijuana is cultivated and produced. The San Francisco Chronicle says “Unlike wineries, cannabis farmers generally cannot obtain crop or fire insurance. Those that do find insurance pay exorbitant rates for skimpy coverage.”

Humboldt and Trinity counties make up the other sides of the triangle, and all three are located in the gorgeous forests on mountainsides of Northern California.

California is America’s largest domestic cannabis producer, growing an estimated 13 million pounds per year, and about 80% of it is shipped out of state. With the weather patterns locally, most of the crops are grown outdoors, planted in the spring and harvested in autumn when the flower is ready.

California just voted to legalize recreational marijuana back in November 2016, and these fires have come right “in the toughest year in decades, because the entire cannabis industry is in the process of seeking local and state licensing under legalization Proposition 64,” Logan said. Some of the cannabis companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in getting the necessities needed to get a license and with so much destroyed, including warehouses and storage facilities in addition to the farms, these companies can’t have insurance to cover the costs and many are losing their life savings as well as their livelihoods.

Turning to the Black Market in New York State

New York State’s medical marijuana program is growing very slowly. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, some counties have made very little in revenue, such as Westchester County, which only got $18,000 for the first six months of 2017. Similarly, Monroe County has made only around $80,000 in tax revenue since the NY State’s medical marijuana program launched in 2016. Ulster County made just $3,800 in tax revenue in 2016 and only $12,000 so far in 2017, dismal numbers, and is also home to a dispensary.

In the state of New York, 45% of the tax revenue from the state medical marijuana program is to be distributed to the counties in which the dispensaries are located. There are five growing and production facilities and 20 dispensaries around the state. And according to the state Comptroller’s Office, the county’s’ share worked out to just $263,065 during the entire period of April 2016 to March 2017.

Jill Montag, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said in a statement, “New York state’s Medical Marijuana Program has always been about patient care, not profitability or tax revenue,”

Why is there so little money?

Well, New York started with only ten dispensaries and limited interest from the state’s doctors to be involved in the program, which was then expanded to 20, despite pushback from the original 10, claiming there would be even less demand.

New York is very strict regulations and rules surrounding who can get medical marijuana and from where making it even more difficult. In December 2016, New York attempted to mitigate that by adding “chronic pain” to the list of 10 other eligible conditions and allowed nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana usage, but there is still a lack of sales.

The lack of significant revenue is a concern, though the numbers have gone up slightly. The five facilities generated a total of $16.6 million between April 2016 and August 2017, but $8.4 million of that was from April 2016 through March 2017, a total of about $700,000 per month. Over the next several months, sales improved significantly, another $8.2 million from April to August of this year, making it an average of $1.64 million per month, and the number of certified doctors and patients is rising. Not great, but better than previously.

The Black Market

Even though New York is slowly approving new doctors and allowing additional medical issues and conditions to be eligible for medical marijuana, New York residents are still finding the state’s medical marijuana to be somewhat difficult to locate and get, expensive, and payable only in cash.

Reported by SILive, one anonymous man has significant chronic pain from an accident two years ago and purchases his legal medical marijuana in Manhattan, but each pill only relieves his pain for about two hours. He takes the pills twice per day and it costs him $400-500 per month.

Medical marijuana is not covered by insurance and cannot be purchased with a credit card. Aside from price, Empire State NORML’s Doug Greene has also heard many complaints about the paperwork surrounding being approved and the quality of the product once they get it. “There are vape pens you can get for $30 or $40 in a state like Colorado that you can get for $100 here for an inferior product,” says Greene.

It is any surprise that many users have felt the need to purchased marijuana illegally?

It is less expensive and easily attainable, and while some New Yorkers prefer the dispensaries practices of screening and verifying safety, it really often comes down to the cost.Some insiders say that things will change when dispensaries in New York are allowed to sell a smokable cannabis flower, but right now that is not happening.

New York is continuing to try to firm up regulations and make adjustments to make more money and tax revenue and allow for more patients and doctors to be registered and get access to medical marijuana, but right now only time will tell if new rules are effective.

Photo by Nicolai Berntsen on Unsplash