Oregon Has Generated Over $300 Million In Job Wages Since Legalization

Marijuana News/March 28, 2017/Allie Beckett

The numbers are in and its official — if you’re against cannabis legalization, then you’re against economic stimulation.

“Cannabis is a job-creation machine,” says Oregon Economist Beau Whitney, leader of the statewide economic study that shows $1.2 billion of economic activity in Oregon thanks to recreational marijuana legalization.

Since adult-use cannabis legalization passed in Oregon a year ago, over 900 cannabis businesses have been licensed. Still, 1,225 applicants await approval, for a total of 2,142 possible licensed businesses.

The cannabis businesses that are currently licensed are responsible for creating 12,500 jobs within the last year “directly related to the growing, processing, testing, and sale of marijuana,” states a report from Whitney. And these are only jobs that directly touch the cannabis plant, excluding “auxiliary businesses such as security, regulatory, accounting, consulting, real estate, etc.” Whitney believes these numbers are still very conservative.

Nevertheless, including just the number of jobs created from businesses directly involved with the cannabis plant, Oregon has generated $315 million in wages over the last year (at an average of about $12/hour). And because employed, economically happy people like to spend more money within their community, Whitney explains, “With a multiplier of 4, this implies that there is $1.2 billion in economic activity related to these wages.”

“On a national basis, the $50 billion cannabis market is essentially the equivalent to the U.S. wine market ($55 billion)” – Beau Whitney, Oregon Economist.

With nearly 5% of the United States still suffering from unemployment, this boost of local work opportunities makes the difference between food or no food on the table in some cases.

“At present, I feel there are roughly 300,000 – 400,000 cannabis-touching jobs in the USA,” Whitney said. “That number will grow to more than a million as more states come online as legal markets.” In comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nationwide only 105,000 jobs were created in the education sector in the last year and only 219,000 construction jobs were created in the last year.

Portland, the biggest metro area in Oregon, ranked number 19 nationwide for the highest number of new residents in 2015, with 111 people moving to Portland every day. Metro planning director, Elissa Gertler, told OregonMetro.gov, “This continued growth demonstrates that our region is a desirable place to live and a competitive place to work.” Cannabis is surely on the top of the list of economic stimulators, alongside the competitive microbrew and wine industries.

In 2013, wine-related jobs in Oregon were estimated to total around 17,000 with wages near $527 million. In 2015, the craft beer industry in Oregon was estimated to create more than 31,000 jobs for a total of $4.49 billion in economic impact. But we have to remember, these numbers for beer and wine include jobs created from direct and indirect jobs, while the cannabis stats only count direct jobs. The cannabis industry is rapidly gaining ground.

Not only is Portland booming, but the newly established recreational industry is boosting economies of rural counties where growers are pouring money into land, equipment, natural resources, and other Oregon-based businesses.

Whitney has promised a more comprehensive and in-depth economic survey soon which will analyze both the direct and indirect impact. Even with the preliminary numbers, it is breathing a great amount of hope into exhausted economic landscapes across Oregon. If it can build up one state’s job creation by 12,500 in just one year, imagine what this industry could do to revitalize local economies nationwide.

Marijuana equipment start-ups flourish as large rivals avoid legal pitfalls

USA Today/March 27, 2017/Trevor Hughes

GREELEY, Colo. – Marijuana’s uncertain legal status across the country has unleashed a network of innovators and entrepreneurs into a space that would ordinarily be filled with name-brand manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and federally funded research universities.

These small “cannabusinesses” are rushing to fill niches and make money in a field where the drug’s illegal status at the federal level has made many start-up basics — from getting a new machine to accessing credit — far more challenging. Colorado, for instance, boasts a cottage industry of innovation because it was one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis sales to adults, and also has a highly educated, youthful workforce.

Take Greeley, Colo.-based Leaf, for example: A converted garage in this northern Colorado college town has become a de-facto lab for developing the company’s self-contained marijuana-growing “refrigerator.” The $3,000 wifi-enabled cabinet has a webcam so its owner can monitor the growing plants no matter where they are.  Leaf introduced the cabinet earlier this year and has already sold more than 1,000.

“We started small there and then it kept growing, literally and figuratively,” said Leaf CEO Jonathan “Yoni” Ofir.

There is a marijuana-extraction system inside the Wana Brands factory in Boulder, Colo. The dark liquid is highly concentrated marijuana oil, and workers are using high-grade ethanol as a solvent to remove impurities before the oil gets added to cannabis-infused candies. Like many marijuana companies, Wana has had to build much of its own equipment because conventional equipment suppliers have little experience with marijuana businesses.

The innovations aren’t limited to Colorado. More than 1,000 miles west in Orange County, Calif., Danny Davis’ team at Convectium built seven versions of their cannabis-cartridge filling machine in 15 months, starting with cobbled-together technology and ending with a touch screen display. Now, customers are begging for something even faster than the current $16,000 model. And in a reversal of the usual pattern, Davis’ researchers have been tearing apart Chinese-made vaporizer technology so they adapt it for marijuana use.

“You see innovation coming from the grass-roots level. It’s the thing that begins everything else,” said Davis, a former venture capitalist.

Back in Denver, the marijuana social media platform MassRoots is celebrating having 1 million registered users and being restored to the Google Play store after being banned since November. MassRoots is like Yelp for cannabis, and the company doesn’t even touch pot. But while it’s seeing success in connecting marijuana users, both Apple and Google have thrown up roadblocks. Apple in 2014 booted MassRoots from the App Store, and only allowed it to return by forcing a series of changes that included people never talking about other drugs on the platform. The company’s solution: Every post by those million users has to be reviewed by a MassRoots worker.

“That’s the nature of the marijuana business – facing challenges that no other business has to face,” said CEO Isaac Dietrich.

The lack of large industry players has left room for plenty of snake-oil salesmen and publicity-seekers making outlandish claims about the unique nature of their products. But that vacuum of established research has also opened up a wide, albeit semi-legal, playing field in a new green rush that appears only likely to accelerate as California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada, among others, ramp up recreational marijuana sales.

Nationwide legalization could dramatically change the playing field, inducing larger manufacturers and banks to market to businesses seen as too risky because pot is still illegal nationally. But with the election of President Donald Trump, whose stance on marijuana is most unclear, such a national seal of approval seems far off.

That’s allowed a cottage industry of experts, consultants, and equipment manufacturers focused on marijuana to flourish.

In the mountain town of Evergreen, Colo., Jon Cooper’s team of scientists and researchers are trying to isolate the compounds in marijuana so they can provide a more consistent experience. While most people have heard of THC and perhaps the non-psychoactive CBD, Cooper’s team at ebbu have isolated 18 different components of cannabis. They claim their new water-soluble cannabis extract acts more like alcohol: a faster, more consistent “high” that also wears off relatively fast. It’s the kind of research you’d expect to see taking place inside a university lab filled with grad students, or maybe a pharmaceutical factory.

“The big companies, the people you’d expect to be filing the patents, they can’t play right now,” says Cooper, a former business executive with a resume that includes Level 3 and Accenture. “There’s an opportunity for us to make a huge impact.”

A major driver is profit. Today’s patchwork of cannabis marketplaces means small players have an advantage, and bigger companies can’t as easily bring to bear their expertise and capital, leaving room for entrepreneurs selling not just marijuana but the proverbial picks and shovels.

New Frontier Data, a cannabis analytics firm, says the current legal cannabis industry could grow to $8 billion by year’s end and reach $16 billion by 2020. Another industry analyst, GreenWave Advisors, says there’s 30 million recreational marijuana users today, spending an average of $1,500 annually. And the potential growth is significant: the Los Angeles area has more than twice as many marijuana customers as the entire state of Colorado.

Industry players say it’s only a matter of time until larger companies figure out how to scale up the techniques and work across state lines. They think national legalization, or at least a formal relaxation of prohibitions, will come eventually. And when that happens, expect pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies and traditional investors to supercharge what is already a fast-growing industry, richly rewarding entrepreneurs who’ve got intellectual property and processes all dialed in.

“You’ve got a lot of really smart people with a lot of money just waiting to dive in,” Davis said. “Companies that do things the right way will ultimately be gobbled up and build something much bigger than ourselves.”

Sessions Task Force Will Review DOJ Cannabis Enforcement

Leafly/April 6, 2017/Gage Peake

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent out a memo on Wednesday to U.S. Attorneys announcing the formation of a new task crime reduction task force. The task force will review how the Department of Justice enforces cannabis laws, among other things, and will report its initial recommendations by July 27, 2017.

In the memo, which was sent to federal prosecutors and the heads of Justice Department agencies, Sessions said that task force subcommittees will focus on a variety of issues, including:

Developing violent crime reduction strategies, supporting prevention and re-entry efforts, updating charging and sentencing policies, reviewing asset forfeiture guidance, reducing illegal immigration and human trafficking, combating hate crimes, and evaluating marijuana enforcement policy.

Sessions did not announce how many people are on the task force, who they are, or whether they have positions inside or outside the federal government.

On the topic of cannabis, the task force will “review existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with administration goals and priorities.”

So it seems as if cannabis will be included into a subcommittee that is looking at the appropriate levels of charging and sentencing.

This seems to add to the uncertainty in the cannabis industry, as Sessions has sent many mixed messages on cannabis and its continued federal prohibition.

In February, Sessions said that the DOJ will try and adopt more “responsible policies” for enforcing cannabis laws. Experts told him, he said, that there is more violence around cannabis than one would think.

One of the other subcommittee’s will explore the use of asset forfeiture, and make recommendations on any improvements to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.

The new task force is not specifically focused on the enforcement of federal cannabis laws. The Violent Crime Reduction Strategy Development Subcommittee will make recommendations for the department’s overall violent crime reduction strategy, which according to the memo, will focus on enforcement against violent offenders.

The subcommittee will also focus on immigration enforcement and human trafficking to ensure that the federal government has “an aggressive and coordinated strategy to deter those who violate our boarders and subject others to forced labor, involuntary servitude, sex trafficking, and other forms of modern-day slavery.

Sessions added that the DOJ also must protect the civil rights of all Americans, and accordingly, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee will “develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes and better protect the rights of all Americans.”

 

Claiming Your Stake: Real Estate Considerations for Cannabis Companies

Cannabis Business Executive/March 29, 2017/Jason Klein

Every person who invests in well-selected real estate in a growing section of a prosperous community adopts the surest and safest method of becoming independent, for real estate is the basis of wealth.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Purchasing Real Estate with your Cannabis Company

Most cannabusiness operators would disagree with Mr. Roosevelt.  For them, real estate is not the basis of wealth—company cash flow is.  Real estate is simply a capital asset that the company needs to create cash flow.  Anyone who has ever sought to purchase or value a cannabis business knows this fact implicitly: the value of the company is dictated not by the assets it owns but by the cash flow and year over year sales it generates.

Although the value of real estate is not the primary driver of business valuation, owning real estate as a business asset offers some positive financial, legal and regulatory advantages. Some of these advantages can be particularly impactful for cannabis businesses.  For instance, owning your own property means you do not have a landlord to keep happy.  It also gives the business greater flexibility in financing since real estate is viewed as an investment with a virtually unlimited lifespan – so it can be financed with equity, mortgage loans, or sale-leaseback financing.

Some drawbacks are attendant to the ownership proposition as well – buying real estate carries a significant opportunity cost insofar as it could act to make further investment in the business more difficult.  These considerations – the value, the costs, and the opportunity costs – can all be incorporated into a model to help business owners decide what is best for them.

The Cannabis Commercial Lease

A commercial lease to operate a cannabis business is anything but standard – even a standard commercial lease agreement applied to a cannabis business has the potential to be interpreted very differently from what it otherwise would be in the case of another industry.  Both landlords and cannabis businesses must take into account the fact that cannabis remains a schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and work to mitigate the potential negative outcomes stemming from this fact for both parties in the relationship.

Just one example involves state regulatory compliance. While it varies between states, every state has some level of regulatory requirement relating to the ownership of cannabis businesses.  A very popular provision often incorporated into cannabis lease agreements provides for a share of profits to go to the landlord.  In some states this profit-sharing arrangement could be seen by regulators as a form of de facto ownership in the business, hence implicating disclosures, background checks, and compliance vetting.  Suddenly, landlords who saw themselves as “silent” partners to the business could be subjected to unwanted and invasive regulatory reviews, and leaving the businesses and the valuable licenses they hold exposed.

Potential landmines exist even within the boilerplate language typically found at the end of every commercial lease.  Most commercial leases contain a boilerplate clause stating that any illegal use of the property in violation of federal or state law constitutes a default under the lease, and subjecting it to immediate termination.  Clearly that clause is not going to work for a cannabis business.  I recommend instead that leases use a clause forbidding only activities outside of the scope of those allowed under state – not federal – law, thereby allowing for the intended use consistent with the state license.

Another example involves dispute resolution.  Often overlooked in lease agreements and many other types of contracts, a dispute resolution clause stipulates how disagreements between the parties are resolved.  Parties need to be sensitive to the fact that some state courts have held that contracts for an activity illegal under federal law are unenforceable and void ab initio, meaning that it is as if the contract never existed.  An arbitration clause mandating the parties resolve their differences before an arbitrator rather than a judge could be a feasible workaround.

Location, Location, Location….and Compliance

Regardless of whether you end up buying or leasing, the property that you select has a big impact in determining your eventual success.  The right property for you will be determined by two primary considerations – suitability and compliance.  Naturally, dispensaries require vastly different properties from cultivation and processing facilities.  The former look for accessible retail locations conveniently located nearby target markets, while the later typically seek industrial or agricultural properties that meet their utility demands while still allowing for conducive supply chains.

Both businesses have to grapple with state regulations and local zoning.  Often states and cities require cannabis business be set back at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other places that children typically congregate, and it is good practice to stick to this approach even where local laws may allow a shorter buffer.  You should have a zoning review showing all local schools, parks, daycare centers, and playgrounds in the vicinity of the target property before beginning any negotiations for lease or sale.

Keep in mind too that a cannabis company moving into the area will attract the attention of neighbors.  Be a good neighbor and be sensitive to the concerns and questions coming from the local community.  On the whole, cannabis companies that engage their local zoning and neighbors will succeed at a greater rate than those who do not, and this is because local zoning boards and neighborhood associations, hold a great deal of power to make your business life frustrating, impractical, or even impossible.

Conclusion

Cannabis businesses by nature require real estate – either agricultural, industrial, or retail.  Your choice of property that fits your business criteria while still complying with the regulatory requirements is essential, and the decision about how to acquire use of the property, will go a long way toward determining the long-term success of your venture.

Argentina Legalizes Medical Cannabis, Creates Research Program With Free Access

The Associated Press/April 4, 2017

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill legalizing the use of cannabis oil and other marijuana derivatives for medicinal purposes, and setting up a regulatory framework for the state to prescribe and distribute them to patients.

The legislation approved by senators Wednesday also creates a medical marijuana research program at the Health Ministry, which must “guarantee free access” to cannabis oil and other derivatives to patients who join the program. The legislation was passed by the Chamber of Deputies earlier.

“In history, the big things always come in small steps,” said Valeria Salech, president of a private pro-medical cannabis group called Mama Cultiva Argentina, which has argued that cannabis can radically change the quality of life for children suffering everything from HIV to epilepsy.

Her group is already lobbying to push the legislation further, to permit the families of patients to grow their own cannabis.

Under the new legislation, government agencies will be authorized to grow cannabis for research purposes and to produce cannabis oil and derivatives for patients. The state can import cannabis derivatives until they can be produced locally.

The Washington, DC-based Drug Policy Alliance cheered the move.

“It’s heartening to see Argentina prioritizing accessibility by providing medical marijuana at no cost to patients,” says Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill was long championed by families and patients whose suffering has been alleviated with medical marijuana, and it’s a relief they’ve finally been heard.”

The group noted, however, that home cultivation remains illegal, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 15 years when intended for commercial purposes and up to two years if authorities deem the cultivation was for personal use.

Other nations in Latin America are also debating allowing medical uses of marijuana. But Uruguay is the only country in South America that has legalized recreational cannabis.

 

Patrick Stewart Boldly Goes Where Many Marijuana Patients Have Gone Before

MG/March 17, 2017/Danny Reed

Sir Patrick Stewart has opened up about his marijuana use.

Although Patrick Stewart has played an X-man with superpowers and a starship captain with access to future medicine, he has found relief with marijuana in the real world.

While finishing up his promotion for the successful film Logan this week, Stewart found time to discuss his marijuana use.

“Two years ago, in Los Angeles, I was examined by a doctor and given a note which gave me legal permission to purchase, from a registered outlet, cannabis-based products, which I was advised might help the ortho-arthritis in both my hands,” he said. “This, it would seem, is a genetically-based condition. My mother had badly distorted and painful hands.”

Stewart does not smoke marijuana but uses it in several other forms.

“I purchased an ointment, spray, and edibles. The ointment, while providing some relief from the discomfort, was too greasy to use during daytime and so I only use it at night.”

The knighted actor seems to have typical issues for someone who is 76. He has found that marijuana works for multiple ailments.

“It helps with sleep as the pain was reduced. The spray, however, is much more usable and I spray my fingers and particularly my thumb joints several times a day. The spray very quickly evaporates and leaves my hands quite dry, though with a slight burning or tingling sensation, which is not unpleasant. I believe that the ointment and spray have significantly reduced the stiffness and pain in my hands.”

Traditional western medicines can cause many undesirable side effects. Stewart is hoping to avoid further complications.

“I have had no negative side effects from this treatment and the alternative would have been to continue taking NSAID’s, Advil, Aleve and Naproxen, which are known to be harsh on the liver and to cause acid reflux.”

Stewart expressed hope that Britain would loosen marijuana laws and increase safe access.

California cannabis companies are hiring. Interest is high at this job fair.

Los Angeles Times/March 22, 2017/Robin Abcarian

There were firm handshakes.

Intense eye contact.

And the sincere repetition of first names.

Over the weekend, in a bare-walled art gallery on Highland Avenue, well-scrubbed job seekers came, resumes in hand, to connect with prospective employers.

But this was a job fair with a twist: All the employers are in the cannabis business. And almost without exception, their companies are growing explosively.

“Sales-wise, we are doubling every year,” said Leo Dai, 33, who owns Growers Choice, an indoor light company in the City of Industry. Dai had come to recruit for sales and customer service jobs. Knowledge of horticultural lighting fixtures, while helpful, was not a must.

“Our product sells itself,” he said. “Our customers are educated. They know what they want.”

Nearly 900 people signed up for the free fair on Eventbrite; about 200 showed up to chat with a dozen or so employers, who had paid less than $400 to attend. Employers included cannabis cultivators, edibles manufacturers, dispensaries and a cannabis trade magazine.

“This is not a revenue generator for us,” said Michael Ray of San Francisco-based Bloom Farms, the job fair sponsor. “It’s more of a community service. And the truth is, by organizing it, we get first crack at the best candidates.”

So far, Ray has organized seven or eight job fairs. Bigger, he has learned, is not better. One fair in Oakland drew 2,000 job seekers, far too chaotic. “You can’t really get to know someone in two minutes if you have a line behind you that’s 20 people long.”

Now, he brings in fewer employers and caps attendance. Over time, hundreds of people have found work.

“Everything is coming out of the shadows in the cannabis space,” Ray said. “And just like any other industry, we need an organized system to bring qualified job seekers together with top level brands.”

Last year, the cannabis website, Leafly, estimated that the legal cannabis industry employs about 122,000 people full-time. A third of the jobs are based in California. Now that the state’s voters have approved recreational marijuana, that number is, of course, expected to skyrocket. Arcview Market Research estimates the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. at about $6.8 billion in 2016. It is expected to more than triple by 2020.

I told Ray I was surprised not to smell even a whiff of cannabis anywhere.

“Well, we urge people to leave it at home for this kind of event,” he said. “We are all very cannabis friendly, but there is a time and a place for it.”

When I approached Gay Gelman, she was deep in conversation with Emmanuel Madrigal, a first-year student at Ventura College who is interested in brand marketing. From the look on his face, it seemed Gelman was giving him bad news.

“She was being realistic,” Madrigal told me a few minutes later. “I acknowledge her skepticism, but that’s because I am young. I’m just 18. I legally couldn’t even get into the business before.”

Gelman does not need branding help. She is already working with an acclaimed Chicago company, the Adrienne Weiss Corp., which has created logos for Baskin Robbins, DiGiorno pizza and a host of other famous brands.

What she needs is a few good sales reps for her new company, Upside Edibles, which makes high-quality cannabis-infused chocolate-covered fruit. Gelman, 73, owns an event-marketing company in Illinois, and was inspired to start her L.A.-based edibles business by her two sisters, who were helped enormously by medical cannabis during bouts with cancer.

She anticipates her sales reps will be able to earn six figures “easily.”

“I have found many great people here today,” she said. “And some who are clueless. But mostly, I am blown away by the caliber of the people. It’s amazing to me how many just can’t stand their jobs and want to get out of them, and they are passionate about cannabis.”

Kaiya Bercow, 27, an indoor grower in Santa Cruz whose company, Utopia Farms, sells flowers, extracts and edibles to dispensaries, was looking for a Southern California account manager. “We’ve been hiring based on world of mouth,” said Bercow, who has 20 employees. “We’re here to make better use of our resources.”

Across the way, at a table for the West Los Angeles dispensary BSE, its 41-year-old owner Zahur Lalji was telling a young man, “Everyone starts at the bottom, and you work your way up as fast as you can.” The young man did not want to give his name; he is a bank branch manager and wasn’t keen on exposing himself to his employer.

As it happens, Lalji spent 20 years in banking before leaping into cannabis. “It was nice to see someone coming from the banking industry,” he said, “but what bothered me is he didn’t know enough about this industry. When I left banking, I spent nine months doing my homework. Most people don’t take the time to do that, because they still think this is a very lax industry. Which most dispensaries still are: They want a hot girl as a budtender. That’s their criteria. I want the smartest guy.”

He needs four new employees. On Tuesday afternoon he told me he’d already scheduled six interviews and was looking forward to more. He makes new employees volunteer for 40 hours before deciding whether they fit in, he told me. That sounded kind of funky to me, but he said, “I do compensate them.” I did not ask how.

Over at the table for MG, a trade magazine that is distributed to dispensaries, Stephanie Smith made some notes on a resume. The publication is looking for advertising salespeople, and she’d just spoken with a 40-something-year-old man, who looked into her eyes as he spoke, and grasped her hand.

“I don’t know if he’d be good for sales,” she said. “His handshake was so hard that it hurt my hand. You need to be able to read the person you’re dealing with.”

“So what did you write down?” I asked.

She held up the resume: “Ouch.”

How Cannabis Brands Can Lead Content Marketing

Young Entrepreneur Council/March 20, 2017/Dario Meli

As more and more cannabis brands pop up on the market, each one encounters the same problem: advertising.

Under federal U.S. law, it’s illegal for cannabis brands to place ads in “any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publications.” According to the U.S. Postal Service, it’s also illegal for newspapers to mail publications containing ads for cannabis products, even in states that have legalized marijuana. But marijuana marketing faces more scrutiny in the states that have legalized recreational marijuana — Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and the District of Columbia. For example, Colorado does not allow for any outdoor advertising and requires that any spots that advertise marijuana are shown only to a demographic where 70 percent of viewers/attendees are 21 years of age or older. Online tech giants like Google and Facebook enforce strict policies that prohibit marijuana ads.

Because of these legal restrictions, the cannabis industry needs to be savvy with how they advertise its brand. To do so, it should consider the benefits content marketing. Here are three places for cannabis brands to start to help them claim their share of the market space.

  1. Deep-Dive Into Marijuana Data

Data is a marketer’s best tool to understand what your audience is searching for and, in turn, what they may be looking to purchase. Since laws prohibit marijuana advertisements, people are still searching for cannabis-related terms. The average monthly search volume for the top searched cannabis-related terms over the last two years are “marijuana” (301,000), “weed” (246,000), “vape/vape pen” (135,000) and “cannabis” (110,000), according to our own in-house research.

Those are some broad numbers to work with, but your job is to conduct a deep-dive by analyzing search term data more closely. You’ll be able to take key phrases from data that doesn’t include prohibited words/imagery but still bare relevance to the marijuana industry (e.g. “the munchies”). You can use demographic, location, age and gender data to learn more about who’s searching for what.

In addition, you’ll want to pay close attention to how the data changes over periods of time. This will be your first indicator to pinpoint any spikes in search term volumes and search trends to discover why this is happening at that moment. This can help you craft insights. For example, if you are looking more closely at the search term for “vape/vape pen,” you will notice that its rise in popularity began in 2013.

There are hundreds of great observations to be made about data, but only some of it may be relevant to your marketing. That’s why you’ll need to craft insights and actions from it.

  1. Use Data Insights to Create Marketing Actions

Now that you have all of this data at your fingertips, it’s time to put that data into action so you can see real results. The best way for marijuana brands to do so is to create content. As previously noted, marijuana advertisements are illegal online and off; however, marijuana content is not. It is perfectly legal for brands and bloggers to write about marijuana, and the search term volume data above shows how many people are actively searching for marijuana. Since Google search algorithms love content, marijuana brands have to create content to be found; they might as well use data to be found more easily. By creating data-driven content that emphasizes searchable keywords, your brand can divert search user’s attention to your website and products.

To borrow my “vape/vape pen” example, its popularity rose in 2013 and has since become the third biggest marijuana-related search term on a monthly average (see above). How can we use this information in our content marketing? One possible answer is to create an article detailing the history of vape pens and why it exploded in popularity. Whatever the observation or insight, you need to specifically act on it. That action could be specific to strategy, creation or distribution, but it should always come from data. Without it, you are marketing blindly.

  1. Add More Data and Keep Tinkering

Now, once you’ve created content, you will have a larger, more exclusive pool of data to work with. You will need to add that data to the research you’re already conducting about search term volumes, for example. From there, you should look to isolate what content is performing well — based on whatever metrics you decided on — and try to answer why it is performing well.

For example, if you see “good” numbers from content about Hollywood’s depiction of stoners, ask why that is. Is it because you published it after the release of a new stoner movie? Is it because pop culture pieces generally perform better than medical marijuana pieces? Is it because of where it ranks in Google or when you shared it on Facebook? These are all important questions to consider, ask and answer. The answers from this will affect your future content strategy.

Some may look at marijuana marketing as a glass half-empty scenario, but those people are looking to the past instead of the future. The future (and the present, for that matter) is data-driven content marketing. And the realities of present-day marijuana marketing have forced cannabis brands to adopt innovative approaches for the better.

California Prepares to Fight Against Feds – Will Leadership Changes at BMCR Delay Implementation?

Manzuri Law/March 20, 2017/Meital Manzuri

The California Legislature has not been shy about preparing to do battle with the federal government on several issues; health care, climate change, and immigration are just some of the hot topics that the state’s leadership is willing to fight for against the Trump administration to protect policies that have impacted its residents. Part of its preparation has been the recent hiring of Covington & Burling, a prominent law firm that employs former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

But legislators are now showing that they are also willing to go up against the federal government on the issue of cannabis. Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) has introduced AB 1578, a bill that prohibits state and local government from assisting federal agents in investigations against legal commercial cannabis activity – either recreational or medical – unless they have a court order that is signed by a judge. The bill has a long way to go in the legislative process but is already supported by democratic leaders in both houses. This is the clearest indication from California thus far that there are leaders willing to fight on behalf of its cannabis industry. Interested in supporting the bill? Contact Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer’s office.

In addition, as part of a bipartisan effort, Senators have introduced SJR-5, a resolution that requests that Congress pass a law to reschedule “marijuana or cannabis and its derivatives to an alternative schedule.” Their goal is to allow for legal research and commerce, including access to traditional banks and financial institutions. Although some believe simply rescheduling isn’t moving the needle far enough, and it would still take an act of Congress enact the request (undoubtedly an uphill battle), this is a huge step in the right direction for our leaders and shows serious interest in important subjects such as research and banking: two things the industry desperately needs in California. The bill has yet to pass through both houses of the California Legislature, but we can anticipate strong support from both sides of the aisle on this issue.

Illinois lawmakers propose legalizing recreational marijuana

Chicago Tribune/March 23, 2017/Robert McCoppin

Lawmakers are proposing to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois but say the legislation probably won’t come up for a vote until next year.

Sponsors on Wednesday introduced bills that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess, grow and buy limited amounts of marijuana.

The state would license and regulate businesses to grow, process and sell the plant, and it would establish safety regulations such as testing and labeling requirements, sponsors said.

The measure would also allow residents to possess up to 28 grams of pot, or about an ounce, and to grow five plants.

The bills propose taxing marijuana at a rate of $50 per ounce wholesale, plus the state’s standard 6.25 percent sales tax.

Based on sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group, estimates sales in Illinois could generate about $350 million to $700 million per year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan reserved judgment, as they typically do with new bills. But the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police opposes legalization, saying marijuana poses a threat to public health and safety, and causes potential enforcement problems because it conflicts with the federal prohibition on marijuana.

The co-sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Democrats from Chicago’s North Side, said they don’t plan to call the bill for a vote this session but will hold hearings to get feedback and see whether some version of a legalization bill can get support next year.

“If we bring this out in the open, we can generate revenue legally rather than for the black market,” Steans said.

Cassidy said marijuana prohibition creates far more problems than it prevents. “Regulating marijuana and removing the criminal element from marijuana production and sales will make our communities safer,” she said.

Eight states have allowed the sale of the drug, generally by referendum. But in Illinois, it’s very difficult to get a binding vote on the statewide ballot, so it probably would take legislative action to change the law.

If approved, the plan would make Illinois the first state in the Midwest to allow the general public, including out-of-state visitors, to buy marijuana, though it would remain illegal to transport it across state lines. The proposal also calls for dividing the tax revenue, with half going to the state’s general fund and the rest to schools and drug abuse treatment and prevention.

Legal marijuana sales can generate windfall tax revenues, but the social and health costs are largely unknown, cautioned Rosalie Pacula, a senior economist at the Rand Corp., a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization.

“The tax revenue comes right away,” Pacula said. “The data on emergency room visits, car crashes, graduation rates and absenteeism takes a lot longer.”

As with any new industry, marijuana can be regulated, but there are many variables, such as what pesticides should be allowed, Pacula said, so there should be provisions for new laws to expire or be changed along the way.

For more than a year, Illinois has had a pilot program allowing the sale of marijuana to patients with any of about 40 debilitating diseases, such as cancer or AIDS. But without a broad qualifying condition like chronic pain, as some other states have, the number of patients has been limited to about 17,000, with current retail sales of about $5 million a month.

The proposed new law would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational pot for one year before newly licensed businesses would be allowed to enter the market.

Last year, a new state law also decriminalized the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, punishing it instead with fines.

Police have not noticed any significant problems with either law, according to Oak Brook Police Chief James Kruger Jr., who is first vice president of the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association, which opposes legalization. But he said the medical marijuana law is limited, and a lot of municipalities had previously decriminalized cannabis, so the effects were muted.

Kruger cited a rise in emergency room visits for medical marijuana ingestion among children in Colorado and studies showing the drug’s harmful effects on developing brains.

Advocates for legalization say kids are already getting marijuana illegally, but legalization would allow it to be more closely regulated.

“I think this does a good job of being very reasonable,” Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan Linn said. “It’s a realistic approach.”