People have a tendency to get a bit excited when the concept of legal weed comes alive in their state. Hey, we can’t say that we blame them. It’s not every day that a plant still considered as dangerous as heroin and LSD in the eyes of the federal government gets the green light to be sold in a retail environment similar to beer. It’s a big deal, we don’t care who you are, especially considering the checkered, eight-decades long history of cannabis prohibition in the United States.
We’ve watched curious cannabis enthusiasts plot entire vacations around legal marijuana, traveling thousands of miles just to get in on the weed action that their home state may not be progressive enough to have. We’ve also seen some of these people get to a dispensary and be turned away or have bad experiences because they didn’t necessarily understand all of the rules associated with these places before making their journey. To keep that misfortune from happening to you, we have assembled a shortlist of 4 things a person needs to know before visiting a weed store.
You Must Be 21 and Older To Buy Marijuana From A Dispensary
When cannabis advocates first began the push to legalize marijuana for recreational use in this country, they patterned the sales pitch after the alcohol trade. In all of the 11 states that have legalized marijuana in a manner similar to booze, a person must be at least 21-years-old before they step foot in a dispensary. There are no exceptions to this rule.
A person showing up to a retail reefer outlet for the first time can expect to be greeted by security personnel, and this person will ask to see some ID. It is necessary to have a valid driver’s license before going any further into the facility. And we don’t care how cute and charming you might be, anyone who does not have this documentation will be asked to leave the premises immediately. Always be sure to have your driver’s license on hand before making the trip to buy weed in a legal state. You will definitely need it.
Be Prepared For The Budtender To Be Really Great, And Sometimes Bad
Once you finally get inside the showroom part of the dispensary, you will be greeted by a budtender. This person’s job is to show products, answer questions, and even offer recommendations. A good budtender is more like a consultant. He or she will ask the customer essential questions to guide them in the direction to the best possible cannabis choices. A bad one, however, is like a tired clerk at a convenience store. Sure, you can ask them about the products if you want, but most aren’t qualified to do much more than punch buttons on a cash register.
If you don’t know what types of cannabis strains or products you are looking to procure, these people, the clerk types, probably aren’t going to be able to point you in the right direction. Ideally, you want the consultant that knows a thing or two about weed. The good news is, most dispensaries try and ensure their staff is adequately trained and possess the right amount of product knowledge to help customers make informed purchases. Customers need to be able to ask a lot of questions about the products and get a satisfactory response.
If your budtender doesn’t seem quite up to speed on what he or she is selling — you’re getting a lot of “I don’t know” — you might want to change dispensaries before making a purchase. And don’t forget to tip the budtender who goes above and beyond to make your dispensary visit a pleasant one.
Cannabis Dispensaries Are Mostly Cash-Only Operations, But Some Still Take Credit Cards
Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, a lot of banks are scared to do business with the cannabis trade for fear that they might be charged with money laundering. Unfortunately, this means that a vast majority of the marijuana dispensaries out there are operating on a cash-only basis. But it is not unheard of to step inside a marijuana store and hear a budtender telling customers that they are also accepting credit/debit cards.
Some dispensaries have found a way around the law, so they’ll have no problem selling you weed without cash changing hands. But it is always smart to have a grip on the accepted payment methods of a dispensary before your arrival. When in doubt, just know that cash is always king on the weed scene. Just be sure to bring along plenty of it, as buying weed in a dispensary is more expensive than on the black market. Remember, there are state, local and excise taxes that will be applied to the base price of all marijuana products.
There Are No Returns in A Marijuana Dispensary
A cannabis dispensary might be a retail environment, but it’s not the GAP. There is a no return policy in these establishments. While you, the customer, will inevitably be introduced to a variety of marijuana products during your visit, it is best to only spend money on those items that you are sure will work into your lifestyle.
People have a habit of getting a little overzealous the first time they buy legal weed and end up dropping several hundred bucks on flower, edibles disposable vape pens and anything else the budtender shows them. But when they get home, they find themselves overcome with buyer’s remorse after realizing that they just spent their entire grocery budget and rent on weed.
Unfortunately, it’s too late then to change your mind. Stepping back inside of the dispensary and asking for a refund isn’t going to get you anywhere. The best advice is to just be careful not to buy into every exciting product that the budtender shows you during your visit. Dispensaries aren’t going anywhere. You can always go back another time.
Jay-Z announces new line of cannabis products dubbed Monogram
Rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z is launching his own cannabis brand in partnership with Caliva, the California-based weed company that hired the star as its chief brand strategist last year.
Named Monogram, Jay-Z’s line of marijuana products launched its website and social media accounts on Friday.
“Monogram marks a new chapter in cannabis defined by dignity, care and consistency. It is a collective effort to bring you the best, and a humble pursuit to discover what the best truly means,” Monogram’s website highlights.
No further information on the specific products that will be sold under the Monogram brand has been released yet.
However, according to the website, the flower used in Monogram’s products is grown in small batches, with a board of “cannabis experts” tasked with grading and hand-selecting each flower that goes into the line.
The New York rapper joined Caliva in 2019 as a brand strategist, which entailed overseeing the creative direction of the company. Furthermore, Jay was focused on Caliva’s social equity efforts as he aimed to increase economic participation of people disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition in the newly legal industry.
As for when consumers can expect to try Jay-Z new products, a spokesperson told the New York Daily News Monogram still hasn’t set its dispensary release schedule. The line will “definitely be available across all of California,” according to the spokesperson.
In other news, basketball star Shawn Kemp who played for the Seattle SuperSonics is also showing his love of pot. Kemp is set to open Seattle’s first black-owned marijuana dispensary this Friday. The Sonics legend named his dispensary Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis and is hoping to serve as a model for others in the black community who might be interested in foraying into the legal marijuana business in the area.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Sonics fans on a regular basis, starting with opening day. I hope that Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis will be an inspiration for people to get involved with the legal cannabis industry, especially people of color,” the Reign Man said in a press release.
Analysis: Legal weed in Texas would generate over $500 million in tax revenue per year
Legalizing marijuana in Texas could generate over half a billion dollars in tax revenue per year and create more than 40,000 new jobs, according to the results of a report released by Vicente Sederberg LLP earlier this month.
Legal cannabis sales in Texas would reach about $2.7 billion annually based on the fact that there are more than 1.5 million residents over the age of 21 that consume pot on a monthly basis, the analysis calculated.
The estimated tax revenue was calculated under the assumption Texas would tax marijuana sales at the same rate as Colorado at 20.6%. This would amount to $1.1 billion in taxes per biennium, while Texas could collect an additional $10 million per year through the issuing of marijuana business licenses.
The report notes Colorado has raised nearly $13 million on average per year just from license and application fees. Furthermore, the report indicated that current taxpayer dollars that go towards marijuana arrests and prosecutions amount to $311 million per year – money that Texas would save should it legalize pot.
“States across the country are seeing the benefits of legalizing and regulating cannabis. It is inspiring lawmakers in prohibition states to reexamine the efficacy and costs of their current policies and take a closer look at the alternatives,” said Shawn Hauser, a partner at Vicente Sederberg.
“The goal of this report is to provide a snapshot of the economic benefits Texas would experience if it started treating cannabis more like alcohol for adults 21 years of age and older,” he commented on the new report.
Aside from the tax revenue that legal weed in Texas could generate, the report highlighted marijuana’s job creation potential. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 new jobs would be available in the newly legal industry, with tens of thousands of additional indirect positions, the report estimated.
Hauser also pointed out the added economic benefits of legalization in Texas given current uncertainties provoked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Texas is leaving an enormous amount of money on the table by keeping cannabis illegal,” according to him.
Texas was once known for having the strictest drug laws in the U.S., but the state has softened its stance on cannabis in recent years. A very limited medical marijuana program was established in 2015, while, more recently, cannabis possession arrests in the state have been significantly declining after hemp became legal.
Cannabis Businesses Invest in Their Futures with Political Donations
Cannabis companies have been making political donations for years, and in 2020, those donations have continued to grow. In fact, some companies are investing aggressively to shape the future of the cannabis industry either by donating directly to campaigns and politicians or through political action committees (PACs) that support cannabis-friendly candidates and legislation.
So far in 2020, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the leading cannabis companies, cannabis-related companies, and cannabis trade associations making donations to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups are (in order of 2020 donation amounts to date):
- Canty Ventures
- National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
- Have A Heart
- Beyond Broadway LLC
- Sea Hunter Therapeutics
- Cannabis Trade Federation
- Dan Kopp & Co
- Acreage Holdings
Compare that list to the list of large cannabis company donors in 2019, which included Curaleaf, Parallel Brands (formerly Surterra Wellness), Tweed Inc. (part of Canopy Growth Corporation), Canndescent, and Trulieve. Even ancillary cannabis companies like Dama Financial, WeedMaps, and Acreage Holdings donate large sums of money in 2019 according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
State Donations in 2020
There are a number of legalization (adult-use and/or medical use) and decriminalization measures on state ballots in 2020, and cannabis companies, ancillary companies, and professional associations have been actively donating directly to related campaigns and initiatives at the state level.
In Arizona, Harvest is the biggest donor in support of legalization (Prop. 207) followed by Curaleaf, MedMen, Cresco Labs, Copperstate Farms, Arizona Dispensaries Association, Herbal Wellness Center, and Oasis Dispensaries.
Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot (Initiative 65) has received donations from the CEO of Heritage Properties (George Walker III), Ghost Management Group (which owns Weedmaps), and the owner of ABKO Labs (Robert Lloyde II).
Ghost Management Group and its Weedmaps subsidiary also donated to support Montana’s and New Jersey’s legalization initiatives. In addition, New Jersey’s legalization Question 1 on the November ballot received donations directly from The Scotts Company (the maker of Scotts Miracle Gro), Pashman Stein Walder Hayden (a New Jersey cannabis law firm), and Compassionate Care Research Institute (a New Jersey dispensary).
Keep in mind, these donations don’t include the donations that cannabis companies and ancillary businesses donate to PACs or that they invest in lobbying. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the biggest investments in lobbying from cannabis companies, ancillary companies, and trade associations in 2020 have come from the Cannabis Trade Federation, National Cannabis Roundtable, Canopy Growth Corp, Curaleaf, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, Parallel Brands, Cronos Group, Charlotte’s Web, NCIA, Acreage Holdings, Dama Financial, Trulieve, California Cannabis Association, and Oregon Cannabis Association.
Political Donations from Cannabis Interests Are Not New
One of the biggest political donation stories happened in California when cannabis businesses donated aggressively to former Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign to become the state’s governor in the 2018 election. According to the Los Angeles Times, he secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers.
By May 2018, Newsom had raised nearly $500,000 from cannabis companies, but he wasn’t the only politician in California to receive money from cannabis interests. At the time, the state’s Treasurer, John Chiang, and Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, also secured donations from the cannabis industry
And of course, these donation numbers don’t even include the many donations from PACs that businesses and individuals working in the cannabis industry donate to. Many of these funds go directly to specific candidate’s fundraising efforts. For example, the Coastal Pacific Political Action Committee held a fundraiser in June 2017, and six days later, the PAC donated $50,000 to Newsom’s campaign.
Another noteworthy political donation happened in Florida over the course of multiple years. The Miami Herald reported that Surterra donated $1.1 million to Florida political candidates and committees between the summer of 2016 and March 2018. Trulieve donated $564,000 during the same period, and Curaleaf donated $469,000.
In Illinois, the doors for cannabis companies to make political donations opened in March 2017 when a federal judge ruled an Illinois provision that did not allow marijuana companies to make campaign contributions in the state was unconstitutional.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the provision prevented contributions to political committees that were established for the purpose of promoting candidates for public office. Since that decision was made, cannabis companies like PharmaCann and Cresco Labs have donated significant amounts to the state’s political candidates and committees.
Business and individual donations to marijuana-friendly political candidates have also become standard in Nevada and Colorado. During the 2016 elections, dozens of marijuana cultivators, processors, and dispensaries donated $75,000 to Nevada legislators according to the Nevada Independent.
Looking back further in history, Florida Senator Rob Bradley received his first donation from a cannabis company in 2015 when Costa Farms donated $10,000 to his political committee.
Similarly, cannabis businesses have actively contributed to Colorado political campaigns for years, and many of those businesses have been holding political fundraisers to support their preferred candidates. PBS reported back in 2014 that Colorado’s congressional delegation had received $20,000 during the first nine months of 2014 from marijuana businesses. Also in 2014, a fundraiser to support political candidates that was held by Tripp Keber of Denver, Colorado’s Dixie Elixirs & Edibles generated $40,000 in donations.
What’s Next for Political Campaign Donations from Cannabis Businesses?
As the cannabis industry continues to grow and more states legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis, laws will continue to evolve. Cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses should absolutely be concerned about which politicians are making those laws.
With that said, it’s safe to assume that political donations from the cannabis industry will get larger and more frequent in the coming years. Let’s put the donations from cannabis companies to political campaigns into perspective. During the first half of 2019, the cannabis industry gave more than $200,000 to members of Congress, which was up from $248,504 donated throughout all of 2018. Compare that to the $42 million that pharmaceutical companies donated to political campaigns across the United States in 2018.
With those numbers in mind, it’s guaranteed that political donations from cannabis and cannabis-related companies will continue to grow. Savvy businesses are paying attention and getting involved in an attempt to influence the regulations that could make or break their companies’ futures.
Originally published 8/24/17. Updated 10/23/20.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.
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