5 Cannabis Stocks to Invest in Before Election Day

After Nov. 8, when voters in nine states will consider some form of cannabis legalization, the cannabis stock investment market may explode. If you’re feeling like you’d like to get in on the ground floor, consider Nov. 9 the day the street-level doors will be barred.

Want to jump in now? Be careful. Investors are already rushing into the market. According to New Cannabis Ventures, which tracks a large portfolio of cannabis stocks, marijuana-related equities have, on average, more than doubled in price since September 1. Many of those stocks are extremely volatile, however, and may plummet just as quickly as they’ve risen.

We’ve compiled this list of the largest, most stable and legal cannabis companies open to public investment. The article that follows should not be construed as investment advice; we are merely musing on an extraordinarily interesting and timely topic. Invest in these cannabis stocks at your own risk.

The largest sector of the marijuana industry, according to a Bloomberg analysis, is pharma/research ($1.5b), followed by the producer ($645m), consumer ($302m), real estate ($216m), consulting ($170m), tech ($162m) and industrials ($54m) segments. For our purposes, it might be helpful to think of just two types of investments: Companies with ties directly to cannabis, and those without.

Most companies with direct cannabis ties are penny stocks, whose quaint name belies a highly speculative and risky nature. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) warns investors that penny stocks have a number of downsides, such infrequent trading (so once you buy them you might not be able to sell them) and murky data on how pricing is set. Earlier this month, the SEC temporarily suspended trading in Infinex Ventures, a Nevada corporation, because the company “appears to have made false and misleading statements concerning its operations and financial condition, its acquisition of Marijuana Funding, Inc., and its rights to financing to develop a marijuana business.” And Denver-based General Cannabis Corporation, which saw its price rise 500 percent from August to mid-October, lost one-third of its value overnight when OTC Markets, where the stock trades, informed General Cannabis about concerns over the company’s promotional activities.

When it comes to penny stocks, the SEC recommends being prepared to lose all of what you invest.

But, if you’re committed to doing your homework, there is a global market opening up that the Financial Post says may come to be as massive as the alcohol or tobacco industries. And there are a few cannabis companies out there that seem poised for profitability.

  1. Canopy Growth Corporation. [TSE: CGC] Canopy Growth is the parent company that owns Tweed, Tweed Farms Inc., and Bedrocan brands. Tweed is a commercial grower licensed under Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposed Regulations program (for people with chronic and terminal illnesses). Bedrocan is a Dutch company that, true to its roots in the third largest agricultural exporter in the world, offers pharmaceutical-grade cannabis under federally-regulated cannabis programs worldwide, and helps advance research, by licensing its technology and partnering with people and organizations. Canopy Growth produces and sells cannabis oil products and edibles, and the future up north is bright: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared he’ll soon legalize, tax and regulate marijuana — the implication being that legal adult-use cannabis, and a broad customer base, may be just over the horizon.
  1. GW Pharmaceuticals. [NASDAQ: GWPH] This British biotechnology firm manufactures pain drugs using compounds present in cannabis. GW Pharma has developed a multiple sclerosis treatment product, and has another in the works to treat children with severe epilepsy. Just a few months ago GW raised $252 million on Wall Street, with Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs serving jointly as the major underwriters for the raise.
  1. Microsoft. (NYSE: MSFT) Perhaps you’ve heard of this little Redmond, Wash., software company. With its purchase of Los Angeles-based Kind Financial earlier this year, Microsoft now offers software to track marijuana plants from “seed to sale.” It seems Microsoft is looking to liven up its revenue streams and image, in light of its dwindling desktop software business and its recent retrenchment of its geek bonafides with its acquisition of career social networking site LinkedIn. Kind Financial had long been a commercial client of Microsoft’s; Kind now works through Azure Government, Microsoft’s cloud platform with security and compliance protocols tailored to meet needs of organizations with heavy government oversight. The downside: Kind Financial’s cannabis-focused products contribute an infinitesimal bump to Microsoft’s bottom line, so this isn’t a pure cannabis growth-market play. The upside: It’s Microsoft. They’re not going out of business tomorrow.
  1. Terra Tech. (OTCMKTS: TRTC). Terra Tech, based in Newport Beach, Calif., is the only publicly traded American company that touches every aspect of the cannabis life cycle. These folks have four subsidiaries in diverse segments of the industry: Edible Gardens (local and sustainably-grown hydroponic produce), MediFarm LLC (medical cannabis businesses in Nevada), IVXX LLC (medical cannabis-extracted products for regulated medical cannabis dispensaries throughout California), and Blum, a dispensary company acquired just last quarter. Blum, originally based in Oakland, has recently expanded to Nevada, where it’s opened one Las Vegas location and has seven more planned. Terra Tech offers everything from its Half Caked line of edibles to Whoopi Goldberg’s line of cannabis claiming to alleviate menstrual cramps. A downside: Since they’re close to the flower, TRTC isn’t traded on a major exchange. Until the DEA reclassifies marijuana from a schedule 1 drug, it’s not likely to be. While it’s listed in the OTC Market Group’s OTCQX Market, which OTC says does not list penny stocks, the fact is that shares were recently trading at $0.41, which technically meets even the most generous definition of a penny stock. If you’re determined to invest in the front lines of the industry, even though doing so is very risky, Terra Tech may be the most established public company in a highly speculative space.
  1. Scotts Miracle-Gro. (NYSE: SMG) The name may ring a bell, but this ain’t your momma’s Miracle-Gro. Mired in stagnation after the Great Recession, in 2013 Miracle-Gro was reborn, after CEO Jim Hagedorn made a call to go after an emerging market—cannabis growers. Considering the company’s shares increased 13% in the past year, he seems to have made the right choice. And he’s all in: Last year Hagedorn invested $135 million in two CA-based fertilizer, soil, and accessory companies; spent $120 million on an unnamed lighting and hydroponics company in Amsterdam; and says another $150 million of investment in the industry is coming down the pike this year. An established corporate powerhouse in the lawn and garden industry, led by a CEO who’s in his element making bold moves? Seems ideally suited to the risky but potentially lucrative opportunity cannabis presents. Leadership of few other old-guard brands can stomach such acrobatics but Hagedorn, a Cold War fighter pilot who in his youth lived on radical communes doing drugs, seems right at home, and controls enough of the company to be able to call most of the shots. In its Pot Era, the company’s hydroponics arm has seen sales that are quadruple the growth rate of the rest of the company, and as a whole Scotts Miracle-Gro has operating margin projections projected to be nearly 30% higher this year than the company average. The company is researching a line of branded pesticides designed for pot (at the moment many growers are using corn pesticides, to the consternation of public health officials). An early signature product to watch for? Black Magic potting soil, which costs more than twice as much as regular potting soil, and ran TV ads during the NBA Finals last spring.

The Adelson Endowment: Why a Casino Billionaire Is Propping Up Prohibition

What’s the deal with Sheldon Adelson’s crusade to continue the war on cannabis?

The 83-year-old conservative political donor, ardent prohibitionist, and billionaire casino magnate (he owns no fewer than three Las Vegas gambling palaces—the Sands, the Venetian, and the Palazzo) recently dumped buckets of money on campaigns opposing both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization.

In the past few weeks Adelson has given $1.5 million to the campaign to defeat Amendment 2, Florida’s medical marijuana measure; $1 million to fight adult use legalization in Massachusetts; $500,000 to oppose legalization in Arizona; and $2 million to defeat Question 2, Nevada’s legalization initiative. That’s a total of $5 million—and nobody on either side of the issue thinks that’s the end of it. In 2014 Adelson spent $5 million alone in Florida, a donation that singlehandedly shifted the medical marijuana measure’s outcome in that state.

That doesn’t count the $140 million he spent purchasing the Las Vegas Review Journal, which had a history of supporting cannabis legalization. Soon after Adelson took over, the paper withdrew its prior endorsement of legalization. It has now officially come out against Nevada’s Question 2 (and is the only major paper to endorse Donald Trump).

Adelson’s donations beg the question: Why? Why is he so determined to prop up cannabis prohibition?


Does Out-of-State Cash Fund Legalization Campaigns?

The answers seem to lie in his family history. Adelson’s 48-year-old son, Mitchell, died from a drug overdose involving cocaine and heroin in 2005. His other son, Gary, has also struggled with drug addiction. For years, Gary Adelson has allegedly been estranged from his father altogether.

Since his son Mitchell’s death, Adelson and his wife Miriam, a physician who specializes in addiction treatment, have donated millions, and perhaps even billions of dollars to create and support the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases, housed within the medical school at Tel Aviv University. Established in 2007, the center was Israel’s first academic research institution dedicated to curing addictive diseases and uncovering their biological mechanisms. Researchers at the center study addiction, and also have made important discoveries about the positive medical benefits of cannabis. Which makes his continuing effort to defeat the legalization of medical cannabis a bit odd, to say the least.

He has so much more to give

Given his passion around the issue of prohibition, and the billions of dollars at his disposal, perhaps the more pressing question in 2016 isn’t why Adelson is giving so much to defeat legalization—but why he’s given so little.

In the small subculture of cannabis legalization, $5 million is a big deal. But in Sheldon Adelson’s world it’s a drop in the bucket.

Consider it within this context. Forbes currently estimates Adelson’s net worth at $31.5 billion, which makes him the 12th richest person in the United States.

Four years ago he spent like the drunken sailor of American politics. Adelson gave an estimated $150 million on candidates and issues during the 2012 election cycle. $20 million alone went to Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign.

Earlier this year it appeared as though Adelson was ready to pony up more donations in the eight- or nine-figure range. In late May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Adelson was talking with Donald Trump’s people about forming a pro-Trump super PAC. The move, said the Journal, “would add financial firepower from one of the most prolific donors of the 2012 cycle.”


Legalization 2016: America Votes

But Adelson’s support failed to materialize for Trump. NBC News reported that the Republican kingmaker “was prepared to support Trump after the [Republican] convention, but the candidate’s tumultuous post-convention stretch revived concerns” about the Republican nominee’s fitness and ability to win in November. Trump’s post-convention fight with the mother and father of slain Muslim-American U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan wasn’t merely ill-advised and unseemly; it was also costly, to the tune of tens of millions of Adelson’s dollars.

Finally, in late September, news outlets reported that Adelson had finally opened his wallet—but not to Trump. The New York Times reported that the Las Vegas billionaire had donated $40 million to Republican congressional candidates and only “a token” $5 million directly to the Trump campaign. In Adelson’s world the donation was so small that Vanity Fair characterized it as a snub.

So: If Adelson’s $5 million donation to Trump is a snub, what does that make his $5 million donation to the prohibitionist cause?

Marijuana News

Arizona Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.) Members Stump for Prop 205

Friday, October 28, 2016 at 6:19 a.m.

Tony Ryan and Jack Wilborn are voting “yes” on Proposition 205, the initiative to legalize marijuana in Arizona, and they’re encouraging others to do so, as well.

Especially law-enforcement officers like them.

“If law enforcement wants to improve community relations, they need to vote yes on 205,” says Wilborn, a retired reserve officer and NRA firearms instructor for the Glendale Police Department. “The War on Drugs is a war on people. The public’s trust of law enforcement is in the pits.”

Wilborn and Ryan, a lieutenant who spent 36 years with the Denver Police Department before retiring to Sahuarita, are members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.), an international organization Headquartered in Massachusetts. Since its founding in 2002 by five former police officers, L.E.A.P. has grown to about 150,000 members in 20 countries. Membership is mostly composed of civilian supporters of drug reform, but 5,000 or so members are retired police officers, prosecutors, prison wardens, judges, and federal agents who all see the War on Drugs as a failure and advocate for the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs. L.E.A.P. has supported bills to decriminalize or legalize marijuana in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, and now, Arizona. The group’s global speakers bureau consists of 150 people, including Wilborn and Ryan, and fellow Arizonans Nicholas Dial (former deputy sheriff, Pinal County); former undercover narcotics officer Jay Fleming; and retired Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Finn Selander.

Upcoming Events

“L.E.A.P. exists because police officers spend most of their lives doing other police work, and other things that have far more serious problems than whether or not somebody smokes a different kind of cigarette,” Ryan says. “Homicide, child abuse, wife-beating, and all those kinds of things that are the routine calls for police work — robberies and things. The drug war distracted cops a lot from doing all these other things, and I think police officers, if they’re honest, would rather focus on the things the police were originally asked to do.”

Ryan points to Colorado, where he spent nearly four decades on the police force, as an example of successful reform. He says the anti-Prop 205 ads he has seen on local television stations proclaiming that children are using marijuana at alarming rates since legalization are untrue.

“They talk about how kids have gotten ahold of it and all that, but you know what they don’t do? They don’t give you actual numbers. Out of the whole of society in Colorado, how often is this happening? I’m here to tell you we’re not seeing that happening any more than any other type of drug — prescription or otherwise — that kids could get their hands on because their parents aren’t paying attention,” Ryan says. “As far as Colorado and the children in Colorado and they’re trying to emphasize ‘Look how horrible it was for kids’ — that’s kind of patent b.s. if you go and look at the real stats instead of just grabbing a couple of things from the air. Go and look at the entire picture, and compare it to other things like alcohol or cigarettes that kids also get into. You’ll see it’s really not the end of the world, so to speak. Kids will get into anything. I don’t think there’s a way to absolutely stop it, but it’s not a reason to vote against marijuana, because it has so many other benefits for people who are really sick.”

Wilborn says the number of law-enforcement officers — active and retired — who support the legalization of marijuana is much higher than it appears. Some members of L.E.A.P. choose anonymity. “I think there is a lot of law enforcement that doesn’t speak up because of the political environment,” Wilborn says.

Wilborn understands the politics but prefers the principle. “I’m a conservative political person. I’m a Republican. In fact, I’m a precinct committeeman for the GOP,” he says. “So I know a little bit about politics, and I know we want our kids to be safe. We want our kids to be educated and have a good life. When we legalize, and we educate the public, they become more savvy and understand what’s going on, and it makes everybody get along better. It’s a positive move for everybody.”

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer Touts Marijuana Legalization at ASU

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer stumped for Proposition 205 at <strong><a href=Arizona State University on Wednesday, October 26." />EXPAND

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer stumped for Proposition 205 at Arizona State University on Wednesday, October 26.

Ray Stern

Approving Proposition 205 in Arizona would mean a new level of freedom for adults and help lead a national reform of marijuana laws, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer said in a speech in Tempe on Wednesday.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol brought Blumenauer to Arizona State University to speak on behalf of the marijuana-legalization measure. The Democrat and 20-year member of Congress is one of the nation’s highest-profile pro-marijuana activists. He has introduced several bills that would reform federal marijuana laws, including one that would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss possible cannabis treatments with their patients, and another that would exclude marijuana from the list of offenses that preclude students from obtaining financial aid.

Diego Rodriguez, Democratic candidate for Maricopa County Attorney, also spoke on a stage outside of ASU’s Memorial Union, where a small crowd of activists and students gathered for the short rally.

Blumenauer called the recreational-marijuana programs in Colorado, Washington, and his own state a “tremendous success.” Oregon voters approved Measure 91 by a large majority in 2014, making it legal in the state for adults 21 and older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and four plants, and authorizing regulated retail sales.

Despite the states that have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, more than 560,000 people were arrested or cited last year for using a substance more than half of Americans believe should be legal, Blumenauer pointed out. African-American men are four times as likely to be “caught up” in an enforcement action, he said.

“I would hope that you will be part of a movement that’s taking place literally coast to coast, where we are no longer going to criminalize adult decisions to use marijuana,” he said, adding later that “Arizona is in a position to turn this around.”

Possession of marijuana remains a violation under federal law, but “the decision made by the people in Arizona is going to have profound effects on Congress to starting getting it right,” Blumenauer said.

All Americans ought to have access to marijuana, Blumenauer argued, predicting that in the near future, they probably will. State-legal marijuana is already a $6-billion-a-year industry, he said, and its annual revenue is expected to surpass that of the National Football League.

In a conversation with New Times after his speech, Blumenauer added that although America has spent more than $1 trillion on the War on Drugs since the 1970s, estimates show that legalizing marijuana federally could result in a $100-billion-a-year industry in 10 years, with a corresponding decrease in money spent on enforcement.

Talk of a “disaster” in legalized states is nonsense, he said. Noting that Oregonians approved legal marijuana by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, he said polls show it has even higher approval rate now.

Prop 205 would legalize up to an ounce of marijuana, and up to six plants, for adults 21 and older. The retail system would be limited initially, consisting of converted medical-marijuana stores — there are 99 open in the state now — and a few dozen new stores.

Recent polls show the Arizona measure has a narrow chance of passing. The opposition group, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, have played their strong hand, launching slick TV ads and putting up billboards across metro Phoenix and Tucson with millions of dollars from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Insys Therapeutics, and billionaires including Discount Tires’ Bruce Halle and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

If it fails, Blumenauer said, Arizonans who vote for it shouldn’t be discouraged.

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“People just won’t give up,” he said. “We’re going to change federal law.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said publicly he believes in the right of states to enact their own marijuana laws, but “who knows” what Trump really believes, Blumenauer said. Hillary Clinton, he predicted, “would build on the record of the Obama administration” if elected.

In any case, Blumenauer doesn’t think America will see another anti-marijuana presidential candidate, because it’ll be too politically risky to take that position.

Diego Rodriguez, who’s running an enthusiastic-but-underfunded campaign to unseat incumbent Bill Montgomery, also spoke at the rally, where he said marijuana legalization is part of movement to turn Arizona from a “backward-thinking state” to a “progressive state.”

“Part of that is acknowledging that plenty of people who want to use marijuana as a normal recreational drug, and they should not have to face punishment in the prison system in Arizona because of that,” Rodriguez said.

Except for medicinal users, possession of any amount of marijuana remains a felony in Arizona with a presumptive one-year prison sentence. A voter-approved drug-reform law in 1996 banned jail or prison sentences for first- or second-time offenders, however. About 13,000 adults 21 and older are arrested or cited for possession of marijuana each year, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Before leaving town, Blumenauer met the campaign team for U.S. Senate candidate and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, as he  tweeted on Wednesday.


State of the Leaf: Oregon Tests Cannabis More Than Its Food

 U.S. News Updates


After countless delays, the state’s first cannabis testing laboratory officially opened for business this week. CannTest will operate in an industrial area in Anchorage, where it will test 4-gram samples of cannabis flower, as well as concentrates and edibles, for potency and purity. The lab received a license on June 9. There are already several licensed retailers for adult-use cannabis that have been waiting for laboratories to open, and some stores could open as early as next week.


State Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Benton) promised to introduce a bill to legalize low-THC, high-CBD cannabis for medicinal use in the event that a ballot push to legalize fails next month. The lawmaker opposes the current bills on the table, along with several Arkansas officials, but proposed the high-CBD compromise in response. “I’m committed to working with the surgeon general, the health care community, with the Health Department, with the Medical Board, whoever we need to, to come up with and draft responsible legislation that gives us the needed oversight to keep this from becoming a substance abuse problem in Arkansas,” he said during a news conference on the topic of medical cannabis. The proposal, however, would be significantly more restrictive in qualifying conditions and would not allow cannabis flower. Critics have questioned whether the offer is a ploy to defeat legalization.


Arkansas Supreme Court Kills Issue 7


When two eagle-eyed voters in Broward County noticed Amendment 2 was missing from their absentee ballots, the Florida chapter of NORML filed a lawsuit. There have been 240,000 absentee ballots mailed to voters in Broward County, and although there have not been any other reports of the missing amendment, 60,000 of those ballots have already been cast. In 2014, a similar measure was defeated by a slim margin of just two percentage points, and this year’s election could be even closer. If you are a Broward County voter and your ballot is missing Amendment 2, please contact county Elections Supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes’s office at 954-357-7050.


Laboratories in Oregon made a noteworthy observation about the state’s cannabis supply, namely that cannabis on the adult-use market undergoes more testing and is generally safer than any food product typically purchased by Oregon consumers. Oregon has some of the most restrictive standards in the country for legal cannabis testing, which includes screening for potency, pesticides and mold, as well as residual solvents and terpenes. If a sample fails two tests, it legally cannot be sold and the producer loses money in the process, thus motivating producers and cultivators to move towards organic methods.


Goodbye, Grape Ape: Oregon Bans Kid-Friendly Strain Names

International News Updates


A new draft bill on medical cannabis has been introduced by a group of deputies from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party. The proposal would regulate production, prescriptions, and distribution at the national level and create a file for pharmaceutical products to compile data on the genetics of medical cannabis, cultivation areas and imported and exported cannabis products. Also facing Italian lawmakers is a measure to legalize cannabis for adult use, which Democratic Party leadership opposes. It became apparent that national legislation was necessary after an anti-cannabis law was ruled unconstitutional. The measures will be discussed after a constitutional referendum on Dec. 4.


Italian Law Enforcement Join Push for Cannabis Legalization


A Dutch cannabis coffeeshop owner has been detained in a Thai prison and faces up to a 103-year sentence for crimes that were committed in his home country of the Netherlands. Johan Van Laarhoven wrote a letter to King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands pleading for help securing his release. Thai officials confirm that Van Laarhoven has never committed a crime on Thai soil. Instead, he used money earned from his Netherlands-based cannabis business to retire in Thailand. The Thai consider his earnings “drug money” and by spending it money abroad, they say, he committed money laundering. Van Laarhoven was sentenced to 103 years and his wife, who apparently had no dealings with his cannabis business, was sentenced to 18 years in custody. The Dutch government so far has refused to ask the Thai government to extradite Van Laarhoven, though individual lawmakers have expressed their support for his release.


Arkansas Supreme Court Kills Issue 7

Just days before the election and with 142,000 ballots already cast through early voting, the Arkansas Supreme Court has disqualified one of two competing measures to legalize medical cannabis.

Earlier this morning the court sided with opponents of Issue 7, known as the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, in a 5-2 ruling. The judges tossed out 12,000 signatures that had been initially approved, when it was determined that campaign organizers didn’t comply with state law regarding the registration and reporting of paid signature gatherers. With those signatures disqualified, the initiative came up 2,500 signatures shy of the ballot requirement.


Early Voting is Already Happening in Legalizing States

Two justices disagreed with the decision. “The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted,” Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill wrote in a dissenting opinion.

Until this morning, Arkansas voters were offered two very similar proposals to legalize medical cannabis. With Issue 7 disqualified, only votes for and against Issue 6 will be counted.

Advocates and opponents alike were disappointed by the ruling. Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe, who starred in an anti-legalization ad campaign airing in the state, expressed mixed emotions about the decision. “Honestly, at this point in the stage, 12 days before the election, it sounds kind of strange, but I actually kind of wish it would have gone to the voters and let them vote it up or down at this point.”


These Legalization Ads Just Might Sway Your Vote

The ruling comes as a serious blow to the campaign group behind the initiative, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, whose ballot title was approved in 2014. The group spent the last two years gathering signatures in support of the initiative after a similar measure was narrowly defeated in the 2012 general election.

Both medical marijuana proposals have faced serious opposition from state officials. Governor Asa Hutchison, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, has spoken out against the measures, and a coalition of lobbying groups tried to disqualify both measures based on the ballot language.

Ryan Denham, the Deputy Director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, vowed that the group will continue to fight for patients’ rights in spite of the setback. In light of the decision, Arkansans for Compassionate Care urged voters to support both initiatives, including the competing measure that remains on the ballot.


Arkansas Lawmaker Promises Limited MMJ Bill Should Ballot Measures Fail

“It’s not easy reversing 80 years of cannabis prohibition. ACC placed a medical cannabis law on the ballot in 2012 and we were narrowly defeated. We came back with an army of volunteers and successfully placed Issue 7 on the ballot.” Denham said, recounting the endless obstacles the campaign has faced. “We’ve been up against many hurdles including the Governor, Attorney General, Surgeon General, a competing campaign and two lawsuits. We will keep fighting, ensure that no patient faces arrest for using a safe and effective medicine, whether that protection comes from Issue 6 or Issue 7.”

David Couch, the leader behind Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, is cautiously optimistic about the amendment’s chances now that the competing measure has been ruled out. “It eliminates some of the confusion on which one to vote for,” he said. “If you want to help sick and dying patients in Arkansas, then you have to vote for [Issue 6].”


How to Pack and Smoke a Bowl of Cannabis

There are many ways to smoke cannabis, but none are perhaps as well-known as smoking a bowl. Learning how to pack and smoke a bowl is a quintessential lesson in cannabis consumption that enthusiasts at every end of the spectrum can benefit from. Whether you’re interested in packing a pipe for a personal smoking session or preparing a bowl for a party, understanding these key fundamental principles will surely help you optimize your bowl smoking experience.

Exploring the Cannabis Pipe


Cannabis smoking contraptions come in all shapes and sizes, but the pipe is arguably the most popular. Adapted from traditional pipes used for tobacco, the cannabis pipe shares all of the same key characteristics. Pipes consist of a “bowl” (thus the vernacular reference), which is a round basin deep enough to pack herbs in, as well as an airtight channel that delivers airflow through a mouthpiece. In many cases, pipes also contain a second air channel known as a carb that is used to influence the maximum delivery of airflow through the mouthpiece. Essentially, as long as a pipe contains at the very least the first two items, you can smoke cannabis out of it.

Traditionally, pipes used for tobacco smoking purposes were made out of material such as wood, bamboo, or even ceramics. However, cannabis pipes today are widely made using borosilicate glass, as the medium is incredibly versatile. While most states still widely market glass pipes as tobacco smoking accessories, they can be found in collectable and gift shops (also referred to as “head shops”). You can also find them online, at cannabis events, and even in high-end glass art museums.


5 Traits to Look for in a Quality, Modern-Day Head Shop

Pipes can vary widely in shape and size, as well as in complexity, functionality, and availability. Many pipes utilize water to filter cannabis smoke and cool it prior to inhalation. Other pipes are basic and take a physical form many refer to as a “spoon.” These are the best pipes to begin with if you are new to cannabis, as they are small, easy to use, and are typically inexpensive.

Packing and Smoking Your Bowl


To pack and smoke a bowl, you’re going to need a few essential items to get started. Other than your bowl or pipe, you will need some form of heating element. The most basic heating element available is a lighter. Traditional butane lighters work well, though there is a myriad of non-butane heating elements out there to choose from. The most effective lighters and heaters will allow for optimal heating control when combusting and/or vaporizing a bowl.

Many consumers prefer to light their bowls with hemp wick, a waxy piece of hemp string that ignites easily, maintains an even burn, and doesn’t give off an undesirable aftertaste. Another heating element used often is a glass wand that can be heated to a point where it will vaporize your herb on contact, eliminating combustion smoke altogether while still delivering cannabinoids and flavor through a lighter hit.


Cannabinoids 101: What Makes Cannabis Medicine?

Preparing cannabis for smoking a bowl is essential in order to maximize airflow through your device and deliver the most even smoke possible. In order to do this, breaking down your herb is a crucial step. Doing this creates a homogenous airflow through the bowl where smoke can pass through evenly.

There are a few tricks to packing a pipe that will help to maximize airflow:

  1. Ensure that your weed is evenly broken down but not too finely ground. Hand pulling your herb is the most basic way to do this, but grinders make this process much easier. There are many ways to break your cannabis down, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
  2. Use a stem and/or a nice-sized intact calyx to stuff at the very bottom of your bowl to prevent particulates from passing though. You can also use a screen if you have one available. This will also facilitate better airflow.
  3. Pack your herb very lightly at the bottom and slightly denser at the top for an even smoke. This allows the cannabis towards the top to maintain a burn, or “cherry” while opening airflow for easy inhalation without any clogging.

Gif demonstrating how to pack a bowl of cannabis
Follow the Rules of Smoking Cannabis


For everybody first learning how to smoke a pipe, there are a few pieces of etiquette to follow that will help ensure you have the best possible experience. When engaging in a smoking session with others, make sure that you pack a bowl that’s proportional to the size of your smoking circle. For an intimate session, packing personal bowls or “snaps” is great when alone or with one other person. This way, you take turns lighting personally packed micro bowls meant to be consumed in one single hit. For larger groups, heavier packed “party bowls” ensure each smoking buddy gets a fresh hit of green herb.

Gif demonstrating how to light and smoke a bowl of cannabis
Traditionally, the provider of the cannabis will determine who gets to light the first hit. To make sure everyone gets the same experience, make sure to corner your bowl by only lighting a fraction of the visible cannabis. This lets everyone get the same great flavor without leaving an ashy hit for somebody. If the bowl is already lit, feel free to pass it, but let your passing buddy know the bowl is “cherried.” Lastly, never pocket a lighter. Everybody hates a light thief!

With these tips in mind, smoking a bowl should be a walk in the park. Always remember to use proper etiquette when packing a bowl for friends, and make sure you are consuming cannabis in a safe and legal place. Otherwise, pack a fat one, call some friends, and have at it!


BREAKING: Boston Globe Endorses Adult-Use Legalization

In a surprising move, the Boston Globe has endorsed the Massachusetts cannabis legalization initiative, Question 4. In an op-ed published Thursday morning, the Globe editorial board announced its support of the initiative. Opponents of the measure, the paper argued, have “inadvertently provided the best reason to vote for the measure.”

Those opponents, which include political heavy hitters like Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, have refused to consider legalizing and regulating cannabis through legislative action, and came out early against Question 4. Their opposition drove early negative opinion on the measure, but voters have swung the other way since early September. The most recent poll released on Oct. 19 has Question 4 leading 55 percent to 40 percent, with five percent undecided.

The Globe editorial board wrote that Question 4 could have been “better-crafted,” but the current initiative is all they’ve got to work with. And it’s a good start:

“The Globe endorses the yes campaign, despite the proposal’s many flaws, because the harm stemming from continued inaction on marijuana would be even greater.”

Massachusetts decriminalized cannabis possession in 2008, but state law left cannabis in a kind of “legal netherworld,” the Globe wrote, as it was legal to possess up to one ounce, but no one could legally sell it.

The newspaper isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of legal cannabis. But its editorial board concluded that the harms of prohibition far outweigh the uncertain outcomes of regulated legalization:

“Using marijuana isn’t completely safe, and it isn’t completely harmless to others when users drive. But a social consensus is clearly emerging that pot’s real dangers just aren’t great enough to merit outlawing it anymore. While the authors of Question 4 could have written a much better law, they at least got the big picture right. Legal marijuana is coming. Let’s get on with it.”

Question 4 would create a legal marketplace for cannabis, creating thousands of jobs, and if done right, could end the illicit market. As the Globe mentions, the referendum calls for an unusually low 3.75 percent tax, on top of the normal state sales tax. The state’s legislature, the Globe argues, should look into raising the tax if the initiative passes.

Washington State’s cannabis excise tax is 37 percent; Colorado’s is 29 percent. California is proposing a 15 percent excise tax on adult-use cannabis in its Proposition 64.

The Globe noted that Massachusetts lawmakers have complained that improving the legal language in Question 4 would require them to clear time in their busy schedules. “Respectfully, today’s Legislature is by and large the same group of lawmakers who somehow found the time to write legislation for the horse-racing industry,” the paper responded. “They can survive the inconvenience that their constituents may impose on their calendars.”


If You’re Pro-Cannabis, Why Would You Not Vote for Prop. 64?

Seriously, can someone please explain? Because vague complaints about how it’s going to put small growers out of business and fear-mongering around DUI laws aren’t quite cutting it for me. Lord knows we heard enough of those criticisms here in Washington when we were considering our own legalization measure, Initiative 502. Now we’re four years in and, last I checked, the sky was still holding strong.

I’m no blind shill for legalization. I’m actually pretty wary of it. You see, I’ve spent the past year eating, drinking, and breathing cannabis policy—though not, believe it or not, actual cannabis—as the cannabis writer for Seattle’s feisty alt weekly, The Stranger, as well as a handful of other publications (Leafly included). I’ve seen firsthand how legalization can go sideways, screwing over patients, minority groups, and even consumers themselves.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say I’ve been one of the most vocal critics of Washington state’s legal cannabis system. I’ve documented our failures to effectively regulate dangerous pesticide use, our failures to welcome minorities into the legal cannabis marketplace, and our failures to provide for our most vulnerable medical marijuana patients. I’m fairly certain that many people assume I’m squarely in the “Repeal I-502” camp.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. I voted for I-502 in 2012, and I’d vote for it again today, warts and all. Without the passage of I-502, we wouldn’t be talking about these tough, vitally important issues. We wouldn’t be fighting to build the fair, well-regulated cannabis system we all want to see. Without a legal system, there’s nothing to make better.


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“We wrote the most conservative bill that still legalized production and distribution for people and created the opportunity to create a legal market that could compete with the illegal market,” Alison Holcomb, the initiative’s chief drafter, told me recently. It was meant as a starting point, and it was designed to pass. “That’s what we were going for.”

For the most part, that’s exactly what they accomplished. The original I-502 is pretty bare bones. It does not mandate a pesticide testing policy, set aside licenses for minority groups, or make any attempt to address medical marijuana.

Here’s the thing: most of the failures we’ve seen in those areas have to do with how the law was implemented after it passed, or with subsequent legislation, not the way the initiative was originally written.

Prop. 64 itself lays the groundwork for what is, in many ways, a better system than ours.

That, perhaps, is the most important thing you skeptical California cannabis advocates can learn from our experiences: Passing a legalization measure is only the first step. The steps we take (or fail to take) afterward that are the ones that really matter.

Like many initiatives, Prop. 64 charges various state agencies with establishing certain rules. California Highway Patrol, for example, is required to develop protocols to detect impaired driving. Will CHP take a measured, science-based approach—one that considers the complicated factors that affect the level of THC present in a driver’s blood, as well as the degree to which it impairs a driver’s ability—or will they let fear dictate their decision? That has more to do with whether or not cannabis advocates are proactive in providing state troopers with the best available information—or whether they show up at all. It’s not hard to imagine how the acrimony that drives so much opposition to Prop. 64 from within the cannabis community could be extremely counterproductive down the road. Cooperation is key.


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Believe me, I understand that lawmakers and regulators are not always cooperative themselves. One of the many failings of our political system is that “respectable” moneyed interests tend to get a more sympathetic ear than eccentric, ponytailed pot farmers. As I see it, that is why it’s even more incumbent upon those who care passionately about cannabis to be involved with regulation, not opposed to it.

I got to see firsthand what happens when medical marijuana advocates, unwilling to compromise on a few relatively minor points—points almost exactly the same as those being disputed in California, I might add—remove themselves from the conversation with regulators. Here, when those voices weren’t present in a meaningful way, crony capitalists got to write the rules, and those rules almost always put profits over patients. Washington’s curiously titled Cannabis Patient Protection Act is a stark example of that.

You’re worried about Big Marijuana? So am I. But from what I’ve seen, those forces arise not from legalization itself but from a failure to appropriately steward the market once it’s legal.

If we want to send a message, the Golden State is the bullhorn.

Prop. 64 leaves a lot of things up to the implementation process, but that doesn’t have to go as poorly as it has in Washington. You don’t have to accept a draconian 5 nanogram DUI limit. You don’t have to drop the ball on consumer safety regulations, like pesticide testing. You don’t have to limit licenses, inciting the type of fierce competition that minority populations, systemically disadvantaged by the drug war, simply cannot win. You don’t have to watch your existing medical marijuana dispensaries be shut out of the new system by unfair regulation. No, you can learn from our mistakes. In fact, Prop. 64 itself lays the groundwork for what is, in many ways, a better system than ours.

Judging from many of the measure’s provisions—a lower tax rate, a viable priority system for existing MMJ businesses, no mandated cap on available licenses, measures to ensure non-violent drug offenders have access to licensing, a delivery system, protections for small business, public consumption sites, etc.—its drafters have learned a lot in the four years since we Washingtonians passed I-502. I’m not always proud of how we’ve implemented the law here, but I’m very proud that my state was bold enough to be one of the proverbial canaries in the coal mine.

Now it’s your turn. You might not feel it from where you are, but the rest of the world is watching. One in eight Americans lives in California. The feds still regard cannabis as more dangerous and less useful than cocaine or methamphetamines. If we want to send a message that that needs to change, the Golden State is the bullhorn.

If you are truly an advocate for progressive cannabis policies—not someone selfishly clinging to a system that works for them, even while it fails so many others — you will take this rare opportunity to push those policies forward, not stymie them. You will not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Most importantly, you will wake up the day after it passes, take a moment to let it sink in, and then get right back to work making sure it’s implemented as fairly and effectively as possible. Don’t fight the future, fight to shape it.


Meet the Main Man Fighting Against California’s Prop. 64

SACRAMENTO — The leading advocates for Proposition 64, the California initiative that would legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis, are well known: Gavin Newsom, the dashing lieutenant governor; Sean Parker, the tech startup billionaire; and Jay Z, musician and general mogul.

But who’s fighting it?

That would be John Lovell.

Lovell is a longtime law enforcement lobbyist who’s emerged as one of the leading voices against legalization in the nation’s largest state.

“This ballot measure’s all about the gold rush,” Lovell says from his small office across the street from the state Capitol. “It’s not about, ‘Gee, I want to be left alone, I want to be able to smoke my marijuana, I want to be able to buy a little bit from some place.’ No. This is about a big business model.”

After early work in government relations for DuPont and E. & J. Gallo Winery, Lovell launched his own Sacramento lobbying practice in the early 1990s “and almost immediately picked up a whole list of law enforcement clients.” He now represents, as lobbyist or adviser, the California Narcotics Officers’ Association, the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, among others. “I think virtually every one,” he says, “has come out against Proposition 64.”

Lovell says he’s concerned that the initiative could potentially support the rise of Big Pot by allowing businesses to hold multiple types of licenses—grower, extractor, retailer, and so on. He also worries the proposition doesn’t go far enough to control the potency of the various products, won’t be sufficient to prevent impaired-driving fatalities, and leaves the door open for individuals with past drug convictions to receive business licenses.

The measure’s proponents counter that limits on large-scale grows for the first five years after legalization would help give small businesses a leg up. They point to a planned $3 million for California Highway Patrol to develop protocols to detect and deter impaired driving. And they say the possibility of licensing individuals with past drug convictions is a social-justice feature, not a bug, meant to bring people into the legal market and undo the racially-tinged ravages of the drug war.


If You’re Pro-Cannabis, Why Would You Not Vote for Prop. 64?

His arguments, he says, are based in part on a public health report by tobacco researchers at the University of California San Francisco. It raises a number of policy questions around legalization, concluding that the state ought to “proactively create sensible and necessary regulations, oversight, and enforcement, related to the production, sale, taxation, and marketing of retail marijuana.” In other words, the report says the state should legalize—but legalize carefully.

“He’s been a key ally in public safety issues.”

Lauren Michaels, California Police Chiefs

That’s something, Lovell says, that Prop. 64 fails to do. He contends that the entirety of the proposition was designed primarily for profit rather than public safety, by people with an interest in what’s expected to be an enormous cannabis economy.

“Every initiative is drafted by groups of like-minded people who have a particular agenda,” he says. “It seems that there’s no one in the room who has passed a critical eye on what it is that we’re doing. What are the unintended consequences?”

A Place in the Conversation

Lovell has often been involved in policy conversations around cannabis. He worked against Proposition 19, a 2010 voter initiative that would have legalized marijuana for adults, because he felt it didn’t do enough to prevent the dangers of having a mind-altering substance on the legal market. But he’s also worked constructively on marijuana legislation such as last year’s Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, or MCRSA, a set of bills passed in 2015 that will establish a statewide licensing system for medical cannabis businesses, create environmental and product testing standards, and allow counties to impose taxes on cannabis businesses.

Lauren Michaels, the legislative affairs manager for the California Police Chiefs, worked with Lovell on MCRSA. What makes him good at what he does, she says, is that he’s a “true believer” who has the knowledge and perspective to see how proposed laws fit into larger conversation. “He’s one of the few people around the capital that can give a historical context,” she says. “In that way he’s been a key ally in public safety issues.”

Lovell’s small office is cluttered with books—volumes about Vietnam, Moscow, one called Steroids 101—and hung with photographs, mostly of family. But also on the wall are pictures of two men Lovell’s never known, victims of a Los Angeles mass murder.

The slayings happened in 1957. Three men were thrown out of a bar. They returned with a five-gallon can of gasoline, which they threw into the bar and ignited. Six people were killed.

on Wednesday, Oct. 26, <strong>2016</strong>, in Sacramento, Calif.

Lovell remembers reading about the event in the newspaper as a precocious 10 year old. He was so disturbed, his father suggested he stay away from papers for a while. Years later, when Lovell met the woman who would become his wife, he learned her cousins were two of the victims.

He admits he’s not entirely sure why the images, of men he never knew who died 50 years ago, resonate so strongly with him. It could be how he was raised, he ventures, as the child of progressives. “Representing law enforcement on behalf of victims is in the tradition of my perception of what the party of my birth has always been about,” he says. “Intervening on behalf of people in dire straits, whether those dire straits are economic, whether they’re outright poverty, whether they are victims of racial, gender, sexual-orientation discrimination—or, in my view, victims of crime.”

When it comes to marijuana policy, the question of who the victims are occupies a lot of minds in California these days. Proponents of Prop. 64 say they want to stop creating new victims of America’s failed war on drugs. Lovell sees it differently. He believes Prop. 64 will produce new victims: casualties of impaired driving, minors enticed by cannabis advertising, and just about anyone who gets in the way of a booming industry.

Lovell worries that Prop. 64 would create one more Big to join the other Bigs: Tobacco, Alcohol, Pharmaceuticals, Agriculture. Huge companies could eventually push out small operators. And those same massive players, he warns, could also wield the political influence to prevent regulatory revisions down the road.


13 Things You Might Not Know About California’s Prop. 64

Under Prop. 64, large-scale cultivation licenses couldn’t be granted under until 2023. But because the measure generally doesn’t limit how many licenses a potential operator can obtain, a single company could control almost every step in the supply chain, from planting the seeds to sealing the packages to selling the products in stores (a third-party laboratory would need to test the products for potency and pesticides). The vertically integrated model is one that Colorado originally adopted for its regulated medical marijuana system. It was seen by state officials as a way to assure regulatory compliance. Washington state’s law, by contrast, bars vertical integration.

Another key plank of Lovell’s anti-64 platform is that the proposition doesn’t include an all-out ban on advertising to children—a point that has been debated and litigated. The text of the law explicitly prohibits marketing to people under 21 or near schools and forbids marijuana products that could be mistaken for candy. There are strictures against advertising and sales near schools and requirements that sellers verify age, as well as requirements for product labeling and marketing that don’t currently exist.

But, Lovell says, that doesn’t mean ads would necessarily be out of the question. A provision of the measure says they can only be displayed “where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older,” a rule adopted from an alcohol-industry guideline. Meanwhile, marijuana-product websites would require that visitors verify their age, which as anyone who’s used the internet knows is a pretty simple workaround.


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Who’s a victim?

For many, marijuana legalization is a social justice question. Lovell isn’t in favor of criminalization. “Do I smoke marijuana myself? No,” he says. “Do I feel that someone who uses marijuana should be incarcerated? No.” He points out that marijuana possession in California has been mostly decriminalized since 2011, with possession of up to an ounce subject only to civil fines. Arrests have dropped since then, though they haven’t vanished.

Ask Lovell about his idea of a good cannabis measure and he’ll point you to MCRSA, the state’s new medical marijuana law that, once it takes full effect in 2018, will replace the state’s largely unregulated medical marijuana industry. Lovell worked with two of the law’s co-sponsors, the California Police Chiefs Association and League of California Cities. Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a co-author of MCRSA, says Lovell’s effectiveness as a lobbyist came from creating trust on both sides.

“Mr. Lovell was an important voice for law enforcement while we were crafting the medical cannabis legislation,” Lackey says. Having the lobbyist’s insight ensured “that the law enforcement community was comfortable with the final version of the MCRSA that became law. Mr. Lovell helped show that we can get positive outcomes on an issue as tough as medical cannabis when all sides come to the table and work in good faith.”


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The act, as Lovell describes it, successfully balances consumer demand, business interests, and government oversight. It creates six different categories of medical marijuana operating licenses and, most important to Lovell, attempts to control vertical integration by limiting the number of licenses an operator can hold.

Given the current trend of distrust toward other industrial Bigs, it could be an effective strategy to warn of yet another. But if Lovell’s beef with Prop. 64 isn’t legalization per se, what, then, would his ideal legalization measure contain?

“There’s a number of things,” he says. “I think one of them is, yes, limiting vertical integration. Another is limiting advertising. Another is making sure there are some impaired-driving standards built into the bill. Another is making sure that it is relatively easy to amend if there are unintended issues that come up.” While Prop. 64 does addresses some of those issues, Lovell thinks it’s a bad bit of legislation all around.

Amid the competing claims and talking points around Prop. 64, there’s one thing Lovell and cannabis advocates can agree on. If it’s true that California’s legalization could create the template for national change, it’s well worth looking at closely, now and if it passes.

Images by Andrew Seng for Leafly