Julie Aitcheson, Author at Green Market Report

Julie AitchesonMay 16, 2022
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4min90

In the cannabis market, Flower continues to reign supreme as the dominant category in every market, though according to a recent Headset report, market share is declining in both the US and Canada. Be that as it may, cannabis flower is likely to hold its top spot as the consumer favorite for some time to come as the least processed and most versatile (albeit also the most susceptible to commoditization and price compression) of all categories. Headset’s report looks at changes in market share over time, segments, pricing, demographics, and other metrics of performance in the Flower category. Data was collected from real-time sales reporting by participating cannabis retailers via their point-of-sale systems.

Despite the fact that in Canada, flower market share declined from 78.8% to 42.5% with a less precipitous drop from 41% to 40.4% in the US, Flower’s popularity still trumps Pre-rolls (Canada) and Vape Pens (US), which are next highest-grossing categories in those countries. The market share decline has seen a commensurate drop in price, with the average EQ price falling by -22% in the US and -17% in Canada from January 2021 to March 2022.

The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic saw an early surge in Flower sales, but that trend reversed itself in early 2021, bringing market share to its current status at lower than pre-pandemic levels. In Canada, Ontario (home of densely-populated Toronto) sees a substantially larger proportion of total sales in the Flower category than other provinces, while in the US Maryland (47.5%) and Michigan (48.9%) hold down the higher end of market share. Last year this distinction went to Nevada at 56.3%, which has since fallen to 46%. Headset’s data shows that every market has declined in market share since last year.

Prices Plunge

EQ pricing for Flower in Canada dropped steadily throughout 2021, plunging by 17% from January 2021 to March 2022. In the US, that drop gained momentum starting in September, declining by -22% in the same period. 

Male customers typically spend more of what’s in their wallet on flower than their female counterparts, with male Baby Boomers leading generational categories with a wallet share of 49.3% in Canada and 50.6% in the US. Gen Z holds the least wallet share, spending just a bit more than 1/3 of their total cannabis budget on flower as opposed to other products.

While Flower is in no danger of losing its ranking as the dominant product category for consumers in the US and Canada, the decline in popularity reflected in Headset’s data demands a response from cannabis companies to keep prices and demand steady. Finding creative ways to market toward women and less enthusiastic consumers in the Gen Z, Millennial, and Gen X generations while maintaining the loyalty and enthusiasm of its more robust male and Baby Boomer base may go a long way towards reversing the downward trend in Flower in the year to come.


Julie AitchesonMay 5, 2022
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7min90

“Cannamoms”, or mothers who consume, advocate for, and work in cannabis, are on the rise as a consumer demographic, an influential voice in the legalization debate, and a growing presence across social media platforms. With this rise comes both opportunities and pitfalls, not just for mothers but for all women-identified people who contributed to the increase of cannabis sales to female customers by 55% in the past year

The term “Cannamom” was initially coined to identify “a group of passionate mothers advocating for the right and option to utilize cannabis in the care of their own critically-ill children” (Urban Dictionary). Employing advocacy and education, these women used their own stories to spread the word about marijuana’s medicinal benefits. The term “Cannamom” has since come to encompass an entire subculture within cannabis that includes any mother who consumes marijuana, as well as those working to break down the stigmas surrounding its use. There is a TikTok Cannamom community that shares posts under the #cannamom tag. It is comprised of moms who proudly smoke weed and tout the numerous ways it helps them deal with the everyday stressors of motherhood and parenting. The tag has amassed well over half a billion views. There are also numerous Facebook groups, blogs, YouTube channels, and Pinterest boards proselytizing about “Cannamom Life”.

Brightfield Group, a market research firm (which defines its complex user group “Moms that Toke” as women with children in the household who report using cannabis at least weekly), has conducted research that has found that 78.2% of “Moms that Toke” reported using cannabis at least daily in the first quarter of 2022, while 57.9% reported using cannabis multiple times per day in the same period. This is higher than daily use in the general cannabis consumer population, which was 61.5%. Brightfield’s data also showed that “Moms that Toke” gravitate towards vape carts as their preferred mode of consumption, likely due to ease of use and discretion. 63.4% of cannabis-consuming moms reported seeking emotional relief from cannabis and prioritized having more energy over fun when asked about what motivated their consumption.

Though the social media face of the liberated Cannamom may be glowing, mothers who use cannabis to deal with stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, or any of the other numerous side-effects of parenting do so at a significant risk. Those who are drug-tested on the job risk being disciplined, suspended, or fired by their employer. In some cases, such as those mothers serving in the military, they can be discharged for even using a CBD product if they are administered a test that cannot differentiate between CBD and THC. These failed drug tests not only result in potential job loss, but loss of health care and accrued retirement benefits as well.

Family law is another area where mothers may encounter serious consequences for cannabis use. In states where marijuana is illegal and a parent is found guilty of possession or use, the parent can lose visitation or custody. Even in states where marijuana is legal (such as Michigan, where it would be considered similarly to alcohol consumption in child custody is cases), marijuana may not be treated in the same manner by the court. If there is a suggestion of habitual consumption, dependency, or addiction to the substance, even if it is legal, this can also cause a custody issue. There have even been cases where Child Protective Services became involved because a parent obtained a medical marijuana card. 

Cannabis use has been shown to offer certain health benefits, but for expectant mothers, marijuana use during pregnancy might be another instance where not only custody but health concerns for mother and child can arise. These include lower birth weight and abnormal neurological development of the infant, including attention deficits, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior later in life. Though cannabis can be effective in treating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and is, in fact, the most common illicit drug used during pregnancy, there is no known safe level of cannabis use during pregnancy or lactation.

Cannamom culture will, no doubt, continue to thrive as legalization spreads and more and more women with children experience the benefits of cannabis as an alternative to prescription medications, alcohol, and other substances. Though cannabis use can be both positive and problematic for mothers, there is a growing community of “Moms that Toke” out there willing to put their consumer dollars, reputations, and platforms behind marijuana as a plant ally for the modern mom. 


Julie AitchesonApril 29, 2022
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11min50

DoorDash Canada is getting into the cannabis delivery game in Toronto with cannabis retail and lifestyle brand, Superette. Denizens of Ontario’s capital and Canada’s most populous city will be able to pull up their DoorDash app and access Superette’s curated menus and special collections that both reflect and evoke Toronto’s many unique neighborhoods. Matt McLeod, CEO said, “We’re starting to see how Canadian cannabis retail can be a great proving ground for how the industry can evolve and innovate. Superette works really hard to offer an experiential and playful experience for our cannabis consumers. We’re thrilled that DoorDash recognizes this and chose us to be their first partner! Superette is proud to have this opportunity and we hope this partnership can serve as a model for DoorDash’s operations in the US.”

DoorDash prides itself on building logistics infrastructure for local commerce while pushing innovation in the convenience economy while Superette is known for creating “retail destinations” that attract customers from both in and outside of the cannabis consumer base. Superette’s focus on empowering local communities and sourcing from sustainable vendors made them a perfect partner for DoorDash, which seeks to translate Superette’s famously immersive retail experience to their marketplace app. Customers will be able to pre-order and pick up a range of compliant cannabis products at their local stores through an age-gated process that will prevent anyone under nineteen years of age from viewing anything related to cannabis or cannabis products. At pick-up, Superette will verify IDs and strictly enforce maximum possession amounts before allowing customers to leave with their purchases. 

This approach to integrating cannabis into the convenience economy in Canada is not the sole purview of DoorDash, at least as far as Ontario is concerned. Uber Eats will begin allowing customers in Ontario to order cannabis through cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke on its app in November of 2022. The model will resemble that of DoorDash, with customers ordering online to one of Tokyo Smoke’s fifty locations across Ontario and pick-up times scheduled in one-hour windows. There are other cannabis delivery resources, like dutchie and Buddi, that help retailers complete delivery and pick-up and other cannabis marketplaces jumping in on delivery across Canada’s provinces (regulations permitting). But with DoorDash and UberEats entering the game, the playing field just got substantially bigger and a whole lot more competitive. 

In the U.S., DoorDash, UberEats, PostMates and GrubHub are the top delivery services, but none have entered the cannabis delivery game just yet. Instead, companies like Eaze, Caliva, and Lantern (which became an independent subsidiary of Uber when Uber acquired sister company and online liquor store Drizly) are dominating in states like California and Colorado, where the regulatory environment is more hospitable. The United States’ top-ranking delivery sources are most certainly eager for strategic shift in the US federal regulatory environment that will allow them to follow in their Canadian counterparts’ entrepreneurial footsteps.

Denizens of Ontario’s capital and Canada’s most populous city will be able to pull up their DoorDash app and access Superette’s curated menus and special collections that both reflect and evoke Toronto’s many unique neighborhoods. Chief Brand Officer at Superette, Drummond Munro, lauds DoorDash’s support for his company’s outside-the-box approach to retail. “It really reinforces DoorDash’s ambitions to build community and do things differently from their competitors. They could have chosen a national chain and gotten into more doors, but they chose to work with Superette and we’re really proud of that. Superette set out to rethink the cannabis retail experience and it’s amazing that we’re being recognized by an industry leader.

Logistics

DoorDash prides itself on building logistics infrastructure for local commerce while pushing innovation in the convenience economy while Superette is known for creating “retail destinations” that attract customers from both in and outside of the cannabis consumer base. Superette’s focus on empowering local communities and sourcing from sustainable vendors made them a perfect partner for DoorDash, which seeks to translate Superette’s famously immersive retail experience to its marketplace app. Customers will be able to pre-order and pick up a range of compliant cannabis products at their local stores through an age-gated process that will prevent anyone under nineteen years of age from viewing anything related to cannabis or cannabis products. At pick-up, Superette will verify IDs and strictly enforce maximum possession amounts before allowing customers to leave with their purchases. 

This approach to integrating cannabis into the convenience economy in Canada is not the sole purview of DoorDash, at least as far as Ontario is concerned. Uber Eats will begin allowing customers in Ontario to order cannabis through cannabis retailer Tokyo Smoke on its app in November of 2022. The model will resemble that of DoorDash, with customers ordering online to one of Tokyo Smoke’s fifty locations across Ontario and pick-up times scheduled in one-hour windows. There are other cannabis delivery resources, like dutchie and Buddi, that help retailers complete delivery and pick-up, and other cannabis marketplaces jumping in on delivery across Canada’s provinces (regulations permitting). But with DoorDash and UberEats entering the game, the playing field just got substantially bigger and a whole lot more competitive. 

In the U.S., DoorDash, UberEats, PostMates and GrubHub are the top delivery services, but none have entered the cannabis delivery game just yet. Instead, companies like Eaze, Caliva, and Lantern (which became an independent subsidiary of Uber when Uber acquired a sister company and online liquor store Drizly) are dominating in states like California and Colorado, where the regulatory environment is more hospitable. The United States’ top-ranking delivery sources are most certainly eager for a strategic shift in the US federal regulatory environment that will allow them to follow in their Canadian counterparts’ entrepreneurial footsteps.


Julie AitchesonApril 28, 2022
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8min201

On Thursday, April 26th, the first-ever Green Market Report Women’s Leadership Awards ceremony was held at The Green Market Report Women’s Summit in Manhattan, NYC to honor female and female-identifying cannabis professionals in categories ranging from Cultivation to Activism and Politics. 

The Women’s Leadership Award in the Brands category went to Nancy Whiteman, CEO of Wana Brands. Honored for her adroit management of Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth’s acquisition of 100% of each Wana entity as well as her commitment to social equity in cannabis, Whiteman was also lauded for her innovative new product lines and product development. Khadijah Tribble, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Curaleaf, (OTC: CURLF) received the Women’s Leadership Award in the MSO category. A highly-respected expert on equity and inclusion in cannabis, Tribble created and runs Rooted in Good, one of the most robust corporate responsibility programs in any industry, and is also the founder of Marijuana Matters, a cannabis education and advocacy incubator. 

The Women’s Leadership Award in Marketing went to Natalie Shaul, Co-Founder and VP of Marketing at Springbig. Shaul was instrumental in Springbig’s pivot to cannabis and is known as a trendsetter, job creator, fundraiser and changemaker in the industry. Shaul has helped thousands of cannabis retailers while her business has created more than 80 jobs across South Florida while providing discounted services to support veteran and minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve Cannabis Corp., was given the Women’s Leadership Award in the C-Suite- Public Company category. She is the only female CEO of a publicly traded company in the cannabis space. A former lawyer, Rivers has since spearheaded the largest cannabis acquisition deal to date with Trulieve’s purchase of Harvest Health & Recreation. Rivers was also instrumental in Trulieve’s Environmental, Social and Governance report, the first of its kind from an American MSO. The award for Women’s Leadership in the C-Suite Private Company category went to Ralina Shaw, founder of House of Tyne and leadership team member of 4thMVMT, a leading social impact organization with a mission to support those disproportionally impacted by cannabis laws. She is also one of the few BIPOC executives in the PR and Retail space.

Founder and CEO of Women Employed in Cannabis (WEIC) Kyra Reed was given the Women’s Leadership Award in Activism/Politics for her helming of the largest association for women working in cannabis, psychedelics, hemp & CBD. Named as a “Social Media Pioneer” by Entrepreneur Magazine, Reed has grown WEIC into a 15,000 member organization as well as the premiere brand and international organization dedicated to empowering women to achieve their goals.

The Women’s Leader Award for Cultivation went to Joyce Cenali, COO of Sonoma Hills Farm. Under Cenali’s leadership, Sonoma Hills was the first farm to be recognized as “organic comparable” as designated by CCOF’s OCal program. She co-founded an Emerald Cup-winning organization and supports female founders innovating in cannabis with a mission to advance a regulatory model that unites capitalism and inclusion. Chanda Macias, PhD, CEO of Ilera Holistics, took home the award for Women’s Leadership in the Science category, in no small part for her role as the first Black woman medical cannabis operator as CEO of National Holistic Healing Center—the largest medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C.  She is also Chairwoman of the Board of Managers and CEO for Women Grow and First Vice Chair of the National Cannabis Roundtable Board.

Narmin Jarrous, Chief Development Officer at Exclusive Brands, won the Women’s Leadership Award in Social Equity. Jarrous’s social equity program partners with organizations like the National Birth Equity Coalition and The Last Prisoner Project while also helping Social Equity Applicants gain their licenses. Jarrous is also a mentor, educator, speaker, and advocate for women of color in the industry. Ronit Pinto, founder of Honeysuckle Magazine, took home the Women’s Leadership Award in Media. Honeysuckle has gained national distribution and also created Honey Pot Magazine, a sister print and digital publication focusing exclusively on cannabis and hemp issues.

Wendy Bronfein, Co-founder, Chief brand Officer and Director of Public Policy at Curio Wellness was honored in the Dispensary category. Bronfein drives the company’s legislative agenda across multiple states and oversees the brand as well as all corporate communications. She also helped initiate Curio’s Wellness investment Fund and a program to provide start-up capital for minority business-owners to open their own Curio franchise locations. The Women’s Leader Award for Public Relations went to Shawna Seldon McGregor, founder and CEO of Maverick Public Relations. She represents businesses across all sectors and is recognized as one of the most effective cannabis agencies in the industry. MacGregor has provided pro bono PR work and has served on the boards of numerous charitable organizations.

Honorees were nominated by colleagues from across cannabis sectors. Almost a hundred nominations were reviewed by industry insiders before they decided upon the twelve women executives and entrepreneurs to receive these special awards spanning several areas within the cannabis industry. 

 


Julie AitchesonApril 20, 2022
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4min50

The “4/20 Cannabis Insights Poll”, a national poll commissioned by Jushi Holdings, Inc. (OTC: JUSHF) surveyed 1,100 cannabis and non-cannabis consumers in the U.S. (ages 21 years+) and found that not only did more than half of cannabis consumers try cannabis for the first time in the last year, but that a majority also believe that cannabis has an overall positive impact on society, economic growth and the job market. Jushi founder and CEO Jim Cacciopo attributes this growing consumer confidence to spreading state legalization and misconceptions about cannabis gradually getting debunked. “The latest data shows more people are not only embracing cannabis in their own lives but also seeing the value it brings to their communities.”

The success of the legal cannabis industry (present and future) is as beholden to politics as politicians are to their constituents. Those in office as well as aspiring candidates might want to sit up and take notice of the fact that 61% of respondents stated that they were more likely to support pro-legalization politicians. Contrary to some worn assumptions about the cannabis consumer demographic, only 33.4% of these respondents identified as Democrats, while 25.4% were Republican, 24% independent, 12.5% unaffiliated and 4.8% identified as “other”. Garnering even stronger support was the position that The Department of Veteran Affairs should update its rules to allow veterans to access medical cannabis with a doctor’s prescription, with 76.1% in favor. 

The “4/20 Cannabis Insights Poll” also looked at top consumer products and emerging cannabis consumption trends, uncovering a wealth of insights about which products consumers are using most frequently and why. Medical use topped the list for the most common driver of cannabis consumption at 31.4%, with stress (22.4%), general wellness (17.5%), recreation (15.9%) and sleep (12.8%) rounding out the list.

Non-cannabis users were asked to give the primary reason that they might try cannabis, and medical use (26.1%) was their first pick as well, followed by stress (23.4%), though 23.1% of non-cannabis users maintained that they would not be interested in trying cannabis at all. If they did elect to try cannabis, non-users stated that they would be most interested in edibles (32.7%) with the second most popular answer being “not sure” at 27.8%. The poll also showed that one to two days a week is the most common consumption rate for those that do partake, and that evening (28.8%) is the most popular time to unwind with a favorite product. “Whenever I need it” (26.9%) came in a close second, and judging by this poll’s numbers, that need is steadily on the rise.


Julie AitchesonApril 18, 2022
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7min111

Legal cannabis loopholes are sparking both innovation and creative evasion in today’s cannabis industry, and a host of law professionals are taking pains to elucidate them for clients in cannabis who risk both profit and loss by operating within them. After doing our due diligence with some of the cannabis industry’s top law professionals, Green Market Report has composed a list of the top five legal loopholes keeping things interesting in cannabis right now.

CBD

According to Morgan Davis, founder and CEO of Davis Legal, CBD products for food and beverage consumption present one of the most commonly exploited legal loopholes. CBD is still not FDA-approved, but consumables are commonly available everywhere from gas stations to Whole Foods and online retailers. “There are some states that have enacted regulations allowing for hemp and CBD products for human consumption,” Davis says, “but a majority have not. Nevertheless, a consumer can buy hemp and CBD food and beverage products for consumption in almost every state in the U.S.”

David Feldman, CEO of cannabis strategic advisory firm Skip Intro Advisors, puts Delta-8 at the top of his loophole list, and he’s not alone. Legal Associate Demetria Hamilton, in a blog post for law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLPDigest.com) states that while Delta-8 THC is derived from CBD extracted from hemp plants and has been found to provide a “high” distinct from Delta-9, it still falls under the Farm Bill’s definition of “hemp”. “In other words,” she writes, “while Delta-8 is another name for Tetrahydrocannabinols, its presence in any quantity provides a risky grey area for brave cannabis producers to work-and profit- within.”

Sex & Wellness

Both Feldman and Davis are of the opinion that the medical marijuana market is another realm where cannabis businesses find workarounds to get their products into consumers’ hands. Davis cites “period care”, such as CBD or THC tampons, which are not FDA-approved and, as “medical devices”, are prohibited from including THC or CBD yet are still available online and throughout the country. Sex and wellness is another avenue for loopholes.  As “medical devices”, sex toys are regulated by the FDA, thereby prohibiting cannabis as an additive. Cannabis is also not approved by the FDA to enhance the sexual experience or treat sexual dysfunction, yet products (e.g. THC strains specifically targeted to enhance sexual experience, infused lubes, cannabis condoms, etc.) that address exactly those needs are gaining in popularity. “The loophole,” says Davis, “is that most of the companies either sell their product as a topical or “novelty item” to avoid the medical device issue. Add in some creative marketing to avoid being prescriptive and, so far, these products have avoided much scrutiny or enforcement.”

Both Davis and Feldman agree that “gift culture” has long been used as a means of circumventing legal restrictions by including cannabis gifts with a different purchase, such as a sticker, patch or poster advertising the company. A “donation economy” offers a similar workaround, and one that has been utilized in California’s medical market for twenty years. Customers make a donation in an amount equivalent to the cost of a cannabis product, then receive the product as a “free gift” as a token of appreciation for the donation.

Hospitality

“Cannabis hospitality” is a sector of the market where legal loopholes are helping cannabis consumers enjoy products outside of their homes. Restaurants or lounges may offer consumption options like joints or edibles without possessing the requisite retail license, while hotels, event spaces and even campgrounds can take advantage of private property laws to allow them to host cannabis consumption on their property. This does not extend to national parks and property owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which adhere to federal regulations and where cannabis and certain CBD products are illegal at all times. State parks may be more flexible depending on the state’s marijuana regulations. For example, information officer for California State Parks Adeline Yee confirms that “persons 21 and older may possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana” at California state parks. Smoking or ingesting cannabis in California state parks is still illegal, however, and may only occur on private property.

Morgan Davis observes that some of today’s hottest trends in cannabis are operating in many of these legal grey areas, driven by those who choose to believe that if something is not very specifically prohibited by law, it is legal. “It’s still an exciting interval to watch,” Davis says. “The first one through the wall might get the bloodiest, but they’ll clear the path for all of the monumental ways this plant can transform lives.”

 


Julie AitchesonApril 14, 2022
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6min241

 New York Cannabis Project is a social equity incubator program launched by e-commerce marketplace and home delivery platform, Lantern. New York Cannabis Project is currently accepting the first round of applications for its incubator program, which gives aspiring entrepreneurs access to educational programming, technical services, mentorship and operational consulting as well as access to a resource database for real estate and investor/vendor connections. Applicants will be New Yorkers hardest hit by the war on drugs. 

As Akele Parnell (Head of Equity Partnerships at Lantern) explains, “whether it’s winning business or cultivation licenses, building brands and setting them up, our goal is to give social equity applicants the resources they need to build successful businesses in the industry.” Lantern has also launched New Jersey Cannabis Project, which shares its New York counterpart’s goals and objectives, as well as social equity incubators in Massachusetts (where Lantern “incubated” the first delivery couriers to be licensed by the state), Colorado, and Michigan (where it launched women-owned, Detroit-based company Calyxeum). Success stories include Massachusetts-based companies like delivery services Treevit and Your Green Package.

Ultimately, the New York Cannabis Project is hoping to help build a “community-based hub” of which the New York Cannabis Project would be a key partner and which would provide instructors, programming, education and other resources to get people into the licensed industry. As opposed to an incubator, which is targeted toward those looking to become business owners, the community hub would be an ongoing and permanent resource for those looking to enter the cannabis industry in any capacity but who experience barriers related to social equity issues. Resources would range from help with getting criminal records expunged to networking with others in the industry to identify, train for, and pursue job opportunities in cannabis. 

Lantern is not the only entity attempting to address inequity within the cannabis industry. Sacramento, California initiated the Sacramento Grow Green Program as part of the City of Sacramento’s Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity effort. The program provides training, business plan development, mentorship and support to individuals and communities facing barriers to entry into the cannabis industry due to historical inequities in how cannabis laws have historically been enforced. Program applicants must fit into one of five classifications to be eligible, including income level, zip code, or possessing an arrest record for cannabis-related crimes either personally or through an immediate family member. 

Los Angeles-based LASER (Los Angeles Social Equity Reform), a program of cannabis technology company Growing Talent, consists of applicants who become “equity partners” upon acceptance to the program. These partners are taken through a 10-week curriculum with industry experts that includes training in best practices and business expansion as well as access to Growing Talent’s range of business resources. The San Francisco Office of Cannabis sponsors a program wherein businesses can apply to become equity incubators for qualified Equity Applicants wherein they provide rent-free space or technical assistance upon meeting incubation criteria. Equity Incubators are then listed on the website as resources for Equity Applicants. With so many new (and not so new) projects seeking to address the glaring inequities in access to capital, resources, mentorship and investor opportunities, the future looks brighter for those previously shut out of the licensed cannabis industry– an industry that stands to gain immeasurably from the skills, experience, and innovation of the very communities it has long excluded.


Julie AitchesonApril 7, 2022
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5min102

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the rate of new housing starts in the U.S. hit 1.769 million in February of 2022, the highest since June 2006 despite material shortages, supply chain issues, and cost-of-living spikes. The US hemp building industry is riding this wave by moving forward in its efforts to certify hemp and lime (often referred to as “hempcrete”) insulation in U.S. building codes. On January 10, the U.S. Hemp Building Foundation submitted an appendix in the International Residential Codes to familiarize the U.S. permitting departments with hempcrete. During the final week of March, the International Code Council approved Proposal_RB316-22 for the International Residential Code, which is the ICC’s first step toward adopting hempcrete as an officially recognized building material.

Hempcrete is non-structural insulation commonly made of hemp hurd (the woody inner parts of the hemp stalk) and lime binder. An efficient insulator when installed up to one foot thick in wall assemblies, hempcrete has an impressive list of attributes. It is vapor-permeable, thermally regulating, fire-resistant and repels mold and pests. Because hemp plants sequester large amounts of carbon while growing, hempcrete is also carbon negative. Once incorporated into the construction, hempcrete can increase carbon negativity by absorbing carbon dioxide exhaled by building inhabitants.

U.S. construction industry professionals such as builders and architects could previously use hempcrete, but they often needed an alternative material variance and an engineer’s stamp on hempcrete house plans to do so. This requires them to go through a separate approval process for each project. Certification and the existence of a national code would eliminate this necessity. Though hempcrete has already been in popular use in Europe for over thirty years and, more recently, in Canada, it is still not widely understood as a material in the United States.  Building professionals have been tasked with providing research and other supporting documentation to building permitting authorities in order to demonstrate hempcrete’s capacity and limitations.

Beyond a standardized code to facilitate its use, there have been additional barriers to hempcrete’s integration into the U.S. construction industry. Many building professionals wrongly believe that hempcrete contains psychoactive components. Concerns that the process for making hempcrete is slow and labor-intensive, as well as hard to fully automate and standardize are warranted, however, and will need to be addressed before hempcrete can gain broader acceptance in the U.S. 

Fortunately, innovative companies like the UK’s IsoHemp and Canada’s Just BioFiber are forging the way with mass-produced and standardized hemp and hemp/proprietary material blocks, so hempcrete’s day in the U.S. may be dawning sooner than critics think. ICC’s approval of the hempcrete proposal initiates a public review process that will continue until June 20, 2022, with a final determination to be made at the Public Comment Hearing in Louisville, Kentucky, between September 14-21, 2022.


Julie AitchesonApril 5, 2022
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5min60

As cannabis legalization spreads across the country, businesses are desperate for willing workers and drug testing is one area where they are making concessions to fill their rosters. Cannabis employers can have drug testing and use policies just as stringent as those outside of the industry, and in any industry, when employees are found to have violated these policies, the consequences are real. In some cases, this can result in job loss, demotion, or losing out on a new job opportunity altogether. In more serious cases, when an employee tests positive for marijuana after being involved in an incident leading to injury or property damage, lawsuits often result, with outcomes that seldom favor the employee. This possibility is a major deterrent for those who choose to make marijuana or even CBD part of their health or recreation regimens. 

A point of concern for employees both current and prospective are drug testing policies involving tests that lack the sensitivity to distinguish between THC (which is federally illegal) and CBD (which is legal as long as it is derived from the hemp plant and contains less than .3% THC). Employers such as Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) are announcing pro-legalization stances and excluding marijuana from pre-employment drug tests, placing it in the same policy category as alcohol.  Positions at Amazon that are regulated by the US Department of Transportation will still be subjected to pre-employment testing, on-the-job impairment checks, and post-incident substance testing that include screening for marijuana. Amazon also reinstated the employment eligibility for former employees and applicants who were previously terminated or deferred during random or pre-employment marijuana screenings.

Relaxing drug testing policies is a growing trend, but not a new one. While Amazon may be one of the highest-profile companies to make this move recently, Las Vegas-based health care company Excellence Health, Inc. stopped drug-testing employees coming to work for the pharmaceutical side of the business back in 2018, and stopped testing for marijuana in 2016. The Denver Post ended pre-employment drug testing for all non-safety sensitive positions in 2016, and in 2018 the U.S.’s largest auto dealer, AutoNation, Inc. announced that it would no longer refuse the applications of prospective employees who tested positive for marijuana. 

Back in 2018, jobs were considerably scarcer than they are now, but employers still struggled to get many candidates past the drug screening stage as cannabis legalization spread. Jobs are now plentiful, but job seekers are more discriminating and companies large and small are struggling to recover from the massive economic hit of Covid isolation and periodic lockdowns. It’s not just drug testing policies that are acting as a deterrent to prospective and desperately needed employees. Drug testing is expensive. The expense of pre-employment screenings in states where cannabis is decriminalized or legal at the state level can be hard to justify. Where larger, multi-state employers are concerned, implementing a boilerplate policy with legalization status differing from state to state may leave them vulnerable to discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuits. 

While opinions vary about the impacts of relaxing drug testing policies as a means of addressing personnel shortages, tight budgets, and a constantly shifting regulatory environment, one thing is clear. The momentum for changing the way companies address employee marijuana use is building across industries, and the field is broadening for job seekers who wish to maintain their cannabis consumption without risking their livelihoods. 


Julie AitchesonMarch 24, 2022
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Medicinal mushrooms have major potential health benefits and are big business for makers of supplements, beauty products, confections and more. These medicinal fungi are finding their way into many of today’s cannabis product line-ups, such as CBD Tea’s CBD Mushroom Defense and the CBDFx line of CBD and mushroom tinctures that boast a supercharged synergy between CBD and mushrooms. The integration of medicinal mushrooms and cannabis has been seamless overall, without many of regulatory snafus that would plague a product made with “magic mushrooms”, aka fungi with the naturally-occurring hallucinogenic compound psilocybin. But that doesn’t mean such products aren’t finding their way into consumers’ hands at a steadily increasing rate.

Though “magic mushrooms” are currently legal in Brazil, Bulgaria, Jamaica, the Netherlands and Samoa and their possession and cultivation has been decriminalized in many other countries, psilocybin is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. This means that, by the DEA’s assessment, psilocybin has a high potential for misuse and no currently accepted medical use. This renders psilocybin illegal in all fifty states, though Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California have both signed legislation to decriminalize psilocybin. This means that these cities locales will no longer use city funds to impose criminal penalties on those age 21 or over who use or possess psilocybin. Selling it is still illegal.  In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin in therapeutic settings, with more than a million Oregonians voting “yes” on Measure 109. Under this measure, only license-holders are able to cultivate psilocybin or provide therapy or own a psilocybin service center. Oregon also passed a measure decriminalizing possession of small amounts of psilocybin. Initiative 81 passed in Washington, DC, which makes prosecuting the cultivation, possession, and distribution of hallucinogens like psilocybin a low priority for law enforcement. 

Given its classification as a Schedule I drug and the steady pace of decriminalization around the U.S., how are these products making their way to market, and what are the implications for businesses and consumers? L.A.-based Psilouette Wellbeing’s Entheogen Mushroom Gummies are the brainchild of Psilouette founder Derek Chase, who created Psilouette’s line of gummies to make the healing powers of mushrooms more accessible to the public. Currently, Psilouette’s website advertises a “Macrodose” gummy with 2,400mg of “soluble fruiting body beta glucans” a “Stamet’s Stack Mircrodose” with 75mg of “soluble fruiting body beta glucans” per 2.5g (the ingredient list specifies only Lion’s Mane extract). They also offer a “Customized Compounding Service”, through which customers can have custom gummies created for their specific needs. While the word “entheogen” (a psychoactive substance that induces alterations in mood, cognition, behavior, or consciousness for the purpose of spiritual development) does appear on Psilouette’s home page, none are specifically mentioned in any of the ingredient lists, nor does the word “psilocybin” appear anywhere on the website. 

Derek Chase believes that psychedelics are among the best tools to help “resurrect” a state of well-being and balanced mental health. “Our focus is really on delivering mental health with the assistance of psychedelics, not psychedelics alone.” Psilouette plans to add therapeutic content and resources to their website and offer them through an eventual brick and mortar location in Oregon. These offerings might include everything from float tanks and virtual reality experiences to more conventional talk therapy. When this content will be offered is still an open question. “The product side is much farther along because it’s simpler and we have manufacturing capability through our cannabis brand,” Chase says, referring to cannabis company Flora + Bast, which has provided a launch pad for Psilouette.  The two companies share facilities and Psilouette uses outreach to Flora + Bast customers to identify those who might be looking for a more targeted and potent remedy for issues like anxiety and stress. 

Through this outreach and, more commonly, word-of-mouth, customers find Psilouette despite the lack of explicit wording on their website. This necessary exclusion is due to Shopify’s rules around what transactions and language are allowed on its platform. Customers are given the opportunity to make a donation and receive a “gift” of product. The suggested donation amount is commensurate with the cost of the actual product, but if a customer cannot afford that, Psilouette often provides the “gift” at low or no cost. After “purchase”, customers are asked how they found out about the product, what they intend to use it for, and recommend a dosage. The product is shipped if the customer “qualifies”. “There is a lot of giving away because most people haven’t tried mushrooms or any psychedelic,” Chase says. “Our interest is really in ushering in this cultural move towards psychedelic medicine.” 

Psilouette’s customer interface raises the issue of how it is ensuring that its consumers are 21 years or older. Psilouette is currently developing “child-resistant” packaging for what Chase describes as “currently a bespoke offering”. According to Chase, their consumer age falls within the 45 to 60 year-old range and the “donation” amount of the product serves to select out those looking for a cheap, illicit high. In terms of regulating safety and standardizing potency, Psilouette is currently applying for a DEA license to use HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography) for more accurate testing of psilocybin levels in their products. “As of now, we’ve standardized our cultivation and manufacturing to ensure that the experience is similar over time, but we do not currently have the ability to test every round of product.” All of Psiloeutte’s mushrooms are organically cultivated by a staff mycologist in a small facility in Los Angeles, which produces about one hundred pounds of dry weight per month.

In California, an initiative to legalize psilocybin may appear on the ballot as an initiated state statute as early as November 2022, which would legalize all forms of psilocybin-containing fungi as well as decriminalize cultivation, manufacture, processing, distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, and retail sales for adults 21 and older. Until that time, Chase says Psilouette is keeping an eye on Oregon and hoping to apply for a license to open a storefront there when the legal pathway is officially clear. 

Psilouette isn’t the only brand looking to get psilocybin into the mainstream by any creative means necessary. Premium Entheogens is a parent company housing the entheogen brands Illicit, Silent Shaman, Axiom and Sonder. Axiom and Sonder focus on psilocybin products, with Axiom offering microdose capsules and pouches of dried psilocybin mushrooms of different varieties. Sonder also offers various strains of dried psilocybin mushrooms. The customer interface is similar for both, with “psilocybin” clearly listed but only the total dry weight in grams given rather than actual psilocybin content. Payment is conducted through an email money transfer and orders are shipped via expedited mail.

There are cheaper, less glossy options out there for those disinclined to seek out the spiritual framing of entheogens in favor of a trippy high, but the mechanics of acquiring them are also circuitous. The company One UP Mushroom, for example, employs a common workaround, offering a Milk Chocolate Psilocybin Mushroom Bar with 3.5g of psilocybin. This comes as a free gift with the purchase of a “small sticker” for $60.00 on one magic mushroom products website. With spreading decriminalization and the first steps towards legalization being taken in the U.S., more psilocybin products across the spectrum of quality, ethical marketing and responsible use will become available to consumers. This presents an increasing challenge for legislators and business owners alike as regulations attempt to keep up with psilocybin’s exploding popularity.


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