Taranto, a coastal city in Italy known for its bustling commercial ports and military activities, is at a crossroads. The third most polluted city in the world is a hub for oil refineries, chemical plants and food processing factories. These establishments also share the land with local farmers who raise sheep and sell cheese for a living.
In 2008, after contaminants from a large steel plant rendered the soil useless, yearly livestock and crop yields plummeted, hitting an all-time low.
That incident crippled the local farming industry; and now, farmers have stumbled upon a solution that could make polluted soil fit for agricultural operations. The process involves planting cannabis (specifically industrial hemp) around the affected area, which should help extract some of the toxic contaminants, such as heavy metals, from the ground.
This practice was also applied after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. During clean-up projects that followed the tragic event, scientists used hemp to reduce high levels of iodine, cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium in the soil.
Farmers based in Taranto are implementing phytoremediation to make land more conducive for plants and animals. Cannabis is suitable for this process because it is extremely resilient, allowing it to grow in rough environments, and its roots are sturdy enough to absorb toxic metals. After absorption, the plant can either store the contaminants or transform the pollutants into something usable and harmless. Hemp’s lifecycle doesn’t end after soil decontamination. The city could turn the green plant into biofuel to support its fleet of naval vessels and commercial shipping operations.
Vincenzo Fornaro, a Taranto farmer currently growing hemp to promote decontamination, believes that cannabis could make the future brighter for the struggling agricultural community.
“We must innovate,” said Fornaro during an interview with CBS News, “and develop in a way that’s ecologically sound.”
Italy’s Growing Interest in Cannabis
Italy has shown renewed interest in cannabis in the past few years. Recently, the country’s military grow site, located in Florence, was featured on various media outlets. The massive indoor facility is home to more than 100 plants, yielding roughly 18 pounds of top-shelf cannabis for medical research and regulated consumption. By the end 2017, the institution hopes to launch four new chambers, which could increase production to 220 pounds. This is great news for the country’s estimated 3,000 patients who rely on medicinal cannabis for natural treatments.
To help streamline allocation, Italy’s Health Ministry released a timely guide for physicians, pharmacists and other medical professionals with authorization to sell cannabis. The guide includes tips surrounding the plant’s side effects, dosing and administration. Italy’s medical-grade cannabis is rich in CBD and contains average to low amounts of THC.
“One thing it [cannabis] works well for is fibromyalgia, a condition for which there is no really effective medicine,” explained Pierluigi Davolio, a Florence pharmacist. “We had a patient here who had sold her car because she was in too much pain to be able to drive. As soon as she started (taking cannabis), she was back at the garage saying she needed it back.”
Portland, Oregon is weird and that’s not an insult. They aim to keep it that way. Like Austin, Texas and other pockets of liberal America, the Rose City welcomes eccentricities and prides itself on its many peculiarities. There is a Portland way of doing things where individuality is a pillar of success and uniqueness is a central tenet of business operations. Beards and tattoos are also welcomed.
The city offers artisanal corndogs and late night waffle options to go along with its heroin epidemic and gentrification schedule. You’re just as likely to see a group of skinny jean wearing Ray-Ban enthusiasts on rollerblades as you are a Jnco-clad Pacific Northwest contingent of Juggalos braiding each other’s hair. The strippers have been lobbying the state house and continue to fight for better working conditions. And marijuana is legal. The place has got something for everyone.
Its not all blunts and budder though. The cannabis industry in Oregon faces many of the same problems as Colorado. Greed, dishonesty, political glad-handing, legislative upheaval and over-regulation run rampant making this industry like any other growing concern. In a world of backwards law making perhaps its only fitting that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is tasked with taking the cannabis industry from the underground to the mainstream. This piecemeal approach to controlling cannabis businesses has taken a dark turn towards 1984. Maybe the OLCC will take a hint from their redheaded stepchild and make liquor bottle tops child resistant or outlaw Jell-O shots for their appeal to young people?
“Regulators are working hard to put the framework in place. Oregon has set some of the best policies is the U.S. market thus far, however policies are being forced too quickly putting unnecessary burdens on operators. I think once the framework is in place it will allow the Oregon market to grow quickly.”
Explained Eli Bilton, the CEO of Portland based Attis Trading Company.
Vertical integration does not drive the Oregon cannabis market in the same way that it pushed Colorado in early years. It is allowed by law but not required. This has opened up an environment that more closely resembles a traditional retail shopping experience where brand equity, visual merchandising and aesthetic drive sales. Location always matters and intellectual property is a new weapon in the drug war.
Attis Trading Company’s approach to business is a bit unconventional. They’ve used market research, industry analysis, budgeting and strategic planning on their way to opening five stores and two extraction facilities across Oregon in the last year and becoming a major player in the emerging cannabis space.
“Planning is a big part of what is setting us apart. Without it is like going off on a journey to an unknown destination without a roadmap. The value of a business plan simply cannot be overstated. Putting ideas and concepts down on paper is invaluable and the act of researching and compiling data is critical to success.”
Establishing this vision of the cannabis industry is as much dedication as it is design. The Attis store colors, furniture and display cases have been chosen by experts who spend their professional lives figuring out which shade of teal will illicit the most positive response from a customer. Layout and flow make each Attis location a master class in efficiency. Freedom to roam around and not be tethered to one budtender has shifted the way in which we shop for cannabis. A thoughtfully curated selection of infused treats, flower and concentrates ensure only premium products are available.
Big Picture cannabis chain stores in Colorado have high tech ordering stations, prepackaged bud and armed guards to churn and burn customers but their weed sucks and they just want your money. The Colorado cannabis business model is sometimes to sell boatloads of bunk buddha to unassuming tourists and clueless locals while paying barely livable wages to the team members doing all the heavy lifting.
Price will always be the lowest common denominator; one hundred dollar ounces speak volumes about a business. This methodology breeds contempt within the cannabis community ensuring squabbling and dissention from master growers and extract artists to Budtenders and company founders.
“I have learned that the only way to build a company with great success and scale is to build a great team. No matter how smart you are, your success as an entrepreneur depends on your ability to build and inspire a team. A successful leader is one who can spur his or her team members to work well together toward a common vision and goals.”
Said Bilton with a look of sincere conviction.
Unlike many similarly positioned companies operating in Colorado, Attis has taken a connoisseur’s approach to building their business and target such a customer in Oregon. The flower that they stock comes from select farms of trusted partners and Attis’s own organic garden where they have been dialing in their techniques for over a decade. The house line of edibles has been developed with world renowned New York chef Ron Silver and promise to be fast acting (think 15 minutes) and use top-notch ingredients and flavors to deliver a consistent and repeatable consumer experience. They are even working on some hush-hush, need-to-sign-an-NDA- to-talk-about technology that supposedly with change the way cannabis is consumed.
“We take pride in providing the best customer experience and quality product possible. We believe in sustainable-organic farming methods that produce superior quality flavor with more intense aroma, resin production and color. We’re inspired to bring a positive image to the marijuana industry and show the public how beneficial these products can be.”
The future is bright for Eli and the rest of the squad from Attis Trading Company. $2.4 million in funding was solidified last July with expansion and product development in mind. Five more Oregon stores are scheduled to be opening within the next year and plans to partner in other states to introduce the Attis brand into new markets are underway. It’s a race to the middle of the pack for most in cannabis but Attis Trading Company is a frontrunner gaining a big lead right now.
I was in the ladies room when I found the cannabis vapor pen at the bottom of my bag. This was not an ideal time for such a revelation; I was in Stockholm’s international terminal, which meant I’d unwittingly snuck it through customs twice so far.
To be fair, this particular brand’s vapor pen looks more like an e-cig than a cannabis product. (The all-caps “MENTHOL” label affixed to the tube probably didn’t hurt either.) There wasn’t much to be done upon discovery except check to see how much was left. I held it up to the light: almost empty. No problem – I’d just finish it off before my next flight in a few hours. I retreated into the nearest bathroom stall and proceeded to get quite high, bundling my scarf, coat, and sweater to create a makeshift sploof to diffuse the vapor. Needless to say, this wasn’t quite how I’d envisioned my first foray into international marijuana consumption.
When I stumbled across half-price tickets to Europe on an airline that still checks the first bag free, I couldn’t supply my payment information fast enough. Having listened to a lot of people wax poetic about the benefits of international travel, I know it’s one thing to talk about and quite another to actually take the plunge. Two weeks abroad would give me plenty of time to jump between museums and enjoy the local flavor, from what I could tell.
Julene Hoff’s view right before she found the cannabis vapor pen in her bag in Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Before traveling, I did the requisite Googling to assure myself that I wasn’t entering any weed-free zones. The wisdom of strangers did not disappoint: my first stop, Barcelona, is fast transforming Spain into the “Holland of the South’ – and I could hardly fancy myself a 420 enthusiast without sampling the city’s cannabis club scene, right? While the city sounded marijuana-friendly in a low-key way, similar to Seattle, the finer details of procurement posed a bit of a problem – namely, my lack of Spanish identification. The clubs that would allow me to join with a foreign passport, provided I supplied a Spanish address, had a much steeper membership fee than any of the highly recommended clubs listed on the internet. Not that I had a Spanish address, but I knew it was just a wink-nudge to jot down something residential (not your hotel) that the club won’t ever send mail to. I figured I stood a good chance of figuring it out upon arrival—there had to be some app that would help me sort things out.
Once in Barça, a generic weed app confirmed my suspicions about the cost versus quality of the fare in foreigner-friendly clubs; anywhere known for the quality of their product requires Spanish identification to become a member. Finding a local sympathetic to my plight proved difficult—bro ex-pats are apparently as cool overseas as they are on their home turf. The only offers of assistance had less to do with purchasing a few grams than with me coming over to their flat; I wouldn’t trade being a conventionally attractive woman for anything in the world, but these overtures grow tiresome. Had none of these men seen Bob Saget’s cameo in Half Baked? Considering the abundance of easily acquired flower back home, I couldn’t convince myself to jump through hoops to get it while on the road. If nothing came up, I’d just hold out until getting stateside.
A week later in Prague, after my travel companion noted that I’d been “rather grumpy” in a way he could “handle exactly one more day of,” I decided to give it another go. Back to the internet, which offered up the following options: buy from the dealers in large city squares (not advised), asking your bartender (iffy, might get you kicked out or overbilled), or email one of the handful of people positing themselves as Prague pot blogs. The last option probably sounds sketchy—and it was—but that’s never kept me from following advice found online before.
Julene Hoff’s view after she finished the cannabis vapor pen in the bathroom at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
The first email I sent yielded the name of a bar I could get to via public transit and the confirmation that the barman would be “helpful,” though there was no mention of the price. A swift visit to Google revealed this to be one of two bars commonly suggested to travelers trying to pickup; it also revealed that the bathrooms were known to be gross, the bartender might be an asshole, and that there was probably a host of junkies just waiting to steal my purse.
One German visitor had this to say of The Club:
“Very bad drinks at very high prices. The only reason that they have so many recommendations is cause they sell Marihuana illegally. You always have to expect a raid (happened several times). If you don’t want to experience Czech jails, just don’t go there… AVOID.”
I admit the last line made me raise an eyebrow, but reviews of the only listed alternative suggested I would be purchasing from the same variety of sketchy characters in the bathroom – and that’s a line I’m just not willing to cross.
Email number two connected me with a service that delivered only to hotel rooms or apartments and required a good deal of information prior to scheduling a drop-off time. Three grams would run me 900CZK (or $37) surprisingly close to what I would pay in Denver, so this seemed the most logical option. Except the same friend that complained about my mood, a known excessive when it comes to alcohol and cocaine, was dismayed by the mentioned of a delivery drug deal. Considering I asked permission instead of begging forgiveness after, it was a tough point to argue. Besides, “I went to Prague and had my weed delivered” does not make for a particularly interesting anecdote.
Her view from the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Left with one (possibly) viable option, I opted to head out at 10pm on a Wednesday for the bar mentioned in that first email. It took a few convenience stores before I found one selling transit tickets. The bar was in Žižkov, a neighborhood known for parties and bars filled with locals and ex-pats alike. The most difficult part of getting there was finding a corner store selling transit tickets, honestly. I took the subway several stops and found the bar without problem — this is the era of mobile GPS, after all. (Not to mention reasonably consistent and affordable service from Project Fi.)
Following the email’s instructions, I knocked at the door and waited to be buzzed in. After taking a seat at the bar and ordering a beer, I took some time to case the joint. The first thing I noticed was an abundance of people under the age of 23 at the tables surrounding me. The second was that the fog filling the room had a 3:1 ratio of cigarette smoke to weed. The scent of herb was faint by comparison. Granted, there is a lot of tobacco being smoked in Czech Republic in general; everyone smokes at the bar, in restaurants, and abundantly throughout the streets. Czech Republic is also, much like the rest of Europe, a big fan of the spliff. (I am not.)
The barmaid was indeed friendly when I asked if she happened to know where I could buy weed, encouraging me to see and smell before purchase as she handed me a nondescript dimebag. The weed was plush with good color, red hairs and a light frosting of trichomes. I’m sure that could’ve crystallized into something even more audacious, but this weed was still a week or two shy of being appropriately cured and dried. But let’s be real: it’s not like I hauled my cookies across town to say “no” upon finding the verdant grail, even if it could’ve used another week or two to cure. I paid 500 CRK (or $20) for two grams – only slightly more than if I’d gone delivery, sans delivery fee and the tip no dispatcher ever mentions. She was also quick to sell me packs of oddly sized Prague-branded papers and filters, a swank-looking set of local goods in gold foil packaging. The bartender loaned me her grinder and I set about rolling myself a proper Yank joint of the all-green variety. I’m sure you can imagine how cool I felt borrowing some guy at the bar’s lighter to light and re-light that damn damp thing.
Most conversations I overheard were in English, and I struck up several as I sat there: about drum and bass with the Eastern-block hot bartender who claimed she was 40; a Yank that took advantage of dual citizenship to move to Canada after George W. got his second term – the only one I’ve ever heard of; and two Italian guys that managed to annoy everyone by loudly asking after the weed’s quality, and the bartender when one asked “for the pot” without buying a drink first.
At this point I was pretty high on that foreign supply, hadn’t eaten in 10 hours, and was battling it out with the growing awareness of my dry eyes and smoke-hazed contacts. I became very wrapped up in dealing with this, but heard enough to know that the language barrier was not doing the Italian guys any favors. I can’t remember if they even got their weed, but I do remember being self-conscious about the awkward amount of time I spent rubbing my eyes. I wasted another hour bullshitting with the aforementioned characters before the bar closed and kicked everyone out. I made it back to the apartment by tram without incident, the micro-stash lasted the final few days, and I was pleasantly surprised by my significantly lower tolerance upon returning home. This marked a successful trip and initial foray into international pot tourism, though in the future I’ll stick to finding my hookup after landing. Store-bought pot may be more convenient, but there’s something to be said for the entertainment value of a digitally-assisted cheeba chase.
The Southwest has quickly become a cannabis hot bed within the last year. From Phoenix to Las Vegas, dispensaries and cultivators alike are serving a thriving medical cannabis program with an eye on the looming recreational-use vote in November.
One of the largest operators in the Southwest, REEF Dispensaries, is truly elevating the in-store experience and backing it up with world class genetics.
Recently, I caught up with Matt Morgan, the CEO at REEF Dispensaries to discuss the company’s fast start and plans for the future.
What’s your background, why cannabis?
I’m a farm kid from Montana. I became a partner at a real estate firm in my early 20’s. In 2008, my attention turned to cannabis after my best friend died of an opiate overdose. I felt strongly that an effective medicine like cannabis should be accessible to those who need it. Beyond that, I also recognized the potential business opportunity.
Where did the name REEF come from?
When I was younger I loved the ocean and coral reefs. So I thought why not have a freshly designed coral reef theme for our shops.
What are Reef Dispensaries best known for?
Reef is known for our exceptional purchase experience and customer service. Additionally, we carry a variety of products that cater to all demographics; from the connoisseur to the price-conscious patient.
What’s your relationship with Berner/Cookies Co and Wiz?
Currently, there is no relationship with Wiz (still in negotiations). We do have a relationship with Berner to release his cookies line, as well as previously unreleased genetics.
What are your thoughts on Nevada’s legalization initiative?
I’m confident that recreational will pass in Nevada in November 2016 and am backing the movement 100%, and feel the voters will speak for themselves. The West Coast is spearheading this movement and we get to be a part of history.
Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly has been considering medical marijuana legislation since 2014, and now lawmakers report that it could pass by May 1st with strong support from almost every caucus.
The bill would legalize the production of medical marijuana, and would create an institute within the Ministry of Health that conducts research, provides licenses and permits for businesses and medical recommendations for patients. The bill would also apply a 7 percent sales tax to help fund the new program.
Costa Rica’s socialized health care and social security organization (CCSS) has supported the bill. According to the original presenter of the bill, Rep. Marvin Delgado Atencio, they would provide medical marijuana to patients free of charge. Atencio, stressed that the bill is intended for medical marijuana, not recreational use.
When it comes to marijuana legislation in Costa Rica, the law allows for recreational use, but discourages the selling and distribution. It is often left for each law enforcement officer to decide what constitutes the distribution and sale of drugs, as there is no amount specified by law.
Back in January, Mario Alberto Cerdas Salazar was acquitted on charges of growing marijuana at his home. Carolina Leitón, a judge who ruled in favor of acquittal, explained that growing marijuana is technically illegal in Costa Rica, but the crime has no criminal penalty unless it can be proven that there was an intention to sell or distribute it.
Although Colorado may be the most cannabis-friendly state in the nation, try lighting up in front of the state capitol and you might find out the hard way that you can’t smoke everywhere. Regardless of where you like to do your toking, there are still some places you can definitely get into hot water by consuming publicly.
Check out this list of 6 places you still can’t smoke marijuana in the Centennial State:
Although you can legally purchase anything and everything under the sun related to cannabis, you still can’t smoke in-store. This might come to a surprise to many of you whom have yet to visit an actual dispensary. According to my friend Dan (whom has never touched a joint in his life): “Aren’t dispensaries just a place to hang out and smoke marijuana all day?”
No Dan. You’re thinking of my house.
2. Personal Vehicles
The only puff-puff-passing you should be doing in your car is getting around slow out-of-state drivers hogging up the left lane. Toking up in your car is still a big no-no and getting caught could land you that three-lettered acronym nobody wants: DUI.
Your safest course of action is to wait to partake until you get home or somewhere private. After all, it would definitely suck to have to walk 10 miles to the dispensary because you lost your license.
This one has a huge gray area surrounding the use of marijuana in public spaces because in some cases it is tolerated (like concerts at the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheater), but in others (like your kid’s playground) you will definitely get the cops called. Public consumption is banned and citations are imminent if you feel like pushing your luck on this one.
4. Ski Slopes
Despite the aroma of dead skunks saturating the lift lines at ski resorts like Breckenridge and Vail, smoking on federal land (which most of the resorts are considered) could stick you with a hefty fine and up to 6 months in jail.
5. National Parks
You might think that nothing pairs better with visiting jaw-dropping national treasures like Colorado National Monument or Garden of the Gods than a sensory-enhancing sativa or three, and I’d definitely have to agree with you. However, if you act upon your dank desires in the park, there are plenty of officers and concerned visitors ready to put an abrasive end to your sight-seeing smoke sesh.
Many hotels in Colorado have outright banned the use of marijuana in their facilities and will fine the crap out of you if you get caught, even if the room has a “private” balcony. However, word of mouth says that some hotels are okay with it but unless you know for sure, don’t expect to hot-box your room like it’s a one-man Cypress Hill concert.