Alex Mason is 25-year-old transplant from South Carolina, now living in Colorado. He moved there back in 2012 to spend some time enjoying the Rocky Mountains and the outdoor activities associated. In 2012 though, Colorado voters did something that nobody expected, legalized marijuana.
Alex watched on the front line of marijuana legalization, and he took not in the industry’s biggest and most daunting problem; banks wouldn’t accept their money. Mason called up his father, an attorney in South Carolina and laid out the problem. Since weed is illegal on federal level, most banks and credit unions won’t take a dime of cash that comes from the cannabis industry. The risk of federal fines, seizures, and the exorbitant amount of red tape is too much to ask of banks, and as a result ganjapreneurs are left holding hoards of cash.
With his father Mark, mother Rhoda, and sister Delaney on board, Alex charged forward with the idea. He used the help of former Denver City Attorney Doug Friednash, who helped draft city guidelines for cannabis. Friednash and Mark Mason worked with Alex day and night for months to put together the Fourth Corner Credit Union. Alex leaned on his father and other establish law and banking professionals to cut through red tape, while they relied on him for industry outreach (citing that their appearance and background painted them as ‘the man’).
Meanwhile, Alex’s sister and mother were fielding emails and even reaching out to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s office to move the project forward. Other experts recruited to work on the projects were folks like Denver City Council member Chris Nevitt and Martin Kenney, an expert who’s made a name for himself fighting financial fraud and money laundering.
Kenney says, “The Fourth Corner Credit Union holds the promise of getting an estimated $650 million in proceeds of annual cannabis sales per year in Colorado off of the streets and into a safe and well-regulated environment. The centerpiece to the Fourth Corner Credit Union will be a highly intelligent, cutting-edge anti-money laundering compliance unit.”
Although it could take up to 2 years to hear back from their FDIC application, the Fourth Corner Credit Union represents tumultuous change for the cannabis industry. The lack of banking has been, and remains the biggest problem for the legal marijuana industry.
Along with his vision for change in cannabis banking, Alex aspires to launch a non-profit to facilitate medical marijuana research and save lives using the plant. Alex says, “My friends in the legal marijuana business have been given an amazing opportunity, and they all want to do good things for society. Charitable work is important to me and to them.”
via: Rolling Stone
Recreational legalization of marijuana is nearly eleven months old in Colorado and the industry is enticing consumers from across the country. As reported by some dispensaries located on the borders of Colorado, as much as 40% of their business comes from out of state visitors.
Garden City, a teeny tiny town of about ~250 people on the south border of Greely has four dispensaries that are generating big business and tax revenues. What’s most important is the support the local community is showing the recent entrepreneurial successes. One of the biggest problems marijuana tax revenue is solving? Pot holes, they’re gone – all of them.
“The benefits we’ve seen is that the city council has put a lot of that money back into their city”
Stephen Lewchuk, operations manager of Smokey’s recreational marijuana shop located in Garden City, said.
The most staggering statistic is the overall jump in monthly tax revenues for the small Colorado city. Before legalization monthly revenues were approximately $16,000 a month, post legalization they have grown to more than $100,000 – a 425% increase. As small cities and states across the country continue to fast steep budget deficits, we can only hope elected officials look to the wide range of success stories like Garden City when shaping their local policies.
Yesterday, Jeff Lawrence of the Colorado Department of Public Health recommended a ban on most forms of edible marijuana products. With the exception of tinctures and lozenges, the ban would eliminate most tasty treats Coloradans have become accustomed to over the last ten months of legalization. The controversial topic got quite a stir just a week after the Denver police department warned Colorado residents of the dangers of mistaking infused edibles for Halloween candy, and now some government officials are ready to take action.
Surprisingly, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper disagreed with the Department of Public health issuing this statement in response:
“We are confident that our working groups and the legislature can find solutions that keep marijuana out of the hands of kids while promoting safe access to edible products among adults.”
The Colorado Governor’s marijuana coordinator Andrew Freedman spoke on behalf of the Governor’s office saying, “It should come as no surprise that protecting kids from accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles is a top priority for the state’s chief medical officer.” Although Freedman’s sentiment was largely dismissive of the Department of Public Health’s cries to rid the state of nearly all edibles, he did concede that there were valid points in the arguments. And there are.
Earlier this year state law makers ordered regulators to develop new rules for edibles after a spike in hospitalizations of children who accidentally consumed marijuana-infused products. This spike is mainly attributed to the similar appearance, improper packaging, and negligence on the part of consumers. To curb the trend lawmakers are looking for solutions including lower dosages and more stringent packaging requirements. Many dispensaries and edibles manufacturers are shifting their production to less potent forms of edibles voluntarily in order to attract consumers who want a more mild experience.
While opponents of Amendment 64 in Colorado are looking for ways to take back ground, the little progress that they have made has been overshadowed by the success of legalization. It appears that even Colorado’s own governor is ready stand up for Colorado’s rights in the face of scrutiny.
It comes without saying that there would be hurdles in the first year of legalization in the first state in the free world. Although the processing, packaging, and marketing of edibles could certainly use more precise guidelines and regulations, Colorado stands to gain more by facing these challenges head on and setting the standard on a national scale.
Photo Credit: IBTimes.com, Time.com
Denver, CO- On Monday, October 13, 2014, Aurora opened its first retail cannabis store, having banned medical dispensaries and retail stores until now. In response to The Cannabist’s coverage of the milestone, a particular Aurora resident (known online as the3Ds) suggested that the appropriate response is to publicly shame other parents who shop at the new store.
As a graduate of Cherry Creek High School and a former student at four other Cherry Creek Schools—all of which are in this particular part of Aurora. It offends me to think that another person would consider seeing my parents entering a liquor store as an indication of alcoholism.
This parent resorts to the “coming to the wealthy suburbs with good schools and low crime” argument, which is typical of opponents to cannabis legalization. What this person fails to consider, however, is that he or she is using the reputation of District No. 5 to unfairly judge and harass other human beings.
More importantly, this person mentions that the suburbs have ‘low crime,’ seemingly in an attempt to positively correlate the presence of legal cannabis businesses with an explosion of criminal activity. Quite the contrary, violent crime, highway fatalities, and underage use have all decreased since the implementation of Amendment 64 in January. Additionally, public schools have received an influx of revenue from the taxes collected on retail cannabis sales, a fact that the reasonable person would assume to garner support from a parent who, so fervently, claims to care about the local schools.
Perhaps other parents around the district did not want cannabis shops in their neighborhood, either. So, they contacted their local representatives at the City of Centennial and successfully implemented a moratorium on cannabis businesses. The City of Aurora had in place a similar ban on medical cannabis businesses, as well as a temporary ban on retail stores. Aurora City Council formed an Amendment 64 Ad Hoc (A64), however, which first convened on February 18, 2013 to publicly debate the issue of lifting the moratorium and licensing the city’s first cannabis stores. A64 met 15 times, culminating on March 18, 2014.
While the3Ds uses the feedback from a private subset of 24 parents to puportedly represent the best interests of more than half of the 50,000 CCSD students, the local political process tells a different story. On April 28, 2014, the city’s retail marijuana program was introduced to the Aurora City Council and passed on May 2 with an effective date of June 14, 2014. Where was this person during the A64 meetings? If he or she was active during public debate, his or her failure in maintaining a moratorium in Aurora may allude to the3Ds’ motivation for concocting such an absurd plan.
This parent also claims that any person seen entering a retail cannabis store is a frequent consumer, or a “pot-head”. The danger in jumping to such a conclusion can be seen in his or her reply to another user’s comment. The other user, Ry, responded to the3Ds’s comment by stating, “I should follow you to the liquor store…and shame you for it too I guess….” to which the3Ds responds, “Knock yourself out, loser. My bottle of wine lasts me all month.”. By being forced to clarify that he or she only consumes one bottle of wine per month, the3Ds illuminates his or her own unfounded assumption about a person’s cannabis use. Given that the City of Aurora has approved cannabis sales, publicly shaming patrons of local businesses is no less preposterous than documenting all CCSD parents that enter a liquor store and informing school principals that they are “drunks.”
Furthermore, insinuating that anyone who consumes cannabis is a “pot-head” and unfit to care for a child is extremely offensive. It would be equally ignorant for someone to assume that all stay-at-home parents relax and drink wine all day and should, therefore, be barred from participating in their own child’s education. At one point, our society also believed that all Black American males were “cocaine crazed negroes” and that women were mentally inferior to men, and thus incapable of participating in the political process. These vague and statistically unsubstantiated stereotypes have been prevalent throughout U.S. History, but our collective intellect and reason has worked to dispel such ridiculous notions.
The most potentially damaging assumption drawn by the3Ds, however, is the reason for which the hypothetical parent is purchasing marijuana. The City of Aurora was quick to ban medical cannabis stores from opening. As such, legally registered Aurora medical patients have been forced to drive to a neighboring city, like Denver, to procure their medicine. Before shaming another person, please take the time to consider that person’s situation. He or she may be suffering from a severe medical condition and unable to drive to a medical marijuana center (MMC) elsewhere. Alternatively, he or she may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or another condition that is not listed as a Qualifying Medical Condition with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), but for which cannabis has been accepted as providing relief in other states. Unfortunately for many similar parents around the country, they do not even have the option to choose between a close-by retail store and a farther MMC. Instead they are forced to resort to the black market. The threat of public shame for an Aurora medical patient may drive the individual back to the black market, where neither product nor sales are regulated, tax is evaded, and black market profiteers prosper.
“Spying” on law-abiding citizens, in most circumstances, requires either a law enforcement badge or federal security clearance, in addition to a warrant. It would appear this person realizes the questionable ethics surrounding such a task as he or she has chosen to hide behind a screen name. I find it terribly ironic that this fanatic whose sole objective is to “expose” other people hides behind an anonymous user name. Ultimately, recruiting an angry mob of misguided parents to photograph every customer of any given business amounts to stalking.
So, to Mr. and/or Ms. the3Ds, please stop using your house in a ‘wealthy suburb’ and the reputation of my alma mater and district as an excuse to judge other parents for choosing to engage in an activity that, in the great State of Colorado, is a constitutionally-protected right. If you don’t agree with Amendment 64, might I suggest a move to one of our neighboring states, where you can find a new middle-class suburb and a fresh reason to stalk and judge other parents.
Regardless of what you choose, I implore you to cease this bigoted, fear-mongering commentary.
If you care to step out from behind the computer screen, I invite you to engage in an intelligible public discourse with myself or other members of the cannabis industry.
Sohum J Shah, COO
Cannabis Commodities Exchange
Photo Credit: diganja.com
Colorado’s monthly marijuana sales tax report for August was released at the beginning of this month and indicated yet another month of growth. Marijuana purchases in August totaled more than $60 Million, but some of those purchases aren’t staying in Colorado. The issue has become frustrating for Nebraska cities bordering the Colorado state line.
In the small town of Sidney Nebraska, population 7,000, police are facing a 100% increase in marijuana arrests between 2013 and 2014. Sidney Police Chief BJ Wilkinson says that 50% of traffic stops result in a marijuana arrest. It’s not just affecting Sidney though, all of Cheyennne County has been afflicted by the abundance of legal marijuana just 10 miles away. “It has affected on the budget side just because on the jail side we’ve had an increase of people,” said Cheyenne County Sheriff, John Jensen. Cheyenne county saw just 15 marijuana related arrests in 2009. Those numbers surged to 60 arrests in 2013 and the trend is likely to continue upwards as access to the plant just became a whole lot easier.
Local law enforcement officers site jailing costs, public defenders, and police overtime as some of the biggest expenses that come as a result of this influx of marijuana. Authorities are looking for stiffer penalties to discourage residents from bringing cannabis back across state lines. “You know if you can smoke marijuana and walk out of court with 120 dollars fine and nothing else that may not be as much of an impact if you walk out of court with a 1,200 dollar fine,” said Sidney Police Chief BJ Wilkinson.
However, stronger penalties may not do enough to restrict residents from possessing and consuming a plant that is perfectly legal just a stone’s throw away in Colorado. Perhaps it’s time for law enforcement to consider ballot initiatives to decriminalize the drug like some major cities in Texas have done. Until then, it is unlikely that Nebraska residents will quit smoking or find a better place to access safe, regulated, and taxed marijuana.