The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the nation’s best-funded cannabis advocacy group, has named long-time social justice reform advocate Steve Hawkins as its next executive director.
Hawkins, who previously served as the executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) and executive vice president of the NAACP, will assume responsibility for MPP’s national legalization advocacy efforts just months before a number of states vote to enact their own legal systems.
The decision was made after a “months-long candidate search that included several exceptionally qualified candidates,” MPP said in a press release.
“We are still battling the effects of decades of anti-marijuana legislation and propaganda in this country,” Hawkins told Marijuana Moment. “Huge strides have been made when it comes to setting the record straight, but our work is far from over and there is still a lot of misinformation out there that needs to be addressed.”
“Fundraising and maintaining momentum is also a core challenge for the movement, which is in some ways a victim of its own success. Thanks to the major gains it has made in recent years, many people think legalization is inevitable and that their donations are no longer needed or that they don’t need to take the time to write their elected officials. These laws are not going to change themselves and there is more need than ever for resources and engagement to support federal and state-level reform efforts.”
Hawkins’s experience running successful criminal justice reform campaigns—including a bipartisan effort to end capital punishment for juveniles during his time at the NCADP—made him an apt candidate to spearhead the fight to end prohibition, Troy Dayton, chair of MPP’s board of directors, said in a statement.
“Steve has a strong track record in the field of criminal justice reform, and he knows how to build a movement toward meaningful social change,” Dayton said. “We were not only impressed by his expertise and experience, but also his strong convictions regarding the injustice of marijuana prohibition.”
“The country is moving in the right direction on marijuana policy, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Hawkins also previously held leadership positions at Amnesty International and the Coalition for Public Safety.
He told Marijuana Moment that his three decades of experience “defending civil and human rights” has informed his belief that we should “bring an end to marijuana prohibition, which has had a hugely detrimental impact, especially to communities of color,” and that we should “replace it with a more sensible system of regulation.”
“I also believe it is critical we ensure those populations that were so negatively impacted by prohibition are able to participate in and experience the positive impacts of such a regulated system.”
At MPP, Hawkins will succeed Rob Kampia, who late last year left the organization he founded in 1995 to start a for-profit cannabis policy consulting firm called the Marijuana Leadership Campaign. Kampia’s departure was announced shortly after sexual misconduct allegations against him resurfaced amid the #MeToo movement.
Kampia offered some words of advice for the next person to occupy his former seat in a phone interview with Marijuana Moment:
“View yourself as a fundraiser who has to engage in transactional fundraising with the marijuana industry in part, and view yourself as needing to come up with a smart, strategic plan for lobbying in state legislatures rather than doing ballot initiatives where no one else is going to touch it. Do not view yourself as a spokesperson.”
Or in other words, less of a focus on talk, and more on action.
MPP named Matthew Schweich as the interim executive director while the group scouted for a replacement. Scweich will now serve as MPP’s deputy director overseeing marijuana reform initiatives in Michigan and Utah.
In a statement, MPP board member Joby Pritzker said Schweich “provided critical leadership during a challenging transition period for MPP.”
“He maintained the effectiveness of our advocacy operations, managed our fundraising efforts, and oversaw ballot initiative campaigns in multiple states, while at the same time leading our staff and assisting the board with the executive director search.”
The past few years have seen a number of leadership changeups at national pro-legalization groups.
NORML brought on Erik Altieri as executive director in 2016 after Allen St. Pierre left the organization following 11 years of service. And last year, the Drug Policy Alliance announcedthat it had hired Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, who worked on international and domestic drug policies issues for 13 years at the Human Rights Watch, as the new executive director to replace retiring founder Ethan Nadelmann.
While the objective at all of these groups—promoting equitable drug policy reform in the United States—has remained the same, the nature of the movement has evolved. A majority of states have now legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, and though state-level reform efforts continue, calls for change at the federal level are increasingly resonant.
That is to say, these new executive directors will face a different set of challenges than their predecessors did.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Marijuana Policy Project Welcomes New Executive Director
The race is on for startups and big businesses everywhere to develop energy-efficient and technologically advanced cannabis greenhouses. The marijuana industry is taking the world by storm now that more countries are loosening their restrictions and laws on the use and sale of medical and recreational marijuana.
There is a huge market for technology in the industry, and more and more businesses and startups are taking notice. Troy Dayton, CEO of The ArcView Group, the legal marijuana industry’s hub for investment, data and progress, explained:
“Cannabis is spurring on an ag-tech revolution.”
“This is a boom born entirely out of ending repressive laws. The market is already there, it’s just moving from the shadows into the light. That’s why you’re seeing this incredible growth and why so many people see it as a once-in-a-lifetime [business] opportunity.”
There is a huge demand for cannabis, and growers who rely on traditional growing methods are not able to increase their output to meet that demand. Better processes need to be developed.
Currently, most of the scientific and technological developments have been centered on interior cooling and lighting systems. This equipment accounts for a large portion of a marijuana grower’s cultivation expenses, so more innovation is needed to help growers ramp up their production with the use of state-of-the-art water irrigation systems and solar lights. New software is also required so that growers can run different scenarios without wasting time or product to determine optimal growing conditions.
As the world continues to become more accepting of the use of cannabis, more mainstream companies are taking note and jumping on the bandwagon. Swedish lighting manufacturing giant Heliospectra AB is shifting its focus to the marijuana industry because not only is there a high-profit potential, but there is also the opportunity to increase production and reputation without as much competition.
Many other companies like Hawthorne Gardening Co., a subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., are following suit. They want to be in a position to operate in a space where there is more cash, more demand for research and development, and where there are larger budgets for innovation. Although the focus is on the cannabis industry, all farmers could be able to benefit from the development of energy-efficient growing equipment and technology.
Dan Sutton, managing director of Tantalus Labs, said,
“Let’s assume everything that’s ever been done in cannabis cultivation is wrong. We have to build from the ground up, we have this broad realm of science that no one has been able to previously explore.”
Tantalus is currently building a 120,000-square-foot greenhouse in British Columbia, the design of which someday may be used to grow other plant types, such as tree seedlings that could be used for reforestation.
With the steady increase of growers in the cannabis industry, the landscape of the playing field is changing. Now is the opportune time for companies to get in the game if they want to become major players in this market.
The third edition of the ArcView Group’s State of Legal Marijuana Markets report found that cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the United States. This report revealed that $2.7 billion was spent in the cannabis industry in 2014, which is a 74 percent increase from $1.5 billion in 2013.
If this trend continues as more states legalize, it is predicted that the industry could easily be worth more than the organic food market. Organic foods currently bring about $33 billion each year, and it is estimated that the legal marijuana market could bring in closer to $36 billion each year once every state ends prohibition. By 2019, it is projected that the industry could be worth over $10 billion as new markets join and the already established ones grow.
Cannabis concentrates, edibles, infused-beverages and other products that are not readily available for purchase on the black market, are rapidly gaining in popularity and account for a large portion of the current legal market. Could items like these end up on the shelves of large food industry leaders like Whole Foods? ArcView CEO, Troy Dayton, says yes. Dayton reported to Business Insider,
“It’s possible that Whole Foods could be the Whole Foods of cannabis.”
Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, reportedly acknowledged that he would be open to the idea ONLY if the plant and infused products were fully legalized and accepted by the local communities.
Troy Dayton continued his thought about the possible cohesion of the two markets to Business Insider,
“John Mackey said he could definitely see a gourmet cannabis section at Whole Foods.”
The State of Legal Marijuana Markets report also reveals that $370 million dollars were spent by consumers in Colorado and Washington in 2014. Once Alaska and Oregon have a legal recreational market running for at least a full year, similar purchases are expected to be seen from consumers in the two newest legal states.
The fastest-growing market was actually seen in Arizona, a state where only medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. Sales in Arizona reached $35 million in 2013, and surged to $155 million in 2014, further confirming the growth potential estimated for maturing markets.
No matter how it is viewed, the cannabis industry is definitely making a considerable contribution to the resurgence of the American economy, and it seems as though it is on track to continue to stimulate business and opportunities throughout the United States.
photo credit: fresh