Chef Dan Krohmer opened Other Mama four years ago in Las Vegas, and the venture quickly got enthusiastic reviews and drew enough business to pay for itself within the first year. The establishment was instrumental in bringing attention to the local neighborhood dining scene that’s currently exploding off the Strip, away from big resorts, celebrity chefs, and menus drafted by hotel executive committees.
This year, he’ll open two more restaurants, so it’s safe to say Krohmer is one of the hardest working chefs in Las Vegas.
He’s also a cannabis smoker.
“Marijuana helps take the edge off the rest of life, to capture whatever that inner passion is for me,” says Krohmer. “I do smoke on a daily basis. I don’t wake up and get super stoned. I’m not smoking heavy amounts, but I find that marijuana allows you to get lost in your own creativity and slow down a little bit instead of just go, go, go.”
Marijuana helps take the edge off the rest of life, to capture whatever that inner passion is for me.
Dan Krohmer, Chef, Other Mama
The chef tried marijuana at 13 and has been a steady consumer ever since–a notable exception being his time in Japan, where he learned authentic cooking techniques on his own dime. The country remains strict about punishing those caught with cannabis.
As his career evolved, Krohmer’s perception of cannabis evolved as well. As time went by and he felt the sting of a few missed opportunities, Krohmer decided to revisit his view of cannabis.
“I believe you can abuse anything,” he says. “I stopped lying to myself about what is a realistic amount–the difference between getting stoned and doing something that allows me to achieve my goals.”
The chef now uses cannabis to wind down at home, fall asleep easier, reduce the anxiety that comes with everyday life, and boost his own creativity. “Allowing myself to relax and be hungry makes me want to think about food more and makes me want to create food more,” he says.
Other Mama doesn’t test for drug use when hiring, but employees need to perform at the top of their game, whether on the floor, behind the bar, or in the kitchen.
“My philosophy is: I don’t care what you’re on or what you’re doing, but if I can tell [you’re high], then you’re in trouble,” he says. “I would never be disrespectful to my customers. It would be insulting to my customers if someone felt they needed to be stoned to work here.”
Healing With Cannabis
Hemant Kishore might be the best Indian chef in Las Vegas. He built his reputation as The 6 Pack Chef, running a meal-prep service before opening up a restaurant called The Toddy Shop. The food was incredible, but despite being a critic’s favorite, The Toddy Shop struggled to find a regular audience and didn’t last. Kishore now spends most of his time catering special events and pop-up dinners.
The day before he was scheduled to host a New Year’s Day brunch, he slipped on a chair and fractured his right ankle, putting him out of action for two weeks. He was prescribed hydrocodone to treat the pain.
“My doctors gave me a warning about how addictive it is,” the chef remembers. “They said It should be used only in cases of unbearable pain. So I wanted to get off it as quickly as I could.”
Kishore instead turned to cannabis, including tinctures and edibles, for relief. The chef was a long-time recreational cannabis consumer in India, but it wasn’t until he moved to the United States that he saw the herb’s medicinal value.
“I mainly use it for sleep. And sleep is something that chefs or anyone else in the service industry needs. If they don’t get enough, it can cause a lot of stress.”
He appreciates how cannabis is tested and regulated in the United States compared to India, where everything is sold on the black market. “It’s viewed as taboo and very frowned upon,” he says. “You can go to jail for a long time if you’re found in possession. It’s not tolerated at all.”
Meanwhile, he hopes a new generation can promote the benefits of cannabis back home in India and secure some degree of legalization in the near future. The process, unfortunately, is expected to be a slow one.
“Because of the corruption in India, it takes too long for things to happen,” he says. Everybody’s doing it, but nobody talks about it.”
Cannabis as a Recreational Vehicle
When you forget to buy a gift for someone’s birthday or another big event, It’s On Me can be your saving grace. The online service and smartphone app partners with bars and restaurants to provide instant digital gift cards, covering things like a cocktail or a multicourse wine pairing dinner, which can be sent instantly via text or email.
Here’s the irony: The founder stopped being a social drinker, in favor of cannabis.
“I gave up alcohol for a little over 20 weeks,” says David Leibner. “It allowed me to take a step back and realize how much more I appreciate what cannabis does for me versus alcohol.”
He’ll still have a glass of wine with dinner, but the entrepreneur prefers the overall benefits of marijuana, whether from smoking or taking edibles.
“Cannabis has been part of my life since I was 13,” he says. “It’s a much better recreational vehicle than alcohol. Cannabis has never affected my life in a negative way. It’s never affected my ability to do work the next day, it’s never affected a relationship I was in, it’s never affected me emotionally.”
It’s no secret that alcohol consumption is popular with those who serve food and drinks for a living, but with laws around the country loosening, more industry professionals are turning to cannabis when not on the clock, whether in social settings or relaxing at home.
Leibner’s appreciation for cannabis grew when he suffered a tennis injury last year, breaking his leg and requiring two surgeries and 12 weeks in bed. “They prescribed me so many pain pills,” Leibner says of his doctors. “I ate too many of them, because I was in so much pain, I didn’t know what else to do.”
Within a couple weeks, Leibner started including cannabis in his pain therapy in multiple forms, including topicals. “The results delivered a higher result in pain management with none of the downside,” he recalls. “No hurting my stomach or making me weird in the head. It was a big deal to me.”
Although he prefers marijuana to alcohol, Leibner believes there’s plenty of room for tourists to split vices in Sin City, as does the city, as it is expected to introduce consumption lounges this year. “I think most people are going to do both,” he says. “I think a lot of casual users are the people who will casually drink and casually smoke weed.”
Cannabis and Creativity
Brian Howard worked in restaurants on the Strip for years, mastering his craft in hot destinations like Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian and Kerry Simon’s Cathouse at the Luxor. When it was time to break out with his own vision, he opened Sparrow + Wolf in Chinatown, one of the most ambitious, experimental, and compelling culinary ventures in a district already overflowing with a diverse array of cuisine.
With more than two decades of experience, Howard knows that chefs often view the kitchen as a safe space and tend to be closed-off when outside of that comfort zone.
Personally, I’ve found that the right dose of cannabis allows me to be more social outside the kitchen and enhances my creativity.
Brian Howard, Chef, Sparrow + Wolf
“Personally, I’ve found that the right dose of cannabis allows me to be more social outside the kitchen and enhances my creativity,” he says. “I can come up with 40 menu items in one sitting, rather than writing them down in increments over a few days.”
Since opening in 2016, Sparrow + Wolf has proven to be a restaurant that knows no limits. The menu changes frequently, and the venue was recently given an upgrade with a living-room feel to balance the modern tone of the dining room. The chef says cannabis helps the creative elements take shape, allowing him to conceptualize new and unique ideas for the restaurant.
“There’s a stigma around cannabis that people are introduced to smoking to get stoned,” he adds. “It’s really all about finding that balance where it enhances your work rather than slowing you down.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature met Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ deadline to give him a bill to repeal the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana when the House passed the legislation Wednesday.
While lawmakers aren’t necessarily in favor of allowing medical marijuana to be smoked, they faced the prospects of having it become legal without any restrictions.
“This is a difficult issue, and you’re going to have people on both sides; some that are happy that now this is available to them and others that feel that we didn’t go far enough,” House Speaker Jose Oliva said after the vote. “We did the best that we could do and still remain responsible.”
The bill is the first to go to the governor in the 60-day legislative session that began last week and the only bill the House has considered at this point.
Voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, but lawmakers banned smokable forms of the plant in a bill signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2017. The state was sued over the issue and a judge declared the ban unconstitutional. Scott, now a Republican U.S. senator, appealed the ruling. DeSantis said in late January that the current law doesn’t represent the will of the voters and that he would drop the appeal if lawmakers didn’t repeal the ban by mid-March.
Lawmakers quickly followed up on his ultimatum. The bill is the first to go to the governor in the 60-day legislative session that began last week and the only bill the House has considered at this point. The Senate passed the repeal six days earlier and the House passed it on a 101-11 vote without debate.
The bill places several conditions on smokable medical marijuana. It would not be available to anyone under the age of 18 unless the patient is terminally ill and if two doctors, one of them a pediatrician, say it is the most effective form of treatment. It could not be smoked in public or at private businesses subject to the state’s cigarette smoking ban.
Private property owners would have the right to prohibit it. Patients wouldn’t be able to possess more than four ounces of marijuana in a smokable form.
Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues sponsored the bill and pointed out that law pass two years ago was widely supported even with the smoking ban.
“We passed that bill 109 to nine,” Rodrigues said. “Many of us feel like we got it right.”
But if DeSantis were to drop the lawsuit appeal, Rodrigues said, there would be no rules guiding smokable medical marijuana.
DeSantis’ office didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment on the bill’s passage.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who advocated for a repeal of the smoking ban, praised the vote in a news release.
“Today’s action to finally allow smokable medical marijuana brings four words to the lips of people across our state: It’s about damn time,” said Fried, a Democrat. “It’s long past due that the State of Florida honored the will of the people and allowed doctors to determine their patient’s course of treatment.”
Nearly all forms of cannabis are illegal in Texas. And by illegal, I mean very illegal. Possession of a small amount of cannabis concentrate–what we in the legal states know as a $30 vape cartridge–is a felony in the Lone Star State.
Medical marijuana here has almost no THC. It’s actually lower in THC than hemp-derived CBD.
But there is one form of cannabis that is allowed. It’s a highly specialized cannabidiol oil that contains, by law, no more than 0.5% THC and no less than 10% CBD. It’s available only to patients with intractable epilepsy, and three companies are licensed to produce and distribute it.
I recently had the chance to tour one of those companies. The home offices and grow facility of Compassionate Cultivation are tucked away in Manchaca, a little farm town on the outskirts of Austin. It’s not encased in barbed wire, but it’s not exactly advertised, either. A small vinyl sign bearing a vague sprouting-seed logo–not the typical marijuana fan leaf–stands in a lonely field of live oaks.
John Volkmann, the company’s chief marketing officer, greeted Leafly News Editor Ben Adlin and me in the front office of a light industrial warehouse facility. “Welcome to our dispensary,” he said. Ben and I looked around, confused. We saw a waiting room and a receptionist. And… that’s it, Volkmann explained. There are no products in retail display cabinets, no budtenders, no jars or chopsticks. Most patients order their medicine online and receive it via delivery, Volkmann told us. Those who visit in person receive one-on-one consults there in the waiting room in Manchaca.
Delivery Via a Prius Fleet
Texas is an enormous state. You could fit all of France and Switzerland inside its borders. How does Compassionate Cultivation deliver? “We run a fleet of Priuses,” said Volkmann. “We need to be able to deliver medicine to Laredo, El Paso, Houston,” wherever their patients reside.
And those hybrids are customized for the job. “Our vehicles are built out with GPS tracking and safes that are mounted to the frames of the vehicles,” explained Taylor Kirk, the company’s vice president of operations. “It’s a very controlled process.”
A Very Strict Program
The state’s Compassionate Use Act, implemented in early 2016, is a very controlled program. In fact, it’s not overseen by the state health department, as most medical marijuana programs are. It’s run by the Texas Department of Public Safety–the police agency that also manages the Texas Rangers and the Texas Highway Patrol.
The strict law allows patients with intractable epilepsy–the only qualifying condition–to consult with a state-registered specialist who may recommend low-THC cannabis oil. There aren’t a lot of these physicians. In all of Travis County, which includes Austin, the state registry lists only four. (Patients can search for those registered physicians here.) The physician then enters the patient’s name into the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT), an online portal that the state’s three dispensaries can use to verify that a patient qualifies.
Smokeable flower is not allowed. All flower and leaf must be converted to cannabis oil products.
“We have a pretty constrained cannabis opportunity here,” John Volkmann acknowledged.
More Hemp Oil Than MMJ, For Now
It’s so constrained that Leafly doesn’t technically consider Texas a legal medical marijuana state under our definition of the term.
Here’s the problem: The medicine produced by Compassionate Cultivation and its two competitors, Knox Medical and Surterra Wellness isn’t much different in potency than the mail-order CBD products proliferating across the United States. When Congress passed the farm bill late last year, it included language that offered more legal wiggle room for hemp-based CBD producers. By law, hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. Licensed medical cannabis in Texas contains less than 0.5% THC.
Those unlicensed CBD oils, which typically contain double-digit percentages of CBD and minute traces of THC, are commonly ordered online and shipped through the US Postal Service. Unlicensed CBD remains illegal in Texas, farm bill notwithstanding. That doesn’t mean people here don’t purchase it online, but most law enforcement agencies see proactive enforcement as a waste of tax dollars.
Why Spent the Money?
So why invest millions of dollars in a CBD oil startup that’s so restricted by state law? Compassionate Cultivation and its two competitors seem to be playing the long game: stay strictly compliant with state law now and be ready when legislators open the system to more patients and qualifying conditions.
Indeed, even as we ended our tour, legislators in Austin were considering a number of bills that would do exactly that.
And Volkmann pointed out something else his company was delivering to patients: safety and reliability. Unlicensed hemp-based CBD oil is completely unregulated. Past studies have found that some products deliver far less CBD than they promise. Other products may contain contaminants such as mold or heavy metals, because no product testing is required.
At Compassionate Cultivation, the company grows its own low-THC strains of cannabis onsite. It’s also in the process of breeding new strains, such as the high-CBD cultivar called Waterloo. Experienced technicians extract cannabinoids and terpenes. A state-of-the-art lab tests the products to make sure they’re delivering what patients expect. It’s a multimillion-dollar operation just waiting for its patient base to expand.
“We can’t go beyond what the current law allows,” Volkmann said. “But when the law changes and allows more qualifying conditions, we’ll be ready.”
Hear more from John Volkmann and others at Compassionate Cultivation in a bonus episode of The Roll-Up podcast, Cannabis in Texas.
In this series, Leafly explores what makes each family of strains unique based on their terpene profiles. A strain “family” refers to a line of hybrids branching from one genetic matriarch that expresses unique and desirable characteristics that breeders seek to build upon. This introductory primer will help you learn a little more about cannabis breeding and strain variability.
The term “Kush” is as familiar with cannabis enthusiasts as “puff, puff, pass.” The word is derived from cannabis that originated in the Hindu Kush mountain range, but culturally, most of us have used it to describe high-grade cannabis.
With there being so many Kush-named strains on the market, we have to wonder: are here notable similarities or differences between them?
To answer this question, we looked at the terpene profiles of four popular THC-dominant Kush strains: OG Kush, Kosher Kush, Kimbo Kush, and Bubba Kush. This composite chemical data was provided by Confidence Analytics, a leading testing lab in Washington.
Terpenes are the aromatic compounds within cannabis that provides its aroma and flavors. When you smell skunk, grape, lemon, berry, or pine–those are the terps talking. It’s believed that terpenes shape the experience of cannabis by interacting with our bodies and other compounds such as THC and CBD.
The average terpene profiles of four Kush strains–overlaid in the graphic above–look similar, suggesting that they may provide similar experiences. But when you break down the data for each individual strain, each has a different story to tell.
Originally bred in Florida, then brought to California to get that real good grow love from Josh D, OG Kush is one of the most influential cannabis strains of all time–although its genetic lineage is murky. According to Josh D, OG Kush is a cross between an unnamed strain from Northern California and a Hindu Kush varietal from Amsterdam. Its aroma features pungent funkiness, hints of lemon, and gassy undertones.
OG Kush expresses abundant amounts of caryophyllene, limonene, and myrcene. These terpenes are believed to relieve stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation in the mind and body. OG Kush also contains a moderate amount of linalool, pinene, and humulene–terpenes which may reinforce this strain’s relaxing effects and offer potential therapeutic benefits like inflammation relief.
At this point, we understand that cannabinoids and terpenes can affect each consumer differently. Personally speaking, OG Kush provides a heavy, yet manageable high. It can put me down if I’m already in a tired or chill state of mine, but the high generally isn’t too sleepy or couchlocking. For other consumers, OG Kush is that knockout punch that’ll send you into Dreamville.
That’s why lab data is important–it helps you understand how different amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes affect you personally.
Kosher Kush is one of the most prolific phenotypes of OG Kush. While a brilliant reflection of OG, Kosher Kush’s terpene profile looks a bit different. While still influenced by linalool, humulene, and pinene, Kosher is clearly dominant in myrcene, followed by limonene and caryophyllene.
Though some find Kosher Kush to carry a sweeter aroma than OG Kush, the two tend to provide similar experiences. It personally leaves me with a body full of feel-good, however some consumers say Kosher Kush provides a ZzzQuil-like experience, especially when consumed in exorbitant amounts.
Kimbo Kush is a cross between Blackberry Kush and Starfighter. Though not a descendant of OG Kush, Kimbo produces a similar terpene profile to Kosher Kush. Also dominant in myrcene with limonene and caryophyllene trailing behind, Kimbo Kush tends to offer a heavier-than-average experience.
While this strain is influenced by multiple terpenes, myrcene–which is believed to reinforce the potent punch of high-THC strains–is indeed the most abundant.
Out of all of the observed Kush data, Bubba Kush is the biggest outlier in terms of terpene profile. Dominant in caryophyllene and abundant in limonene and humulene, Bubba Kush is the only strain in our dataset that produces lower levels of myrcene.
Bubba Kush is the only strain in our dataset that produces lower levels of myrcene.
Considering most consumers seek Bubba Kush for its relaxing experience, it’s surprising that it contains very little of the terpene that cannabis enthusiasts associate most with the couchlock effect.
Bubba Kush is a perfect example of why you can’t attribute the effects of cannabis to a single terpene. Every terpene affects the perceived experience, and this goes to show how important it is to consider the complete symphony of cannabinoids and terpenes when selecting a strain.
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), resigned on Tuesday, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. He is expected to leave the agency in about a month.
Gottlieb’s presence mattered because he made CBD one of his high-priority issues.
In the cannabis industry, Gottlieb’s departure raises immediate questions about the status of cannabidiol (CBD), the popular, nonintoxicating cannabis component. Congress’ passage of the farm bill in late 2018 seemed to open the door to nationwide CBD legality. But the DEA still considers nonprescribed CBD to be an illegal Schedule I drug, and many legal scholars caution against assuming that CBD is legal just because it’s available in a growing number of mainstream stores.
Gottlieb’s presence mattered because he has made CBD, along with nicotine vaping and opioid abuse, one of his high-priority issues. Just recently, Gottlieb told a congressional committee that the FDA was “deeply focused” on finding an appropriate way to handle CBD.
One Leader Makes a Difference
Gottlieb also said he’d like to work with Congress to find a legislative solution that would allow CBD to be sold in conventional food and dietary supplement stores. The FDA could consider CBD in an agency rulemaking process, Gottlieb said, but that process could be subject to long delays and would not be, in his words, “straightforward.”
“There’s not a good proxy for us doing this through regulation, and if we get comments back and find that this is sufficiently complicated for the agency, we will come back and have a discussion with Congress about how we might be able to work together on this,” Gottlieb said in testimony Feb. 27 before the House Committee on Appropriations. (That testimony was covered by reporter Josh Long at the Natural Products Insider.)
Gottlieb also addressed the CBD question last month at a conference hosted by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger was there to capture this quote about the FDA seeking “possible alternative approaches” to regulating CBD:
“We’re planning to seek broad public input on this pathway, including information on the science and safety behind CBD. But we know that this process could take time,” Gottlieb said. “So we’re also interested in hearing from stakeholders and talking to Congress on possible alternative approaches to make sure that we have an appropriately efficient and predictable regulatory framework for regulating CBD products.”
Some public health experts and activists took the news of Gottlieb’s departure hard, in part because the former physician and venture capitalist has been considered one of the most competent Trump appointees.
NPR described Gottlieb as “widely viewed as an effective advocate of public health,” and some praised his team’s work cutting tobacco and opioid deaths, lowering teen nicotine use, and reducing the cost of generic drugs.
Others saw the commissioner as a public official who remained too cozy with commercial interests. “We are not sorry to see him go now,” Public Citizen’s Michael Carome told BuzzFeed News, “and [we] hope he is not just replaced by someone else with such deep entanglements with industry.”
As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America
How many jobs are there in the legal cannabis industry? It’s a common question–and one the government refuses to answer.
Because cannabis remains federally illegal, employment data agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ignore all jobs related to the industry.
Legal cannabis is the greatest job creation machine in America. Our employment data proves it.
That’s too bad, because they’re missing one of the most dramatic job booms in recent history.
Over the past three months Leafly’s data team, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, has gone state-by-state to tally the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry.
There are now more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States. More than 64,000 of those jobs were added in 2018. That’s enough people to fill Chicago’s Soldier Field, with 3,000 more tailgating outside.
Legal cannabis is currently the greatest job-creation machine in America. The cannabis workforce increased 21% in 2017. It gained another 44% in 2018. We expect at least another 20% growth in jobs in 2019. That would represent a 110% growth in cannabis jobs in just three years.
Download the Full Report
Special Report: 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count is available only at Leafly. The main report offers a national overview of direct employment as well as indirect positions and jobs induced by the legal cannabis industry. We also offer data about tax revenue in legal states, growth predictions for 2019, salary ranges for the most in-demand cannabis jobs, and tips on getting hired. The report’s appendix offers a state-by-state analysis of market size, growth, and job numbers.
Growth Compared to What?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently compiled a list of the industries with the fastest-growing employment figures. Opportunities for home health care aides are expected to grow 47%. Openings for wind turbine technicians are expected to increase 96%. The need for solar voltaic installers is expected to grow 105%. Those gains are projected to happen over the course of 10 years.
Here’s the incredible thing: The 110% growth in cannabis jobs will have happened over just three years.
Federal job counters won’t tell you that. We just did.
These States Are Booming
Some states that have had legal adult-use cannabis sales for a while now–Colorado and Washington opened their stores in 2014–are just now seeing the growth in cannabis jobs start to plateau.
Meanwhile, newly legal states, such as Florida (medical) and Nevada (adult use), are experiencing cannabis job booms with eye-popping gains:
Florida grew its cannabis employment by 703% in 2018, adding more than 9,000 full-time jobs.
Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs during that same year.
Pennsylvania ended 2017 with around 90 cannabis jobs. It ended the 2018 with nearly 3,900.
New York grew its cannabis employment by 278%, ending 2018 with more than 5,000 jobs.
Download the State-by-State Analysis
Who’s Hiring in 2019
California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas are seeking talent–and they need it now.
California’s cannabis hiring remained relatively flat in 2018 due to the disruption caused by the changeover from an unregulated medical system to a licensed, regulated markets for medical and adult use. But we expect cannabis jobs in the Golden State to increase by 21% in 2019. In raw numbers, that means 10,261 jobs with good salaries, benefits, and opportunity for advancement are waiting to be filled.
In Massachusetts, the state’s adult-use market is just getting underway. We expect more than 9,500 jobs to be added in the next 12 months.
Florida should add more than 5,000 jobs in 2019, bringing the state’s total cannabis employment to around 15,000.
Oklahoma is the Wild West of cannabis right now. There were zero cannabis jobs one year ago. Now there are 2,107. A year from now, we expect there to be 4,407.
Arkansas is just getting its medical marijuana program underway, but there’s room for growth: from 135 jobs now to 960 jobs by the end of the year.
How to Land a Job
All this week, Leafly will roll out a series of articles about working in the cannabis industry: where the growth is, what it’s like to work in the cannabis industry, and how to crush that job interview and bring an offer home.
The world’s biggest, most influential cannabis market generated around $300 million in taxes in its first year of commercial legalization. And it did it with both hands–and one foot–tied behind its back.
Today, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration released its final tally for cannabis sales and excise tax receipts for 2018. California collected about $300 million in cannabis sales taxes and fees for the first year of commercial sales. That’s lower than initial projections for 2018–which was the first year of legal sales. But the amount is far greater than totals from any other state that also legalized cannabis the year California did, in 2016.
Three years ago, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine voters all ended cannabis prohibition at the ballot box–calling for taxing and licensing the robust state trades.
Commercial sales got started first in July 2017 in Nevada, followed by January 2018 for California, and fall 2018 for Massachusetts. Maine’s former Gov. Paul LePage blocked implementation, so the state collected zero tax dollars on its cannabis trade.
Massachusetts may collect $60 million in its first year, which is ongoing. Nevada collected $69.8 million in its first year. Those are tiny fractions of California’s tax total, because the state is so much bigger.
Strong Year One Growth
California has multiple levels of taxes on cannabis:
A 15% state excise tax
A cultivation tax of $9.75 per ounce
A state sales tax base rate of 8.75%
Plus local sales and excise taxes, which are hard to track across more than 500 cities and counties
You can see the legal cannabis industry gaining strength in the most recent numbers, which cover the fourth quarter of 2018.
Total collections were up more than 10% from the third quarter
Cultivation taxes surged more than 30% to $16.4 million in the fourth quarter
Sales taxes hit a new high mark of $36.1 million for the fourth quarter
Only excise taxes dipped a bit, to $50.8 million in the fourth quarter, down from $52.4 million in the third quarter
In total, California’s roughly $300 million tax haul in year one of commercial sales is more than three times higher than the state ever collected on annual medical marijuana taxes over the last 23 years.
Managing Great Expectations
California budget-makers had initially hoped to collect $655 million in year one cannabis taxes, on the way to an estimated target goal of $1 billion in annual tax revenue. That year one estimate had to be revised down, because about 75% of cities and counties in the state banned cannabis commerce.
However, such bans are typical of early implementation. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon also had a majority of cities opt out of the jobs, salaries, and tax revenue of legalization. Over time, more and more ban cities and counties come around. California promises to follow the same route. Also missing from the tax picture are totals for local sales and excise taxes, which can run as high as 20%.
Industry Asking for Tax Cut
With year one done, cannabis tax collections are on pace to hit the target $1 billion mark within three years–lightning speed after more than 80 years of prohibition.
But many see the industry as underperforming due to current tax rates. Rep. Rob Bonta has introduced a bill to pause the cultivation tax, and lower the excise tax for a few years. The goal is to draw price conscious consumers into stores, and tax-sensitive growers into the regulated market. But Rep. Bonta’s bill needs a super-majority in both houses to amend Proposition 64, and become law. Last year, a cannabis tax cut bill died in committee. Lawmakers worried it would decrease tax revenue at a time when state officials are in the mood to raise more tax revenue, not less.
What’s $300 Million Worth?
California has an annual proposed budget of $209 billion, so cannabis tax revenues neither make nor break local or state budgets. Most cannabis tax revenue is earmarked to pay for state cannabis regulators, followed by funds for police, public health, and social justice programs.
But for comparison, California’s first year of cannabis taxes could pay the average annual salaries of an extra 4,166 teachers–double the number employed in the Sacramento Unified School District.
California’s first year of cannabis taxes could pay the average annual salaries of 3,542 additional police officers–eight times the number of cops in the Sacramento Police Department.
Once you’ve decided to start growing cannabis at home, you can easily fall into an overwhelming green hole of information: What strains are easiest to grow? What’s the optimum cycle for indoor lights? Should you grow in soil or coco coir? Use sprays or opt for integrated pest management? It’s enough to drive anyone mad–or at least to the nearest dispensary.
Thankfully, there are lots of excellent resources online–including Leafly’s own dedicated section on growing–and many of them provide helpful information for the general grower. But what about growing locally, right here in Massachusetts?
“You can’t just grow anything, especially with the way the climate is out here.”
Frank Golfieri, INSA asst. head grower
I wanted to know whether there were specific tips and tricks for growing here in the Bay State. So I headed to the INSA cultivation facility in Easthampton to learn more about what it takes to grow cannabis successfully in New England.
INSA’s cultivation center is state of the art and truly makes a home grower salivate. From its water filtration system to the various grow rooms where plants can be seen in different stages of their lifecycle, it was impressive to see cannabis grown on a large scale.
Thankfully, you don’t need a cutting-edge grow center to get a good harvest at home. INSA head grower Matt Livermore and assistant head grower Frank Golfieri shared some Massachusetts-specific tips they’ve cultivated over the years.
Pick the Right Plants
If you’re planning to grow outdoors in Massachusetts–the season here lasts roughly May through November, by the way–make sure you choose the right strains. “You have to find specific ones for this region,” said Golfieri. “You can’t just grow anything, especially with the way the climate is out here. You have to find strands that are more hearty, to handle these conditions.” Kush strains are good options for beginners to consider.
Both Livermore and Golfieri recommend starting from seed if possible to avoid any surprise issues that may be brought into your grow space. When starting with clippings or clones, you can’t be positive that they won’t introduce bacteria, pests, or other pathogens into your garden. Golfieri advised, if you have the space, that you keep new plants in quarantine for a little while to avoid letting introduced pathogens spread to existing plants.
Know Your Seasons
If you’re taking advantage of the outdoor grow period, it’s important to be aware that it stretches across three different seasons–spring, summer, and fall–each with its own specific weather. While fall in other regions may be more temperate, Massachusetts tends to have more rain. Our long, relatively autom thus creates perfect conditions for things like mold to develop.
And while Massachusetts isn’t not known for long periods of scorching heat in the summer, there are frequently spells of little to no rain that can cause issues if you’re unable to water your plants regularly.
There’s not much that compares to the sight of a majestic, outdoor cannabis plant. When it comes down to it both INSA growers stressed that indoor cultivation is easiest for new growers in Massachusetts. “You can control the environment better,” explained Golfieri. Fluctuating temperatures, long periods of cold or rain, and even unanticipated early freezes won’t matter at all to indoor plants (and more importantly, won’t impact your yield). It’s also far easier to control light conditions indoors.
All that comes with a downside, of course: added cost.
Cleanliness Is Key
To keep plants healthy, it’s crucial to limit their exposure to contaminants. Change into clean clothes before entering your grow room, and keep a separate pair of shoes to avoid tracking in contaminants from outside. Beyond those general tips, though, there are best practices specific to the state.
Water is an often overlooked source of contamination. If you’re not using filtered or distilled water, which both INSA growers recommend, be sure to get a complete readout of your town or city’s water supply. This can usually be done by contacting your local water and sewer agency. While you can test water from the faucet yourself for things like pH levels, a more comprehensive assessment will indicate things like lead and heavy metals, which cannabis plants absorb readily. Heavy metals are of particular concern in Massachusetts, home to a lot of former mill towns.
When you’re dealing with new plants, you want to start with the best. So you might want to start by having the plant, flower, and/or soil tested by one of the labs in the state.
Neither Livermore nor Golfieri were keen on the tests you can order online. “If you want to get it done, spend the money and go take the time to get your terpenes, cannabinoid profile figured out,” says Livermore. “You can find out if there are any microtoxins in the soil, or other things that are a problem. If you’re really that serious about growing, you take it to a reputable lab, for sure!”
Four labs are currently open for testing cannabis in Massachusetts, all in the eastern part of the state. Costs start around $50, and you can choose what type of analysis you’d like to run, from cannabinoid and terpene profiles to various safety tests that check for common concerns such as mold, E. coli, yeast, fungus, and more.