Here’s What Medical Cannabis Looks Like in Texas

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.

Outstanding in its field: The dispensaries in Texas keep a low profile. (Photo: Ben Adlin)

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.”

Inside the Compassionate Cultivation grow room: This month’s plant, next month’s CBD oil. (Photo: Ben Adlin)

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.

Breeding the house specialty: Waterloo is a low-THC, high-CBD strain unique to Compassionate Cultivation. (Photo: Ben Adlin)

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.

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Which Terpenes Are Found in ‘Kush’ Cannabis Strains?

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.

Click to enlarge.

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.

OG Kush

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.

Find OG Kush Nearby

Kosher Kush

Click to enlarge.

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.

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Kimbo Kush

Click to enlarge.

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.

Find Kimbo Kush Nearby

Bubba Kush

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.

Find Bubba Kush Nearby

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FDA Commissioner Resigns, Leaving CBD Status Uncertain

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.”

Actually Competent

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.”

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As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America

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.

Click to download the full report.

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

Click to download Leafly’s 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.

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California Made $300 Million on Legal Cannabis in 2018, and It’s Just Getting Started

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.

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Grow Your Greatest: Tips & Tricks for Massachusetts Cannabis Growers

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.

Start Indoors

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.

Get Tested

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.

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In Congress, a Changed House Finally Looks at Cannabis Banking

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bank officials and others urged Congress on Wednesday to fully open the doors of the U.S. banking system to the legal marijuana industry, a change that supporters say would reduce crime risks and resolve a litany of challenges for cannabis companies, from paying taxes to getting a loan.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle cannabis money is growing, but they still represent only a tiny fraction of the industry.

Most Americans live in states where marijuana is legally available in some form. But there’s a problem when it comes to banks: Most don’t want anything to do with money from the cannabis industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal.

That conflict has left many growers and sellers in the burgeoning cannabis industry in a legal dilemma, shutting them out of everyday financial services like opening a bank account or obtaining a credit card. It also has forced many businesses to operate only in cash — sometimes vast amounts — making them ripe targets for crime.

Banking, government and industry representatives at a House committee hearing urged lawmakers to pass a proposal that would allow cannabis businesses to access loans, lines of credit and other banking services, while sheltering financial institutions from prosecution for handling pot money.

California Treasurer Fiona Ma, whose state is home to the nation’s largest legal cannabis market, called the measure a critical step for the rapidly expanding industry.

Gregory S. Deckard, who spoke on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said the cloud of legal uncertainty was inhibiting access to banks while creating safety hazards for businesses.

The proposal, he said, “would offer the needed clarity” for more financial institutions to welcome the marijuana industry as customers.

But others had concerns.

Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri said the proposal would create confusion while marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. He questioned how banks would identify criminal operators and pointed to how Congress handled hemp, the low-THC cousin of the cannabis plant, which was removed from the list of federally controlled substances.

With the banking legislation, “we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

Legalization advocates have reason to celebrate that the hearing simply took place before the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee. The proposal, or similar versions, have languished in the past.

“Lawmakers are not being asked to weigh in on whether marijuana should be legal or not. They are simply looking at whether banking services should be available to these businesses in states where it is already legal,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group.

The number of banks and credit unions willing to handle cannabis money is growing, but they still represent only a tiny fraction of the industry.

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The Home Hashmaking Buyer’s Guide

With all the effort that goes into growing your own beautiful cannabis, it’s a shame to think that you might be throwing away your leftover plant material instead of making delicious hash.

While many of the extracts you purchase in stores are created using solvents and industrial grade products, a lot of high-quality hash on the market is made using age-old solventless techniques that anyone can do at home.

The concept behind creating hash has been around for centuries and simply involves separating trichomes from cannabis plant material. The process has become exceedingly complex over the last decade but there are numerous low-cost ways to create your own.

Here are some simple solventless methods and products to get you started on making your own terpene-rich hash.

Rosin Pressing


Technology for rosin pressing has taken off in the last few years in a response to the growing concern for impurities and risks associated with solvent-based extraction methods like butane hash oil (BHO) or propane hash oil (PHO).

Instead of using flammable solvents to chemically separate trichomes from plant material, a rosin press utilizes heat and pressure to extract valuable resin from cannabis plant material or kief.

A primitive form of rosin pressing first came about when cannabis aficionados would use hair straighteners to apply heat and pressure to their favorite nugs to create a terpene-rich hash oil. Today, numerous companies use technology to create presses that allow consumers to customize temperature, pressure, and duration to get an ideal rosin product.

It’s common for people to use flower instead of trim when making rosin because it’s more difficult and time-consuming to extract quality results from trim.

If you are going to use trim, the workaround is to first make low-quality hash through the dry-sift method (discussed below) and then press that into high-quality rosin. Low-quality hash is high in impurities while high-quality rosin is low in impurities.

There are a few downsides to rosin pressing. It takes a lot of product to produce oil and consumers might not find the return worth the investment. Also presses can be expensive, but after the initial investment, you can have fresh rosin whenever you want.

Here are a couple presses that we recommend:

The Nug Smasher ($796)

For the cannabis enthusiast, this tried-and-true press can apply 12 tons of pressure to your flower. Built with steel, the Nug Smasher has two 4″ x 4″ heated plates that can handle up to 14 grams of flower in one press, making it ideal for homegrowers who are processing a lot of product.

This manual press heats quickly and provides consistent results time after time and has a lifetime warranty.

My Rosin Press (Gen 2) ($449)

One of the simpler and more affordable options out there, My Rosin Press is about the size of a coffee maker and only weighs 13 pounds, making it easy to transport if you want to take it to a friend’s house.

It has two 3″ x 3″ heated stainless steel plates that are operated with a manual lever, and it applies up to 6 tons of force on up to 1.5 grams of material. This press has a low input and is best for people looking to create small quantities of rosin with quality buds.

Ice Water Extraction

Using cold water, ice, and agitation, you can create a quality hash at a very low cost. Cold temperatures combined with agitation snap trichomes off of cannabis plant material, which then sink to the bottom of your container because they weigh more than water.

Because of the simplicity of the method, you’ll get a quality solventless hash with just a few screen bags, a bucket, and ice water.

The quality of the product produced with this method depends on the quality of the material used. When done properly, you can create full melt bubble hash, one of the cleanest and tastiest hashes out there.

It’s called “full melt” because it’ll turn to liquid when heated and won’t leave residue in your dab rig because of its low amount of impurities.


Best of all, supplies needed to make this kind of hash are basic, affordable, and easy to get. The downside to this method is having to handle cold temperatures. After a fall harvest, you won’t want to stand around and produce tons of this hash with ice water in the dead of winter.

Ice water extraction products can range a lot in price., but here are some good ones to start with:

5-Gallon Bubble Bags ($30)

Bubble bags allow you to separate trichomes from plant material by pouring the ice water mixture through a series of bags with finer and finer meshes. These simple pieces of equipment used to be quite expensive but are now readily available for as little as $30. Most kits come with at least four bags with different meshes, which is plenty sufficient.

Bubble Magic 5-Gallon Extraction Washing Machine ($133)

Based off of compact washing machines, you can put bubble bags into this machine and let it do the stirring and agitation for you. No more ice cold hands stuck stirring your product, which will save a lot of time if you are trying to get through a large amount of product quickly.

Dry Sift Hash


This type of hash is produced when trichome heads are broken off and fall through screens as cannabis is sifted or handled. Considered to be lower in quality, dry sift or kief has a lot of contaminants, or more plant material.

Producing a high-end dry sift requires patience, knowledge, and skill in order to successfully isolate the trichomes and get a pure product.

The final product can be used as a powder that can be sprinkled onto joints or bowls or it can be pressed to form a brick of hash that is easier to handle.

Here are some products to help sift and collect your kief:

Dry Sift Screens ($150-210)

You can work your raw material–either flower or trim–into these framed screens to produce kief. Most kits come with a 149-micron screen and an additional, thinner 75-micron.

Start with the bigger mesh and then work down to the smaller mesh. You can get good quality with two screens, but if you want to go for top-shelf results, use an additional finer-meshed third screen of 45 microns to sift out even more impurities.

Trim Bin ($52)

A trim bin is excellent for catching trichomes while you trim cannabis. The tray has a 150-micron screen that will do a fine job of dry sifting for the first step, but you’ll want to process the collected kief through another screen or two with finer meshes for a higher-quality product.

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Legalization Hits a Tipping Point in Congress This Year

Legalization has hit a historic tipping point in Congress this year, says Neal Levine, a longtime political operative and head of the Cannabis Trade Federation, which is deploying a record number of lobbyists on Capitol Hill for the issue in 2019.

Levine’s been in the legalization game since 2002, and he said voter support can end prohibition this year through the STATES Act, which exempts legalization states from the 1972 Controlled Substances Act. While it’s cliche to say legalization is “always 10 years away,” Levine says it’s here. In the below Q&A with Leafly, Levine points to some key factors:

  • 10 adult-use legalization states, plus Washington, DC
  • 33 medical legalization states
  • hundreds of thousands of American jobs on the line
  • billions and billions of dollars in domestic economic impact
  • polling at 61% for legalization, 75% for federal noninterference, 90% for medical

“We got an issue here that people are starting to care passionately about that can swing elections,” he tells Leafly.

Strap in. You’re riding with veteran activist and policy wonk turned industry lobbying powerhouse Levine, before his Friday appearance at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. The ICBC is sponsored in part by Leafly.

Leafly: I’ll play devil’s advocate. It took 33 states to enact marijuana prohibition before the federal government followed in the ’30s. What makes you think we he have enough states to stop prohibition this year? There’s only nine legalization states.

Neal Levine: First off, prohibition ended in 10 states, plus the District as of today. But fortuitously it’s 33 states plus the District that have opted out in some form. And so prohibition has become untenable.

We have Canada up and roaring. We have Mexico about to set up legal markets. We got countries in South America, Europe, the Middle East, and now Asia all starting to opt out of prohibition. We are ceding what should be an American industry to international competition, and there’s no reason for it, outside of bad policy.

The states are now moving at lighting speed to opt out on their own. We have now reached that point and Congress must act. That’s why we’re focused on the federal level, and that’s why we’re so optimistic we can get this done.

Talk with Neal Levine at the International Cannabis Business Conference Friday, Feb. 8 — sponsored by Leafly

And the reason we’re so optimistic, and we have bipartisan support, and the president said he’d sign [the STATES Act] into law–is because the polling is so over the top in favor. [Federal noninterference] is polling 10 points higher than legalization, and that’s the STATES Act — it’s polling in the mid ’70s, and that’s why I think we can get this done.

It is no coincidence that every single Democrat in the US Senate who is running for president or talking about running for president is putting their name on a cannabis bill.

Yes, but there are like a half-dozen bills in Congress, why is the STATES Act the one to back?

So Rep. Earl Bluemenaur (D-OR) has a whole suite of bills. … But the STATES Act is a bipartisan bill that the president said he would sign into law if it hits his desk. Based on that, that’s why we’re focused on the STATES Act.

Our intel is that the STATES Act is the one game-changing piece of legislation that we can pass into law in the next Congress.

Look the STATES Act is not the entire loaf–but it’s 60% to 70%. It fundamentally ends the conflict between federal and state law and it opens the door to have the conversation move from “Should we do this?” to “How should we do this?” The “How should we do this?” piece is full social equity.

There’s been a lot of talk about equity lately. That’s not in the STATES Act.

If you look at what’s going on in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California–all the social equity pieces are happening locally. Denver is doing expungement. The state of Colorado is talking about stuff. So a lot of that stuff is happening at the state level, because that’s where the laws are. The STATES Act will speed up the pace of legalization in the states exponentially.

Can the STATES Act help with banking, or tax reform? The current banking situation redlines out anyone who can’t raise a million dollars from an angel investor, friend, or relative.

It immediately fixes [IRS tax penalty] 280E for every licensed legal state business. It doesn’t open up all banking, but it’s going to open up a lot commercial banking services from FDIC-insured banks.

Will Wells Fargo and B of A jump in? Probably not. But will community banks start offering real commercial banking services? Yes.

And it ends the threat of the DOJ coming in and kicking in our doors and seizing our assets for the crime of running a state-legal business.

That being said, what we’re trying to do here is end federal prohibition. The end goal is expungement for everybody with old crimes that would not have violated new law.

But it’s much harder to pass that initial, fundamental, game-changing piece of legislation than it is to amend the law later.

An example is the first law I quarterbacked while I was at Marijuana Policy Project was medical marijuana in Vermont in 2004. Vermont became the ninth MMJ state in 2004. That initial law was three plants, one mature, no industry, grow your own, three qualifying conditions: cancer, AIDS and MS. Vermont then became the first state legislature to end adult-use prohibition, and it was also, ironically, the ninth state to [end prohibition].

So you don’t always get the whole loaf at first.

How do Leafly readers make the most impact with their time and energy here? A lot of people feel powerless, or that this might be above their head.

They should call their members of Congress, call their senators, and they should tell them they support this. They should contact their local officials, their mayor, their county commissioners, their governors, and the state’s attorney general, and tell them, “I support this legislation. You should support this.”

And then folks can jump on our website,, and sign up for our list. We’ll be sending updates on ways they can help and be involved, and not just us. Sign up with our partners, the MPP, Drug Policy Alliance, any number of these groups we work in coalition with. They will get a steady stream of things that [they] can do to help us pass this.

What exactly is the six-month-old Cannabis Trade Federation? Your 20-member board includes Pax, Cannacraft, Dixie, Reef Dispensaries, and Tilt?

The Cannabis Trade Federation has the largest-staffed lobbying team the industry has ever seen. If you would have looked at all the other resources that are brought to the table up to this point combined–it’s not as large as what we’re bringing. This is a huge boulder we’re pushing up a steep hill in a short amount of time. We think it’s doable, but we have no illusions about how difficult this is going to be.

Right now we have about 50 companies, and every company has made a minimum financial commitment of a five-figure amount, and board members have made six-figure commitments.

What makes you the guy to lead this macro-group of lobbying groups?

I got into this from a social justice and social equity point of view 15, 16 years ago. So I’ve been here a minute.

When I started working on this issue, there was no real industry. You had California and what was going on there, but all the early medical marijuana laws were grown-your-own laws. The first one we did at the ballot was Arizona that was actually creating industry.

On top of the seven laws I helped to quarterback for MPP, there’s another half-dozen that I played assist role on.

And I led the team that did the decrim initiative in Massachusetts in 2008, and we got 65% of vote for that. At the same time, we did medical marijuana in Michigan and we got 62% of the vote for that. We did both of those at the same time, and that decrim initiative in 2008 is probably to date the purest social equity initiative that we’ve run as a movement, ever.

You went into the industry in 2009 in Colorado and ran communications, government affairs and philanthropy for LiveWell. What brought you back into the fray?

How this all started was the prohibitionists went and tried to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot here in Colorado that would have capped THC in products at 16%, which would have made 86% of everything on the shelf illegal overnight.

We formed a coalition to beat that back. Up until that point, the industry just slit each other’s throats, as opposed to work together. And there was a lot of skepticism … whether or not we could work together.

It worked really well. We were able to do a public education campaign and prevent them from gathering enough signatures to get it on the ballot. Sometimes the best way to win a fight is to avoid it. So that worked. We quickly raised a half-million dollars, we knocked it off the ballot, and we refunded half the money, and everyone was like, “That worked splendidly.”

But then at that point, the prohibitionists had qualified a local ballot initiative down in Pueblo County which would have banned the industry, including 1,200 jobs, and scholarship money, and a bunch of stuff. So the coalition expanded and helped defeat that on Election Day down in Pueblo.

But you didn’t stop there?

Now it’s Election Day 2016 and the Republicans have taken over the entire federal government. I went to DC, and what became very apparent to us is we needed some sort of entity from the industry or movement to be able to talk to the right in their language. Because they were talking about tax reform and we saw an opportunity for 280E.

And then obviously we had Sessions as the AG and we saw a great threat. We knew we needed to engage, and we needed to engage in a way where we were talking to the folks who were in power. So that was the formation of the New Federalism Fund, and this Colorado coalition expanded and became more of a national coalition.

We didn’t get a 280E fix into tax reform, then Sessions pulled the Cole memo, Sen. Gardner put a hold on all DOJ appointments, and that turned in to the STATES Act for the release of these DOJ appointments.

And here we are saying, “We need something that’s both sides of the aisle.” And a lot of our folks didn’t feel well served by their options and were talking about pulling together an actual association, and so that led to the natural evolution of what the Cannabis Trade Federation is.

And instead of forming an association, we’re forming a [tax-exempt] federation so we can share some of these resources that we are bringing and spread it around to all of the other entities, so all boats can hopefully rise.

So the Cannabis Trade Federation is much larger than any individual entity. It’s right in our logo what our DNA is about: professionalize, unify, diversify.

Catch Neal Levine at the International Cannabis Business Conference Friday, Feb. 8 — sponsored by Leafly

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