A Cannabis-Themed Wish List for 2018

This past year has been a memorable one for so many different reasons. For Burns, it saw the growth and expansion of our Cannabis Business Advisory Group, the launch and development of this blog, and the successful execution of our first-ever cannabis conference.

In winding down 2017, Scott Moskol and Mike Andreasen weigh in with their “wishes” for all things cannabis related in the coming year.

Scott Moskol

I’d like to see…

  • The end of the new development of private lawsuits being brought by neighbors of cannabis cultivation and/or dispensary facilities against such entities under the auspices of the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. These complaints generally seek damages, in addition to injunctive relief, that, if granted, would curtail the power of the states to issue valid licenses. Accordingly, to those defendants that are still parties to such lawsuits, we wish for speedy dismissals.
  • Congress amend the Tax Code, such that 280E would no longer apply to a valid, state-licensed, compliant cannabis business. This way, marijuana businesses would not be subject to such an extra, and oftentimes onerous, taxation burden.
  • Whatever new spending bill that is ultimately passed contain a version of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment (formerly, the
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Following the Money: Analyzing Capital Flow into the Legal Cannabis Industry

At our recent cannabis conference, financial services experts gathered to discuss the evolution of cannabis-related investments. A panel consisting of Kyle Detwiler (Northern Swan Holdings), Jeff Finkle (ARC Angel Fund), Scott Greiper (Viridian Capital Advisors, LLC), and Harrison Phillips (Viridian Capital Advisors, LLC) talked about specific investor trends, and how these trends will shift as the industry begins to mature. Below are a few highlights from that discussion.

What are the current investor types? When will traditional VC and PE funds do more than “dip their toes?” 
Cannabis-related investments have grown exponentially since 2014, in large part due to the engagement of certain cannabis-focused venture capital funds, special-purpose vehicles, family offices, tech-focused VC funds ancillary to the cannabis industry, public companies, high net-worth individuals, professional angel investors, angel networks and funds, individual partners in VC and private equity funds, and even certain accelerators. While there has also been some traditional VC and PE fund activity over the last few years, this activity represents only 20% of the overall investments made, as the traditional VC and PE funds are still hung up on the obvious hurdles to the industry (e.g., regulation, legality, reputation, mature … Keep reading

The Shifting Landscape of Local Communities

When Massachusetts initially approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in November 2016, some communities exhibited a strong resistance to the end of prohibition by implementing local bans or limitations on future cannabis retail. The way the law is currently structured, if a town’s population voted against legalization in 2016, its officials may impose bans or moratoriums on local retail shops. On the other hand, if a town’s population voted for legalization in 2016, it may still impose bans or moratorium on retail shops, but must first hold a local referendum to decide on the matter. Massachusetts towns have since gone on to impose more than 120 bans or moratoriums on marijuana-related businesses. Although this will not prohibit adults from legally possessing or using cannabis in these communities, it may create a lack of retail supply in certain areas when recreational cannabis shops begin opening next summer, beginning in July 2018.

This pattern of local push-back is not unique to Massachusetts – it’s estimated that in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, more than 60% of local communities have implemented bans against cannabis shops. In Washington, approximately 35% of local communities have implemented bans or moratoriums. Many of … Keep reading

Breaking Down California's Proposition 64 Rules

Last year, Californians passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use across the state. On Thursday, November 16th, state regulators released their 276-page set of cannabis rules to go along with the legalization that is set to be effective January 1, 2018. In general, California will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce and grow six marijuana plants at home.

Scaled fees are spelled out, with costs for annual licenses ranging from $800 for businesses transporting cannabis, up to $120 thousand for businesses doing multiple activities and making more than $4.5 million annually.

Even though the state seems ready for the January 1st roll-out, some cities – including two of California’s largest, Los Angeles and San Francisco – will not be ready. The reason that matters is that, to apply for a state license, a grower or seller first needs a local permit; therefore, residents in those areas will have to wait until their city finalizes the local cannabis rules.

For people in cities that are prepared for the January 1st date, starting in December, they will be allowed to apply for licenses through an … Keep reading

Reflections on MJBizCon 2017

Recently, I traveled to Las Vegas with colleague and fellow Cannabis Advisory Group co-chair, Frank Segall, to attend the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo, also known as “MJBizCon,” which bills itself as “the largest cannabis conference in the world.” Launched in 2012 by the editors of Marijuana Business Daily, MJBizCon hosts bi-annual events in the fall and spring, bringing together thousand professional cannabis operators and investors every year.

This was my fourth MJBizCon (one spring, three fall), and it was, by far, the largest. The official attendance was announced at 18,120, and the number of exhibitors was over 650. Anticipating this volume, the conference was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, having overgrown its previous host venue, the Rio Las Vegas, and it will undoubtedly continue to scale in terms of scope and intensity.

This year, for the first time, adult-use cannabis is legal in Nevada. And while usage of any cannabis products was forbidden inside the Convention Center, it was evident that the majority of the attendees enjoyed the recent change in the law. For me, one of the clearest differences between this conference and ones from years past was the types of exhibitors … Keep reading

Throughout history, marijuana has brought many benefits to vastly different populations. Realizing that those benefits outweigh any potential risks, Massachusetts, as a forward-thinking state, has allowed this product (and it is a “product”) to enter the marketplace on a legal basis, though regulatory details continue to be worked out. Below are some salient facts and dates to remember as cannabis comes fully online in the Commonwealth.

When did the law take effect?
The law took effect on December 15, 2016.

What aspects of the law took effect on December 15th?
Although licenses for cultivation, manufacture, testing, and retail sales will not be issued until July 2018, certain personal use provisions allowed for persons 21 years or older went into effect on December 15, 2016. Those include the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, of which five grams may be marijuana concentrate, as well as the home-growth provisions that allow for the possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana in one’s primary residence and six plants per resident, but no more than 12 plants per household. For more specific information, please refer to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 94G.

Where can I grow my plants?
Plants can … Keep reading

Many cannabis industry experts believe that the cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical sub-industry has the most potential to be the largest growth target for the cannabis industry as a whole, and if regulatory barriers to the cannabis industry are eased or lifted, the industry experts are probably right. The positive results of cannabis-based drugs on various diseases, illnesses, and symptoms, are overwhelming, and companies such as Digipath, Inc. and GW Pharmaceuticals, plc, are at the forefront trying to bring these this cannabis-based drug treatment to the mainstream.

The pharmaceutical industry is estimated to average about $500 billion in sales per year. The industry is heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) almost every step of the way from testing, patenting, efficacy, and marketing of the drugs. Meanwhile the cannabis industry, at its current state, is the Wild West. There is almost no standardization of cannabis products across the country for a product that has an estimated 700 different types of strands. This means that trying to buy a specific cannabis product to help with muscle pain in one part of town that you bought in another part of town, is impossible. Whereas, buying Epilim, a drug for epilepsy, is the … Keep reading

At our cannabis conference on October 17th, representatives from across the industry gathered to discuss how the landscape of legalized marijuana has changed in recent years, particularly in New England. A panel, consisting of James Alex (Premier Healthcare Group), Jason Sidman (Sanctuary Medicinals), Patricia Rosi (Wellness Connection of Maine), and G. William Eldridge (GW Consulting), talked about specific industry trends they have seen and where they expect the industry to go moving forward. Below are a few highlights from that discussion:

Why should people be interested in getting into the industry?

Everybody has their own story on what drew them to the industry, whether it was a firsthand experience regarding the medicinal effects of cannabis, or the possible societal benefits of its legalization. However, one view that is consistent among all of those involved—including cultivators, retailers, investors, and advocates—is the great potential that exists. Legalized marijuana is already a multi-billion dollar industry, and only looks to be growing with the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in many of the northeastern states.

How do you attract an experienced workforce, especially in a budding industry like legalized marijuana?

The answer may be simpler than you expect. Many of the skills that … Keep reading

Last week, our inaugural cannabis conference took place at the Hilton Boston-Dedham hotel, and we are pleased to report that, by virtually every measure, the day was a tremendous success. This being the first conference ever put on by our group, we knew from the beginning that we were venturing into uncharted waters. But with the help of co-host Viridian Capital Advisors and our exhibitors, sponsors, and panelists, the entire affair ran smoothly and proved memorable, insightful, and enjoyable for all involved. In total, 152 investors, operators, and entrepreneurs were in attendance, and the feedback we’ve received has all been highly positive.

Over the coming weeks, we intend to recap each of the day’s panels, with insight provided by a member of Burns & Levinson’s Cannabis Business Advisory Group.

In the interim, though, we wish to extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who took part in bringing this watershed moment for our firm to fruition. We look forward to furthering the dialogue surrounding cannabis, both regionally and nationally, and are excited about all of the possibilities that next year’s conference holds.

 … Keep reading

On July 28, 2017, Governor Baker signed into law H. 3818, “An Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana,” which was passed by state legislators to update state laws governing the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana, following voter approval in 2016. The Act was characterized as an emergency law and declared “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience,” and the majority of its provisions pertain to the establishment of a five-member Cannabis Control Commission, the purpose and duties of which are relative to the regulation of the recreational and medical marijuana industries in the Commonwealth. The law additionally calls for the creation of a 25-member Cannabis Advisory Board, consisting of members chosen for their expertise and knowledge relative to the Board’s mission.

In addition to the establishment of the Commission and the Board, the Act:

– Permits a municipality to establish zoning by-laws or ordinances, which allow commercial marijuana growing and cultivation on land used for commercial agriculture, aquaculture, floriculture, or horticulture;

– Permits a city or town to impose a local sales tax upon the sale or transfer of marijuana or marijuana products by a retailer operating within the city or town to anyone other … Keep reading