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

As banks are learning to navigate the murky legal waters inherent to cannabis-related businesses, they are increasingly becoming open to housing cannabis-related business accounts, even with the substantial burden placed on them by the federal government to comply with their respective state laws.

In August 2013, then-Attorney General James M. Cole issued a memorandum to all U.S. attorneys, which was published by the Department of Justice, setting expectations for the federal government, state governments, and law enforcement on how to address state-implemented, legal-adult-use cannabis programs. In summary, the Cole Memo told states that, if they implement a strict regulatory framework; prevent diversion by employing a seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor the growth, distribution, and sale of regulated cannabis; and create a transparent, accountable market, the federal government will, essentially, leave them alone.

Almost six months later, Attorney General Cole issued further guidance as to how the original memo would impact certain cannabis-related financial crimes. He stated that the provisions of money-laundering statutes, the unlicensed money-remitter statute, and the Bank Secrecy Act remain in effect with respect to marijuana-related conduct, and that Section 1956 of Title 18, otherwise known as the federal anti-money laundering statute, makes it a criminal offense … Keep reading

One commonality for businesses across all industries, including those in the medical and adult-use recreational marijuana space (“cannabis companies”), is the importance of access to capital. Everyone knows that running a company requires a significant amount of money. However, cannabis companies specifically face distinct hurdles to raising capital, especially when it comes to deciding whether to go public.

The process of a private company offering and selling stock to the public typically begins with an initial public offering, which can trigger large payouts for management and ownership; a certain elevated level of credibility; and, most importantly, increased access to capital, which can better situate a company for both short- and long-term growth. For many entrepreneurs, taking a company public may be the ultimate accomplishment. However, despite the pros, there can also be plenty of cons for companies undergoing an IPO, especially those in the cannabis industry.

In general, taking a company public not only results in increased costs and more comprehensive (and burdensome) disclosure requirements, but also a much more aggressive and scrutinized focus on short-term growth for shareholders, which can limit the flexibility and freedom to which management may be accustomed. For cannabis companies, perhaps the biggest challenge … Keep reading

Now that Massachusetts has legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal and limited recreational purposes, how should employers in the Commonwealth deal with worker use of marijuana? Here are three things any employer should be aware of about marijuana use in the workplace.

1. Employers can prohibit employees from reporting to work or performing work under the influence of marijuana, even if they cannot control the use of recreational marijuana outside of work.

However, detecting the current use of marijuana can pose a challenge, since cannabis-related substances may remain in an employee’s system for more than 20 days.

2. Although the medical marijuana law in Massachusetts allows employers to prohibit use in the workplace, for medical marijuana used in accordance with a valid prescription from a healthcare provider, employers must engage in an interactive dialogue to determine whether the lawful medicinal use is a reasonable accommodation of the employee’s disability.

In the recent case of Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected the employer’s defense that the use of medical marijuana in the workplace is a facially unreasonable accommodation because such use is still a crime under federal law. Rather, the SJC … Keep reading

In a few weeks’ time—October 17th, to be exact—we are hosting our first conference on the topic of cannabis, called “The Cannabis Industry: Growth Opportunities for Professionals, Operators and Investors.” After months of planning and behind-the-scenes prep work, we’re thrilled that we’re now only a few short weeks away from what we know will be a fantastic day.

And as we detailed in our last post (ticket and other information here), we’ve put together a program that we think attendees will find informational, interesting, and enlightening. But what we’d like to do in this post is introduce our phenomenal keynote speaker. A person we’re truly lucky to have, and who embodies the spirit of what we hope to achieve with this conference. A person who has the requisite experience and insight to make this a major event on the Massachusetts cannabis calendar, and the ability to relay that experience and those insights in ways that connect with people.

That person is Kris Krane.

The founder and president of 4Front Ventures, which he established in 2011 with the stated purpose of “building a medical cannabis industry based on compassion, integrity, and accountability,” Kris has dedicated his … Keep reading