N.J. cannabis business community packs online networking session in preparation for legal marijuana

EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a two-day business and networking conference March 9-10, featuring some of the state’s most prominent industry leaders. Early-bird registration is open. Tickets are limited.

A couple of hours before Gov. Phil Murphy was scheduled to make his State of the State address Tuesday, there was visible excitement among attendees for NJ Cannabis Insider’s first virtual networking event of the year.

The Tuesday morning event, which was sold out, was designed to find new and virtual ways for participants to access networking that the pandemic slowed down as a result of limited in-person interaction.

“It was really great to be able to network again,” said Marianne Bays, the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association vice president, who noted there’s been a significant drop in networking events in the wake of the pandemic.

The meetup — sponsored in part by Supreme Security Systems, which already services cannabis growers in New Jersey, the law firms Brach Eichler and Genova Burns as well as Harvest360 — saw more than 100 insiders seeking to connect with each other to exchange ideas, expertise and overall advice.

Bays and other members from NJCBA, the state’s largest cannabis trade group, and representatives from the diversity, equity and inclusion arm of the National Cannabis Industry Association were also present for roundtable discussions.

Using the new video-conferencing technology by Remo, sponsors, industry leaders and staff from NJ Advance Media were separated into virtual roundtables to answer a variety of questions. In addition, there were virtual speed-networking tables where attendees could meet each other and talk in multiple timed sessions.

Bays interacted at the conference with attendees that had questions about what was needed to get off the ground in the business.

Future events are already on the horizon for March 9 and 10, where the NJ Cannabis Insider will host the first of two annual conferences featuring local and national industry leaders. Early bird registration has already gained more than three dozen participants.

Insiders exchanging contact information included a variety of entrepreneurs, attorneys, accountants, construction, real estate, marketing, public relations professionals, and others interested in the cannabis space, citing impending legislation and the logistical hurdles for specialized parts of the business as topics of interest.

Future moves from the Legislature and staying attuned with the business requirements are going to be key things that all attendees need to understand going forward, Bays said.

“People who are just getting into it really can’t begin to guess what the timeline might be, they have to be a Jersey person who has been watching this for a while to have a clue of what they’re going to do,” she said.

Genova Burns labor attorney Jennifer Roselle said the event provided the ability to network with different professions interested in the cannabis industry.

“It gave us a great opportunity to reach across, talk to people we wouldn’t have normally met, get to know some new faces, hear some really great passion about the industry, the planning and the next steps,” she said.

The networking event gave all an opportunity to experience different perspectives, Roselle said.

“It’s a new area that’s developing on a moment by moment basis and to see so many people excited to get involved in this industry as it’s evolving from the ground up … it’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s different.”

That moment-by-moment basis is bound to stay, said Michael McQueeny, a lawyer who specializes in the cannabis industry at the Foley Hoag law firm and described the cannabis industry as one that was going to require consistent improvements.

“A cannabis marketplace is like a sports car, we constantly have to give it tune ups just to make sure that we’re evolving along with this marketplace,” he said.

With the dawn of cannabis legalization on the horizon, networking events are going to be all the more important in 2021, said Stu Zakim, president of Bridge Strategic Communications.

Zakim likened the period before legalization legislation as frontier country. And for now, the description still carries weight, due to the amount of unknown variables within a new industry, he said.

“As much as the time leading up to legalization was like covering the wild, wild, West, it’s still kind of that way, but now it’s legal,” he said.

David Serrano, Harvest 360 co-founder and chief of business development, said he found the event well-populated with knowledgeable professionals from various parts of the cannabis industry.

The cannabis industry has a plethora of moving parts that requires different teams with varied skill sets, Serrano said.

“I can’t stress enough that people need to be working on developing their teams and networking events like this make that possible,” he said.

Overall, networking events help the entire industry, Serrano said.

“These events are going to help inform and prepare these leaders to enter this industry and create their dreams and find community within them,” he said.

This story first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider.

Jelani Gibson may be reached at jgibson@njadvancemedia.com Follow him on Twitter @jelanigibson1.

Michigan Cannabis Sales Near $1B In First Year Of Adult-Use Sales | Benzinga

Cannabis sales in Michigan spiked during December, bringing the total to $984.6 million for 2020.

Medical cannabis sales accounted for $474 million for the year, while adult-use sales reached $510.7 million, according to New Cannabis Ventures citing data from the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

Combined cannabis sales, including medical and adult-use, for December amounted to $101 million.

Over the month, adult-use sales rose by 12.7%, reaching a record of $61.6 million. Medical cannabis sales increased by 6.2% over November and 59% year-over-year to $39.6 million.

The state reported that flower and trim sales accounted for 55% of the adult-use market, concentrates and vape for 25%, while edibles were 19% of the market.

Michigan’s regulated program launched in late 2019.

On its first day of legal adult-use transactions in December 2019, the state generated $221,000 in post-tax sales.

In March, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs reported that recreational cannabis sales in the Wolverine State generated $31 million for the first three months.

North Dakota Lawmakers File Bill To Significantly Expand Marijuana Decriminalization Law

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday announced that it has finalized federal regulations for hemp. Industry stakeholders say they’re encouraged by improvements from initial interim rules but see room for additional changes, which they hope will come about under the incoming Biden administration.

This comes about two years after the crop was federally legalized through the 2018 Farm Bill, which required USDA to develop rules for an industrial hemp program. Since then, the department has released various proposals, solicited public input and included hemp in several government programs such as those allowing for crop insurance.

The new final rule is set to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday and will take effect on March 22.

“With the publication of this final rule, USDA brings to a close a full and transparent rule-making process that started with a hemp listening session in March 2019,” USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Greg Ibach said in a press release.

Early versions of the agency’s proposed regulations were met with mixed reviews from industry stakeholders. While many appreciated USDA’s efforts to stand up the market, there was widespread criticism from businesses and lawmakers over certain provisions viewed as excessively restrictive such as testing requirements and THC limits.

In response to that feedback, USDA made temporary revisions and reopened comment periods for additional input.

The final rule doesn’t include everything stakeholders sought, but there were some modifications made throughout the process. Here are some of the most notable provisions:

-Hemp processors will have some additional flexibility when it comes to THC negligence standards that would require disposal of the crop if exceeded. Hemp is defined under federal statute as containing no more than 0.3 percent THC, and now it can reach 1 percent, rather than 0.5 percent, without necessitating eradication.

-USDA maintained a requirement that hemp be tested only at labs certified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but it is delaying enforcement of that rule until December 31, 2022.

-The window for required sampling of hemp plants was extended from 15 to 30 days, which businesses say will prevent backlogs in testing.

-The agency is still requiring pre-harvest samples to come from the cannabis flower rather than the whole plant, but it will allow those samples to be taken from five to eight inches from the stem.

-USDA is still mandating that hemp must be tested for total THC content, rather than delta-9 THC alone as stakeholders requested.

-A temporary revision to the agency’s disposal requirements that has allowed so-called “hot” hemp to be eradicated on-site has been made permanent.

-Instead of relying on strict federal sampling requirements, the rule provides for “performance-based” sampling.

USDA on Friday also released supplemental guidance materials on the rule’s sampling, testing and disposal components.

Stakeholders say that the latest rules represent an improvement from the prior version, but that some problems still remain.

“It does seem to be clear that it is a definite improvement over the interim final rule but that it is not perfect. It does not go as far as some of the key things we requested,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told Marijuana Moment. “We’re pleased with the movement in the right direction, and we’re going to look forward to working with the Biden administration and [Agriculture Secretary-designate Tom Vilsack] to try to make this even better.”

Vilsack served as agriculture secretary under President Obama, and he helped manage the implementation of the 2014 hemp pilot program. He’s widely viewed as an advocate for the hemp industry.

Larry Farnsworth, a spokesperson for the National Industrial Hemp Council, said the organization is “pleased USDA has finally released their long-awaited rule on U.S. domestic hemp production and glad they listened to the concerns of the industry regarding sampling and testing.”

“We anticipate, as is customary of new administrations, that this rule will be one of many that will be frozen on the first day of the Biden Administration,” he told Marijuana Moment. “We look forward to working through these issues with the incoming Biden administration and have all of this year to get it right before the 2014 authorities sunset.”

Current Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said that the agency’s hands were tied in part due to statutory obligations, and he also noted pushback from DEA as they created regulations for the market.

“USDA staff have taken the information you have provided through three comment periods and from your experiences over a growing season to develop regulations that meet Congressional intent while providing a fair, consistent, science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers,” Ibach said. “USDA staff will continue to conduct education and outreach to help industry achieve compliance with the requirements.”

Even as the agency crafted its rules, it has spent past months reviewing and approving numerous state and tribal regulatory proposals—most recently for Rhode Island.

“The transition from prohibition to a legal and regulated system takes time, and USDA’s final rule is a historic step forward for hemp in the U.S.,” Shawn Hauser of Vicente Sederberg LLP told Marijuana Moment. “Many are justifiably disappointed by the DEA’s continued (and in some ways expanded) role in the agricultural hemp program, but there were also a number of positive improvements.”

“We are undoubtedly making progress, and we will continue to work with regulators and through Congress to perfect the regulatory structure for hemp,” she said.

This story has been updated to include additional details about the new final rule and expert commentary.

Feds To Send Marijuana And Hemp Samples To Labs As Part Of Large-Scale Testing Accuracy Study

Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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Arizona's medical cannabis program slows as state gears up for recreational sales

Chart showing Arizona medical marijuana trends

As Arizona prepares to launch recreational marijuana sales in March, the state’s medical cannabis program is showing signs of a slowdown, with new patient applications dropping steadily since July.

After launching, new recreational markets often trigger a shift away from medical marijuana sales, with MMJ customers migrating to an adult-use market that typically has fewer restrictions and less bureaucratic paperwork.

In Arizona, for example, medical marijuana customers must pay the state $150 for a patient card.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported only 4,128 new patient applications in November, down from the roughly 18,000 it received in July.

The state processed 151,080 new patient applications through November.

Other states, including California and Colorado, experienced similar declines in MMJ participation and sales after launching their recreational markets.

Colorado patient numbers declined from almost 115,000 in 2014 when adult-use sales opened to only 85,000 this past November.

Arizona’s medical marijuana sales in November declined 6.8% from October’s record sales of 19,465 pounds.

While the drop in new applications might be a signal of things to come, the total number of active cardholders continued to grow 2% per month on average over the past two years.

Arizona reported 301,878 active cardholders in November – 97% were qualified patients and the rest caregivers and dispensary/lab agents.

Arizona voters legalized adult-use marijuana in 2020 by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. The yes vote came four years after a similar measure was defeated.

The state hopes to launch recreational sales in March with existing medical dispensaries getting access to most of the initial licenses.

The Arizona Department of Health Services released the first draft of recreational program rules in December.

The public comment period on the second draft closes Wednesday.

The state will begin accepting applications on Jan. 19 from medical marijuana dispensaries in good standing and businesses seeking to open in underserved counties.

Andrew Long can be reached at [email protected]

Michigan Cannabis Sales Surge in December to Reach $985 Million in…

After a weak November, cannabis sales increased sharply in Michigan during December, according to the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency. The state breaks out medical and adult-use, which, combined, totaled $101 million, a sharp rebound from November but below the sales levels during the summer.

For the full year, combined cannabis sales were $984.6 million, with medical accounting for $474 million and adult-use generating $510.7 million:

During December, adult-use set a record of $61.6 million, rising 12.7%, while medical grew 6.2% over November but remained significantly lower than prior months. Compared to a year ago, medical sales rose 59% to $39.6 million.

The state breaks out sales by category and provides pricing detail by category, for both medical and adult-use:

Adult-Use Medical

The adult-use market had flower and trim sales that represented 55% of the market. Concentrates and vape combined for 25%, while edibles were 19% of the market.

One interesting dynamic during the state’s first year of adult-use sales has been the decline in the price of flower, which fell steadily through the year and was at $5614 per pound in December:

While Michigan’s combined program’s sales fell just short of Illinois, which exceeded $1.03 billion, the state’s regulated program is much newer, launching in late 2019. Both states should experience robust growth in 2021 as production capacity increases.

Alan Brochstein, CFA
Based in Houston, Alan leverages his experience as founder of online communities 420 Investor, the first and still largest due diligence platform focused on the publicly-traded stocks in the cannabis industry. With his extensive network in the cannabis community, Alan continues to find new ways to connect the industry and facilitate its sustainable growth. At New Cannabis Ventures, he is responsible for content development and strategic alliances. Before shifting his focus to the cannabis industry in early 2013, Alan, who began his career on Wall Street in 1986, worked as an independent research analyst following over two decades in research and portfolio management. A prolific writer, with over 650 articles published since 2007 at Seeking Alpha, where he has 70,000 followers, Alan is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a frequent source to the media, including the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Bloomberg TV. Contact Alan: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

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