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Colorado’s Brian Vicente: What’s Next For The Silicon Valley Of Marijuana?

COLORADO: By any metric, 2014 was a monumental year for the legalization of cannabis. Colorado became the first state in the U.S. to allow recreational use and the overwhelmingly positive impact on the state’s economy, school funding, and crime rates helped to spark the nationwide domino effect we’re seeing today as more and more states look to consider legalization. Colorado saw nearly $700 million in marijuana sales last year, generating over $63 million in tax revenue.

Brian Vicente of VicenteSederberg LLC was a key advocate and campaigner for Amendment 64, which called to regulate marijuana like alcohol. As one of the primary authors of the bill, Vicente was instrumental in creating the framework and effective messaging that resonated with voters. He has been called the “the industry’s de facto spokesperson” by The Guardian (UK) and his practice dubbed “the country’s first powerhouse marijuana law firm” by RollingStone.

As part of our Future of Cannabis coverage, Equities.com caught up with Vicente to discuss the next phase of the cannabis industry, what states he thinks are next, and what went wrong in Ohio.

EQ: You were one of the primary authors of Amendment 64, which led to the monumental legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Colorado. It’s been nearly two years since that came into effect. Reflecting on the framework and its implementation, how have things progressed based on your initial expectations?

Vicente: I think they’ve really been positive from both an economic and social standpoint. With most major cultural shifts, traditionally you don’t see an opportunity for commerce. But with marijuana legalization, we really have seen that. There’s this intersection of social change. We’ve changed this policy that was illegal for 80 years, and with that, simultaneously there’s this opportunity for commerce.

We’ve see a ton of exuberance from investors looking to enter this field. We have a lot of creative ideas percolating. Colorado feels sort of like the Silicon Valley of marijuana. You’ve got 10,000-plus new jobs created since marijuana was made legal directly in the marijuana industry and probably another 10,000 ancillary jobs that are supporting that industry just in our state. Really, for what is considered as a generally down economy nationally this has really worked out quite well for Colorado.

Who’s Minding The Marijuana? Banned Pesticide Found In Colorado Testing

COLORADO: It’s been nearly two years since recreational pot was legalized in Colorado and the thriving pot industry has hit some hurdles in the form of potential dangers to consumers.

Pesticides that are illegal to use on marijuana plants in Colorado are being found in some recreational and medical pot products being marketed and sold to the public — leading to product recalls, plant quarantines and even a class-action lawsuit involving people who say they would not have inhaled the product had they known illegal pesticides were used on them.

Pesticide testing is not mandatory for pot businesses in Colorado, nor are they subject to random pesticide testing, as are other crops, according to Mitch Yergert of the state’s agriculture department. Pot businesses generally are left to self-regulate pesticides use, though officials say they are working to come up with a plan for better oversight.

Pro-Marijuana Group Rereleases Republicans’ Ratings Before Debate in Colorado

COLORADO: At a Republican presidential debate hosted in Colorado, one issue is destined to come up: pot.

Colorado’s experiment with legalized marijuana remains a hot topic as the next election approaches, and for many Republicans, the subject requires a balancing act between wanting to protect individual and state rights without seeming to condone people getting high.

In that spirit, the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group for the legal marijuana industry, has dusted off its scorecard of where the candidates stand on the issue.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is expected to get the most cheers from the legalization crowd, as he gets an A-minus grade from the group because of his calls to decriminalize recreational use and his desire for states to decide their own marijuana laws.

Federal Reserve Blocks ‘Marijuana Bank’ in Colorado

COLORADO: Marijuana-related businesses in Colorado are so profitable that the government doesn’t know what to do with all of the tax revenue they’re generating. But business owners face a more immediate problem: Where to stash their own profits when banks won’t take it.

Because marijuana is a federally banned Schedule I substance, most banks have been reluctant to accept deposits from industry businesses. A  clumsy and ambiguous set of guidelines from the federal government, which at least seemed to indicate that banks working with dispensaries operating legally under state law would be shielded from money laundering prosecution, didn’t help.

Now the Federal Reserve is muddying the waters further with a court filing against the Fourth Corner Credit Union, which was established specifically to handle Colorado’s marijuana cash, according to NBC News:

The credit union can’t open without clearance from the Federal Reserve, which said in its filing that “transporting or transmitting funds known to have derived from the distribution of marijuana is illegal…”

The Federal Reserve said in the latest filing that bankers won’t be led away in handcuffs for taking marijuana money, but they don’t have the right to put that money in the Federal Reserve system.

By pushing for approval from the Fed, it was “as if Colorado enacted a scheme to allow trade in endangered species or trade with North Korea,” the filing says.

Colorado Reports Uptick In Marijuana-Related Driving Offenses In 2014

COLORADO: A majority of tickets for driving under the influence in Colorado involved marijuana in 2014, according to new law enforcement statistics released in September.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area is a collection of federal, state and local law enforcement in four states. Colorado is the only one with legal recreational marijuana, so a new report from the agencies focus on its impact on the state.

In Denver, impaired driving tickets involving marijuana doubled from 33 to 66 in one year. The Colorado State Patrol reported that 77 percent of its cases involved marijuana.

Colorado’s Monthly Marijuana Sales Top $100 million

COLORADO: Marijuana sales blazed past the $100 million mark for the first time in August, the Denver Post reported over the weekend.

According to sales data from Colorado’s Department of Revenue released Friday, sales of recreational pot topped $59.2 million for the month, while medical marijuana dispensaries pulled in $41.4 million, for a combined $100.6 million — the highest monthly total since legal recreational cannabis sales began there in January 2014.

“It means that $100 million is going to licensed, taxpaying businesses, creating jobs and helping to build new schools,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Yahoo News, “instead of going to cartels and drug dealers — as is the case in the 46 states that don’t regulate marijuana.”

 

U.S. Agents Crack Down On Illegal Marijuana Sites On Colorado Public Lands

COLORADO: Several large marijuana cultivation sites in Colorado that were being used by traffickers to ship the drug to other states have been dismantled by federal agents and state police in the past six weeks, authorities said on Thursday.

Since mid-August, federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies have raided the illegal pot cultivation sites in the Colorado mountains, including several in national forests, according to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

The use of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes is legal in Colorado, but growing and selling marijuana products is controlled by state regulators.

“Some illicit grows were located in multiple residences and outbuildings, while many others were located on federal land, causing environmental damage to the land that may take years to mitigate,” the statement said. “In every case, the marijuana grows were both illegal under federal law and unlicensed by state authorities under Colorado’s marijuana regulatory system.”

 

Colorado Marijuana Users Sue Grower Over Fungicide

COLORADO: Two Colorado marijuana users have sued a cannabis grower claiming a “patently dangerous” agricultural fungicide that becomes poisonous when ignited was applied without their knowledge to pot plants they later smoked, court documents showed on Monday.

Brandan Flores and Brandie Larrabee allege that distributor and retailer LivWell has for years applied Eagle 20, a fungicide that contains the chemical myclobutanil, to its marijuana crop.

The fungicide is approved for certain edible agricultural crops, but not for smokable products such as tobacco, according to the complaint filed in Denver District Court.

Colorado Cannabis Producers Have Legal Alternatives To “Organic” Label

COLORADO: Any other operation that routinely labeled its products “organic” without certification to back up the claim would have been shut down and fined almost immediately, an expert in organic certification said.

Colorado’s cannabis industry, though, has benefited from the regulatory gray area where it resides, producing a product that is legal to consume and sell in Colorado but remains illegal under federal law.

“If those farmers were farming any other agricultural crop, they would be contacted within a month or two,” said Chris Van Hook, an accredited organic certifier for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and owner of Clean Green Certified, an organic-alternative program for cannabis. “It’s very clear in the organic regulations: It’s a $11,000-per-violation labeling infraction to call an uncertified product organic.”

Rather than just wait for the federal government to begin certifying, industry leaders are working to find their own way to legitimately market marijuana products as pesticide-free and environmentally friendly.

Revenue From Colorado Marijuana Tax Expected To Double In 2015

COLORADO: It’s heady times in the Mile High City, and that’s just at the state budget office.

Colorado is on track to more than double the state’s marijuana tax revenues this year, showing up the $44 million collected in 2014 with a projected 2015 windfall of $125 million, reports The Guardian. The state hoped to collect $70 million in 2014, but fell short.

According to financial data released last week, the state also raked in significantly more money taxing marijuana than it did taxing alcohol for the yearlong period of July 2014 to June 2015, with marijuana netting almost $70 million and alcohol just under $42 million.