The Wink In Weed: The Midwest Leg Of ‘Cannafest Destiny’ Tours The Heartland

By David Rheins

So much attention is spent on the great progress that is being made on the East Coast, that we sometimes forget to acknowledge the truly historic changes that are transforming the country’s heartland.  As wise approach this Independence Day, those of us in the marijuana reform movement and legal cannabis industry have much to celebrate.  Roll fireworks, spark legal sparklers.

I grew up in the conservative Midwest dreaming of more.  Weaned on the music and poetry of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, rock & roll and marijuana sustained me during my formative years in the Indiana of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, Midwesterners had little hope that legalization would ever really come to our bible belt.  Hell, you couldn’t even buy beer on Sundays, or buy a lottery ticket in the Hoosier state.

As soon as I could, I fled the flatlands of Indiana– first for the Central African Republic as a Peace Corp volunteer, and later to the libertine coastal towns of New York City and Seattle. In New York, I learned the business of media and marketing. At Rolling Stone Magazine, and SPIN and AOL Time Warner, I received a first-class education on building pop culture brands and established a network of lifetime friends and colleagues.

Since Colorado and Washington first voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in late 2012, the legal cannabis market has grown from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion last year, according to industry estimates. That kind of velocity gets the attention of investors, many of whom focus on tech.

MJBA has provided a safe place for professionals in legal cannabis to build the industry and establish best practices.

In Seattle, I found my people in a culture of bountiful marijuana and progressive politics.  The Pacific Northwest was where the hippies washed up.  In the cool forests and high-tech valleys of the Puget Sound, I found a society that had socialized, if not yet fully legalized, the use of cannabis. The PNW was rich in cannabis culture, and with extensive plant expertise, and established community, but no real business infrastructure. With legalization, and the complexities of compliance that come with it, we established the Marijuana Business Association to meet the many needs of those early business pioneers. We were privileged to be able to help establish one of the first legal cannabis markets, and a build a very vibrant community of cannabis business professionals that has allowed us to take that knowledge and expertise across the country as new markets opened.

Now, five years after those first market places began, we have established legal cannabis communities on both Coasts, and even in the Midwest.  Public opinion is firmly on our side, and even Congress has come around – with several bills currently circulating with bi-partisan support that will further unravel the age of prohibition.  By every indication, the country is moving towards legalizing marijuana for both medical and commercial use. The Senate, led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, has passed the 2018 Farm Bill which includes Hemp farming provisions that De-schedule Hemp and allow American hemp farmers to take advantage of a booming global market (insert link). We are about to embark on the hemp century, and that portends great things for the Midwest.

What a great time then to steer the CannaFest Destiny Tour – the educational tour that Curved Papers and the MJBA have been on for the last two years – to Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

Curved Papers is a national sponsor of The Marijuana Business Association.

Curved Papers is a national sponsor of The Marijuana Business Association.

We began our trip in Michigan, the land of a thousand dispensaries.  Second largest medical cannabis market in the country — with more than 300,000 patients — Michiganders will vote on full legalization in November, and the local cannabis activists are feeling confident in success.

But for now, Michigan and the High Times Cannabis Cup was all about Medical Marijuana.  For starters, you had to be 18+, and possess a medical card to get in. We arrive at the racetrack in the pouring rain.  Navigating the muddy parking lot, we are greeted with long lines and quickly learn that there is a strict, if indecipherable, wristband hierarchy in play.  Super VIPs have replaced VIPs.  And If you ain’t Super VIP, you are only slightly above the great unwashed.  A strict canna-class system is in full evidence:  High Times hogs ride around on ATVs, vested security guards checks wristbands to ensure to unauthorized entrance into meager VIP – with its tubs of free Flynt Water Bottles water, a free t-shirt, and a place to get sit down and medicate – and slightly better Super VIP tented areas.

michael with mjba button

High Times Michigan was held at the Auto City Raceway in Clio, a former dirt track turned asphalt flea market for weed smokers, er I mean, patients.  The venue was packed, despite the rain, and the track was lined with every flavor of entrepreneurs eager to serve a hungry crowd. Corn dogs and infused coffee, dabs (called wax in Michigan), edibles and local flower, lots of flower were available in an endless circle of booths and trailers.  Just don’t look for alcohol.  Despite the permanent venue advertising that lined the track, there was no booze available at the track.  Instead, we found the nicest crowd you ever saw – a blissed out army of stoned zombies gathered together for a day of smoking marijuana and singing songs in the Midwest muck. We had a blast.

After two days in at the laidback track, we made our way southward to Cleveland, Ohio.  The vibe changed drastically once we crossed the border into the Buckeye State. Despite passing into law two years ago, medical marijuana remains legal, but unavailable.  Through corruption and incompetence, the state has hemmed, hawed and delayed the process so that the mandated September launch will be pushed back for who knows how long. As a result, the members of the cannabis community – advocates, educators, patients and healthcare professionals – are justifiably frustrated.

2018-Generic-Badge-RWBThis was the setting for the inaugural meetup of the MJBA Cleveland chapter.  Sponsored by MaryJane Staffing Agency and hosted at the offices of Meyers Roman, the event was attended by a small but passionate crowd of lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators and advocates, and covered in the Cannabis Business Times.

Attorney Steven Baden gave the attendees an overview of where the state stood with the rollout of its medical marijuana program (he expects delays to last until the first of the year), and MaryJane President Michelle Blank outlined the hundreds of new jobs and career opportunities for participants in Ohio’s legal cannabis system.  Entrepreneur Michael O’Malley shared his story of innovation, and opportunity for product marketers in the lucrative ancillary arena.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhQZhfvZATg]

Back to the beginning of my personal quest, Indiana is also the last frontier for legal cannabis. But even in Pence’s Indiana, there are rays of freedom breaking through.   The current Governor has signed the law legalizing CBD, and a few brave politicians are standing up for legalization.  At the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis, Grand Poohbah Bill Levin is awaiting a judge’s decision that could legalize Cannabis as a religious sacrament.

But for now, there is no cannabis in sight as the Cannafest Destiny Tour participated in the Church’s weekly Wednesday services.  Before the services, we receive a call to remind those of us from legal states that we cannot bring our weed onto church grounds.

But inside the classic Indiana Church building, a warm congregation (made even warmer as the air conditioning was on the fritz on the hot and humid Hoosier evening) welcomed us.  In addition to an inspiring sermon by Grand Poohbah Levin, we are treated to testimony from Indiana NORML Chairman Neil Smith, and members of the congregation. Curved Papers founder Michael O’Malley delivered an inspiring talk about the birth of a cannabis brand, and I was able to tell my personal story.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfGnKHeZpIM]
As we left Indiana, the congregants of the First Church of Cannabis are on pins and needles. (as we publish this, the Judge has pushed back the date to render her decision until July 9th).  Levin, ever the advocate for LOVE, told me that he is confident that history is on his side.

Stay tuned to these pages…

Cannafest Destiny Tour Stops At First Church Of Cannabis In Indy On June 13th, 2018

INDIANA: Marijuana Business Association (MJBA) Founder David Rheins and Curved Papers Founder Michael O’Malley will be featured speakers at the weekly services of the First Church of Cannabis, spreading education and encouragement to Indianapolis’ cannabis community on Wednesday, June 13th, as part of the midwestern leg of their “Cannafest Destiny” educational tour.

The two will participate in the weekly services of The First Church of Cannabis, led by Grand Poohbah Bill Levin.   Levin and the Church first made international news back in the spring of 2015, after the group sued then Governor Mike Pence, and the State of Indiana, over the right to use cannabis as a sacrament in church services. The suit argues that cannabis consumption is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a controversial law championed by Pence, that some have used as defense of discriminatory behavior against LGBTQ, Muslim, and other minority communities. That it could be used to protect cannabis would be ironic, given (now Vice President) Pence’s longstanding disapproval of marijuana use.

"Victory is having cannabis as our church sacrament."

“Victory is having cannabis as our church sacrament.”

It’s been a long, drawn out process, but after more than 3 years in the courts, a decision in the lawsuit will be announced by the end of June. “We are currently waiting for a verdict from our case,” Levin told MJ News Network. “The case ended on May 30th 2018, and the Judge has 30 days to render a verdict. We are obviously VERY OPTIMISTIC about the outcome.”

When asked if a victory meant that consumption of cannabis would be added to the weekly services, the Grand Poohbah assured us: “Yes. Victory is having cannabis as our church sacrament.”

And where will the sacrament, still illegal under Indiana state and federal law, come from? “We have church members in legal states who will gladly help us celebrate on this great day of religious freedom,” the Grand Poohbah assured us.

Levin and MJBA Founder David Rheins both grew up in Indianapolis and were colleagues and fellow pioneers in the independent music and publishing scene back in the 1980s.   “I’m thrilled to be back in my hometown,” said MJBA’s Rheins, “As a Hoosier who experienced first-hand the challenges facing those whose religious beliefs or lifestyle did not conform with the norm, it is an honor to be able to return with the good news that things are changing for the better. Federal Prohibition is ending, and legalization brings jobs, tax revenues and opportunity to Indiana.”

What does it mean to have the MJBA and Curved Papers address the congregation?   “I’m excited to see national businesses finally recognizing Indiana’s potential in the cannabis industry. It is an honor to welcome MJBA and Curved Papers here at The First Church of Cannabis,” Levin said.

Curved Papers supports the political activism of the cannabis community nationwide,” Michael O’Malley told MJNews. “Our Cannafest Destiny Tour with MJBA, and our licensing agreement with NORML contribute to the promotion of personal freedom and  the communication of accurate up-to-date information about the legalization movement. “

The Cannafest Destiny Tour first began in 2016, and has made stops in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.  The Midwestern leg of the tour will include stops in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

David Rheins Keynote Address At Indiana Cannabis Chat 1.0

The following is a transcript of MJBA Executive Director David Rheins’ keynote speech at Indiana Cannabis Chat 1.0, last week’s educational mixer held at the historic Antelope Club in downtown Indianapolis.  The event was produced put by the Indiana Libertarian Party of Marion County, and sponsored by Curved Papers.


Thank you, it is an honor to be able to address this historic first Indiana Cannabis Chat 1.0 event.

As Chris mentioned, my name is Dave Rheins. I am the founder and executive director of the Marijuana Business Association, or MJBA.  MJBA is a national trade organization serving the legal cannabis industry.  We represent hundreds of licensed cannabis businesses and the many professional services companies upon whom they rely.  We support grassroots communities in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and New York/New Jersey with plans to add more as new legal states like California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine come online.

We host professional networking meetups, educational panels, seminars and workshops, host job fairs and vendor fairs, and run several cannabis-related media sites, including MJHeadlineNews, Marijuana Channel One and the MJNewsNetwork.

I am a Hoosier, born and raised in Indiana.  I grew up in Indianapolis, graduated North Central and Indiana University, where I studied Journalism and English.

I spent my professional career at the intersection of popular culture, technology and commerce at places like Rolling Stone, SPIN and AOL Time Warner.  My work with the MJBA is a natural part of that continuum.  Pot Culture is Pop Culture.

MJBA was founded in 2012, before Colorado or Washington passed their historic voter initiatives legalizing adult personal use of cannabis, creating the first regulated pot marketplaces.

After 80 years of prohibition, our challenge was to create, from the ground up, a system of producing, processing and retailing a heretofore illicit product. Not only did we need to put in place the mechanisms of a whole new marketplace, we needed to reintegrate the underground cannabis industry and lifestyle into the mainstream economy.  Normalization is our greatest challenge.

Legalization came by way of voter initiative, not legislation. Meaning that the people and not the political parties heralded in this enormous societal change. In fact, no major politician supported Washington’s I-502 or Colorado’s Proposition 64. And when both passed, the state was mandated to create a system for regulating, taxing and supervising this nascent industry.  Every new legal state has had to create a system of commerce – and a regulatory schema that worked.  Each of the 8 legal states has its own idiosyncratic set of rules and regs, and within each state, counties and municipalities add their own layer of rules and taxes, or in some case opt out of legal pot altogether.  Your participation in the education and advocacy in your community is crucial.

The challenge has been enormous, made only more difficult due to the complexities of federal prohibition – which restricts the growth of the industry by inhibiting its access to those things it needs to grow: everything from simple banking and commercial capital, to medical research.  Legal cannabis businesses operate at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to taxation.  IRS Code Section 280-E restricts these state-regulated and legal businesses from deducting anything beyond simple COGS (Cost of Goods Sold), and the resultant high tax level making profitability elusive indeed.

Federally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act.  Federal prohibition has resulted in a crazy-quilted patchwork of state industries, no two alike, as every state government, and every community within these legal jurisdictions decide what legal cannabis will look like.  And it is here that there is the greatest opportunity for the entrepreneur and independent investor.

It is at the state and local level that decisions are being made as to what legal products will be available, how they are grown, tested for quality and safety, packaged, distributed, advertised, marketed, sold and taxed.  Decisions about potency, are being made by local participants in each community.  Early entrants are uniquely being given the opportunity to define the marketplace.  While our cannabis revolution is national, and indeed international in scope – the biggest opportunities are local.

 Indiana will have the opportunity to build the legal cannabis marketplace that works best for its citizenry.

Let’s level set the business opportunity.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, A total of 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs.  In addition, 17 states allow use of “low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)” products for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense. Those programs are not counted as comprehensive medical marijuana programs.

Indiana’s House Bill 1148 would legalize the use of cannabidiol for patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. The oil is derived from the cannabis plant but would be allowed to contain only up to .3 percent THC.

Eight states and the District of Columbia now have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use.

The legal cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in our economy. Tens of thousands of new licensed cannabis companies have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and generated hundreds of millions in new tax revenues.

According to New Frontier Data, legal consumer spending across North America grew 34 percent in 2016 to $6.7 billion and can be expected to grow at a 27 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years, to $22.6 billion in 2021

“While the uncertainty created by the mixed signals coming out of the Administration may cause a temporary dip in some valuations of cannabis companies and some more risk-averse institutional investors and multinational companies may continue to stay on the sidelines, it won’t impact the growth of the market much at all,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView Market Research. “No matter what the administration does, states will continue to issue cannabis licenses to a long line of applicants and licensed cannabis outlets will continue to have long lines of consumers ready to purchase this product from regulated establishments.”

More facts:

  • North Americans spent $56.1 billion on legal and illicit cannabis products in 2016, about half of the $105 billion they spent on beer. But only $6.7 billion of that was spent legally and 87 percent of that came from just five states and Canada;
  • Growth in legal cannabis sales has already eroded the illicit market. This erosion will greatly accelerate in 2018 with the arrival of legalized adult-use programs in North America’s two biggest markets, California and Canada. Meanwhile, the 20 states without legal cannabis programs contributed nothing to the accelerating erosion of the illicit market;
  • Voters in Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota passed medical cannabis initiatives in 2016.  This means that 63 percent of Americans can legally obtain cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation;
  • Voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine passed adult-use measures in 2016. This more than tripled the portion of Americans that will be able to purchase cannabis without a doctor’s recommendation in their home state to 21 percent; Compound annual growth rates above 50 percent since adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington drew significant new segments of the investment community into the legal cannabis industry in 2016, driving triple-digit gains in public stocks and double-digit gains in capital raised by operating companies and a growing group of cannabis-focused investment funds;

For Hoosier investors who want to capture some of the industry’s rapid financial growth, but aren’t able or don’t want to get involved with plant-touching firms that grow or sell cannabis and products still prohibited under federal law, lots of opportunities exist.   Here are some of my favorites:

    • Real Estate
    • Logistics/Distribution
    • Software
    • Security
    • Lighting
    • Soil
    • Hardware: big ag tech for growers, extraction machines for processors, and point of sale for retail; consumer products (vapes and accessories)
    • Nutrients and hydroponics
    • Testing, Labs & Quality control
    • Genetics
    • Packaging
    • Branding, Marketing and promotion
    • Business Intelligence
    • Professional services – Legal, Accounting, Business planning
    • Investment – penny stocks, equity and debt investment

Hemp is the most immediate opportunity for Hoosiers.

According to Vote Hemp approximately 9,650 acres of hemp crops were planted in 15 states during 2016 in the U.S., 30 universities conducted research on hemp cultivation, and 817 State hemp licenses were issued across the country. This hemp cultivation is legal in 32 states, which have lifted restrictions on hemp farming and may license farmers to grow hemp in accordance with Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, the Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research amendment.

Historically: Indiana has had a long and proud hemp history.  In 1930, it was the third largest crop grown in the state. And in 1940, there were six hemp processing plants in Indiana alone.

Hemp was grown widely until the 1970s Controlled Substances Act. 2 acres of hemp were cultivated in Indiana last year for research purposes.

Today:  Indiana Hemp Law   Year Passed: 2014 Summary: Senate Bill 357 authorizes state regulators to begin the process of licensing farmers to grow hemp commercially.The American Farm Bureau led by the Indiana Farm Bureau recently endorsed ending the federal prohibition on industrial hemp at its annual meeting in January.

Most recently, the US House of Representatives approved language in the federal Farm Bill to allow pilot studies specific to hemp cultivation to take place in states that have authorized them. Indiana’s farmers ought to be able to take advantage of this pending change in federal law.
Statute:
 Ind. Code § 15-15-13-7 (2014)

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Indiana’s first medical cannabis legislation in April. It legalizes cannabidiol or CBD – for the treatment of epilepsy.

How will Growing & Processing of CBD be governed in Indiana?

Kentucky grew more than 2500 acres of hemp last year, making it the second largest producer behind Colorado. The Hemp CBD representing $130 million in sales in 2016 with growth at a 53% AGR (Adjusted Growth Revenue).

CannaFest Destiny:

A recent editorial in the Indy Star from Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, whom I understand will be in this same hall tomorrow, acknowledges that legalization is sweeping the country and the unstoppable trend is headed this way.  Legalization is coming to Indiana, sooner than you think.

The question for you thought-leaders in the audience should be HOW to get in on the ground floor of this emerging market.  We suggest that you start by 1) Getting Informed 2) Getting Connected  3 )Activating attend conferences, organize more Cannabis Chats and join groups – political and business.


See related article: http://mjnewsnetwork.com/events/cannafest-destiny-tour-stops-at-first-church-of-cannabis-in-indy-on-june-13th-2018/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis’ Clarion Call To The Pot Faithful

By David Rheins

With a shock of spiky white hair and an ever-present smoldering cigar, Minister of Love Bill Levin sits relaxed in an overstuffed chair covered in animal print and ponders a post-prohibition America.  A perennial Libertarian candidate and one of the forces behind Re-Legalize Indiana, Bill is an unlikely figure to be challenging Republican Governor Mike Pence and the Hoosier State’s newly minted “Religious Freedom Act.”

 

A Portrait of the Poobah in Rolling Papers

A Portrait of the Poobah in Rolling Papers

But here he sits, regal beneath a steampunk portrait of him made entirely of rolling papers. The Grand Poobah of The First Church of Cannabis, Levin has brilliantly turned the red state’s Religious Freedom Act into a tool to challenge Indiana’s outdated cannabis laws.  And in doing so he has captured the hearts and minds of supporters from around the country, and around the globe, who have responded with massive outpouring of love, media attention and cash donations.

2015-05-30 17.44.10

The First Church of Cannabis is an undeniable success: barely 90 days old, and has attracted hundreds of new members, thousands of dollars of donations and nearly 35,000 Facebook followers from around the world to the cause. Last week the IRS affirmed the Church’s non-profit status, and Bill sees his movement as part of an unstoppable tide of reform washing across the country.

First Church of Cannabis

MJNewsNetwork traveled to Indianapolis to sit down with charismatic Minister of Love.  In an exclusive two-part interview, MJNN explores the Cannabis Church’s “New Deity Dozen” – twelve common sense principles for the modern Cannabiterian (#1 is “Don’t Be An Asshole”), his motivations for starting the church, and what exactly he expects to happen on July 1st when hundreds of congregants will BYOB – bring their own bud – to the first service.   Enjoy!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcXANy3CRcY&w=420&h=315]

 1) Don’t be an asshole. Treat everyone with Love as an equal.

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