The Wink In Weed: Lessons Learned At Seattle Hempfest

By David Rheins

I’m just back from another epic Seattle Hempfest.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful regions on the planet, and its volcanic mountains, vibrant cities and evergreen forests never cease to inspire wonder.  I cherish my PNW canna-family, and am humbled at how rich and meaningful have been our shared experiences, as we workers in weed have toiled to reform marijuana law, and establish a legal cannabis industry.

Jake The Professor and Don Skakie talk Washington Homegrow

Jake The Professor and Don Skakie talk Washington Homegrow

It is a treat to spend time with legends: Farmer Tom Lauerman, Jake The Professor, Grandma Cat Jeter, Kevin and Crystal Oliver, AC Braddock and Fritz Chess, David Tran, Vivian McPeak, Joy Beckerman, Nurse Heather Manus, Ah Warner and so many others.  This year we were honored to have USVI Senator Positive Nelson, who was traveling with a video crew from 420MEDIA,  visit with us.  I first met Terence, who is universally known as ‘Positive’, at a High Tea at Seattle’s Green Labs Farms a few years back, when as moderator I had the privilege of introducing the pro-pot and “positive living” politician to the cannabis community.  Look for great things from the Senator and USVI (pot tourism anyone?) soon.

The canna family gathers every year at Hempfest

The canna family gathers every year at Hempfest

Seattle Hempfest for me has always seemed like the ‘State Fair of Weed.’  Tens of thousands of people — of every age, shape and size — streaming through a labyrinth of vendor booths, food trucks and tents, smoking weed, hanging out and listening to advocates preach to the choir, and bands sing about “Mary Jane.”  This year was no different, a little smaller — a couple fewer stages due to lack of sponsorship support — and smokier, as a result of raging fires in Canada and Eastern Washington.

2018-08-19 14.44.11

Eden Labs’ Fritz Chess, Flower Girls Queen MJ, and MJBA Ambassador At Large Jake The Professor

At the Curved Papers/MJBA booth, and at a series of industry parties, I had the opportunity to reconnect to my industry friends and colleagues. What I heard was a consistent narrative: these are make or break times for Washington licensees.  Competition is fierce and getting fiercer.  Wholesale prices are brutally low for producers, and while sales remain strong at retail and gross revenues are high, profits are elusive and unfair taxes still eat up most of the profits.  For licensees the choice is straightforward: differentiate or die.

Much of our conversation revolved around the mainstreaming of cannabis — and the impact that the $4B USD investment that Constellation Brands just made with Canopy Growth would have on the mom & pops. The game has gone from grassroots to international overnight, and for the smaller players there is tremendous pressure to scale.  Undercapitalized businesses are putting their licenses up for sale, or looking for partnerships and mergers.

 

DOPE celebrated its 7th Anniversary with a “Golden Ticket” Party

Cannafest Destiny.  The West Coast is the fertile birthplace of the legal cannabis industry.  While NORML, established in 1970, can rightfully claim authorship of the political legalization and reform movement, the business — and more importantly the community — started in California, Oregon, Washington (and British Columbia).   The legitimate markets that we have created out West have blazed bright, sparks have now inspired entrepreneurs, activists, investors and politicians across the country — from Maine to Maryland, Michigan to Oklahoma. Our duty and opportunity is now to export the incredible experience and knowledge to these new emerging markets.

In a weird wrinkle of federal prohibition, Legal Cannabis has become international, before it has become a national industry!  Our neighbors to the north are rapidly ramping up their legal cannabis industry, and positioning themselves globally with distribution deals in emerging European, Caribbean and South American markets. Public Canadian companies are gobbling up American brands, and deals are now measured in the billions.

Jeremy MIller is organizing Viva Las Hempfest!

Jeremy Miller is organizing Viva Las Hempfest!

No where can we witness the mainstreaming of marijuana better than Las Vegas.  Neon billboards on strip.  24/7 retailers with drive thru.  Las Vegas, once upon a time among the harshest places in America to be caught with a seed or a stem (an infraction that could land you 20 years in the hoosegow) now actively planning the opening of consumption lounges and canna-friendly hotels.  No peace, love and tie dye hippie culture here.  Just the business of entertainment.  It is fitting then that the next stop for the Cannafest Destiny tour will be Las Vegas Hempfest on November 3&4th — Viva Las Hempfest! Hope to see you there!

The Wink In Weed: Why Seattle Hempfest Is Still Worth Supporting

By David Rheins

It’s been five years since Washington opened its legal cannabis marketplace, and today adult consumers in the Evergreen state have an abundance of high-quality, legal weed available in an impressive array of product configurations at affordable prices.

Seattle Hempfest, taking place this week along the gorgeous Puget Sound, is the nation’s oldest and largest “Protestival.”  It began as forum and platform for activists, patients and pot smokers to gather together to fight for their rights to toke in peace.  Back then, firing up a joint in public had real potential consequences — and could land you with a fine or even jail time.

My fellow Hempfest Volunteers in their Green T-Shirts

Hempfest Volunteers

Today, Washingtonians don’t have to go to the park to spark up. Pot smoking is legal, accepted and somewhat normalized in the Pacific Northwest. Leading some to ask what is the relevance of Seattle Hempfest?

While more of a party these days than a protestival, Seattle Hempfest is still a must-attend annual gathering of the cannabis tribes.  Our Green Revolution is a broad tent, with a diverse set of communities.  We are advocates, patients, farmers, business professionals, parents, teachers and caregivers, all united under the belief that Federal Prohibition, and the War on Drugs — and Drugs Users — must end. There is something powerful and undeniable about seeing a hundred thousand pot smokers gather together to celebrate community.

There is still much legal reform that needs to happen before cannabis consumption is fully normalized — and it is encouraging to see the momentum behind the STATES ACT and the Marijuana Justice Act as Congress has finally gotten the word that the American public — on both sides of the aisle — are through with prohibition.  The 2018 Farm Bill, with its Hemp Farming provision, will de-schedule industrial hemp and open the way for explosive growth in hemp-based products, including consumer goods, industrial materials, foods, fuels and medicines.

We are in a fight for the control of our legal cannabis industry.  Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Agriculture and Big Government Regulators are all fighting to establish their places in our new mainstream marijuana marketplace. We must continue to stay involved now as the new regulations and standards of our emerging industry are crafted. I see Hempfest as a natural venue for showcasing the best and most innovative hemp products. Cannabis consumer rights need to be protected to ensure that the legal products are safe, tested and of the highest quality. Legal cannabis businesses have an opportunity to build an industry based on the highest standards of production, marketing and operations.  We need to be fair and equitable in our hiring and compensation practices, and we need to direct the windfall of new marijuana tax revenues towards improving the health and welfare of local communities, particularly those hit hard from the War On Drugs.

CurvedPapersHempfest512x440As our alternative culture takes centerstage, it is important that we stand together for our shared values.  We are witnessing and influencing the end of an era. The post-WWII, better living thru petrochemicals, conspicuous consumption society is unsustainable — and is quickly being replaced by a global, plant-based lifestyle, renewable energy zeitgeist.

MJBA is proud to once again participate as a media sponsor and exhibitor of Seattle Hempfest.  We’re thrilled to be sharing a booth with Curved Papers, with whom we’ve been touring the country on a Cannafest Destiny Tour.  We’ll be showing off our NORML 100% Hemp rolling papers, and showcasing our latest poster by Michael Guttsen, and doing social media blasts with MJBA Ambassador At Large Jake Dimmock.  Please join us at Booth #323 across from the Hemposium.

Michael O'Malley, David Hynes Michael O'Malley David Rheins

It has never been more important to stand up and be counted.  Please come out to Myrtle Edwards park this weekend, listen to the speakers, dance to the music and support the many food and merchandise vendors.  Be sure to drop a few bucks in the donation bucket:  Seattle Hempfest is an all-volunteer effort, and it depends on the support of its Vendors, Sponsors and Attendees to survive.

 

 

The Wink In Weed: Back East We Are Winning The War

By David Rheins

I’m back from a week on the East Coast, part of an ongoing CannaFest Destiny Tour of education, professional community and business development that myself and Curved Papers founder Michael O’Malley have been on for the past eighteen months or more.  On this last leg, MJBA and Curved Papers made stops in New York City and Boston, hosting meetups, sitting down with cannabis industry influencers, investors as the legal canna-business shifts into overdrive.

A packed house full of business pioneers filled The Blinc Group for the MJBA  New York February MeetUp

A packed house full of business pioneers filled The Blinc Group for the MJBA New York February MeetUp

With sweeping views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York HQ of The Blinc Group was the site of the February MJBA NY MeetUp, a discussion of “The Business and Science of Vaporization.”  More than 70 industry pioneers – including representatives from CannaGather, HIghNY, Women Grow, NJCS — came out on a beautiful Monday evening to enjoy a presentation from The Blinc Group’s Arnaud Dumas de Rally, who video conference in from Berlin.

2018-02-26 19.37.44

MJBA NY members enjoy rooftop views of the Brooklyn Bridge

I was able to share with the room — packed with a mix of growers, manufacturers, investors and entrepreneurs – the realities of what legalization looks like out West.  I spoke about the amazing diversity of product innovation and retail experience available to legal cannabis consumers, and the challenges of a hyper competitive, over-regulated marketplace.  With New Jersey likely to open its adult-use market as early as this summer, the crowd in New York was electric.  The same excite that we saw in Colorado and Washington in 2012, and in Alaska and Oregon in 2014, was present here in 2018 New York City.  MJBA’s Stu Zakim gave a recap of last month’s successful NJ Cannabis Symposium, and invited MJBA members to enjoy a special discount on tickets on the next NJ Cannabis Symposium event on March 29th, The Finance and Investment Event.

MJBA Members enjoy special discounts at NJCS events

MJBA Members enjoy special discounts at NJCS events

On Wednesday and Thursday, MJBA Communications chief Zakim and I drove up to Boston for the Cannabis Market Strategies New England conference.  An intimate gathering, the event was designed to provide peer-to-peer dispensary and cultivator strategies to help participants master the business challenges of the region’s industry.

Distinguished Speaking Faculty included Michael Dundas, Sira Naturals; Jeffrey Finkle, ARC Angel Fund; Kris Krane, 4Front Ventures; Aimee Burke, Phylos Bioscience; Julia Germaine, Temescal Wellness MA; and Roz McCarthy, Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana.  Both Stu Zakim and I were honored to be featured speakers, representing MJBA. Tim Smale, Remedy ME, served as the master of ceremonies during the two-day conference.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p97Or96tR-s&w=560&h=315]

The folks at the conference are from Maine, and Vermont and Massachusetts.  The industry is still caregiver safe access points and medical marijuana dispensaries.  Cannabis here is a cottage industry, oftentimes described as the “grey market,” and it could be 10 years ago in Washington or Oregon.  The people who make things happen have come out to see what the future portends.  They exchange industry intelligence, swap business cards and sneak outside for a furtive hit with fellow industry colleagues.  “Is this legal here in Massachusetts?” asks one Maine farmer as he takes a toke and passes the dutchie to the left.

“We’re not supposed to be smoking in public,” answers a local.  “But the cops in Boston have better things to do with their time.”

 

 

The Wink In Weed: Why You Should Join Me At CCC PDX

By David Rheins

2018 will be a crucial year for the legal cannabis industry.  Five years after the first adult-use marijuana marketplaces opened in Colorado and Washington, our industry has grown large and gone mainstream.  Big and getting bigger, with the opening of the California and Nevada markets, Oregon is now part of a contiguous legal West Coast spanning from Canada to Mexico. CannaFest Destiny has never seemed more apparent, and competition never more fierce.

Legal cannabis production has never been higher, while wholesale prices have never been lower.  The harsh reality for an industry that is hyper-competitive, overtaxed and over-regulated, is that for most licensees profit margins have never been tighter.  Many mom and pops have already sold out, and many more are on that fence.  Add to this the recent saber rattling of drug-warrior-turned-Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, and it is easy to see that for many in the industry, 2018 has begun as a time of great uncertainty and anxiety.

CCCPDX issues an industry call to action

CCCPDX issues an industry call to action

As I wrote in my “Open Letter to Jeff Sessions,”  now is the time for industry leaders, businesses and supporters to stand united.  We must show that not only has our legal industry become a vital engine of reform and economic activity —  generating hundreds of millions in new tax revenues — but we have reinvigorated communities across the country by creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

The industry has arrived at a critical juncture in its evolution, and Oregon is on the front lines of the fight for an independent legal industry.  As the Cannabis Collaborative Conference’s Mary Lou Burton puts it, “The CCC has grown up with the industry in Oregon.  Now three years into full legalization, we no longer need to offer cannabis 101 education.  Now we are focused on education geared towards successfully and profitably operating in the current environment. ”

Differentiate: The commercialization and mainstreaming of the legal cannabis industry has put enormous pressure on licensees , who must focus on building brand equity and establishing effective marketing practices that will allow them to stand out from the competition.  I’m delighted to be moderating the marketing panel discussion at CCC this year, where along with canna-brand experts Stephen Gold, The Daily Leaf; Sean Lucas, NUG Digital Marketing; and Ryan Michael, KindTyme, we will discuss the top branding and marketing trends  that every canna-marketer must know. 

Activate: Congressman Earl Blumenauer will once again deliver a keynote speech at the conference. “This is a call to action.” he said in response to the Sessions announcement. “It’s time for anyone who cares about cannabis to mobilize to defend state marijuana laws.”

Burton added, “come together with fellow law abiding and tax paying professionals in the Cannabis Industry and unite!  CCC 4.0 provides the perfect opportunity to ban together and show the media and the world that we will not back down.”

REGISTER TODAY and receive $50 off (promo code: CCC50)

The Wink in Weed: How Redmond, Washington’s First Legal Pot Shop Will Forever Change The City That Bill Gates Built

By David Rheins

WASHINGTON: Redmond, Washington, is famously the home of Microsoft and Nintendo America, and less famously known as the Bicycle Capital of the World.  The affluent community is home to 60,000 residents, it’s quaint streets lined with upscale shopping choices providing a local population of techies and young families with all their daily needs: Starbucks Coffee, Hot Pot Donuts, Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, and now thanks to the opening of the town’s first legal pot shop — Always Greener Downtown – a fine selection of curated cannabis products.

Established by Redmond’s Jenny Carbon and Shauna Mindt, Always Greener Downtown is a gorgeous shop with natural woods and an organic design that feels more like a jewelry store than dispensary.  The new 502 store joins some 370 licensed marijuana retailers already operating in Washington State, but theirs is not just another pot shop opening.  Redmond is ground zero for Washington’s successful technology industry, and the town is home to many “Microsoft millionaires” and their compatriots who demand the best of mainstream American consumer culture.

20170202_162137

The inclusion of Always Greener Downtown – prominently located in the heart of Redmond’s shopping district — is a victory for cannabis normalization, and a testament to the tireless efforts of Jenny and Shauna and their many cannabis industry supporters who turned out to testify at the countless Redmond City Council Zoning board hearings. The seamless integration of a legal pot shop into the fabric of the community will forever change what it means to be a pot smoker in Redmond.

GrasshopperHub CEO Heidi Arsenault was customer #1 at opening of Always Greener Downtown

GrasshopperHub CEO Heidi Arsenault was customer #1 at opening of Always Greener Downtown

I sat down with Jenny Carbon, and asked her to reflect on the historic store opening.

Q: What does it feel like to be the first pot shop in Microsoft’s home town?

A: We love our local clientele, whether they be Microsofties, local small business or out-of-towners.  Our community has been underserved and unregulated for far too long and we are thrilled when we hear how happy people are that they no longer have to fight traffic to find their products.

Q: It took you 3 years after applying for your license to open your store.  Why was it so difficult?

A: Redmond had a moratorium, once that was lifted it was confirmed that there was NO retail zoning that fit the 1,000 ft. buffers. We had to file to amend the 2030 comprehensive plan to create zoning. We were put on a 18 month wait list, once our issue was heard it went to planning commission for months of discussion, then went to council for a public hearing. In the meantime, legislation passed that allowed for buffers to be reduced and council approved 100ft buffers from parks and playgrounds, which we have a plethora of in Redmond.

Q: Tell us about the store decor, and why you decided to spend so much money on natural materials and reclaimed woods.

A: Choosing materials that are eco-friendly and sustainable just takes a bit more intention, the cost was not much different than most other products out there, but choices are not as readily available, so we had to take the time to source the products. We felt that any way we could help to reduce our carbon footprint was worthwhile. We know that matters to Redmond and wanted to bring our “Always Greener” concept full circle.

Q: What kind of cannabis products will you carry?

A: We carry flower, concentrates and edibles. We have some paraphernalia in house but plan to expand our collection as we grow.

Q: Next to your 502 shop, you will soon be opening Always Greener Mercantile.   What are your plans for that space?

A: AG Mercantile will be a place to showcase our branded eco-friendly apparel line, as well as support our local merchants and artists. We will feature cannabis related products as well as other novelties and non-psychoactive forms of cannabis such as HEMP and CBD products.

Q: The artistic work of Michael Guttsen is featured in the space now.  Who is he and what is his relevance?

A: Michael Guttsen is an artistic genius. He was someone who understood our vision early on and brought what we were thinking and feeling to life through our brand expression. He has done a plethora of work over the years, in many media forms and perceives the world through a larger lens than I could ever imagine. We have danced to a similar drumbeat which has enabled us to develop a kinship and synergy the easily allows for visual creations to appear. He is our muse, and we are forever grateful.

Q: The town of Redmond is abuzz with excitement for a weekend-long grand opening celebration, complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring local politicians, luminaries and industry VIPs. Can you share with us the schedule of festivities?

A: The Grand Opening Celebration begins at “High Noon” on Friday, March 3rd, 2017. 

Highlights include:

Friday

12:00

  • Joy Beckerman presents us with true hemp cord for our cutting ceremony.
  • City officials, OneRedmond, as well as Redmond Reporter will join us for the cutting followed by cakes by Lisa Dupar catering (owner of Pomegrate Bistro, a Redmond favorite).

12:00-3:00

  • Hans Brehmer (jazz pianist) with guest Bassist & our very own Shauna Mindt accompanying them on tap!

Vendors:

12:00-3:00

  • Green Barn Farms

3:00-6:00

  • Washington Bud Co

6:00-9:00

  • Dynamic Harvest
  • Galaxy Donuts (and more!) 3-6pm

Saturday

12:00-5:00

  • Peach and the Pig Food Truck- Incredible pork sandwiches
  • Hans Brehmer (jazz pianist) with guest Bassist

4:00-6:00

  • Joe Duce of Trainwreck for some good old Grateful dead and classic rock

Vendors:

12:00-3:00

  • Mother Earth Farms

3:00-6:00

  • Hemp Zen
  • Ionic

6:00-9:00

  • Bad Ass Grass

Sunday

12:00-2:00

  • African drumming with Alex and friends
  • Espresso cart
  • Top Pot Donuts

Vendors:

10:00-1:00

  • Bondi Farms

1:00-3:00

  • Willie’s Reserve

 

The Wink In Weed: Woodstock Nation Goes to Pot

By David Rheins

It’s early for a Saturday in Seattle, but I’m German and so I am the first to arrive. Entering the swanky lobby of the downtown boutique hotel, the vibe is New York City chic, appropriate enough for my introduction to New Yorker Michael Lang – the once and still cherubic face behind Woodstock.

Michael is making the rounds of the cannabis business community, looking for partners for Woodstock-branded weed, and a mutual friend has arranged for us to have coffee.  It is our first meeting, and I’m happy to speak with a generational icon.  What I notice first is his smile – still boyish despite 72 years as a celebrity rock promoter – followed quickly by his still impressive head of hair.  I am reminded of the famous photos, Lang on stage, or riding his BSA Victor motorcycle.

Michael on his BSA

While I’m too young to have partied in the mud at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, the album, the Warner Brothers concert film, and the iconic photographs of the event were deeply influential to me growing up, and I tell him so.  There is no brand that resonates more solidly with baby boomers than Woodstock.

Unlike the appeal of Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson and Tommy Chong – the Holy Trinity of stoner celebrity cannabis brands –Woodstock’s cache transcends mere pot celebrity. Not just an historical festival featuring all the hippie heavyweights, Woodstock was the first gathering of the rainbow nation. An “Aquarian Exposition,” a happening, and a coming-out party for America’s disenfranchised long hairs, who came together from all corners of the country to let their freak flags fly during 3 days of peace, music & pot smoke.

Woodstock branded weed is a no brainer – it is hard to imagine a brand with a more canna-friendly image, and initial consumer demand is likely to be high, particularly with the hoopla surrounding the planned 50th anniversary concert in 2019.

I was part of the 1994 Woodstock II celebration.  Spin magazine, where I served as associate publisher, was media sponsor, and we rented a large house next to the festival grounds.  We used our sponsorship as an occasion to demonstrate to our advertising partners the power of music and youth culture.  Woodstock was nostalgic even in 1994, and its mystique had less to do with the music of Jimi Hendrix and Country Joe than it did with the power of community. That experience transcends generations.  The masses of Generation X celebrants, covered in mud, crowd surfing and smoking pot to Metallica we felt the same spirit of tribal communion as the 1969 crowd did, and the photographs of both are almost indistinguishable.

woodstock1994

The Woodstock Nation is now in its 70s, and the quaint marijuana of the 1960s has grown up into a sophisticated consumer marketplace. Today’s cannabis comes in all shapes and sizes, flavors and forms.  Competing with a super market full of canna brands for shelf space and consumer mind share won’t be easy – even for an iconic brand.

Woodstock will likely feature old school strains, and Lang is leaning toward classic 60s strains like Panama Red and Acapulco Gold.  His task now is to find local farmers in each market whose product can live up to expectations for such a legendary brand. To succeed he must create consistent experience worthy of such a pedigreed name, a challenge made more difficult as each state will have its own growers, who’ll operate under unique rules and standards.

Uneven production can quickly diminish the value of an entire franchise.  Other licensees have seen that when you rely on third party producers, product quality and potency can be inconsistent from crop to crop, batch to batch, and certainly state to state.

Now more than ever, the key to success for cannabis producers and processors lies in brand differentiation, a topic I’ll be discussing at CannaCon on Friday, February 17th at 10am. We’ll be examining Marijuana Marketing, and how pot culture is quickly becoming pop culture.

The Wink in Weed: The Sock Puppet of Pot

By David Rheins

“We lose a little on every sale, but make it up in volume.” The famous failed business strategy harkens back to the heady dot.com days when star-struck venture capitalists backed wild-eyed technologists at crazy valuations, betting on low-revenue/no-revenue ventures to capture valuable “market share” in the emerging digital economy.

Back then the goal for tech startups was to ‘Go IPO’ – take their companies public through an initial stock offering. Fancy suits, slick decks in hand, young tech entrepreneurs made schmoozing the Angels and Venture Capitalists their priority. Real products and actual profits would come eventually; but building mind share was more important than market share, and so these dotcoms raised enormous amounts of capital, which they quickly invested on flashy Super Bowl ads, groovy offices and over-the-top industry parties.

Perhaps the best known example of this failed approach is Pets.com, an online pet store famous for its ubiquitous sock-puppet mascot.  Raising $300 million, the company spent lavishly on high profile marketing efforts in an effort to build excitement around its initial stock offering.  The stock debuted in February 2000 at $11 a share, peaked at $14, and then quickly sank to less than $1. The whole wild ride was over in less than one year. Three hundred employees lost their gigs, and as many millions evaporated when Pets.com folded in November 2000.

Amazon, Google, Facebook. For every internet success story, there were tens of thousands of failures, some spectacular in the enormity of their disaster.  Billions of dollars were created and evaporated in the mismanagement of once-huge brands like Netscape, MySpace, AltaVista, Excite and AOL. Just this week, Yahoo gave up the ghost and was sold to Verizon for less than $5B, a loss of more than $100 Billion in value from its once lofty portal peak.

In today’s Green Rush, thousands of companies are being created and hundreds of thousands of workers of weed have signed up for their piece of legal cannabis. This November, a handful of new fully-legal states are expected to come online, including the huge California and Nevada markets. Our $5.4 Billion legal market is expected to quadruple in the next 5 years.

So, are we in the process of creating another bubble? Is the high-flying Pot Boom on a path to suffer the same burst as its dotcom predecessor?  And if we are doomed to repeat our past failures, who will we point to as the Sock Puppet of Pot?

While there are sure to be some dramatic flops, some key differences between the two markets suggests that the Pets.com scenario is unlikely to be repeated in our budding marketplace. First, while the legal cannabis industry is the fastest growing segment of our economy, it is not for the most part being fueled by over-exuberant VCs.  While ArcView and a couple of other funds are playing a small role, for most cannabis entrepreneurs, capital remains expensive and hard to find. Federal Prohibition has made commercial credit from banks unavailable, and Venture Capital cautious, and as a result so-called Friends and Family and other Angels are funding this grass-roots revolution.

Second, there are no public markets to wildly inflate company valuations. Beyond the dubious OTC markets, Wall Street is not yet playing the weed game, and won’t until there is a change in federal scheduling or regulations.

Most importantly, the cannabis industry is creating real products and generating real revenues and profits.  While the world only needs one or two search engines, it can absorb hundreds of cannabis brands.  Consumer demand for legal cannabis in its many forms is strong, and getting stronger, driven by product innovation in new categories like Cannabis Health and Beauty Aids (CHABA), edibles and concentrates, not to mention the explosive growth predicted in medical cannabis and industrial hemp.

So don’t look for any Pot Puppet ads on the Super Bowl anytime soon. Pot is not pixels, and decades of prohibition have created enormous pent up demand. That is not to say that there will not be some spectacular losers. Competition is fierce, and getting more cut-throat, as wholesale and retail price per gram shrinks, and more well-funded entities enter the marketplace. Look for marketing budgets to significantly increase as the battle for brand awareness and loyalty take center stage in the next act of our grand experiment.

The Wink In Weed: Fired Up On The Fourth of July

Why I care about the 4th of July holiday, and you should too.

By David Rheins 

July 4th for me has always been Independence Day. The most quintessential of our national patriotic sentiments, Independence is at the core of what it means for me to be an American.  This weekend I’m celebrating Freedom, Independence and Cannabis.

I started smoking marijuana back in the 1970s, and have been a regular consumer ever since. Cannabis use for me has always been about freeing my mind, allowing the anxiety and rigidity of social conformity to fall away, and the expansive and magical possibility of the natural world to open up. Marijuana has been integral to my Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.

Despite otherwise being an upstanding, productive member of society, for most of my life my pot smoking made me a criminal. Every bag of weed that I bought from a buddy, every joint I toked with friends was a criminal act, and made me an outlaw in the eyes of my government. Every time that I freed my mind, I risked losing my livelihood and my liberty.

The war on drugs – really a war on marijuana users – has always been a political war meant to quell independent thought and political freedom. Pot smokers were the targets of discrimination and prosecution because we questioned authority. We challenged the status quo – about the war, civil rights, sexual expression and consumer culture. We turned on, tuned in and dropped out of the system, and the powers-that-be declared a war on us — a war that is still waging to this day to devastating effect.

According to the ACLU, over half of all drug arrests in the United States are for marijuana.  There were 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% for simple pot possession, with Blacks 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested.

As a society we’re ready to end the federal prohibition of cannabis. Citizens in four states have already voted for legalization of the adult use of marijuana. Polls consistently confirm that a solid majority of Americans support a full legalization of marijuana. This November, citizens in 8 states, including Arizona, Florida, Maine, Nevada, Michigan and California, will get the chance to vote on cannabis legalization. We, the people, can and are making a difference with our votes.

As the fastest growing industry in the country, Legal Cannabis has been an engine for creating jobs, reinvigorating local communities and filling government tax coffers. Legalization has provided economic independence for tens of thousands of Americans, not just for the hundreds of new licensed growers, processors and retailers, but also for the many ancillary businesses that support them.

With economic power comes independence and normalization. As the legal cannabis industry generates tax dollars, we also amass political currency and power. Local, State and even Federal Politicians are beginning to appreciate that cannabis companies represent jobs, votes, taxes and political donations. We also represent significant intellectual capital – and state and local governments and regulators are turning to the cannabis industry subject matter experts to aid them in crafting the legislation and regulations that will shape our new, post-prohibition future.

On this July 4th, I celebrate the freedom that I enjoy as an adult living in Washington State to purchase and consume cannabis legally, and I commit to doing everything that I can to see that this right is extended to all Americans.

Wink-In-Weed: Cannabis Collaboration, Fun and Games

By David Rheins

This week’s column is dedicated to the importance of collaboration, fun and games in the cannabis industry.  Now for me, marijuana has always been experiential –  a mind expanding, humor producing, cosmic giggling good time. Long before it was medicine or big business, pot was fun.  Our cannabis counter-culture has morphed into legal industry, and our local community is evolving into broader coalitions: disparate factions all working together towards a common goal of raising the awareness and acceptance of the political, medical and commercial possibilities that the end of prohibition brings.

Moderating the ancillary businesses panel at CCC

Moderating the ancillary businesses panel at CCC

At canna-gatherings great and small, collaboration is taking center stage. So much so that CCC (formerly Cannabis Creative Conference) changed the name of last week’s trade show in Portland to ‘Cannabis Collaborative Conference.”  There,  at the Portland Expo Center, straight-laced regulators from the OLCC joined former-NBA basketball stars turned pot-entrepreneurs, wonky economists and well-heeled canna-technologists in emphasizing the possibilities that are possible for the new industry if we can only learn to work together cooperatively.

NBA Star Cliff Robinson, aka "Uncle Spliffy" delivers keynote at CCC 2016 in Portland, February 4, 2016.

NBA Star Cliff Robinson, aka “Uncle Spliffy” delivers keynote at CCC 2016 in Portland, February 4, 2016.

Working and playing together. Participating at cannabis industry events — as speaker, panelist, exhibitor or attendee —  while certainly not all ‘fun and games’, does mean being a part of a small, tight-knit collegial community.  One tends to see a lot of the same faces on the cannabis trade show circuit.  As a rule, most of us truly like being with each other, commonly greet each other with hugs and kisses, and frequently sneak off together to share a toke and a smile.

Farmer Tom Lauerman and friends

Farmer Tom Lauerman and friends

Cannabis is a community sacrament that leads to shared activities. Cannabis is a business and social lubricant, and an enhancement to our favorite activities. Forget Coca-Cola, things go better with cannabis: nature, sports, sex, music, video, and games.

Speaking of fun and games, imagine my delight when I arrived back in Seattle to find two separate packages on my doorstop: both cannabis games!   Now that pot is legal to purchase and consume for adults in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and DC, a consumer demand is quickly developing for “things to enjoy while legally high.”  One new product seeking to fill that need is ‘Cannabis The Card Game’, from Weed Games. Cannabis TCG is a fill-in-the blank Q&A card game designed to be fun and educational.   “After consuming Cannabis, lab mice are known to begin______.”  teases one card.

Now that pot is legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and DC, a burgeoning cannabis consumer demand is developing for things to enjoy while legally high!

Now that pot is legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and DC, a burgeoning cannabis consumer demand is developing for things to enjoy while legally high!

To play ‘Cannabis The Card Game’, you’ll need your own legal cannabis, rolling papers (included with the game)/ blunt wraps, a bong/pipe or vaporizer, munchies, a grinder or all of the above!  Add paper and pen if you are attempting to keep score (completely unnecessary).

In a separate package I uncover another addition to the canna-games category, ‘Roll a Bong’, a board game dedicated to the community of marijuana smokers, who enjoy smoking while playing board games.  Billed as a “rolling and smoking game for the whole joint,” all players are encourage to contribute weed to the “Community Dish” at the start of the game.

‘Roll a Bong’, a board game dedicated to the community of marijuana smokers, who enjoy smoking while playing board games.

‘Roll a Bong’, a board game dedicated to the community of marijuana smokers, who enjoy smoking while playing board games.

Things to do in Oregon when you’re stoned: Both of these pot-smoker games would find an ideal home at Portland’s NW Cannabis Club, which I had the pleasure of visiting last Tuesday before the CCC show.  The members-only private club offers daily, monthly and annual memberships (beginning at $10/visit). Membership entitles you access to the expansive club room, the dab bar, where you are welcome to use their dab rigs, and a very cool landscaped outdoor patio area, complete with fire pit and local art installations.

The members-only private club offers daily, monthly and annual memberships (beginning at $10/visit).

The members-only private club offers daily, monthly and annual memberships (beginning at $10/visit).

MMJ activist Don Skakie has found a second home at the club, traveling regularly from his home in Renton, Washington since most of his local mmj farmer’s markets have shut down.  He summed it up his love of community for me while we were enjoying the crisp February night air, “Some people collect antiques, but for me this is a hobby. Whenever I can, I like to get together with my cannabis family and just hang out.”