Massachusetts Becomes the First East Coast State with Legal Marijuana Shops

Though Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, the state saw its first two legal marijuana shops open on November 19th, 2018. The state first voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012, earlier than most states and realized the opportunity that recreational marijuana provided 4 years after. Two United States military veterans received the honor of being the first customers to initiate the new, cannabis friendly, era in Massachusetts. Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, MA, and New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Northampton, MA were the two stores to kick off the new era in the state.

One of the military veterans, David Narkewicz, is also the current mayor of Northampton. As a former member of the US Air Force, Narkewicz did not purchase an item for his own personal use, yet rather for conservation purposes of a symbolic day. Purchasing a cannabis-infused chocolate bar, Narkewicz received a large amount of cheers as he ushered in a new Massachusetts.

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David Narkewicz (right), Northampton Mayor, made the first purchase at NETA, kicking off a new industry in Massachusetts. Arnon Vered (left) is the co-founder of NETA.

Narkewicz is setting a great example for many other politicians, as he has encouraged the growth of the industry, while not compromising his own values. Supposedly he does not plan to indulge the cannabis chocolate bar, but even if he did, I don’t think any of his constituents would be too upset. After a round of applause, Narkewicz spoke to the public and stated,

“I’m proud that Northampton is playing a role in this historic day ending some 80 years of prohibition here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts and moving into a new modern era where we have safe, tested, well-regulated adult use of marijuana and cannabis,” – David Narkewicz, Northampton Mayor, 2018

At the the other shop that opened on November 19th, Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, Stephen Mandile made the first purchase. As a US Army veteran who served in Iraq, Mandile has also been a long-time medical marijuana advocate. Not only was he thrilled to be able to be the first customer, yet he was just as excited that veterans were able to take part in such a historic day. After the purchase, Mandile stated that,

“I get to make history. It means a lot, and I never expected this would be the outcome of my advocacy — I was just trying to go about helping people. I’m pumped to break the stigma and the weird, scary aura people want to put around cannabis.” – Stephen Mandile, US Army Veteran, 2018

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Photo of Stephen Mandile (right), US Army Veteran who made the 1st purchase at Cultivate Holdings in Leicester, MA.

If you do not think that the people of Massachusetts were excited, just look at the turnout. The Leicester Police Chiefe, Jim Hurley, was surprised himself at the turnout. Originally they were expecting anywhere between 600 to 1000 people on the first day at Cultivate Holdings, but the amount of people they saw was easily more than that. According to Hurley, there were probably 300 people in line outside when he left at just 1:30 PM.

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Even on a cold Massachusetts afternoon, the line at Cultivate Holdings on opening day was wrapped around the facility.

Although the state used other states that have legalized recreational marijuana as a blueprint, Massachusetts still employed its own laws. Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission knows that the state has benefited from others as an example, but knows no process is the exact same.

“So you can’t just lift and shift from other states, but we certainly can learn lessons about things that they’ve done that worked well and things that they wish they could have done differently,” – Steven Hoffman, Chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, 2018

Massachusetts laws allow shops to sell up to one ounce of flower or five grams of concentrate in a single purchase. Public consumption and driving under the influence of marijuana are still illegal in the state. A huge difference in Massachusetts legalization, was their emphasis on diversity, a concept that other states should follow suit. Hoffman stated that MA laws stand alone,

“…not just in terms of employment in the industry but in terms of equity ownership.” That also includes a requirement to “help those communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the previous war on drugs to make sure they’re full participants, – Steven Hoffman, Chairman of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, 2018

This emphasis on not just employment, but ownership is something that I hope will carry on to other states. Many of my people, being a young African American, have been subject to the legal system and jail time over a substance that is now being sold for recreational use. Minorities should not be left out of this industry, and people like Steven Hoffman are making strides to make sure of that. I commend Hoffman for his efforts, and hope to see changes in the trend elsewhere as well.

Article: Massachusetts Makes History as First Legal Marijuana Shops on East Coast Open Tuesday

Cannabis College Program at Niagara College

I have always believed that education should be a direct reflection of society and its development, rather than be based solely off of what we already know. While history is important for individuals to learn, education should always be looking to the future as to foster innovation. As countries begin to change their personal and legal interpretations of cannabis use, the education systems provided should also begin to grow. Of course, our Canadian neighbors are leading the way since their decision to nationally legalize cannabis, as the first cannabis college program was opened not to long after.

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Photo of Frank Campion, Mayor of Welland, and Dan Patterson, Niagra College President, holding up new street signs for the campus.

Niagra College Canada became the first post-secondary certificate program in the production of commercial cannabis when it opened in November 2018. Still in it’s beginnin gphases, the program only accepts 24 students, 3 times a year. Bill MacDonald, the Coordinator of the Commercial Cannabis Production Program, understood the importance of creating a real curriculum focused around the production of cannabis. MacDonald was a coordinator the greenhouse technician program at Niagra College originally, until he began consulting in the cannabis industry. With his new knowledge of the rapidly growing industry, MacDonald knew that the trends in cannabis would transform the greenhouse industry in total.

” {We] saw how much it was transforming the greenhouse industry and approached the college and said, hey, we need to do a program because this is transforming the whole greenhouse industry, growing industry, and a lot of licensed producers were coming to me saying, ‘ we need qualified growers. We don’t have enough experienced talented people,” – Bill MacDonald, Coordinator of the Commercial Cannabis Production Program, 2018

MacDonald makes an amazing point. As industries emerge, education ALWAYS follows. Take for example the technology industry. At one point in time, there was no fundamental curriculum for educating the youth about how to use technology, let alone develop it. Now, these types of programs are even offered at the grade school level. Not to say that Commercial Cannabis Production Programs will be offered to minors, however, I do believe that for those who are generally interested there should be a tangible education for them to attain.

Once college leadership was on board, MacDonald was able to build the program from scratch. There is no program for the school to follow being the first of its kind, therefore it is still in its developmental stages. To even be considered for the graduate program, a student must have a degree in a related field such as Agricultural of Plant Sciences.

What is funny about the article posted on 2 On Your Side is the reactions that many of the students family members had once hearing about the program. Opposed to before, in the current climate, cannabis production must be looked at as a profession, not just a hobby. Two of the first Canadians accepted into the Commercial Cannabis Production Program at Niagara College detail how their loved ones have grown to understand that what they are studying is a viable profession.

“Older people are like wow congratulations, it’s a growing industry. Then the younger people, you know, give me props and they’re like nice, you’re growing weed in school,” – Carson Otto, Commercial Cannabis Production Graduate Certificate Program at Niagara College, 2018

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Photo of a cannabis lab at the Commercial Cannabis Production Program at Niagara College

There is no doubt that as legalization sweeps through the United States, colleges and universities will begin to follow the lead of Niagara College. To build a successful industry, individuals need to be educated, and Niagara College is on the forefront of developing the next trends in the Cannabis Cultivation space.

“Like even my grandma’s going around telling people, hey, my grandson, he’s growing pot at school. So, it’s pretty awesome to see that and get that reaction from people,” – Denzil Rose, Commercial Cannabis Production Graduate Certificate Program at Niagara College, 2018

Article: Exploring Canada’s First Cannabis College Program

Women Changing the Face of the Cannabis Industry

As the cannabis industry continues to grow in the United States and around the world, the perceptions of cannabis use is continually evolving as well. Society can no longer label individuals that use cannabis products as “potheads” or “stoners” because those titles simply do not fit in the industry in 2018. With more understanding, education, and communication, we now know that cannabis does not only serve as a substance that caters to those that are lazy or lack ambition. We now know that productive members of society, such as doctors, chefs, and even writers alike use cannabis as a daily piece of their lives, and it does not hinder their productivity.

Realistically, the look of marijuana has changed and in my opinion, has changed for the better. One of the largest benefactors of this change has been women, as the changes in perception have allowed it to be specifically more acceptable for women in the greater eye of society. Prior to changes in regulation, women using marijuana were often considered “unladylike” or inappropriate, which was simply unfair. Based off an article posted in The Guardian by Candice Pires, we will highlight two women who have turned their love for cannabis into viable jobs, while never compromising their professional image. Continue reading “Women Changing the Face of the Cannabis Industry”

The Merging of the Alcohol and Cannabis Industries

With regulations on cannabis beginning to loosen at a rapid rates in the world, and the United States alike, it is apparent that everyone will be trying to get a piece of the pie. Although an individual would think that companies involved in alcohol production would be opposed to the increase of support for cannabis related products, we have found that many of them have already begun to capitalize on the trend. While many alcoholic beverage companies have begun to explore the possibilities of marijuana-infused beverages as well, other companies have taken their investments even further. Constellation Brands $4 Billion investment into Canopy Growth Corporation serves as a monumental indication of what is to come between these two spaces, and how they will coexist in a leveled playing field.

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Official logo for Canopy Growth Corporation (TSX: WEED and NYSE: CGC. As of November 19th, 2018, the company’s stock sells for nearly $33 a share.

Prior to the era of legalization, alcohol companies had little to worry about when it came to marijuana. They naturally owned the competitive advantage over cannabis related companies due to one fact:

Alcohol has been legal in the majority of the world for years. Cannabis is just now recently nationally legal in a few countries; yet that wont last long. 

The alcohol industry enjoyed this exclusivity over cannabis, yet now it does not own the same luxury. Though alcohol has proven to temporarily impair individuals and also cause long-term health effects when consumed improperly, it has enjoyed nationwide legalization regardless. By being a legal entity, it has reaped the benefits of a much more relaxed perception and connotation, even though it’s record of destruction has been recorded along the way. In today’s age, however, cannabis is now creeping into the same space. Companies such as Constellation Brands have already made the conscious decision that rather than try to delay what is inevitable, they will invest in the development of the cannabis industry.

For background information, Constellation Brands is one of the leading international producers and marketers of beer, wine, and spirits. Ranked as the number 3 beer company in the United States, Constellation is the host brand for many iconic beers including Corona, Corona Light, Modelo Especial and Pacifico. Under its premium spirits brands, the company supports SVEDKA Vodka, Casa Noble Tequila, and High West Whiskey. On the other hand, Growth Corporation was one of the early distributors in the Canadian and international marijuana market, which has in turn allowed it to become the largest player in the game. The company is not solely interested in providing consistent access to high quality cannabis products, but is just as invested in educating healthcare professionals and conducting clinical research about cannabis.

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Image depicting the iconic beer brands under host company, Constellation Brands.

Constellation Brands investment gives them a 38% share in Canopy Growth Corp., while also giving them further warrants that could take the stake to over 50% in the near future. The investment will help Canopy solidify its position as an industry leader and gives them the funds to build or acquire new assets. While more than 30 countries, including Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Germany, and South Africa, begin to purse medical cannabis programs, the $4 billion investment will help Canopy to serve those markets. According to Forbes, the money will also help for the company to be more invested in the cannabis edible space. Forbes states that,

“For example, in Colorado, the share of edibles and concentrates went up from 11% and 13% at the beginning of 2014 to 15% and 29% by the end of 2017. Furthermore, in California and Oregon, their combined share exceeds 35%.” – Trefis Team, Great Speculations, 2018

The leading alcohol brand was determined to find a new influx of revenue, as it’s own industry has been suffering. According to Forbes, in US States where medical marijuana has been legalized, there has been a 15% drop in monthly alcohol sales. This figure can prove to be detrimental to the industry at large, but to Constellation in particular. It has already experienced falling revenues in the wine and spirits segments, and predicts a decline in the beer market and the US as well.

This trend will continue to grow as regulation continues to spread across the United States. What company do you think will follow next? Comment and let us know!

Article: What Constellation Brands’ Massive Investment In Canopy Growth Corp. Means For Both Companies