1. Mass exodus prompts CDA to drop lawsuit over social equity licensing rules
The Commonwealth Dispensary Association of Massachusetts in late January formally withdrew its lawsuit challenging the Cannabis Control Commission policy of limiting the state’s new delivery licenses to social equity and economic empowerment applicants for the first three years. The lawsuit sparked an immediate outcry from advocates of a diverse cannabis industry.
The decision came after several CDA members, including Cultivate, In Good Health, Garden Remedies, NETA and Northeast Alternatives, left the organization in protest over the lawsuit.
“Since our inception, Northeast Alternatives has strongly supported social equity programs in the cannabis industry and has always behaved, and openly stood as a supporter of diversity, equity and inclusion,” the company said in a press release. “Since our inception, Northeast Alternatives has strongly supported social equity programs in the cannabis industry and has always behaved, and openly stood as a supporter of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association also publicly opposed the lawsuit after coming out in favor of the social equity regulations before the November election.
“We are pleased that this ill-intentioned lawsuit is being dropped,” said MassCBA president and CEO David O’Brien in a January press release. “We applaud the focused, tenacious and downright effective work of advocates to hold the emerging cannabis industry accountable.”
2. US Cannabis Employment Up, Industry Remains Predominantly White
The U.S. cannabis industry added more than 77,000 jobs in 2020, solidifying it as the fastest growing industry in the country by a considerable margin, according to the Leafly Jobs Report 2021.
Over the past four years, cannabis jobs have increased by 161% — shattering the expected 10-year growth of the fastest growing occupations tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs for wind turbine service technicians, the fastest growing occupation according to the federal government, are projected to increase 61% by 2029, while jobs for nurse practitioners are expected to grow by 52%.
In total, the legal cannabis industry now employs roughly 321,000 people across the United States, a 32% increase over 2019 and an average annual growth rate of 27.5% since 2017.
The report also states that the average purchase at retail was up 33% from 2019 to 2020, and overall sales, totaling $18.3 billion, were up 71%.
According to the report, the top 10 states in terms of cannabis employment are: California (57,970 jobs), Colorado (35,539), Florida (31,444), Arizona (20,728), Washington (19,873), Michigan (18,078), Oregon (17,981), Illinois (16,837), Oklahoma (16,759) and Pennsylvania (15,895).
California saw the largest increase in jobs over the past year (23,707), followed by Florida (14,891), Michigan (9,216) and Illinois (8,348).
Interestingly, Colorado and Washington, the two states that will be forever linked as the pioneers of the adult-use movement, saw drastically different results in job growth from 2019 to 2020. While Colorado’s cannabis job market continues to boom, adding an additional 4,338 jobs, Washington was last among the 10 states highlighted in the Leafly report with a dismal 524 jobs added.
While the success in 2020 keeps the cannabis industry as an outlier in a year where the country’s economy shrank by 3.5%, social equity still eludes the industry. The Leafly Jobs Report estimates there are somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 cannabis businesses in the United States, but only an estimated 1.2% to 1.7% of the business owners in the space are Black, according to Cannaclusive, a minority advocacy group cited in the report.
“The cannabis industry must show true commitment to equity as it expands, so the wealth generated by this new opportunity will uplift minority communities. If it cannot, we will continue to see these communities struggle in the shadow of white supremacy without a fair shot,” the report says.
Data for the report was compiled by journalists and data analysts at Leafly and labor economists at Whitney Economics.
3. Trulieve and Ancillary Businesses form new Sustainable Cannabis Coalition
Multi-state cannabis company Trulieve and a slew of ancillary cannabis businesses have banded together to form the Sustainable Cannabis Coalition (SCC) with the goal of promoting scalable and sustainable best practices for cannabis retailers, manufacturers and cultivators.
Consulting and tax firm CohnReznick, retail design firm Anderson Porter Design, track-and-trace software provider 365 Cannabis, greenhouse analytics platform Grow IQ, general contractor Valiant and automated control system manufacturer Argus Controls are among the 17 co-founding companies of the SCC.
The coalition plans to publish informative content online, such as blog posts and its bi-weekly podcast, that will address each segment of the cannabis industry.
“With investors across the industry incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance factors into the investment process, the creation of a coalition to address sustainability in this space is critical,” Grow IQ CEO and SCC co-founder Peter Dougherty said in a press release. “The SCC is uniquely poised to impact the industry as it continues to rapidly evolve. As leaders in this space, it is our responsibility to provide data-driven sustainability guidance to the industry while protecting both consumers and the environment.”
4. Marijuana Breathalyzer begins On-Site Tests
The long-promised THC breathalyzer is finally a reality.
Avetta, a supply chain risk management company, has partnered with drug-testing equipment manufacturer Hound Labs to offer the Hound Marijuana Breathalyzer to businesses working with Avetta.
The companies will be conducting on-site tests prior to the breathalyzer’s public release in the spring.
The Hound Marijuana Breathalyzer can reportedly measure the THC that remains in a person’s breath while they are impaired by cannabis. It is being marketed as a more accurate test than a blood sample, because it only flags people who are within the window of intoxication following cannabis use. According to Hound Labs, the device can determine if someone is under the influence of cannabis regardless of how it was consumed.
“The Hound Marijuana Breathalyzer provides Avetta member companies with a critical tool to help ensure their workplaces are safe without having to base employment decisions on positive tests for past marijuana use that may have legally occurred after work hours,” Hound Labs CEO and co-founder Mike Lynn said in a press release.
Hound Labs has been working on its marijuana breathalyzer for nearly six years. According to the company, laboratory and clinical trials with the University of California, San Francisco, have found that the device can find THC in a person’s breath up to three hours after consumption.
5. Washington Craft Cannabis Cup Winners Announced
The Washington Sungrowers Industry Association (WSIA) in January announced the winners of its first-ever Craft Cannabis Cup.
Designed to bring together and highlight the Evergreen State’s craft cannabis producers and processors, 27 brands submitted more than 100 entries in a total of 15 categories. Submissions were judged by 32 retail store owners, buyers, managers, budtenders, social media influencers and consumers. Any state-licensed company that self-identified itself as a “craft” cannabis producer was eligible.
“Washington truly does have the best cannabis in the country and it’s important that we preserve the smaller craft scale producers and processors we have,” WSIA executive director Crystal Oliver said. “We are very thankful to have seen such a great turnout for this year’s competition.”
– Best full-term sungrown flower: Rolexx from Eagle Trees
– Best light-dep sungrown flower: Sluricane from Lazy Bee Gardens
– Best indoor/greenhouse grown flower: Tropicana Cookies by GoodGood Garden
– Best CBD flower: Harlequin from Washington Bud Company
– Best infused joint: Diamond Tips from Gold Leaf Gardens/Polar Icetracts
– Best solvent-free rosin: Malibu Marsha from No Mids
– Best CBD cartridge: Remedy from Puffin Farm
– Best THC cartridge: Wedding Cake from Lazy Bee Gardens
– Best dab: Mochi Gelato from Lefties Cannabis Co.
– Best pre-roll: Smokes Lavender Kush from Raven
– Best topical: Solace from Green Revolution
– Best savory edible: Lori’s Roasted Garlic Potato Chips from Craft Elixirs
– Best sweet edible: Mixed Flavor Doozies from Green Revolution
– Best CBD edible: Sour Cherry Pioneer Squares from Craft Elixirs
– Best tincture: Finest Cannabis Tincture Beauty Sleep from Green Revolution
All proceeds raised from the Craft Cup go toward supporting the WSIA’s farmer-centric legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts.