The long-dormant Oakland landmark, Parkway Theater, was reopened as Ivy Hill, a cannabis retailer with plans to expand on the massive 16,000-square-foot building by adding what could be the first live music venue that allows onsite cannabis consumption.
“The Parkway is a true Oakland original, so we’ve created Ivy Hill Cannabis to be a uniquely local space too.” Ivy Hill co-owner Bill Koziol,said in a press release. “As well as restoring the theater, we’ve made a commitment to hiring local, offering a wide range of locally grown cannabis, and finding new ways of giving back to the community.”
Meanwhile in the Land of Lincoln, Marimed opened its fourth retail location under its Illinois Thrive retail brand in Metropolis this April. The 6,000-square-foot store is expected to be one of MariMed’s highest grossing retail locations as city officials claim it will be the only store allowed in Metropolis and the store is roughly three miles from the Kentucky border.
California’s MedMen opened its first store in Miami this April. The new 4,263-square-foot medical dispensary is in the heart of Miami’s South Beach neighborhood and is only two blocks from the scenic Atlantic coast.
Downtown Boston received its first cannabis store with Ascend’s grand opening in April. The 16,000-square-foot Downtown Boston location is being hailed as a “cannabis supermarket” by press and is believed to be the largest cannabis retail store on the East Coast. The new location is the seventh Ascend store in the chain and the first of three Massachusetts location slated to open. It is the 17th retail location for parent company Ascend Wellness Holdings.
Michigan-based Gage Cannabis is still on a tear of retail openings as at the end of April the chain opened its eighth location in the state in Battle Creek. The company is licensed to open another five dispensaries in Michigan which will bring it to a grand total of 13 retail stores.
Fire and Flower, one of Canada’s largest retail chains added locations to its fold this May with the grand opening of two retail stores in Vancouver, Canada. The new additions bring Fire and Flower to a total of 17 retail locations in Canada and 87 across North America.
While one Southern state saw hopes of legalizing medical marijuana dashed, another saw the dream come to fruition.
Alabama became the latest state to legalize medical marijuana, signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey just days after neighboring Mississippi’s Supreme Court struck down that state’s law.
The law, which was sponsored by Republican state Senator Bill Melson, a former anesthesiologist and medical researcher, creates a new system of licensed cultivation, processing, testing and retail for the state. The law passed with large bipartisan approval and covers a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, seizures, depression and terminal illnesses.
It is a restrictive program, however, with all raw plant material and “any product administered by smoking, combustion or vaping” remaining illegal.
In a statement, Ivey thanked Melson and co-sponsor Rep. Mike Ball for their work on the issue.
“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” she said. “On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”
The new law mandates that rules for the state’s program must be in place for people to begin applying for licenses by September 1, 2022.
— Brian Beckley
The Mississippi Supreme Court in May struck a blow to advocates, patients and, some might argue, democracy, by invalidating a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana that received overwhelming support during the November 2020 election.
The Supreme Court invalidated Initiative 65 on a technicality, despite being approved by 74% of the voters. The case, which was brought by the mayor of Madison a few days before the November election, challenged the constitutionality of the state’s initiative process, resulting in the court throwing out the whole process.
The 6-3 decision found that the state’s initiative process, created in 1992, is outdated because it requires initiatives to get signatures from five congressional districts, but because of dwindling population, Mississippi has only had four districts since the 2000 census.
Conner Reeves, head of the cannabis practice at McLaughlin PC in Jackson, Mississippi, called the decision a “disappointment,” not only to patients but to businesses that had already taken steps and invested money in a program that was slated to launch in August.
“It is a technicality, but it would be naïve to say it didn’t have something to do with the substance of the initiative,” he said, noting that the measure won approval in all of Mississippi’s 82 counties. “It could not have been the intent of the Legislature when they put that in in 1992 to have a time bomb built into it that if we were even to change the number of congressional districts we would have, that would take away the right of the people.”
The Supreme Court determined that article 15, section 273(3) of the state’s constitution, addressing citizen-led ballot initiatives, was rendered “unworkable and inoperable on its face” by the reduction in Mississippi’s congressional representation.
“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress,” the court concluded.
The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association condemned the decision.
“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a blog post. “Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter.”
The ruling also calls into question a total of six pending initiatives. The status of two previously approved initiatives, including a voter ID law and a law limiting eminent domain, are unknown, though Reeves said it was unlikely those two measures would be invalidated.
Reeves said the ruling leaves the medical marijuana program in limbo. He thinks the Legislature should pass a bill creating a program like the one voters overwhelmingly approved (as well as the other approved initiatives now in limbo). Although the Legislature does not meet again until 2022, Reeves said the governor should call a special session to deal with this ruling.
“Our elected officials need to listen to what the citizens want and make this right,” Reeves said. “Obviously the people of Mississippi are ready for this.”
— Brian Beckley