Hempfest to become Great Green Sweep for 2021, will return in 2022
With lingering concerns about large gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the team at Seattle’s Hempfest are switching their focus this year and using the event’s usual weekend to launch the Great Green Sweep, a volunteer-driven, citywide trash pickup.
The event will focus on plastics and will advocate for the cannabis industry, a major source of single-use plastics due to packaging regulations, to look to bioplastics, like those made from hemp, as an alternative.
According to Hempfest president Vivian McPeak, the idea came to him while doing a regular 28-block walk through his neighborhood. McPeak began carrying a bag with him, picking up litter.
“I was stunned by the amount of plastics, already breaking down, littering the sidewalks and gutters,” he says. “While cleaning up on my route I realized how easy it would be to collect all the plastic debris if everyone just went out like I did and cleaned their immediate neighborhood.”
Ami Cadwallader, vice president of the Hempfest Board, said the Great Green Sweep is a way to not only keep the Hempfest team of volunteers active and together, but to also give back and help the city it calls home.
“This is so important to us because a lot of our volunteers have health concerns, and we didn’t want to ask them to put themselves at risk,” Cadwallader said. “The Great Green Sweep was born as our way to bring people together on common ground, helping renew the earth.”
“There needs to be a conversation about transitioning from single-use plastics in the cannabis retail industry to more sustainable packaging materials, and also about consumers properly disposing of cannabis packaging,” McPeak said.
Following the Sweep, Hempfest will host an online event, similar to 2020’s version of the three-decade-old “protestival,” which organizers hope to bring back next summer.
“Hempfest is not only a part of Seattle’s unique personality, it is also a big economic contributor,” said Hempfest treasurer Eric Boone. “We are confident that, with the i502 community’s support, Hempfest will return in the more traditional format in 2022.”
Illinois black market sales thrive despite legalization
Despite legalization, the Illinois black market continues to thrive, with some analytics firms estimating the state’s black-market value higher than the state’s booming legal system, according to data collected and reported by the Chicago-Sun Times.
The report comes following month-after-month record sales for the state, hitting $115 million in April and then $116 million in May. But even 18 months after the launch of adult-use cannabis sales, New Frontier Data estimates the black market to end 2021 with more than $2.2 billion in sales, topping its $1.9 billion prediction for the state’s legal market. The Colorado based analytics firm BDSA gave a more modest estimate, projecting black market sales to reach more than $1.7 billion and legal sales for the year closing at $1.2 billion.
State-legal sales for 2020 closed at $1.06 billion. By May 2021, sales had reached approximately $680 million for the year.
Part of the problem is that Illinois has the second highest tax rate for cannabis in the U.S. Customers shopping at a Chicago store could pay up to 41.25% tax on marijuana products. While Washington still has the highest tax for cannabis products, the state also saw more than 1,000 cultivators come online within its first year, driving wholesale prices down. In Illinois, that number is capped at 30.
The prices for an eighth at Dispensary 33 in Downtown Chicago still hover between $60 and $65 and at nuEra, just four miles north, prices for an eighth range between $75 and $90. One black-market dealer told the Chicago-Sun he was able to raise prices after legalization and still undercut the state licensed cannabis stores.
Cannabis advertising more than doubles 2020’s numbers
Despite restrictions in almost every legal state, cannabis companies are still finding ways to advertise, with spending on advertising in 2021 up 118% over 2020’s numbers, including an increase of 2,000% on television buys.
In the first four months of 2021, according to an analysis from MediaRadar, cannabis companies spent $32.7 million in print, television and digital ads. The largest increase came in television, climbing to $3.1 million from just $111,000 in 2020.
Although spending on print ads has dropped slightly since 2019, magazines and newspapers still account for 67% of the spending so far in 2021, across a broad range of both B2B and consumer publications, including Chain Drug Review, Drug Store Review, Martha Stewart Living, The Chicago Tribune and US Weekly, among others. Consumer publications increased their market share of ad space within the cannabis industry, moving from 77% in 2020 to 82% in 2021.
Marijuana Venture’s ad revenue has broken company records in the first half of 2021, including the Seattle-based magazine’s largest single month ever (April 2021) and an increase of more than 42% compared to the first six months of 2020.
In 2021, the top brands advertising in the cannabis market in advance of 4/20 were: Level Select CBD, Sunnyside, Feals, Marley Natural and Harrelson’s Own CBD. The top 10 spending brands in 2021 to date account for 84% of all ad spend in the cannabis industry.
The largest spike in ad revenue this year came in March, which coincides with federal legislation that allows a higher concentration of THC in hemp products, and the impending vote to legalize marijuana in New York, which was held on March 29 and signed into law March 31.
The numbers represent a rebound in cannabis advertising, which in 2020 fell to 17% of what they were in 2019, according to MediaRadar.
— Brian Beckley
Dream Job: California company hires weed testing intern
One lucky intern wound up with a “dream job” that college kids across the country have joked about for ages: Weed Tester.
California-based cannabis delivery service Emjay in early June posted an opening for a summer intern who would be paid to sample and write reviews of all 600 products available through the company, including flowers, vapes, pre-rolls, edibles, concentrates and accessories, as well as hundreds of marijuana strains, all while being paid $15 per hour.
“Yes, this is a 100% REAL weed testing internship, and if you’re a Cali-based content writer who is looking for a fun summer gig where you get to smoke for free, this is for you,” read the ad, addressed to “Creative Cannabis Connoisseurs” and posted to Glassdoor and Indeed.
The intern is expected to receive thousands of dollars in free product through the summer in return for writing reviews to help others better understand the experience each product provides.
“We decided to offer this internship, not only because it would be a fun opportunity and possibly someone’s dream job, but also because we’re constantly offering new products every week and we actually have a need for someone passionate about cannabis to test these new products, let us know if they are good and figure out what the actual effects are,” Emjay CEO Chris Vaughn told Marijuana Venture in an email.
Prospective interns were asked for a resume and a one-page writing sample “or video shorter than 4 minutes and 20 seconds explaining why you are best suited for this internship.”
According to Vaughn, the response to the company’s ad was “much greater than we expected.”
“In the first week, we’ve received more than 1,000 applications from people of different ages, backgrounds and education levels, and we keep getting more each day,” he said.
— Brian Beckley
California budget includes $100 million to speed licensing process
The California budget, which was approved June 14, contains $100 million in grants for the state’s cannabis industry as part of a new Cannabis Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program, proposed in May by Governor Gavin Newsom.
According to Newsom’s proposal, the money is designed to “To help local governments and aid licensees in successfully and swiftly moving from provisional licensure into annual licenses, and to do so in a way that supports the environmental compliance requirements.”
The transition to a permanent license from a provisional one requires a review of the environmental impacts involved in the business, as well as mitigation plans, which is a complicated and expensive process. According to the governor’s office, approximately 82% of the state’s licensees are still provisional.
According to the L.A. Times, Los Angeles will be the biggest beneficiary of the money, with $22 million earmarked for the city. The funds are to be used to help staff assist business in completing environmental studies and transition from provisional to permanent licenses.
Sixteen other municipalities, including all three Emerald Triangle counties as well as the cities of San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland and Sacramento, will receive money.
It is estimated that California has about three times as many unlicensed cannabis operations as licensed ones, despite increasing efforts to eliminate the state’s black market.
“Gov. Newsom is dedicated to the success of the legal cannabis industry in California,” Nicole Elliott, the governor’s senior advisor on cannabis told the Times. “The purpose of this one-time $100 million in grant funding is to aid locals and provisional licensees, many of which are small businesses, legacy operators and equity applicants, in more expeditiously migrating to annual licensure.”