By Marijuana Business Media staff
Efforts to legalize marijuana in 2016 heat up in several states, a television reporter’s on-air comments generate criticism, and Maryland considers lofty fees for MMJ businesses.
Here’s a closer look at some of the more notable developments in the cannabis industry over the past week:
And They’re Off
In politics, it’s never too early to start lobbying and raising money – especially when it comes to recreational marijuana measures.
That’s why one of the country’s leading cannabis lobbying groups is already gearing up for 2016 marijuana legalization measures in several states.
The Marijuana Policy Project filed paperwork earlier this week in California to begin raising and spending money for a 2016 ballot initiative, following a similar move in Arizona last week. The group is moving forward in Massachusetts as well and has already begun collecting signatures in Nevada, and it intends to support a legalization effort in Maine.
MPP expects 2016 to be a big year for the cannabis industry, and it wants to start raising money and building momentum for ballot measures as soon as possible.
It won’t be easy. Although each of those five states already have MMJ programs, they also all have very different political scenes. Messaging has been very different in each state when it comes to marijuana legalization campaigns, as have fundraising totals and the level of opposition.
And a lot is riding on the marijuana measures in other states this fall.
If Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC legalize recreational cannabis in the upcoming November elections, that could open the financial floodgates and lead to millions of dollars in additional campaign contributions for the 2016 measures. If, on the other hand, these measures fail, advocates warn that it could be much harder to legalize marijuana in 2016 because the movement will have lost sizable momentum.
Industry Veteran Gives Reporter the Thumbs Down
Charlo Greene solidified her place in cannabis folklore by quitting her job as an Alaska TV reporter in sensational style. After finishing her report Sunday night on the Alaska Cannabis Club, Greene revealed that she owns the business and then announced live on-air that she is quitting her job as a reporter to fight for recreational marijuana legalization.
She signed off with a simple, “F*** it, I quit,” and walked off the TV set.
Greene’s abrupt move drew praise from some quarters, as it did draw attention to the legalization effort in Alaska. In less than a day, the clip of Greene quitting received five million YouTube views.
But while many in the cannabis industry applauded Greene’s dedication to the cause, others took issue with her actions – saying it reflects poorly on the industry and on Greene herself.
“Cursing, throwing your hands in the air, walking away from a career, walking away from a job and causing your employer disruption; all those things she’s going to regret doing that at some point in the course of her having a cannabis business,” said Ryan Fox, the CEO of Kindman, a marijuana producer and distributor.
He added that she stepped on the toes of many industry veterans.
“This is her jumping on the bandwagon and doing something years after all these other people have done real work,” Fox said. “She’s being self-indulgent and glory-seeking to meet her personal agenda. So many people have worked so hard, and she just walks in and attempts to steal everyone’s thunder like that.”
The cannabis industry has to battle enough stereotypes as it is, and Greene’s actions might not help. The incident has also raised complaints from marijuana legalization opponents, who now contend that her reporting was tainted for months by pro-cannabis bias.
Massive Fees in Maryland?
Under draft rules proposed by a Maryland medical marijuana commission, the state could wind up charging MMJ cultivators $125,000 a year in government fees, while dispensaries would have to fork over $40,000. This is every year, mind you.
These business would also be assessed a $6,000 fee just to apply for a license.
If the proposals stick, Maryland would have some of the highest fees in the country for cannabis businesses.
In Colorado, application fees run up to $15,000 – but licensing and annual renewal fees are less than $14,000. In Arizona, it costs just $5,000 to get an initial dispensary registration certificate and $1,000 to renew it. In New Mexico, an application fee of $1,000 is required for private non-profit dispensaries, and annual fees run up to $30,000.
Still, Maryland wouldn’t be at the top of the list.
Illinois, which has one of the strictest MMJ programs in the country, assesses a non-refundable $25,000 application fee for those seeking cultivation permits and a $200,000 charge to receive the license.
The Maryland commission could vote on the rules by Oct. 16.
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]