Week in Review: Dozens of marijuana shops looted, Maine in residency fight, Uruguay steps up cannabis exports & more

Did you miss the webinar “Women Leaders in Cannabis: Shattering the Grass Ceiling?” Head to MJBiz YouTube to watch it now!

marijuana store looting, Week in Review: Dozens of marijuana shops looted, Maine in residency fight, Uruguay steps up cannabis exports & more

(Photo courtesy of California cannabis operator Nug)

Dozens of marijuana shops around the nation were vandalized or looted amid the widespread protests that arose in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, causing millions of dollars in losses and damages for cannabis businesses.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The issue is complicated for an already-nuanced industry that was born out of federal prohibition and on the backs of countless victims of the war on drugs, many of whom remain locked in prison for marijuana trafficking.

While most shop owners whose businesses were affected by the looting have expressed solidarity with protesters – and blamed organized criminal activity – it’s unclear what changes might be in store for cannabis businesses stemming from the outcry.

It’s possible this will give fresh legs to the growing social equity movement nationwide, which aims to get more minorities involved in the legal marijuana industry.

Maine MJ businesses sue state over residency requirement

A legal fight is brewing in Maine after regulators canceled a requirement that recreational marijuana business owners must have lived in the state for at least four years.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The state residency requirement, once a staple of new marijuana markets, is slowly going the way of the dinosaur as the industry expands nationally, with more companies and brands setting up shop across state lines.

More states have begun abandoning residency requirements, often at the behest of industry stakeholders who want greater access to investment capital or the flexibility to sell their businesses to out-of-state interests.

The downside: Less-capitalized local entrepreneurs often are at a disadvantage when it comes to winning cannabis business licenses compared to, say, a multistate operator such as New York-based Acreage Holdings, which happens to be one of the companies that pushed for the Maine residency requirement to be dropped in the first place.

Uruguay steps up MMJ exports 

Uruguay – which became the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis federally in 2013 and launched rec sales in 2017 – has dramatically ramped up its medical marijuana exports, having sent 2.5 metric tons of MMJ to Portugal in two massive shipments within the past six months.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The immense shipments are another reminder of how quickly cannabis is turning into a global commodity, with players extending beyond North America.

But it also highlights how the marijuana industry has further to go before achieving any semblance of normalcy versus other industries: No company has taken credit for importing the shipments, which likely speaks to how many entrepreneurs in the space still prefer a low profile – often to avoid legal complications.

Louisiana expands MMJ program

Louisiana lawmakers approved two reforms to pump new life into the state’s struggling medical marijuana program. One would allow physicians to recommend MMJ for any ailment. The other would prevent state regulators from penalizing financial institutions that work with cannabis businesses.

MJBizDaily takeaway: This is another well-intentioned move that will likely fall short – if the goal is to grant access to cannabis to as many medical patients as possible.

Louisiana has long had one of the most restrictive MMJ programs in the nation. And, as MMJ advocates note, expanding the qualifying conditions list won’t do much if most of the state’s physicians belong to health networks that refuse to allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis.

As long as there are such barriers to access, the program will remain mostly symbolic and far less functional than in nearby states such as Arkansas, Florida and Oklahoma.

Connecticut adds chronic pain to MMJ conditions list

Connecticut’s list of medical ailments that qualify patients to purchase medical marijuana just got a major addition with the inclusion of chronic pain, a change approved by lawmakers.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The addition could mean a huge uptick in registered MMJ patients in the state, which would then translate into a likely sales boom for Connecticut’s dispensaries.

In other MMJ markets, chronic pain has long been one of the most common medical ailments for which patients use cannabis, and states that have added pain to their qualifying conditions typically see a significant increase in patient numbers.

California regulators request more enforcement staff

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) issued a budget request for an additional 87 sworn peace officers to expand its enforcement capabilities as the primary overseer of the legal marijuana industry.

MJBizDaily takeaway: The change is overdue. If the request is granted, it will give the state more power to both combat the ongoing illicit market as well as ensure that legal companies abide by the regulations.

Targeting illegal companies, in particular, could be a game changer for legal businesses. The BCC to date has been handicapped in its ability to go after illegal retailers, growers and others flaunting the law, since the agency has had only a handful of sworn peace officers capable of making arrests.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com