Cannabis Industry The Next Big Thing?

It’s been less than a year since the first legal recreational cannabis sales in the United States, and the market is steadily growing.
Colorado reported $30 million in recreational sales for the month of July, officially overtaking medical marijuana sales for the first time ever. Washington is off to comparatively slow start; recreational sales there only began on July 7th, and amount to just over $10 million. And with millions of dollars in sales, both states are also collecting millions in tax revenue.
Experts attribute a majority of these sales to “marijuana tourism,” saying that many residents have easy access to black market sources or medical marijuana, both of which are less expensive. Although as new retailers open up and competition ramps up, prices should come down. Over time, legal sales are expected to edge out the black market for a variety of reasons – such as less risk, higher quality, and more options (edibles, oils, etc).
With people rushing in from out of state to get a taste of legal bud, both start ups and more established business owners are finding new ways to capitalize on the trend – from caterers and food trucks specializing in pot-laced food, to massage parlors and motels that are “420 friendly.” And there are growing numbers of lawyers, real estate agents, insurance reps and business consultants who specialize in serving the cannabis industry.
All these and more are flocking to conventions such as the upcoming International Cannabis Association Expo, to be held in NYC; or the Cannabis Business Summit, recently held in Denver. The Summit, put on by the National Cannabis Business Association (NCIA), drew more than 1,200 attendees this year – and not the kind you might imagine. It wasn’t a bunch of twenty-somethings sporting dreadlocks and tie-dyes, it was middle-aged professionals in suits and ties. What began as a counter-culture social justice movement is morphing into a commercial and entrepreneurial one.
Even Wall Street is taking notice. More and more cannabis-related stocks are trading on the public market. Many of these are high-risk companies hoping to hype up their value and sell their stakes for tremendous profits – leaving their shareholders to pay the price. But there are legitimate companies growing at a phenomenal rate, like Cannabis Sativa, Inc., which is headed up by former presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
Trading as CBDS, Cannabis Sativa Inc. has seen more than 900 percent growth so far this year. They focus primarily on lotions, creams and health products, most of which are sold under the name Wild Earth Naturals, a brand they acquired last year. But they are beginning to step into the recreational market with their recent acquisition of Kush, Inc., which has a patent pending on an extremely potent strain of marijuana known as “CTA.”
The cannabis industry is still in it’s infancy, and it’s bound to undergo considerable changes and challenges as it continues to evolve. It’s difficult to make accurate projections. But the market, currently valued at $1.43 billion dollars per year, is expected to grow to more than $10 billion in the next five years.
As cannabis prohibition crumbles, a whole new industry is blossoming. And investors are lining up to get a piece of the pie.


Why is Weed Illegal?

For purposes of clarity the term ‘cannabis’ will be used in this post to mean marijuana, pot, hemp, weed or whatever you happen to call it.
Cannabis has not always been illegal in the US. The history of the plant and its uses can help us to understand why things are now the way they are.
Back in 1619, when the only English colony in the Americas was Virginia, the then King of England decreed that every colonist grow 100 cannabis plants. The harvested plants were to be exported to England and used primarily for the manufacturing of cloth and rope. For use on sailing vessels.
England has a long history of sending its representatives to distant parts of the globe for the purpose of conquering them. And one the earliest means of transportation was by sailboat.
Canvas, which is a sturdy fabric originally made from hemp, has qualities that make it excellent for sail making. The word canvas is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French canevaz and the Old French canevas. Both may be derivatives of the Vulgar Latin cannapaceus for “made of hemp,” originating from the Greek κάνναβις (cannabis). (From Wikipedia)
The American colony of Virginia, and later the rest of the English Colonies, produced cannabis to meet the demands of the Crown and for their own use. Rope and sturdy fabric being essential to early colonial life.
It was not until the mid 1800’s that cannabis began to play a role in pharmaceuticals. Although cannabis has been used ‘recreationally’ since around 3000 BC.
At about the same time the US government began to play an increased role in the lives of its citizens as the enforcement arm of Big Business.
Without human intervention, cannabis is a weed. Ideal conditions for maximum crop yields are narrow, however the plant will grow and thrive to the extent necessary to produce seed and ensure the survival of the species in a wide range of climates and soil conditions.
Even if you don’t take human intervention into consideration, cannabis has been through a lot and yet has managed to migrate and thrive far from its origins in Asia.
Which posed a problem for the early pharmaceutical industry. If people could grow, trade and consume a weed with medicinal benefits as well as being fun to use then why would they bother to purchase some concoction from a store?
Enter legislation restricting and eventually prohibiting the possession, trade and use of cannabis.
And to make their reasoning as convincing as possible rumors began to spread that cannabis was poison. Which resulted in it being classified as a Schedule One Substance. Along with peyote, psilocybin and mescaline.
War has a long history of fueling economic growth. In 1971 then US President Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs leading to a law enforcement frenzy and the arrest and imprisonment of millions of US citizens. As well as creating a shot in the arm for the US economy.
It is interesting to note that the use of natural substances has historically been associated with minority groups. Of interest is Latin America and cannabis. Between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Americas lies an area well suited for the clandestin cultivation of illegal plants.
Rugged, mountainous terrain and a poorly developed infrastructure both lend themselves to hectares being dedicated to growing cannabis and coca. Coupled with a culture that keeps the vast majority of people in poverty, the cultivation of these plants has become a staple for many poor and rural people.
The criminalization of these plants has created an extensive black market. With exorbitant prices and a cash business policy, drug lords have and continue to fight to protect their investments and earnings. An estimated $320 billion USD in profits are realised by the illegal drug trade every year. Which is funneled into the mainstream economy.
And the pharmaceutical industry is left to its own devices to create and market concoctions that develop clients rather than cures. Worth another $300 billion USD a year. And you and I left to bear the resulting death, destruction and reduced health and wellness.
History has shown that government and big business can go against public opinion for only so long. While the naysayers continue to push their pot is poison rhetoric, John and Jane Q. Public have begun to voice their discontent.
As this is written the US states of Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use. And it is projected that other states will soon follow.
But there is the opinion of the US Federal Government. Cannabis is still considered to be a Schedule One substance and as such is illegal in all 50 US states.
‘They’ are now admitting that the sheer number of violators makes the enforcement of some laws unadvisable. Such would bog down the already slow wheels of justice.
So progress is being made – but there is a price.
Big Business has begun to study the plant and its effects in an effort to isolate and market some of the chemicals found in cannabis. And the government is inventing new ways of harassing users – other than outright prohibition.
Weed will eventually be legal. However we’re not there yet and many challenges have yet to be overcome.
It would be nice to sit back, fire up the bong and enjoy a smoke. And we can every once in a while. But complacency will bear disastrous fruit. There are petitions to sign, rallies to attend and emails to send. The work of pro weed organizations needs our support and donations. And our collective voice must be heard at the ballot box.
The powers that we have allowed to be can ignore us for only so long. Society will change. But remember, your effort is required. Your voice must be heard. The old adage ‘together we stand, divided we fall’ has never been truer.
I challenge you to take the money you would spend on weed for a day once a week and donate it to pro weed advocacy. I challenge you to donate a day a month to circulate a petition or in some other way further our cause.
Join an online forum or community and let your voice be heard. And above all let the politicians know that it is pointless to run for office IF they do not support the decriminalization of weed.
“United We Stand”

Life in Prison… For Weed?!

When you hear of someone serving life in prison, you probably wouldn’t picture Michael Pelletier.
Michael has been in a wheelchair since the age of 11, when he was run over by a tractor on his father’s farm. In 2008 he was convicted of smuggling pot across the Canadian border into Maine. He was sentenced to life without parole.
It sounds incredible, that someone could receive a life sentence for a non-violent marijuana offense. But Michael is not alone.
Randy Lanier is a champion race car driver who is serving a life sentence in Florida. Randy was arrested for selling marijuana, his first offense. There were no weapons or violence involved. He was convicted of administrating a “continuing criminal enterprise.” He has been incarcerated since 1987.
That’s more than 20 years in prison for selling weed!
Now Randy practices yoga and meditation. He teaches classes and counsels other inmates. He writes a blog about walking the spiritual path behind bars.
George Martorano has been in jail for half of his life. He plead guilty to marijuana trafficking on the advice of his attorney, and was sentenced to life without parole. That was in 1982. George is possibly the longest incarcerated non-violent offender in the United States.
He is also an award-winning poet and a published author. He teaches Ashtanga yoga, creative writing, suicide prevention and release preparation to fellow inmates in Coleman Correctional Facility.
Kenny Kubinski is a Vietnam War veteran with three purple hearts and a bronze star. He was an active member of his small farming community; he ran a construction company and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity.
That is until 1993, when a drug task force raided his home, seized his property, and charged him with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish. He was convicted on the basis of some (highly suspect) testimony from witnesses, who in turn had their sentences dropped or reduced. He is now serving a life sentence in South Carolina.
His wife Jackie was sentenced to seven years. Their three children were put into an orphanage, until friends from their church took them in.
Then there’s Larry Duke, another Vietnam veteran now serving two consecutive life sentences in a Georgia prison after being busted in a government set-up in 1989. John Knock and Claude du Boc are each serving life sentences following a 1994 case that was riddled with fraud and malpractice. Billy Dekle is serving two life sentences for smuggling marijuana into the United States in his plane – in the late 1970s.
The list goes on: Craig Cesal in Illinois, Leopoldo Hernandez in North Carolina, Andrew Cox in Virginia, Paul Free, Craig Frazier and Maurice Foley in California. Cornell Hood was sentenced to life in Lousiana – but two charges have since been dropped, and his sentence reduced to 25 years. Eugene Fischer also served 25 years of a life sentence before his sentence was reduced to time served. He was freed on July 16, 2012.
In every case, the charge is possession and distribution of pot. No guns. No violence. Just “intent” and “conspiracy.” These are people who have lost their freedom, lost their property, who lost everything, because of growing, selling, and consuming a plant.
In many cases their sentences were lengthened because they insisted on exercising their right to trial. Others are repeat offenders subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. Some were convicted based on flimsy evidence, by over-zealous prosecutors intent on seizing their sizable assets.
All are victims of the so called “War on Drugs.”
The draconian policies and harsh penalties of the late 1980s have left us quite a legacy: more than 3,200 prisoners in the United States are currently serving life sentences for non-violent crimes, most of them drug related. And while states are slowly repealing these unforgiving laws, it is too late for the men and women already behind bars for victimless crimes.
We are undergoing a sea change in the way the public thinks about drugs, and marijuana in particular. Recent polls show that more than half of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, while an overwhelming 86 percent support its medicinal use. 76 percent of people polled said they did not think small amounts of marijuana should result in any jail time, and 67 percent of people support treatment and rehabilitation as the primary means of dealing with even hard drug use.
Meanwhile Colorado and Washington are leading the way in recreational legalization, and similar legislation is being considered in more than a dozen other states. All of which leaves me wondering…
Why on earth are people serving life sentences for pot?
free jeff mizanskey
People like Jeff Mizanskey, who was arrested in 1993 for being present during a drug deal gone wrong. He accompanied Atilano Quintana to pick up a big delivery at a Super 8 motel in Sedalia, MO – unfortunately for them, the delivery guys had been busted on their way into town. The police were waiting to catch Quintana red-handed, and Mizanskey was just a bonus.
Quintana, the buyer, served ten years. Mizanskey, a repeat offender who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, got life.
Without the possibility of parole.
“Since I’ve been here in prison,” Mizanskey told an interviewer, “I’ve met lots of people in for murder, rape, robberies, all sorts of violent crimes. I’ve seen a lot of them go home on parole. Don’t I ever get a chance?”
There are at least a dozen people sentenced to die behind bars because they were caught with weed. How is this okay?
Many of these men have been exemplary prisoners, and have made the most of the rehabilitation programs available to them. And in cases like Lanier and Martorano, they have indeed gone above and beyond: becoming leaders and role-models in the prison community, pioneering new ways of teaching and rehabilitating inmates, and preparing them for their release.
Haven’t these men paid their “debt to society?” In some cases, many times over?
Visit to find out more about these men and their stories. Sign a petition, contact your congressman, join the movement calling for clemency.
Because no one should be in jail because of a plant.

UPDATE: Since this article was written Jeff Mizanskey had his sentence commuted by Missouri governor Jay Nixon. He went before a parole board on August 7th, and his parole was granted. He’s expected to be sent home to his family any day now.