Michigan Makes It Easier to Obtain Cannabis Licenses

Michigan Cannabis Licensing
Michigan Cannabis Licensing

Michigan officially legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2018, but the issuance of licenses to sell recreational marijuana was still limited to dispensaries that already had a medical marijuana license. That has now changed, with Michigan lawmakers opening up the cannabis license application process to more applicants and making it easier to obtain cannabis licenses as of March 1, 2021. What effect will this have on the cannabis industry, and will it attract investors from outside the state who are looking to sell recreational marijuana in the Michigan cannabis market? Keep reading this blog to learn more.

Michigan Changes Adult-Use Cannabis Licensing Requirements

In 2008, Michigan became the 13th state to legalize cannabis for medical use. It took another decade for Michigan to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2018, then another year for adult-use cannabis to be legally sold in Michigan, and still longer for the state’s cannabis market to open up competition for adult-use cannabis licenses. Under the terms of the state’s adult-use legalization act, which allows adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis outside their residence and up to 10 ounces inside their residence, dispensaries needed to apply for and receive a state-issued license to sell recreational cannabis. However, the pool of eligible applicants for those highly coveted licenses was limited to dispensaries that already had an active medical marijuana permit.

The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued a press release that addressed the recent changes to Michigan’s cannabis licensing rules. MRA executive director Andrew Brisbo stated that “business entry into the adult-use marijuana market will be more accessible for all Michiganders, as the requirement to hold a license on the medical side of the industry will be removed.”

It is important to note the requirement to first obtain a medical marijuana license is not being removed for all adult-use marijuana licenses. Rather, the new rules will apply to individuals and businesses seeking certain types of recreational cannabis licenses:

  • Marijuana Retailer
  • Marijuana Processor
  • Class B Marijuana Grower
  • Class C Marijuana Grower
  • Marijuana Secure Transporter

The changes to Michigan’s cannabis license application process were approved in October 2020, but they did not go into effect until March 1, 2021. Upon implementation, the new rules immediately invalidated old versions of the cannabis application. Anyone who wants to apply for a recreational cannabis license will need to use the new application forms.

The new licensing rules were spurred by criticism of the restrictions on new licenses and a belief among some that allowing fewer licenses to legally sell adult-use cannabis in Michigan was causing the illegal cannabis market to thrive, particularly in rural areas that lacked adult-use dispensaries. In the MRA’s original advisory bulletin announcing the new cannabis licensing rules, the state’s marijuana regulatory agency said that “where the regulated market is not available to meet consumer demand, the illicit market stands ready to fill that void.” As the illegal cannabis market filled the gap, the agency noted, the city of Detroit saw a sharp rise in marijuana-related shootings and drug-related homicides.

Expansion of Adult-Use Licenses Could Boost Michigan Marijuana Market

The expansion of the cannabis licensing process is expected to open the Michigan cannabis market to new retailers. This, in turn, should provide a huge boost to the Michigan economy generally and the state’s cannabis market in particular. Although adult-use marijuana has only been legal in Michigan for a little over a year, legal cannabis sales have shown a steady upward trend on a month-to-month basis. In January 2021, adult-use sales in Michigan generated more than $67 million in revenue.

Importantly, the Michigan cannabis market will now be opened up to individuals and companies from outside the state. Under the old adult-use licensing rules, only Michigan-based class A marijuana growers or marijuana microbusinesses owned by residents of Michigan could apply for an adult-use license without already possessing a medical marijuana license.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate

Scythian Cannabis Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that works with some of the most sophisticated cannabis operators in major markets throughout the U.S., including Colorado, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Scythian also assists cannabis operators that are looking to expand into new markets like Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey. For more information, email us today.


New Jersey Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

NJ Legalizes Recreational Cannabis
NJ Legalizes Recreational Cannabis

After several months of delays, it appears that the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey is back on track. New Jersey residents, and others in the state, should soon be able to go to their local dispensaries to purchase marijuana for recreational use. That’s because NJ Gov. Phil Murphy recently affixed his signature to a law that will address logistical issues with the implementation of necessary measures to create the state’s adult-use cannabis market. What effect will marijuana legalization have on the New Jersey economy, and on the cannabis industry generally? Keep reading this blog to learn more.

NJ Governor Signs Law to Create Adult-Use Cannabis Market

On February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that will essentially legalize recreational market and create a new cannabis market in the Garden State. The legislation makes it legal to purchase and use cannabis for recreational purposes and decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Although a ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis was approved by NJ voters on November 3, 2020, there was a holdup on implementation because of concerns raised by Governor Murphy: the governor refused to sign a bill to begin implementing cannabis legalization measures until state lawmakers approved a related bill to ensure that criminal penalties would remain on the books for underage marijuana use. That “clean-up bill” was subsequently passed by the New Jersey Assembly and the New Jersey Senate by overwhelming margins.

With many of the issues that were holding up adult-use cannabis legalization now on track to be resolved, state lawmakers believe that the legal sale of recreational marijuana in New Jersey could happen before the end of 2021. The state recently appointed five (5) members to a Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), an oversight agency which is in charge of regulating the medical marijuana program and developing rules and regulatory measures for the new recreational marijuana market. While many cannabis operators wishing to do business in New Jersey will need to apply for recreational cannabis licenses, some cannabis operators already have medical cannabis licenses and could seek quick approval for adult-use cannabis sales.

Economic Impact of Recreational Cannabis Legalization in NJ

Cannabis industry experts believe that the New Jersey adult-use cannabis market will generate more than $1 billion annually by 2024. This would make NJ the largest cannabis market on the East Coast and one of the leading cannabis markets in the entire country.

Of course, with New Jersey finally having legalized recreational marijuana, the question now becomes: when will New York legalize adult-use cannabis? Only time will tell on that one, but there is definitely momentum pushing New York towards full legalization of cannabis – especially as the U.S. Congress considers decriminalizing cannabis federally and more and more Americans indicate their support for full legalization of cannabis. Additionally, many industry observers believe that other states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia could soon follow New Jersey’s lead and legalize cannabis. Shortly after the NJ marijuana legalization ballot measure was approved by voters in the 2020 election, Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “The passage of this ballot measure positions New Jersey to take the lead in the Northeast and will push neighboring states, like New York and Pennsylvania, to take action on marijuana legalization.”

Within New Jersey, the economic impact of legal recreational cannabis could be significant. Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, called the new law “historic” and predicted “phenomenal” business opportunities not just for cannabis investors and companies but also for NJ residents. Additionally, there could be a sizable benefit to related businesses like law firms and accounting firms that will be needed to assist cannabis operators.

Contact Scythian Real Estate for Assistance with Cannabis Operations in New Jersey and Across the U.S.

Scythian Cannabis Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that provides financing and other operational assistance to some of the largest and most sophisticated cannabis operators in the country. To learn more, send us an email today.


Illinois Expunging 500k Cannabis Convictions

Illinois Cannabis Expungements
Illinois Cannabis Expungements

Illinois recently took an important step by expunging 500k cannabis convictions from the criminal records of state residents. The move to formally remove these cannabis-related criminal histories was made by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker just as 2020 came to an end. Cannabis operators who already have a strong presence in Illinois’ thriving legal cannabis market likely took notice. Continue reading this blog to learn more.

Illinois Governor Moves to Expunge Cannabis Arrest and Conviction Records

In 2019, Illinois officially legalized marijuana for recreational use. It was not until 2020, however, that the Illinois marijuana legalization law finally went into effect. At the end of 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker went one step further and took action to eliminate the cannabis-related arrest and conviction records of nearly half a million people who had been charged under the previous cannabis laws.

Pritzker’s move to formally expunge cannabis arrest and conviction records was actually required by the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, the law that legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois. As set forth by the statute, the state government had until January 1, 2021 to start the process of expunging non-felony cannabis arrest records from 2013 through 2019. The law specifically required state officials to expunge 492,192 state-level records of cannabis arrests and convictions. However, the deadline for finalizing the expungements is January 2025, which means that clearing these arrest records could ultimately take years. So far, just nine of the 201 counties in Illinois have cleared non-felony cannabis arrest records.

Pardons for Low-Level Cannabis Convictions in Illinois

In addition to expunging cannabis arrest records in Illinois, Pritzker also issued formal pardons for 9,219 individuals with low-level cannabis convictions under the state’s previous laws. This was similar to a move made earlier in 2020 by Colorado Governor Jared Polis to pardon low-level marijuana convictions. Although marijuana possession is no longer a crime in Illinois, people who were previously convicted of marijuana possession in the state were not grandfathered into the new law. This meant that their past convictions under the state’s old cannabis laws remained on their records. A person with a cannabis conviction on their background report could find it difficult to apply for a job, secure housing, or apply for federal loans.

When announcing the decision to expunge cannabis arrest records and pardon cannabis convictions, J.B. Pritzker highlighted the significant damage that has been done to minorities as a result of the state’s war on drugs. Pritzker observed that it has been communities of color “who have disproportionately shouldered this burden.” The Illinois governor acknowledged that the government made mistakes in the past when it came to criminalizing marijuana use and then punishing African Americans. Importantly, the governor also pointed toward a future in which Illinois residents won’t be punished for possessing and using cannabis.

Illinois Cannabis Legalization Law Requires Investment in Low-Income Communities

The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act allows local municipalities to generate tax revenues from legal cannabis sales. An important provision of the marijuana legalization law also requires the state to reinvest 25% of those revenues into a fund designated for “R3 communities.” These are communities with a statistical prevalence of gun violence, child poverty, and incarceration. The tax revenues that come from legal sales of cannabis in Illinois will be used to provide financial support for various programs in these communities, including programs aimed at youth development, anti-violence, economic development, and re-entry into the community for people released from prison.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate Today

Scythian Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that provides financing and operational assistance to some of the country’s largest and most sophisticated cannabis operators. If you are a cannabis operator in Illinois or anywhere else in the U.S., Scythian Real Estate may be able to help you. For more information, send us an email.


2020 in Review: U.S. House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

MORE Act to Decriminalize Marijuana
MORE Act to Decriminalize Marijuana

In 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives approved historic legislation that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. This was the first time in five decades that either chamber of the United States Congress has held an official floor vote on the legal status of cannabis. What will this mean for the future of the cannabis industry? Continue reading this blog to find out.

Also, check out the other entries in Scythian’s “2020 in Review” blog series: Part 1 on states legalizing cannabis in 2020 and Part 2 on cannabis industry success during COVID-19.

Congress Votes in Favor of MORE Act to Allow States to Legalize Cannabis

On December 4, 2020, the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of the MORE Act (also known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act). If the MORE Act were to become law, it would allow individual states to determine their own policies regarding the legal status of cannabis – without any interference by the federal government. This would be an important development in cannabis law because federal law currently prohibits the sale and/or possession of cannabis, a legal status that runs counter to the adult-use cannabis laws and medical marijuana laws in several states.

In addition to legalizing cannabis at the federal level, the MORE Act would also establish a federal sales tax for cannabis. As set forth by the federal statute, the revenues generated by the marijuana sales tax would be used to fund a number of restorative justice programs intended to undo some of the harm caused by previous policies and laws that criminalized marijuana possession and that, in many cases, disproportionately harmed members of low-income and minority communities.

Democrat-Controlled Senate Could Lead to Cannabis Decriminalization in United States

The vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act in the U.S. House of Representatives went largely along party lines, with all but five of the votes cast in favor of the cannabis decriminalization legislation coming from Democrats. The final vote tally was 228 in favor of the proposed law and 164 against the proposed law.

The positive outcome for the bill was a predictable result of the Democrats holding a majority in the U.S. House. The bill’s ultimate outcome would be determined by the U.S. Senate, which until recently was controlled by Republicans. After the legislation initially passed in the House, however, the composition of the Senate changed: a special runoff election in Georgia on January 5, 2021 saw the Democrats flip two seats in the Senate. Now the MORE Act could have a legitimate chance of being approved by the Senate and becoming the law of the land.

U.S. Congress Approves Law to Study Medical Applications of Marijuana

The United States Congress passed another important cannabis bill in 2020: both the House and the Senate approved legislation that would grant researchers greater access to cannabis and allow them to study the potential medical uses and applications of marijuana. The medical marijuana research bill is viewed by supporters as a critical step in the creation of better and more targeted federal drug policy.

Additionally, it is worth noting that the medical marijuana research law received overwhelming bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats. This suggests that there could be room for greater support for federal cannabis legalization efforts in the future. During a House floor debate on the legislation, Rep. Greg Walden from Oregon said that more data on “the actual health impacts of [cannabis] products” in states where those products are currently legal will help to fill an “information vacuum” surrounding the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate Today

Scythian Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that provides financing and other assistance to sophisticated cannabis operators throughout the U.S. If you are a cannabis operator interested in raising capital, Scythian Real Estate may be able to help you. Send us an email for additional information.


2020 in Review: States Vote to Legalize Cannabis

States Legalize Cannabis in 2020
States Legalize Cannabis in 2020

There were some major cannabis legal developments in 2020, many of which reflected a more welcoming environment for the cannabis industry in the United States as more and more states legalize marijuana. One of the most significant developments came on election night as voters in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota chose to legalize cannabis for either recreational use or medical use.

To learn more about states voting to legalize cannabis in 2020, continue reading this blog. And don’t forget to check out other entries in Scythian’s “2020 in Review” blog series: Part 2 on the cannabis industry thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic and Part 3 on Congress decriminalizing marijuana.

Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota Vote to Legalize Cannabis

Perhaps the biggest development in the cannabis world last year was the overwhelming success of cannabis legalization measures on November 3. On election night 2020, voters in five (5) states were able to voice their support for the legalization of cannabis in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. The result: a clean sweep for cannabis legalization.

Voters in all five states were in favor of cannabis reform, choosing to legalize cannabis for either recreational use or medical use. In all five states, the margin of victory was clear and decisive: the South Dakota medical cannabis measure passed with nearly 70% of the vote, and the Mississippi medical marijuana measure passed with 62% of the vote. Moreover, exit polls on election night showed that there was a bipartisan consensus that included both Republicans and Democrats voting in favor of cannabis legalization.

South Dakota voters made history by becoming the first state to go from a total ban on adult-use cannabis to complete legalization: both recreational use and medical use will soon be allowed in South Dakota. The state’s medical cannabis law will go into effect first, to be followed later by implementation of the recreational cannabis law. Meanwhile, Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey are set to legalize cannabis for recreational use, and Mississippi will be legalizing cannabis for medical use.

Cannabis Legalization to Boost State Tax Revenues

The legalization of cannabis in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota is expected to provide local municipalities with significant tax revenues. That’s because the cannabis reform laws will have provisions that allow for the regulation and taxation of legal cannabis sales by state-licensed dispensaries. At a time when many states are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, additional tax revenues generated by adult-use cannabis sales should provide a much-needed boost to state and local economies.

What Is the Future of Cannabis Legalization in the United States?

A total of 36 states have now legalized medical cannabis use, with 15 of those states also legalizing cannabis for recreational use. The strong support for marijuana legalization in different regions of the country – East, West, South, and Midwest – on Election Night 2020 suggests that more states could be legalizing cannabis in the years ahead. There are already efforts underway to get cannabis legalization on the 2022 ballot in several mid-Atlantic states, including Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The continued push for marijuana legalization across the U.S. should provide a significant boost to the cannabis industry. There has been a surge in cannabis acquisitions and investments by major players in the U.S. cannabis industry as more states look primed to legalize cannabis either through legislation or ballot measures.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate

Scythian Real Estate, which is based out of Colorado, is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that works with many of the largest cannabis operators in the country. Cannabis operators that are looking to expand their reach into new markets should contact Scythian Real Estate for additional information.


U.S. House Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis

Congress Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis
Congress Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis

The United States Congress recently moved one step closer to decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level when the House of Representatives approved a bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). How likely is it that the legislation will ultimately become a law? And what does it mean for the U.S. cannabis industry? Read on to learn more.

Congress Votes on Law to Decriminalize Cannabis at Federal Level

H.R. 3884, the resolution introduced and voted on in the House, is historic. The bill marks the first time that either chamber of Congress has officially cast votes on a proposed law to decriminalize marijuana federally. The bold legislation, named the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, is intended to “address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs.” Democratic Rep. and House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler introduced the MORE Act because the criminalization of marijuana has disproportionately impacted minorities and communities of color through selective enforcement of marijuana laws by police.

After the momentous vote in the House, Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer issued a powerful statement observing that millions of Americans have had their lives destroyed by convictions for possessing just a small amount of marijuana. Hoyer further noted that “the racial disparities in conviction rates for those offenses are as shocking as they are unjust.”

Proponents of the legislation say that the measure would directly benefit the federal government by providing much-needed revenues to finance things like cannabis industry job training, legal aid for indigent criminal defendants, and substance abuse treatment for people with addiction problems. These things would be made possible by a 5% sales tax on all legal sales of cannabis and cannabis-related products.

Proposed Law Would Eliminate Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

If the MORE Act becomes law, it would remove marijuana from the substances banned by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The MORE Act would also eliminate criminal penalties for the manufacture, distribution, or possession of marijuana. This means that the law would effectively legalize cannabis in the United States.

The MORE Act also includes a provision that would allow for the expungement of prior convictions for marijuana possession. This means that an individual with a previous conviction for unlawfully possessing marijuana in violation of federal law would potentially be eligible to have that conviction removed from their permanent record. Beyond that, anyone currently in prison for a federal cannabis offense could have the ability to petition for a sentencing review hearing.

Republican Support for MORE Act to Decriminalize Cannabis

The MORE Act had strong support from Democrats, with 222 Democratic members of the House voting in support of the legislation and just six (6) Democrats opposing it. Perhaps surprisingly, five (5) Republicans also voted in favor of decriminalizing cannabis. In fact, one prominent Republican, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, was the bill’s co-sponsor. Before voting, Gaetz gave an impassioned speech on the House floor and implored his fellow members in the House to change their positions on marijuana legalization because those stances “are overwhelmingly losing with the American people.”

In addition to Gaetz, the other Republicans who voted to end the federal law prohibiting marijuana manufacturing, distribution, and use included Don Young from Alaska, Tom McClintock from California, Brian Mast from Florida, and Denver Riggleman from Virginia.

Cannabis Decriminalization Not Likely to Pass in U.S. Senate

Despite some Republican support for the MORE Act, the bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House might not go very far in the Senate. Republicans still control the U.S. Senate, and the vast majority of the Republican Party has not shown any inclination to legalize marijuana at the federal level – or to do much of anything that would pave the way for marijuana legalization across the United States.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader and one of the most powerful members of the Republican Party, was highly critical of the House for spending time on the cannabis decriminalization legislation instead of focusing on a COVID-19 stimulus bill that he called more “serious and important” than a marijuana law. Current Democratic vice president elect Kamala Harris previously introduced a similar bill in the Senate, but Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee prevented the measure from reaching the Senate floor for a formal vote.

Some have criticized the recent bill passed in the House of Representatives because it has little chance of gaining enough support in the Senate to become a law. Kevin Sabet, the president of conservative anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said that “there is zero interest in moving this bill in the Senate and zero interest in supporting it in either the current administration or the incoming one.” Whether that last observation is actually true remains to be seen.

While president-elect Joe Biden has not yet come out in favor of legalizing cannabis at the federal level, earlier this year he did express support for the decriminalization of marijuana. A spokesperson for the Biden presidential transition team recently said that Biden would reschedule marijuana as a Schedule II drug as opposed to a Schedule I drug. Additionally, Biden “would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization.”

What Does the Future Hold for Cannabis Legalization in the United States?

While cannabis legalization at the federal level may not be on the horizon, individual states continue to push their own marijuana legalization efforts. A total of 15 states have already legalized cannabis for recreational use, and 36 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Both of those numbers grew in the November 2020 election, when voters in five (5) states approved laws to legalize cannabis within their respective state borders. Just last month, voters in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted to allow legal marijuana sales at state-licensed dispensaries.

The number of regulated cannabis markets figures to increase in the years ahead, as more and more states take up the issue of whether to legalize adult-use cannabis. There is a growing belief among many in the cannabis industry that states like Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania could get recreational cannabis legalization measures on the ballot in 2022.

Contact Scythian Real Estate for Information on Cannabis Operations Financing

Scythian Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that partners with some of the largest and most sophisticated cannabis operators in the country. To learn more about the Scythian Real Estate Fund, send us an email.


Virginia Decriminalizes Cannabis Possession

Virginia Decriminalizes Cannabis
Virginia Decriminalizes Cannabis

Virginia lawmakers have decriminalized cannabis in the state, meaning that individuals who are caught by law enforcement with a small amount of marijuana in their possession will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, possession of a minor amount of pot is now considered a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine. What could this new law mean for efforts to legalize recreational cannabis use in Virginia? Could cannabis companies soon be doing big business in Virginia? Read on to learn more.

Virginia State Legislators Reclassify Marijuana Possession as Civil Offense

HB 972 and SB 2, the two bills passed by the Virginia state legislature, specifically reclassify what used to be a criminal offense – the simple possession of one (1) ounce or less of marijuana – as a civil offense. Prior to passage of the new law, a person convicted of simple possession of marijuana in Virginia could be sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500. Now, instead of facing jail time and other severe penalties for simple possession of marijuana, anyone caught by police with a small amount of weed will be subject to a fine of just $25. This amount represents the lowest fine imposed by any state in the entire country for a marijuana possession offense, suggesting just how far Virginia lawmakers have moved when it comes to legalizing adult-use cannabis. But they still have a bit further to go in terms of legal cannabis sales: state legislators are soon going to consider whether to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

After the Virginia General Assembly passed the bills in March, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam sent the legislation back to legislators with a series of proposed amendments. Legislators incorporated most of the suggested changes, and Northam then signed the bills into law. The cannabis decriminalization law went into effect on July 1, 2020. Virginia is now the 27th state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana possession.

When Will Cannabis Be Legalized in Virginia?

The thinking among many cannabis industry observers in Virginia is that decriminalization doesn’t go far enough. In addition to decriminalizing cannabis possession, the Virginia law also creates a committee to study the possible effects of legalizing cannabis for recreational use in the state. That committee will reveal its findings and issue a recommendation on cannabis legalization by November 30, 2020.

The formation of the work group to study legalization comes on the heels of an announcement by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to introduce legislation to legalize recreational cannabis in Virginia. The state legislators were set to introduce the proposed law during the August special session of the Virginia General Assembly. While state lawmakers considered many different criminal justice reform bills during the session, it was the marijuana legalization proposal that figured to draw the most attention because of the rising popularity of cannabis legalization both in Virginia and nationwide.

Legalization of cannabis has been an especially popular policy idea in southern states: a Civiqs online opinion poll found that a majority of adults in every Southern state are in favor of marijuana legalization. Cannabis has already long been decriminalized in Mississippi and North Carolina, while Georgia state lawmakers are set to consider cannabis decriminalization as part of the recently introduced Georgia Justice Act. Additionally, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana have gone even further by legalizing cannabis for medical purposes. (Virginia currently has a limited medical cannabis law on the books.)

No Criminal Record for Marijuana Possession in Virginia

Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), stated that the Virginia decriminalization law “will save thousands of Virginians from the trauma of arrest and the stigma of a criminal conviction.” The MPP, which is the largest organization in the country dedicated to reforming existing marijuana policies and laws, has advocated for decriminalizing cannabis possession across the U.S. because individuals who get arrested and convicted for marijuana crimes often face difficulties getting hired for jobs, securing housing, and being approved for loans. When marijuana possession is classified as a criminal offense, a conviction can result in the offender being sentenced to jail time and being stuck with a permanent criminal record.

Cannabis Operators Should Contact Scythian Real Estate

Scythian Real Estate is a trusted partner of major cannabis businesses that operate in some of the largest cannabis markets in the United States. Scythian operates a portfolio of cannabis real estate assets with a current value of approximately $40 million.

To learn more about the Scythian Real Estate Fund, email Scythian today.


Hawaii to Allow Sale of Cannabis Edibles

Hawaii Cannabis Edibles
Hawaii Cannabis Edibles

Cannabis-infused edibles may soon be legal in Hawaii after the state legislature passed a bill to allow the sale of edible products in dispensaries. The popularity of cannabis edibles among consumers could provide a significant boost to legal marijuana sales in Hawaii and create new opportunities for cannabis businesses with licenses to operate in the state.

Hawaii Legislators Pass HB 2097 and Allow for Sale of Marijuana Edibles

Hawaii currently has a total of eight (8) medical cannabis licensees, with those approved operators being licensed to sell medical marijuana at dispensaries that meet certain zoning and other legal requirements. Thanks to a new law, the operators may soon be allowed to sell cannabis edibles in addition to other medical cannabis products.

Hawaii created a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program in 2015, established a dispensary system for the legal purchase of medical cannabis in 2016, and began selling medical cannabis at dispensaries in 2017. However, dispensaries were not permitted to sell cannabis edibles such as gummies, cookies, brownies, and chocolate bars. The reluctance of Hawaii lawmakers to allow edible products stemmed from a fear that marijuana-infused candies might appeal to young children and result in some kids accidentally consuming cannabis.

The Hawaii State Legislature recently reconsidered its stance on edible products and officially passed legislation to allow for the sale of cannabinoid-infused edibles at dispensaries in the state. Although the legalization of cannabis edibles for medical use had widespread support among legislators in Hawaii, it was not a foregone conclusion that the bill would pass in 2020. That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic shortened this year’s Hawaii legislative session and made it difficult for state lawmakers to convene and debate the proposed legislation.

HB 2097 Also Authorizes Remediation of Cannabis Products in Hawaii

HB 2097 does more than just legalize cannabis edibles in Hawaii. The bill begins with an introduction that states its three purposes:

  1. Authorizing licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to manufacture and distribute edible cannabis products.
  2. Authorizing the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) to consider processes that may allow cannabis or manufactured cannabis products that fail testing to be remediated. This means that cannabis must meet certain decontamination standards before it can be sold on the consumer market in Hawaii.
  3. Authorizing the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) to allow licensed dispensaries to provide educational and scientific information and to sponsor events related to medical cannabis.

Edibles Offer Alternative Way to Consume Medical Cannabis

Randy Gonce, the Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association program director, commented on HB 2097 in a press release and called the law’s passage “a victory for the state’s 30,798 registered medical cannabis patients.” Gonce specifically addressed the introduction of edibles to the Hawaii cannabis market by observing that “coronavirus has prompted more patients to seek ingestible forms of cannabis to replace inhalation due to concerns about lung health.”

The hope among proponents of the new law is that patients who use medical cannabis to treat serious health conditions will benefit greatly from being able to consume edibles instead of smoking or inhaling medical marijuana. The Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association (HCIA), an advocacy group for the state’s legal cannabis industry, praised lawmakers for passing HB 2097 and noted that the law will provide medical cannabis patients with “alternative ways to take their medication other than inhalation.”

When Will Hawaii Consumers Be Able to Buy Cannabis Edibles?

The passage of the edible legislation is not the end of the story. The bill has been sent to the desk of Hawaii Governor David Ige, who will have to decide whether to sign the bill into law or reject it. There is still some question about whether Ige will ultimately approve the bill because he has resisted cannabis policy reform attempts in the past.

The new law is technically supposed to take effect on January 1, 2021, but the Hawaii government has not yet established a timeline for introducing cannabis edibles to dispensaries. If and when the governor signs the bill into law, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) will then need to create rules for how, when, and under what circumstances cannabis edibles can be sold in Hawaii. This must happen before medical marijuana dispensaries can start stocking shelves with edible and drinkable marijuana products because HB 2097 specifically stipulates that edibles can be only manufactured and distributed within the state “under certain conditions.”

What Effect Will Edibles Have on Hawaii’s Cannabis Market?

The legal cannabis market in Hawaii is expected to generate up to $20 million in total sales revenues in 2020. Edible cannabis products could help operators generate even greater revenues by giving consumers in Hawaii even more ways to consume cannabis. This could be especially helpful for medical marijuana patients who have concerns about smoke inhalation or who worry about the potentially harmful effects of vaping. Additionally, many people believe that ingesting cannabis through edibles can create a longer-lasting high for the user. As a result, many Hawaii cannabis operators believe that there will be a high demand for cannabis edibles the moment they are introduced to state-licensed dispensaries.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate Today

Scythian Real Estate is a full-service real estate partner that provides assistance to cannabis operators who are looking to expand into Hawaii or other thriving U.S. cannabis markets. Scythian already works with some of the country’s largest cannabis operators, including Curaleaf and The Green Solution.

For more information about how Scythian might be able to help your cannabis company, email Scythian Real Estate today.


5 States Vote to Legalize Cannabis in 2020 Election

States Vote to Legalize Cannabis
States Vote to Legalize Cannabis

The 2020 election results brought welcome news for the cannabis industry, with voters in five (5) states approving cannabis ballot measures to legalize the sale of cannabis. As a result, residents in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota could soon have access to marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries. This is an extremely favorable outcome for sophisticated cannabis operators who are looking to expand their reach into new cannabis markets.

Cannabis Legalization Measures Approved in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota

A total of five states had 2020 state ballot initiatives that addressed the legalization of cannabis. Those measures were a resounding success, with all five states voting “yes” and creating new cannabis markets. It will now be legal to purchase cannabis for recreational use in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. This brings the total number of states with legal adult-use cannabis to 15. In addition to legalizing recreational marijuana, voters in South Dakota also voted in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use. This makes South Dakota the first-ever state to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis at the same time. Meanwhile, voters in Mississippi chose to legalize cannabis for medical use only.

Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the non-profit legal group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), observed that the success of the cannabis ballot initiatives means that approximately one-third of the U.S. population now resides in states where cannabis is legal for recreational use. Hawkins also noted that the legalization of medical-use cannabis in Mississippi and South Dakota means that 70% of all states now allow for medical cannabis sales. Matthew Schweich, deputy director at the MPP, was optimistic that this number will grow in the future and possibly result in federal cannabis legalization: “If we can win in New Jersey, Mississippi, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona, it’s going to send a really loud message to Congress that it’s time to fix this at the federal level in 2021.”

What Is the Economic Impact of Legal Cannabis in NJ, Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, and South Dakota?

It will now be up to the state legislatures in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota to implement the voter-approved laws and create the regulatory structures for legal cannabis sales. Once this happens, experts project that the cannabis markets in these five states could generate more than $2.5 billion in annual revenues by 2024. From that total, New Jersey dispensaries may bring in almost $1 billion annually in recreational cannabis sales, while Arizona dispensaries could reach $760 million in yearly cannabis sales.

The regulated cannabis industry in the United States continues to pay huge returns on investment for cannabis operators, particularly during 2020 when the pandemic forced many other businesses to temporarily close their doors. While states across the country issued shutdown orders for most retail businesses, cannabis dispensaries were allowed to stay open as “essential businesses.” The success of dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal for either recreational or medical use has pumped a lot of money into state and local economies through tax revenues. The expectation among cannabis industry observers is that these trends will continue in municipalities throughout Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota now that cannabis can be legally purchased in those states.

What Does the Future Hold for Cannabis Legalization in the United States?

While most Americans currently have access to legal cannabis in the form of either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana, both the sale and use of cannabis still remain illegal at the federal level. The hope among cannabis legal reform advocates was that Democrats might take control of the U.S. Senate in the 2020 election, but it appears that Republicans could maintain a majority. Continued GOP control of the Senate likely means that it will be at least two (2) more years before there are any serious efforts to legalize cannabis federally.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This federal law defines marijuana in the same category as other substances with “a high potential for abuse,” including heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Although the reclassification of marijuana might not happen anytime soon, there is growing optimism that more and more states will legalize cannabis in the years ahead. For instance, the legalization of pot in New Jersey could prompt New York and Pennsylvania, New Jersey’s neighboring states in the Tri-State Area, to pursue cannabis legalization efforts of their own – particularly once lawmakers and residents in those states see the tax revenues that are generated by legal cannabis sales in the Garden State.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate

Scythian Real Estate is a full-service real estate partner to some of the largest and most successful cannabis operators in the country, including The Green Solution and Curaleaf. If you are a cannabis operator looking to expand into a new cannabis market, or if you are a cannabis operator in need of capital funding, Scythian may be able to help. Email us today.


Montana Cannabis Legalization on Ballot

Montana Marijuana Ballot Measures
Montana Marijuana Ballot Measures

An effort to get two cannabis legalization measures on the ballot in Montana has succeeded. As a result, Montana voters will have the opportunity to weigh in this November on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use within state borders. What could this mean for cannabis companies who already operate medical marijuana dispensaries in Montana? Read on to learn more.

Campaign Secures Signatures to Get Cannabis Legalization on Montana Ballot

Medical cannabis is already legal in Montana, but now it appears that recreational cannabis could soon be legal in Montana as well. That’s because organizers of an effort to get cannabis legalization measures on the ballot in November 2020 were able to submit more than 130,000 signatures before the deadline.

The attempts to secure the required signatures in support of the Montana recreational cannabis legalization measures were made more difficult than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing guidelines, organizers had to work incredibly hard just to reach potential supporters. The difficulties posed by coronavirus-related social distancing requirements were magnified by a Montana court ruling in April that prevented the campaign from using electronic signatures.

Ultimately, despite the impediments, campaigners behind the effort to put the cannabis legalization measures on the Montana ballot succeeded. New Approach Montana submitted more than 130,000 signatures in July, but the group had to wait for state and local officials to verify the signatures. Now the signatures have been verified by county officials. Once the Montana Secretary of State’s Office officially certifies the signatures, Montana residents will be allowed to vote on the adult-use marijuana legalization measures in the upcoming election.

Montana Residents Will Vote on Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Two complementary cannabis legalization initiatives will appear on the 2020 ballot:

  • Statutory Initiative 190 (I-190): This ballot measure would create a system for regulating and taxing recreational cannabis sales in Montana. The statutory measure specifically calls for a 20% sales tax on marijuana sold at dispensaries.
  • Constitutional Initiative 118 (CI-118): This ballot measure would amend the Montana Constitution by setting the legal age for marijuana consumption in Montana at 21. In other words, cannabis operators in Montana would be prohibited from selling recreational marijuana to anyone under the age of 21.

After it was announced that the signatures had been verified and that Montana voters will get to cast votes on whether to legalize cannabis for recreational use, New Approach Montana issued a statement online. The group noted the incredible odds that they overcame and emphasized that their work was not yet done: “Now, we are focused on building support with voters from across the state.” In an email sent to supporters, New Approach Montana added that the group faces a fundraising problem because so much money needed to be spent on the signature drive due to the added difficulties of obtaining a massive number of signatures during a pandemic. Although it is unclear at this time if the Montana ballot measures will be successful, the popularity of recreational cannabis measures nationwide continues to grow: polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

Additional Tax Revenues Expected from Cannabis Legalization in Montana

Dave Lewis, a former Montana state legislator, noted that the legalization of marijuana for recreational use could provide a huge boost to the Montana state budget. This would be particularly helpful for the state after the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19. According to Lewis, legalizing adult-use cannabis would add almost $50 million annually to the Montana budget. Similarly, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) estimated that the new laws in Montana would generate nearly $130 million in tax revenues for the state in just the first five (5) years.

Lewis added that these additional revenues are “vital to the future budget” of the state because projected tax revenues for 2020 and 2021 are expected to be significantly reduced from previous years, with many important services likely struggling to survive without state funding. These services in need of funding include veterans’ services, substance abuse treatment programs, and healthcare.

Contact Scythian for Information on Cannabis Real Estate Opportunities

Scythian Real Estate is a full-service real estate partner of the largest cannabis operators in the United States. Scythian provides cannabis companies with access to capital, resources, and expertise. To learn more, email Scythian Real Estate.