02/07/16 Doug McVay

This week: at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland, Oregon, we interview former NBA star Clifford "Uncle Spliffy" Robinson, Aaron Smith and Bethany Moore from National Cannabis Industry Association, David Rheins and Morgan from the Marijuana Business Association, Sam Chapman from New Economy Consulting.

Century of Lies
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon COL020716.mp3



FEBRUARY 7, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

I was at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland, Oregon, this last week. Got some good interviews, we're going to hear some of them now.

DAVID RHEINS: Hi, I'm Dave Rheins, I am the co-founder and executive director of the Marijuana Business Association, or the MJBA.

So, the Marijuana Business Association is a national trade organization, a traditional business-to-business group where participants in legal cannabis, whether that's the licensed growers, the processors, the retailers, or the thousands, the literally thousands of what I'll call professional service providers upon whom they rely -- financing, real estate, logistics, security, lighting, heating, packaging, printing, promotion -- right? So we're building an economy from wholesale cloth and the challenge is that there is no infrastructure budding entrepreneurs, state by state. So we come in, we provide the physical locales and the digital environments for these practitioners to get reliable business intelligence to meet your fellow industry professional through meet-ups and seminars and trade shows, and then to explore opportunity to allow you to get involved in this new revolution.

DOUG MCVAY: I want to find out about some of the products and some of the projects that you have going. Before I do, just reminding myself, because you said, you know, fellows. You are also, MJBA also has the MJBA Women's Alliance. I talked to Morgan last year at this very conference. Tell me about that.

DAVID RHEINS: Yeah, so, the MJBA Women's Alliance is fantastic. This is -- talking about really starting a new industry from scratch, this is the first industry where women have the opportunity to be on the ground floor, to be equal pioneers. As we're building the industry, we're establishing best practices, if you will, from hiring, equal pay for equal work, workplace environment and culture. And so, we represent literally hundreds of women-run cannabis businesses in Washington, in Oregon, in Colorado, and elsewhere, who are helping to forge that industry. We have just released, this week, at this show, the Women's Alliance app. So, for the first time, women in cannabis have their own mobile social app that they can download, connect, find one another, share information, build community, sell their products, market their services, all within a closed loop technology platform. It's fantastic.

So women in cannabis is one of the big stories of this industry, and we're honored to have Morgan, who is our president of MJBA and the founder of the Women's Alliance, leading that charge.

DOUG MCVAY: That actually sounds like a useful app, which is something I don't say very often, those are two words that don't go together. That one does. So, tell me about some of the other projects MJBA has. You've been doing -- now you started up in Washington state, correct?

DAVID RHEINS: That's right, yeah, we started in Seattle. This is, we're coming into our third year. So we've been doing this quite a bit. Really, where we've evolved as an association, as communities in Seattle, in Bellingham, Vancouver, in Wenatchee, in Tacoma, in Olympia. As they're coming -- and Spokane and elsewhere -- come on line, we have been not only building community but really intelligence, reliable business intelligence. So we're doing seminars, where we're drilling down into the numbers for retailers, or processors. We had a big oil show, an entire half day seminar of all Washington's top topicals makers, edibles makers, oil producers, talking about things like testing and industry standards, leakage in cartridges, contaminants, pesticides. These are huge issues.

So we're gathering together the industry leaders to have discussions about the business. Right? Not the plant, not how wonderful terpenes and how marvelous THC is, but about the business of creating an industry. Right? Because there are so many challenges for these young entrepreneurs. So we're doing these seminars all over the country, and are blessed to have participation from some of the top leaders in the industry, who are ponying up that sponsorship dollars, who are, you know, sponsoring those conversations, if you will. So that's a big thing for us.

And then the media, the technology. Here in Oregon, you know, we have draft regulations, things like pesticides, things like how do I apply for a recreational license, things like how many growers will be licensed this year, are being decided today. So we were just listening to Steve Marks of the OLCC share some of that information. We will in fact, like you, Doug, capture that and share it out across MJ News Network, across MJ Headline News, across Marijuana Channel One, because we need that resonance machine, we need to reverberate this news for folks in local markets who may be heads down on their business and not know that these changes, which will drastically impact their business, are happening.

DOUG MCVAY: You're from Washington state and I know there are some changes up there.

DAVID RHEINS: Sure, sure, yeah, so, you know, in Oregon, in Washington, and in Colorado, regulations are being redefined as we are moving forward. So I talk a lot about pesticides and contaminants. There's new regulation up in Washington, which is being, draft regulation is now being finalized which will put the final steps in the integration of our recreational licensed industry, and our up to this point non-licensed medical marijuana. So both of those industries fold into the 502 licensing schema, our Liquor and Cannabis Board. So that's just happening now. What you're seeing is a number of traditional medical marijuana dispensaries, hundreds of them, actually, across the state, are being served with notice that they have to shut down immediately. The transition should happen by July, but in fact the shutdown has already started.

What you're seeing is, because those recreational 502 stores, right now, there were in the original legislation 334 retail stores, unlike Oregon, unlike Colorado, we're not integrated, so growers and producers can't have a retail outlet. Right? So, the question is, how many retail outlets do we need? How much consumption, now not just for recreational but medical users, so that we can put the black market out, and they've come up with a number, they've added 222 additional retail locations, bringing the number up to 555 or so, which is, you know, about half again as much as original. So there's a lot of questions about, is that too many? How sustainable will those retail establishments be?

And then, there's a lot of new regulations about out of state investment. So, up to this point, Washington cannabis businesses have been constrained. They can't have access to commercial capital, banks won't lend them money. Right? And it's very, very rigorous about who will be on your license. Up to this point, it's been interdicted, you could not have someone from out of state. The new regs will be, yes, you can have out of state investment in Washington cannabis businesses. That will change the dynamic. Those are being finalized.

And then lastly, there's a whole new training and testing protocol for medical cannabis. So essentially the draft regulations call for every three pounds of marijuana processed has to be tested to make sure that it's medical grade. That's an onerous and really unsustainable level of testing. The expense is going to be challenging. And so many medical marijuana patients, who have relied on farmers markets, which are now all closed, or medical dispensaries, to get their medicine, are now going to have to go through retail, where the price is going to be higher, they're still going to have to pay the excise tax, and the availability of the product may not be the same dosage, may not be the same caliber of medicine they've been used to having. So there's a lot of angst and uncertainty in the medical arena.

DOUG MCVAY: Again, I've been speaking to David Rheins. David, any closing thoughts for the listeners, and where can people find out more about the MJBA?

DAVID RHEINS: Well, so, the MJBA, as I said, is, we are a sounding board. So if you have information that you want to share, send it to info at MJBA.net. If you want to find out information, start with, if you're on facebook, MJHeadlineNews. If you're on the web, go to MJNewsNetwork.com. If you're on YouTube, go to Marijuana Channel One. Please, subscribe, it's all free. Share it out. Spread the love. But, yeah. It takes a village, and we're just one big umbrella to help aggregate the community.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, which one is your website? Give me the URL.

DAVID RHEINS: So, it's MJBA.net, is where you can join.

MORGAN: Well, hello, my name is Morgan. I am president of the Marijuana Business Association, and founder of the MJBA Women's Alliance.

DOUG MCVAY: Morgan, I want to find out about the Women's Aliance. Could you tell me about that?

MORGAN: Sure. The Women's Alliance was established a couple of years ago. We found that within the larger MJBA that women really were asking to have some women-only events and workshops, that we can together, collaborate, empower, and support each other in this new territory. So many of us are looking for our next adventure, and we found that cannabis is a perfect marriage between business and a plant that we love and we support, and we think that should be absolutely legal for everybody to get hold of.

DOUG MCVAY: So, now, how has the MJBA been doing as far as numbers, as far as interest. There are a lot of states out there.

MORGAN: MJBA continues to grow. Every week we get new members, business members, national sponsors are coming in, because they know that they're going to take their brands into other states that we're in right now. We're in Washington, Colorado, we just launched in New York, we're already in Portland, here at the CCC. So we're looking to expand and grow our membership into the other states as well, and legalize cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: David mentioned the MJBA Women's network -- Women's Alliance app. It sounds like a rare thing, which is a useful app. So tell me about this.

MORGAN MJBA: This app is going to revolutionize how we communicate with one another. Women are already on their phones, they're already busy, so why not go to one place to find out where's the next event happening. We have three already loaded into the app, we'll be running around the country and providing places for women to promote their business, to promote their cause, and with the app, there's also a place to do business. Our marketplace for example is where women can provide their products and services, and a tiny bit of that will go to our charity of choice. We're looking to support all women, from all over the globe, all different kinds of categories, and the way to do that is to start networking, and providing them a platform and a community place for them to come is one solution that we've provided for our women members.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, what are you going to be doing here at the, it's the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, got to get that second word right, the CCC. This thing. You're speaking here, right?

MORGAN MJBA: Yes. Tomorrow, I will be moderating a panel on branding your cannabis business. We'll have three business pioneers in this space that will be telling everybody exactly how they got to where they are, what challenges they've had, and we look forward to that. And then at 3 o'clock, I will be on a panel with four other trade associations in cannabis, and we're going to be talking about how we all differ, how we all play the same, you know, basically we're after the same customers but we offer different solutions, depending on where you are in the cannabis space and where your business is.

DOUG MCVAY: What other kinds of projects and things do you have coming up? What's the Women's Alliance doing over the next year?

MORGAN MJBA: We plan to get together every six to eight weeks in all of our states that we have presence, to get together and just work on our business plans, work on our mission statements, work on our business planning. And it's so empowering when women come together, because we really, really support each other, and we get so much stuff done. I mean, we really -- we don't sit around and smoke weed and talk about what's going on at home. We're actually going, how can I grow my business? How can I earn a living? How can I provide for my family, how can I send my kids to college? And so, we're going to get together and we're going to talk about business. We're going to get together in different states and just really support each other. I mean, that's the way we do it, is to get together and share information.

DOUG MCVAY: Morgan, any closing thoughts for the listeners, and tell folks how they can keep up with what you're doing with the MJBA, and the Women's Alliance.

MORGAN: You can find MJBA at MJBA.net. MJBA Women's Alliance is just launching their new web page at MJBAWA.com. And the app is available through our website. You do need to join as a woman member to get access to the app, so we encourage all women to join. Get involved, get access, and help us legalize cannabis throughout the world.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

BETHANY MOORE: I'm Bethany Moore, and I'm with National Cannabis Industry Association, or NCIA for short. NCIA is in its sixth year of operation. We're the national trade association, and we represent nearly a thousand member businesses in this industry through our advocacy work on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, our priorities are federal, really working to fix the banking crisis for these state-legal marijuana businesses, as well as amend the tax code. Section 280e of the tax code does not allow our businesses to take normal tax deductions, which is just awful and really hinders the growth of these companies trying to build their businesses and give back to the communities and so on.

I just got a new job title, which I'm thrilled about. I'm the Communications and Projects Manager, so I'm working on the member-facing communications projects, like blogs and newsletters and video projects, as well as some of the media partnerships with some of these cannabis magazines, and other podcasts and things like that. For the last two years here I've been doing membership development work, so I'm really, I really know what I'm doing now.

DOUG MCVAY: This is the first day of the Collaborative Conference. How do you think it's going so far?

BETHANY MOORE: It's great. There's a great crowd here, lots of new faces, lots of familiar faces, people that have been members for years as well as some great new companies that are popping up here in the Oregon area, that I'm really looking forward to connecting with.

DOUG MCVAY: As far as industry development, from your perspective, how do you think Oregon ranks compared to some of the other -- well, let's just think, some of the other medical states, obviously not that many who have full legalization quite yet. But there's -- how do you think Oregon is doing as far as the industry development, at least as far medical?

BETHANY MOORE: Oregon has a really strong medical culture, which serves them well. So, I think they're poised to continue working together to make sure that the legislation supports what they're doing on the local levels. I hear there are still some cities and areas that are banning the use of marijuana, or they're not allowing marijuana into their cities, and that's really disappointing, so hopefully through just more education and folks getting more involved in their local politics, this is so important to do, I mean, I know everyone's busy trying to run their business, but getting involved in the local politics is the best way to get your voice heard, and to join up with some of these groups that are here locally that are bringing those efforts together in order to have a stronger, unified voice.

DOUG MCVAY: Do you have any closing thoughts for the listeners, and tell us how people can find out about the work that you do.

AARON SMITH: Oh yeah. Well, if anyone is thinking about joining the cannabis industry, or if you're already running a business, whether you're direct to plant, you know, growing, selling, infusing, extracting, or an ancillary business, like marketing or accounting or legal services, our membership is made up of people like you, and that supports the lobbying work that we do in DC to represent this legitimate and responsible industry that should be treated just like every other industry, fairly. So that's our goals, and joining NCIA is super easy. Check out our website, it's www.TheCannabisIndustry.org. And we also have a facebook and twitter, so you can find us there as well.

DOUG MCVAY: Bethany Moore, it is great to -- from the National Cannabis Industry Association, thank you so much.

AARON SMITH: Hi, I'm Aaron Smith, the executive director and co-founder of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

DOUG MCVAY: Aaron, tell me about some of the stuff that NCIA is working on this year, because this is an election year, so I've got to think you're getting, at least taking a look at the presidential candidates.

AARON SMITH: Yeah, you know, as an industry, we, especially an industry that's unfortunately still considered criminal under federal law, the presidential race and everything that's going on in the 2016 election is hugely important. We've got at least five measures on the ballot for adult use marijuana, which will drive federal policy change. And also, you know, what's really -- you know, everybody's looking at the presidential election right now, and that's going to be hugely important to the future of the industry, how the next administration treats us. You know, Bernie Sanders is by far the best candidate on marijuana policy, but it's notable that the candidates, the other candidates who, the more mainstream candidates you might say, also are, you know, fairly positive and have stated something similar to the Obama policy, of just allowing states to move forward with their programs without interference.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, you mention the Senate, let's talk about that for a moment, because there are of course a couple of bills there. What is going on in the Senate as far as marijuana reform legislation?

AARON SMITH: Well, it's notable that up until last year, there had not been any substantive marijuana reform legislation introduced in the Senate, ever, and now we have six. The big one is Senator Sanders ending marijuana prohibition act, which would completely de-schedule marijuana, remove it from the list of controlled substances, and allow states to regulate without interference. And then there's also some legislation NCIA is backing that deals with banking and tax reform for the businesses within the industry.

DOUG MCVAY: I've noted that Senator Sanders has not had a lot of people signing onto his bill, and I'm a little -- I'm personally concerned that it might be a question of presidential politics playing into, no one wants to take the chance of offending someone else by jumping onto Bernie's bill. Do you think we'll be able to overcome that as the months go by?

AARON SMITH: Yeah, you know, we're actively looking for a Republican co-sponsor of the bill. Senator Sanders, you know, one of the big criticisms that you hear about him is that he doesn't typically get a lot of co-sponsors on any of his bills, for the most part. So I don't think that this is a marijuana issue. I do think that there's a presidential issue there, and you know, it will be resolved one way or the other by, you know, by I think the summer, or at least certainly by the convention.

DOUG MCVAY: And, let's flip over to the House, because that's where we've had most of the activity, of course, Blumenauer here in Oregon has been a leader in this drug policy reform caucus. How are things looking on the House side?

AARON SMITH: There's a ton of activity. There's over 20 pieces of legislation currently pending in the House, dealing with marijuana issues ranging from hemp and CBD, to medical cannabis, to full legalization of cannabis, as well as the more granular industry issues, like the banking and tax issues that we work on. And there is, you know we're seeing more and more enthusiasm on behalf of our champions, like Congressman Blumenauer, who you mentioned, but also just much more comfort among the House delegation in general, of something that -- getting behind these issues and talking about marijuana seriously, in a lot of cases, a lot of the offices would just laugh at us, when we came in to talk about the cannabis industry. Now, even those who aren't that supportive still take it seriously, just as any other issue.

DOUG MCVAY: Aaron, any closing thoughts, and be sure to give us your website and if you've got a twitter out there.

AARON SMITH: Yeah, visit us on our website, TheCannabisIndustry.org. We have a presidential scorecard listing the various candidates that are currently vying for the presidency and their position on marijuana, and get involved with the movement to change these ridiculous drug laws.

DOUG MCVAY: Aaron Smith, thank you so much.

SAM CHAPMAN: Hey, my name is Sam Chapman, I am with New Economy Consulting. We are a consulting firm based here in Portland, Oregon, that advises entrepreneurs, investors, and local governments on how to craft and navigate rules and regulations for the cannabis industry.

So, I think the big hearing was yesterday's committee hearing before the marijuana legalization joint committee, where there are many, many items being discussed right now. My overall sense is that things are going very well. A lot of patients and growers from southern Oregon came up to testify, I think that was a very strong presence for the small family farmer down in southern Oregon. And there were a lot of amendments that, almost every one of the legislators on that group had some type of amendment that they would like to make, and all of them were positive. There are no backwards, criminal prosecution, like, you know, criminal increases in penalties. They're all deductions, which is great from a social justice perspective, and I know the ACLU and Lee Berger and others have been working really hard on that, along with Anthony Johnson.

And then, in terms of transitioning from medical to adult use, there's been a lot of movement on that as well. There had been a lot of concerns that there wasn't going to be enough time for medical marijuana growers to transition over into the recreational market, given the March First date in which you had to stop growing a certain amount of plants, if you were growing over 48 you had to come back down to 48. And so there is an amendment being pushed forward by Senator Burdick that would actually push that date out by two months. They're issuing a stay for medical marijuana growers, which I think is a huge win for that community in being able to not have to pull plants out of the ground only to replant them once they get their OLCC license. And there are a couple of other medical issues that are being mended, shall we say, over the next week, and so we'll come back next, or this coming Tuesday, and we'll hear those amendments, what the bill looks like, and if people are seeming more or less happy about things, I imagine the bill will start to move sometime early next week.

Well, I think that we've had to do a lot of backtracking since Measure 91 has passed, you know, it was very clear by -- I mean, made very clear by people like Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner of Measure 91, and other advocates including myself that there's never been any intention to touch the medical marijuana program, it was to simply create another path for cultivators who want to operate under the OLCC and/or under medical to do so, and so, you know, over the past year, through rule-making, there's been a lot of questionable decisions that have been made in terms of, you know, things that could potentially hurt and harm and kill a lot of family farmers and medical marijuana patients and growers.

But it really seems like, in the last two months, in preparation coming up to the short session, knowing that it's a thirty-five day blitz to get something through, that a lot of really good work has been done between stakeholders, legislators, industry folk, patients, growers. I'm feeling really good about where we're at right now with those two committee bills, and I think that we can expect the legislature -- I mean, I've been working with the legislature for the last, almost three years now on marijuana items specifically, and they have come quite a long ways. I mean, even, I feel like I'm even comfortable saying at this point that the Republicans are some of our new best friends when it comes to respecting patients' rights, and not over-regulating. That's not a surprise, but the fact they are now staunchly behind medical marijuana patients and not changing the program, I think that says a lot about where we're at here in the state of Oregon, the environment that we can look forward to as we continue to craft additional regulations and create the golden standard of the cannabis industry model here in Oregon.

DOUG MCVAY: And now, one last while we still have time. One of the highlights of the Cannabis Collaborative Conference was a keynote address by Cliff Robinson - "Uncle Cliffy," as he's known out here in Portland, Oregon, or "Uncle Spliffy" as he will soon be known.

DOUG MCVAY: We have so many more athletes coming out and talking about their medical marijuana use, Ricky Williams recently, and of course Jim McMahon. Do you see that continuing, do you think we'll have some more folks coming out, especially as we hit Super Bowl weekend?

CLIFF ROBINSON: I definitely think so. I mean, we have guys who are retired, who probably don't work in the association that they probably played in, whether it's football, basketball, whatever sport it may be, so I think, you know, now that we're, the conversation is being had, and like I said, more states are using it medically, and recreationally, I think you'll see more guys continue to come out and speak on it in a positive manner.

DOUG MCVAY: That was former professional basketball Cliff Robinson. We'll be hearing more from him and from the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in next week's show. For now, that's all the time we have. Thank you for joining us. This has been Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

We'll be back next week. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.