By Dalton Rosario

Marlboro cigarettes maker Altria Group has begun preliminary investment discussions with Canadian cannabis manufacturer Cronos Group for a potential stake in their company. Having already invested in North American alcohol titan Anheuser-Busch InBev, Altria is following strategic initiatives first set in motion by U.S. liquor conglomerate Constellation Brands, who had invested $3.78B into Canopy Growth, an Ontario-based cannabis company this past August.

Although official confirmation for any buyouts are too early to be disclosed, it would not be unreasonable for North America’s largest tobacco conglomerate and owner of Philip Morris USA to transition into cannabis as the healthier alternative to their current product line. 

By Dalton Rosario

Pending permit approval from Health Canada, 48North and cannabis cultivator Good & Green will be the first Canadian company merger to grow outdoor cannabis. At a mere fraction of the overhead costs compared to automated indoor greenhouse facilities, 48North will be positioned to produce nearly 100,000 pounds of organic, non-synthetically fertilized cannabis outdoors at 25% the cost of all major Canadian competitors. First crop is expected to be planted in June, with first harvest occurring by October 2019. 

According to a recent report released by accounting firm Deloitte, Canada is projected to earn as much as $7B in 2019 from cannabis sales, with adult consumption expected to increase by 35%. No surprise Canadian titan of industry Canopy Growth invested $2.3M in 48North for a 3.6% stake of total shares, issued and outstanding, along with a minimum supply of 2,645 pounds of cannabis over the course of 2019-2020.

By Dalton Rosario

Despite aversion and active backlash from the Mormon Church, Utah legislation has passed provisions for medicinal cannabis legalization in the popularly supported initiative, Proposition 2. After an overwhelmingly positive reception from Utahns, the state will now be able to issue medical cards that effectively decriminalize possession and cannabis use by registered patients.

Although furthering the progress of cannabis legalization nationwide, this story brings into question much controversy surrounding the role of church influence in state affairs. As a tenant of our constitution, there is a clear delineation between the separation of church and state. But in the case of medicinal cannabis regulation in Utah, the Mormon Church actively opposed measures enforcing the right for patients to seek out their preference for medical relief due to a conflict in their religious beliefs.

This misalignment resonates far deeper in the cultural psyche of our nation. We respect the traditions that our country was founded upon and doing so comes with embracing the seemingly drastic changes and policy reformations backed by popular demand. But when subcultures’ customs and beliefs impede national progress and innovation, we are in direct conflict with the industrious nature that our country built its strengths upon. Better to protect our reputable ingenuity than to cling to antiquated belief systems that pose a threat to governing state bodies and the very democracy they represent.      

By Dalton Rosario

Last Wednesday the Brazilian Senate’s Social Affairs Committee voted favorably for the implementation of medical cannabis legalization based upon popular public demand. An online petition initiated by Brazilian citizens secured 119,000 signatures in favor of decriminalization efforts so that practicing physicians could lawfully prescribe patients medical cannabis to treat a myriad of conditions and disorders.

This massive online movement reflects country-wide appeal for pro-cannabis legislation, that was first initiated earlier this year by Paulo Teixeira, Federal Deputy of Brazil, in the form of Proposition #PL10549; regulating the cultivation, retail distribution and selling of legal cannabis.

If medicinal cannabis is passed by the Commission on Constitution and Justice, and then approved by the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, it would mark a major victory for Brazil’s agricultural industry domestically and abroad. Not only does Brazil host some of the world’s richest lands - famous for their exports of soybeans, iron ore, crude petroleum and raw sugar - but with their geographical landmass rivaling the size of the United States, adding cannabis to their commodities list of natural resources would stimulate their economy in current times of hardship and political turbulence by boosting their presence and influence onto emerging global markets. 

By Dalton Rosario

According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), there are currently more banks that accept cannabis proceeds than ever before in prohibition history. A total of 486 banks and credit unions support state legalization protocols by providing safe havens for cannabis companies which have traditionally run cash only businesses. This number has increased 20% since the beginning of the year.  

Since 2014, FinCEN had established guidelines for banks to follow in their dealings with cannabis proceeds. Though the vast majority of financial institutions are hesitant to do so in fear of misconduct and violating federal regulations that leave banks at risk for money laundry despite statewide legalization. The banks and credit unions which have been most successful in their dealings with cannabis proceeds have done so by imposing large fees for cash deposits and denying account holders the ability to write checks or take loans.  

By Dalton Rosario

There is much buzz surrounding cannabis company CuraLeaf. Having received the largest stock offering of $400M in U.S. cannabis history, CuraLeaf is looking to open an additional eight dispensaries before year’s end, totaling their retail distribution to 41 locations in 10 states nationwide. By this time next year they are projecting to generate a revenue stream of $400M by opening an additional 30 dispensaries in 12 states.

At nearly 10 times the population size of Canada, CuraLeaf is positioned to become a titan of industry in the $50B U.S. cannabis sales market. Last month, October 29th, 2018 CuraLeaf went public (CURA.Canada) on Toronto’s Canadian Securities Exchange at $11.42 per share. Despite a steady decline in stock value since going public the market leveled at $7 a share today.

Although NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange are unwilling to invest in U.S. cannabis companies due to the ongoing volatility of federal prohibition, profitable trading throughout international markets will cause a catalyst of legalization. Since cannabis is federally illegal domestic banks hesitate to accept proceeds, forcing these profits to be stashed, and likely re-invested internationally in countries that facilitate the growth and expansion of pro-cannabis industries of commerce.    

By Dalton Rosario

This past Monday, November 26, 2018, New Jersey's joint hearing committee with the state Senate and Assembly passed Bill S2703; which advocates for the legalization of recreational cannabis for adult use and the expansion of their state sponsored medicinal cannabis program. This marked a momentous decision to send Bill S2703 to full Legislature on December 17, 2018. Although representing a firm step toward legalization, there is still contention between Governor Phil Murphy and State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) regarding agreement upon the statewide cannabis tax rate. 

Governor Murphy is looking for a 25% cannabis sales tax, which is comparatively high relative to State Senate President Sweeney's proposal of a 12% tax rate plus an added 2% for "municipalities willing to host cannabis businesses." This stark contrast is emphasized by Sweeney's line of reasoning that high cannabis sales taxes would continue to entice illegal channels of distribution, undermining legislative efforts for legalization. 

By Dalton Rosario

Vermont has become an avid supporter of industrial hemp production for CBD based derivates. Well known for its industrious roots in agriculture, it is a logical progression for native farmers of Vermont to venture into a budding commodity like hemp. The Green Mountain State bolsters some of the east coast’s most promising land for cultivation and local markets are increasing in hemp demand accordingly.  As cited by Stephanie Smith, Chief Policy Enforcement Officer from Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, “In 2017, 87 registered hemp farmers cultivated 550 acres of land, while in 2018 450 documented farmers cultivated over 3,000 acres of land.”

That represents a +400% increase in registered farmers from 2017-2018 and a 450% increase in lands cultivated for industrial hemp. The Northeast Corridor is booming with state support for pro-cannabis legislation. Providing a footprint for reformation on the east coast and paving the way for emerging markets like in the midwest to adopt meaningful policies for regulating commercial use of recreational cannabis.   

By Dalton Rosario

Progressive popular opinion advocating for recreational cannabis legislation is extending into New Jersey where there are currently 35,700 registered patients in their state sponsored medicinal cannabis program. Committees will be voting tomorrow Monday, November 26th for the expansion of their medical program along with legalization for recreational cannabis use for adults aged 21 and over as outlined in Bill S2703. The current momentum in the northeast supports popular opinion post midterm election in states like Michigan, Missouri and Utah which all voted in favor of cannabis legalization.

These markets represent central hubs in their respective regions, particularly in the emerging recreational market in the midwest, which collectively provides entry into parts of the country previously unsusceptible to cannabis legislation. South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Idaho currently have no legal access to cannabis, but time will tell how pressures of reformation from local investors and neighboring states will influence previously held beliefs of marijuana prohibition.

By Dalton Rosario

The Northeast Corridor has been making leaps and legislative strides in strengthening the anti-prohibition front on the east coast. All inclusive states sponsor comprehensive medicinal cannabis programs; and as of November 20, 2018 the first two recreational pot shops on the east coast have opened in Massachusetts. Neighboring state Connecticut’s Governor-elect Ned Lamont (D) has campaigned in support of pro-cannabis legalization for adult use as to prohibit “the black market controlling marijuana distribution,” and an overwhelming 59% of Connecticut voters polled favorably towards the benefits of recreational cannabis in their state. 

Communities are becoming outspoken in their demands for anti-prohibition. Legalization creates immediate revenue streams supported by legislative infrastructure for taxation and regulation that stimulates local economies and drives business from neighboring states. We are experiencing a revolution in reduced barriers to entry for businesses bringing cannabis-related products to market. The opportunity margin projected from legalization across neighboring states opens up channels for production, distribution and retail previously unimaginable. When asked about federal legalization for cannabis last Friday with CNBC, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb stated, “it’s happening at the state level, and I think inevitably that it’s going to happen at the federal level.” The tides of reformation are in our favor.