The tech stocks sold off due to rising rate fears. However, U.S. stock futures rose sharply in early morning trading on Monday, as Treasury yields retreated from their highs from last week, easing concerns about inflation and that higher rates would undermine equity valuations. Investors have a “rare” opportunity to buy the dip here, according to Mizuho analyst Dan Dolev.
The mobile payment company is coming off mixed fourth-quarter results earlier this week where the company revealed it purchased $170 billion worth of Bitcoin.
Shares finished the week down almost 17% but Dolev believes Square is in good shape for the long run.
The company’s bitcoin-enabled Cash App is “holding up well” and should continue to see growth after some recent deceleration, he wrote. The app allows users to transfer money via a mobile phone app.
“We see overall Seller & Cash App gross profit accelerating in 1Q21,” he said.
And according to Dolev, the company’s products are “highly levered” to any government stimulus if more should transpire as is expected.
“Following the stimulus in March 2020, Cash App gross profit growth accelerated,” Dolev said.
The firm also has a Street high price target of $380 per share and even though the stock sold off this week, Square’s momentum remains firmly well-positioned, he said.
A New York lawmaker is proposing to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in the state.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D) introduced the reform legislation on Monday. It would amend state statute by removing psilocybin and psilocin—two of the main psychoactive ingredients in so-called magic mushrooms—from the list of controlled substances.
This is similar to a bill Rosenthal filed last year, except that the old version only covered psilocybin while the new one also includes psilocin. The measure has now been referred to the Assembly Health Committee.
A “justification” section of the legislation notes that research shows psilocybin has significant potential to help treat mental health conditions such as severe depression, anxiety and addiction. It also lists cities that have already moved to decriminalize the psychedelic and says “New York should do the same.”
Today is International Women’s Day—an opportunity to celebrate women have chosen to challenge the status quo, helping break down barriers for themselves and others. It’s also a moment where we look toward the future with hope for all the more we can achieve for women around the world by working together.
Each year on March 8, we honor this tradition by highlighting the women of Cannabis Conference, an impressive roster of women shattering glass ceilings, making space for themselves and other notable women in the burgeoning cannabis industry.
This listing is just a start. As we continue to announce speakers for Cannabis Conference (Aug. 24-26, 2021, at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino), there will be plenty more women innovators, leaders, entrepreneurs and trailblazers to highlight—so keep an eye on CannabisConference.com for continued updates to our speaker roster.
Editor, Hemp Grower
Theresa Bennett is editor of Hemp Grower. She joined HG and Cannabis Business Times as associate editor in November 2019 after working for GIE Media’s Recycling Group of magazines. Prior to her time with GIE, Bennett was the K-12 education reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal. Bennett is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Modern Farmer and newspapers across the country.
Executive Vice President / Board Chairman, Flower One
Salpy Boyajian joined Flower One in October of 2018 following the acquisition of NLV Organics (NLVO), a renowned consumer brand and luxury cultivator she co-founded in 2014. Boyajian now serves as the company’s Executive Vice President and Board Chairman, having previously held the title of Chief Operating Officer. Before entering the cannabis space, she served as the Mental Health Director for several leading non-profits in Los Angeles, ultimately founding her own non-profit organization before relocating to Nevada.
Debby Goldsberry is executive director at Magnolia Wellness, an award-winning dispensary in Oakland, Calif., and the managing director of the Berkeley Community Care Center dispensary at Amoeba Music. She co-founded the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) medical cannabis collective in 1999, directing its growth for more than 11 years. In 2017, Goldsberry published her first book, “Idiot’s Guide: Starting and Running a Marijuana Business.”
Emily Kowalski Vice President of Cultivation, LeafLine Labs
Emily Kowalski is the Vice President of Cultivation at LeafLine Labs, LLC, one of two medical cannabis companies serving the patients of Minnesota. She utilizes her 10-plus years of experience in propagation, greenhouse production, and outdoor nursery production to cultivate consistent, healthy cannabis in LeafLine’s state-of-the-art indoor facility. Kowalski never settles for status quo and digs deep into data to drive quality and efficiency within her operation.
Contributing Editor, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary and Hemp Grower
Cassie Neiden Tomaselli is a media professional with 10+ years’ experience generating print, web, video and podcast content for both trade and consumer markets. She now serves as Conference Programming Director for Cannabis Conference, where she works with the event’s Advisory Board and editorial teams from Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary and Hemp Grower to craft high-quality education for industry events. Previously, Neiden Tomaselli served as Director of Marketing & Communications for Firelands Scientific, an Ohio-based medical cannabis company.
Alisia Ratliff, PMP Chief Executive Officer & Founder, Victus Capital Ventures, LLC
Alisia Ratliff, the CEO of Victus Capital Ventures and licensed project management professional, is a technical conference speaker, esteemed author, and ambitious entrepreneur. Possessing over 14 years of leadership experience expanding over several industries—Ratliff effectively manages technical and executive teams cross-departmentally while simultaneously overseeing all business operations, including supply chain, manufacturing, laboratory operations and product formulation. Ratliff helps her clients avoid repeating failed business models and implement sustainable business strategies no matter the ever-changing regulatory environment.
Assistant Editor, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary, Hemp Grower
Andriana Ruscitto was hired as an associate editor for Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary and Hemp Grower in January 2021. Before joining GIE, Ruscitto attended Kent State University, where she worked in the university communications and marketing department, writing stories for the Kent State Today.
Senior Digital Editor, Cannabis Business Times & Cannabis Dispensary
Melissa Schiller joined the Cannabis Business Times team as an Assistant Digital Editor in June 2017 and now serves as Senior Digital Editor. Previously, she worked as an Audience Development Associate for GIE Media’s Ornamental Group of publications, where she managed the circulation for Cannabis Business Times, Garden Center, Nursery Management, and Greenhouse Management. She has also worked as a contributing writer and editorial assistant for a community newspaper and as a freelance writer for Northeast Ohio Media Group and Modern Tire Dealer.
Anna Shreeve President, Urban Paragon, Inc., Targeted Intent, Inc., and The Bakeréé
Anna Shreeve is President of Urban Paragon, Inc., Targeted Intent, Inc., and The Bakeréé. Shreeve entered the medical cannabis industry seven years ago with her son, and she and her team opened The Baker, a division of Cookie Fam Genetics, a collaboration with legendary breeder “Jigga.” Shreeve’s group holds two recreational producer/processor licenses in Washington, and a recreational retail/processor license in Oregon.
Editor, Cannabis Business Times
Michelle Simakis is editor of Cannabis Business Times. She joined GIE Media in 2012 and most recently served as editor of Garden Center magazine, the leading trade publication covering the independent garden retail market. Under her direction, Garden Center expanded its Top 100 Independent Garden Centers List by devoting an entire issue to telling the stories of the leaders and companies ranked on the list. She also helped to launch the Garden Center Executive Summit, the educational conference for key-decision makers in the industry, and recently developed a the only daily e-newsletter in the market.
Noelle Skodzinski has 25+ years of publishing experience. She co-founded Cannabis Business Times with previous owner Tim Hermes in 2014. She has been named among the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Cannabis. Previously, she held numerous editorial leadership roles, including serving as editorial director of the Publishing Group at North American Publishing Co., where she oversaw two national business magazines, all digital content products, as well as the annual Publishing Business Conference and related events. In 2018 and 2020, Skodzinski was named one of the “Top Women in Media” by Folio.
Hope Wiseman Owner, Mary & Main Dispensary
Born and raised in Prince George’s County, Md., Hope Wiseman has always been passionate about serving her community. After spending a year at SunTrust as an Equity Institutional Sales Analyst, Wiseman decided to continue striving for excellence by pursuing her dreams of entrepreneurship. In Fall 2017, Wiseman became the youngest Black woman dispensary owner in the United States with the opening of Mary & Main dispensary in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She has been featured in Black Enterprise, Huffington Post, Blavity, and Cannabis Dispensary. Wiseman is also a speaker and consultant to those looking to enter the industry.
Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ended a weeks-long legislative saga that saw cannabis legalization—supported by more than two in three voters in November—finally go into effect. On Feb. 22, Murphy signed a bill to legalize and another bill clarifying penalties for underage possession, a sticking point that had stalled the development of the legal industry.
Stopping low-level cannabis arrests and moving forward on an initiative the state’s voters approved nearly four months ago is just the start. Those fighting for a fair industry in New Jersey say there’s still a long way to go to ensure the new state market helps correct the previous decades of biased law enforcement.
Racial disparity in New Jersey prohibition
Between 2010 and 2018, Black people were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis across the state. In certain counties, that discrepancy shoots up to over 13. And according to the ACLU, the disparity has gotten worse over time—in 2000, Black people were arrested 2.2 times as often.
“New Jersey averaging 32,000 arrests a year for low-level, nonviolent, minor possession of cannabis—and 80% of those arrested were people who look like me—is not a fluke or happenstance,” said Leo Bridgewater, Director of Veterans Outreach for Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) and an advocate in the state’s effort for cannabis reform.
He and others involved in New Jersey’s legalization process, who spoke to Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary via email, weighed in on how Garden State lawmakers should proceed from here on out to create an industry that can begin to compensate for many years of racially biased law enforcement.
What will it take for a fair industry?
Recent estimates from The New York Times project that legal cannabis will bring the state of New Jersey more than $125 million in annual revenue. In many other legalized states—from early-movers like Colorado to newcomers like Illinois—markets are dominated by white-owned businesses, who often control 80 to 90% of state industries.
“There have always been glaring social justice concerns and obvious inequity in the high number of arrests of minority residents. Now, finally, this is the time for it to stop,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley in a statement to the media announcing the bill’s signing.
Proponents of an equitable industry say that New Jersey could end its long-running racial and socioeconomic disparity in cannabis with a few key steps:
With varying degrees of success, states like Michigan and California have offered special licenses for people from cities and counties hit hardest by cannabis prohibition. Given the disparity in arrests between various counties of New Jersey, this approach is one option upcoming legal market.
Matt Platkin, partner at Lowenstein Sandler and former chief counsel the governor, said the state intends to follow a similar strategy.
“In drafting this legislation, the governor and the legislature placed a heavy emphasis on those communities that were disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Platkin. “Priority for new licenses will be given to applicants from those communities, as well as to individuals who reside in New Jersey. The legislation also seeks to issue at least 30% of all new licenses to minority, women or veteran-owned businesses.”
Bridgewater noted that the bill’s text includes the creation of an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Cannabis Business Development to help empower disadvantaged entrepreneurs who still want to participate in the industry. This office will be part of New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which will oversee the state’s new industry and the way it creates standards for cannabis licensing.
Funding from tax revenue
Cannabis tax dollars could serve as a boon to state-level economies, many of which are still suffering under the fiscal strain wrought by the pandemic. California recently announced the state has brought in over $2 billion in tax revenue from the legal cannabis industry since the program launched in 2018.
New Jersey’s cannabis tax structure begins with a 6.6% state sales tax, on top of which can be added a 2% tax for towns and cities. Under the new law, the CRC also has the option to implement a sliding excise tax earmarked for social equity causes. This unique structure varies from $10 to $60 per ounce depending on the retail cost of the product.
For decades, supporters of home grow laws have argued that allowing people to grow their own cannabis is one of the easiest ways to ensure universal access. Late efforts to pass a separate bill to allow medical patients to grow were unsuccessful, making New Jersey one of the only states with adult-use and medical cannabis—but no home grow. State officials expressed fears it would keep money flowing into legacy cannabis markets and stall the growth of the legal industry, a claim dismissed by proponents.
“Just because you craft brew or have a pizza oven at home doesn’t mean you won’t grab a beer and a slice of pizza,” said Chirali Patel, a New Jersey-based attorney, cannabis entrepreneur and executive board member on the New Jersey State Bar’s Cannabis Law Committee. “Home grow is a basic right and certainly one for patients at a minimum.”
Attention in the state’s developing cannabis industry will now shift to the formation of the CRC and the way it chooses to implement its rules and execute on its new mandate. Bridgewater, who predicted adult-use sales will begin in 12 to 18 months, also pointed out the importance of the personnel leading the state’s new cannabis agency. Dianna Houenou, former senior adviser to Murphy and policy counsel for the state’s ACLU chapter, will chair the CRC. Murphy announced the appointment of the final two members of the five-person commission last week.
Above all, cannabis legalization advocates are hoping it will help lead to additional reforms that continue addressing the longstanding racial disparities in New Jersey law enforcement.
“The intentional targeting and tormenting of people and communities of color in this state has been a massive money maker for the prison industrial complex,” said Bridgewater. “Cannabis legalization only took away one tool out of a box filled with many others. Ending the targeting and tormenting of Black and brown communities for prison profits is how we truly begin to heal together as a state and nation.”
The OMC posted the full list of dispensary permit holders on its website, which consisted of Ohio-based medical cannabis dispensary Terrasana Cannabis Co. and West Virginia-based medical cannabis dispensary Harvest Care Medical.
Terrasana applied to receive six dispensary permits at the beginning of this year and was awarded all six. The dispensary business was also granted a cultivation and processing license, said William Kedia, Terrasana Cannabis founder and CEO.
Both dispensaries are making changes and finalizing a game plan in preparation for the expansion.
“The hiring process will not start until we start construction, just because of the timeline,” Kedia said. “I don’t want people waiting on us to do the project for three to five months until it’s finalized. So, as we get to those time points in our game plan, we will hire appropriately and train everyone so everyone is on the same page and ready to go the minute we get the dispensaries, growing and processing facilities all open at the same time.”
As for Harvest Care Medical, who won ten dispensary permits, along with cultivation and processing permits, the company is in the process of locking in its properties and is working with architects, engineers and general contractors, said Chief Development Officer Dustin Freas.
Although both dispensaries are getting ready for the expansion, they are unsure when their dispensary, cultivation and processing sites will officially open.
“Our plan is to have all six built out and open later this year, but between COVID and the wintertime, getting contractors to do the build-out has been a challenge,” Kedia said. “And now you have this mass influx of construction projects in West Virginia with everyone trying to build their dispensaries and processing centers, so finding good quality contractors to complete the project in a timely fashion is going to be a challenge.”
Harvest Care Medical is facing a similar challenge.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s not exactly business as usual,” Freas said. “Ordering supplies and equipment that you need could be on backorder, or a construction crew could get COVID, you know?”
Freas said the dispensary must have its grow site operational within six months from the day of the award with one 90-day extension, meaning he thinks that most cultivators who want to be the first to market patient access could have plants propagated by either May or June.
Both Freas and Kedia said one of the biggest challenges would be making sure the product is available and ready for sale when dispensaries open.
“There is going to be a time lag between when cultivating facilities are constructed and when products are available,” Kedia said. “So, you plant the seed, and then by the time you actually harvest and market the products, it’s about a 10-12 week process. So, you don’t want to have the dispensary open, and then they have the expectation of having the product, and you don’t have anything on the shelves, so there’s a bit of juggling we are going to have to do to make sure this all lines up correctly.”
Additionally, one of the areas that Freas is trying to lobby and work hard on is increasing the patient count in the state, he said.
“There are currently 85 patients registered and certified for cannabis in the entire state of West Virginia right now,” Freas said. “And they’re not really letting doctors market the service, and the state’s not really putting any money behind it, but this isn’t uncommon.”
Freas said that he’s not indicating that West Virginia is dropping the ball, but it creates a back-end concern when opening ten dispensaries and the patient count is low.
However, Bill Freas, Harvest Care Medical CEO and Dustin’s father said that the cannabis commission in West Virginia has been more supportive than any other state they’ve worked with.
“They really want this to succeed,” Bill said. “They are working with the people that run the applications, and they’re very receptive, and because of that, I think it’s going to be a lot less pain to get to market.”
Aside from challenges, Freas and Kedia said they are excited to become part of the West Virginia market.
Kedia, who has been a physician for the last 20 years in Ohio, said his first-hand experience with the opioid epidemic was challenging. It initially led him to want to be part of the medical cannabis market in Ohio.
“I really felt then, and I feel even more strongly now, that cannabis and medical cannabis, specifically, is a fantastic alternative to our opioid and pain medication our patients depend on,” Kedia said. “And I do think having this alternative is better for patients and better for patients care, and most importantly, better for the quality of life. So, that’s where I get excited because I can now do what I did for patients in Ohio for patients in other states like West Virginia.”
Kedia’s number one goal with the expansion is to help people, he said.
“Yes, we need to make money to keep places open, we all have bills to pay, our company has bills to pay, but all that aside, our primary focus has to be centered around patients and their well being, and that is more important to me than anything else,” he said.
And Freas and his father, Bill, have similar expectations and goals for Harvest Care Medical and West Virginia patients.
“Our number one goal is to get quality medical cannabis medicine to the residents of West Virginia as quickly and as effectively as possible,” Bill said. “West Virginia has a lot of challenges. One of the big ones is their opioid crisis. We believe that medical cannabis can be a real help. With all the data supporting it, we’re seeing a real difference in reducing the use of opioids and transitioning people, and we’re very committed to helping people.”
Despite operational hiccups stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages, Missouri Health & Wellness is working quickly to open five dispensary locations in the state’s medical cannabis market, which officially launched its first sales in October.
The company holds five retail licenses, which is the maximum number of licenses that any one company can have in Missouri’s market. Missouri Health & Wellness opened its first location in Washington at the end of November, and its second location in Sedalia just before Christmas. The company then opened a third dispensary in the state’s capital, Jefferson City, on Jan. 25. Now, Missouri Health & Wellness has its sights set on its final two stores in Kirksville and Belton, which will open by the end of the winter.
The company is standing up its locations quickly, despite Missouri’s medical program experiencing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Missouri Health & Wellness HR Director and Regional Manager Kathleen Beebe says it took a year and a half for the state’s first dispensaries to open after the state began issuing patient ID cards, but there has been a steady increase in the number of patients enrolling in the program.
“What’s most exciting is when you have patients walking in the door for the first time and you hear about … what they’ve been dealing with, and they’re so excited to have another option,” Beebe tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
Most of Missouri Health & Wellness’ patients are 60 years old and older, she says, and many are first-time cannabis consumers who are frustrated with the results of traditional medicine.
“I think that’s the No. 1 thing that excites me most about this industry, is that we are bringing some relief to people,” Beebe says.
The company also strives to create a diverse and inclusive culture, she adds, where employees feel valued and can make meaningful contributions to the company and the patients they serve.
Missouri Health & Wellness’ budtenders (called “wellness specialists”) go through a robust training program to ensure they can have educated conversations with patients about cannabis, Beebe says.
As with many new markets, Missouri’s medical cannabis industry is currently experiencing supply chain shortages, especially in the wake of the ongoing pandemic, which Beebe says has delayed the launch of many cultivators and manufacturers.
“They’re still under construction,” she says. “We’re starting to now see more and more of them entering the market, but we just had our first manufacturer pass their final inspection maybe a few weeks ago now. Obviously, it takes a little while for them to ramp up their production.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also further restricted Missouri Health & Wellness’ ability to promote itself within the communities it serves, as in-person, patient-facing events have been on hold. Traditional marketing channels, such as social media, are also challenging for the industry due to the various platforms’ restrictions on cannabis.
“Social media doesn’t really like us to talk too much about cannabis, so it limits what we’re able to do,” Beebe says. “We’re really trying to get creative, using our website more and texting. We do have a text service, but … the carriers will block certain messages. … We’ve hired a new marketing agency to help us start thinking outside the box to look at those ways that we can get out there, despite COVID and the marketing challenges that the industry has probably always had to face.”
To keep its staff and patients safe during the ongoing pandemic, Missouri Health & Wellness checks the temperatures of everyone upon entering the store, and provides hand sanitizer to its employees and customers.
Patients are asked to complete paperwork upon entering the store for the first time, and the staff sanitizes the clipboards and pens after each use. The dispensary’s registers are also sanitized in between each customer, and staff and patients are asked to wear masks while inside the store.
Missouri Health & Wellness’ dispensaries sell flower packaged in eighths, as well as pre-rolls and edibles. The company started selling gummies and cannabis-infused beverages on New Year’s Eve, and Beebe says the dispensaries have seen an increase in business just by offering these two new product lines.
“We’re hearing that there are going to be some vape cartridges coming, and of course, there have been a lot of questions about concentrates,” she says. “I expect where we are today and where we’re going to be in two or three months is going to be dramatically different.”
Missouri issued 192 total dispensary licenses, and Beebe estimates that there are roughly 30 dispensaries currently open in the state.
“I expect that is also dramatically going to change in the next couple of months,” she says. “We’ll probably see the majority of them coming online, so what you see in this market today is going to look dramatically different in the next few months, between an increase in supply and an increase in the number of dispensaries that are open.”
Missouri Health & Wellness will continue to differentiate itself in the rapidly growing market through its friendly and supportive wellness specialists, Beebe says.
“I really stress to the team that it’s important to be respectful to each other,” she says. “Obviously, when that patient walks through the door, be mindful that they are dealing with something. They may be cranky because they’re not feeling well, and they need some help. That’s where we come in to support them, whether that’s sitting down and helping them figure out how to find their patient card online because it can be a little tricky to do that, or just having a conversation with them that you can relate [to]. … Customer service, to me, is going to be what really helps us stand out.”
Patient education is also a key differentiator for the company, Beebe adds. Many of Missouri Health & Wellness’ team members come from working in other states’ cannabis programs, which provides them with diverse cannabis knowledge to help support the company’s patients.
“We’re hearing a lot that we have a little bit of an uphill battle with breaking the stigma,” Beebe says. “It’s not like it’s unique to Missouri, but the fact that we’re a little bit more conservative state, we do know there are people who don’t support cannabis, so we’re helping to bring a professional tone to the industry. … You’re going to walk in and be treated like a patient, and your privacy is important. Having that professional customer service and taking care of the patient is ultimately where I see us focusing our attentions and breaking that stigma.”