Report: Big Weed Dominates in Massachusetts, Despite Law

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team investigates how deep-pocketed operators may be controlling more than the state limit of three REC dispensaries per owner.

According to the story:

  • Of the state’s 12 open REC shops, all but two have ties to large multi-state operators or wealthy out of state investors, while no retail licensees affiliated with equity applicants have opened. “State policy makers failed to foresee just how hard it would be to control giant investors, often aided by well-paid lobbyists and lawyers.”
  • Sea Hunter Therapeutics and New York-based multi-state operator Acreage Holdings “have been buying or backing a series of businesses that each, in turn, is seeking to control up to three licenses.”
  • Sea Hunter is backed by Robert Leidy, an heir to a Palm Beach, Fla. fortune, and is part of cannabis conglomerate Tilt Holdings “[The company] has boasted to investors that it operates or has significant power over a dozen or more marijuana retail licenses” in Massachusetts.
  • Of those licenses, only two stores have opened so far. Other brands associated with Sea Hunter include Herbology, Verdant, and Ermont. The company’s CEO said the company aims to become more of a technology and service provider than a major retailer.
  • Acreage acknowledges owning three Massachusetts stores named The Botanist, and says its relationship to nine others is through management contracts and loans.
  • Sea Hunter and Acreage both deny they are bending or breaking the rules. The chairman of the state regulator says he’s not currently aware of any license violations.
  • Companies also appear to be challenging retail license limits in Maryland, Los Angeles and New York State.
  • The story promises to be the first in a series on the “hidden titans” of Massachusetts cannabis.

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John Boehner, MedMen CEO Heckled at SXSW

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Speaker Boehner's October 2015 Farewell Speech

At South by Southwest, a group called the Equity First Alliance protested pro-cannabis speeches by former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who sits on the board of Acreage Holdings and MedMen CEO Adam Bierman.
Marijuana Moment

  • While in office Boehner was a staunch cannabis opponent, who called himself “unalterably opposed” to legalization.
  • Boehner described his change in perspective to NPR: "I feel like I'm like your average American who over the years began to look at this a little differently and I think over the last five years my position, it has kind of softened up and softened up."
  • Boehner says he has never tried cannabis. My invitation to share a spliff remains open.
  • According to Quartz, 420,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana sales and trafficking during Boehner’s 2011 to 2015 tenure as Speaker. Several times as many were arrested for possession during that.
  • "I don't have any regrets at all," Boehner said about his less forgiving stance while he was in office. "I was opposed to the use of it. The whole criminal justice part of this, frankly, it never crossed my mind."
  • A lawsuit filed by MedMen’s former CFO accuses CEO Bierman of racism, sexism, homophobia and financial malfeasance. Bierman has called the allegations “absolutely silly and disgusting.” MedMen also faces a potential class action suit accusing it of labor violations, on which the company has declined to comment.
    Boston Globe, MJBiz

The Daily Beast reported from Boehner’s SXSW session where he sat next to Acreage CEO Kevin Murphy:

“How are we supposed to believe someone whose voting record has been racist, homophobic and misogynistic?” a woman in the audience shouted at one point. Instead of addressing those issues specifically, Boehner touted his own record on criminal justice reform without giving specifics.

“I don’t think we ought to have people in jails and prisons who are not a risk to society,” Boehner said. “And I don’t see these people as a risk to society.”

To applause, Acreage CEO Murphy praised Boehner for having the “courage to change [his] mind.”

  • According to a document filed November 14, 2018 (p. 102) with Canadian securities regulator SEDAR, Boehner held 625,000 subordinate voting shares in Acreage. The stock currently trades at $22/share.
  • Last spring Acreage told me it hopes to hire a diverse workforce. The nine senior executives currently pictured on the company’s home page are all white men.
    Slate, AcreageHoldings.com

MedMen is suing Miami Beach, Fla. over how closely dispensaries can be located.
Miami Herald

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More Pain for California Industry

California cannabis businesses can’t catch a break.

Elsewhere in California:


Study: Strong Pot Multiplies Psychosis Risk

Smoking strong weed daily may increase the risk of psychosis -- disorders characterized by losing touch with reality -- by up to five times, according to the largest study to date on the subject. Published in the British medical journal The Lancet, the study does not establish a causal link between cannabis use and psychosis.
AP, The Lancet

Quick Hit


New Jersey REC Bill May Fail

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for MTV
New Jersey has a Situation

After reaching a much heralded deal, the full New Jersey legislature is set to vote on REC legalization this week. However, Democrats who control the legislatute remain divided and it’s not clear whether the bill will pass.


White House Keeps Pot Docs Under Wraps

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (office of the “drug czar”) is invoking executive privilege to block disclosure of documents which reportedly allege dangers related to cannabis legalization.
Reason, Buzzfeed

Quick Hit

Aaah, Spring. The smell of budding flowers in the air, particularly this year as 4/20 falls on a Saturday. And, WeedWeek wants to make sure that it’s a profitably enjoyable one for you and your organization. If you book before 4/3, we’ll give you four banner ads that run consecutively for the entirety of April at an unpublishable price. Contact John Bollinger at john@weedweek.net to get your message out to the WeedWeek community.


Confusion in Michigan

Josh Hammond

With 72 licensed MED “provisioning centers” in Michigan, the state plans to shutter 50 unlicensed shops on March 31. They had been allowed to operate without a license for the past year.

Elsewhere in the Midwest:


CBD Regs Could Take Years

Outgoing FDA chief Scott Gottlieb said it could take more than three years to finalize regulations for CBD. The relevant issues include differentiating between CBD derived from hemp and that derived from marijuana.
Cannabis Wire


Pardon Me?

A N.Y. Times op-ed argues for expunging criminal records for a wide range of minor offenses, not just those related to cannabis.

Quick Hits

  1. Oyub Titiyev, a human rights activist in the Russian province of Chechnya, was sentenced to four years in prison for what international observers are calling a manufactured marijuana conviction.
  2. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against immigrants with minor convictions, such as for pot offenses, who want to stay in this country.

Green with Envy

Getty Images

Several ultra luxury jewelry makers have embraced cannabis motifs. The N.Y. Times writes:

In late January, Lucia Silvestri, creative director of Bulgari, attended the 2019 Town & Country Jewelry Awards in New York wearing a $320,000 bib-style necklace of gold cannabis leaves encrusted with diamonds and rubies. A week later, in Los Angeles, she donned a sister necklace in yellow gold, this one adorned with diamond medallions bearing cutouts of the same distinctive leaf.

L.A. jewelers Jacquie Aiche, Established and Sapphire Collective also have a fondness for flashing the leaf. And Hollywood boutique Just One Eye sells a bejeweled $48,000 vape holder-slash-pendant by Daniela Villegas.

Quick Hits

  1. Iggy Pop says drugs killed punk.
    N.Y. Times
  2. Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post, has written a guide to modern cannabis manners. It’s called “Higher Etiquette.
  3. Residents of Australian town Woodenbong, population 381, aren’t all amused by an artist’s hope to attract visitors with a giant wooden bong, perhaps more than 50 feet high.
    N.Y. Times
  4. At Leafly, David Bienenstock has an ode to getting high alone.
  5. A writer at the Outline misses bad weed.

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