By Bruce Barcott, First Published in Leafly on 25 April 2022
Does this spell the end of cannabis prohibition on social media platforms?
Elon Musk has been an outspoken opponent of prohibition. Now he owns Twitter.
What began as a fun what-if last week ended as a startling fait accompli this afternoon: Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company.
In the cannabis world, that deal could have profound ramifications.
The Tesla founder has been famously outspoken about his belief in cannabis legalization. In late 2018, Musk lit up a joint on the Joe Rogan Experience, inhaled, and launched a million memes.
In the summer of 2020, Musk added his voice to the chorus of those working to free America’s cannabis prisoners.
“Selling weed literally went from major felony to essential business (open during pandemic) in much of America & yet many are still in prison,” he wrote. “Doesn’t make sense, isn’t right.”
Musk isn’t so much an advocate as an ally. He’s not the guy who’s bankrolling state legalization campaigns; he’s the uber-bro with massive cultural influence who says, loudly: Prohibition is stupid!
And now he owns Twitter. At a purchase price of $54.20 per share. Ahem.
Will that change things?
What needs changing?
Anyone who works in cannabis can tell you: Social media platforms do not play well with weed. The continued federal prohibition of marijuana makes the major platforms—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok—extremely nervous. They often express that trepidation by blocking posts, enacting shadow bans, or deleting entire accounts.
It’s hard to find a cannabis company that hasn’t been blocked or banned from at least one social platform.
It’s hard to find a cannabis company that hasn’t been blocked or banned from at least one platform at one time or another.
Often the bans feel capricious. A post that seems utterly harmless can get flagged for violating a platform’s terms of service, while an edgier post can shine on with no trouble at all. ‘What did we do wrong? is an anguished cry that nearly every cannabis social media manager has shouted to the heavens.
These mysterious cannabis policies exist on a spectrum. On the far side of strictness sits TikTok, which allows no cannabis content whatsoever. Don’t even try. The Google-owned YouTube can be tricky, but it allows cannabis content within reason. Then there’s Instagram and Facebook, both owned by the parent company Meta. Because of the nature of the cannabis audience, Instagram is currently the most important and influential platform, and also the one that gives social media directors absolute fits when it comes to cannabis content.
Jungle Boys, one of the nation’s top cannabis brands, gave a wink to that situation earlier today:
Will Musk change Twitter’s cannabis rules?
The platform Musk just purchased has a reputation as being one of the most liberal in its treatment of cannabis. There’s upside and downside to that.
The upside is that Twitter is the best fit, culturally and temperamentally, with Musk himself. His public persona is much closer to that of the swashbuckling libertarian Jack Dorsey (Twitter’s founder) than to the aggressively flavorless Meta leader Mark Zuckerberg.
If anything, we should expect Twitter’s cannabis policies to relax even further under Elon Musk. Consider this tweet he put out upon the acceptance of his bid this afternoon:
Better gatekeeping, or an ugly free-for-all?
Musk’s championing of free speech could make Twitter the most 420-friendly platform—but it could also turn the entire Twitterverse into an ugly free-for-all of political propaganda, unchecked conspiracy theories, and hate speech.
One year from now Twitter could be the social platform most welcoming to cannabis companies and consumers. But will cannabis companies and consumers want to appear on Twitter one year from now?
It’s not just his company, it’s his voice
Beyond the changes he might enact at Twitter, Musk could change the environment for cannabis simply by virtue of his new role in the social media universe. After hearing about Musk’s bid over the weekend, I reached out to Arend Richard, the founder of WeedTube. Richard has been one of the leading advocates for social media freedom and fairness when it comes to cannabis. He founded WeedTube back in 2018 after finding himself blocked by YouTube for an innocuous cannabis post. Four years later the 420-friendly WeedTube is thriving, readying an ambitious new update to their app expected to launch later this summer.
“As a cannabis business owner and influencer, Twitter has been relatively easy to work with,” Richard told me. “But I want to get in touch with Elon, because we need him to help bring awareness to the situation with Meta” and their platforms.
Richard is currently gathering signatures on a petition demanding that Instagram reform its community guidelines “to treat all legally operating cannabis businesses equally.”
The heart of the grievance? Unequal enforcement, according to the petition:
“Instagram continues to suspend and delete the pages of licensed and legal cannabis companies for violation of their vague and outdated policy prohibiting “attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade” marijuana. This policy is not enforced equally, with large multi-state corporations being allowed to promote their products and locations, while smaller, independent operators lose access to their Instagram pages, which are essential marketing tools in 2022.”
Influence others by eating their lunch
Can Elon Musk demand a change in the policies of Instagram? Of course not. This is a situation where he could force a change, however, by simply opening his arms to cannabis companies and then gaining ground on Insta.
The Meta-owned giant has nearly ten times as many active monthly users as Twitter. Instagram is younger, hotter, and more hip. If a Musk-over of Twitter can change that perception and eat into that lead, Instagram could be forced to reconsider its stodgy and outdated cannabis policies. And that could lead to a change in the other Meta properties as well.
There are no guarantees, but it could work. Elon Musk alone couldn’t force GM and Ford to start making electric cars. The success of Tesla forced them to follow his lead or become obsolete. Let’s see what he can do with social media.
The post Now Musk’s Bought Twitter, Could This End The Cannabis Social Media Ban? appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.
Cannabis poised to hit $200B by 2028
SkyQuest Technology, a consulting business, has released a research estimating the present worth of the global cannabis market at $28.06 billion as of 2021 and projecting the industry’s growth up to $197.75 billion by 2028.
The “Global Cannabis Market” research divides the market into submarkets. Flower and concentrates are two distinct categories, while THC dominance, CBD predominance, and a balanced ratio of the two are others (which reviews North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa).
Recreational cannabis use is far more popular than medical due to its many reported health advantages, including relief from stress and depression and an uptick in energy and originality.
The report claims that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) now sits at 32% annually as of 2021 due to the rapid growth of cannabis adoption. Until 2028, the CAGR is projected to rise to 35%.
The paper also discusses regional forecasts, noting that demand is anticipated to be strongest in North America. North America is the largest market for cannabis, according to the research. “The legalization of cannabis in most states in the US has generated a significant presence of providers,” it reads. Further, “the climate in North America is favorable for producing cannabis, and there is a great deal of area available for growth.”
North American consumers have a well-defined demographic profile: 55% are White, 20% are Latino, and 15% are Black. This information for the other regions was omitted from the report summary.
However, the report’s press release did note that the recent legalization of cannabis in some nations has prompted worries. There have been no research published on the possible health effects of cannabis usage, for instance, and the Thai Ministry of Public Health has not released any such studies, according to the announcement. Some have said that Thailand’s decision to legalize came “too much, too soon.” In Germany, people are expressing similar worries.
Several things seem to be driving demand. Medicinal cannabis is becoming more widely available as it undergoes decriminalization or legalization, and fresh studies continue to demonstrate the drug’s efficacy in treating a wide range of diseases. Additionally, the research discusses the emergence of the “cannabis lifestyle,” which has normalized cannabis use among “women, elders, parents, and others.”
For the cannabis market to continue growing, this analysis identifies improved banking services as one of the most pressing needs. “Financial institutions are a crucial growth area for the cannabis sector. Banks and other financial institutions have showed growing interest in cannabinoid-based enterprises in recent years, according to the paper. This is owing in no small part to the fact that cannabis businesses are typically in full compliance with monetary rules and guidelines. Because of this, cannabis firms now have access to a plethora of new opportunities for generating both capital and income.
According to SkyQuest Technology’s research of the cannabis market, the business’s prospects are bright right now. “The market is becoming increasingly competitive as the industry expands at a quick clip. Consequently, this is stimulating more competition and new ideas. More and more states are legalizing cannabis, and with that comes a surge in demand for both medical and recreational cannabis products, making the future of the sector look bright. Growth projections indicate that this sector will become one of the world’s most consequential in the next years.
Even though the cannabis market is always changing, most analysts expect it to keep growing. An estimate of $824 million was placed on the hemp market in February. Currently worth $17 billion, Forbes said in June that the cannabis tourism sector has the potential to grow much further in a post-pandemic world.
The German Crossroads—Somewhere Between Los Angeles and Germany
Of all the countries on the old continent, good old Germany is the one that is on the verge of a large-scale legalization of cannabis, which will significantly change the cannabis culture and will have to decide between two paths. Does it go the traditional way of the green Amsterdam school or does it follow the zeitgeist of the purple American-Californian philosophy in its then-new financially strong market? This editorial looks at the current situation in the economic powerhouse of the E.U., ventures a glimpse into the future and clarifies whether there might not be a third alternative path for Germany.
But before we can dare to look into the crystal ball and make predictions, we need to take a look at the current situation. An analysis of the current state before we can turn our attention to the target state. Germany does not have a national, recognized cannabis culture in the classical sense. Nor does Germany have any hotspots for cannabis culture, as Barcelona is for Spain or Copenhagen is for Denmark. While the judiciary in the south of the Federal Republic of Germany is still partly tough on small offenses, the police in other metropolises of the country are already wiser and in Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, or Cologne much more generous towards private cannabis users. Nevertheless, in the 16 years of Angela Merkel’s and the conservative CDU’s chancellorship, no sustainable cannabis culture has been able to develop. This does not mean that cannabis has not developed in Germany.
Since 2017, cannabis has been legally available for medical use. CBD products are everywhere and available at every second kiosk (bodega) and every Späti (the German’s favorite word for a small deli). Although the regulations are high you can find CBD flower everywhere, even the recognition factor has developed. The idea of a cannabis culture is in demand, even if THC is missing and cannabis containing THC still often has to be bought in parks around the corner or dubious areas. However, the current state of things also includes the fact that in the country of Bayer and BASF, a new branch of biochemical innovation has quietly emerged, which has already made financially strong experts in the industry such as Boris Jordan of Curaleaf become active. The great hunger in Germany for a social cultural embedding of cannabis and the German spirit of innovation in medical cannabis are two sides of the same coin, which could open up a path between green and purple fronts for Germany and, upon closer examination, make it a logical place for the further development of the worldwide cannabis culture. Clearly, the starting signal for legalization came from politics.
The new government elected in 2021 under the Social Democrats of Olaf Scholz has initiated a turning point. From a German perspective, this seems almost paradoxical, as Scholz took office promising to be the continuation and male version of Angela Merkel, who was known in U.S. circles as the so-called “Teflon chancellor.” So there is no point in looking at the current chancellor and his Social Democrats from the SPD on this issue, since he, like Merkel before him, does not let any issues stick to him. As a matter of fact, the focus has to be turned to the two parties that govern together with Scholz. The more left-wing Green Party Alliance 90/The Greens and the Free Democrats of the liberal party FDP. This government (SPD=red; FDP=yellow; Greens=green), known as the “traffic light coalition”, has defined in its coalition agreement that cannabis will be legally available in licensed specialized shops. The fact that three parties are governing in Germany is a novelty and had been expected with great excitement, as the last attempt at a three-party coalition had failed in the exploratory talks. The hype is real.
The legalization of cannabis had been on the agenda of the Green Party and liberal FDP for some time and was therefore an important unifying factor with media impact. The Greens were founded as a pacifist and alternative party and thus legalization was woven into the party’s DNA. The Liberals recognize the potential of a new market and trust in the individual’s personal responsibility in deciding for or against cannabis. They can also trust in the functions of a newly forming free market.
Despite all the justified criticism of capitalism, the example of cannabis shows some of the strengths of this economic system. The forces of a free market (with state framework conditions for all) set continuous improvement processes in motion, because companies want to set themselves apart from their competitors in terms of quality. Innovation, passion, and product understanding drive the industry to new heights. The customer and their needs must be understood and cannabis must be thought of in a holistic way in this new market. There must be full vertical integration without abusing the credibility of cannabis as a cultural property and allowing cannabis to degenerate as a profit-driven vehicle, as some German lobbyists are already trying to do. This is also a paradox, as some of them come from the CDU.
The best case of how to do it right is the company Boris Jordan invested in. Europe’s leading medical cannabis company—The Bloomwell Group. The Bloomwell Group, based in Frankfurt a. M., shows how cannabis in its dual function as a medicinal plant and cultural asset can work in a corporate context. The company houses three entities. Algea Care, which as the leading telemedicine company on German soil, stands for ensuring therapy and access to medical cannabis. Ilios Santé, the importer and trading arm, and the slumbering giant Breezy. The latter, through a cooperation in the near future, will enable the cashing of prescriptions for medical cannabis and position itself in the German market as the leading lifestyle brand in the cannabis space. Breezy will satisfy the hunger after legalization.
Germany’s sophisticated industry is already positioning itself as a global leader in medical use with cannabis in some areas, showing a clear case. The technical know-how and entrepreneurial spirit are there. The social desire for a credible cannabis culture is great and the political will for legalization is there. Breezy operates in a wonderful biotope where a thriving cannabis brand can manage to combine culture and technology. In my column for the nationally-published startup magazine Business Punk, I wrote about “the respectful treatment of culture.” Cannabis is the unifying factor of several cultures that need to be embedded industrially and legislatively in a sensible way. It is important to take the different influences and communities with us. My work as a designer in the fashion industry has shown me that it is important to use synergies. First anchored in the niche and subculture, I launched my own streetwear collaboration with soccer team VfL Bochum 1848, a first division team of the Bundesliga. Bloomwell not only knows how to use synergies, but also how to create them.
In my role as VP of Marketing, I was able to win rap star and entertainment mogul Xatar as our first brand ambassador and partner. Germany offers high-growth investment opportunities in the coming years and it’s up to the cannabis enthusiasts from the beginning to pave the market with an emotionalized approach and help shape our common culture.
Maybe we’re gonna be talking about the German Blue strains soon? Who knows…
The post The German Crossroads—Somewhere Between Los Angeles and Germany appeared first on High Times.
Sweetwaters the Core of Labat’s New Strategy as Group Unveils Plans to Set Up Commercial Seedbank, Expand Retail and Invest in Rolling Papers and Beverages
Labat to focus on finding the right ‘business combinations’
Labat Africa is finally hoping to pull off its first-mover advantage in the cannabis value chain with a more aggressive strategy after the pounding of the pandemic and a lack of a clear regulatory framework. The JSE-listed company has been burning through cash but is a going concern because of drawdown funding it has secured from Californian investors and its recent listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
The company gave an insight into its strategy when it revealed its latest financial statements to the public on 30 May 2022. Although the damage was bad, it’s not out of line with similar first-mover-advantage groups in all newly-regulated jurisdictions.
Labat’s strategy to seize the cannabis value chain in the course of the next 12 months is still being hampered by the restricted regulatory framework, but that looks set to change in the course of the year. Labat’s cannabis subisidaries fall into its healthcare division. They are: Labat Pharmaceuticals, Sweetwater Aquaponics, Ace Genetics, Labat Hemp Processing, Cannafrica and Biodata. Labat’s strategy going forward is to find the right “business combinations” to maximize efficiencies and get the Group purposefully heading towards profitability.
It says “the company’s vision remains to be the number one cannabis/hemp company in Africa and to maintain that position. The agreements over the last two years ensure that the company is on a profitable and value-creating path. Labat has made massive strides in laying the ground-work to becoming a Cannabis Powerhouse in Africa” It added that “Labat measures its success beyond yield and capacity; the pursuit of quality for a long-term competitive advantage drive to its business strategy”.
Sweetwaters Aquaponics: a ‘quantum shift’ for the group
Labat says the acquisition of SAHPRA-licensed Eastern Cape facility, Sweetwaters Aquaponics on 1 March 202,2 led to a “quantum shift in the busines, enabling the export of product to overseas customers, with the initial initial customer in Australia ordering a second batch of flowers, following the successful testing of the THC content (26.7%) by SAHPRA.
Ace Genetics: commercial seedbank to be set up this year
Ace Genetics is to be set up under license at Sweetwaters, a breeding room is under construction and a commercialization strategy is being put in place once the right genetics have been identified. The company says the planned date of transfer of all seeds and mother plants to Sweetwaters “is June 2022 with seed production expected to commence on the 1 August 2022 and the Company will be going to market with its own online Commercial Seedbank immediately thereafter. “
Echo Life deal gives Labat Exclusive Rights to Axle and Axle Pre-Rolls
Labat said last November’s acquisition of Miami-based Echo Life “greatly complements the Healthcare retail business through its unique range of product offering that will be marketed and sold through the CannAfrica retail stores as well as the Labat online retail platform”. In terms of the deal Labat will have the exclusive rights to distribute Echo Life’s pre-rolled hemp smokeable Ace and Axle as well as other products.
CannAfrica introducing CannAfrica ‘Kiosk Model’ in 5 Shopping Malls
Labat has switched tack on the roll-out of its retail brand CannAfrica; it says the “main objective that underpins the new strategy is the aggressive rollout of corporate owned stores, some of which, will remain corporate-owned, and others, once profitable, to be migrated to franchisees, who are fully paid up in respect of franchise rights.
The corporate-owned stores will take a different approach to the Melrose Arch, Hartbeespoort Dam and Cape Town stores which are larger stores with significantly higher operating costs.
The ‘kiosk model’ is being implemented in malls and larger shopping centres and Labat is set to conclude a deal with the Company is at an advanced stage of concluding a deal with the Mowana Property Group to open up CannAfrica Kiosks in five of their prime properties namely:
Cresta Shopping Centre (Gauteng), Westgate Mall (Gauteng), Menlyn Shopping Centre (Pretoria East), Castle Walk Mall (Pretoria) and the Pavilion (Westville).
The five kiosks should be opened by the end of June 2022.
Labat says it has identified that, “as an industry issue, there are no fully dedicated CBD stores operating in South Africa; therefore a considerable amount of time and effort has been put into further extending its product offering. The product lines which the company will be expanding into are minor/rare cannabinoids, vapes, grow kit accessories and other paraphernalia”.
The Company also plans to turn the CannAfrica kiosks and retail stores into “’dispensaries’ for the Biodata Research Project, for the legal dispensing of cannabis flower, other medicines and THC products.
Biodata Medicinal Cannabis to Become ‘Dispensary’ Product
Labat says the “Biodata research project is gaining traction” and plans to use the planned CannAfrica Kiosks as “physical-sign-up-points for the study”. It says the kiosks will also serve as Biodata dispenseries for medical cannabis for pain management. It says it is also “engaged with” a number of vape stores to also become Biodata “dispenseries” once regulatory approval is in place.
Rolling Papers into the Value Chain
Labat says it “is currently finalising agreements with a rolling paper specialist company that focuses on cannabis rolling paraphernalia. The business was running informally. However, there has been great traction on the brand and products with sales last year averaging 200 units per day. The business has now been improved structurally and has a focussed strategy of expanding into parts of Africa and the USA. The main challenge facing the targeted expansion Is the lack of working capital which approximates R500 000 for the first three months mainly for stock purchases to fulfil orders. Labat has engaged the business partner around a possible share transaction as well as a bridging working capital facility over the first three months. The process is currently in the due diligence phase. For its year end March 2022, the company earned revenues of R1.8 million. These products are complementary products for the CannAfrica Stores.
CBD Infused Drinks to Provide Ammo for Retail
Labat came up with a new cannabis retail strategy in March 2022 to expand its national footprint and visibility and to increase product offerings,. It believes “a retail beverage offering is indispensable”.
It says in an Enterprise Development initiative in 2020, Labat was introduced to a start-up cannabis beverages company which it still in equity negotiations with. However, “the company has developed three recipes in collaboration with the CSIR, and have finalised their packaging and branding architecture, and have delivered a premium product, as sample drinks. The product is superior, and of a quality that Labat want to be associated with. The company will now do their first production run, in order to show capability and test the market. A draft Term Sheet in place, to be concluded in the next phase of the Company’s deliberations. It is envisaged to be a share-based deal, for 30% equity, and access to evolving retail distribution channels.”
SAMES to be the Tech Hub
The South African Micro Electronic-Systems Proprietary Limited (“SAMES”) will “remain a technology hub and will also hold the healthcare divisions intellectual property, formulations, ‘know-how’, seed banks, extraction technology, strain development and other technologies needed in complying with Good Manufacturing Practice (“GMP”) standards, including European Union GMP, where applicable”. It says that although SAMES had a healthy start to the year, revenues have decreased “mainly as a result of a worldwide shortage of semi-conductor chips”
Logistics business to take care of transportation and warehousing
Labat’s Logistics, although not directly part of the Healthcare division, “will form an integral part of the Healthcare operations with both transportation and warehousing of raw material as well as final products. These are explicit requirements in respect of the GMP accreditation. Furthermore, the final product of the pharma business is expected to sell for between R800 and R1 000 for a 20ml bottle, which will need to be securely transported. The company’s marketing efforts are showing acceptable results and Labat is well positioned for growth based on work completed over the past three years. The Company continues to provide logistic services to large corporates, when and as required.”
Read all Cannabiz Africa coverage of Labat here