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…
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Black Unemployment Rate Stays Higher, African-Americans Get Less Jobs
In May 2020, the black unemployment rate stood at 16.8% compared to 12.4% among white Americans. While the economic recovery brought down the all-American average from Aprils’ record 14.7% to 13.3%, it ticked 0.1% for African Americans. The ongoing protests over George Floyd’s death due to police brutality, and high rate of joblessness for blacks highlights the glaring social and economic disparity in a country viewed as the torchbearer of the world’s democratic values.
Many blame the coronavirus pandemic for unemployment among blacks, who predominantly work in state and local sectors that have witnessed major layoffs. However, it is the disparate racial mindset that makes black Americans subject to economic and social injustice. While white Americans are mostly businessmen and white-collar workers, blacks struggle to get jobs.
The data on black unemployment rate understates the bigger problem of disfavoring in the United States. African Americans face inequalities in access to healthcare, education, housing and means of prosperity. Their wages, income, health status and economic condition continue to suffer due to persistent racial discrimination visible socially, economically and physically.
The Deep-Rooted Economic Disparity
Historically African Americans are at the receiving end of economic development in the United States. In August 2019, when joblessness was its lowest in the country in decades, the black unemployment rate was still 2% above the 3.4% whites without a job. Whenever a recession hits the US market, African Americans are more vulnerable due to the fragile economic safety net they rely on. As the economy rebounds, their recovery is again slower compared to the white population.
Much blame for the high black unemployment rate and their economic backwardness goes to racial discrimination that continues since the US came into existence. African Americans were enslaved, and brought to the country to work for the prosperity of white farmers. Despite their support in the War of Independence, their enslavement continues, and they were denied economic advancement. Black people were excluded from the political process, and forced to serve the white men.
The abolition of slavery in 1863 failed to restore their property rights completely and White Americans continued to enjoy privileges in job and commerce. The sustained racial segregation and discrimination of black people by whites led to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Though it resulted in social, economic, and political reforms in favor of African Americans contributing to Barack Obama’s elevation as the first black US President, blacks continue to face systemic injustices. The absence of equal opportunities, wages, and education keeps them disadvantaged and the black unemployment rate remains higher than that of white Americans.
Why the Black Unemployment Rate Stays Higher
The foremost reason for the high black employment rate in the United States is “historical and systemic educational and economic disadvantages” meted out to them. For centuries, white Americans are “patronized” to maintain a “disproportionate economic edge” at the workplace. African Americans struggle to get better and quality jobs as they have too many hurdles, including lower pay, higher job insecurity, reduced benefits and fewer opportunities, compared to white people.
Systemic barriers also put obstacles for black Americans. They are victims of occupational segregation making them vulnerable to wage discrimination at the workplace. Blacks are viewed as fit for lower-paid jobs, and employers prefer whites over them for stable, well-paying offers. Whether it is a slowdown or economic recovery, they are “last hired, first fired.” About 55% of them have private health insurance compared to 75% among white workers.
The lack of entrepreneurship and fewer African American-owned businesses also contribute to the higher black unemployment rate. They lack the wealth to support their education, start a business, or move to a particular place and access better jobs. They face monetary barriers preventing their education, and end up with higher debt than white Americans. However, this has more to do with racial profiling in jobs than the absence of qualification among black people. Their systemic economic exclusion is as old as the US history.
Even after slavery was abolished, the offices created to resettle formerly enslaved people encouraged them to enter into a contract with their former masters, and continue to do the same occupation. States, such as Carolina, made laws barring African Americans from doing any job other than farming or domestic servitude. White-dominated legislatures approved acts that prevented the relocation of blacks, or their hiring for distant job openings.
Unfavorable agriculture policies and Ku Klux Klan terror in the South drove African Americans to the North during the 20th century. However, the lack of good education and employment discrimination forced them to accept lower-wage domestic and service vocations. The trend continues despite technological advancements leading to high-paying jobs in the country.
Intentional government inactions are also to blame for the higher black unemployment rate. Federal and state statutes enforcing non-discrimination at the workplace are never strictly implemented. Many of the agencies, including the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, remain only largely symbolic, while social discrimination perpetuates economic inequality. This, in turn, has forced African American workers to endure lower-income, fewer jobs and exclusion from better opportunities.
Rhode Island Rakes In $1.6 Million in First Week of Recreational Pot Sales
Rhode Island’s new adult-use cannabis market opened for business earlier this month, and so far, business is good.
Local news station WPRI, citing the state’s Department of Business Regulation, reported this week that “Rhode Island’s six marijuana dispensaries — five of which are currently authorized to sell to recreational customers — collectively sold just over $1.63 million worth of marijuana from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7.”
“Less than half of those sales were for recreational marijuana, at about $786,000. The rest, about $845,400, were sales to medical marijuana patients,” the station reported. “For comparison, during the last week of October — the most recent full week available prior to recreational sales — the dispensaries collectively sold $1 million worth of medical marijuana.”
Rhode Island legalized recreational cannabis use in May, when Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill that was passed by lawmakers in the state General Assembly.
The law made it legal for adults aged 21 and older to cultivate and possess marijuana, while also establishing the regulatory framework for cannabis sales.
“This bill successfully incorporates our priorities of making sure cannabis legalization is equitable, controlled, and safe,” McKee, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “In addition, it creates a process for the automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions. My Administration’s original legalization plan also included such a provision and I am thrilled that the Assembly recognized the importance of this particular issue. The end result is a win for our state both socially and economically.”
Additionally, the law “will give courts until July 1, 2024, to automatically expunge past convictions, and those who want their expungement sooner may request it,” the governor’s office explained in a press release at the time.
Late last month, McKee and the state’s Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced that “five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1.”
The five “compassion centers” that were given approval to begin adult-use sales are: Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls); Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence); Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket); Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth); and RISE Warwick (Warwick).
“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said last month. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”
Matt Santacroce, who is serving as interim deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, said last month that the state was “pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the Cannabis Act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period.”
“We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators,” Santacroce said.
The launch of recreational sales on December 1 was only one change to Rhode Island’s existing marijuana policy to arrive this month.
WPRI reported that, on the same day, “the state also stopped charging medical patients to obtain or renew their medical marijuana cards,” adding that “there is an expected revenue loss from the pending plan to expunge marijuana possession charges, which will eliminate court fees from those crimes.”
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D.C. Council Approves Cannabis Bill To Promote Equity, Provide Tax Relief And Eliminate Medical Marijuana License Caps
On Tuesday, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., approved a bill that would significantly alter the city’s medical marijuana program. The bill would, among other things, remove licensing caps on cannabis businesses, reduce taxes for operators, increase efforts to promote social equity, and establish new categories of regulated businesses, such as on-site consumption facilities and cannabis cooking classes.
Additionally, it would allow current “gifting” operators, who sell non-cannabis items in exchange for “free” marijuana products, to transition into the permitted market while granting authorities the ability to crack down on those who continue to operate unlawfully.
The measure, which had been revised by the Committee of the Whole earlier in the day, was passed by the full D.C. Council by a vote of 7 to 4.
A second reading vote by the Council is still required before it can be sent to the mayor’s office.
Pro-reform lawmakers have voiced concerns that the bill’s most recent iteration may have unintended consequences for social fairness by granting preferential treatment to already established medical cannabis outlets.
Legally, adults would be able to selfcertify their medical marijuana use according to the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) introduced the legislation on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
A note prepared for the hearing by the Committee of the Whole states that the most recent print “retains a majority of the adjustments and additions made by” the Committee on Business and Economic Development (CBED), which passed the measure last week.
It had progressed out of a different panel before.