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VA State Senator Jennifer McClellan On The Importance of Social Equity In Legal Cannabis

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After 15 years in the Virginia State legislature, Senator Jennifer McClellan is ready to run for Governor. If elected, McClellan would become the first Black woman to be elected to the position.  

McClellan brings 11 years of House of Delegates experience as representative for the 71st district, serving a region most composed of Richmond from 2006 to 2017. For the past four years, she’s represented the 9th district as a Senate member, serving the Richmond area once again. 

Along the way, she’s realized that the state level is where legislative action happens—especially as of late in Virginia. 

The senator said that the past two years brought about a wave of change previously not discussed in the Senate. The shift in policy is likely due, in part, to Democrats gaining control of the state legislature in 2019. 

In March 2021, the state made headlines becoming the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty. Less than two weeks later saw the passage of Virginia’s adult-use cannabis laws, making it the 16th state to pass legislation. 

“We’ve made generational progress on a number of issues, including cannabis, in less than two years,” said McClellan, who said the people let their voices be heard on the issues. The senator said a combination of social justice reform and economic market motivations were central to getting cannabis legislation passed. 

The state plans to bring legalization about incrementally over the next four years or sooner. Simple possession and home cultivation become legal on July 1. Sales on the regulated open market expect to take effect in 2024. The bill also comes with a re-enactment clause due next year. McClellan said she is spending this year examining how states like New Jersey and New York come online with their regulations so Virginia can strengthen its bill. 

Adequate Social Equity Implementation Is A Must 

A central motivation for Jennifer McClellan has been the hope to end the fight to stop inequality in America—a battle previous generations of her family and other Black people have fought for as well. 

The senator stated that the Commonwealth and the country have “had racial inequity baked into every system.” McClellan added, “That’s something that my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents saw every day of their lives, and I’ve been fighting my entire adult life, and I’m tired of it.” She now hopes to ensure that fight doesn’t have to be picked up by her children and others in the next generation of Black America. 

McClellan emphasized the importance of not only fighting the fights but winning them. Such victories come in the form of equal access to education. The senator stated that a lack of quality education puts children on the pipeline to prison, affecting Black and marginalized communities in America. 

A 2016 U.S. A Department of Justice study of prisoners and their schooling revealed that approximately 65% of inmates hadn’t received a high school diploma. Dropout rates hovered slightly above 40%. Only 23% had graduated high school. According to Pew Research Center, despite imprisonment rates dropping by a third for Black men since 2006, they remain the most likely to be imprisoned. By 2018, Black men were imprisoned nearly twice as much as Hispanic men and five times more than white men.   

With the bill passed, she now sees the adequate implementation of regulations as a primary focus. Jennifer McClellan is calling for a deliberate focus on social equity components in the bill’s rollout. She considers social equity essential in helping address disproportionate harm done to brown and Black communities through cannabis prohibition. 

If legislators fail to factor social equity, then “you’re just carrying forward that inequity in this new legal market,” explained McClellan. 

To ensure proper implementation is achieved, Virginia passed resolution SJ 67, which calls for the state Joint Legislative and Review Commission to study the framework of legalization. The commission is tasked with recommending how the state should regulate its program across the supply chain. In November, a study of key market considerations was released, touching on licensing, municipal opt-outs and social equity initiatives.

Senator Jennifer McClellan with Vice President Kamala Harris; Image via Senator Jennifer McClellan’s InstagramJennifer McClellan Gaining Support Through The Ground Game 

Jennifer McClellan now has her eyes set on the open Governor position, with the election held later this year. The drive for the governorship comes, in part, from the same force that compelled her into public office in the first place. Her Depression-era parents grew up under Jim Crow laws, with McClellan calling the period tyranny. The injustices they faced and the ongoing fights for equality are joined by what she considers the government’s lack of helping people. 

“The depression was the last time we saw the full force of government focusing on helping people, solving their problems and getting them back on their feet in a terrible crisis,” McClellan stated. She added that not everyone felt included in the effort. “It was also a time my parents felt like it wasn’t for everybody.”

Those experiences led her to use the governorship as an opportunity to create further good by solving the problems of Virginians and uniting the public. She believes her goal can be achieved by making a government that is for all its people. Meeting with Virginians across the state showed McClellan that citizens seem to be most concerned about who will address their problems, “because their problems are worse than they have been in a very long time,” she said. 

A 2020 Hampton University and Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research phone poll of Virginians found that 56% of respondents saw the state headed in the right direction, with 66% thinking the same of their community. However, only 28% saw the same for the country, with 70% believing it is headed in the wrong path. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was the final deciding factor for McClellan to run. “We’re at the same critical crossroads right now as this country was in 1968,” she stated, noting that a rebuild of the economy, healthcare and education systems are all on tap. She said the state faces an opportunity to either go back to where it started on inequality or meet the concerns and move forward in a stronger, recovered fashion. 

Jennifer McClellan faces an uphill to winning her party’s nomination, with a pool of Democratic contenders vying. In December, McClellan’s camp released poll numbers showing a majority 38% of voters undecided. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe led actual candidates at 32%, with McClellan at 8% behind Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (16%) but ahead of Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (5%).

The numbers haven’t deterred confidence so far, with McClellan crediting her ground strategy and team as it shifted to smaller crowds and social distanced meetings with constituents. In late April, McClellan’s campaign received an additional boost as prominent California political backers Susan Sandler and Steve Phillips asked their donor network to support her bid for Governor.

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Labat and Leaf Botanicals Relationship Ends in Tears; N Cape Cannabis Producer Pulls Out of Deal with JSE Company

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Unresolvable issues around value and quality

Northern Cape organic cannabis grower Leaf Botanicals has pulled out of its share deal with JSE-listed Labat Africa and wants out. That’s emerged after Labat, which owns 80% of Leaf Botanicals, posted an announcement on SENS to its shareholders on 17 March 2022 that there was a “quality issue” behind the breakdown.

 

Both sides seemed equally unhappy with their year-long marriage, with Upington-based Leaf Botanicals pulling the plug because of financial disappointment, and Labat saying the flower was not good enough for its international customers. Labat has gone looking for production elsewhere, picking up 80% of Eastern Cape grow op, Sweetwaters for R10 m – for which it paid cash. Leaf Botanicals’ intentions going forward have not been made public.

 

The company said the “Leaf Botanicals acquisition was terminated due to Leaf Botanicals no longer wishing to pursue the transaction following the discovery that the product was not up to standard and the inability to find a suitable way forward. Following further discussions, the termination has been accepted by Labat.”

 

Van der Colff activated suspensive clause after sale value plummeted by 75%

Labat purchased 75% of Leaf Botanicals in May 2021 from award-winning farmer, Johannes van der Colff.

Labat paid R11,25 million for its equity in the SAHPRA-licensed facility and paid the Gog van der Colff Trust by way of 11 250 000 Labat shares, taking a bet that the Labat share price would go up. Well it didn’t. It is currently trading around 25c a share, which means the R11,25 m van der Colff was paid for giving up majority control of his operation is now worth a mere R2,8 m, 75% down on the value of the striking price.

Van der Colff’s got out the deal by activating a suspensive condition in the purchase agreement which allowed him to pull out if Labat was trading below R1.00/share for the 30 days before the first anniversary of the deal, which is imminent.  The issuing of his Labat shares is to be cancelled and those shares delisted.

 

Labat has endured a rocky ride so far, prospects are looking up

Labat has had a rocky ride as the mover with first advantage in the South African cannabis space. It paid for many of its acquisitions with Labat shares valued at R1.00/share. With the price languishing below 30c/share, those who accepted shares in return for giving up equity in their own businesses, have taken a haircut of 75% of the value of their shares.  Nonetheless Labat appears to have stabilized, and has again been out shopping

The post Labat and Leaf Botanicals Relationship Ends in Tears; N Cape Cannabis Producer Pulls Out of Deal with JSE Company appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Gauteng Signs Township Act into Law; Calls for Entrepreneurs to Pitch Proposals to Industrialize Cannabis

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New Act aimed at empowering community trade

The Gauteng government has invited entrepreneurs to come forward with commercial proposals for the provincial cannabis industrialization programme. It published the invitation in the Government Gazette on 29 April 2022, the same day that Premier David Makhura ratified the Township Economic Development Act (TEDA), aimed at empowering townships and informal settlements.

 

Agriculture MEC Parks Tau, who is in charge of the province’s cannabis strategy says TEDA’s benefits include:

cutting red tape by introducing model standard bylaws, 
providing targeted tax incentives to unlock capital formation and job-creating investments, and 
providing targeted funding and targeted procurement whereby 40% of government procurement from the Gauteng provincial government comes from companies in the TEZs.

 

Tau: Vaal River Smart City will be SA’s first real cannabis hub

Writing in the Sunday Times on 1 May 2022, Tau said TEDA was “ a welcome legislation to unleash the potential of the township cannabis and hemp sectors that will be fully licensed in the full hemp value chain and acting as gateways for the industry. This will make Gauteng a “green gold” mecca, as announced by Makhura, with the establishment in the Vaal River Smart City area of the country’s first cannabis hub focusing on cultivation of cannabis primarily for medical use and application”.

Tau said the implementation of TEDA would be done in conjunction with the private sector and community organizations. “TEDA is a whole-of-society call to action to build better townships and informal settlements reeling from the negative effects of the Covid-19 health and economic pandemic, the July 2021 civil unrest and the complex spillovers from the Russia-Ukraine war” he wrote.  

“Moreover, this requires the introduction of a solidarity economy through, for instance, a service delivery co-production for municipalities where enterprises and organisations such as stokvels and mutual benefit societies provide their own communities with goods, services and knowledge that meets the local community’s needs”.

 

Gauteng wants to form partnerships with private sector

The Gauteng Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are championing cannabis reform as part of the province’s goal to create jobs and boost the economy by processing hemp and cannabis at an industrial scale.

 

Companies interested in partnering with the provincial government must take into consideration in their application that their proposals must include:

details of funding mechanisms, 
cannabis-driven carbon reduction, 
rehabilitation of compromised mining land, 
and the inclusion of communities as partners.

 

In return Gauteng says it will provide support for private sector partners by:

offering leases on state owned or controlled land;
providing rentals at special economic zones, industrial parks 
subsidies at private facilities;
financing partnerships, 
funding input and administrative costs 
facilitating collaborations with other state organs, aimed at removing barriers on projects.

 

Antony Moloto is the man riding point on the project. His contact details are below:

Email enquiries: Anthony.Moloto@gauteng.gov.za

Queries: Mr Anthony Moloto 

Phone: 011 240 2684/ 083 408 5493 

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS 

Upload a completed form here with CV’s, BBBEE certificate /affidavit, tax clearance certificate and proof of CIPC registration as well as a proposal. Application inclusive of attached documents must be no longer than 20 pages. Please complete the checklist at the end of the application form.

The post Gauteng Signs Township Act into Law; Calls for Entrepreneurs to Pitch Proposals to Industrialize Cannabis appeared first on Cannabiz Africa.

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Now Musk’s Bought Twitter, Could This End The Cannabis Social Media Ban?

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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.

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