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Cannabis Wire founders answer your questions on covering cannabis

Cannabis Wire founders answer your questions on covering cannabis

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During this month’s webinar, “Cannabis has arrived: Are you getting the story?” our panelists engaged in an enlightening discussion on current struggles between state and federal regulators to create legislation around cannabis, the existing research on its potential therapeutic benefits and risks, and how journalists can cover the story in their communities.

Due to the volume of questions asked during the event, our panelists were not able to address some of the remaining discussion topics that audience members posed. Here, Cannabis Wire founders Nushin Rashidian and Alyson Martin answer questions from reporters interested in covering the cannabis story in their communities. 

Q: How do you convince growers, dispensary owners to talk to you ahead of receiving their license from the state? I've made multiple calls and they never get returned.

A: Persistence. But, at the end of the day, the business license application process in most states in highly competitive, and sometimes end in lawsuits from those who are not selected. So it is to be expected that these applicants will be private.

Q: Do we know why people buy THC Vape cartridges on the black/grey market? Is it price?

A: In many places, these products are not legal, so the illicit market is the consumer’s only choice. For example, New York. In a state like California, which is unique, residents have become accustomed to a grey market for decades, but even post-legalization, 80% of the market remains unlicensed, so consumers are returning to those suppliers. And unlicensed suppliers are cheaper because they aren’t subject to taxes or costs of regulatory compliance.

Q: In San Diego County, cities are taking different routes in terms of whether to place a tax measure before voters or use development agreements to collect fees. Anything important to note about how cities decide to charge fees to either recover costs and/or pull in revenue?  

A: In Massachusetts, localities had so-called host agreements that became highly controversial. The view was that this was a pay-to-play situation, which was ripe for conflicts of interest, and not conducive to equity efforts. A local tax, on the other hand, is common, and is a way for a locality to cover the costs of local regulation.

Q: Are there public resources/databases/docs I can use to verify whether a company is following state regulations? 

A: The only way to know whether a business is in violation of state regulations is if the state itself makes that information public, or through a public records request. Oregon, for example, regularly publishes its enforcement actions against licensed businesses. But not all states are equally transparent.

Q: In the early days of legalization, providing readers with context was easy, as there were very few states with legal markets. You'd lay them out, compare your state to theirs while making sure to point out the difference, and let readers draw their own conclusions. As more states legalize, with everybody doing it their own way and no national standards, I'm trying to figure out which states I should include in a general enterprise story for context. Population size? Usage rates? Market size? Similar regulatory schemes?  

A: It depends on the story. If it is about taxes, you’d want to find states with clearly different tax structures (so, Washington has the highest tax rate, so you could juxtapose that with a state with a lower tax rate). If it’s about equity, you might pull together Illinois, Mass., and, say, Colorado, since Illinois prioritized equity in its law and Colorado legalized long before the equity debate came into the spotlight and is now addressing it retroactively.  

Check out a recording of the free webinar here, with panelist slides and recommended reading links. 

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