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Georgia Considers Criminal Penalties for Small Amounts of Hemp

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Under a new bill approved by the Georgia House of Representatives’ Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, anyone possessing or transporting hemp would be required to carry paperwork proving they are working for a licensed business. Otherwise, small amounts of hemp would result in an arrest.

Under House Bill 847, anyone without a license caught with less than one ounce of hemp plant material would be subject to up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $1,000, the same charges for misdemeanor cannabis possession. Last year, the Georgia legislature legalized hemp agriculture and several cities and counties in the Atlanta area have stopped making arrests for low-level cannabis offenses.

“What’s happening here is the criminalizing of a legal substance,” said Mazie Lynn Causey, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “What this bill does is it treats hemp as marijuana for the purposes of prosecution.”

Opponents of the bill criticized the state for adding criminal penalties for possessing hemp—which is legal at the federal level. They are also worried that the police can misinterpret the law and prosecute people for possession of raw hemp plants and CBD oil.

“We’re treating it as if it’s a criminal product,” said Rep. Scot Turner, who voted against the bill. “We have the ability to do a test. We’re choosing not to. Why aren’t we just taking the steps necessary to establish the criminal behavior on a product that’s actually illegal?”

Earlier this month, a bill was introduced to the Georgia General Assembly that would change the punishment for possession of small amounts of cannabis. If the bill passes, those caught in possession of less than two ounces of cannabis would be fined $300 instead of going to jail, which is the current law in Georgia.

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Arizona Dispensaries Can Now Apply to Sell Cannabis

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Just months after voters approved Proposition 207 in November 2020, Arizona’s cannabis program is now poised to approve applications for dispensaries.

At last count, 40 out of the 131 medical cannabis dispensaries in the state have applied to sell recreational cannabis. “We are reviewing the applications in order,” said Arizona Department of Health Services Spokesperson Steve Elliott. “The pace of individual approvals will depend on whether each application is complete.”

“This has been a long journey. And, today is a big day for all of us,” said Lilach Mazor Power of Giving Tree, a Phoenix dispensary that is applying to sell recreational cannabis. “Today marks the day that we’re this much closer to be able to share our experience with others.”

There has been some concern in the past about the $25,000 fee associated with the licensing process, but Demitri Downing of the Arizona Marijuana Industry Association feels that the fee will more than pay off for those who are able to enter the industry. “If you gave me a suitcase full of cash with $15 million, I would have trouble buying you a license,” Downing said. “Everybody’s waiting for that license to be worth 17, 18, 19 million dollars for the right alone—the right alone—to sell adult-use marijuana.”

Currently, only existing medical dispensaries are eligible to sell recreational cannabis. The state will eventually expand the recreational program after all the already established dispensaries have had a chance to apply, and many are hopeful that it won’t be long before these initial licenses are processed. “Seeing how easy and smooth the application is and how Arizona is on top of it…I think we can say between 48 hours from now. It depends on how long it takes them,” Power said.

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Jay-Z Launches Fund for Minority Cannabis Business Owners

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Rapper and record producer Jay-Z recently opened an investment fund to assist minority cannabis business owners who are trying to get into the cannabis industry.

The fund is the result of Jay-Z’s drive to help Black people get the opportunities they deserve. Minority groups have been largely kept out of the cannabis industry due to bearing the brunt from the War on Drugs, and instead, wealthy, white investors have taken hold. “We were the ones most negatively affected by the War on Drugs, and America has turned around and created a business from it that’s worth billions,” Jay-Z told the Wall Street Journal. “I wanted to do something in a real, concrete way, where I do my part.”

While the industry is growing fast, even despite the ongoing pandemic, black people still have trouble accessing the market due to the fact that they were, and in some places still are, more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis. Currently, the industry is still 81 percent white, with only 4.3 percent of business owners being Black, according to a 2017 Marijuana Business Daily survey.

In order to create the fund, Jay-Z acquired two cannabis firms based in California: Left Coast Ventures and CMG Partners. Under the heading of Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp., the goal is to fund “Social Equity Ventures” starting with $10 million, and adding in two percent of net income each year to grow the fund.

In addition to this, the money that companies will receive will be significant. The plan is to invest up to $1 million in each cannabis startup it supports. Jay-Z will run the fund along with Desiree Perez, the CEO of Roc Nation, his entertainment company.

Of course, great financial backing or not, one single fund can’t back all the minority business owners and bring full equity to the industry overnight, but the future holds a lot of opportunity for minority groups trying to get into the industry.

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Strain of the Week: Orange Cookies

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January is known for a few things. First, New Year’s resolutions (that tend to fade in interest after about 30 days), second is honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and of course, third is the annual return of Girl Scout Cookies. Having been in the cookie business since the 1920s, the Girl Scouts have consistently built up a cookie empire to help break countless Americans from their lofty goals of eating healthy and losing weight. This year, the organization unveiled a new cookie, called “Toast-Yay!” that offers a crunchy cinnamon flavor inspired by arguably the best breakfast foods—French Toast. While the hype for cookies is ever present, the year-long obsession with cookies-related strains is hard to beat.

There are numerous strains that are made famous through sporting the “Cookies” name, such as Orange Cookies. Not only identifiable as a flavor that the Girl Scouts organization doesn’t embrace (they offer some lemon flavors instead), but this strain also offers a beautifully light orange blossom scent as well. The large, dense buds that made up our sample of Orange Cookies was bright green, and nearly oozed trichomes by the look of the white sheen that covered its surface. As a result, it’s sticky in every sense of the word.

Upon inhalation, the smoke is smooth and pleasant, and brings on an interesting cerebral buzz that settles into full blown euphoria as it spreads throughout the body. While your muscles are soothed and relaxed of nearly all tension, your body is calm and relaxed—but that doesn’t mean that you will be completely sedated or disoriented. Orange Cookies not only has a unique flavor profile, but it also helps in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression for some consumers. It’s the perfect way to sit inside and count the days until a warm spring day arrives.

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