POT TOPICSÂ is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the ChicagoÂ Sun-Times. Hereâs whatâs happening this week in Chicago and around the country:
Chicago-based Green Thumb IndustriesÂ recently took over a publicly-traded Canadian company, added an âInc.â to its name and went public in the country,Â where marijuana will soon be broadly legalized.
The company raised $67 million, cash that will allow Green Thumb to get licenses in new states and open more retail stores across America.
âThe phone rings more, weâre talking to more people, and business has expanded,â company founder Ben Kovler said. âWeâre just excited about whatâs happening.â
In recent months, prominent U.S. pot companies including MedMen, Liberty Health Care and Chalice Farms have listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, raising capital and drawing attention from wealthy investors in Asia, Europe and Australia who want to make a play in the cannabis industry but are spooked by the U.S. federal prohibition.
Many more U.S. marijuana companies are lined up to join them as the U.S. industry quickly expands. Acreage Holdings, one of the United Statesâ largest vertically integrated cannabis companies, announced Monday it will list on the Canadian Securities Exchange this fall because itâs become the âexchange of choice for U.S. companies like ours.â
U.S. companies need quick access to money to snap up limited production and retail licenses so they can quickly establish themselves in new markets.
Last week provided evidence of American investorsâ willingness to jump into the marijuana market if given the chance. U.S. stock exchanges will not list companies that do business where marijuana is illegal, but several Canadian companies trade in the U.S. because their business is legal in the country where they are based.
Tilray Inc., a British Columbia-based medical marijuana company, became the first cannabis business to complete an initial public offering on a major U.S. stock exchange when it began trading on Nasdaq. It raised $153 million and the stock jumped nearly 33 percent on its first day of trading.
The British government says doctors will now be able to legally prescribe cannabis-based medicines, following criticism over the denial of medical treatment to severely epileptic children.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid relaxed the rules Thursday after considering expert advice from a specially commissioned review. The government has no plans to decriminalize the drug for recreational use.
The government changed its stance amid publicity surrounding the case of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who needed to receive cannabis oil treatment to prevent life-threatening seizures.
British health authorities will now develop a definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product.
Marijuana users across the country are setting down their bongs, putting away their joints and moving away from smoking pot.
Itâs not that people are giving up on cannabis â far from it. But retailers across the country report that consumers are increasingly switching from smokable marijuana to other forms, including pot-infused foods known as ediblesÂ and vaporizer cartridges.
âThe actual old-school smoking of cannabis is pretty much out the door,â said Jered DeCamp, co-owner of the Herbal Remedies marijuana store in Salem, Oregon.Â DeCamp said only about half of his sales are now traditional smoked marijuana.
Marijuana enthusiasts say the trend reflects a desire by consumers for stronger, healthier or more discreetÂ ways to consume cannabis. Itâs a pattern seen from Colorado to California to Oregon.
In Colorado, for instance, smokable marijuana known as âflowerâ made up 67 percent of all sales at pot shops in 2014, when legal sales began. Today, itâs down to 44 percent, while sales of potent concentrates known as âhoneyâ or âbutterâ have doubled to 31 percent.
Oregon saw flower sales drop from 51 percent to 44 percent in a single year, and in California, flower sales have dropped 3Â percent in just four months this year. The data provided by BDS Analytics showÂ that while overall sales of marijuana products continues to grow, marijuana in its simplest form is losing popularity.
A new study of Colorado marijuana consumers reflects the trend: AmongÂ adult marijuana consumers, the number of peopleÂ eating or drinking cannabis products increased from 35.2 percent in 2016 to 40.4 percent in 2017, the stateâs newly releasedÂ Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveyÂ showed.
In addition to consumer demand for different products, increased competition among marijuana growers is pushing down flower prices and removing much of the profit.
The Chicago Police Department has quietly relaxed its hiring standards to eliminate past marijuana use as an automatic disqualifier, provided candidates have not smoked pot in the last three years, the chairman of the cityâs Human Resources Board disclosed last week.
Testifying before the City Councilâs Committee on Workforce Development, Chairman Salvador A. Cicero also disclosed that the three-member board is seeing a lot of appeals from police candidates who have been disqualified for using the stimulant Adderall, the Sun-Timesâ Fran Spielman reported.
âApparently, a lot of people within the last generation have been using Adderall without a prescription,â Cicero told aldermen, who voted to reappoint him.
âWe were faced with a lot of cases that were getting taken off the list from people who had been given Adderall. So then, you turn to, `Did you take it knowing that it was prescribed for somebody else? Or did somebody give you this?ââ
Cicero said the board has changed the way it handles Adderall- and marijuana-related disqualifications because the police department has relaxed its standards.
âWe have rules that have to do with, `You cannot use drugs that have not been prescribed to you.â And we have to follow those rules. Those actually have been revised by the police . . . If youâre given a drug not prescribed to you thatâll probably make you ineligible. But itâs on a specific case-by-case basis,â the chairman said.
âBefore, there were different types of drug usage that would knock you off. Those have also been revisedâŚNow, if youâve used marijuana within three years, then youâre outâŚ.Itâs less time than before.â
Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi was asked how and why the hiring rules were revised.
âWhile current drug use is grounds for disqualification for hire with the Chicago Police Department, we look at each applicant on a case-by-case basis to evaluate the circumstances around historical usage and experimentation,â he said.
âFor the current hiring plan, our standards were recently modified and conform to national best hiring practices for major city police departments and many federal law enforcement agencies. Individuals who have used or experimented with certain types of narcotics in the past must undergo additional background investigation into the reasons behind the drug use.â
Dina Rollman and Wendy Berger-Shapiro saw their chance back in August 2014, a month before Illinois started taking applications from people who wanted to grow or sell medical marijuana.
âI wanted women thinking, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you have a brand new industry come to your state thatâs never existed before, thatâs not male-dominated because itâs too new to have a glass ceiling,â she said.
Illinois Women in Cannabis âÂ a nonprofit that boasts about 200 members, men and women alike âÂ currentlyÂ organizes social and educational events across the Chicago area. The group hosted its third annual summer mixerÂ July 19 at Bottom Lounge on the Near West Side, bringing together pot professionals and some of the top players in the stateâs grass game.
Because the legal weed industry is so new, thereâs little data on the so-called âgrass ceilingâ for women and minorities in leadership roles.
However, Rollman and Berger-Shapiro both conceded that men now own the vast majority of the stateâs marijuana cultivation and dispensary facilities.
âSome of the barriers to entry have been really tough because you need to be really well-capitalized,â Rollman said. âThereâs a lot of room for improvement, letâs put it that way, in terms of having women-owned businesses.â
Back in 2014,Â Rollman was working as a litigation attorney at a Chicago law firm and courting her first client in the pot business, the aforementionedÂ Green Thumb Industries.Â Rollman is now Green Thumbâs chief compliance counsel, while Berger-Shapiro serves as an independent director and was an early investor in the company.