The Big Winner on November 8 Could Be... Cannabis! 

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** The Big Winner on November 8 Could Be... Marijuana (

With pot on the ballot in nine states, the big winner in next Tuesday's election could be America's legal cannabis industry. By 2020, legal market sales are expected to surpass $22 billion. And for states struggling with budget shortfalls, that extra revenue would be clearly welcome.

Voters in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Medical marijuana is on the ballot in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota.

Supporters believe the marijuana measures will pass in California and Florida, and possibly several other states, because America's attitude about pot has changed significantly in the last few years.

"Legalization of cannabis is one of the greatest business opportunities of our time."

"It's well established that the majority of Americans now believe that the responsible use of marijuana by adults should not be a criminal offense," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML ( , the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Two national surveys released in mid-October confirm that, with the Pew Research Center ( revealing that 57 percent of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal — while 60 percent were opposed a decade ago.

The latest Gallup Poll ( showed that support for legalizing marijuana is at 60 percent, the highest ever recorded in this survey. After Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow the recreational use of pot, in 2013, support for legalization reached a majority for the first time ( .

Tax revenue generated from legal sales exceeds expectations

It is far too soon to assess the overall impact to society in states where weed has been legalized. A new report ( from the Drug Policy Alliance concludes that it's been "so far, so good" in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C. They found that total marijuana arrests are down, young people smoking pot did not increase significantly, and traffic fatality rates have remained stable, so far.

But there is hard data on the total sales and tax revenue generated by this budding business.

Nationally, legal pot sales grew like a weed last year to $5.7 billion, up from $4.6 billion in 2014, according to a recent report ( from the ArcView Market Research and New Frontier. Recreational sales grew from $374 million in 2014 to $1.2 billion by the end of 2015.

The report projects strong sales growth this year, with retail sales hitting $7.1 billion, up about 26 percent from 2015. By 2020, the report says, legal market sales are expected to surpass $22 billion.

"Legalization of cannabis is one of the greatest business opportunities of our time and it's still early enough to see huge growth," noted Troy Dayton, CEO of The ArcView Group, in the report.

The legal cannabis industry has also created tens of thousands of jobs across the country.

"We're seeing a massive transformation from an illicit economy worth tens of billions of dollars into a legal economy that will probably be worth even more than that," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance ( , a group that supports the legalization of marijuana.

"Legalizing marijuana, taxing and regulating it, is not going to solve a state's budget problems. It's not a panacea, but it definitely makes a significant contribution," he said.

A look at the numbers

Tax revenues collected in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial estimates. * Colorado's legal pot sales of $996 million generated $121 million in combined sales tax and excise tax revenue last year and created 18,000 new jobs, according to the Marijuana Policy Group ( (MPG). * Marijuana tax revenue in Colorado was three times larger than alcohol and 14 percent larger than casino revenue, the report noted. * MPG projects that marijuana tax revenue in Colorado will eclipse cigarette tax dollars by 2020. * Washington's recreational marijuana industry brought in $427 million in sales and excise tax revenue on sales of $1.1 billion since 2014, according ( . * Oregon's Department of Revenue ( reported sales of more than $160 million so far this year, which generated more than $40 million in sales taxes.

But the extra income is just one drop in a very large bucket, according to Joe Henchman, vice president for legal and state projects at the Tax Foundation ( .

"It's certainly quite a bit of revenue," Henchman told NBC News. "It's enough to pay for some extra police or some extra teachers, but you're just not going to be able to replace many of your other taxes with that revenue."

Proponents of cannabis initiatives often point to the tax benefits of a legal marketplace. They're asking voters to tax them, something most businesses would never do. Henchman said the industry views this as a way to "legitimize it" and make the idea of legal sales acceptable to most people.

California here we come?

All eyes are on the Golden State, as voters there are asked to approve Proposition 64: Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Medical marijuana is already legal there. This would allow people to grow some weed at home and give municipalities the authority to allow recreational pot stores.

This election could be a tipping point that makes it impossible for Congress to keep ignoring the issue.

Based on the latest polling, Prop 64 is expected to pass.

Cannabis advocates believe a win in California on November 8 could open the floodgates for other states and Congress to legalize the purchase and recreational use of marijuana by adults.

Gallup noted, "If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the Golden State often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S."

Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association ( , believes this election will be "a tipping point" that makes it impossible for Congress to keep ignoring the issue. "If all nine initiatives were to pass, we'd have approximately 62 percent of the US population living in a state where medical or adult-use cannabis access is legal. That's huge," she said.

It's still an all-cash business

Even so, West does not expect Congress to legalize marijuana any time soon. She hopes lawmakers will pass legislation to allow the legal cannabis industry to access the nation's banking system. That's extremely difficult or impossible for these businesses to do right now because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Running an all-cash business creates serious security problems for cannabis retail stores and dispensaries, including the constant threat of being robbed. It also makes it harder to for these legal businesses to pay their employees and the taxes they owe.

The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act ( was introduced in July of 2013 by two democrats, U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Denny Heck of Washington.

"We've just got to get these businesses away from being all cash," Heck said. "It's more than ridiculous, it's not safe."

The Perlmutter/Heck bill updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws. It would simply enable banks and credit unions to provide services to legitimate marijuana-related businesses in states that have legalized pot, without fear of sanctions from federal regulators.

Despite growing bi-partisan support, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee has refused to let the bill come up for a vote, Heck told NBC News.

"Most of my colleagues understand that the safe thing to do is to allow these businesses to have access to banking services so they're not all cash," Heck said.

"We're going to get wind in our sails as a consequence of this election, but whether it will be enough remains to be seen."

** Costs of Growing Cannabis at Home vs. Buying Bud at a Dispensary (

Cannabis traditionally has been produced on a small scale to evade the law for decades. As a result, many people have connections to someone who has dabbled in cultivation. With the legal market, however, consumers now can purchase an array of products without considering cultivation, much like grocery store produce. Grocery stores are supplied by farms that take care of the cultivation for us and grow a product at a reasonable price. This is, for the most part, also true for cannabis, but let’s take a look at the numbers and see how the finances compare between growing your own supply and buying it from a medical dispensary or an adult use retail store.

** How Much Does Cannabis Cost at a Store or Dispensary?

The ability to walk into a store and purchase any number of cannabis products is a luxury that should not be taken for granted. Flowers, concentrates ( , andedibles ( that range in potency, flavor, effect, and smell fill the shelves of your average shop. Many of the products require expensive machinery and a high level of skill to produce. The diversity of flower and quality genetics is something most consumers could not dream of 20 years ago. However, these products are subject to high taxes and regulations that make packaging and distribution expensive.

** How Much Does It Cost to Grow Your Own Cannabis?

Growing your own product has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Taking cultivation into your own hands gives you complete control of the products used to grow your cannabis, giving you full knowledge of the process and a better understanding of the plant. It also allows you to explore growing techniques ( , genetics ( , harvest times ( , and curing strategies ( . This all requires time and effort, but sharing the fruits of your labor with your friends and family is unparalleled.

However, at the same time, it’s also important to realize the difficulties that can arise from growing your own cannabis. Pests ( , mold, and other diseases ( can rapidly sabotage a grow and leave you with a bad crop. Additionally, if you’re completely new to growing, you could make some costly mistakes as you learn through trial and error how to raise healthy crops with strong yields.

If you’re curious about the approximate costs of growing your own cannabis at home, keep in mind that the pricing varies between growing indoors vs. outdoors, as well as the size of the space in which you’re choosing to grow.

** Growing Cannabis Indoors

For our indoor cannabis grow ( cost estimates, the space we calculated costs for is a 6 ft by 6 ft grow space. We’re using soil as our growing medium, and only one room will be used for both vegetative growth and for flowering. Also, let’s assume we’re in a temperate climate where the use of A/C will not be necessary, which will save us some energy costs.

Not included in the price estimates is the cannabis plants themselves. For this exercise, we’ll use six clones ( to save space and reduce our vegetative growth time. A single clone can cost between $10-$30, but higher-quality clones can be more expensive. Our plants will spend around a month in vegetative growth and around 8-10 weeks flowering.

With a 1000-watt bulb, ideally you could produce up to a gram per watt. Realistically, as an enthusiast starting out, you might find yourself anywhere between that and a half gram per watt. This assumes you avoid pests and disease, and you feed your plants ( to keep them healthy. You should set aside an hour or more a day to observe and work in the garden to keep your plants happy.

** Small Closet Grow

If a 6 ft x 6 ft space is unrealistic, you can consider growing in a much smaller space using a grow tent kit. The grow tents dimensions start at 2x2x5 ft and get more expensive the larger you go. You can buy a 2’x2’x5’ kit for under $1,000 that includes everything you’ll need to grow cannabis besides the soil and plants themselves. A kit will allow you to grow two to four plants in one to three gallon pots. In a space this size, you would most likely use a 400-600 watt light and have a return ratio similar to the larger 6 ft x 6 ft room.

** Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Growing cannabis outdoors ( can be a very simple startup process. The largest concern is the climate in which you live. It needs to be sunny and dry enough to promote growth and prevent rot. Additionally, it needs to stay sunny and warm long enough into the fall to allow the plants to finish flowering. Growing in a greenhouse ( can help with the temperature and moisture-related issues with cultivation, but climate still dictates your ability to grow outdoors.For this estimate, we will assume you are growing in a climate where the plants can be outside from the start of the season (July) to the end of the season (October). Again, we will use clones to start (which are not included in our cost estimates).

High yields of quality product can be produced outdoors. A plant grown in a 50-gallon pot should net you between 1-2 lbs of flower. You’ll need to consider the cost of the time you will put into your garden; an hour a day on average should allow you to take care of your plants. Some days will require nearly no time while others will require more. Also, the property required to grow outdoor cannabis is a factor. Most people growing outside do so on large properties for security reasons and odor issues.

Keep in mind that many of these costs will be lower in simpler, smaller gardens. Growing a plant or two in your yard can cost very little, especially if you already own much of the equipment from growing other types of plants and produce. Of course, many of these startup materials can be re-used for your next harvest as well.

Reflecting on the costs between purchasing cannabis and growing your own in addition to the benefits that each method has to offer might have you clearly leaning to one side or stuck in a stalemate. Cannabis is not cheap or easy to grow, and chances are you will get higher quality, more diverse products at the local shop. However, if you want to explore producing your own crop and if it feels less like labor and more like a hobby, then perhaps a personal garden is the way to go.

** As California Preps For Recreational Cannabis, Local Cities Scramble to Pass Temporary Restrictions (

As many of you already know by now, the upcoming election on November 8^th will have a major impact on the direction of the country’s cannabis industry, especially in the state of California. Next week, local voters will gather to decide yes or no on California’s Proposition 64 (http://https// , an initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana across the largest US state.

At first glance, the proposition might seem like a clearcut YES vote, but a fair amount of opposition has come from cannabis growers and companies (http://https// already operating in the state, many of whom feel that Prop 64 will drive their smaller businesses out in favor of an eventual corporate cannabis takeover (http://https// . Despite this concern, recent polls still show the legislation will likely pass, and local municipalities are vigilantly preparing for recreational cannabis to take effect.

Cities such as San Jose have been considering taking actions that would prohibit growing, processing, and selling weed for commercial purposes, hoping to buy themselves time to figure out how to properly regulate the impending recreational market. The City Council is currently thinking about adopting an urgency ordinance that would prohibit commercial use of non-medical marijuana in the city, which would effectively ban commercial cultivating, processing, manufacturing, distributing, testing, and selling of recreational cannabis.

Another Bay Area-based city, Berkeley, recently approved a policy that will ban recreational cannabis businesses from opening until the city crafts their own regulatory system and licensing process. Other local municipalities, such as Palo Alto, Campbell, Foster City, Hayward, Davis, and Martinez, are pushing for similar temporary bans or regulations before the November 8 vote. The argument for these regulations seems to revolve around the concern that recreational cannabis will lead to “pot shops on every corner”, a reasoning that is considered silly by many.

"This is a complete and utter waste of time,” James Anthony, an Oakland-based attorney who specializes in pot regulation, said to Mercury News ( . “They don’t have the power to change the fact that marijuana will be legal on Nov. 9. They’re making it look like Prop. 64 is a scary thing that allows pot shops on every corner — and it’s the complete opposite.”

Even if Prop. 64 passes, these recreational cannabis companies will still need to obtain a local license before a state one can even be granted, making the over-saturation of pot shops in local cities highly unlikely. But these cities still fear recreational pot passing without a proper framework and a sound foundation, which has led them to take matters into their own hands and set restrictions prior to the big vote next week.


As election day gets closer, all sorts of political activity is ramping up. And the Catholic Church is joining the fray as well. The Boston Archdiocese just gave $850,000 to an anti-marijuana campaign called the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. The group is working to defeat a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the state.

Catholic Church Donation Details

On November 8, Massachusetts will vote on Question 4, an initiative that would make recreational pot legal. And so far there’s been a lot of campaigning on both sides of the issue.

But the Boston Archdiocese of the Catholic Church has become the biggest opponent of the bill (at least when it comes to financial contributions).

The church’s $850,000 donation is by far the biggest one received by the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. In fact, that single donation gave the group a 50 percent boost in funding.

“It reflects that the archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities,” Archdiocese spokesperson Terrence Donilon told sources ( in Boston. “It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.”

Opponents of Question 4 have said that legalizing cannabis would create new problems. In particular, they’ve said that cannabis is a gateway drug ( that could make the opioid epidemic ( even worse. Opponents have also said that legal pot would be dangerous to children.

But proponents of the new bill said those arguments don’t hold water. Pro-legalization advocates stated that Question 4 would create a safer, better-regulated cannabis market. And it would generate new taxes for the state as well.

The National Scene

The Catholic Church isn’t the only church to speak out against upcoming marijuana votes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church, has also spoken up against legalization. Leaders recently sent letters to members in Arizona, California, and Nevada.

“We urge Church members to let their voices be heard in opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana use,” the letters ( said.

Cannabis legalization is a hot issue this election cycle. Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Nevada and Maine are deciding whether or not to legalize recreational pot ( . And Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota are voting on medical cannabis initiatives. (

Despite outspoken critics like the Catholic and Mormon churches, support for legalization is at an all-time high. In Massachusetts, 49% of voters said they support Question 4 while 42% stated that they don’t. And at the national level, 54% of all Americans said they support legalization ( .

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