Pizza ‘loaded’, lobster dessert ‘placed’, baked brownies, tartlets of ‘it’, sodas ‘put’ and of course, the popular ‘gummies’ are some of the edibles of ‘gourmet marijuana’ that the page of internet thepizzapusha.info in your menu. In an hour and a half and with a minimum order of $ 200, the party is served at home from 12 noon to 9 pm any day of the week. Dozens of web pages offer sophisticated services just by typing the word.
It is the new era of a vast, expanding industry that has invaded the food and wellness market, and whose sales revenue is already generating $ 17.9 billion in the United States at its most recent 2020 tally. According to Leafly.com, the site The world’s largest cannabis website, sales of marijuana in the country increased by 67% last year, motivated in large part by the harshness of the pandemic’s confinement.
Cannabis has attracted the attention of the financial sector, industry and research. Traditional alcohol and tobacco corporations such as Constellation Brands, the company that owns Corona, and the Altria Group, which owns Marlboro, have entered the new market with multi-million dollar investments.
The rapid growth of the business has not gone unnoticed, and since Colorado became the first state to abolish cannabis prohibition in 2012, the movement has spread like a domino until its most recent normalization in the states of New Mexico and New York last April. Its use is legal in 17 States, it is decriminalized in another 15 and its medical use is allowed in 36 of them. But paradoxically, general use and possession is still a federal crime.
A difficult transition
In Colorado, income from the sale of cannabis has risen to $ 2.2 billion last year. In California it reaches 4,400 million. And not only does it generate income, it creates work. According to New Frontier Data, more than 340,000 jobs are dedicated to the production and management of the plant in the US Impressive benefits that led New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to make a move. The rapid approval of the law marked a political victory for the democrat, which is supported by forecasts of more than 3.5 billion dollars in benefits in annual economic activity; and about 350 million in tax revenue.
In the state that has persecuted the use and sale of marijuana most fiercely in the last five decades, the government has had to fine tune to justify the transition from abolition to legalization, without completely repealing the most ominous anti-drug law of the country, the implacable Rockefeller law.
Passed in 1973, it was the attempt by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who had his eyes on the presidency, to appear tougher than President Nixon himself, who that year had declared drugs “enemy number one” of the country. The federal Substance Control Act of 1971 allowed Nixon to launch his ‘War on Drugs’ which enabled the FBI and CIA to carry out a dirty crusade against hippies, African Americans, and counterculture and protest movements that disfigured his war in Vietnam. .
In New York it went even further: persecution of ethnic minorities, extremely long mandatory sentences, and mass incarceration of African Americans and Hispanics that soon tripled the population of the prison system.
As it could not be otherwise, the legalization law in New York includes social equity programs as a form of economic reparation, or the review of sentences and expungement of criminal records for those convicted of actions that are no longer a crime. The new legislation also recognizes affected communities as primary ‘partners’ in enjoying the economic benefits of drug commercialization, with the objective of allocating 50% of commercial marijuana licenses to applicants for social equity.
Under the new law, farmers, distributors, and sales and consumption establishments can obtain permits to operate cannabis, on whose products the State will receive a 9% tax. In addition, the State will receive income from the sale of permits at $ 300 per facility and valid for one year.
But the reality is that large corporations already dominate the national market. Establishing a business requires serious investments in any phase of production, be it growing, processing, distribution or the retail operation. And that’s where the power of large corporations comes into play. Thus, the Big Five of cannabis – Curaleaf Holdings, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Green Thumb Industries, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Trulieve – not only control the entire vertical process on a large scale, but compete with each other to accumulate the largest number of licenses in the largest number of states.
In the case of Florida, where only medicinal use is legal, the system itself appears to have been created to favor large cannabis farmers: vertical integration is not only not avoided, it is mandatory. And given the limited number of them, licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary are so expensive that one sold for $ 55 million. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has come to describe the group of seven corporations that control business in the state as a ‘cartel’.
For the defenders of the concentration, the system allows the State a greater control on the commercialization. Its detractors point out that it will eliminate the artisanal diversity generated by the small producer and will lead to a decrease in quality and an increase in price. In New York, as in other cities like Amsterdam, for now the looser regulation will add motivation to a segment of tourism and revive the leisure industry. For now, New York is the Empire State of cannabis.