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The fallout after Sessions’ anti-states’-rights posture on marijuana

(BUSINESS NEWS) What are politicians saying and how will cannabusinesses fare as US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions takes a hardline stance against marijuana use and sales.

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“What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” —Hamilton, “The World Was Wide Enough”

It’s not uncommon to see policies changed from one Presidential administration to another, as each tries to shape the nation, and, ultimately, their legacy, in the way that makes the most sense to them and their party. However, what is somewhat uncommon is to see a President tacitly approving a major shift in policy (and perhaps practice) that potentially negatively affects not only a growing business segment in multiple states, but also flies in the face of promises made on the campaign trail and angers members of his own party who see it as a rise in the overreach of federalism.

Late last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a memo regarding federal levels of action regarding marijuana issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department. The memo, which dated back to the Obama presidency, provided states with autonomy regarding the legalization of marijuana, and kept federal prosecutors at bay, for all but the most serious of marijuana-related crimes, such as drug trafficking across state lines or selling to minors. For a brief history of how marijuana legislation state-by-state came to be, check out a great overview at Vox.

Sessions, however, views marijuana as a gateway drug, the state legalization of which has not only flouted federal law, but also created a potential for higher rates of impaired driving, greater appeal to youth, as well as a black market for marijuana in states which neighbor those where marijuana is legal. Advocacy groups, such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana, join Sessions in his concern and welcome a potential return for marijuana to fall under federal enforcement.

While Sessions has taken the step of rescinding the prior guidance on the issue for federal prosecutors, there has yet to be a directive as to just how active enforcement on marijuana will be. While some say that the new direction will give prosecutors the ability to go after high profile cases that states are loath or unable to prosecute, others within the Justice Department point to a department strapped for resources, and highlight opioid abuse and human trafficking as remaining front and center on the minds of the prosecutors.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump promised that he would leave marijuana legislation in the hands of the states, a position that echoed with his Republican base.

Looking at the matter as a states’ rights issue, rather than a federal problem, providing states greater autonomy to appeal to their citizens/voters to solve their local problems removes federal overreach – a key campaign point of President Trump and platform point for the Republican Party.

Indeed, the sudden move by Sessions appears to have caught many key Republican politicians off guard, but ready to strike back. Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, promised to block appointments for key Justice Department positions until Sessions relents and restores the previous policy.

Don Young, a Republican Representative from Alaska, in speaking to the Associated Press, noted that the legalization of recreational marijuana sale had been approved by the voters from the individual states and they, as Congressmen, had a duty to act, saying, “Congress is the voice of the people and we have a duty to do what is right by the states.”

Coming on the first day that recreational marijuana was to be made legal for sale in California, Sessions’ shift had the effect of disrupting a growing business segment as well: Cannabusinesses and those industries that have grown to meet their needs, such as bankers and security forces.

What to do with the proceeds from cannabusiness has always been a slippery argument. Banking, which is regulated by both the states as well as the federal government, has had no assurances that federal enforcement of banks and credit unions which accept funds from the sale of marijuana would be exempt from prosecution.

Indeed, industry giants such as Wells Fargo, which had initially tried to get a large portion of the market share have pulled out completely, leaving smaller firms, such as Colorado’s Safe Harbor Private Banking, to bear the burden and potential for prosecution for crimes ranging from money laundering to racketeering. On the heels of Sessions’ announcement, cannabusiness stocks slipped sharply as well.

As the Trump presidency finds its legacy forward, balancing between states’ rights, law and order, and the best use of federal resources, it should consider the fruits that previous Prohibitions have borne.

Making alcohol illegal in the United States from 1920-1933 had the net effect of increasing the reach of organized crime and the spread of bathtub gin. The war on drugs in America, including on marijuana since 1937, has had similar results: a large amount of money spent to negligible gain.

The National Review points out that police departments nationwide made nearly 575,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2105 alone(nearly 70,000 more than for all categories of violent crime combined). In combating the effects of foreign drug cartels, they note the work of a Mexican think tank who estimated that legalization of marijuana nationwide in the United States would have the effect of crippling the Mexican drug cartels financially, reducing their intake by $1.6 billion (or 80 percent) annually.

For today, however, there is no talk of decriminalization, much less legalization nationwide, and the states whose voters approved the legal sale of marijuana in their borders are somewhat in limbo. Despite the uncertainty, there is a spirit of optimism that the status quo won’t change as much, and that the move was designed to reflect posturing on the part of the Sessions-led Justice Department.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, whose state was one of the first to legalize marijuana in 2012, said that things would go on as usual, stating that “[w]e should, in my book, not push the panic button on either …individual lives or …businesses.”

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. TheSophist

    January 9, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Silly post. Neither the Attorney General nor his boss the President make laws. Hence, they can’t make marijuana legal or not legal. Congress does that. That various Republican congresscritters are now talking about legalizing pot is precisely the way it’s supposed to work.

    I prefer if the Executive Branch doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws it will and won’t enforce, and the legislature is forced to make and repeal laws that the people want and do not want. YMMV.

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Class action suit hits vape company, Juul for illegally marketing to teens

(BUSINESS NEWS) Juul is a tiny vape stick that is popular among teens, a population the company is allegedly marketing directly to, grooming a new generation of addicts.

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This week, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Juul for violating federal laws by marketing to American children.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and ten of his Democratic colleagues have written a letter to the CEO of Juul Labs, lambasting the e-cigarette company for prioritizing profits over public health. The biggest concern among the complaints that both the legislators and parents across country have against the vaping-tobacco giant is that Juul purposefully advertises their products for teenagers.

Juul denies such intent, claiming that their product (which has taken over two-thirds of the e-tobacco market according to some sources) is primarily to help traditional adult tobacco consumers quit smoking cigarettes. They’ve even released an ad recently that tried to emphasize this image.

However much they try to pivot to this e-cigarette as a self-care market, their own history is against them. According to the research of Robert Jackler, as profiled on the Smithsonian, the imagery that Juul uses in its advertisements is a throwback to the unregulated day of big tobacco in how it overtly entices youth. This is a part of a growing public health crisis.

Juul first became famous for looking like a USB drive, and became used widely by school children who could trick teachers into thinking they were carrying a harmless device, not a nicotine machine.

One of Jackler’s insights is that today’s teenagers were never as likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes as people from the late 80s and 90s, so they were an untapped market. The New York Times, reporting on the increasing public pressure the FDA faces to regulate the e-tobacco industry, even went so far as to ask, “Did Juul lure teenagers and get customers for life?”

Juul’s reach to the younger generation was also confirmed by a team of researchers from Stanford University. By analyzing social media posts from Juul’s launch in 2015 to last fall, the Stanford team concluded that where Juul’s real innovation in the smoking and e-cigarette industry was not its product, but the way that it mobilized social media to hook young consumers.

According to an interview with Stanford researchers, “Juul hired social media influencers — people with large followings on Instagram — to promote its products. It created hashtags — #juul, #juulvapor, #switchtojuul, #vaporized — that the influencers blasted out to their followings, often featuring images of young people Juuling, or doing tricks or jokes with their device.”

The company shut down its social media accounts last year, but the damage was done. The hashtags are still updated daily.

This sort of bait-and-switch advertising extends beyond Juul’s young American audience and their marketing efforts.

Take for example, an Indian company that recruited Pierce Brosnan for what he believed was a commercial for a breath freshener line. Instead, it was a type of tobacco product called pan bahar (it is similar to chewing tobacco). The star said that he wasn’t aware of the nature of the product, that the company didn’t disclose its harmful effects, saying that he wouldn’t have chosen to endorse it otherwise, as he has lost family members to cancer.

Not wanting to endorse tobacco product, of course, is a commendable stance for Brosnan. But where are the social media influencers that continue to take money from Juul to target teens? Where is their rejection? They could very easily take a cue from Brosnan and say they were unaware, but instead, continue to force feed hashtags down unsuspecting childrens’ figurative throats.

Juul can call themselves an alternative to smoking all they want, but if even our politicians can see through the B.S., Juul has a real problem.

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Business News

High School ‘Signing Day’ for seniors starting careers, not sports or college

(BUSINESS NEWS) Our culture has long glorified athletic accomplishments, but as technical trades flourish in America, celebrating that career path is a new move – one we applaud!

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The scene is familiar: excited students at a table overlooking proud parents and teachers with letters of intent before them. “Signing Day” has become a rite of passage for high school seniors intending to continue a sport in college.

However, Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia are celebrating students beginning careers immediately after graduation.

Instead of joining a college football or basketball team, these students are acknowledged for entering the workforce, and for seeking success and financial stability as opposed to going into massive debt by enrolling in college.

College has become a norm in society in spite of the financial risks, and job placement is no guarantee for graduates. The option is not for everyone, and we should be doing more to recognize those who are pursuing technical skills. The objective of education, at any level, is to prepare students for a successful career.

By definition, these seniors from Henrico County have taken the first step towards that goal.

At the signing ceremony, the students met with their future employers to sign letters stipulating what they would do throughout their employment, and outlining the training and benefits. It is a big affair, and in an era where promposals (ugh) are a thing, why not glorify and enthusiastically praise in public an alternative Signing Day?

Students wore hats and shirts representing their future place of employment, and it is worth noting that this is a moment to celebrate adulthood, and making strides towards independence.

Technical skills are in demand, and it’s about time we lift up tradesmen and tradeswomen across the country. Their contributions help make our communities stronger.

Students should feel encouraged to pursue paths towards success which best suits their individual goals. And there is nothing wrong with celebrating them as a community, and hopefully someday, as a society.

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Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

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