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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Late last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a memo regarding federal levels of action regarding marijuana issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department.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.”

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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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Business News

How to temp test to see if a Master’s degree is really right for you

(EDITORIAL) Pursuing a Master’s degree is often part of advancing a career, but are you sure you’re ready to sink time, money, and energy into more education?

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Higher and further

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are,” wrote poet Nikki Giovanni. “Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”

Whether or not you’re looking to make a transition to embrace yourself and what it is that entails, or simply need to boost your career opportunities by dusting off your skill set, going back to college can simultaneously seem like a great idea and a risky bet.

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And both vantage points would be right. Jordan Weissmann, writing at Slate, notes that for the non-traditional student, graduation rates are nearly 20 percent lower. Completion rates are lower still for non-traditional students who are taking classes on less than a full time schedule.

So, for those of us who are intellectually curious, yet conscious of not wanting to sink an investment of time, money, and energy into an unproductive and unprofitable opportunity to improve, what are our options?

Timely ways to investigate are at hand

If you’re just in the preliminary exploration phase of what might be of interest, listen to or watch a lecture on the topic. With hundreds of sites that offer such lectures, it can be overwhelming to find a place to begin that’s both reputable and interesting.

That’s why the launch of Find Lectures is a boon to the prospective student. In one place, you’ve got a searchable catalog of nearly 26,000 free lectures, many 60-minutes or less, from TED, the Library of Congress, Talks at Google, and more.

For those who want more than just an exploratory conversation about a topic, there are multiple colleges and universities who have opened MOOCs, or massive open online courses. MOOCs, many of which are free, can be found for an almost unlimited number of courses, with some leading to degrees, while others allow you to get the knowledge, information, or skill, albeit with no degree path following.

EdX and Udacity

An example of the different types of MOOC providers can be found by looking at EdX and Udacity.

EdX, a consortium of colleges and universities banded together to offer generally free courses on a wide variety of topics, includes such providers as MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, UC Berkeley, and Dartmouth College, among others.

Founded through a joint effort between MIT and Harvard in 2012, EdX currently sees more than 7 million students taking one or more of the over 700 courses that are currently offered.

In an online environment, the EdX courses feature weekly learning targets, which are taught using a blend of online video content, electronic textbooks, and interactive learning exercises, including collaboration with other peers taking the course through online discussion forums. While the majority of the courses are free, students who choose to take courses to complete an EdX Verified Certificate do face varying fees. All students who choose to audit courses can do so at no cost.

Udacity is similar, yet different, in their approach. As with EdX, students take online courses that feature a blend of online video content and peer-to-peer collaboration, but Udacity courses are aimed towards those seeking skill development in computer sciences. As such, one sees that the courses are developed through partnerships with tech businesses such as Google and AT&T, as opposed to varying universities. Initially created as an extension of free computer classes at Stanford in 2011, the Udacity courses offer a trial enrollment period, after which course continuance costs varying fees per class.

The Udacity brand has focused on creating skill development and certifications that are recognized within the varying branches of the tech industry.

In an attempt to expand the reach of their offerings, in 2014, Udacity partnered with Georgia Institute of Technology to offer a MOOC degree in computer science at a price point of only $7,000, significantly lower than other similar Master’s programs.

A great dip of the toe

As you stop and think about how to take advantage of the new world, it’s okay to be hesitant, and even scared. You’ve got to find the sweet spot in finding or enhancing your career, with skills that are necessary to do so, and realize a return on your investment in time, money, and satisfaction quickly.

It’s important to do the things that we love, that are emotionally rewarding and financially remunerative, but we also realize that we live in a world, especially for the mid-career professional that is hesitant to allow a great deal of time to make that investigation into how to do so.

Using these tools, combined with self-reflection, can help you make the most of that time as you consider what’s out there for you, just waiting.

#Education

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If you want to hire your top pick, studies say quit stalling

(BUSINESS) Waiting for more than a month to make a final offer may mean that you’re missing out on the valuable candidates you really want to hire.

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The phrase “Slow and steady wins the race” may describe your optimal strategy in some departments, but according to a study by 3Gem, hiring isn’t one of them. If you’re waiting more than a month before deciding on a new hire, you’re most likely not getting your first pick.

The study, conducted via 9,000 employees, determined that around 67 percent of employees had passed on their first job choice because they didn’t hear back from an employer before a second opportunity arose. Additionally, 70 percent of those surveyed said that they wouldn’t stick around for a job if the hiring process took more than a month from start to finish.

If your ears are burning, it may be time to change your hiring tactics.

This isn’t to say that you should rush into hiring; your recruiting process deserves time and ample consideration. However, taking more than a few weeks to go through the process of starting recruiting, meeting applicants, and making your final offer means that you’re both missing out on top-notch talent and wasting the time of countless potential recruits.

Consider your applicant pool: the majority of your options are either currently unemployed or heading in that direction (volitionally or otherwise). Few people can afford to stay unemployed for more than a month, meaning that any option, regardless of whether your business is the employee’s dream environment, starts to look better than your lack of a timely answer.

From an employee’s perspective, an application is as good as rejected if they haven’t heard back within a couple of weeks, and having no income during that period of time is suboptimal. Waiting for more than four weeks before making a decision, to say nothing of more than that—20 percent of the surveyed employees had experienced wait times of over two months—is unacceptable.

The math is simple: exceptional candidates have neither the time nor the need to wait for a response. If you place hiring over other activities during your recruiting bouts, prioritize the top one percent of your applicants, and make your final offer the second you’ve made up your mind, you’ll see an increase in in-house talent in no time.

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How your company can take advantage of the gig economy, not fear it

(NEWS) The gig-economy is increasing in popularity and you shouldn’t be quick to write it off.

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Gigs are expanding

The gig economy is buzzing. The term has now come to signify any contractual, part-time, freelance work, and is not limited to the tech universe.

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Freelance freedom

Between 2004 and 2014, independent contracting employment increased from 12 percent to only about 18 percent. In the last several years the gig economy has exploded onto the scene.

The 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the rate of self-employment in America is falling, and yet more people are engaging in freelance work, which last year stood at an impressive 35 percent of the total economy.

What gives?

The answer, backed by several surveys, is simple.

People with full-time jobs are increasingly participating in part-time gigs.

And although the Uber driver has become the poster-child, the scope of the gig economy is much wider.

A growing gig nation

The BLS report clearly states, “Gig workers are spread among diverse occupation groups and are not easily identified (added emphasis) in surveys of employment and earnings.”

Linkedin predicts that by 2020, 43 percent Americans shall be engaged in gig economy.

Really not a shock

This should not come as a surprise. By now it is well known that our out-of-date model of success — “study hard—earn a degree—get a job” is failing.

There are too many graduates, and too few well-paid full time jobs.

The private sector has also struggled. In most American metro areas, more businesses are closing than new ones are opening up.

For many millennials, it is the sole source of income. For others, it is an easy way to make some extra cash. Today’s millennials have less purchasing power than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers. But this picture no longer accurately portrays the essence of the gig economy.

Many of today’s gig economy participants, especially younger employees, actually have full-time jobs.

However, instead of opening their own businesses by quitting their full-time jobs (a common practice in the past), they are pouring their passion into these freelance gigs IN ADDITION to their full time jobs.

The gig economy today has thus become an outlet that captures their expressions of creativity.

Gigs reaching beyond their stereotypical niche

The tech industry is already well known for a thriving gig economy. Contractual Web-developers (~$31/hr), Software developers (~$48/hr), Graphic Designers, and Multimedia Artists are all experiencing high demands.

But gig economy culture is spreading to other sectors of the economy, largely facilitated by the internet experience.

It is infiltrating administrative & support services, healthcare and even real estate.

Seasonal gigs are still a thing

Some demands are very much seasonal. Contract Accountants (~$30/hr) are in high demand as taxpayers try to submit their returns before April 15. Other gig economies are in demand year round.

Truck delivery is one of the highest paid gigs, which got a boost through the popularity of Amazon and eBay.

Low barriers to entry also make gig economies attractive. Take for example, Airbnb. So long as you have a spare room in a well-located, highly visited city, you can partake in the hospitality business!
This is good news for our economy! The criticisms it faces are mostly unfounded, and must be resisted.

Don’t listen to the haterz

The media and the government often unfairly characterizes the gig economy. The contract worker is seen as a victim, as being preyed upon by the big businesses, entering an exploitative arrangement, often unknowingly and against his own best interest.
The advent of the gig economy is painted as the death of salaries, health insurance and vacation days.
The goal of such criticism seems to be to reduce the number of contract workers and increase the number of definable “employees”. This argument overlooks the fact that each of these contracts were entered voluntarily and fulfilled a service that was a gap in the market.

Too many benefits

A 2016 Fastcompany survey found that 75 percent of employees still prefer health benefits to usual industry benefits like remote work.

While that is certainly true of a job seeker without any other job, statistics show us that more freelancers are full-time employees fishing for side gigs.

Forcing contractors to supply fringe benefits would result in duplicative benefits.

Gigging is not predatory

The debate over how to appropriately regulate the gig economy shall continue.

Obviously, companies may come up with strategies to exploit contract employees.

But at a time when traditional employers are experiencing downward pressure on their profit margins and retaining employees while tackling soaring insurance costs has become a challenge, engaging the best and the brightest from the gig economy becomes increasingly necessary. Industries that engage in it should not be seen as predatory.

Helping not hurting

In fact, it is quite the opposite. Gig economies empower the labor market in new innovative ways, when traditional markets have failed them.

Even the best schools in our land now advise their graduates to stop looking for full time jobs and participate in the gig economy.

Therefore, the caricature that the eager job seekers of the gig market must be bottom-of-the-barrel talent pool is also grossly erroneous.

Gotta up the ante

Yet, many companies have under-invested in this area. They have done too little to lobby for themselves and entirely miss out reaping its benefits.

Some still wait for traditional application to populate their inbox instead of actively recruiting from the gig-economy.

Their recruiting strategies are also failing. Mentioning “working remotely” as a reward on the job description is simply not good enough anymore.

Take the first step

Instead, companies should stress on their own unique story: a passion-driven project, with lots of creative leeway and good pay.

Research shows that the modern employee wants flexible hours, fair but few rules, and transparent pay structures.Click To Tweet

All of this can be easily achieved in a gig economy setting. What are we waiting for?

This editorial originally ran on March 21, 2017.

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