Editors’ Note: This is the transcript version of the podcast. Please note that due to time and audio constraints, transcription may not be perfect. We encourage you to listen to the podcast, embedded below if you need any clarification. We hope you enjoy!
Bryan Fields (Twitter: @bryanfields24) and Kellan Finney (Twitter: @Kellan_Finney) were fortunate enough to sit down with Mona Zhang (Twitter: @ZhangMona) , Cannabis Policy Reporter from Politico.
We were able to pick her brain on cannabis legislation as more states legalize cannabis.
In today’s episode you will find:
- What will future legislation and policies look like?
- States that are pushing forth THC Caps
- How can we get pro and anti-legalization advocates on the same page.
- Do limit licenses in certain states benefit the business or the consumer?
- Big Companies vs Small Business in Cannabis industry
- Corruption and political favoritism issues within the Cannabis Industry
Be sure to subscribe to The Dime Podcast to hear new episodes the moment they are released!
[00:00:00] Bryan Fields: This is the dime, dive into the cannabis and hemp industry through trends, insights, predictions, and tangents.
[00:00:11] What’s up guys. Welcome back to another episode of the dime as always. I’ve got my right-hand man Kellen Finney here with me. And this week we’ve got a very special guest Mona John states cannabis policy reporter from.
[00:00:23] Mona. Thanks for taking the time. How are you doing today?
[00:00:25] Mona Zhang: Thanks so much for having me. I’m doing well then crazy few months on the canvas
[00:00:31] Bryan Fields: there. Imagine we’re excited to dive in and tell him, how are you doing today?
[00:00:34] Kellan Finney: Doing good, just enjoying another sunny day out here in Colorado. Excited to talk to Mona Ramona
[00:00:38] Bryan Fields: before we dive in.
[00:00:39] I think it’d be great for our listeners to kind of get a little bit about your backstory and how you got into the cannabis.
[00:00:45] Mona Zhang: Yeah. I mean, I used to cover media. I went to school for journalism and I, you know, I worked at some media publications like media bistro and ad week. And I just saw a lack of good cannabis journalism, especially after the first states, Colorado and Washington legalized.
[00:01:01] And so, you know, I had this idea of starting a cannabis magazine that never panned out. And I thought, well, you know, I could start a newsletter. That’s like low barrier to entry. So I started my own cannabis newsletter and eventually started freelancing and doing like freelance journalism on the Cannabis That was in 2015. And that was really cool to see a place like Politico and national outlet hire a team of cannabis reporters, which they did in 2019. And so it’s been, it’s been really great to work at, you know, an organization like Politico and really delve into all of the nitty gritty of policy issues.
[00:01:37] Cause it’s just such a fascinating topic.
[00:01:40] Bryan Fields: Yeah, I think that’s really exciting and I’m excited to kind of dive in there. So what’s it like covering cannabis versus other industries? Do you think, as a whole politicos team of reporters kind of looks at canvas a little differently, like in some other industries, you know, can you kind of shed some light?
[00:01:55] What it’s like covering cannabis specific.
[00:01:57] Mona Zhang: Yeah, it’s really interesting because you know, political has a lot of policy verticals. I think cannabis is a special hole because it intersects with so many other policy issues. You know, like we’ll collaborate with our colleagues on the finance fee or the agriculture B, and these are reporters who have expertise in those areas and we’re kind of able to combine our expertise.
[00:02:20] But it’s interesting because of the federal state conflict, it just creates so many policy issues like banking, like taxes, you know, you have this state patchwork of regulations. I’ve been learning a lot about FDA, like food and dietary supplement regulations lately. And it’s just like, it’s really interesting as a policy reporter because you learn about all these other areas.
[00:02:43] Bryan Fields: Awesome. And what are those areas that I heard recently on your weak ass podcast? About anti legalization advocates. So on this podcast, we always talk about positives, but I don’t think we shed enough light on exactly why some people have hesitancy with cannabis. So what is the main driver? What do you think is the main reason these anti legalization efforts and what is their main stance?
[00:03:05] Mona Zhang: I think it really depends on the advocate. You know, I talked to a lot of anti legalization advocates and they range from just, I think like some people have still this like kind of reefer madness mentality. I think people have very valid public health concerns, you know, especially with regards to impaired driving or you use.
[00:03:25] And so it’s, it’s an interesting kind of spectrum of advocates. You know, a lot of times it’s like public health advocates or people. You know, fields like psychiatry and that type of thing, but it is. It’s interesting to see how that world has kind of evolved because I feel like a lot of anti legalization advocates are now sort of pushing things like the bill in Colorado to limit THC potency and canvas concentrates.
[00:03:51] The approach is shifting from being like anti legalization to like THC potency caps. And like, what else can we get in legalization bills from like a public health perspective?
[00:04:02] Bryan Fields: Dive in there, obviously from Colorado, that’s a big standpoint. Do you think Wayne maleness is describing that is the direction that most are taking or are there other areas that you see in Colorado that you think are kind of
[00:04:13] Kellan Finney: pausing it?
[00:04:14] I mean, I think Colorado is probably unique example because it has been legal for five years now, plus, right. And so it’s forced a lot of the people on the opposite side of the argument to mold new approaches and new angles to try to combat cannabis as it is. And I think that potentially. This is just my personal opinion.
[00:04:36] I think a lot of the advocacy and like the individuals that have a strong opinion, opposing cannabis, I think are slowly beginning to change as society. And as our culture changes and adapt. To cannabis being legal. And so with that, I think that it’s slowly starting to move that opinion from super, super far against cannabis to, okay.
[00:05:02] There could be some potential positives to cannabis. Now we need to regulate it. And, and I mean, with, with capping potency, I think that that’s important anyways. I mean, from a scientific perspective and a toxicology perspective, the dose is what makes the poison right. I don’t know anyone that really truly needs to consume 99.9, 9% THC on a regular basis.
[00:05:25] Right? I mean, you even look at like aspirin or other kind of medicines and they’re all dosed out properly, according to the person’s weight and their metabolic and all of these other. Variables so that you don’t poison them, right? Like you can drink too much water and die from drinking too much water.
[00:05:40] So I think with, with cannabis potency caps, I think that’s needed just to, to regulate it. I mean, you can’t go by 99% alcohol either. Right? You can get moonshine. And I think they cap it. Every state might be different than Colorado. 90% ethanol moonshine, right? And so there’s a need for those kinds of regulations.
[00:05:58] And I think that it’s in part, a safety feature that needs to be built into the regulations as well as it’s being driven by individuals that have started to accept cannabis as an illegal substance. With certain stipulations. What are your thoughts on that? Brian? I kind of go back and
[00:06:16] Bryan Fields: forth because at the end of the day, it sounds to me and please correct me if I’m wrong.
[00:06:21] It doesn’t sound like they’re like, Hey, we need more research in order to understand limits and putting people in safety places where like no cannabis is bad. The devil’s lettuce and all those outrageous stigmas like, oh then, and to me, maybe that’s just a more optimistic, welcoming stance of saying like, Hey, sometimes new facts are hard to quote Ben Culver and maybe some people in the older knees are a little more.
[00:06:44] Stuck in their ways. So I wonder how we kind of progress forward without the research, because even after we have the research, there’s going to be pushback, right? There’s going to be scientific saying, Hey, we need to do more extensive studies or, Hey, we didn’t study on this person. So, I mean, with all these, these areas, obviously the federal government is trying to balance this act.
[00:07:03] They’re deferring to the states to kind of go forward. Mona, what do you think is kind of the best way to kind of communicate through these anti legislation with people that there are positives in these? Yeah.
[00:07:15] Mona Zhang: Actually to the research point and the Colorado potency cap bill, there are a lot of research provisions and it is very much like we have to set up a way to research this stuff.
[00:07:25] And then this committee will do the research and then recommend like policies to us. So that’s like a really. Great thing about the Colorado bill. I think in some other states you do see a move to like, you know, Vermont was the first state to have any sort of PhD potency cap. And that was 30% for flour, which, I mean, flour usually doesn’t go above 30% anyway, and cannabis concentrates at 60%.
[00:07:50] But I think it is hard to have a policy discussion between. Pro legalization, anti legalization advocates, because the research is so recent and because the research is so mixed, you know, when I listened to these debates on state legislatures, it’s, you know, cannabis supporters citing all of this research to support their point.
[00:08:12] And then People who are against legalization, citing all this research. They, and the truth is there are studies that show youth use going up in states that have legalized marijuana. There is research showing youth use going down in states that have legalized marijuana. So the research is mixed and it’s really hard to like, you know, it’s just people taking whatever numbers, support, their
[00:08:32] opinions, last example.
[00:08:33] Bryan Fields: So what do you think would be beneficial in order to kind of help? Let’s say, get people on the same page. Do you think that’s just people on both sides of the debate, just kind of laying it down to the numbers. Like what efforts do you think would be beneficial in order to help kind of progress the conversation?
[00:08:48] Mona Zhang: I think
[00:08:49] that, you know, engaging with opposing points of view are a good thing, and I think it’s, it’s a lot easier done, I think on the state level than the federal level, especially in state legislatures where they’re debating marijuana, legalization, bill. And they’re really getting into the policy details and committee.
[00:09:07] There are anti legalization advocates saying, Hey, we don’t want marijuana legalization, but if you’re going to do it, please consider this amendment. You know, please consider, you know, doing some sort of public education campaign on impaired driving or, you know, and, and they are engaging with the issue in a more substantive way, rather than saying, we just oppose it.
[00:09:28] They’re saying we oppose it, but like here. I think this would make the legislation better. So I feel like that shift is just naturally been happening in state legislatures as the issue moves forward in the U S
[00:09:39] so then let’s kind of continue on that path. Why are states looking to overturn these initiatives that are majority approved by their local Reynolds?
[00:09:49] theory, they are procedural legal challenges, you know, and Mississippi and South Dakota and Nebraska too. These are all legal challenges saying, Hey, these initiatives weren’t qualified for the ballot and a way that conforms to the state constitution, it violates a single subject rule that violates whatever.
[00:10:07] Provision of the constitution. However, I did talk to an illegal expert in state constitutional law, and he told me that all procedural challenges are really screened for, you know, policy issues. They don’t agree on the policy and they figure out a way to challenge it procedurally. And so I think you know, the fact that.
[00:10:29] Governor Kate Reeves of Mississippi. He’s very, very conservative. But he recently said he would be open to having a special session for medical marijuana because the court, the state Supreme court overturned the medical marijuana legalization law. And I think for politicians. You know, 74% of people voted for that.
[00:10:46] A kind of just like it causes a big issue in 74% of voters vote for something that the Supreme court overturns. It’s not great politically for him. So I think just like the sheer support for these issues are going to help move things along on that front. Even if the courts do strike it down.
[00:11:06] Bryan Fields: I think that’s really well said, and I want to go to you Kellen.
[00:11:08] Cause it seems like the cannabis wave is coming and some politicians are trying to slow the wave and others just kind of get gobbled up of it. We’ve talked about governor Rick, it’s talking about, if you legalize marijuana, it will kill your kids, which I will put on the top five best quotes of all time, because I still need to figure out how he came up with that statement.
[00:11:26] And if he just went off the Casper, if someone was like, Hey, like this is the word choices you’re going to use because we’re supporting this. So like, As a politician. Do you think that there’s a balancing act that they’re doing, trying to figure out how to keep their constituents happy, but also from a conservative nature of trying to slow down?
[00:11:44] Kellan Finney: So my disclaimer is I’m not a politician and I, my view on how a lot of these issues kind of play out is that I tend to favor. Yeah, they are playing by the rules of the law, but the motive behind how they’re playing the game. As underlying objectives that they’re trying to fit into the rules of the law.
[00:12:09] Right? So I think at the end of the day for Mississippi to overturn it, I think that there’s other people within the state that have alternative motives and they wield power and they are able to, to overturn those kinds of things based on non-legal motivations, right. Versus their own personal opinion.
[00:12:30] And I think that there’s a lot of like hidden agendas that drive these kinds of situations. But at the end of the day, I think the most important thing for people that are pro legalization of cannabis either medically or adult use that clearly this has been a very, very long. Battle. That’s been fought over the last 70 years or 80 years from a prohibition standpoint.
[00:12:53] Right. And so, or I guess 90, right, 1933 or something when it was. And so for the last 90 years or so they’ve been fighting this prohibition and we’ve made a ton of progress as a society in terms of adult use medical use across the United States. And I think that spending time to try to. Address, these underlining agendas they’re pushing, I don’t think is productive to the overall stance of marijuana legalization.
[00:13:23] Right. And so I think that just continuing to. Stand on the scientific literature that shows the positive attributes of cannabis consumption and the positive attributes of all these minor cannabinoids, as well as, I mean, hemp for instance, right. Hemp is part of the cannabis plant. Right. And there’s a ton of building benefits that it can provide society.
[00:13:46] I mean, hemp rope and create, right. So I think that if we just continue to fortify the positive sides of the. I think that eventually these kind of underlying hidden agenda topics from my perspective will kind of just fall to the wayside. I don’t think they’ll ever just completely go away, but I do think that as support continues to be generated for it, if we just continue to look at it from a positive stance and continue to have the conversations, right.
[00:14:14] I think it’s important that scientists talk to politicians and politicians talk to scientists and, and there’s this ether that all of the information is communicated. As fast as it can. I think that’s the only way to really, really approach it. I don’t think that you’re going to make any progress standing in the mud and playing the same game that the other side is playing in my opinion.
[00:14:33] I mean, I could be wrong and that’s my nonpolitical opinion, I guess. Right. What are your thoughts though? I think that’s all
[00:14:38] Bryan Fields: really well set in, and it’s such a challenge from understanding how like the policies go with politicians, but I want to kind of switch gears because there’s an area that you lightly touched on.
[00:14:47] When we’re talking about the limit licenses in certain states, obviously some states have gone ahead and limited the amount of licenses they’ve given out. And there’s obviously a bunch of different ways that that can be evaluated. So Mona is that intended to benefit the state, the businesses or the consumer when they limit the number of licenses that are given out?
[00:15:07] Mona Zhang: is it intended to benefit the state or the consumer? I mean, I think it depends on the state. You know, when Virginia was having its legalization debate, I was really surprised the lawmakers put a statutory cap on licenses and the reasoning behind it was to prevent any big marijuana companies from harming smaller businesses.
[00:15:31] I question whether that is the best way to achieve that goal from a policy perspective, because we haven’t really seen that happen in other states with limited licensing. Generally speaking, when they’re limited licenses, it is the better capitalized, bigger companies that are, you know, favored in such a market, but that was their reasoning behind it, which I found pretty surprising.
[00:15:54] So, I don’t know, you know, it really just depends on the state and in Connecticut, for example, you know, I was talking to one of the policy. People at Lamont’s office. And he was saying like, we don’t have a statutory cap on licenses and it’s going to be awarded by a lottery instead of some sort of like merit-based process, precisely to avoid some of the pitfalls that you’ve seen in other states.
[00:16:17] And so, yeah, I mean, and I think there’s also a sort of fear when it comes to legalization that you’re going to see pot shops on every corner. And I think that kind of fear also drives some of this you know, license, cap policy.
[00:16:30] Bryan Fields: What are some of those pitfalls? Some of the other states I’ve seen just in case our listeners aren’t familiar.
[00:16:35] Mona Zhang: Yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s corruption issues, especially when there’s limited licensing. There’s definitely, I mean, there’s outright corruption issues. And then there’s sort of like political favoritism issues where people who want licenses, you know, make these huge donations to certain politicians, campaigns or whatever.
[00:16:52] And then there are a lot of. Entrepreneurs who lose out on licenses. And it ends up being like in Missouri, for example, there’s this like huge legal issue with all hundreds of entrepreneurs appealing their licensed denials and the state is spending millions of dollars on like fighting these appeals on outside attorneys.
[00:17:10] And. it Can delay the launch of the market. It can delay the growth of the market. And, you know, it’s interesting because it’s a sort of area of common ground between more, you know, lefty cannabis advocates and like the right leaning, more libertarian free market types who are like, everybody should get a shot at this.
[00:17:32] And, you know, we should let the market decide the winners and losers rather than the state deciding the winners or losers. Through what is often a dubious merit based scoring process. Once you have that, it opens up a whole other can of worms.
[00:17:47] Bryan Fields: That’s perfectly said. And I think, you know, we’ve had conversations with operators who are looking to kind of expand their licensed opportunities and ask for recommendations on which personnel to put on this.
[00:17:56] And they say, Hey, we’re just looking for someone for the license. And we kind of like you were saying muddies the conversation because these people aren’t really attached and they are there just for the merit base. I can see the corruption aspect, right? If people are doing favors or even differently said making donations for political campaigns, obviously that’s a huge issue and it does favor some of the bigger players, but at the end of the day, cannabis is very expensive.
[00:18:21] And I kind of look at it like a golden ticket opportunity. In these limited licensed states, you kind of agree with that. Like in the Willy Wonka style, like you open up, if you, if you get that lottery ticket and you open it up, you’ve gotten herself out opportunity to touch some market share in an untapped market, especially here on these.
[00:18:36] Mona Zhang: Yeah, absolutely. It is a golden ticket. And because of the cap, these licenses are worth more. And it is an interesting debate because there are states that, you know, really wanted to send our social equity and their legalization bills. And they’re like, well, we need to cap the licenses because of this.
[00:18:53] And there are other states that are like, we really care about social equity and that’s why we shouldn’t capital licenses, you know? So it’s interesting. And I think, you know, I recently. Wrapped up a story on main and social equity was never really that big of a discussion in Maine, but they’re low barriers to entry.
[00:19:11] Make it really easy for anybody. You can pay a few hundred dollars and start your canvas business with a growth hat and a few hundred dollars licensing fee. Like the barriers to entry are very low. And the medical program, at least right now. And it raises some interesting issues with these other states that have approached social equity with these, like, you know, convoluted programs that they’re having trouble implementing.
[00:19:36] And it’s like, You know, some states are achieving some of those goals by not even having one of those programs and just having low barriers to
[00:19:43] Bryan Fields: entry, you know, find balance. So Kellen, what do you think they should do? Obviously, the software equity is a huge deal and letting people out of prison is a huge deal and kind of adjusting for some of the wrongs of the past.
[00:19:55] But how do you stay at school? Balancing those.
[00:19:58] Kellan Finney: I would like to say I’ve seen a successful social equity program played out in a state. I just haven’t yet, as far as what the vision has been and the execution associated with that, I think Mona makes the best point when she said that it seems that states that have completely ignored that have actually provided the best opportunity for minorities to get involved in the industry.
[00:20:22] Right. And, and better themselves from that perspective. As far as releasing individuals from prison, I think that that’s a no brainer and that should completely be the forefront of all of these discussions. I think it should actually take precedence over the social equity aspect of it. Right. I think we should fix what we did wrong before we kind of keep moving forward.
[00:20:43] Right. And so that’s my, my stance on it. As far as limited license states versus not limited licensed states. I mean, I worked in, in Washington where you could just go buy a license if you had enough money and they just kept giving them out. And it created a really Rocky start to the industry versus Colorado, because you would walk into a dispensary and there would be.
[00:21:04] 2,500 different brands on the shelf because it’s a free market. The best will survive. They want to encourage competition. And if you show up, like, let’s see what you got kind of the situation, right? It makes it a lot harder to regulate. You saw from a business perspective, I experienced a lot more shady interactions and a lot more bad actors because.
[00:21:25] Anyone could come and show up and just play the game. But it turns out the game was really challenging to play from a traceability standpoint and, and following all the rules properly. And it led to a lot of sour, a sour taste in my mouth when dealing with a lot of different companies, trying to outsource certain aspects of, of the supply chain.
[00:21:45] And so that was a huge challenge. But then the ops side of that would be Colorado where they didn’t give out a ton of licenses and yeah. I think the logic behind it was, it’s easier to regulate a couple really large players than it is to regulate everyone in their mother kind of getting involved. And so I understand the logic associated with that.
[00:22:08] What that created from a negative standpoint is it created these quote unquote almost like monopolies. Like you can look at Florida too, right? Like queen camp might have a monopoly depending on how you look at it. Right. And I’m not downplaying that or applying it. I’m just kind of stating the facts that when you own over 60% of the retail stores available for consumers to go purchase their product.
[00:22:31] Might be close to monopoly, you know what I mean? And, and you can make arguments that that could be good. It could be bad. And we’re not here to really do that. But I think that no matter limited license versus not limited license you from a conversational standpoint, it can be framed. As either positive or negative, depending on who is kind of framing it up.
[00:22:54] And so on the east coast, at this juncture with like New York being in the limited license state, there is no question that it will favor the big MSLs that are highly capitalized that have teams, lawyers that can go through these two, 300 page doc it’s to follow the rules. The barrier to entry. Is much, much greater than any other state from, from that perspective.
[00:23:18] And so it’s challenging if you’re a small mom and pop. In New York that was looking to get in the Canada space. Unfortunately you should probably consider relocating somewhere like Maine or, or even New Mexico. Right. New Mexico had these, these caps on the big licenses. Right. Which I think they have a good hybrid system right now, but they also have a small micro license.
[00:23:39] Where you can go grow 200 plants. The barrier to entry from a financial standpoint is much smaller. You can be completely vertically integrated. And so I think that that is an attractive way to approach this. I think that there’s also potentially some scientific experiments going on. I guess you could say from a social perspective.
[00:24:00] So if the federal government wants to see what works best, it makes sense to let some states have limited licenses, but some states, everyone in, I have a couple of hybrid models and then they’re like, all right, let this play out for five years and we’ll see what works the best. So when we go to, to implement this on a federal level, that it’s actually something that works and we don’t have to.
[00:24:21] Sit there and revise it year after year and cause all of these struggles, I mean, you got something to say to that.
[00:24:26] Bryan Fields: Brian, let’s hear doesn’t that make it harder for people like poor Mona. Who’s got to cover all these different states with all these different policies and all these different obstacles. I mean, what you described to me is pretty much saying that in New York, If your mom and pop moved with smaller, safe, cause you don’t have a chance.
[00:24:42] And I think that’s kind of unfair because at the end of the day, this is America, right? The land of the opportunity. And if you’re telling people that here’s their opportunity to dive into cannabis and to fulfill their entrepreneurial spirit, but they can’t do it because they don’t. Billions of dollars in teams of lawyer.
[00:24:57] I don’t think that’s really so fair. And for, for Mona, I mean how she she’s covering all these states and then she’s got to communicate to her readers. Oh yeah. That was this state. And then with this state, it’s different. I mean, we’re talking about an educational difference between all in all the information and then being able to comprehend where like over complicating the policy, if that’s the way that’s going, what do you think about that?
[00:25:18] Mona Zhang: Yeah, I think cannabis policy can be really convoluted. And you see with these legalization bills, they’re hundreds of pages long because to legalize marijuana, you have to, you have to change all these other laws that intersect with the criminal justice system or with the education system or whatever.
[00:25:36] That’s why these bills are so long. I think with the licensing issue, it’s like, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this binary of like limited licensing or not, you know, States where the law gives the power to the regulators to sort of roll out licenses as they see fit. I think that strikes a good balance between just like a free for all which leads to, you know, an Oregon situation where you have this boom and bust and like people go out of business.
[00:26:01] Cause it was just so oversaturated. But if you give regulators the flexibility to be able to like, Give out licenses as they see fit. And as the market will take, you know, that seems to be an approach that has yielded less problematic outcomes.
[00:26:20] Bryan Fields: I want to dive into a recent conversation. Your colleague now the FERC had with Bernie Sanders, and if you haven’t heard it, it’s definitely worth Googling the short story as it is.
[00:26:30] She approached Bernie to ask him a question. She introduced herself as a cannabis policy reporter for Politico and his immediate response was, are you stoned? Mon is that like a traditional, do you think, like most politicians are going to have some sort of normalized response like that? Like, I don’t think that’s a fair response, but I mean, obviously he answered honestly, but what do you feel about.
[00:26:50] Kellan Finney: I actually
[00:26:51] Mona Zhang: was surprised by that exchange. I don’t think that is a question that Natalie gets regularly when she’s reporting on the hill. So coming from, you know, a Senator that has been like a long time champion of legalization is a little bit surprising, but also just funny. I mean, the exchange is funny and if you haven’t listened to it, it’s it’s online.
[00:27:12] And we released the audio on dispatch as like a short episode. But yeah, it does. It does show how far this issue still has to go. If you’re like, you know, reporting on cannabis policy and people are asking if you’re stoned, it is like, you know, we, we were talking earlier about like, if you are, I don’t know, an alcohol industry, reporter people, aren’t asking you when you’re doing your job, are you drunk?
[00:27:36] Bryan Fields: know, I think that’s perfectly wasn’t, especially for someone like Bernie, who, you know, they always talk about how he so far released policies for him to say that it’s kind of opening and I’m sure. There’s some Midwest states out there that are using that as like a championing ground and be like, Hey, see, like, if Bernie feels this way, you know, it’s normalized where the stigma still exists.
[00:27:55] So countless, I mean, your thoughts on it.
[00:27:57] Kellan Finney: I think it just, honestly, I think it just highlights how far we still have to go from a cultural stigma perspective, right? Like, Even individuals that live out on the west coast and in California or Oregon or Washington, or even Colorado, we cannabis has been legal for some time.
[00:28:15] Now, especially in California, that’s kind of been legal since the nineties. You could potentially make an argument, right. And the, that amount of time has allowed the society as a whole. To kind of assimilate to cannabis, being another recreational outlet for humans to consume for whatever reason.
[00:28:39] And that’s, that’s led to the change in overall opinion and perception associated with the plant and the use of the plant versus over on the east coast where it hasn’t been so prevalent and it still is treated. As it was 30, 40 years ago, you can just see that, that it takes time for these kinds of and cultural changes to actually precipitate.
[00:29:06] Right. And I think that that right there, it just perfectly sums up. Yeah, we’ve come a long way from prohibition, but we still have a long way to go to change the minds of the general population across the entire country and across multiple demographics.
[00:29:24] Bryan Fields: I think I brought that and overall, like I think it hurts the industry.
[00:29:26] I think that continues to solidify a stigma. That is a negative one. And at the end of the day, people use cannabis solely for medicine. And when you ask that question with the connotation and the perspective behind that, usually at least for me, feels like a negative one. So I’m hopeful that in the future, politicians and people will understand that that’s not likely the best initial response when being approached by people.
[00:29:49] Sort of quickly switch gears, Delta eight, very popular subject. We’ve talked about this a bunch of times. Mona, do you think Delta aid is a fad or do you think it’s here to kind of.
[00:30:00] Mona Zhang: I think it’s here to stay. I think there are people who are, you know, I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal stories from people who are legitimately helped by Delta eight, from a medical perspective who have tried CBD, who have tried Delta nine, THC and medical marijuana products.
[00:30:17] And they say Delta eight has helped me the most for like, you know, neuropathic pain and those sorts of issues. Again, all anecdotal, no science on this at this point, but I think. You know, it is a different compound that Delta nine THC. And I can see it staying, but I there’s obviously like a fad aspect of it.
[00:30:37] And it’s recent. I don’t know, recent growth in the market. Because of various factors because of, you know, states that don’t have legal cannabis because of, you know, the sheer amount of CBD isolate that’s been sitting around in the hemp market and people need an outlet for that. And there, there are all sorts of things contributing to this.
[00:30:58] It is a trend in some respects.
[00:31:01] Bryan Fields: Yeah, I think growth might be understanding it’s like an explosion, right? Especially here in, in some of the like New York, for example, where it’s not, you know, adult use is not possible. So people kind of lean towards products that they can purchase over the internet and are a little more trusting of it.
[00:31:16] So Kevin and I have kind of dove into this from understanding whether it’s a fat are here to stay. And we wonder if, whether or not this is just kind of a short term. Temporary and public, government’s kind of like, Hey, you know what? Like this is illegal, but then my opinion, and then I want to go to you telling is that maybe the CBD market will look for like another sort of compound to kind of find another offshoot for a revenue stream Kaelin.
[00:31:37] Kellan Finney: What’s your thoughts? I think that there’s no denying that when humans ingest Delta aid, it does cause Affects right. More so than CBD, but less so than Delta nine THC. There’s no denying that as far as the manufacturing practices that are being implemented to produce Delta eight, I think that’s where the majority of the questioning is now being centered.
[00:32:00] And I think that’s where Colorado has. The department of health, that’s where they took their stance on. It is just from the lack of regulations and the lack of understanding and the lack of testing associated with the manufacturing of Delta eight. And I think that’ll get sorted out in time, right?
[00:32:15] It’s just a matter of kind of trial and error and figuring out. The best way to do it, what’s the safest way. And how do we regulate it? Right? Because the last thing we need from an industry standpoint is some kid in New York to consume a Delta eight product. And it just so happened to have some sort of chemical that was really toxic in it, that wasn’t removed from the manufacturing process, and then they get really sick.
[00:32:38] And now there’s this front, this headline story. Kid dies of consuming, dealt ADHD in New York. You know what I mean? I think that’s the last thing the industry needs, but we’ll work through all of those as a society. And then as far as outlets for CBD, I do think that this is just the very beginning of the iceberg, right?
[00:32:57] Delta 10 is probably next. I know that when they start moving around that, that double bond, in terms of Delta eight, Delta nine Delta 10, it does have different binding affinities to your CB one receptor. And it interacts with the endocannabinoid system slightly differently, which is why you see these anecdotal claims associated with a better consumer experience with Delta eight versus Delta nine.
[00:33:22] I know that it doesn’t have as high of binding efficiencies. A lot of people say they can actually function. More so on Delta eight than Delta nine. But I mean, at the end of the day, there is. The, our understanding of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system is in its infancy. And as we continue to move forward, there’s just going to be more and more breakthroughs from a scientific standpoint on these minor cannabinoids and how they interact with the human body.
[00:33:49] And I think this is just the beginning. And so Delta 10, if I had to. If I was a Batman, I would say Delta tens, the next big one to kind of take off and we’ll see how that differs from Delta nine and Delta eight, a and then, I mean, there’s just a JC acetate, right? There’s another one that makes the water soluble.
[00:34:08] And so there is a whole plethora of different molecules that can be achieved by using CBD as a starting material.
[00:34:16] Bryan Fields: We got a lot of science and research studies. So more
[00:34:20] Kellan Finney: content,
[00:34:20] Bryan Fields: right? Delta 10, for sure. For us, we’ve already heard the rumblings there and we’re going to do another episode coming up on that because people start asking questions and, you know, the only way for us to understand is to kind of just dive in and figure out, you know, what about it?
[00:34:33] So Mona, the biggest misconception since you started working in the cannabis.
[00:34:40] Kellan Finney: I mean,
[00:34:40] Mona Zhang: I guess just to go back to the Bernie thing is like this idea that it is some sort of like silly topic, which I think the fact that, I mean, hopefully more major news organizations will hire cannabis, beat reporters, but it’s.
[00:34:58] You know, consequential subject and it intersects with so many other areas, whether it’s criminal justice or public health or financial services, or what have you. That’s a really complex and important issue that affects a lot of people. And I think one big misconception now that I think about it is that there’s this idea that like, oh, people don’t really go to jail for cannabis anymore.
[00:35:24] And. You know, there are still tens of thousands of people incarcerated for cannabis. There are people thousands of people who are serving de facto life sentences for marijuana offenses. So it, it is a really, still an important social justice or criminal justice issue. Even though a lot of states have decriminalized cannabis, it’s there’s still a lot of issues on that
[00:35:44] Kellan Finney: Absolutely.
[00:35:44] Bryan Fields: Well, today you could sum up your experience into a main takeaway or lesson learned to pass on to the next generation. What would it be? I think
[00:35:53] Mona Zhang: it’s important to be clear headed when looking at the impacts of policy with these social equity programs. Like I covered Oakland social equity program when it first came out and it was, sounded so good on paper.
[00:36:09] And I was like, wow, this is so innovative. It’s so cool that Oakland is doing it. And when other jurisdictions started doing it, I was like, wow. Like, it’s amazing how much this has shifted the conversation around cannabis policy and how the sort of debates in the legislature are about this issue. But I also think there is a sort of like desire to seem like you’re addressing the problem from a political standpoint.
[00:36:35] You know, we’ve have not seen one of these programs be really effective in terms of their stated goals and achieving their stated goals. So I think it’s important to just look at the data from, from all of these various different policy proposals. Really think hard about like what, what is actually effective at achieving these outcomes.
[00:37:00] And I think a lot of states are starting to do that. You know, a lot of states are looking at Illinois as a cautionary tale. Now, instead of like, in the beginning, Illinois was hailed as like, it’s going to be this leader in social equity,
[00:37:10] Kellan Finney: you know, the Illinois thing. I it’s just incredible. Right. Like, absolutely.
[00:37:15] They still haven’t given out one. Have they? Yeah.
[00:37:18] Bryan Fields: What do we think is the issue there? It’s an
[00:37:20] Mona Zhang: implementation issue. This is actually. What’s been sort of like possibly delaying the launch of new York’s market is because there is this sort of disagreement between the governor and the Senate about who should be in charge of implementing the cannabis legalization law.
[00:37:36] And you might pass a law that looks good on paper, but if you stumble on implementation, then you know, you’re not achieving those goals
[00:37:45] Bryan Fields: plays a big factor.
[00:37:47] Mona Zhang: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, with all of these licensing things, lawsuits are just one of the big reasons why things get held up. People don’t get a license and they Sue, you know, they, a judge just overturned Detroit’s licensing regime, which is supposed to favor legacy applicants and, you know, ruled it to be probably unconstitutional.
[00:38:06] And it just, it just creates all sorts of delays and
[00:38:09] Bryan Fields: problems. Yeah. Lawyers just continue to win. All right. Let’s do prediction time. Do you think. In president Biden’s first term, he will find federal legislation. No, I don’t think so.
[00:38:23] Kellan Finney: I don’t think so. Either
[00:38:25] Mona Zhang: things can change crazier. Things have happened on the cannabis beat.
[00:38:28] You might not think something’s going to happen and it happens, but as it stands now, I am skeptical that it will happen.
[00:38:34] Kellan Finney: I wrote a, I read a headline though. That might be interesting. And we talked, talked about this on a podcast last week as well. I read a headline. Amazon taking the stance that they did.
[00:38:44] It was actually in the cannabis scientists, the day that we talked to on the column and MC and it actually said that Amazon taking their stance on no longer drug testing, their employees. And I didn’t read the article, unfortunately, but then the headline also integrated the aspect of Amazon showing support for the Moore act as potentially a catalyst to facilitate federal legalization within the next couple of years.
[00:39:13] Is that where you’re gonna go, Brian steal your thunder.
[00:39:16] Bryan Fields: So I always tend to believe that like, sure. Like from a news standpoint, they haven’t made much noise. Sometimes the smaller moves and the smaller announcements kind of compound these bigger ones, right? Like Amazon making these public stance, the NFL saying they’re going to invest all this money.
[00:39:32] It just seems like people are starting to slowly adjust their thought process. And to me, these big became, this are making public stances differently than they normally had. Makes me believe. There’s some aggressive momentum that they’re like, Hey, we need to kind of change our PR tune. I’ve got a different stance on why Amazon said that.
[00:39:51] I think there was a variety of reasons that I’m not going to kind of spoil it and how you have to read it in the monthly playbook, because I just finished that pizza. Definitely. It’s definitely not just one time. Amazon is pretty strategic with how they take their stances and there’s a variety of different reasons why I believe that they said that.
[00:40:08] At the end of the day, I’m going to take the opposite of both of you and say, yes, he does. Obviously I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’ll just say it for counter stance. I think he does it. And I think it’s a, it’s a quick one. As we’ve seen on each post, I mean, a year ago, we didn’t have any of these states and now like they’re just falling like dominoes and who knows.
[00:40:25] We could meet up in six months and be like, wow, that was crazy. We all said, no, look it’s for sure. Yes. And I think in the cannabis industry, it moves super, super fast. And sometimes by not thinking something’s gonna happen. It means maybe things will happen faster than we believe.
[00:40:38] Kellan Finney: Yeah, that’s
[00:40:39] Mona Zhang: a good point.
[00:40:39] And the Amazon point is an interesting one too, because I mean, at the end of the day, it’s like, are there 60 votes in the Senate? And does Amazon change that? And with. Legislation. It’s so hard. Like people can agree on legalizing cannabis, but then agreeing on actual legislation is a different matter.
[00:40:58] That’s why New Jersey took so long. That’s why New York took so long. And so getting everyone who might support legalization as a concept, In the Senate to agree on an actual legalization bill as another matter. And to get 60 votes on that, it’s looking tough at this point, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
[00:41:17] Kellan Finney: And what you’ve just
[00:41:17] Bryan Fields: said is just so perfect, but also so frustrating and the same thought, right? Everyone agrees that this is supposed to happen, but to vote on it a whole nother Stanton. And at the end of the day, not saying money moves, votes. Money moves boats.
[00:41:31] Kellan Finney: Amazon has a little
[00:41:32] Bryan Fields: bit of money to John’s.
[00:41:35] So Mona, before we wrap, where can our listeners get in touch? What areas on social media are you available? And we’ll link it all in the show.
[00:41:42] Mona Zhang: Yeah, I’m on Twitter. It’s my last name. First name Z H a N G M O N a M. You can follow all of our coverage at politico.com/cannabis. And. Yeah,
[00:41:56] Bryan Fields: thanks so much for your time, Mona.
[00:41:57] Thanks for having
[00:41:58] Mona Zhang: me. This was fun. Thank you.
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