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A Boom or Bust to the Black Market?



marijuana seeds from cookies

The co-founder and CEO of Cookies are Gilbert Milam Jr., better known by his stage name Berner.

Berner is to Cookies what Steve Jobs is to Apple, and Elon Musk is to Tesla; it’s impossible to talk about the origin of Cookies without him. Berner, a Bay Area rapper, founded the Cookies brand and now acts as CEO of the company, which manages everything from retail outlets to clothing.


According to him, Cookies is the world’s first legitimate $1 billion cannabis brand. “We’re a billion-dollar firm,” he told Insider, “based on sales, growth, and potential growth.” The company has grown from a hoodie logo to a billion-dollar business/


A Name and Brand That has Grown So Wide

Whether you live in a state where marijuana is legal or not, you’ve probably heard about Cookies.

In addition to its 49 marijuana dispensaries, Cookies is perhaps most known for its famous clothing brand of the same name, distributed worldwide. (It’s a not-so-subtle reference to a similar cannabis strain name with legal issues.)


Cookies hoodies with distinctive blue strings and matching logos may be found in U.S. apparel chains such as Zumiez, in the company’s two departmental stores, and in music videos dating back nearly a decade.


Berner stated on a podcast appearance in late 2021 that the clothing brand alone generated over $50 million in revenue last year. Fans will spend the night outside to be the first in the queue when a new Cookies dispensary opens.


Berner’s successful careers as a rapper and clothes and cannabis entrepreneur are inextricably linked. Berner rose to renown in the hip-hop industry while working at a Bay Area cannabis dispensary called The Hemp Center in the latter years of the last decade.


To suggest that Cookies has grown fast in recent years would be an understatement: Cookies grew from zero to 49 retail marijuana dispensaries between 2018 and 2022. In addition, the company opened two flagship clothing stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Berner’s increased prominence as a famous artist feeds into the reputation of the clothing line and the marijuana dispensaries, driving the business’s growth primarily through organic promotion. As his popularity as a musician has increased, so has the brand he developed. What’s more? Cookies have announced that the brand will start selling weed seeds for home cultivation.


Turning challenges into opportunities

In an on-stage conversation with MJBizDaily’s Bart Schaneman on Wednesday, the catchphrases co-founder and CEO of Cookies provided further insights:


  • Regarding medical cannabis: Berner stated that it felt like a “second chance at life” after his recent cancer diagnosis and treatment. I’ve seen the benefits of cannabis firsthand and have personally experienced them.”


  • On Collaborations: “I adore working with others, I’ve always considered myself a social butterfly.” According to Berner, Cookies works with operators passionate about cannabis, the plant, and what they do. We’re looking for people that get the atmosphere.” I can work with you if we get along.”


  • On legacy: “I want to make certain that when I die, particularly after coming near to death,” there are solid plans for Cookies. “I don’t want a lot of blue structures all over the place with no purpose or vision.”


  • On opportunities on the East Coast: Berner stated that he is so thrilled about the possibilities on the East Coast that he is considering purchasing a home there. “I f***ing adore New York….” Right now, New York has an entirely different vibe.” “I think Pennsylvania is going to be big,” he added.


  • On overcoming the illicit market and selling seeds directly to consumers: “It’s simple – you grow something that the streets don’t have,” Berner explained. “It’s difficult to compete with the illicit market because weed is much cheaper, but if you have some s*** that no one else has, they’ll come.” You compete by simply showing up with fire. That is how you triumph. It all comes down to genetics.”  The black market could also flourish to new levels once Cookie’s genetics are grown by illegal operators, too.



On the Main Stage, cannabis leaders and advocates discussed the current obstacles and prospects in the cannabis sector with MJBiz CEO Chris Walsh.


The Parent Co.’s CEO, Troy Datcher, said the company’s home state of California is proving difficult, with a robust illicit market and heavy taxes. To cope with the storm, the firm has stuck to its objective of becoming a national brand, despite slashing its head numbers by 33%. “We needed to safeguard our balance sheet,” Datcher explained. “We have one of California’s largest balance sheets.”


“We need to invest funds and resources to recruit talent to support us on this journey.” What keeps Datcher going? “We’re enthusiastic about the industry we’re developing, bringing Black and brown folks to the table and pushing (U.S. Sen.) Cory Booker and everybody in Washington to get off their asses and help us accomplish this thing,” he said.


According to Nancy Whiteman, co-founder, and CEO of Colorado-based edibles firm Wana Brands, some of her biggest challenges are state rules, a lack of enforcement, price compression, and the presence and hazards of delta-8 THC. “A kid died after consuming delta-8 items,” she explained.


“What will happen when that is made public?” Will all THC be labeled as dangerous?” Whiteman urged the business to lobby the FDA to regulate CBD and hemp. Reaching new, emerging economies and concentrating on innovation are opportunities that encourage Whiteman to overcome problems. “What cannabis can be,” she explained.


Delta-8 THC is also a challenge for Marijuana Policy Project President and CEO Toi Hutchison, who said the advocacy group’s campaigns are experiencing “donor fatigue.” “We’re getting the general populace to understand that our work in cannabis is not done,” she said. “We are still arresting 600,000 people every single year.”

She said education is key to battling the proliferation of delta-8 THC. “Bans never work, prohibition never works,” she said. “It’s really important that we use the words’ synthetic cannabinoids.”



While the Cannabis industry no doubt continues to face a mountain of challenges, many opportunities still present for people willing to look. And this is precisely what Berner did. There’s a gap in the supply of home cultivars with cannabis seeds, and Cookies will be filling such a gap in the market. While home cultivators may be happy, the move will most likely not make a dent in the black market, in fact, it may actually help the black market as now Cookies’ genetics will be grown by “everyone” and available on the street. Did supermarket put restaurants out of business? No.  Food prep requires work and time, just like growing cannabis.  While some will enjoy 8 to 12 weeks of cultivation, most will just go right to the “prepared meals” area and buy lunch or dinner.





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Tainted Cannabis – New Speak for Unregulated Cannabis




tainted cannabis


Have you tried some of that “tainted cannabis”?


Sounds scary right?


Well, a new study claims that “tainted pot” might be the next thing you should be worried about!


There are “likely tens of thousands of illicit cannabis businesses” currently operating out of bodegas, smoke shops and other storefronts in New York City — with many of the pop-up shops selling bad or dangerously tainted weed, a new study reveals.


Yes, you read that correctly “Tens of thousands of illicit cannabis businesses”.


Before legalization we called them our “dealers” but since it’s legal now they shall be referred to as “businesses”. Nonetheless, they are selling “dangerously tainted weed”.


But what is tainted weed? Is it doused in something? Too much fertilizer? Not properly flushed?


In this article we’re going to be talking about the rise of “tainted pot” and how this type of “newspeak” is actually lingo used in Prohibition 2.0.


So tell me more about this study…


If you want a direct access to the Study, you can find it here.


In order to understand what the study considered “tainted” we take a look at the “overview section” where it states;


Results revealed the presence of several harmful contaminants, such as E. coli, pesticides, heavy metals, and salmonella in 40 percent of the illegal products purchased, including vapes. Many of the products tested did not contain the amount of THC advertised on the label and in one case, featured double the amount of listed THC. After reviewing the items under the state’s proposed branding regulations, 100 percent of the products failed.


In other words, tainted pot had instances of contaminants, heavy metals, and the THC levels weren’t accurately labeled or double the permitted allowance.


Yet according to the FDA Handbook on Contaminants in our food;


According to the FDA, it is “economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects”.



 The word defect actually refers to “minimal amounts of rodent feces, maggots, insect fragments, animal and human hairs, parasitic cysts, and rot!


For example, foods like canned fruit, cornmeal, and chocolate are allowed whole insects, insect parts and insect larvae.

Most fruit are allowed to have bugs in them, as long as they don’t cause the fruit to rot and tomato products like pizza sauce are allowed to contain up to 30 fruit fly eggs are allowed per 100 grams.



This would NOT be considered “tainted” but would be sold to you for yummy digestion later. Therefore when you read a report that talks about the presence of e.Coli, heavy metals, etc – just know that you’re already tolerating it and have probably eaten several insects over the span of your life.


Klaus Schwabb would be proud!


Here’s a snapshot of the FDA’s table of Defects;

fda food table



Now back to the Study about the Tainted Pot!


In their report, the study authors explained that by keeping these illicit shops open, you would cause a real danger to the public.


Allowing these unregulated, illicit operations to continue operating with impunity will only exacerbate an already alarming public health trend especially among teens and young adults who either are unaware of or choose to ignore the health risks. Sellers providing illicit and potentially dangerous products, which are easily and readily available in the gray market, risk consumer safety and threaten public confidence in the adult-use industry before it even begins.

As you can see, the wording is calling for a crack-down on these illicit spots because “safety”. However, prior to legalization all of these places were operating already. In fact, it’s the license dispensaries that are coming “late” to the party.


Independent dealers, for the most part – try to sell good weed. The fact that there are certain contaminants on the plants or that there is “too much THC” in the weed are just the “defects” the FDA permits.


Everyone knows that when you buy weed from the dude down the street, it’s not going to be tested for these things. However, since you’ve been buying from him for years and nothing bad has ever happened to you – a bit of eColi couldn’t hurt!


It seems that the Mayo Clinic Agrees!


Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless or cause relatively brief diarrhea. But a few strains, such as E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

You may be exposed to E. coli from contaminated water or food — especially raw vegetables and undercooked ground beef. Healthy adults usually recover from infection with E. coli O157:H7 within a week. Young children and older adults have a greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic


Unless you’re eating an edible with E. coli, then you’re probably not in any real danger from contracting it. Especially if you’re going to light the plant on fire and smoke it.


However, I think one of the bigger concerns for the study authors is the “high THC count” and the “undermining of the legal system”.


In addition to presenting a public health crisis, these illicit dispensaries also serve to weaken and potentially debilitate the first round of licensed cannabis retailers by undercutting the consumer market through the avoidance of taxes, testing requirements, accounting measures, brick-and-mortar storefronts, and other legally required start-up costs. In addition, the illicit dispensaries easily confuse cannabis consumers, who are often unable to distinguish between illicit operations and legal adult-use stores.


And here’s the real kicker! This is all about the integrity of the legal market. However, the legal market has a cap on licenses – meaning that these “illegal” shops are creating competition to these legal entities. These legal dispensaries had to pay enormous start up fees, licenses, and need to test their weed.


Whereas these illicit shops can just grow and sell, without having to pay taxes or deal with regulatory hurdles. The only risk they incur is the risk of being arrested and jailed. Other than that, it’s just business as usual.


This is a major problem for the legal cannabis industry – or at least, the version of legal cannabis we see today!


The Major Problem with Modern Legalization


I think it’s incredibly important to not get lost in the fog of cannabis legalization and forget the system we’re exiting. Prior to legalization, society responded to any kind of cannabis-related activities with brute force.


The government actively hunted cannabis users and then imprisoned them, turning them into “state owned property”. While not directly forced to work – most inmates will tell you that “getting a job is a way to pass the time…something to do…”


In many cases the State only pays cents per hour for manual labor which is justified because the person “violated the law” thereby forgoing their rights. Except, in this case – the law is ridiculous or a “non-law” as Abraham Lincoln would call it.


It’s a law designed to make an activity that doesn’t cause harm to any “other person”, yet is deemed as “highly illegal” and as a result a direct path to “forced indentured servitude”.


While this “grift” worked for a while, the human toll was getting to high and it became inevitable for “legalization” to happen. Utilizing the same mechanism of oppression, legalization activists focused on the disproportionate execution of the law.


Eventually, the will of the people became the loudest voice in the room, and the government is forced to legalize – however, under “their terms”.


Now, within a regulated market – any dispensary, grower, cannabis enthusiast – is considered a “bad player” because they aren’t utilizing “legal avenues”.


They begin to use words like “tainted pot” and “public health crises”, and once more implement the power of law enforcement to “weed out these bad players”.


And once again, we find ourselves back into a system of oppression – a system where “few benefit” and the “many are forced to comply”.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for legal cannabis – however, in the case of certain markets with a high threshold of regulation, caps on licenses, limits on personal growth, consumption and purchase limits, etc – it begins to stink of Prohibition.


Cannabis is about human rights


People often ask me why I am so passionate about cannabis and there is a very simple reason – it’s a human right. In fact, it’s one of the “sacred human rights” up there with the “right to speak your mind”.


For me, despite the fact that cannabis in its own right is a beautiful plant that is insanely unique and complicated, yet fantastically simple and elegant – the fact that there are “laws against it” is the major problem.


You see – cannabis is a plant that grows naturally on planet earth. Nobody created cannabis, it’s not a product, and it certainly doesn’t belong to any company. You are a human from the planet earth. You, like the cannabis plant is a product of millions of years of evolution and before the existence of any one of these governments – you and this plant coexisted.


It’s the most plausible reason why phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids are so similar. We coevolved with this plant over millions of years.


In this case, cannabis is a human right. But even to a more pragmatic reason – you own your body. You are the alpha and omega of your being and for another entity – aka the government – to create laws prohibiting you from utilizing any earthly resource that is readily available to your advantage – well, that’s the real crime!


When it comes to your own body – you should always have the final say. Irrespective of “laws”, when it comes to what you put into your mouth – it is just as important as having the ability to whatever it is you want coming out of the mouth.


Modern Legalization Limits your Freedom


Unless you live in a state that allows for gifting, home growing, small scale selling, etc – most legal schemes rely on “licensed dispensaries” to service the public. However, these dispensaries have follow strict regulatory practices, increasing the cost of production. Not to mention, they have to get expensive licenses, which are only available in limited capacity.  Couple this with the inability to use modern banking and you’ve got yourself a recipe for elitism.


You can check it out in their conclusion;


Thousands of New Yorkers spent years fighting for a solid and successful adult use cannabis market. Just as the Empire State is poised to achieve that significant goal, new illicit operators have sprung up, latching on to the coattails of the respected pre-existing legacy market and threatening both public health and safety and the long-term success of legal operators, particularly CAURD licensees who will launch first in the nascent adult-use industry. These bad actors present a clear danger that could undermine both the budding industry and the health of New York residents and visitors.


As you can see, “thousands of New Yorkers” spent “years fighting” for a  blah blah blah….what the report fails to mention is the “legacy dealers” who were dealing way before legalization was even on the books.


These people couldn’t simply “pick up a license” and pivot to the legal marketplace due to scarcity of cannabis licensing. These people are part of these “bad actors” the report is talking about. These people have been servicing the cannabis community for decades while being hunted by law enforcement.


Prohibition 2.0 waves a cannabis flag while putting any “illicit competition” out of business by using the police as a weapon. This is not what cannabis legalization activists fought for.


We fought for EVERYONE’S RIGHTS to engage with cannabis…and under the current legalization schemes – this is not happening.


I’ve written about the only real solution to this problem before – you can read about this here!

The only question the “legal cannabis industry” should be asking itself is the following;


“Why would consumers prefer to risk their health and buy cannabis from “legacy dealers” as opposed to buying it from licensed dispensaries?”


Until they are ready to have THAT conversation – then legalization smells a lot like prohibition. 





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Does Cannabis Go Bad? – Colorado Approves ‘Use-By’ Dates on Marijuana Products?




does weed go bad

The state of Colorado has made some significant moves recently that can signal a new regime for the cannabis industry. Colorado has always been a leading state when it comes to cannabis and it looks set to continue that trend in 2023. The state is set to usher in a new set of rules for the cannabis industry which includes the ability to redesignate medical cannabis to adult-use cannabis. Read on as we explore the nitty-gritty of these new sets of rules and how they will affect the cannabis industry at large.

Some new sets of rules have recently been approved by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) for the cannabis industry in the state. The new sets of rules became effective on December 1 but some will not see full implementation until 2023 and 2024. Two of the new rules have certainly caught the eyes of most in the cannabis industry since they were approved. The first is the rule that grants the ability for medical cannabis to be redesignated for adult use which is set to commence in 2023. The other is the rule that requires use-by dates and storage conditions for cannabis products which are set to be implemented by 2024.

These new sets of rules are mostly byproducts of enacted legislation in the state. The adoption follows the strenuous string of engagements the division has had with different stakeholders. The division operates off the state’s Department of Revenue and has been tasked with such responsibilities over time. The MED has always been faced with different important topics around the cannabis industry in the state and this year was no different. The rulemaking process of the division is dependent on established laws within the state but the division still engages stakeholders before rolling out its rules.

Dominique Mendiola, a Senior Director at MED in a news release spoke about the importance of the collaboration between MED and stakeholders in the industry. He states that this collaboration is what makes the rulemaking process effective for the good of the industry. According to him, the engagements give the division a chance to receive significant contributions from its team and members of the public. Mendiola says that these engagements are pivotal for the division’s moves in updating existing rules and processes and as such the division doesn’t take it for granted.


The new rule that has got everyone talking among the new sets of rules by the MED is the redesignation rule. The rule is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and it will allow medical cannabis facilities to transfer medical cannabis to adult-use cannabis cultivation facilities. The facility can also transfer cannabis to an accelerator cultivator so that the product’s designation can be changed to its intended use. The rule is a product of Senate Bill 22-178 which explains that an adult-use cultivation facility is important for payment of excise tax on transferred cannabis.

The rule is also linked to the legislation of 2021 which stated that a licensee can change the designation of adult-use cannabis to medical cannabis. This conversion is only applicable under special circumstances as stated by the legislation and cannabis companies will start benefiting come January 2023.

The state of Colorado following the rule by the MED will also allow all cannabis products in the state to be labelled based on storage conditions and use-by dates. This will take effect in January 2024 and must be fulfilled before any cannabis can be sold to a patient or adult aged 21 and above. The new rules mean that additional responsibilities will be placed on the licensees. They will be required to determine the shelf stability of their products in order to establish correct use-by dates. In a situation where a licensee chooses not to carry out testing, a standard 9-month use-by date will apply.

The MED explained in a release the standard procedure to follow with respect to use-by-date products. In instances where the use-by date has expired and the regulated marijuana store wishes to sell the products to the consumer, they are permitted. This applies provided the licensee informs the consumer or patient about the use-by date expiration on the product. The new rule will be applied to products intended for inhalation such as flowers and prerolls. Use-by-date labelling is already standard for edibles and other consumable cannabis products.

There were other significant rule changes based on different House bills that are set to take effect by Dec 1 2022. One such is the requirement for marijuana-responsible vendor designations to live with both the individual and business seeking to maintain the designation. The designation changes with an employee if the employee moves on to another business. House Bill 22-1135 has also prompted allowance for marijuana transport licensees to transfer the license to new or additional owners. An extension has also been added to the time for finding suitable social equity programs for licensees from one year to two years.

There were also amendments to existing rules for increasing worker safety under certain manufacturing processes. This includes the use of gloves, goggles, and respirators for some workers. There is also a requirement for an increase in internal security controls which will help to curb the increase in attempted burglaries at licensed cannabis businesses. Licensees will be required to provide improved security controls and will be assisted with a security plan to prepare and mitigate burglaries.

There are certainly interesting days ahead for the cannabis industry in the state of Colorado. The new sets of rules have been arranged in such a way that they will assist both the licensee and the customer to get the best out of the system. For the rules set to take effect in 2023, only time will tell how effective they will be in the grand scheme of things. 





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Webinar Replay: Cannabis and Psychedelics Election Updates and Q&A




On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, Harris Bricken attorneys Vince Sliwoski (Portland) and Griffen Thorne (Los Angeles) hosted a free, hour-long webinar analyzing the election results. The panelists broke down a number of the state and local election outcomes and answered your questions about the impact of these new laws.

For anyone who was not able to join the webinar, we’ve got you covered! Below, please find the full webinar.

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