Proposal on Responsible and Sustainable Marijuana Legalization in Virginia

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In mid November Governor Ralph Northam announced that he is supporting the legalization of marijuana for adult use at the upcoming session of the General Assembly of Virginia.

ORA applauds this move, not least of all because of the deficiencies of last year’s decriminalization bill. Nevertheless, we also believe this is a unique opportunity to avoid many of the pitfalls that have beset the early pioneers of legalization, and to turn marijuana legalization into a true “community wealth building” moment that creates a marijuana industry that is regenerative, equitable, responsible, and sustainable. Otherwise we are afraid that this industry will quickly be dominated by large corporations and oligarch investors seeking maximum financial extraction, with no regard for public health or well-being.

We have drafted a proposal that contains what we think should be the key elements of a legislative package on legalization:

ABC for THC

Reparations

Retroactive Legality

State Bank for Virginia

Multi-stakeholder Producer Cooperative


ABC for THC

When prohibition was ending, many states were keen to avoid turning alcohol sales and distribution over to the private market, due to concerns over public health and the possibility of the monopolists of the formerly illicit trade cornering the new legal market. For that reason, a number of states, including Virginia, formed state monopolies over the strongest forms of alcohol and passed other restrictions limiting ownership in the various sectors of the industry. While its mission has become more state revenue-focused over the years, Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to this day includes in its mission statement the goal of “[promoting] public safety through the responsible sale and regulation of alcoholic beverages.”A similar case could be made for marijuana now. While it certainly does not carry the multitudinous personal and public dangers of alcohol (ab)use, marijuana and its derivative products are not harmless, which would militate in favor of maintaining close control over its sale and distribution, rather than turn it over to private market forces that would constantly push for increased consumption, advertising, and deregulation. As public health scientists Robin Room and Jenny Cisneros Örnberg wrote in a paper on state monopolies as a model for marijuana legalization:

The challenge for a public health approach to legalization of cannabis or any other potentially harmful psychoactive substance is thus the challenge of building a system which provides for availability and use while effectively holding down overall levels of use…This is a challenge which is better faced at the point of legalization than at later times. Once legal private interests have been created in a legal market, they will become effective advocates particularly against any impairment of their existing financial opportunities under the system. Thus it will always be politically easier to impose restrictions when the system is initiated than at any later time. In constructing the system, it is also crucial to give attention to insulating it from pressures to loosen controls and expand the market. The strongest argument in the interest of public health for constructing the market to minimise commercial interests (e.g., by setting it up as a government monopoly) is that such arrangements can be more effectively insulated from commercial pressures to “grow the market”.

Tobacco and alcohol control specialists Michele Barry and Stanton Glantz agree, writing in a separate paper:

Privatizing tobacco and alcohol sales leads to intensified marketing efforts, lower prices, more effective distribution, and an industry that will aggressively oppose any public health effort to control use. Avoiding a privatized marijuana market and the associated pressures to increase consumption in order to maximize profits would likely lead to lower consumer demand, consumption, and prevalence, even among youth, and would reduce the associated public health harm. Governments may avoid marijuana commercialization by implementing a state monopoly over its production and distribution, similar to Uruguay’s regulatory structure for marijuana and to the Nordic countries’ alcohol control systems, which are designed to protect public health over maximizing government revenue. The state would have more control over access, price, and product characteristics (including youth-appealing products or packaging, potency, and additives) and would refrain from marketing that promotes increased use.

It is vital to note that the authors of the state legislature’s own Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission agree with these assessments (see Appendix J):

A government control model is likely best able to achieve public health goals. Unlike private businesses, the state would not have a profit motive to advertise or otherwise promote marijuana use. Limiting advertising and promotions is important, because research studies show a link between advertising and increased marijuana use among youth, and other states have had problems with inappropriate advertising. By placing distribution and retail under government control, these problems are largely avoided. The state can directly control the visibility and promotion of commercial marijuana. State-run retail stores would also be less likely to sell to underage customers. Looking at underage alcohol sales, for example, VABC reports its stores have an underage buyer check compliance rate of 99 percent, compared to 89 percent for the private sector. (Underage buyer checks are when VABC sends an underage adult into an establishment to try and buy alcohol.)

The authors of the JLARC report similarly acknowledge that a “government control model” that operated like ABC would also help prevent diversion to the illegal market. Per the report:

A government control model would also reduce the risk of legally produced marijuana being diverted to the illegal market. In its role as distributor, the state would have direct control over all legal movement of commercial marijuana in the state, enhancing its ability to monitor the entire supply chain and reduce the risk of marijuana being “lost” in business transactions. It would also directly control or closely oversee retail operations, improving its ability to monitor final sales. Additionally, the more operations are under state control, the less likely it is for marijuana to be diverted. Unlike a private company, the state would not have a financial incentive or survival motive to illegally divert marijuana for profit.

If the public health aspect of the public monopoly were not convincing enough, the JLARC report also admits that an “ABC for pot” model would generate the most revenue over the long term:

The state could attempt to directly operate distribution or retail, either under a new agency or at Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. This approach could result in the most revenue for the state in the long term, because the state could fully capture profits from distribution and retail.

This is a very important point with regard to the next part of this proposal: a reparations fund. The more money the state pulls in from the sale of marijuana, the more money that can go to reparations (and preferably public health).

Having a state monopoly over sale and distribution would prevent a scenario in the future whereby legalization/descheduling at the federal level leads giant corporations and conglomerates to enter the market, wiping out all smaller home-grown competitors while pursuing a strategy of maximum growth and extraction. As Orenstein and Glantz point out in their recent paper:

The cannabis market has already attracted the attention and investment of major corporate entities in Canada (which legalized adult use in 2018), including Altria (parent company of Philip Morris USA, maker of Marlboro and other cigarette labels), Constellation Brands (owner of Corona and other beer labels), and Molson Coors (owner of Molson, Coors, and other beer labels), while a number of other large corporations, including Coca-Cola, are reportedly also considering entry.

We understand that certain quarters of the Black community would like to see the retail side left open to the private market so as to maximize opportunities for Black entrepreneurs, but we are skeptical that state preference programs will create such opportunities, let alone be able to sustain them over the long term – especially if large corporations are able to enter the retail market after federal legalization/descheduling. The JLARC report studied other states’ attempts at ensuring equity in the retail market, and found the results of those policies/programs to be underwhelming, particularly after the market matured (see comments on pp. 79 and 86). The medical marijuana industry has been operating for only a few months, and already a major merger has announced, with Columbia Care Inc. paying $240 MILLION to acquire Green Leaf Medical. Given those sums, it is hard to see how smaller, minority-owned retail outlets could compete in the long-term, even with state subsidies.

Uneven playing fields in the market aside, the public health and revenue maximization missions are intricately linked. Under for-profit corporate ownership, wealth will be extracted from Virginia communities and funneled upwards to rich, absentee shareholders, further increasing already high levels of economic inequality. By contrast, public ownership allows for revenues from the sale of marijuana to be recirculated into Virginia communities in the form of increased investments in economic development and social services (particularly in the areas most impacted by the drug war).

Virginia in this case could learn from the Canadian province of Ontario. There, a publicly owned company (the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation) manages all online sales of marijuana as well as wholesale distribution. Indeed, if Ontario’s experience is any indicator, a state wholesale monopoly would allow Virginia to earn the revenue it seeks, while keeping the tax low and undercutting the illegal market. This is a significant point, since California and other states have struggled to vanquish the black market due to the heavy taxes they impose on private licensed dealers.

The JLARC authors dismiss the ABC model due to concerns over the unpredictable federal response. This objection is unconvincing given the fact that an ABC model would meet the stipulations of the Cole Memorandum (which the JLARC report cites as guidance for its recommendations on shaping a commercial market) better than a private retail market. We certainly could not reasonably expect that a Biden DoJ will be more aggressive than the Trump DoJ was under say Jeff Sessions (which, despite threats, did nothing to intervene in state-level marijuana policy). In any event, there are certainly options for pursuing an ABC model in VA that arguably remain within the spirit of the current mode of enforcement of the law. As the authors of a RAND Corporation report for Vermont write:

Under a public-authority model, the state would not itself possess or distribute marijuana. Rather, the public authority, like for-profit businesses in Colorado and Washington, would be the one violating any federal law. The state would appoint members of the public authority and set policy (for instance, to control diversion, control interactions with consumers, restrict sale to particular types of products, avoid advertising and product innovation, and prevent a price collapse). The hope is that those actions, in substance, might prove no more offensive to federal interests than a state’s actions in a for-profit commercial model of hiring regulators and tax collectors, issuing licenses, writing regulatory and tax law, and collecting taxes. There is a tension in the decision about how much independence to grant the authority. The more the state puts the authority at arm’s length, the better the case for the authority being equivalent to a private business, so its position vis-à-vis the Controlled Substances Act would rise and fall with the Colorado and Washington models. For example, the state could authorize the authority to do various things but not require it and, hence, would not require the authority to violate federal law. Indeed because, like a public monopoly, a public authority could pursue policies that serve the public, not just a profit interest, a rational and selective federal government might well let the public authority proceed, even if more-provocative for-profit commercial sales in other states came under federal attack. On the other hand, if the authority is entirely separate from the state in form and substance, the state loses control, and the authority could disregard the state’s preferences.

Such an arms-length state authority, however, would need a governing board made up of public health specialists, civil rights groups, and the kind of technocrats needed to run a complicated state enterprise like this.

In conclusion, we believe Virginia’s current ABC model is sufficient in this regard. If the existing ABC Authority is to be used, however, we believe that for health reasons marijuana products should not be sold in the same stores where liquor is sold. A separate network of stores should be set up in consultation with the local governments of the political subdivisions, albeit with an equity lens that does not predominantly site state outlets in low-income or majority-minority neighborhoods.

It also must be stressed that the Virginia Department of Health should be in charge of establishing all regulations regarding marijuana and derivative products, with no input from commercial entities.

In addition, while a large portion of revenue generated by the state marijuana control authority (above the cost of ongoing operations) must be dedicated to a reparations/community reinvestment fund, a certain portion should be directed to funding public health initiatives and research on reducing adult marijuana use.

For a comprehensive set of recommendations on safeguarding public health during legalization, see this paper by Orenstein and Glantz.

Lastly, even if Virginia rejects a “governmental control model”, there are other options for keeping the industry under non-profit/not-for-profit control, but JLARC did not explore those options. For discussion of them, see this report by the RAND Corporation (Chapter 4, especially pp. 65-66). If the state is to retain a monopoly at the wholesale level but allows private entities to operate at the retail level, it should ensure that those retailers are organized as community-worker cooperatives, local, municipally-run public enterprises, or social enterprises that return their profits to support community-based non-profit organizations. The JLARC report suggests an alternative option of mandatory social equity plans during licensing (pg. 77-78), but that would not necessitate inclusive ownership, nor would it prioritize public good over private profit.

Building a Regenerative Marijuana Industry

Reparations

As was mentioned above, having an ABC-style state monopoly on sale and distribution at the wholesale level would maximize revenue earned from this industry, which would in turn increase the amount of money that could be used for a reparations program.

The war on drugs, particularly marijuana, has been devastating to communities of color, particularly the African American community. Racial disparities in police stops, arrests, and sentencing have been invariable, prominent features of our law and order approach to drug to use since the beginning, which in turn have given rise to mass incarceration, the break up of families, and extraction of wealth from communities of color. For that reason, legalization legislation must ensure that a percentage of the revenue generated from the sale of marijuana products be used to capitalize a reparations fund to repair the communities that were disproportionately impacted by the war on marijuana (among other racist and discriminatory policies). This is being done in Evanston, Illinois and must be an inextricable part of the legalization framework.

Evanston timeline on reparations

The VA legislature’s own JLARC report recommends allocating a certain portion (or all) of the revenues earned from recreational marijuana to a community reinvestment fund, which they estimate would provide the greatest amount of benefit to the communities hardest hit by the drug war. The JLARC authors stipulate, however, that any such fund must include racial justice, civil rights, and community development organizations within its governing structure (see pp. 92-99).

An independent commission overseeing the reparations fund would ultimately have to decide where and on what to spend the money, but we think these would be worthy areas of pursuit:

Housing:

African Americans in Virginia have historically suffered and continue to suffer from housing discrimination, disproportionate rates of eviction, displacement by gentrification, poor quality housing, heat islands, etc. The legacy of housing discrimination has led to a persistent wealth gap, since Black Virginians, like Black Americans in general, were shut out of homeownership opportunities, which in turn prevented them from benefiting from the kind of intergenerational wealth that whites have. This has become a vicious circle for African Americans as the effects of past housing discrimination create insurmountable barriers to ownership in the present.

Community reinvestment funds could go to creating and capitalizing community land trusts, building housing cooperatives (or converting existing housing to cooperative housing), resident owned communities, all of which would ensure stable housing conditions while also providing stepping stones to ownership. Good recent examples of this are Moms4Housing in Oakland and Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia in Minneapolis. The Dudley Neighbors Corporation in Boston is also a great model for this (watch this presentation by Tony Hernandez). Such funds could also go to renovating existing housing in BIPOC-majority communities to make it beautiful and green and net zero and remediate environmental contaminants in older housing stock. A community land trust in Buffalo is doing some of these things now.

While Virginia desperately needs more pro-tenant laws like rent control, just cause eviction, and right of first refusal (e.g. Tenant Opportunity to Purchase), community reinvestment funds could go for more legal and social support for tenants facing eviction or abusive/neglectful landlords.

Health:

There are serious racial disparities in health care in Virginia. Studies have shown that Black Virginians have a lower life expectancy than other groups, show greater risk of developing several preventable diseases, and are getting lower quality health care than their white counterparts. Moreover, there is a large body of research showing that racial bias in medicine is leading to worse treatment outcomes for African Americans.

Community reinvestment funds could be used to establish more community health centers in communities of color, establish primary care cooperatives, and train more Black doctors and nurses at Virginia’s historically Black colleges and universities to staff such entities. Aside from reinvestment funds, local “anchor institutions” like hospitals and other medical centers could do much to address the social determinants of health in the disproportionate impact areas. From a more holistic perspective, investments in all of these categories (e.g. housing, employment, food) should all help to improve the overall health of African Americans in Virginia.

Energy:

Black Virginians and other people of color are “energy burdened”, paying a high percentage of their income on their electricity and/or gas bill. Black communities are also disproportionately affected by “environmental racism” (e.g. siting polluting infrastructure or the waste from such near Black communities), which has serious consequences for the health and well-being of the residents.

While the larger problems of environmental racism will have to be solved through grassroots organizing and bold legislation (*ahem* Green New Deal), community reinvestment funds could help cut energy bills for communities of color by weatherizing their homes, installing rooftop solar, and replacing gas heating systems with ground-source (or air-source) heat pumps. Moreover, targeted training programs and union apprenticeships in these trades could provide many good paying jobs for people of color, ideally at cooperatively owned businesses. Lastly, if community solar were to ever be actually legalized in Virginia, communities of color could established community-owned microgrids like this one in California or this one in Brooklyn.

Broadband internet:

The pandemic has demonstrated once and for all that broadband internet is an essential utility like water or electricity, yet Black Virginians and other people of color are more likely not to have access to broadband at home (often due to cost). Given the impact that lack of home internet has on health, education, and employment, major investments need to be made to get communities of color connected.

Community investment funds could be used in various ways to bridge the digital divide in Black communities. It could help fund deployment of fiber to the home (preferably through community owned networks like cooperatives and broadband authorities) in communities of color and provide devices to connect at home, along with digital literacy courses for older people.

Finance:

Bank redlining was integral part of the creation and perpetuation of housing segregation in the United States. Today, African Americans and other people of color still face discrimination by one set of lenders, while also being preyed upon by another. Black Virginians were clearly targeted by banks for subprime loans in the run up to the 2008 financial crash, which erased a massive amount of Black wealth. With all of this in mind, it would be beneficial if we had more community-oriented, minority-owned financial institutions. As Mehrsa Baradaran has shown in her recent book, Color of Money, Black-owned banks have played an important role in providing some access to credit in Black communities, but have always been constrained by the lack of capital within those communities, the precarious financial position of their customers, and racial bias within the larger regulatory system.

There need to be comprehensive legislative fixes to these problems (some of which are on the way), but a community reinvestment fund could provide capital to help set up more minority-owned credit unions, commercial banks, and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) – particularly within the areas that were disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. We already have some excellent minority-owned/minority focused CDFIs here in VA (listen to this presentation by Donna Gambrell at Appalachian Community Capital), but they need more support. If Virginia were to form a state bank (with a charter that includes a reparations mission), more support could be provided to minority-owned/minority-focused financial institutions for small business and other lending.

Food:

Black communities and other people of color in Virginia regularly suffer from food deserts and lack of options for fresh and nutritious food, which is a product of structural racism. Moreover, decades of racism and discrimination in agricultural policy have caused a significant decline in the number of Black farmers in the state. The ones that survived are struggling to stay afloat.

Community reinvestment funds could help revive Black agriculture and end food deserts by creating cooperative food hubs like this one in Cincinnati, OH or this one in Viroqua, Wi that connects all the stakeholders in the food chain. Land trusts could be established to acquire and hold farm land in perpetuity for Black farming enterprises. This community in Massachusetts has combined community supported agriculture with a land trust and even implemented local currency. Community reinvestment funds could help establish grocery store cooperatives owned by the workers and the shoppers in communities of color (or even help fund publicly owned grocery stores).

Business development:

Black owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the economic crisis that it initiated. Even before the crisis began, Black entrepreneurs face high barriers to success due to in part to many of the factors mentioned above. While community reinvestment funds can and should go to helping Black entrepreneurs gain access to low-cost credit, get training and other forms of business support (on the production side of the marijuana industry and otherwise), business development support should be at least partially focused on creating new enterprises with broad-based ownership models – particularly cooperatives.

African Americans have a long, rich history of cooperative ownership, especially in reaction to market failures and economic racial discrimination. In recent years especially, worker cooperatives have begun to gain ground again in communities of color as many people see them as a way to establish resilient businesses with high road employment practices. NYC has even embraced worker ownership as part of its racial equity program as has this community development coalition in Chicago. Community reinvestment funds could help workers of color buy their business and convert it to worker-owned structure. Such funds could possibly help returning citizens form cooperative businesses, like this growing conglomerate in Baltimore. Thinking more systematically, reparations funds could help communities of color replicate models like the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland or Coopcincy in Cincinnati, where networks of cooperatives are being stood up to meet the needs of local anchor institutions.


Retroactive Legality

In addition to reparations, any legalization bill must include strong elements of “retroactive legality”, which means our policy-making apparatus should acknowledge and move to redress both the failings of our prior system of drug regulation and the social and economic disparities in current law. Retroactive legality seeks to restore those convicted of marijuana crimes to the rights and civic status they would have had if their conduct had never been illegal. Last year’s decriminalization bill sealed police records and prohibits employers from asking applicants to disclose past convictions. Court records, however, are still open to public investigation. This means that individuals who were arrested, charged, and/or convicted for marijuana related crimes must be able to have their court records expunged (preferably automatically), while all those currently imprisoned for marijuana related crimes must be pardoned and released immediately. The JLARC report makes a recommendation on automatic expungements, but is silent on pardons.

If there are mass pardons, it is imperative that funding be made available to provide housing, social support, and employment for newly returned. In the mid- to long-term, reparations funds should be geared to funding those things.


A State Bank for Virginia

One of the most glaring problems of the legal weed industry at the state level to date has been the inability of pot entrepreneurs to (safely and confidently) use commercial banks to deposit their revenues, since most commercial banks are FDIC insured and hence are wary of accepting money that is technically derived from a federally illegal activity. There has been a lot of knock on effects from this, one of which has been the tendency of pot businesses to buy up real estate and other big-ticket assets to effectively launder or have a store for their mostly cash operation, which tends to cause significant distortions in the real estate market. It also makes them targets for armed robbery.

The authors of the Governor’s report acknowledge this as a major issue:

One of the most critical components of a thriving industry is banking, and several states identified this as a significant challenge. Legal hurdles require most transactions to take place in cash, make deposits difficult, and also prevent businesses from accessing credit.

Because marijuana remains a federally illegal product, multiple federal laws and regulations prevent financial institutions from fully participating in the industry in states where the substance is legal. According to the American Bankers Association, “all proceeds generated by a cannabis-related business operating in compliance with state law are unlawful, and that any attempt to conduct a financial transaction with that money (including simply accepting a deposit), can be considered money-laundering. All banks, whether state or federally chartered, are subject to federal anti-money laundering laws.” (pg. 70)

This also affects access to capital, which is a particularly significant issue in terms of equitable development of the industry:

Banks, credit unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are largely constrained by federal law from actively participating in the marijuana businesses…[A]side from federal law, these institutions’ participation is also limited by their own risk tolerances, which could lead to a disinclination to participate to a large degree, especially with smaller businesses. Virginia should consider working with these institutions to find ways to allow businesses to have equitable access to credit (pg 61).

If Virginia maintains a state monopoly over sale and distribution at the wholesale level, those revenues will go to the state treasury which should not fall afoul of federal law per se, but if the state monopoly is to depend on supply from a network of Virginia small farmers and manufacturers, those businesses will need some place to put their money if and while it remains illegal at the federal level. It will also need a financial institution to help backstop loans for start-ups, so as to ensure a equitable development of the industry.

For that reason, Virginia should establish a state bank that can hold the revenues from private pot entrepreneurs and leverage those deposits to increase investments in community development projects throughout the state. (Suffice it to say, a state bank should not focus only on holding pot money, since federal policies will most likely change eventually, hence expanding banking options for Virginia-based enterprises earning money from pot in some way).

This bank could be modeled on the 100 year old Bank of North Dakota, which is highly successful and does not need FDIC insurance. This would have the added benefit of leveraging those deposits for increased lending statewide and for supporting and seeding community banks and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in communities of color and other rural areas to provide access to cheap capital. One need only look at North Dakota’s performance during the Paycheck Protection Program fiasco to understand the overall usefulness of a public bank (although we should legalize public banks at all levels, so as to protect local governments from predatory Wall Street cartels).

Video from the Public Banking Institute

Multi-stakeholder Producer Cooperative

Lastly, having a state monopoly on sale and distribution would be vital for policing the production side of the market, so as to prevent the rise of private monopolies utilizing plantation style operations.

If the state is to have a monopoly on the sale and distribution of marijuana products on the wholesale level, however, it should support the creation of a corresponding multi-stakeholder producer cooperative that:

Examples of multi-stakeholder cooperatives that might serve as a model for this structure are Fifth Season in Wisconsin (or Our Harvest in Ohio).

The USDA’s magazine Rural Cooperatives provides the following profile of the Fifth Season model:

Fifth Season is a multi-stakeholder cooperative based in Viroqua, Wisconsin. It operates regionally within a 150-mile radius of Viroqua, and its members represent all the key players in the food system at the local level. Many of the producer-members employ conservation growing practices that emphasize preservation of land,water and air, and that follow bio-diverse production models, with minimal, or no, use of chemical pesticides. The co-op produces and distributes locally grown produce, meats, dairy and value-added food products to institutional and foodservice buyers through its distribution member, Reinhart Food Service (which in a commercial marijuana version of this would be played by the state marijuana control authority).

This innovative model of a multi-stakeholder cooperative, working with a broad-line distributor (which is represented on the co-op board of directors) provides producers another critical set of services: warehousing, transportation, sales representatives, and a developed customer base, while simultaneously providing hundreds of consumers access to locally and sustainably grown products.

Fifth Season provides services that significantly benefit its producers. The large volumes that are demanded by institutional markets are often more than single farmers can supply. The co-op aggregates crops from multiple farms, allowing small producers to meet the needed volume. It also provides third-party GAP (good agricultural practices) auditing, liability insurance,fair pricing and food safety education and training for the co-op’s producers.These services make it possible for small- and mid-sized producers to sell to larger markers that are typically out of reach for them.

Fifth Season’s multi-stakeholder cooperative structure ensures that working relationships exist between key supply chain entities. Such positive working relationships are hard to find in mainstream supply chains that are often marked by the volatility of contracts and aggressive competition. In contrast, the co-op brings everyone to the table to make decisions together for the benefit of all. In so doing, it redistributes power across the supply chain. The mission to create a sustainable local and regional food system, with fair pricing to farmers, is prioritized in their decision-making,which contrasts starkly with the market-driven, mainstream food supply chain. For example, independent small- and medium-sized local growers selling to institutional markets might not receive fair pricing because the processor and the distributor have higher margins for their customers and are not willing to compromise, since they may procure cheaper product elsewhere. However,producer-members of Fifth Season Cooperative have negotiating power and the ability to receive fair pricing due, in large part, to a model in which producers sit at the same table as the processors, distributors and buyers.

This marijuana producer cooperative should incorporate as a Benefit Corporation so as to be legally obligated to have a triple bottom line.

An important corollary to this is that tobacco and cigarette (like Altria) and alcohol companies should be banned from participating in the marijuana industry and strict limits should be placed on the size of the enterprises involved in cultivation.

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