One Nation Under A Groove (In a Divided US, Cannabis Brings Us All Together)
CANNABIS CULTURE –  “In reality, who won big on election night? Definitely cannabis,” according to Partner and Chair of the cannabis practice at Greenspoon Marder Law Firm, Rachel K Gillette. “Cannabis is an issue that unites all political persuasions.”  Partner and Chair of the cannabis practice at Greenspoon Marder Law Firm, Rachel K Gillette Recreational […]

CANNABIS CULTURE –  “In reality, who won big on election night? Definitely cannabis,” according to Partner and Chair of the cannabis practice at Greenspoon Marder Law Firm, Rachel K Gillette. “Cannabis is an issue that unites all political persuasions.” 

Partner and Chair of the cannabis practice at Greenspoon Marder Law Firm, Rachel K Gillette

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Arizona, South Dakota, Montana, and New Jersey; and medical marijuana was legalized in Mississippi. With the exception of New Jersey, these are all traditionally conservative states when it comes to weed, with past resolutions failing.

While people and politicians have differences on how cannabis laws should be handled, the general consensus is evolving. And the tumult of 2020 has, without question, played a role in swaying voter opinions. 

Lobbyists embraced the notion of criminal justice reform in a year when it is on the forefront of the American conscience; new forms of tax revenue are a welcome relief for state economies that have been ravaged by COVID-19; and the end of prohibition means people can freely destress during one of the most stressful times in US history.

Regarding inevitable Federal reform, Gillette predicted that “By the end of the next President Elect’s term, we will have some sort of regulatory framework.” She is hopeful that Federal legislators will work with the states to integrate the already robust sets of policies that are currently in place. “The one thing I want to ensure, is that the Federal Government should not interfere with the success of the regulatory environments of the states already in order.”

Gillette is also confident that corporations will address the issue of social equity in the cannabis industry as they have more freedom to grow and cultivate a legitimate industry. “If you talk to 10 CEOs of some of the largest cannabis companies in the nation, they will tell you that criminal justice reform is one of the most important issues.”

While it remains to be seen if larger companies will make space to foster relationships with communities and individuals disproportionately impacted by unfair criminalization, Gillette pointed to all the major organizations working at the State and Federal levels to create a fair and equitable environment in which everyone has a seat at the table, including the National Cannabis Roundtable, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.


Arizona’s Proposition 207 is the most comprehensive out of all the marijuana legalization measures in this election cycle. Not only does it legalize possession and lay the groundwork for the Arizona Department of Health Services to regulate the industry, it also addresses equity and criminal reform.

The Social Equity Ownership Program was set up to issue licenses to owners from communities that have been disproportionately affected by previous marijuana laws; and funds from the 16 percent tax will be split between police and fire departments, highways, and a Justice Reinvestment Fund. 

The overwhelming majority of money supporting this proposition came from corporations operating within the cannabis industry. Harvest Enterprises, Inc. donated nearly $2 million, according to Steve White, CEO of the Harvest Health and Recreation. White is excited about the jobs that will be created through this new legislation, but he lit up when talking about the criminal justice reform that was part of the bill. 

Steve White, CEO Harvest Health and Recreation

“We worked with the ACLU to help draft the language on funding into this legislation.” He added, “This is one of the most comprehensive pieces of criminal justice reform Arizona has seen in a long time. It lays the groundwork for automatic expungement.” While there is currently no avenue toward an automated process, White stated that Harvest Health and Recreation is going to provide funding to create the software necessary to move the process along. 

The Arizona Marijuana Industry Trade Association (MITA) has also played a powerful role in the legislative process. Demitri Downing, the former prosecutor who founded the organization, doesn’t personally use marijuana. “I’ve tried it a few times. It relaxes me a little too much.” He started MITA “to help people network and find opportunity.” 

There are currently over 50 companies involved in some way or another with the organization, and at least two of the top five contributors to the passage of Proposition 207 are preferred vendors. Downing noted that while most of the opportunity for new entry into the Arizona market is in ancillary products, “Our industry should be looking to expand its competition as quickly as possible, because competition leads to better products and better choices.”

South Dakota

In a state where even the legal status of CBD was unclear until March, 2020, voters have made their opinions known on both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana at the same time. The state’s constitutional amendment, Amendment A, passed by 54.18 percent. It legalizes the possession and distribution of up to one ounce of cannabis; and it mandates that legislators develop a plan for medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.

Drey Samuelson, Campaign Manager for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws

South Dakota has traditionally been incredibly conservative regarding the legalization of marijuana, with the last initiative on the ballot losing by 67 percent in 2010. The Revenue Department will manage all licensing and regulation, and sales will be taxed at 15 percent. The boon to the economy may well be one of the top reasons for passage in a time when COVID has ravaged economies in almost every state.

According to Drey Samuelson, Campaign Manager for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, “It’s so obvious […] that prohibition doesn’t work, it harms people; and if it were lifted it would generate a significant amount of tax money that could be used for beneficial purposes.” He added that “SD will generate $250M by 2030 from Amendment A, 50% which will go to our public schools, 50% which will go to the state’s general fund.”

There was fierce opposition to the amendment from major trade associations, including the Association of General Contractors, South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Retailers Association, and South Dakota State Medical Association. 

Despite the outspoken pushback, however, cannabis won this round. Samuelson is excited to see the benefits come to fruition. “[There are] huge advantages to patients who now will be able to have legal access to marijuana that will treat seizures, chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, etc.; no longer will people have their lives ruined for marijuana offenses that, in 11 states (soon 15), are not illegal; opioid overdose deaths will decline by roughly 25-30%; many illicit dealers will be run out of business, and the drug cartels/organized crime that supply them will lose an income stream; and people who buy marijuana will know, for the first time the strength of their doses and that they are safe; tourism in the state will benefit.”


Montana’s history with weed legalization has been arduous. In 2004, the state legalized medical marijuana through a citizen-backed initiative that passed with 61.81 percent of the vote. In 2011, the State Legislature repealed the initiative and passed a separate bill that put such strict limitations on medical dispensaries that it significantly reduced their ability to operate. Residents of the state voted to uphold the referendum by 57 percent. 

In 2016, another initiative repealed the requirement that dispensaries could only serve three customers, and that they could not receive compensation beyond cost (both of these were part of the 2011 legislation). It also allowed doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for patients with chronic pain and PTSD.

The newest initiative, I-190—legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana—passed by 56.9 percent according to the AP. The state will impose a 20 percent tax on all non-medical marijuana; and the Montana Department of Revenue will be responsible for regulation and licensing for cultivation, transportation and sale. The state estimated that tax revenue will generate $48 million annually by 2025.

Dave Lewis, Retired Montana State Legislator (2005-2015)

With COVID devastating the state’s economy, the revenue would be a welcome relief. In a June 26th interview with MG Magazine, retired state legislator Dave Lewis said, “Adding nearly $50 million dollars a year to the state budget with legal adult use marijuana isn’t just a bonus. This projected revenue has already become vital to the future budget of this state, and veterans services like all other services need tax revenues to continue.”

Pushback from the opposition group, Wrong for Montana, included a lawsuit demanding disclosure of where top supporting contributor North Fund gets its money. The organization provides funding to progressive issues all over the country, but its tax status as a 501c(4) allows it to keep its donors secret. Wrong for Montana complained that North Fund’s money was “dark money,” but courts upheld the organization’s status and allowed it to keep its donors undisclosed.

Other top sources for funding to pass I-190 include the New Approach PAC, a national group pushing for cannabis law reform; Fund for a Better Future, an advocacy organization pushing for social justice; Service Employees International Union, a union serving employees in the healthcare industry who will benefit from tax funds generated; the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization receiving funds from advocacy groups as well as corporations in the cannabis industry; and the Sixteen Thirty Group, an organization that supports progressive change, but has also been accused of receiving “dark money”.

New Jersey

New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, ran his 2017 campaign on a promise to make marijuana legal in the state; but the 2019 New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Act failed in the Senate by one vote. So the Legislature put the measure on the ballot, posing the question to voters. 

The measure passed by an overwhelming majority, with 66.9 percent of the vote, according to the AP. It does not set up a framework for implementation. Instead, it simply allows the state to move forward with the process. 

The only details so far include a 6.625 percent state tax, with municipalities permitted to charge an additional 2 percent tax if they choose. The rest is to be worked out through cooperation between the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission—consisting of five appointed members—and the Legislature.

A top financial backer of the campaign was the American Civil Liberties Union. After passage of the measure, former ACLU attorney, Diana Houenou, was appointed chair of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Houenou has worked on reforming the justice system surrounding cannabis, and it appears to be one of her top priorities as the state works to hammer out logistics.

“As happy as I am about the results of the vote, I would remiss if I didn’t remind us all that this is the first step,” Houenou stated in a November 6th interview with She later added, “For [the]cannabis industry to have integrity, it must be equitable.” 

Other financial supporters included Scotts Miracle Gro, a company that supplies fertilizer for cannabis producers; Weedmaps, a tech company serving the cannabis industry; Drug Policy Action, an organization working for policy reform; and Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, a law firm serving the cannabis industry and offering criminal defense in drug charges, among other offenses.

Ed Forchion, right, and Debi Madaio, photographed in the temple adjoining NJ Weedman’s Joint on East State Street in Trenton on Friday. (Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media)

While there are reasons to be optimistic that New Jersey’s legalization will bring about fair and equitable reform, some views are not so positive. Ed Forchion, known by many as NJWeedman, said in a September 4th interview with MG Magazine: 

“I of course support the legalization of marijuana. What I don’t support is the current guise of deceit and manipulation under which it is being done. Since the 90’s, state officials have been pushing the war on drugs and targeting marijuana users in that war. Now these former and current state officials are part of the scheme to steal the marijuana industry from disenfranchised People of Color and hand it over to a few white corporate guys, openly excluding those who have been in this ‘illegal industry’ for decades. Basically, it is white men making laws to legalize other rich white men and to continue to exclude and criminalize everyone else for the same plant.”

We can only hope that the movement toward cannabis law reform includes a firm stance on equitable and restorative business practices, in addition to criminal justice reform that removes the burden from those who have been impacted by unfair cannabis laws for far too long.

We all know that talking about others behind their back is bad. Gossip should be abhorred. I remember reading in a spiritual text that “backbiting extinguishes the light of the soul. ” DEEP. And it is.

Gossip is incredibly detrimental to any organization. And, what I think often gets missed is why people gossip. But, before we answer the question, “Why do people gossip at work ? ” let’s clear one thing up. I truly believe it is the peu connue person who chooses to gossip simply to be mean and hurt the reputation of the person or entity being talked about. Often gossip occurs for one of four reasons :

1 ) People fear the unknown. If people don’t have information that they want, they fear the unknown and will try to garner it from others – especially if that information appears to be hidden. This is why closed door conversations are so detrimental.

2 ) People want to belong and be included. If people believe they don’t have information that others have, they will feel excluded and on the outside of the “inner circle. ” Information is power. Everyone wants to be part of the team, to be included and the easiest way to identify those who are part of a tribe are those who are “in the know. ”

3 ) People crave intimacy and a sense of connection. I would suggest that because of the rampant pace we real at and the lack of real deal authentic communication with one another, many people crave a sense of genuine human connection and intimacy. Gossip is one of the quickest and easiest ways to connect with another human being. The secrecy, forbidden and exclusive nature of confiding in someone something that’s a bit subversive or judgmental is social super glue. Through the veneer of momentary vulnerability and trust, the two are bonded. Unfortunately gossip is a very sloppy second to real, meaningful connection.

4 ) People want to work with people they think of as peers. Meaning, if someone isn’t carrying their own weight, isn’t competent or capable enough to do their job or simply isn’t a good culture fit, then there will be gossip. Rather than being a “narc, ” employees will talk both about said individual and leadership’s lack of awareness/action. And they will talk often. The longer said individual goes unaddressed, the louder and more embedded the gossip becomes.

When it comes to gossip, these four reasons : fear, belonging, intimacy and the desire to work with others who carry their own weight, are all things that can be handled with some focused time and attention.

How do you want your employees to talk about your company ? How do you want them to feel when they walk in the door ? While this touchy-feely stuff may make you feel a little light-headed, when it comes down to it, company culture matters.

Many business owners are taking a second look at their company culture to make sure it’s the one they envision – one that supports their company’s mission, vision and values.

Insperity has spent the past 30 years building a human resources company committed to helping businesses succeed so communities prosper. In that vein, our leadership team offers these tips on having a great company culture.

You might think that trying to cultivate a positive workplace as an elusive, time-consuming waste of important resources, but studies show that the opposite is true. Creating a positive company culture begins with fostering happy employees.

Happy employees are 85 percent more efficace, experience a 60 percent drop in absenteeism and stay twice as long in their jobs as their less happy colleagues, creating a measurable effet on engagement, retention, safety, wellness, employer brand and even cost control goals, according to the study, The Science of Happiness, conducted by Globoforce.

Happiness is a habit that needs to be modeled. As a manager or leader, your demeanor and attitude in the office has an impact on your employees. When you demonstrate happiness you’re training your employees to follow suit.

Get in the habit of being grateful and showing gratitude for what you have. It can be a small thing – I am thankful for this cup of coffee, for the sun coming out today. When you make an effort to find things to be grateful for, you’re training your brain to be on the watch for more of what is good in your world. By making gratitude a habit, you will set the example for others and create a positive work environment. Focus on the positive when interacting with your employees. Point out their accomplishments and abilities. Remind them that they are a positive intensité within your company and that they have much to offer. This is a powerful détermination tool and it will help to create a “can-do” attitude in your workforce.

As a leader you’re influential – your opinion matters, especially to your employees. Make it a goal to compliment people. Recognizing even small accomplishments and praising your team members in meetings or in an fax can make a big impact. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture.

We all know that sometimes work can get monotonous and overwhelming. Say for example that Mike is feeling a bit underappreciated and is frustrated with his current project. He comes to a meeting feeling defeated and unmotivated. Then you, as his manager, compliment his efforts and praise him for a emploi well done. The impact is immediate – he feels valued. His demeanor changes, he becomes engaged and leaves the meeting with a newfound energy to tackle his project.

People need to have a sense of purpose at work. Their happiness is directly connected to knowing that they make a difference. It’s not enough for a directeur to dole out tasks. Take the time to explain why the individual task is important to the company as a whole. This will give your employees a sense of purpose and belonging that will motivate them to strive for more. Engaged employees are efficace, enthusiastic and are willing to do what it takes to help your organization succeed. Creating a sense of purpose for your employees is an investment in developing a positive workplace.


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