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Group planning Pueblo National Marijuana Museum pauses $200k Kickstarter campaign

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Photo courtesy of the National Marijuana Museum

An ambitious plan to raise enough money to fund the nation’s first marijuana museum in Pueblo is momentarily on pause.

The group, led by Pueblo realtor Branson Haney, launched a Kickstarter campaign after announcing the museum plans after the November 2016 election. But less than $300 has been donated to the $200,000 goal, so the group decided to put the fundraising component on hold.

“We have temporarily paused the Kickstarter campaign to revamp our marketing and funding goals,” Haney told PULP. “The project is still in full swing with an effort to target some larger local donors and supporters. We will relaunch the Kickstarter campaign again soon – most likely within the next six weeks.”

The Kickstarter funding period, which started on April 20, was to end mid-July.

Haney told PULP in November, when the project launched, he believes Pueblo is an ideal place for the museum because of the thriving industry, not to mention having the biggest outdoor grow in the nation and the Institute of Cannabis Research at CSU-Pueblo.

“We want Pueblo to be the epicenter of marijuana education,” Haney previously said. “People fear what they don’t know.”

Many in the industry believed a lack of education to be a driving force in a contentious election cycle in which two separate ballot measures threatened to end the legal cannabis industry in Pueblo altogether. After both measures decisively failed the museum was announced as a sort of victory.

Without sinking the ballot measures, the museum wouldn’t have made sense in Pueblo, said Jim Parco, who owns a recreational marijuana shop with his wife in Pueblo County and is a co-founding board member of the museum, told PULP following the November museum announcement.

For now, the National Marijuana Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2018, is still early in its planning and development stages.

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US & World

Here’s how the Canadian legalization of marijuana is so much different from the United States

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Mail-order weed? You betcha!

With marijuana legalization across Canada on the horizon, the industry is shaping up to look different from the way it does in nine U.S. states that have legalized adult recreational use of the drug. Age limits, government involvement in distribution and sales, and access to banking are some big discrepancies.

And yes, Canadians will be able to order cannabis online and have it delivered through the mail — something that’s illegal in the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday that marijuana will be legal nationwide on Oct. 17. In the meantime, Canada’s provinces and cities are working out issues concerning how cannabis will be regulated.

Here’s what to expect:

GOVERNMENT-RUN STORES

It’s up to the provinces and territories to determine how to handle distribution, and they’re taking a variety of approaches.

Ontario plans to open up to 150 stores run by its Liquor Control Board — a model of public ownership that is unusual in the U.S. The tiny Washington state town of North Bonneville has one city-owned pot shop.

British Columbia is planning for a mix of public and privately owned stores, while Newfoundland and Saskatchewan will have only private pot shops. In some remote areas where stand-alone marijuana stores might not be economically feasible, including in the Northwest Territories, cannabis could be sold at existing liquor stores.

Just like U.S. states with legal pot, the provinces also differ on home-growing, with many allowing up to four plants and others, including Quebec, barring it.

And rather than a minimum age of 21, as U.S. states have set, Canada’s federal minimum age to use marijuana will be 18, with most provinces adding an additional year.

The varying approaches make the provinces something of a laboratory for determining the best ways to legalize, said Matt Gray, founder and chief executive of Herb, a Toronto-based news and social media platform for the pot industry.

“It’s this amazing case study for countries globally to see the amazing benefits that legalizing cannabis can have on things like the economy, eradicating the black market and getting cannabis out of the hands of minors,” he said.

PRICING AND TAXES

Whether run by the government or private entities, the stores will obtain their marijuana from federally licensed growers. Officials also will set a minimum price.

Canada’s finance ministers have pegged it at about $10 per gram, but the Yukon minister in charge of marijuana says the government hopes to displace more of the illegal market by setting the base at $8.

The government wants to tax legal marijuana at either $1 per gram or one-tenth of a product’s price, whichever is greater, plus federal and provincial sales taxes. It’s likely to be less than the taxes imposed in the states.

Washington state’s tax rate is 37 percent, plus state and local sales taxes. In California, licensed pot businesses are blaming total tax rates that can approach 50 percent for driving people back into the black market.

The Canadian government agreed to give provinces and territories 75 percent of the tax revenue.

BANKING

Canada’s cannabis businesses have a massive advantage over their American counterparts: access to banks.

Because the drug is still illegal under U.S. law, major banks have been loath to do business with the industry, even in legal marijuana states.

U.S. Treasury Department data show a slow increase in the number of banks and credit unions maintaining accounts for marijuana businesses, with 411 reporting such accounts last spring.

But many of those institutions don’t provide full-service banking, making it tough for businesses to get loans.

“The major Canadian banks were slow to warm to this,” said Chris Barry, a Seattle-based marijuana business attorney who handles industry transactions in both countries for the law firm Dorsey and Whitney.

He said smaller independent banks, investment banks and brokerage firms got the work started.

“That has pretty much dissolved as a problem,” Barry said. “The majors are coming around to participate in the market.”

THE PRODUCTS

Some consumers are disappointed that store shelves will only stock dried flower, oils and seeds when sales begin — no edibles. The government has said it needs about another year to develop regulations for edibles.

There’s also a labeling issue: Health Canada has dictated large warning labels on otherwise plain packages, with strict restrictions on font sizes, styles and colors. The idea is to discourage misuse and to avoid appealing to youths, but it also leaves very little room for company logos or branding.

“It looks like each bag is housing radioactive waste,” said Chris Clay, owner of Warmland Cannabis Centre, a medical marijuana dispensary on Vancouver Island. “It’s a tiny logo with this huge warning label. It doesn’t leave much room for craft growers that want to differentiate themselves.”

And that, Clay said, is one of many things that will make it difficult for mom-and-pop growers to thrive. Giant cannabis companies have been entering deals to supply marijuana to the provinces.

While micro-producers are allowed, Clay is worried that by the time rules are released, “all the contracts are going to be scooped up.”

POT BY POST

While getting marijuana by mail may be a novel concept in the U.S., it’s nothing new in Canada. Its postal service has been shipping medical marijuana to authorized patients since 2013.

“Many of our processes are in place today for medicinal cannabis and will continue for any regulated product sent through Canada Post from licensed distributors,” Canada Post said in a written statement.

The agency requires proof of age upon delivery and won’t leave the package in your mailbox or on your doorstep if you’re not home.

___

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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News

Buying weed: an investment in Pueblo’s future?

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A high school senior suffering from an anxiety disorder wasn’t sure if he could attend Colorado State University-Pueblo because the daily drive to and from campus would cause him undue stress. But in the end the student was given the money he needed to help defray the cost of living on campus, and he is able to make it to classes with a lot less aggravation.

What made this possible?

The Pueblo County Scholarship program is expected to receive $700,000 from the cultivation of marijuana this year. The scholarship was approved by county voters in 2015 and the ballot measure states that primarily Pueblo County graduating high school seniors who plan to attend colleges only located inside the county’s boundaries (in essence CSU-Pueblo or Pueblo Community College) are eligible for the scholarship. County Commissioner Sal Pace, who told a story of the student suffering from anxiety who got the scholarship, is the point man for the county regarding the Pueblo scholarship program. Pace adds that the scholarship is not limited to graduating high school seniors. Those Pueblo residents attending college in the county can also apply. When he is asked why the scholarship only applies to colleges within Pueblo County, he says, “We weren’t sure how much money would be available for the first full-year of funding and how far it would go, but we knew the program would grow over time. This year we will have enough funding to give some additional scholarships based on merit and need. I have a vision of eventually guaranteeing a college scholarship to every local kid.”

Pace says he spoke to several students and parents and received nothing but positive responses to the pot-funded scholarship, which started as a non-marijuana-funded pilot program in 2016.

The majority of the money for the scholarships comes directly from cannabis cultivators who now pay an excise tax each month at a rate of 3 percent of the crops’ unprocessed retail value when the crop is sold or transferred to a retail outlet, even if the retail outlet owns its own marijuana grow house. That tax rate is supposed to increase to 4 percent next year and be capped at 5 percent in 2020. Yet Pace is trying to convince his fellow county commissioners to cap the tax rate at 3 percent this year. Pace says he wants to keep the excise tax rate at its current level “so we don’t drive the small businesses out of business.”

Incidentally, the marijuana money for the scholarship represents roughly half of the total tax dollars collected from pot growers. The rest of the unprocessed cannabis excise tax revenue goes to fund other community enhancement and infrastructure projects.

And Pace doesn’t seem to have any reservations about where the lion’s share of the Pueblo County Scholarship funds come from. “Voters voted for it,” he says, adding, “How do you defend taxes on cars?”

Pace defends the use of the cannabis tax for the scholarship by weighing it against the greater good it would bring the community as a whole. “Our ultimate goal is that the next generation in Pueblo can have a bright future, opportunity for success, and to live their dreams,” he says. “The more educated we are, the more [job] opportunities will come our way.”

Students who benefitted
Twenty-year-old Janet Chavez, a CSU-Pueblo sophomore and Pueblo County Scholarship recipient, also has no qualms about the fact the majority of her scholarship’s funding comes from pot growers. “It [the sale of marijuana] allows me to benefit the community,” says the liberal studies major with a minor in elementary education. “I am able to go to college and to give back to the community in a positive way.”

Also having a clear conscience about cannabis dollars funding his scholarship is Xavier Madrid, who is 20 years old and a CSU-Pueblo junior studying sociology and criminology. “Marijuana has always been seen in a negative light,” he says. “I am just so glad that something so controversial can be utilized in such a positive way seeing that it is investing in the future leaders of America.”

Students receiving the up-to-four-year scholarship, the money from which goes directly to the postsecondary learning institution, are required to perform 40 hours of community service annually throughout their college career. “It’s a great opportunity to serve the community as you’re going through your college experience,” Chavez says.

And Madrid agrees.

“[Community service] has been something I take tremendous pride in,” he says. “For the past couple of years, I have been able to be an assistant baseball coach during the summer, where I taught kids the fundamentals of the game as well as tutor current high school students … . It has not only given me the opportunity to be a role model for those I’ve helped, but also [allows me to] give back to the community that has been my home and was able to invest in me when I needed it the most.”

Chavez, who says she chose to attend college “to receive a higher education and be successful,” would have had to work a full-time job to help pay for tuition and books without the scholarship. Now, she says, she only works part time, which gives her more study time.

Madrid is attending college “not only for [him]self but for [his] family.” He represents the first generation of his family to attend college. Madrid says, “I knew I needed a degree to be appealing to the job market and school has always been something I have excelled in and something I take tremendous pride in. So I knew that college was the right path for me.”

Without the scholarship, Madrid says he “would constantly have to worry about having enough money to cover the tuition.” He says he is one of two children in a family who “never had the financial capability to pay for college [for one child] let alone two tuition bills.” Madrid adds that the scholarship “has helped alleviate the financial burden that comes along with college and given [him] the capability to give back to those who invested in [his] college education.”

Both students said they were able to get through the scholarship application process with ease. “It was a very straight-forward application,” Chavez says. “I went to the website, and it was very simple. Things flowed easily.”

Madrid also says he made it through the scholarship application process with little to no hassle. “It was one of the easiest scholarship applications I have done,” he says. “I simply went to phef.net, printed off the application, received my letters of recommendation, and, boom, I was done.”

But Madrid, who was part of the 2016 pilot program for the scholarship, says it could have been better publicized then. “I learned from my Colorado GEAR UP adviser at the last second seeing that this whole scholarship was relatively new,” he says, adding that he thinks “the whole idea of marijuana funding college education” resulted in high school seniors shying away from the scholarship and kept them from encouraging other seniors to apply for it.

Pilot program grows

The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation, or PHEF, is the group the commissioners contracted to manage the Pueblo County Scholarship fund. PHEF receives 10 percent of the total scholarship fund’s annual take for its troubles. Beverly Duran, PHEF’s executive director, says the 2016 pilot program, which consisted of 25 scholarship recipients, has been successful. Of the 25, 23 recipients are still attending college on the scholarship. The other two each have graduated college with associate degrees. Last year, however, was the first time cannabis excise tax dollars were used to fund the scholarship, as stated in the 2015 ballot measure creating the scholarship.

And last year, Duran says 210 students received scholarships. She adds that she tries to keep each scholarship’s value at $2,000 a year per recipient because it can help cover the cost of living on campus (especially for students who don’t have cars), has allowed students to work part-time instead of full-time, or can determine whether a student goes to college at all. (Yet make no mistake, a $2,000 annual scholarship amounts to little more than a drop in the bucket when it comes to overall college expenses. For example, CSU-Pueblo reveals that the cost of living on campus alone is $5,830 per academic year and the money covers roughly three credit hours at the university.)

Last year’s scholarships totaled $420,000, a far cry from the pilot program’s $50,000. And, if all goes as planned, this year’s scholarship allotment of $750,000, (the bulk of which – as stated before – comes from the sale or transfer of unprocessed marijuana), just might fund scholarships for up to 375 students.

As far as publicizing the scholarship, a lot has changed since the pilot program. Commissioner Pace says high school guidance counselors are well-informed of the scholarship’s existence. And Duran says her organization is getting the word out about the scholarships through advertising, articles in print (like this one), and stories airing on area television stations’ news broadcasts. She says even large banners telling of the scholarship’s availability are strung up in high school hallways. Yet alas, Duran laments, despite all the effort, some students and parents still say they weren’t aware of the scholarship.

A COSI alliance

The Pueblo County Scholarship receives state funding from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, or COSI, in addition to the cannabis excise tax revenue. Although it is said COSI offers “matching funds” to those raised through the marijuana tax, the funds don’t match at all.

So far, PHEF has received two COSI awards – one for $226,597 in 2016 and another for $210,685 last year – each are spread over four years in varying amounts, according to COSI’s director Shelley Banker. She adds that those funds are encumbered. “We do not anticipate funding decisions from the Legislature to have an impact on those current commitments,” Banker says. “Similarly, PHEF and Pueblo County have another opportunity to apply [this year] for $214,291 from our program.” PHEF’s Duran says she plans to start the paperwork on the county’s request for the 2018 COSI allotment, which will be awarded in the summer, soon.

Statewide, COSI offers $7.5 million annually to communities “based on an assessment of total dollars in our COSI fund, projected future spending, and community participation,” Banker says. She adds that “COSI is seeking an additional $4 million in state funding this legislative session so that we can increase the number of program and scholarship grants and serve even more students through our grants in future years.” The COSI request is part of the Long Bill, or the state’s budget bill. General Assembly discussions on the Long Bill begin to pick up around the middle of this month.

However, any additional statewide COSI allotment, should the General Assembly approve it as part of the Long Bill, would not be available until 2019. “The $4 million appropriation would contribute significantly to the sustainability of our program long term,” Banker says, “and would help maintain current levels of … scholarship aid, like that accessed in Pueblo.”

Banker espouses the value COSI brings to the Pueblo community. “It’s partnerships like that with Pueblo County and Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation that contribute to the success of COSI statewide, and allow us together to help more Colorado students pursue and complete postsecondary education,” she says. “The particular source [a marijuana tax] of the match committed by the Pueblo County commissioners is one example of how communities are creatively utilizing our matching grant opportunity to leverage state funding and make dollars go further.”

A cannabis conundrum

It may be a challenge for some to philosophically justify tacitly advocating the recreational use of cannabis, but through a vote of the people of Pueblo County, recreational marijuana now fits into the same category as recreational alcohol and tobacco. Yet tax money from each of those substances has been going toward improving communities for decades in terms of sales taxes and other means. And that’s what the Pueblo County Scholarship program does in its own small way – improve the community. COSI’s Banker has this to say about Pueblo cannabis-funded scholarship: “Not only has the community embraced this opportunity, but they are also showing success with the money. Our latest outcome report notes that Pueblo County students receiving COSI funds through the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation had a 95 percent retention rate.”

She adds, “National best practices and our own research at the Colorado Department of Higher Education indicate that student support services [like Pueblo’s use of COSI funds combined with the wholesale marijuana excise tax] are key to a student’s ability to persist and make it to the finish line.”

And that “finish line” is one shared by a community eager to both groom more well-educated citizens and attract industries offering better-paying jobs.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Marijuana

In the cup of a revolution: The birth of CBD Coffee Shops

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Founding a company can be a daunting task for anyone. Starting from scratch isn’t easy, but it helps a ton if what you’re doing is important to you. David Dzurik is lucky in that way, as he found a passion that can drive him for the rest of his life. Originally inspired by beating cancer and using cannabis to help do so, Dzurik has created an extremely original brand in Deez CBD Coffee. The company combines high-quality coffee ingredients with 50% water-soluble CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that has shown tremendous promise in the healing of many ailments.

David Dzurik

As of now, you can purchase Deez CBD coffee on multiple online outlets including cbdwarewhouse.com – as well as other retail stores all over the nation.

Dzurik originally started the company using a medicated CBD tea archetype, however realizing the coffee market had so much potential, quickly jumped into production about a year ago. Within the year, the community has been very receptive of the products quality and has given a ton of praise. In a great business move, Deez Coffee partnered with the two-time award winning CBD chemists at Sacred Body CBD, giving him a constant supply of high-quality CBD.

While the movement of the company is already transitioning fast, there’s another aspect that Dzurik is even more excited to see. Deez Coffee is the inspiration for the first ever CBD infused coffee shop, which is already planning on opening in New York and quickly making its waves to the Colorado market. An idea that has already taken off in places like New Zealand and Australia.

While the company is already growing well and seems to be on the right track, Dzurik doesn’t want to stop there. He has plans for bringing back Deez Tea at some point and is very interested in expanding his product line even further.  While the healing effects of non-psychoactive CBD will always be the focus for Dzurik, he also recognizes the huge potential market for recreational THC products as well. While there’s not a legal way to regulate THC products yet, Dzurik doesn’t count out the idea for future ventures.

Working with Deez CBD Coffee over the past year, Dzurik has seen an outpouring of community support and praise. Some social cannabis clubs have been quick to carry Deez products and have even gone on to throw co-sponsored charity events in support of veterans.

Working to help the people who need help and can benefit from CBD Coffee is one of Dzurik’s biggest passions and he isn’t in the industry for the money. Being a cancer survivor himself, it’s no wonder why he believes so strongly in the powerful benefits of CBD and cannabis.

Dzurik is on the forefront of what seems to be a revolution that is slowly making its way to Colorado. The idea of CBD coffee shops hasn’t been touched in the Colorado market yet, and Deez Tea is looking to help break in on the ground floor. With a ton of passion for helping people and an high-quality product, it makes sense people are connecting with Dzurik’s mission.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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