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A former Liberal cabinet minister who recently chaired a panel guiding Ottawa’s push to legalize cannabis says police everywhere should enforce the existing prohibition of marijuana, despite several communities in British Columbia choosing to regulate – not raid – illegal pot shops.

Anne McLellan, head of an official task force that submitted recommendations to Ottawa on how best to legalize cannabis, said Thursday that Vancouver crafted Canada’s first municipal marijuana bylaw in response to what was a “growing difficult situation for them.”

But the former minister of public safety, health and justice in the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin said other cities should not follow suit before the current laws change, echoing what the federal government has repeatedly said when asked about the rise of illegal dispensaries.

“Nobody would deny that there are some practical problems at street level, absolutely, nobody denies that,” said Ms. McLellan, who was in Vancouver speaking at Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus on the work the task force did last year.

“Cities should wait until the law changes instead of making their own rules now and hoping to adapt them to a federal framework later on,” she said. “I cannot advocate that anybody break existing laws. We are a nation of law-abiding citizens.”

Ottawa is expected to table legislation this spring that will legalize and regulate recreational marijuana over the next two years. While the stores are still illegal under federal law, they have proliferated in cities such as Vancouver and Victoria, where local politicians argue their rules can eventually be adapted to any national framework regulating the storefront sale of the drug.

All dispensaries and compassion clubs across Canada still operate outside the federal government’s medical-marijuana program, which permits about 30 industrial-scale growers to sell dried flowers and bottles of cannabis oil directly to patients through the mail.

The federal government has said its two core priorities behind legalizing the recreational sale of marijuana are: to keep the drug out of the hands of young people and to stop the flow of money to organized criminals involved in the production and sale of the drug on the black market.

Vancouver’s approach to regulating its dispensaries stands in stark contrast to Toronto’s, where police and politicians say a continuing crackdown has become more urgent as these pot shops have become a magnet for violent thieves because some owners are reluctant to report robberies.

Civic and provincial politicians across the country are waiting on the coming legalization bill to give some guidance as to where the drug may be sold once it is legalized.

Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, architect of the local dispensary bylaw, said he was disappointed in Ms. McLellan and Ottawa’s rhetoric, noting they both appear to be eschewing the public-health approach of his city, and that of other communities in B.C. also licensing these illegal stores.

“It’s sort of like we’re in purgatory,” he said Thursday. “And when you’re in purgatory, it’s not about allocating our resources, it’s about advocating what’s right for our citizens – that’s what Vancouver has done.”

He said he wants Ms. McLellan to push federal ministers to implement the new legislation faster because local governments across the country are wasting millions of dollars containing the grey cannabis market.

“When it comes to resources, the federal government better provide good resources for us to help enforce and help manage what they want us to do,” said Mr. Jang, a clinical psychiatrist. “Otherwise, we’re going to be back to square one.”

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has long advocated that cities deserve to receive some of the eventual tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales if they are expected to enforce federal cannabis laws.

The federal Liberals have said any pot proceeds would be directed to addiction treatment, mental-health support and education programs, and that provinces and territories will also have a significant say in how cannabis revenues are spent. A recent study from the parliamentary budget watchdog predicted that about 60 per cent of marijuana taxation will flow to the provinces.

Ms. McLellan, now in the public-policy division of Bennett Jones, one of the Canada’s leading law firms operating in the cannabis sector, said different communities have different concerns about the drug, as evidenced by Toronto and Vancouver’s contrasting approach to dealing with illegal dispensaries.

Original article by: MIKE HAGER, VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail. Published Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017 10:04PM EDT

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Marijuana Investments: A Word to the Wise

With more cannabis retailers and dispensaries entering the market, marijuana entrepreneurs are having an increasingly difficult time distinguishing their brands and product lines. The need to stand out is not only necessary to secure to new customers (once the company is up and running) but more importantly, to initially entice investors and convince them that the business model is sufficiently unique to succeed.  Indeed, raising capital from investors is absolutely critical for many marijuana entrepreneurs and as a corollary, an exciting proposition for investors looking to capitalize on this popular and growing industry. 

Cannabis Investors or Cannabis Lenders?

Cannabis investors may provide capital to cannabis entrepreneurs in (generally speaking) one of two ways; equity or debt.  A simple capital-for-equity model is fairly straightforward - investors buy into the company at a given valuation and in return, own a part of the company.  The second option, debt, is often a much more complex transaction and involves the "investor", who may not be an investor in any pure sense of the word, loaning the company money at a high rate of interest. Unfortunately, many smaller investors (or lenders, depending on your perspective) are not sufficiently equipped to protect their interests in the event that the marijuana business goes under.   

What happens when the invested in cannabis defaults on the loan? Here are your two options:

(1) Renegotiate the Marijuana Startup's Debt

Promissory notes that are well drafted typically contain a statement regarding an uncured event of default, which causes the debt to accelerate. Thus, if the cannabis business you have invested in misses a payment and does not make a late payment by a cure date, that company’s entire debt is due. When this happens, partners tend to negotiate an extension, and you as the financer can extract concessions from your borrower (i.e. security interests, personal guarantees, or pledges of ownership in the company). This generally happens so that your borrower can avoid you obtaining a judgment against them.

(2) Get A Judgment Against Your Cannabis Borrower

If you have the money to obtain a judgment against your borrower, you can use that judgment to levy on the borrower’s business assets.  The idea here of course is to seize assets of your borrower that are sufficiently valuable to cover your losses.  In many states, if you are indeed awarded a judgment against your marijuana borrower, you may also be eligible to be reimbursed for attorney fees and other associated costs.

A Note of Caution: Fraudulent Transfers

Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon for companies in debt to do everything in their power to avoid paying it.  Once such method used to this end is the employment of a fraudulent transfer. A fraudulent transfer occurs when a borrower transfers the company’s property to a third party, without receiving something back of equal value, in order to deplete the company of the funds required to repay the financer. This is undoubtedly a dirtier tactic and if intent can be established may rise to the level of criminal liability.

Be Proactive in Protecting Your Assets

Ultimately, if you are planning to finance or lend to a cannabis company, it is important to develop a contingency plan that accounts for the possibility of a failed business. Is your agreement with the marijuana company tight and drafted in such a way as to maximize your protections?  If the business goes under, can you sustain the loss of your entire investment? Do you have funds to litigate in court?  Unfortunately, the legalization of cannabis does not guarantee businesses financial success.

Blog Provided By: Abe Cohn is COO of THC Legal Group, a Marijuana Law Firm specializing legal protection for the cannabis industry.  For more information, please visit their website at http://www.THCLegalGroup.com

For more information on THC Legal Group, view the company directory listing on Invest In MJ

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Investors should be cautious about Canadian Cannabis Stocks

Contributed to The Globe and Mail - Published Monday, Nov. 02, 2015 5:00AM EST
Anthony Wile is chief editor of the economic and investment newsletter The Daily Bell and chief investment strategist of High Alert Investment Management.

The election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals has had an immediate impact on the investment marketplace, with a rush to invest in the handful of publicly traded Canadian medical marijuana startups – all on the promise of legalization of recreational marijuana use.

However, as with any burgeoning new industry, including the Canadian cannabis industry as it “whitens” from its previous black-market status, investors considering directing their capital there may want to take a temporary respite from hitting the go button.

Investors who make assumptions today about what may be profitable tomorrow will likely find their wallets considerably lightened by a changing set of regulatory circumstances.

While a legalized cannabis industry means a substantial increase in potential profitability for the industry leaders already invested in the marketplace, for all investors the key questions are: What will that new landscape look like? How will the industry be regulated, structured and taxed? And, most importantly for the new or individual investor – how best to navigate the marketplace?

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HOW CAN I EXPAND MY CANNABIS BRAND ACROSS STATE LINES? A SIMPLE WAY TO BECOME McWEED

Economy of Scale - The cost advantage that arises with increased output of a product. Economies of scale arise because of the inverse relationship between the quantity produced and per-unit fixed costs; i.e. the greater the quantity of a good produced, the lower the per-unit fixed cost because these costs are shared over a larger number of goods. Economies of scale may also reduce variable costs per unit because of operational efficiencies and synergies. Economies of scale can be classified into two main types: Internal – arising from within the company; and External – arising from extraneous factors such as industry size. – “Investopedia”

I am constantly asked “how can I expand my cannabis business across state borders?”  I am then forced to explain how the U.S. system of federalism works.  Even though medical and/or recreational use of cannabis may be legal in your state, it is not legal on a federal level.  Why?  This boils down to the same issue concerning banking for the cannabis industry – the Schedule I Classification of cannabis makes its possession, use, cultivation and/or sale a federally illegal activity.  Then logically following, from a federal perspective, the proceeds of activities involving Schedule I “drugs” are the proceeds of illegal activities. 

Constitutional law then forces us to examine two important issues – (i) Preemption and (ii) Interstate Commerce.  The “Supremacy Clause” states that state laws which conflict or contradict federal law, are null and void.  Federal law is therefore the “law of the land”.  So in essence, all state legalization of cannabis, in any category, will not be “legally” recognized by the federal government with respect to law enforcement.  These real battles are being fought every day in states that have legalized cannabis use.  For the moment, the federal government seems to content to allow the great cannabis experimentation to continue, while occasionally issuing “safe-harbor” guidance that is quickly disregarded.

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