Touchy Feely at First Friday

July 28, 2016 | J Stebner


Thank you Mike Rosati for photographing July's First Friday event!


I just Googled ‘touchy feely.’ Reason being that I am writing about our First Friday event from a new perspective. Usually I’m writing from the perspective of someone walking around, looking for an interesting conversation to listen to and maybe join in on. Or someone who just gravitates towards those they know and are familiar and comfortable with to catch up.


But last First Friday I brought my massage chair and stayed planted in pretty much one spot for doing the same thing for 4 hours. Massaging. Touching and talking. I loved it. I learned so much.


So I Googled ‘touchy feely’: “openly expressing affection or other emotions, especially through physical contact."


That sounds nice. I like that. I grew up in a very large, very loud and very ‘touchy feely’ Italian immigrant household. This behavior makes sense to me. Sadly, I learned very soon that our American culture doesn’t take too kindly to physical contact. A fact further enforced by Google’s assertion that this word, whose phonetic pronunciation is təCHēˈfēlē/, is also ‘adjective: informal derogatory.’ Sheesh. I won’t even go into the characteristics of or relating to touchy feely behavior.


At First Friday, people were lined up for some touchy feely. They were so happy to be next.


One poor guy came up and seemed distraught and not a little bit stressed out. I was almost done with another person and as the massage ended, this sweet guy came up and said sheepishly, “I haven’t been touched in Forever. Can I please get a massage?”


Have you ever heard the stories about babies in orphanages who despite being given enough food and water, warmth and relative safety, still wither and die because there were not enough humans around to give them the tactile stimulation so critical for growth and development? Why should it be so different for grown-ups? Granted we may not die from tactile deprivation as adults but extreme loneliness and isolation can make people wish they would sometimes.


People learn so much about themselves when they get a massage. After practicing for over 15 years now I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “Wow! I forgot about that!” as I worked on an area that they had neglected to mention as a trouble spot for them. “I didn’t even know I was tight there.”


I often asked massage clients to make a fist and squeeze it tight. I ask them, if you walked around all day without releasing your grip, how would that feel? They usually grimace and acknowledge that doesn’t sound like fun. With approximately 640 muscles in the human body and many of them holding various amounts of tension at any given time it’s no wonder people often feel exhausted without any evidence of overtly physical behavior. Sitting at a desk all day can exhaust some people. It’s tension.


Tension takes up energy, vital energy, that can be freed up and put to good by getting a massage.


Hugs work great too. Remember to hug people a lot. It is so healthy for everyone involved. And if people react as if it’s weird - remember it’s their problem. Give them a silent blessing and continue to spread the love.

And on a side note. The synchronicity thread from last month is still weaving it’s way through the experience. When I Googled ‘touchy feely’ the second thing that popped up was a movie that came out in 2013 called ‘Touchy Feely’ about a massage therapist who suddenly and mysteriously develops an aversion to bodily contact. Sounds like she needs a massage.

Navigating Banking

July 19, 2016 | J Stebner



Lacking access to the legitimate banking services that the average business takes for granted (credit card accounts, electronic transactions, basic checking, business loans, etc.,) cannabis entrepreneurs are often times driven to act on the shadier side of the street.


As an alternative, cannabis companies have been engaging in the practice of depositing money under false pretenses: strategically omitting cannabis in their operational and business plan documents and hoping the financial institution in question does not become the wiser. If and when the bank does, the account typically closes and the business moves to another financial institution and the cycle continues. In some cases, a business has had to move banks several times in one year to keep operating. In other cases, businesses that are savvy enough to understand the on-going process have pre-emptively opened a multitude of accounts with a variety of banking institutions.


Some business entities will invest in property and/or hard assets that can be leveraged. These entities, typically, form an LLC to inevitably “lease” all land and cannabis manufacturing equipment to a designated partner company that will be listed as the cannabis operations. This can get complicated, but is a more legitimate way to create an investment vehicle. These are all strategies that businesses feel forced to employ as many banks simply refuse to take on the risks associated with doing business in the cannabis space.



Banks want to serve cannabis businesses – but regulations hold them back


As we discussed last month, the hurdles that banks must navigate in order to take on cannabis clients are prohibitive – and may be insufficient to protect the banks from federal backlash. Despite the country’s increasing acceptance of these cannabis businesses, it is still implicitly ‘illegal’ and individual bank officers can still be subject to prosecution.


We know that the Federal Reserve has refused to issue master accounts when cannabis is involved, which scares off many institutions, but in some cases local banks and credit unions are stepping up to the plate in an attempt to serve their community members.  In practice, it appears that regulators are creating a little space - but not much.


The FinCen (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) guidelines that were released to help commercial banks better meet the needs of this industry have in some ways created even more confusion, causing some banks to pull away from their cannabis clients. This perpetuates the enormous public safety issue of large amounts of cash shuttling through the supply chain, along with the costs and hassle of tracking and regulating cash-based cannabis businesses.


But the banks are justly worried as they have federal banking charters that are at risk if they do anything in opposition to US treasury guidance.


To put it simply, the federal government must pass an act of congress that clearly protects financial institutions who serve cannabis businesses – otherwise it isn’t going to happen on a large enough scale.



Alternative banking models that just might help

If the federal government is not letting commercial banks that have federal charters into the business then what will fill the void?


In Oregon, one of the states where cannabis is now legal and regulated, interested parties both from the government and business sectors are pushing hard at the federal level for clarification on the banking rules with the US treasury.


In the meantime, Oregon businesses are crafting creative alternative solutions. As these institutions and services proliferate, concerns arise that the diversity of models may make future regulation more difficult – but without access to commercial banking or a regulated system, operators feel they have no choice.


In Oregon there are credit unions who have been very pro-active in the space. One in particular has chosen to come up with its own system of due diligence to manage these businesses in accordance with the FinCen guidance. The institution is aggressive in maintaining compliance, in order to reduce risks of federal backlash.


The credit union has developed good relationships with federal regulators and takes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach with customers. Vetting clients thoroughly is critical, as is follow-up due diligence with annual inspections and background checks. Account managers cross reference receipts with tax returns and if any company violates any of the requirements it is out. One business was dropped simply because it missed the date for their annual inspection. That’s all it takes.


The costs for this additional diligence are steep as it requires so many more man hours in order to keep up with all of the FinCen requirements. This burdensome cost can be prohibitive for some businesses.

The co-op model is another appealing option. Users pool and account for their own resources, essentially replicating a banking organization.  As long as they are not doing demand deposits for the public at large, they can create their own safety and accounting mechanisms, and still be accountable to federal regulators.


How to handle banking today

As this industry continues to grow and more and more businesses begin examining their options for participating in the legal banking industry what can they do to improve their chances of success?


The best advice we can give is to be upfront and honest with your bank. Seek out ways to comply with the FinCen guidance, and to demonstrate that your business is just as professional as any other. However, this requires a lot of legwork on your part, as time and again you will be shown the door.


Begin developing a good relationship with your bank today. It is important to understand that the more comfortable and familiar banks are with their customers, the more open minded they will be about giving you an opportunity.


Next month we will examine some creative software platforms that are being developed to help banks handle the federal governments ‘s requirements for doing business in the cannabis space.


Ballot Update: Where will voters see marijuana options?

July 19, 2016 | G Takagawa


Amidst all the mud-slinging and rabble-rousing during the presidential primaries and now at the Republican National Convention, it can be easy to lose sight of the issues.


But in the cannabis industry, we don't have that luxury. With our plant and livelihood illegal at the federal level, state policies are the basis for our industry. Many of these policies have come about as a result of initiatives at the ballot, and this year may be the biggest yet.


Ballot initiatives 2016. Current as of July 19, 2016.


Greens are for recreational marijuana. Dark green is confirmed on the ballot. Light green has submitted signatures for verification.


Blues are for medical marijuana. Dark blue is confirmed on the ballot. Medium blue has submitted signatures for verification. Light blue is still gathering signatures.


Confirmed on the ballot - 7 states


Update July 20: Montana Medical Marijuana Act (I-182) has qualified for the ballot. This initiative would explicitly repeal the three patient limit crippling the already-passed Medical Marijuana Act from 2004.


Arkansas - Medical

California - Recreational

Florida - Medical

Maine - Recreational

Massachusetts - Recreational

Nevada - Recreational


California is already the biggest medical market in the nation, and the medical market is already in a state of rapid change following the October 2015 passage of a new medical marijuana framework (the MMRSA, Medical Marijuana Regulations and Safety Act). If Proposition 64 passes, permitting recreational use and sales, the market is expected to expand dramatically.


Maine's initiative overcame the initial invalidation of over half the submitted signatures. A follow-up review overturned that decision, paving the way for the ballot.


While Massachusetts will see a ballot question, prospects are borderline with a new poll finding 51 percent of voters plan to oppose recreational legalization. The Massachusetts initiative also faces two lawsuits with no set ruling date.



Signatures submitted but not yet reviewed - 3 states


Arizona - Recreational

Missouri - Medical

North Dakota - Medical

[North Dakota also has a Recreational initiative, but those signatures have not been submitted]


Arizona is expanding the medical market this summer, accepting applications for 31 new medical dispensary licenses between July 18 and 29. If the recreational initiative passes the voters, medical licensees will have priority access to retail licenses. This clause is the subject of a legal challenge, arguing that giving priority is unconstitutional.


A competing recreational initiative did not collect enough signatures for the Arizona ballot.



Signatures not yet submitted - 1 state


Update: Montana has qualified!


Oklahoma - Medical

Signatures (65,987) must be submitted by August 11.



Confirmed NOT on the ballot


Not a complete list.


Michigan - Recreational

Despite collecting and submitting over 315,000 signatures (with 252,523 required), 137,000 were declared invalid. The main supporter group for this initiative, MI Legalize, has stated it plans to file a lawsuit about this decision.


Ohio - Medical

Following the passage of a bill through legislature, the organizing groups decided to stop collecting signatures.