Last Week in Weed Issue 15

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, Dutchie’s $1.7billion valuation, White House sack staff for weed, & MET Police review stop and search powers

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 15)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at capital-backed start-up Dutchie earning a $1.7billion market valuation, The US White House sacking staff over historic cannabis consumption, and London’s Metropolitan Police to review stop and search for cannabis possession.

Image credit: TechCrunch.com
Ross Lipson and Zach Lipson founders of Dutchie

Dutchie earns a valuation of $1.7 billion valuation

Founded in Bend, Oregon in 2017 by Ross Lipson and Zach Lipson Dutchie is a cannabis ordering platform that connects consumers with retailers. They provide a service that creates and runs websites for cannabis dispensaries as well as processing and tracking orders for pick up. A service that has gained greatly in popularity during the on-going global Covid-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

The Capital-backed start-up has recently earned a market valuation of a whopping $1.7billion after raising an additional $200million through its series c funding to become one of the most valuable venture start-ups in the cannabis industry, so far.

It has only been just over 6 months since the company completed its series B funding, raising $35million. This resulted in Dutchie being valued last August at $200million, the exact amount raised in this round of fundraising. Which in turn resulted in the company earning that massive $1.7Billion valuation.

Longer term, this is a retail-first model. The nature of this industry lends itself to a hyperlocal model largely because of the way that plants are cultivated and processed, so I believe retail will remain intact and continue to be successful” – Dutchie co-founder and CEO Ross Lipson

So what changed in such a short amount of time? Well, Dutchie recently acquired two US cannabis companies. GreenBits and LeafLogix make enterprise resource planning and point-of-sale software, respectively. The acquisition of which will allow Dutchie to more easily become an all-in-one cannabis tech platform for its growing customer base.

They are also benefiting from an overall resurgence of excitement and interest in the cannabis investment space that has seen various mergers already this year, further stimulating interest in the emerging sector. Several of Dutchie’s previous investors returned including Thrive Capital, Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital, Gron Ventures, and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

This most recent round of financing was also the largest so far for a cannabis startup. Dutchie hasn’t disclosed the price it paid for either company but what we do know is that GreenBits was valued at $58million last year and LeafLogix was valued at $13.9million in 2019. The companies collective employees will now effectively double the size of Dutchie as an employer.

Speaking with online platform TechCrunch.com Dutchie co-founder and CEO Ross Lipson answered a question about whether the company is looking to go public via a merger with a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) he said;

[Dutchie] Isn’t engaged in those talks right now,” but adds that the company will “weigh out the business opportunities as they come. We look at how does this decision bring value to the dispensary and the customer. If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

The involvement of growth equity funds and high-level investors in the cannabis start-up space is a sure sign that cannabis investment is becoming ever more palatable to traditional investors and institutions.

So with the Biden administration set to federally ‘legalise’ cannabis during this first 4-year term and an impending bill to regulate federal banking of cannabis profits, we can expect that this record-breaking valuation won’t be the last.

US White House fires staff for historic cannabis consumption.

US White House staff fired for historic consumption of cannabis

Five members of staff at the US White House have been let go for their historic consumption of cannabis. The announcement was made last Friday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki. The move comes as the new administration seeks to try and balance federal law and hiring guidelines with state legislation. 

“We announced a few weeks ago that the White House had worked with the security service to update the policies to ensure that past marijuana use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House. As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.”

“The bottom line is this, of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy” – Jen Psaki White House press secretary

It is being reported that several other people with a history of consuming cannabis are now being asked to remotely work while the White House conducts suitability reviews into their backgrounds. These are a rather small number when compared to the overall intake of new staff under the new administration, but still nevertheless remains an issue of discrimination.

This issue was first highlighted by NBC News last month. In their report, they spoke with an official that stated after intensive consultation with security officials and the personnel security division at the White House – that they would consider wavering the requirement for all potential appointees in the executive office of the President to be eligible for the highest level clearance, on a case-by-case basis. 

The exception would only be considered to be granted to appointees who had only used cannabis on a ‘limited’ basis in the past and who agreed to cease its usage. This will be enforced by random drug tests for the entirety of their service at the White House. 

They will also have to meet the criteria by not requiring a top-secret security clearance. They would then commence their employment by working remotely for an unspecified time following their last time-consuming cannabis. 

Speaking to NBC news in that same report, a White House official stated that this will “effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people” These comments angered at least one West coast representative who said that;

What’s happening now is a vivid illustration of unrealistic, unfair, and out-of-touch cannabis policies. There is confusion across the country because of out of date laws and the fact that the American public is not waiting for the federal government to get its act together.” – Earl Blumenauer Democratic Rep Oregon

The optics of this look rather bad at a time when the Biden White House is meant to be considering the federal legalisation of cannabis. The White House has stated that hard drug use or more extensive cannabis consumption would remove eligibility for clearance and thus ban them from employment. 

Three of the last five presidents including the current president’s former boss have admitted to consuming cannabis. The idea that past use would make a person unfit for service in the White House or ineligible for a security clearance is laughable” – Aaron Smith, National Cannabis Industry Association

As Aaron Smith highlights wonderfully above the level of hypocrisy here is monumental. Every other day we see a story of a budding cannabis entrepreneur making millions in the ‘legal cannabis industry’ while everyday people are denied employment opportunities and a right to participate in the industry in an attempt to advance their station in life. 

If the rumours are to be believed then the US will federally ‘legalise’ cannabis in the next year or two. The question then becomes how do we make sure that the emerging industry is equitable to those whose criminalisation and oppression were the foundations of the modern ‘legal cannabis industry?

Image credit: Complex
MET police to review stop and search on suspicion of cannabis possession

MET Police to review the use of stop and search for cannabis possession

London’s Metropolitan Police (MET) have announced that they are reviewing the use of the controversial section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) known as ‘Stop and Search.’ The move is part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s attempt to help ease the systemic and historic racial bias of antiquated, draconian, and failing policing policies that disproportionality target black and ethnic individuals.

Statistically speaking you’re NINE times more likely to be stopped and searched if you’re black in the UK. When you are stopped you will be told it’s on suspicion of drug possession, the most common justification given by police for stopping and searching black individuals. 

The results speak for themselves 4 out of 5 of these searches yields no drugs or evidence of criminality at all. So you can see why black and ethnic communities feel disproportionately targeted and harassed by police -it’s because they are!

This month will see the MET start collecting data and researching to examine how effective the forces pursuit of cannabis possession is at tackling violent crime and its effects on public relations with the police. If you think of Neil Woods’s analogy of an arms race between dealers and police then it becomes rather obvious that cannabis prohibition increases all crime, not just violent crime by criminalising and marginalising those that cultivate, consume, and trade cannabis.

It is crucial that our communities feel they are properly listened to and concerns about the disproportionate use of police powers acted upon if we are to improve the trust and confidence among all Londoners.” – Sadiq Khan 

The announcement of the review comes off the back of a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) last month. The report was put together after a series of high-profile cases caught the mainstream media’s attention last year and the force’s aggressive response to protests following the death of George Floyd in America last May. 

In the report, the body highlighted that the most common answer for an officer stopping and searching an individual was suspicion of possession of drugs and questioned why so much police time and resources are being dedicated to simple possession when so little is ever found.

The report goes on to state that drug searches of black individuals in the UK are far more likely to be conducted without intelligence, the office recording much weaker grounds for stopping and searching, and the majority of detainees being released with no drugs being found. 

The body accepts that cannabis is currently unlawful but questions why so much police time and energy is being used to target possession rather than supply – which carries a much harsher sentence. If they truly believe prohibition works then why aren’t they targeting the producers and dealers not just the end consumer? 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) released a report last October criticising the MET for its excessive and heavy-handed use of stop and search, routinely handcuffing suspects that are found to be innocent, and using the alleged smell of cannabis as the sole grounds for stopping and searching – something they are not supposed to do anymore.

The legitimacy of stop and searches was being undermined by a lack of understanding about the impact of disproportionality, poor communication, consistent use of force over seeking cooperation, the failure to use body-worn video from the outset, and continuing to seek further evidence after the initial grounds for the stop and search were unfounded.” –IOPC Report conclusion

The MET is by far the biggest users of Stop and Search powers with almost half of all stop and searches in England Wales being carried out in their constabulary. So curbing the practice in London could have a great knock-on effect on other forces around the country. It is already being reported by The Guardian that they believe another English force is considering similar changes to its stop and search procedures.

Ultimately, ending the war on drugs would greatly help to end social injustice, reduce institutional racism, classism, and wealth inequality, reduce crime, increase social mobility, rebuild community relations, empower and enrich the marginalised, and finally give everyone the freedom to explore their consciousness free from persecution and oppression at the hands of their government. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

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