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Pot Topics: Chicago pot startup raises $120M, support grows for legal weed

A man smokes cannabis in Kamloops, British Columbia. | Photo by Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

Pot Topics is a weekly collection of cannabis-related news curated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the latest news for this week:

  • Poll shows most Americans want to legalize pot
  • Chicago cannabis company announces $120 million in funding
  • South Korea warns citizens against smoking weed in Canada
  • Utah lawmaker tries marijuana for first time
  • New Jersey lawmakers to miss deadline on legalization vote
  • Recreational legalization still a long way off in Illinois
  • Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito bonded over joint in 1960s

Poll shows record high support for pot legalization

AP Photo/Mark Thiessen

More Americans than ever support the legalization of cannabis, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.

The poll, conducted Oct. 5 to Oct. 11, found that 64 percent of Americans think marijuana should be made legal. That marks the highest level of support since Gallup started polling on pot legalization in 1969.

Gallup noted that support has grown steadily since the 1990s, when only about a quarter of Americans supported the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The poll also shows that 51 percent of Republicans support legalization efforts, marking the first time a majority of right wing voters have done so.

Chicago pot company announces $120 million in funding

AP file photo

Verano Holdings, a newly-minted Chicago-based marijuana company, raised $120 million in private funding that will be used to bankroll expansion in Illinois and beyond.

After consolidating several existing cannabis operations and acquiring another, Verano now controls four cultivation centers and six dispensaries in Illinois, Florida, Maryland and Nevada, according to a statement from the company. Ataraxia, which operates a cultivation facility in Albion and three dispensaries across the state, is among the consolidated companies.

“This transformative investment will fast-track our long-term goal to dominate the most important growth industry in the United States,” said George Archos, CEO of both Verano and Ataraxia. “Even with our accelerated growth, we will remain focused on our core values of operational excellence with an unwavering commitment to produce safe, quality cannabis products for a consistent experience.”

Verano Holdings CEO and chairman George Archos. | Provided photo

The Verano deal also consolidates the ownership or management of more than 35 provisional or pre-operational licenses for cannabis facilities in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Puerto Rico, the statement said.

“We have quietly applied our operating expertise and exceptional customer service to build a trustworthy brand that is scalable across multiple states and has attracted serious interest from the investment community,” Archos said. “With our operating concepts and business strategies proven through solid revenue growth, market penetration, and profitability across all of our facilities, we are now replicating our approach throughout the U.S. and beyond.”

Verano’s launch is the latest headline-grabbing move by a Chicago area pot company.

This summer, River North-based Green Thumb Industries — which operates cultivation and dispensary facilities in multiple states — went public in Canada this summer through a reverse takeover of an existing company, raising $67 million in the process. Cresco Labs, another River North-based cannabis company with facilities in multiple states, followed suit earlier this month after raising $100 million is Series D funding.

MedMen, one of the most touted American pot brands, also recently acquired Oak Park-based medical marijuana company PharmaCann in a $682 million deal that’s considered the largest in the history of the budding cannabis industry.

South Koreans will be prosecuted for smoking cannabis in Canada

Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began earlier this month. | Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

A day before Canada legalized marijuana for adult use, the South Korean Embassy in the country informed visiting citizens they would be prosecuted if they were caught smoking legal pot in the Great White North.

“Even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it,” the South Korean Embassy in Canada tweeted on Oct. 16. “Please take care not to commit an illegal act and be punished.”

South Korea’s criminal code still applies to citizens traveling in other parts of the world, and South Koreans are often indicted for breaking laws that prohibit gambling and pot use while they’re out of the country, according to the New York Times.

Utah lawmaker gets stoned ahead of medical pot vote

In this Feb. 20, 2018, file photo, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, speaks on the Senate floor at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. Dabakis drove to Las Vegas and tried marijuana for the first time ahead of an upcoming vote on a proposition that would legalize the medical use of marijuana in his state for individuals with qualifying medical conditions. | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis. | AP file photo/Rick Bowmer

Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis took a road trip to Las Vegas last week to try pot ahead of a vote that would legalize the drug for medical use in his home state.

Dabakis chose an edible gummy bear for his experiment and suggested that other legislators also try cannabis before next month’s vote. During a Facebook video in front of a dispensary, the Salt Lake City Democrat said it’s “not a big deal.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it as sheer candy,” he added. “It’s kind of bitter.”

Many lawmakers have said they don’t support Proposition 2, but others have committed to backing a medical cannabis compromise that’s set to be discussed in a special legislative session.

“It dawned on me (last) Wednesday on the floor of the Senate that the Legislature is going to have the final say on this medical marijuana,” Dabakis said.

Looking around at the other legislators, the senator said something bothered him.

“I thought, ‘Maybe nobody on this floor has ever tried marijuana,'” Dabakis said. “I think if the Legislature would actually try it they would find it and realize this is no big deal, and at least let those who are suffering have the help that they need.”

New Jersey Dems will miss deadline to vote on pot legalization

newly transplanted cannabis cuttings grow in soilless media in pots at Sira Naturals medical marijuana cultivation facility in Milford, Mass.

AP file photo

New Jersey’s top Democrats in the Legislature acknowledged Monday that they will not meet their self-imposed deadline this month to vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.

At least one of them says he needs Gov. Phil Murphy’s help to get the measure passed.

Some Democrats in the Senate “are taking a different position” on the proposal to legalize and tax the drug, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney said. Sweeney did not name those lawmakers or disclose their reasons for withholding support, but he called for Murphy to intervene so the Senate can get the 21 necessary votes for the bill to pass.

“The administration has got to be a part of this. This is a big lift,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “I need help. I need to get to 21.”

Murphy’s involvement is in dispute. Before Murphy left for a trade mission to Germany and Israel last week, Sweeney spoke with him about holdout members and the need for him to try convincing them to support the legislation. But Murphy said Friday that he never got a list of those members, according to audio of an exchange he had with reporters.

“He said, ‘I need you to help me whip some votes. We’re not there yet.’ And I said, ‘You give me the list and I’m all in,’ ” Murphy said. “I’ve not gotten any list, but I’m very happy to do that.”

Sweeney said Monday that “we sent a formal list to the governor of the members that he would be helpful with, and I would expect him to participate because it’s important to him, too.”

Sweeney and Murphy — along with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin — agree on legalization of marijuana but have not settled on details in the latest version of the proposal. That draft, dated Oct. 4, spans 135 pages and addresses taxes, regulations and eligibility to operate a marijuana business. Lawmakers met in Trenton two weeks ago to preview the legislation in an attempt to move closer to action after many months of deliberating multiple proposals.

No matter who’s elected governor, fast pot legalization a pipe dream

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, right, and his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker faced-off in a debate in Chicago before the Sun-Times Editorial Board. (Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times via AP File) ORG XMIT: ILCHS301

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, right, and Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker faced off in a debate before the Sun-Times Editorial Board. | Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times

Illinoisans antsy to fire up a legal joint just for fun should probably mellow out.

Marijuana emerged as a key issue in the governor’s race after J.B. Pritzker and fellow Democrats Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss committed during the primary race to fully legalizing the drug. If elected, Pritzker will face the trying task of pushing his plan to legalize recreational pot use through the state Legislature.

Gov. Bruce Rauner remains opposed to recreational cannabis legalization, though he recently expanded the state’s medical marijuana program. Rauner said in an interview last year it would be a “mistake” to legalize the drug. He has called the process a “massive human experiment.”

With less than two weeks until Election Day, this much is clear: No matter who wins, full-on legalization is still a long way off.

Read more about the prospect of cannabis legalization in Illinois.

Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito became lifelong friends after sharing joint

Kathleen Turner poses with Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito in 1985. | Sun-Times file photo.

Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito became fast friends after sharing a joint in 1967, according to the New York Post.

“I was on the beach, looking out at the Long Island Sound and this guy walks up to me, with this long head of hair, if you can imagine,” Douglas reportedly told Cigar Aficionado.

“He says ‘You Get high?,’” Douglas added. “We were both 1967 potheads, so we smoked a joint and that was the beginning of a long, long friendship.”

Douglas and DeVito have remained friends for over 50 years, appearing in four films over the years.

While on the set of the 1984 adventure flick Romancing the Stone, DeVito even saved Douglas’ life when his co-star was bit by a poisonous snake, the Post noted.

“I always heard the best thing to do was, you know, you suck the poison out right away,” DeVito told “The Talk” last month. “So I did. I grabbed his hand… I’m spitting all over the place.”

“And I said, ‘boy, it’s a good thing this didn’t bite you on the balls, man,’” DeVito continued. “You’d be a dead man.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

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