Our Pledge To You


Pot Topics: Beer maker invests billions in cannabis; Elon Musk slams weed use

Illinois Democrats are again pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. | AP File Photo

Illinois Democrats are again pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. | AP File Photo

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

  • Liquor giant Constellation Brands takes another hit, ups stake in cannabis company
  • Pups on pot: Should you really be giving your dog CBD?
  • Elon Musk claims marijuana is “not helpful for productivity”
  • DEA calls for more pot cultivation, less opioid production in 2019
  • Tax collection from California pot sales fall well short of projections

Beer maker sinks $4 billion more into pot company

Corona maker invests in cannabis with Canopy Growth

Constellation Brands invested $4 billion into Canopy Growth Wednesday, upping its stake in the cannabis production business. | Canopy Growth

Beer and liquor giant Constellation Brands invested roughly $4 billion into Canopy Growth Wednesday, upping its stake in the cannabis business.

Constellation, the maker of Corona and Modelo beers and Svedka vodka, initially invested in Canopy Growth in October, taking a nearly 10 percent stake in the company, which is the largest medical marijuana producer in Canada.After Wednesday’s investment, that stake has grown to 38 percent.

“Over the past year, we’ve come to better understand the cannabis market, the tremendous growth opportunity it presents, and Canopy’s market-leading capabilities in this space,” said Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands. “We look forward to supporting Canopy as they extend their recognized global leadership position in the medical and recreational cannabis space.”

Constellation isn’t the only alcohol company experimenting with pot. Lagunitas Brewing, based in California, previously announced the launch of cannabis-infused sparkling water. CNBC reports that Molson Coors also said it was in talks with multiple cannabis companies.

Local pet owners give CBD to dogs despite vets’ warnings

More pet owners are dosing their furry loved ones with the trendy cannabis-based treatment despite warnings from veterinarians who fear that it hasn’t been properly researched or regulated.  The Sun-Times talked to local pet owners and vets about this growing trend.

To read the full story, click here.

Musk on pot use: ‘You just sit there like a stone on weed’

Electric car maker Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk gives the opening keynote at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave a rare interview this week and spent part of it talking about cannabis. | AP file photo

In an interview with the New York Times, Tesla CEO Elon Musk denied being stoned when he tweeted that he had secured funding to take the company private, a move that resulted in the SEC subpoenaing the eccentric billionaire and his board of directors.

In the tweet from earlier this month, Musk proposed taking Tesla private at $420 a share — roughly 20 percent higher than the stock was trading at publicly — and claimed he had secured funding to do so. During the interview, which was published Thursday, Musk said the rounded figure wasn’t a nod to the 420 code that’s largely associated with pot use.

“It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419,” Musk told the Times. “But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”

The tweet has since landed Musk in hot water with regulators. Although he has been seeking an infusion from Saudi Arabia’s $250 billion investment fund to take Tesla private, no such deal has been struck.

The SEC subpoenaed Musk and Tesla’s board after the agency first asked the company for explanations, the Times reported. Both parties are expected to meet as soon as next week.

The DEA wants more pot production for research

An arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen. | AP file photo

An arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen. | AP file photo

The Drug Enforcement Administration wants to substantially increase the amount of marijuana that can legally be grown for research next year, Forbes reported.

The plan — which will reportedly be included in an upcoming Federal Register filing — would allow for 5,400 pounds of pot to be grown in 2019, a large jump from the 1,000 pounds being produced this year, according to Forbes.

Members of the public will have 30 days to submit comments after the proposal is published in the register, the report said. The agency will then be able to amend and finalize the plan.

The DEA is also lobbying to significantly reduce the amount of opioids that are manufactured in 2019, according to a press release published Thursday.

The proposal, which is consistent with President Donald Trump’s plan to “cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years,” targets the most frequently misused opioids — oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hyrdromorphone, morphine and fentanyl.

“The opioid epidemic that we are facing today is the worst drug crisis in American history,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “President Trump has set the ambitious goal of reducing opioid prescription rates by one-third in three years. We embrace that goal and are resolutely committed to reaching it.”

California pot taxes not matching projections

There was concern that California’s legal marijuana market would be undercut by the huge black market that’s existed for decades.

Two undercover Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies dump marijuana into an evidence bag during a raid at an illegal marijuana dispensary during a raid in Compton, Calif. | AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

When it comes to the taxman, California’s legal pot market is off to a sluggish start.

Marijuana cultivation and excise tax collections hit $48 million between April and June, state officials announced Wednesday. That’s a jump from the prior three months but well below the windfall envisioned by the state.

Finance officials had estimated California would bank $185 million from excise and cultivation taxes in the first six months of broad legal sales, which kicked off Jan. 1.

But collections by midyear hit only $82 million.

“After six months of legal cannabis sales there is a staggering … gap between today’s tax revenue numbers and what voters were promised,” said state Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat from Campbell who heads the Business and Professions Committee. “Regulators must adapt before California’s lawful cannabis businesses are obliterated by the black market.”

The slower than expected flow of cash underscores the bumpy roll-out of the nation’s largest legal market.

Illicit sales continue to flourish, luring consumers away from legal shops. Meanwhile, many areas have banned commercial pot activity, limiting the number of places adults can buy legal cannabis. Businesses say hefty tax rates that can approach 50 percent in some areas are also driving business underground.

“The situation is pretty severe,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, an advocacy group for farmers and businesses.

Californians are buying plenty of cannabis, Allen says, they are just not buying it from licensed shops.

“Most of the state doesn’t have access to it,” Allen added. “The California marketplace needs significant change if it’s going to function … primarily at the local level.”

On Tuesday, state regulators meeting in Los Angeles heard a long list of complaints and concerns about California’s pot economy, once estimated to grow to $7 billion.

They included a shaky supply chain, a shortage of licenses, testing problems and a contested proposal to allow home marijuana deliveries in cities that have banned pot sales.

The state’s top marijuana regulator, Lori Ajax, said after the hearing that the state remains in a challenging transition period as it attempts to transform what was once a largely illegal market into a multibillion-dollar, regulated economy.

“Unfortunately, there is confusion out there,” Ajax said.

Upcoming cannabis events in the Chicago area

Stay with the Sun-Times for the latest Cannabis news

Here are some of the recent stories we’ve covered:

Send any tips or comments to tschuba@suntimes.com.