Are We Raising Children Not to Take Risks?

When I was young and living in Ann Arbor, I drove my bike to the local store, met friends ice skating at the open-air rink near the school, and even trick or treated with friends. I was 8. At nine, we lived in Arlington, VA, for a year. I walked to school alone and spent my afternoons hanging out with kids in a rag-tag neighborhood surrounded by woods and shacks. When I was ten, we moved into a new contemporary house development that was not quite finished. The neighborhood gang drove our bikes everywhere. We wandered around the houses being built, climbing up to the roofs scattered with nails, hammers, and random equipment. We found old shacks in the woods and set things on fire.

I could hardly wait to drive and get out of the suburbs, but that does not seem to be the way of the world these days. Kids are not driving, rewarded for everything they do, and sheltered from risk-taking. Is it because of social media? Is it fear that is being foisted upon us by the media? Is it parents not wanting to have their kids find themselves? Is it the ease of availability on our apps, from shopping to Uber?

Growing up, I read every single book my parents owned. Now fearful conservative parents are banning books so they control their children not knowing the reality of the world? Campaigns to ban sexual education are expanding. If children don’t know about it, they won’t have sex?

Freedom to find yourself starts young. The helicopter parent began to excel in the 90s when parents made it their job to sweep in and rescue their children from all disappointments or painful experiences. God forbid one should have to experience failure.

Life is never easy, and shielding the youth from reality will only create lost adults who are risk-averse and never leave the nest. Each generation tries to right the supposed wrongs of their parents. I hope we have hit rock bottom in keeping our kids from reality because we will raise a generation of scared, bland, unimaginative children. It is just not a good look.

Public Housing Community Fund

I considered getting off immediately when I joined the Fund for Public Housing. Everything I knew already about how organizations tied to Government operated confirmed it all. Bad leadership, no vision, zero data, treading water but a hand full of people who cared on the board.

Alicia Glen, the former Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, warned me when I joined the board. Her advice was, “You are not going to fix this.” She is right, nobody can fix this by themselves, but I could try my hand at a new narrative with a new look and feel.

I assembled a team of incredible volunteers that had nothing to do with NYCHA, Amaris Jones, Chanel Cathey, and Courtney Gooch, who helped us rethink the brand (Courtney came up with the logo). We hired Alex Zablocki as the Executive Director, who hired Chidozie Ekwensi as our Senior Content Creator. Gary Vaynerchuk graciously connected us to his top team, who gave us advice and knowledge and chipped in half of Chidozie’s salary. This phenomenal group of people helped us relaunch the Community Fund.

Our goal is to build a stronger, more equitable NYC. Over 16% of NYers live in public housing. That is bigger than the size of Atlanta. Our programs, work, and community building needed to be highlighted and celebrated, and we are doing just that by engaging people and partners to enhance the lives of those who live in NYCHA. We invest in programs focused on community health, financial empowerment, leadership development, and workforce training.

Alicia could be correct, but we hope this change is a step in the right direction. I am insanely proud of this work. Please look at the new website, watch the videos, follow us on Instagram, check out the new look, and most importantly, give back to programs that impact the over 500,000 plus NYers who live in NYCHA.

Food Favorites

One of the reasons I invested in NumPang, sadly RIP, is that the data pointed to Americans eating more ethnic food. That is because America is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse, multicultural nations. Perhaps that is why we see events like the one this past week in Tennessee, fear of change, but guess what? Change is already here.

On April 1st, the James Beard Pier 57 opened to the public. A new food hall is sitting above Little Island, near the Highline, and next to the coming to us soon Gansevoort Peninsula, a community beach on the Hudson River. We have now been three times.

There are community spaces, a rooftop, a huge glass-enclosed kitchen for events, and sixteen food stalls. They have done a fantastic job.

I have had oysters, tacos, dumplings, beer, curry, and ice cream. Everything has been really good. I have sat inside, outside, and on the roof.

Between Chelsea Market, the mix of food spots upstairs and down to Pier 57 is a massive plus for the area. Burgers might still be the number one fast food eaten in the states, but if these two food halls indicate what the future looks like, the American saying “as American as apple pie” might decline. Come to think of it, apples are native to Asia, and Europeans have been making apple tarts for much longer than America.

Stages of Motherhood

Motherhood is the world’s most challenging and complicated job, with multiple stages. Stage one is pure love and joy. This little human is now part of your life. Their needs are basic. Loving, feeding, sleeping, pooping, and cooing are on the list. As they get old enough to sleep through the night, it can be painful to ignore their cries, but when they wake in the morning with smiles and energy, you realize that all is fine in the world.

Fast forward, they become people. They have their day of going to school, making friends, and finding their way into the world. Teenagedom comes quickly with angst while coming into their own voice. Bigger kids, bigger problems. Then eventually, off to college, flying from the nest, where everyone begins to set up the next stage of life, on their own, including the parents.

Then comes the next stage, which might be the hardest, being a parent to an adult. What are the boundaries, and how do you become a friend but still be a parent? At the end of the day, most of us want to have a good relationship with our kids.

Many women who have opted to put their careers on the backburner have a tough time reentering the workplace. Suppose you have just spent the last twenty years managing a household, raising your children, and involving yourself in mostly non-profit or school-related organizations. In that case, that is hard work that one day ceases to exist.

Motherhood is the work of a solo entrepreneur who works for themselves, setting their own hours that allow for a particular lifestyle. Returning to a full-time structured job is a shock to the system. Unless you have to take that job, the workplace begins to wane heavily.

Women have multiple choices, from working to part-time to staying home, Dad’s not as much, and that needs to change. We now live longer lives, so when your kids fly from the nest, there is a long road ahead where many women begin to feel untethered, particularly those who stayed home. I conversed about this with a dear friend I have known for decades.

Our kids work for themselves, which is not shocking because they came from a household where we worked for ourselves. When they were young, I remember telling our girls to learn how to freelance so they could own their lives. They probably don’t remember, but I do. It gives one the most flexibility to be present when one chooses to be.

My career has allowed me to work and be a Mom. Many women I know with young kids are figuring out how to balance the “freelance” world while raising a family. The beauty of that is working becomes fluid and part of your life.

Countless brilliant women look at the empty rooms with the kids gone, wondering what the next stage is. I have yet to figure out how women who have left structured career environments can return to that after twenty years. If anyone has figured it out, please share.

More on Cannabis Taxation

Bottom line, Americans like getting stoned. It is the fastest-growing industry in the US. Last year Americans spent over $30b on legal cannabis products, and we all know how many illegal businesses there are, so maybe the number is more like $40b with that tossed in.

In comparison, for other vices, in the US, candy sales were roughly $40b, and the market size of the alcohol industry, including beer, is $74b. These industries have been regulated and legal for decades. Whereas California was the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and recreational marijuana in 2016. It was legal until 1937 when the Government classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug thanks to Harry Angslinger, who kept his job for 32 years touting the “war on drugs” demonizing Black and Brown Americans.

Candy and liquor businesses can take deductions against particular expenses deemed helpful and appropriate such as general and administrative fees, business-related travel and entertainment, automobile expenses, and employee benefits.

280E, the cannabis tax that I continue to rant about, forbids weed businesses from deducting ordinary expenses from gross income. It is insane.

After understanding 280E, somebody asked me then why is anybody doing this. Great question. All of us in the cannabis business see the opportunity, understand the toll the war on drugs has taken on countless people, and hope that we are getting into something at the ground level that will create change.

If the Federal Government continues to impede success in the fastest-growing business in the country, the mess that will be left behind will be ugly. Although when it comes to building the semiconductor industry, the Biden administration is taking $400bn in tax credits, grants, and loans to prop up the industry. What would the semiconductor industry and clean-tech manufacturing base look like or do if they were being taxed at 70% with almost zero deductions?

 It is time to make a change and repeal 280E to cannabis at the Federal level and deschedule the plant from a Schedule 1 drug to the same as alcohol. Cannabis is categorized as a controlled substance, whereas alcohol is not. Have they heard of alcoholism? That does not happen with cannabis. Taxing the number one burgeoning industry in our country is egregious, disdainful, and absurd.

It makes me wonder what lobbyists from industries that will suffer from more cannabis products, particularly in the medical space, are lining our Senator’s pockets. Americans want to buy legal cannabis products and benefit from the research being done and the impact is making.

Let your Senators know enough is enough, and the numbers prove it.

What Happens in NYCHA Goes Bankrupt?

During Covid, many Americans had a hard time making their rent. The Federal Government provided emergency rental assistance with funds for each state. The acronym is ERAP. ERAP saved countless people from being homeless and landlords from losing mortgages on their buildings. It was a win-win for everybody except those in public housing.

People who live in public housing (New York City Housing Authority- NYCHA- in NYC) pay rent, although HUD and the state subsidize a piece of that. Tenants pay roughly 30%. Public Housing is not free. Because of this decision to not give ERAP to NYCHA residents, NYCHA has a shortfall of over $450m, that is, 73,000 households. Keep in mind that NYCHA is larger than the city of Atlanta and houses almost 16% of NYers, and the list to obtain public housing is long, meaning many NYers would benefit from public housing, and so would our city.

It is murky what precisely the HUD agreement is with NYCHA considering that they have not funded the need to keep properties in good shape. At this point, it would cost $40B to repair the mess that the buildings are in. Can you imagine owning a property and doing nothing for 30 years?

The mounting losses are shameful. There is a good chance that if the state does not lock down a budget that gives ERAP to NYCHA, NYCHA could be bankrupt. Then what? How many agencies rely on funds from NYCHA to barely keep those buildings running? How about the basics, such as water and gas?

Isn’t it time to get HUD out of public housing? If NYCHA goes bankrupt, my guess is there would be a Federal takeover which could be disastrous based on how HUD appears to have done nothing proactive in the past, or maybe it could be a blessing in disguise.

Let the states choose private entities to oversee these buildings in each borough. Have a NY Government board oversee these private companies to ensure they are doing the right thing, keeping the facilities in clean working order and not lining their pockets. Have HUD pay NY the $40B it would cost to fix the problem over ten years with a locked-down business plan to not only fix the issue but expand public housing. Everyone should have a roof over their head; it makes all the difference, particularly the children.

We might be approaching the end of NYCHA because the state was not treating NYCHA residents like all other NY residents who needed rental assistance during Covid. It is time for a change at NYCHA. NYCHA should not be run by one entity mired in Government bureaucracy. Like most things, it is hard to make changes within, but it is easier to make changes outside of the box.

The operating budget for NYCHA is $4.5B a year. The operating reserves are almost gone. If NYCHA does go bankrupt, not only will there be zero oversight on building maintenance, 13000 NYCHA employees will be without a paycheck. This is not going to be pretty, and it doesn’t seem like much thought has gone into the long tail of ignoring these residents’ financial needs during Covid.

I hope somebody is working on Plan B. NYCHA has needed one for a very long time.

The Lies Politicians Create

Below are facts. What is written above by Governor Asa Hutchinson, age 71, is not true and has zero data to back it up.

21 States, and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational cannabis, and 37 states have medical marijuana programs. My experience is that getting a license for medical marijuana is simple and just one more pay-to-play before being able to walk in and make a purchase. A Pew study noted that 88% of US adults say that marijuana should be legal for medical use, 60% for recreational use, and only 10% say that weed should not be legal. The CDC notes there is limited evidence suggesting that using marijuana increases the risk of using other drugs. Of course, we all know people with addiction issues, so that is another ballgame.

Another fact. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act which means that at the Federal level, it has a high potential for abuse and is not accepted for medical use in treatment, nor can it be accepted for use with a medical supervisor.

One more fact. The states who have legalized marijuana have all attempted to use this new business with an emphasis on social good by making sure that people who have been incarcerated and people from underserved communities are getting dispensary licenses to make good on what has been bad, particularly NY.

Fact. The tax structure is so egregious that most new stakeholders are clueless about the tax ramifications (although California has proven what a disaster it is). Most will find themselves struggling to make a penny. Most will take out loans to build these businesses and find themselves in deep trouble trying to service that loan down the line.

So what does this all mean? It means systemic racism continues because the Federal government is taking massive amounts of tax dollars from any person or company running a dispensary. Once again, they are not helping people; they will be hurting people.

It is the Republicans who do not want to legalize cannabis and change the Federal drug status. Yet, the reality of all these facts adds up that these officeholders are not listening to the people but listening to the people lining their pockets, such as Pharma, who is not that keen on cannabis. Conventional pharmaceutical use has dropped 11% since cannabis has become available in 37 states.

All of this adds up to the same political bullshit at the Federal Government level, where lobbyists have their hands in the pockets of our politicians. We will look back on this decades from now with countless stories of people who were awarded licenses in debt, out of business, and worse off than before this began.

It makes me angry, but it also makes me extremely sad.

Marijuana Moment

Marijuana Moment is one of my daily reads. They cover what is happening by state and federal government, including bill tracking, local and international info, science and health, and business aggregating all the information out there. How many of you know that Thailand legalized cannabis?

California, one of the most mature states in the sector, legalized recreational weed in 2016 and medical in 1996. That means most people have been buying their weed legally since the late 90s because getting a medical card was more accessible than obtaining a driver’s license.

The price differential between what legal cannabis products are being sold in California vs. NY is vastly different. A pre-rolled joint in California is around $5 vs. NY, where the price can be $20-50, depending on the brand. Not surprising that many of the Cali brands are working with NY farmers to build their brands out here for the legal market. Also not surprising you can find many of these Cali brands in illegal stores where they can make some margin.

Building a new industry is not easy, but what is holding back growth is one thing only, Federal taxes. That tax law is called 280E. It forbids businesses from deducting ordinary business expenses from gross income associated with Schedule I or II drugs—another charming throwback to the Reagan administration. Essentially nothing can be deducted like in a regular business forcing anyone in the cannabis business to be taxed around 70%. Many companies are taxed almost twice as much as they make. How do you build a new industry on that? Remember that 37 states have legalized weed.

If technology businesses were taxed at 70% gross when the industry started to ramp up in the early 90s, would we have Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Airbnb, Salesforce, etc., etc.? This tax impedes the cannabis industry that will generate over $50B in 2028, not including the illegal market blossoming in NY. The only business that benefits from all of this is the federal government. Maybe they are just not making enough with FEMA, Fannie Mae, Student Loans, and all the other businesses they run.

American Express, Amazon, and Anheuser Busch are just a handful of large companies spending lobbying dollars to make changes at the federal level that will allow cannabis to be treated like a regular business. It kills me that, once again, companies have to spend money on lobbying because that is how business is done in Washington, aka corruption.

My bet is on Gavin Newsom, who sees firsthand how his state is being hammered and probably has his eyes on something bigger than just running California. My hope is he will sue the federal government to legalize cannabis. It will change everything.

Why must we spend billions on this when the federal government could do the right thing? After watching our Congresspeople interrogate TikTok CEO Shou Chew, I guess it isn’t surprising, just depressing.

Meeting Fred

I have been watching the @meetcutesnyc, where someone asks random couples how they met. The stories are entertaining. I love a story about how a couple got together. It made me think about how Fred and I met. Since I have plunged headfirst into the cannabis space, I figured I would share our story.

I never went back home to live after my freshman year, so I needed a place to live my sophomore summer. I was attending Simmons College, and I knew that the MIT fraternity houses rented out their rooms to women over the summer. Of course, they did.

I had been at a Beta party once, so I looked into what was available. I called to make an appointment with one of the house managers to check out the digs. I met with Fred’s sidekick, Jim. He took a liking to me, so he offered me the single room at the top of their brownstone at 119 Bay State Road. An incredible location and a beautiful street just a few steps from Kenmore Square. It was a massive house with an expansive circular staircase to the fourth floor. I took it.

I moved in sometime in May after classes ended and my dorm closed for the season. My one room was located in the front of the four floor. Jim and Fred, who I had yet to meet, lived in fourth rear. There was a desk and an elevated bed that needed a ladder to access. Where was the ladder?

I walked across the way where Fred sat on a build-in couch/lounge spot connected to the bay window overlooking the Charles. They had a huge round wooden spool for a coffee table that Con Ed used for their wires, aka Jim’s father worked there. It was pretty sweet, considering it was a fraternity house. I said hi and asked Fred where I could get a ladder for the bed. Keep in mind that he was the co-house manager, so it was his job, but he was not exactly nice about it. He begrudgingly pointed me in the right direction.

Fast forward, I had completely moved in, but the bigger question was, where can I buy some weed around here? So I returned to fourth rear and asked Fred my second question. He was slightly more animated with the answer, telling me I could come over anytime and get some because they grew the plant.

He then showed me a sizeable dumb waiter closet that he and his friends had fixed up with multiple plants, a lighting system, and a crank to move the platform up and down based on the plants’ needs. It was pretty impressive, to say the least. I mean, they were MIT engineers.

They would then dry it out and grind it up before filling a huge Chock full of ‘Nuts coffee can with their dirt weed for the taking. We sat down, got stoned, and started talking. This became my daily afternoon activity after working as a groundskeeper at an engineering firm before my evening job at Bloomingdales in Chestnut Hill a few times a week. Afterward, Fred would go for a run, and I would go to work.

By the end of the summer, we were best friends. A year later, we were a couple, and our conversation has continued for over forty years. Considering I am opening a cannabis dispensary, I figured the timing of telling this story is just perfect. It all goes back to the plant.

Why Does Retail Work in Other Countries?

I worked in retail during the height of the 70s and 80s when people had no choice but to make their purchases in stores. What a concept! The large department stores gave way to chains that took a piece of the market share, and the smaller stores suffered over time. Except for the small stores, all these big stores are publicly traded, giving them cash to play with while appeasing the stockholders, not necessarily the store shoppers.

How do small business owners survive when they have to abide by the rules set forth by lobbyists? In other countries, you can be creative. You can open a natural wine store with savory products from cheese, crackers, kinds of vinegar, olive oils, olives, and sweets from chocolates to cakes. If you don’t have suitable serving utensils or napkins, you can pick that up there too. It is fantastic for the neighborhood.

During Covid, many of these absurd restrictions were loosened so restaurants could sell wines and other products. It was fantastic. But that was short-lived. If you are opening a new store, why can’t you carry what you want? Why can’t someone open a new cannabis shop with cutting-edge merchandise, a coffee bar, the latest food products, furniture, and perhaps a small restaurant where people can partake in a puff?

Undoubtedly, the consumer would be thrilled with the ability to explore and enjoy new retail concepts vs. buying everything from the sanctuary of their computer screen. What will it take for us to rethink the lobbying efforts that have escalated over the past thirty years to benefit the people paying them vs. the consumers in this country?

Why do we allow innovation to be handcuffed?