By Paul Toscano
The cannabis legalization trend is creating jobs in states where laws have been relaxed, and big business is "looking into the industry in a big way," an expert told CNBC on Friday.
In a dramatic change in drug policy, the Justice Department said Thursday it won't sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from allowing recreational marijuana use.
"It's really the first federal acknowledgement of the failed war on marijuana," said Danny Danko, High Times senior cultivation editor, told "Squawk on the Street" on Friday.
Danko also pointed out that several federal regulations will still be enforced, including interstate transportation, trafficking to minors and proceeds going to criminal organizations. "As long as these companies in Colorado and Washington stay within these parameters, they will not be attacked by the federal government," he said.
With more than a dozen states allowing marijuana use for medical reasons, "the dominoes are falling very quickly" as more states are considering legalizing recreational use.
Danko said that Washington and Colorado have seen a "tremendous amount" of job creation in the wake of their marijuana initiatives, now that a wide range of industry-related jobs are required to support growing businesses.
Big businesses are "looking into our industry in a big way," Danko said. He expects that when investment from tobacco and pharmaceutical companies begins in earnest, these firms will require the on-the-ground expertise of individuals currently working in the young industry.
(Related: Marijuana tools of the trade)
The "end-game" of this regulation trend is a federal rescheduling of cannabis, Danko said. Currently, the drug is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restricted category reserved for substances carrying "no currently accepted medical use." Other Schedule 1 substances include MDMA (ecstacy), heroin and LSD.
The less-strict Schedule 2 substances accepted for medical use include cocaine, opium and PCP.
A federal judge says the NFL and more than 4,500 former players want to settle concussion-related lawsuits for $765 million.
The global settlement would fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation and medical research.
The plaintiffs include at least 10 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett. They also include Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year.
The lawsuits accuse the league of hiding known risks of concussions for decades to return players to games and protect its image. The NFL has denied any wrongdoing.
Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia announced the proposed settlement Thursday. She still needs to approve the deal, which comes after months of court-ordered mediation.
By Michael Winerip
In September 2012, it appeared that the world was John Fugazzie's frozen oyster. He was in charge of dairy and frozen foods for the A.&P. supermarket chain, making $125,000 a year.
He was also a guest that month at a White House forum on joblessness, in recognition of his work creating Neighbors-helping-Neighbors U.S.A., a volunteer networking organization with 28 chapters in New Jersey serving 1,200 unemployed, mainly white-collar, baby boomers. ''John has one of the best volunteer organizations out there,'' said Ben Seigel, a deputy director at the Labor Department. ''He's tireless and always upbeat.''
Lately Mr. Fugazzie has been feeling a little weary and beat down. One morning last October, just before his 57th birthday, he was laid off and, carrying a box of belongings from his office, driven home in a car service hired by the company. In the 10 months since, he has applied for more than 400 positions and had 10 interviews, but still has no job.
He and his family are living in his 88-year-old mother's home, and last month he awoke at 4:30 a.m., sweating profusely, in the midst of a heart attack.
As happens to many Americans, when he lost his job, he lost his health insurance. He now owes $171,569.44 for the six nights he spent at the hospital.
And so on the evening of Aug. 15, at a meeting of the job club he himself started here two years ago, he told the others he was just like them. ''I need a job,'' he said. ''I need to make money now.''
Most of the 15 men and women meeting at the library in this prosperous suburb were middle-aged or older, people who had worked all their lives, but lost jobs in the recession and its aftermath and have not been able to get back to where they were. Many of them worry that they never will, in part because of discrimination by employers against older workers. (Related: 6 boomer jobs to ride the age wave)
On the statistical surface, boomers seem better off than other age groups. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for workers 55 to 64 (the category that best matches boomers, who range from 48 to 67) was 5.4 percent in July, compared with 7.4 percent for the general population.
But almost every other number from the bureau makes it clear that while the economy may be improving, a substantial number of older workers who lost jobs—even those lucky enough to be re-employed—are still suffering. Two-thirds in that age group who found work again are making less than they did in their previous job; their median salary loss is 18 percent compared with a 6.7 percent drop for 20- to 24-year-olds.
The re-employment rate for 55- to 64-year-olds is 47 percent and 24 percent for those over 65, compared with 62 percent for 20- to 54-year-olds. And finding another job takes far longer: 46 weeks for boomers, compared with 20 weeks for 16- to 24-year-olds.
Nor are those who believe age discrimination was a factor likely to have much luck in court. In 2009, just as the economy was hitting rock-bottom, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that toughened the standard for proving bias.
''It's easier for younger workers to bounce back,'' says Mr. Seigel of the Labor Department. ''They don't have many financial obligations. Older workers are supporting families; they may be supporting parents. They can't afford to spend two years going back for a degree to retrain.'' (Related: How to fight age discrimination)
At the Aug. 15 meeting, Barbara Braun, who worked as a marketing director for a pharmaceutical company, said she wasn't able to relocate to California when the company moved. ''I have a mother with Alzheimer's, I think it would have killed her,'' she said. ''Our lives are full of complications we didn't have at 35.''
They have no doubt that their age is held against them, yet work to keep hopeful. When a woman suggested shaving a decade off her résumé and not posting a photo on networking and job search sites to hide her age, Mr. Fugazzie advised against it. ''When you go to the interview, you're going to look like who you are,'' he said. ''To waste time hiding it when you're only going to lose at the other end makes no sense. If they don't want someone your age, you don't want them.''
What he does recommend is lowering expectations. ''You're not likely to be the department head,'' he said, ''so sell yourself as a team player who will work with younger people and help train them.''
Since the Supreme Court ruling, most lawyers won't even take age discrimination cases. In an effort to change that, a bill has been filed in the Senate each of the past several years, aimed at making it easier to bring a discrimination lawsuit.
The latest legislation has rare bipartisan support; Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, are co-sponsors. ''Older Americans have immense value to our society and our economy,'' Mr. Grassley said in a recent news release. ''They deserve the protections Congress originally intended.''
In the last Congress, along with the Democratic majority in the Senate, six Republicans backed the legislation, although two, both moderates, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, are no longer in the Senate. Cristina Martin-Firvida, a legislative specialist at AARP, says the bill has the votes to pass the Senate, but to have a chance at becoming law, more Republican senators would need to get behind it, which might then persuade the Republicans who control the House to take up the measure.
At the Ridgewood meeting, people discussed job-hunting strategies. Karen Clements, a paralegal, said she had four résumés ready to go, each emphasizing a different skill: bookkeeping, S.E.C. compliance, fraud investigation and intellectual property rights.
She described a friend who is dressed in business attire by 4 a.m. Mondays, so she'll be ready the moment an opportunity is posted online. If the firm wants to do a Skype interview, said Ms. Clements, her friend is dressed for Skyping. ''By Tuesday they'll have 1,000 résumés and the window will be closed.''
''It's like Wayne Gretzky says,'' Ms. Braun told them: ''You have to skate to where the puck will be.''
They discussed the importance of following up any contact with thank-you e-mails and handing out lots of business cards, though it's tricky to identify yourself when you have no job. ''Be careful of the title you give yourself -- you don't want to sound dated,'' said Ms. Braun, whose business card reads, ''Barbara J. Braun, principal, BarbaraJBraun LLC, Connect Goals to Extraordinary Outcomes.''
Several mentioned the importance of LinkedIn, the business networking site.
''You have to have at least 500 contacts,'' said Lisa Sepetjian, who has been an accounts manager for banks and small-business lenders. ''Any less shows you don't care; you're not in the game.''
Ms. Braun described how she was able to go from 50 LinkedIn contacts to 500 in just a week.
''I'm at 4,200,'' Mr. Fugazzie said.
''I don't want to know 500 people,'' Ms. Sepetjian said. ''But I want people to know I'm not some baby boomer sitting at home eating bonbons.''
At 8:50 p.m., when a librarian announced that it was closing time, many were still networking. Afterward, eight handed me their business cards and several sent follow-up e-mails thanking me for coming.
By 10:30 p.m., even before I got home, the first of 10 follow-up e-mails had arrived from Mr. Fugazzie. Attached were testimonials from five people; copies of four certificates of commendation for Neighbors-helping-Neighbors; and a letter of commendation to the group from the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, that began ''Dear Friends.''
Also attached was an invitation to a May 16, 2013, meeting at the White House to discuss long-term unemployment, which Mr. Fugazzie hadn't been able to attend. ''I really wanted to go,'' he said. ''I could have made some important contacts, but my youngest son, Tyler, was graduating from the College of New Jersey on the same day and how could I miss that?''
Did you see the very scary business headline this past week? No, not the one about Nasdaq's Flash Freeze. And no, not the one about disintegrating emerging markets. Not the one about the Fed and tapering either.
It was this one: "Three-quarters of high school grads are failing".
That's right. According to ACT, one of the big college testing companies, only a quarter of this year's high school grads have the combined reading, math, English and science skills necessary to succeed in college or a career.
That's scary not just from a social perspective, but a business one. It goes directly to the ongoing skills gap debate. Companies say they have jobs but can't find skilled workers, people able to handle math and science, to fill them. If we're falling short right out of high school, it's unlikely that gap will close.
"That's what we wake up to and worry about each day," said Jennifer McKelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute, a research outfit affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers. "Manufacturers are telling us that the individuals they have walking through the door are not ready for the world of work."
According to a 2011 survey by the institute, 67 percent of manufacturers say they have moderate to severe shortages of qualified workers.
Now there's all sorts of debate surrounding the skills gap. Some argue it's a concept invented by Corporate America to loosen up barriers to using cheap foreign labor. Others argue it's the result of industries unwilling to pay for training programs. Still more say it's the result of inefficiency in public education programs.
Regardless of where the fault lies, there's a general recognition in the business community a problem exists.
"I think one of the biggest issues is the growing gap between the available economic opportunities in this community and the aggregate skills of the workforce," LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said in a recent CNBC interview. "To close that gap, I think we need to do at least three things. One, improve education, both in terms of primary school reform and vocational training. I think we need immigration reform to make sure it's easier for people with unique skills to be getting jobs in this country. And then, lastly, digital infrastructure."
Workers generally need two areas under their belt to be productive, McNelly suggested. One is the basic 3R fundamentals plus problem solving and communication skills—the kind of stuff you get in school. Then you need industry-specific training.
You can't get to the second level of training without the fundamentals of the first. And the ACT survey seems to suggest there's a big problem with that.
By Jeff Cox
While the government next week is expected to say the unemployment picture continues its gradual improvement, one indicator shows this jobs market is the worst in a year and a half.
Widely followed pollster Gallup puts the nation's unemployment rate at an ugly 8.6 percent in August, a startling jump from the 7.8 percent the organization recorded for July. When counting the underemployed, the rate zooms to 17.7 percent, off its 2013 high of 18.2 percent.
The government puts the jobless figure at 7.4 percent, and 14 percent when including the underemployed and those who have quit looking.
While Gallup's numbers have offered significant divergences from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the two numbers had been running fairly close for most of the year. In fact, Gallup's tally actually briefly slipped below the government's in April when it recorded 7.4 percent, compared to the BLS number then of 7.5 percent.
Since reaching that April bottom, though, Gallup's numbers have surged and tracked above 8 percent for August, reaching their highest level since hitting 8.7 percent in mid-March 2012.
The trend comes at a ticklish time for the economy.
Central bank policymakers have tied the potential QE pullback to an unemployment rate—as recorded by the BLS—in the 7 percent range, while 6.5 percent would be the minimum hurdle before the Fed would start raising its target interest rate again.
(Read more: Keep printing? Fed stays in game, but exit looms)
While Gallup's numbers can be volatile, they have portended rises in the official rate.
The data set is limited, but in previous occasions when the divergence was more than 1 percentage point "the BLS unemployment rate was flat to up over the next three months," Bespoke Investment Group said.
To be sure, there are major caveats.
The Gallup numbers are not seasonally adjusted, and surveying methodologies differ substantially.
"The BLS method is statistically more rigorous. With the Gallup, you're basically doing a poll," said Jacob Oubina, senior economist at RBC Capital Markets. "The Gallup is more of a sentiment-type indicator. Either way, the unemployment rate doesn't really give you a good indicator of the true state of the labor backdrop."
(Read more: The coolest jobs of 2013)
Instead, Oubina recommends focusing on the employment-to-population ratio.
The news doesn't get any better there, though.
The government puts that number at 58.7 percent, a level from which it has deviated little over the past four years since the end of the financial crisis and Great Recession.
According to Gallup, that measure is 43.8 percent, plunging over the years from 63.5 percent in January 2010.
It's not known whether the Fed is paying attention to what Gallup's polling shows. If it is, the discussions at the September Open Markets Committee meeting over tapering QE could take on a different tone.
"The employment-to-population ratio is basically bumping along the lows of the cycle," Oubina said. "We definitely still have a long way to go."
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