eyes on the U.S.

Reefer U - Colorado Makes Cultivating Marijuana New Academic Discipline

After November's passage of a state referendum that legalizes marijuana, THC University opens its doors in Denver to teach people how to grow pot in their homes.

When I *grow* up...
When I *grow* up...
Daniel Vittar

DENVER – The people of Colorado are now living a different kind of American Dream - legally cultivating and consuming their own marijuana, something made possible almost “magically” after last November’s elections, when the Rocky Mountain state approved a referendum to legalize possession and personal consumption of cannabis.

Passed with 54% support, the new legislation allows recreational use and cultivation of up to six plants inside your home.

Since the law bars purchase of the substance, and establishes that plants cannot be seen outside, the state's smokers must learn to grow plants in the interior of a house -- not always an easy task. This was the motivation for Matt Jones, 24, who decided to open a new professional “school” in Colorado to teach the difficult art of cultivating marijuana: THC University.

“I am a natural entrepreneur. Many of my ideas are rejected for one reason or another, but when I thought of THC University I knew I had the opportunity of being an important player in this new industry,” Jones told Clarin. “The objective now is to teach people how to legally cultivate six marijuana plants inside their home. Soon we will produce a certified program for those who wish to enter the professional industry."

The institute plans to begin its first course in the coming weeks. “Locally, we have had a great response, but we are surprised with the response of out-of-staters, even from other countries. Soon we will offer online courses as well,” says Jones.

The course content is purely practical, but not necessarily simple. “It is not only about taking seeds and planting them. First, you must choose a variety, since there are so many on the market. The classes cover all there is to know about interior cultivation of the plant. We teach everything from planting a seed to its harvest”, he explains. Most of the teaching staff will come from the industry of medicinal marijuana, already a burgeoning business.

Jones knows that the general topic creates resistance in some conservative circles, but he is not worried. “Of course there are opponents to the new law, but the majority supports legalization. There will be reactions, I’m sure. But this always happens when a prohibition is ended,” he says. "It was no different with alcohol."

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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