When Facebook Doesn’t “Like” Your Pot Shop Page…

Remember when news releases were the go-to method of publicizing events directly related to your business? These days when companies want to get the word out about corporate happenings, publish internal news, or inform their customers of specials or promotions, a faster and less cumbersome way to do it is on Facebook.

But if you’re in the pot business, you may want to try another platform.

Recently Facebook started shutting down the pages of legal marijuana businesses around the country, and Colorado’s cannabis retailers were captured in their net, along with legitimate medical dispensaries in other states.

While the targeted companies are properly licensed and compliant at the state and local level, it’s impossible for them to be federally compliant for one simple reason: cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Facebook’s Community Standards preclude it from encouraging any kind of drug use, and a promotion or special on cannabis products advertised on the site can be interpreted as such.

In the Regulated Goods section of the Community Standards, it states that Facebook “prohibits any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana or firearms.”

It’s unclear why a business licensed by the state of Colorado and subject to its regulations could fall under the umbrella of “unauthorized dealers.”

Facebook hasn’t been particularly forthcoming about the decision, but issued a statement regarding it that read in part:

“In order to maintain a safe environment on Facebook, we have Community Standards that describe what is and is not allowed on the service,” the statement read. “Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. Our teams review these reports rapidly and will remove the content if there is a violation.”

Some of the biggest dispensary chains in Colorado had their pages deleted, including The Clinic, LivWell, Sweet Leaf, and The Green Solution. In certain cases when the dispensary appealed, some of the pages were reinstated without explanation.

A few business owners simply started over; they revamped the pages to make sure promotions or coupons that could be interpreted as advocating drug use didn’t appear on their site, thereby violating Facebook’s community standards. They lost the “likes” from the first round but simply encouraged their followers to re-click.

Last year, sales of legal marijuana rose 17 percent for a total annual intake of $5.4 billion. Current projections have 2016 on track to pull in $6.7 billion.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

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Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
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3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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The Arrival of Sales Tax on Amazon Purchases in Colorado

A fridge? A best-selling novel? Organic coconut oil?

If you order it on online you can get pretty much anything delivered to your door — maybe even with free shipping. But as of February 1 in Colorado, if it comes from Amazon it will also come with sales tax.

Colorado recently became one of 28 states required to pay sales tax on purchases made on Amazon. The gigantic online retailer used to famously side-step sales taxes, but as needed distribution centers were opened in additional states to fulfill orders and delivery demand, Amazon agreed to apply the tax.

Collecting sales tax on online purchases has been an ongoing legal battle in Colorado fought by the Direct Marketing Association for the past six years. (It made it to the Supreme Court but was recently sent back to the federal court.)

Under federal law, if a retailer doesn’t have a physical presence in the state they can’t be forced to collect the taxes, which triggers a self-reporting requirement by consumers. Yes, buyers in Colorado are supposed to pay taxes to the state when they make an online purchase in the event that sales tax wasn’t added.

State law dictates that online stores keep a record of purchases made by Coloradans and report the sales tax that should have been collected. Those online companies are also obligated to advise the buyers of taxes owed.

Those who support compelling Amazon to collect sales tax in states where it has distribution centers or subsidiaries related to its business say that it has a clear advantage over brick and mortar stores that have no choice but to collect sales tax. Those on the other side of the argument say that states could simply eliminate the tax — and thereby the problem.

The Denver Post described the issue this way:

“DMA [Direct Marketing Association] continues to spearhead a legal challenge to Colorado’s unconstitutional tax and data-collection scheme,” he said. “Requiring out-of-state sellers to disclose private purchase information to the state’s Department of Revenue violates both the Commerce Clause, as well as the privacy of the business-to-customer relationship. DMA has won every argument in this litigation and we are confident the Tenth Circuit will support DMA’s argument and find Colorado’s notice-and-report requirements unconstitutional.

However, on February 23rd, 2016, the Federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals court upheld the law against the DMA’s challenge. The judge posited that overturning it would result in a statewide “tax shelter” for online retailers. As a result, the decision could lead to a re-energized push for internet sales tax nationwide.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Full-strength Beer and Wine: Why Aren’t They in My Local Grocery Store?

Last July, the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division published this information:

“The boom of the alcohol industry in Colorado is quite evident. In the last three years, the number of manufacturer breweries has more than tripled; from 60 to 182. During the same time, the number of distilleries has gone from 33 to 70; over double.”

Yet even though Colorado is one of the top states in the nation when it comes to craft and micro brews — just take a look at how breweries have sprung up like summer dandelions in Denver, Boulder, and the surrounding areas — the laws around selling beer higher than 3.2% alcohol by weight in grocery stores is still in effect. Why?

Prohibition. That’s where it all started.

Here’s a mini refresher: in 1933, Congress voted to repeal Prohibition. (FDR actually campaigned on the importance of alcohol to our nation, and vowed to end Prohibition if he were elected.) In 1935, the Colorado General Assembly enacted the state’s liquor code, underlining the difference between “non-intoxicating” 3.2% beer and other types of alcohol. Private liquor stores were allowed to sell only alcohol, no food, and grocery stores could sell beer only if it was 3.2% alcohol by weight.

The part that doesn’t really make sense is that this law is still in effect in Colorado, while a whopping 42 of the states in the union sell “real” beer and wine in grocery stores.

Since the U.S. is the second highest producer of beer and the third highest of wine in the world, those beverages are crucial when it comes to our economy.

Your Choice Colorado, a coalition backed by King Soopers, Safeway, and Walmart, is drafting a ballot that will allow Colorado voters to decide if they should be able to pick up full-strength beer and wine at the same place they buy their roast chicken and salad fixings.

Hard liquor sales will remain unique to liquor stores.

“The customer is changing, and we have to change with the customer,” said Kelli McGannon, a spokeswoman for King Soopers, the Colorado-based division of Kroger Co. “Our customers value time as much as money and are looking for convenience. Colorado’s market has changed — Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, and people are moving here from other states where this is something they had.”

One of every store in a retail chain per state can have a full liquor license, which is why you can’t buy wine in Trader Joe’s in Boulder but you can in Denver.

Liquor store owners, who have traditionally opposed changing this law, say that they will be hard hit if it goes through, as their sales will be negatively impacted. We’ll see if the ability to put a bottle of Sauvignon in the same cart with your fruit and veggies will trump tradition when it goes to a vote.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
3773 Cherry Creek North Drive, Suite 575
Denver, CO 80209
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Employee Paid Time Off

In an age of technology enabling new ways to conduct business anywhere on a smartphone and work-from-home opportunities for many workers, it can be difficult to disconnect and get away from your business or job. If you are trying to open a new business or keep a small-business going, it can be especially stressful to even think about taking time off or having employees take time off. The worries about who will pick up the slack or how can the business afford it are powerful concerns.

Recently, there have been some federal and state proposals to mandate that employers provide their workers with more opportunity to take job-protected paid time off that would essentially expand the Family Medical Leave Act. Simply put, FMLA already provides workers with job-protected leave that is unpaid for a personal or family member illness or after a baby is born.

Here in Colorado, there is a proposal that would have every worker pay several dollars a week from their paycheck to fund a program that would allow workers to apply for all or a portion of their wages to be paid by the program if they need to take time off for maternity/paternity leave, an illness, or other similar circumstance. The program would pay a portion of the workers normal income that would be higher for low-wage workers, and a lower portion for higher-wage workers. The idea is that it would be a way for more employees to get access to paid time off, without burdening businesses, especially small-businesses, with the cost of paying the worker while they are gone.

However, it seems that most businesses and business groups oppose the measure, citing the administrative costs in managing the deductions and payroll with such a program and the challenges associated with finding temporary replacements for employees on job-protected leave. Businesses also fear that if the paycheck deductions are insufficient to fund the program, that businesses will end up covering any deficits.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are many companies and small-businesses that say that their workers already have access to these kinds of benefits. They say that they make sure that their employees get the time they need through a time off plan that suits their employer-employee relationship on a more individualized level.

Another interesting approach is one from a Denver-based tech company, FullContact. They have an extraordinary vacation policy that they call “Paid, PAID Vacation.” With this approach, they give their employees a minimum of 15 days of vacation with full pay every year, but they also give each employee $7,500 to pay for the vacation itself. The only catch for getting the bonus is that employees must actually go on vacation, they must “disconnect,” and they cannot work during this time off. Part of the inspiration for this program came when the CEO and founder was on vacation in Egypt. He was riding on a camel, in Egypt, with the Pyramids in view, and he was staring at his smartphone. There is a framed photo commemorating this moment at the company’s office. The company has called it a “giant experiment” that is designed to reward their employees and also help the company through benefits like increased productivity and employee retention. FullContact has had this program since 2012, so it looks like the company is satisfied with the results of this experiment.

If your business has questions about laws covering employee time off or about having an employee handbook or policies drafted with legal issues in mind, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney, Elizabeth Lewis, at 720-258-6647 or email her at elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

Business Estate Planning

As the Day of the Dead approaches, it is a time that business owners need to be thinking about what will happen to their businesses if something happens to them.  Without the proper planning, everything you dreamed and built for your family can crumble as quickly as a row of dominos.  Proper planning helps ensure that your family can be supported and that your business can continue to provide for them when you are gone.

All business owners need to have an estate plan. When you are discussing your estate plan with a professional estate planner, you need to make sure they know that you have a business.  The estate planner will need to know what type of business you have (i.e. LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, etc) and how the interest in the business is titled.  If you co-own the business with someone else, the estate planner will want to know if you hold the interest in the business individually or if it is as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Depending on how the interest in the business is titled, your estate will deal with the interest differently.

When you are coming up with your estate plan for your business, there are a lot of questions you will need to ask yourself.  Who is going to take over the business, if anyone?  If you have a business such as a law firm, it may be that no one in your family can take it over unless a family member is a licensed attorney.  Even if you have someone in your family that can take over your business, you may find that no one wants to.  You want to make sure that your business is a gift to your family members and not a burden.

If you do have someone that wants to take it over, or even just need someone to take it over in order to dissolve or sell it, you need to make sure that person has a basic understanding of how the business is run.  Where do you bank? Who are your vendors? Who are your main accounts with? Do you have employees? Who does your taxes?  These are just some of the questions that you want to make sure that there are answers to.

When you have a business, it can be rewarding.  However, just as you plan for the day to day growth of your business, you must also plan on what will happen if something happens to you. If you have any questions about running a business or need information about business estate planning, please call me, your Denver business attorney, Elizabeth Lewis, at 720-258-6647.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for… the most dangerous business to own?

Recently, I came across an article about wayward ice cream truck owners. Most of us remember these trucks from our youth – they brought us frosty treats on warm afternoons while toons played throughout the neighborhood. However, this article showed the darker side of the ice cream truck business.

In something that sounds like a bad tv show script, CBS reported that Sno Cone Joe pushed Mr. Ding a Ling out of the market. The dispute had been ongoing, but this year it really heated up after Sno Cone Joe was accused of trying to lure customers from Mr. Ding a Ling. The turf war between ice cream trucks ended in in the arrest of two ice cream truck operators after multiple incidents, including a heated meeting that resulted in one person yelling “This is my town!”

After Googling the dispute, come to find out this isn’t an isolated incident. In 2006, a man murdered another man after a dispute over the building of an ice cream truck. Two men died after a dispute over a family ice cream truck in 2009. And in 2011, a California legislator accused a 73 year old ice cream truck operator of trying to run him over.

So, the lesson from these incidents? Think long and hard before purchasing an ice cream truck business. And if you do, make sure to advise your business attorney that you may need a criminal attorney on speed dial before you sell your first cone!

If you are thinking about starting an ice cream truck business, or any other business, call me, your Denver business attorney, Elizabeth Lewis today at 720-258-6647.