Big vic­to­ries for le­gal pot, but path ahead is un­cer­tain

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

LOS ANGELES (AP): THE NUM­BER of Amer­i­cans liv­ing in states with recre­ational mar­i­juana more than tripled af­ter at least three states voted to fully le­galise the drug. But the elec­tion of Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and GOP ma­jori­ties in the Sen­ate and House tem­pered ad­vo­cates’ ex­cite­ment about an eas­ing of fed­eral re­stric­tions.

“There is a mas­sive sense of mo­men­tum, and this will put a lot of pres­sure on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Ethan Nadel­mann, founder of the non-profit Drug Pol­icy Al­liance, a pro-le­gal­i­sa­tion group. What gives him “real con­cern” is Trump.

Nadel­mann and other ad­vo­cates say the pres­i­dent-elect is “un­pre­dictable,” and they are un­sure where he stands on mar­i­juana is­sues, though Trump has said in the past that he sup­ports state laws le­gal­is­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Still, an­a­lysts and ad­vo­cates alike say that the in­dus­try may be too big and valu­able for a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to stop, es­pe­cially af­ter Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers le­galised the recre­ational use of mar­i­juana.

Seven states have now le­galised recre­ational pot, and a re­cent Gallup poll showed that close to 60 per cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port the idea.

Colorado, which le­galised recre­ational pot in 2014, re­ported al­most $1 bil­lion in le­gal pot sales last year. Ar­cview Mar­ket Re­search, which tracks the mar­i­juana in­dus­try, says le­gal an­nual Cal­i­for­nia pot rev­enues alone could ex­ceed $7 bil­lion by 2020.


Todd Mitchem, a Den­ver-based mar­i­juana in­dus­try con­sul­tant and lob­by­ist, said the pot busi­ness should ex­pect an in­fu­sion of new in­ter­est from in­vestors and would-be mar­i­juana grow­ers and re­tail­ers.

“It’s go­ing to be huge,” said Mitchem, who pointed out that Colorado’s pot in­dus­try is worth $1 bil­lion a year but that the state has only about a tenth of Cal­i­for­nia’s pop­u­la­tion. “Eco­nom­i­cally, you’re go­ing to see a lot more peo­ple en­ter the space and a lot more money en­ter the space.”

Other states, too, will also look with envy at the taxes gen­er­ated by Cal­i­for­nia and other states where mar­i­juana is le­gal, an­a­lysts pre­dicted.

“The states that voted yes­ter­day have a lot of work ahead of them to set up a le­gal­i­sa­tion and tax struc­ture, but I ex­pect many more states will fol­low their lead,” said Joseph Hench­man of the Washington, D.C., think tank Tax Foun­da­tion.

Even the fi­nan­cial in­dus­try’s re­luc­tance to do busi­ness with mar­i­juana busi­nesses may soon dis­ap­pear. Most banks refuse mar­i­juana-re­lated cus­tomers be­cause of the fed­eral ban.

“It is one thing to ig­nore the mil­lions gen­er­ated in Colorado. It is en­tirely a dif­fer­ent thing to ig­nore the tens of bil­lions that the Cal­i­for­nia cannabis in­dus­try will gen­er­ate,” said Michael Weiner, a Den­ver lawyer who rep­re­sents pot-re­lated com­pa­nies. “The big na­tional banks will want to de­posit those funds and put those funds to work by mak­ing loans.” Chris Hughes, a.k.a ‘Cannabis Man’, pro­motes a ‘yes’ vote for Amend­ment 2 on Mon­day, Novem­ber 7, on Eglin Park­way in Fort Wal­ton Beach, Florida, with other sup­port­ers. If the amend­ment is passed, med­i­cal mar­i­juana would be­come le­gal for in­di­vid­u­als with spe­cific de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­eases.


In this Oc­to­ber 28, 2016, file photo, sup­port­ers of Arkansas Is­sue 7, a med­i­cal mar­i­juana ini­tia­tive that would have al­lowed pa­tients with cer­tain con­di­tions an op­por­tu­nity to ob­tain or grow mar­i­juana to ease their symp­toms, rally out­side the Arkansas Supreme Court build­ing in Lit­tle Rock. Arkansas could be­come the first state in the South to le­galise med­i­cal mar­i­juana.


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