A plea to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion: Don’t tread on weed.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

Last week came the news that Colorado’s le­gal cannabis in­dus­try topped $1 bil­lion in sales in the first 10 months of the year. While any­one fa­mil­iar with the trends ex­pected a break­through this year, the in­dus­try’s early sur­pass­ing of that lofty mile­marker presents plenty of cause for re­flec­tion.

We bring it up be­cause next year a new top cop will take the helm un­der Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, and there is some cause for worry should he be con­firmed by the Se­nate.

Trump’s pick for at­tor­ney gen­eral, Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, of Alabama, is anti-cannabis. From once jok­ing that he thought mem­bers of the Ku Klux Klan were OK un­til he learned some of them smoked pot, to say­ing in April that “Good peo­ple don’t smoke mar­i­juana,” Ses­sions be­lieves weed is dan­ger­ous and shouldn’t be le­gal. He is crit­i­cal of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rel­a­tively hands-off ap­proach to­ward states whose vot­ers ap­proved the drug.

Should an At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ses­sions de­cide to flout the rights of states that have un­der­taken the cannabis ex­per­i­ment, and re­turn the agency to ag­gres­sive en­force­ment of fed­eral mar­i­juana laws, he could eas­ily start ar­rest­ing grow­ers, re­tail­ers and users. But would he re­ally want to do that?

We of­fer some rea­sons for the fu­ture Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to not only main­tain the cur­rent pres­i­dent’s kind­ness, but to see the ad­van­tages for hard-work­ing Amer­i­can peo­ple who ben­e­fit from le­gal pot.

Given Elec­tion Day vic­to­ries for med­i­cal and recre­ational pot in eight states, more than half the states in the U.S. have now ap­proved sales and use of med­i­cal mar­i­juana, and 65 mil­lion peo­ple live in states that green-lighted recre­ational sales.

Colorado’s cur­rent haul helps fuel na­tional es­ti­mated sales of $7.4 bil­lion in 2016. Now that California vot­ers have fol­lowed our lead, it’s pos­si­ble that another $6.5 bil­lion could be added to na­tional tal­lies from the Golden State alone by 2020.

The le­gal cannabis in­dus­try is the fastest-grow­ing sec­tor in Colorado, and it em­ployed more than 18,000 di­rect and re­lated full-time work­ers in 2015.

For a pres­i­dent-elect look­ing to cre­ate and keep good jobs in the United States, a crack­down on this bur­geon­ing in­dus­try would seem a poor move in­deed. It’s just math. To keep sev­eral hun­dred man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs in In­di­ana, Trump had to ca­jole a ma­jor U.S. com­pany and the state had to of­fer mil­lions of dol­lars in tax breaks.

Guess what? Colorado’s cannabis in­dus­try, as in other states, isn’t out­sourc­ing over­seas and makes its money with­out gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies or tax breaks. Mean­while, the in­dus­try is dump­ing sig­nif­i­cant tax and sin tax rev­enue into the state’s cof­fers.

Colorado’s ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that le­gal sales of cannabis can be ac­com­plished with plenty of reg­u­la­tory over­sight and with­out the hor­rorstory out­comes of a strung-out pop­u­lace. In fact, vot­ers in Den­ver — the world’s largest le­gal cannabis mar­ket — just said “yes” again to the ex­per­i­ment by giv­ing the thumbs-up to a pi­lot pro­gram that al­lows busi­nesses to of­fer pot use to their cus­tomers. Clearly no reefer-madness back­lash here.

Ses­sions hasn’t sig­naled what he would do re­gard­ing pot en­force­ment as at­tor­ney gen­eral. Per­haps he al­ready sees the ben­e­fit. But con­ser­va­tives should get it in writ­ing, stand up for states’ rights and al­low the suc­cess of this new in­dus­try to con­tinue.

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