The future holds plenty of question marks for the industry
By Jerry Whiting
Yes, legalization has taken root in four states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana is legal or becoming legal in nearly 30 states and counting, and decriminalization is becoming more widespread every day. While all of this is good news and not to be underestimated, there are several things that keep this cannabis business owner awake at night.
The Schedule 1 status doesn’t change: As long as cannabis remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug the Feds have power over cannabis. This drives not only the DEA, but the IRS, FDA and numerous other agencies. Let’s not forget that banks are off limits as well. Being Schedule 1 gives states and municipalities a finger-pointing excuse: “It’s not us. We’d love to, but the federal government has tied our hands.”
The Schedule 1 status does change: Schedule 2 is not a workable alternative to Schedule 1. Cannabis doesn’t belong on the schedule list at all. We all know that it’s a legitimate and effective botanical pharmaceutical. Alcohol and tobacco aren’t on the schedule list and they’re way more harmful than marijuana. Taking cannabis off the schedule list will liberate it for both medical and recreational use. Everybody wins!
Native people enter the market: The Department of Justice recently declared that Native American tribes are sovereign nations and therefore free to grow, process and sell cannabis on reservations, as long as they adhere to the Cole Memo. Not only does this mean that the 566 tribes recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the 310 reservations in the U.S. could potentially make cannabis legal in all 50 states, but the tribes don’t have to pay taxes. There’s no way a non-native business owner can beat Native American businesses on price. As long as consumers go to the reservations, pot will never be cheaper. Who needs casinos when you can offer cannabis spas?
2016 puts someone else in the White House: President Obama is strongly ambivalent about legalization at best. Despite his personal history with our favorite plant, he has not been a strong ally or proponent of legalization. What’s disturbing is his candidate to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. Holder spoke openly about the racial imbalances inherent in the War on drugs. However, his likely replacement, Loretta Lynch, is outspokenly anti-legalization. Obviously, the 2016 race is a long ways off and too close to even speculate about, but by the time Obama’a successor takes the oath of office, he or she will be confronted with even more states whose voter-approved laws conflict with federal law.
I see popular support swinging quickly toward a more measured and thoughtful approach to cannabis. I hear frank and honest discussions of cannabis as medicine able to address a wide range of disorders. Despite the issues above, I sleep well at night knowing that the challenges ahead will soon be behind us.
Jerry Whiting is the founder of LeBlanc CNE, growers and brokers of medical cannabis and vintage heirloom strains. He has a background in acupuncture, massage and natural healing. LeBlanc has an extensive collection of CBD-rich strains, including a seed bank as well as live plants. LeBlanc sponsors a hemp breeding project, does research into the relationship between cannabis chemistry and genetics, and processes whole plant tinctures and other cannabis preparations.