Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner of Measure 91 in Oregon and director of the International Cannabis Business Conference, recently spoke with Marijuana Venture about the conference’s success and the possibility of legalized cannabis in Oregon.
Marijuana Venture: What did you learn about the cannabis industry from attending the International Cannabis Business Conference?
Anthony Johnson: The conference really just reaffirmed what I already knew about the cannabis industry, that it is made up of hard-working, intelligent people that want to responsibly move forward with an industry that gets treated the same as other businesses. Our keynote speaker, Andrew Sullivan, noted the remarkable comparison to conferences of years past, comprised of people working to legalize marriage equality and that “the big reveal was the staggering level of innovation, imagination and technology that will transform the cannabis market as only American capitalism can.”
MV: Regardless of whether Measure 91 passes or fails in Oregon, what do you think events like the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, CannaCon in Tacoma, Washington and the National Cannabis Business Summit in Denver, Colorado say about the future of the industry?
Johnson: The future of the cannabis industry is strong regardless of the passage of any laws. The future will certainly be brighter and there will be rules and regulations in place that will both help the industry and our communities if laws like Measure 91 do pass at the ballot box.
MV: What kind of impact do you think the legalization of marijuana could have on the Oregon economy if Measure 91 were to pass?
Johnson: Measure 91’s most important feature is ending the harmful policy of prohibition. Treating marijuana as a crime has failed. It wastes resources and unnecessarily ruins lives. Measure 91 will better prioritize law enforcement resources, create jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue for education, public safety, drug treatment and drug prevention.
MV: With Oregon and Washington potentially being the first two neighboring states to legalize marijuana, do you think this puts the Pacific Northwest in a position to become the cannabis capital of the nation?
Johnson: The Pacific Northwest has been known to have a tolerant, progressive attitude toward cannabis. Legalizing and regulating cannabis will only help the Northwest move forward responsibly in a way that creates thousands of jobs and generates revenue for the states.
MV: Would that be a benefit to the region? Or would it potentially deter other aspects that are great about Oregon and Washington?
Johnson: Marijuana legalization and regulation will only benefit Oregon and Washington. Better prioritizing law enforcement resources so police are spending more time fighting serious and violent crime will only help our communities. Creating thousands of new jobs and generating millions of dollars in revenue will help the lives of thousands if not millions of people. Additionally, by helping lead the way, we can help show the rest of the nation, and the world, that legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis is a beneficial policy.
MV: How long do you think it will take before Oregon and Washington will be able to have legal interstate cannabis commerce?
Johnson: Interstate cannabis commerce will take a change in federal law. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who gave a great speech at the International Cannabis Business Conference, expects federal prohibition to crumble within the next 10 years.
MV: Looking beyond the Measure 91 vote on Nov. 4, what’s the next step for Oregon?
Johnson: Oregon will move forward with compassionate, responsible cannabis industry policies that benefit patients, the industry and the entire state. Measure 91 allows for Oregon to tailor a regulated cannabis system for the state and our various communities. It is an exciting time for the cannabis industry and the cannabis community in general to move forward with a policy that will end thousands of arrests and generate millions of dollars in new revenue.