Thank God for Legal Weed

Americans strike blow to progressivism with Trump presidency, but tidal wave of marijuana legalization buoys hope for the future

 

President-elect Trump has previously called marijuana a states' rights issue, but questions remain about whether he intend to keep his word now that he's elected.

President-elect Trump has previously called marijuana a states’ rights issue, but questions remain about whether he intend to keep his word now that he’s elected.

With eight states passing initiatives in November, cannabis legalization was a big winner in the 2016 election, and that victory bodes extremely well for the movement nationally and the potential to remove some of the major roadblocks for businesses, experts say.

The passage of California’s Proposition 64 opens up the largest cannabis market in the nation — estimated to hit $7 billion in that state alone by 2020. With Nevada voters also approving legalization, the now unified West Coast has vast business opportunities.

Cannabis reform is happening at the perfect time, said Steve DeAngelo, co-founder of the California-based dispensary Harborside.

“Americans desperately need to heal, to learn how to treat each other more gently, to engage in harmonious dialog about our differences — and cannabis is tremendously helpful for all those things,” DeAngelo said.

Meanwhile, recreational legalization in Massachusetts and Maine creates a new foothold for even more opportunities on the East Coast, and medical marijuana approval in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas pushed the number of states with some form of legal marijuana to 28.

“Clearly this is one of the most significant days in this movement,” Rob Kampia, president of the Marijuana Policy Project, said the day after the election.

Harborside co-founder Steve DeAngelo (left) with California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo by Jamie Soja.

Harborside co-founder Steve DeAngelo (left) with California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo by Jamie Soja.

He called it the third monumental event for the cannabis industry, behind the elections in 1996, when California legalized medical marijuana, and 2012, when Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis.

“I think the next big day will be the end of federal marijuana prohibition,” Kampia said.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat active in national legalization efforts, said the massive wins will increase pressure in Congress to approve some sort of banking reform for the cannabis industry and to end the tax burden of IRC Section 280E, which prohibits marijuana-related businesses from deducting their expenses.

“I think it’s all the incentive we’re going to need to push this toward the finish line,” Blumenauer said of the banking efforts, adding that 280E will also get Congressional attention because it’s “unfair — it stifles the industry.”

However, major questions remain about how Donald Trump’s administration will handle legal marijuana, following his surprising victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Despite the support of anti-cannabis legislators in his campaign, Blumenauer, Kampia and others expect Trump to continue the hands-off policy of the Obama Administration — ceding most authority to states’ rights.

“He’ll be coming into office with more than 50% of the states having some kind of marijuana industry. That’s something we’ve never seen before,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “And every time we see a state flip to medical or to adult use, we see more members of Congress moving along to support it.”

Kampia sees it as a positive sign that the Trump campaign didn’t come out with a position on cannabis during the campaign, also indicating the hands-off policy will remain. Back in July, the Republican party voted against including medical marijuana in its platform.

“Positions between Clinton and Trump were relatively similar, saying that we’re going to let the states do what they want … and let the federal government focus on other things,” Kampia said. “If the federal policy is the status quo, then the states will continue moving forward.”

Dave Rheins, president of the Marijuana Business Association, said he has concerns about the roles that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, both hardline cannabis opponents, will play in Trump’s administration. But with the legalization wins, he also thinks the industry has become too large to squash.

“If they’re in the Attorney General’s office, they could wreak all kinds of havoc on the industry,” Rheins said. “(Vice President elect) Mike Pence, an evangelical Catholic, is also anti-drug. I think the lines are drawn, but as an industry I think we’ve reached a tipping point, and that genie isn’t going back in the bottle.”

Blumenauer agreed, and said the big wins for the industry will help bipartisan efforts in Congress move forward with more efforts to help businesses and to end prohibition.

“I think the end is in sight on a variety of different levels,” he said.

National & California Leaders celebrate in Northern California - Photo by Jamie Soja From L to R: Troy Dayton (Arc View) Sue Taylor (I Cann Health) Andrew & Steve DeAngelo (Harborside), Henry Wykowski (Wykowski Law) Dale Sky Jones (Oaksterdam U and California Reform) & Etienne Fontan

National & California Leaders celebrate in Northern California – Photo by Jamie Soja
From L to R: Troy Dayton (Arc View) Sue Taylor (I Cann Health) Andrew & Steve DeAngelo (Harborside), Henry Wykowski (Wykowski Law)
Dale Sky Jones (Oaksterdam U and California Reform) & Etienne Fontan

Here’s how the elections played out on a state-by-state basis:

Recreational States:

Medical states:

 

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