The 2016 elections brought with them a mixed bag of emotions. Cannabis consumers across the country won big with California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts legalizing cannabis for recreational use; and North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana and Florida legalizing cannabis for medical use. This means that there are now 28 states with legal medical cannabis with seven states, plus Washington, D.C. with laws allowing for recreational use. Denver passed social use, but it was a bittersweet victory with local lawmakers banning venues that hold liquor licenses from obtaining permits to allow for on premise cannabis use. Then there was the presidential election, which took many cannabis consumers by surprise, and most certainly has created anxiety as President-elect Trump begins announcing his new administration picks.
The good news in all of this is that cannabis now has the majority, which means federal laws are going to be changing rapidly to accommodate and manage this new paradigm. How this looks is anyone’s guess. States legalizing for medical and recreational use creates a federal regulatory conundrum. How should cannabis be regulated? Like the alcohol industry? Like the pharmaceutical industry? Nutraceuticals? What about the children that take it for medicine, how is that going to be controlled and monitored? Will cannabis be rescheduled to Schedule II on the Controlled Substance Act? Will the new administration and Republican controlled House and Senate take the whole thing down? Or will it all be left to the states?
So many questions. So much uncertainly. So many mixed emotions.
The elections also saw a complete turnover of Congress to Republicans, and the election of a Republican president. To say that this has many cannabis consumers and cannabis business owners nervous is an understatement. President-elect Trump has not made any major solid stances on cannabis outside of voicing his approval for medical cannabis and that legalization should be a state issue. However, outside of those that are more libertarian leaning and support individual liberty and responsibility, most Republicans are against legalizing cannabis. Law enforcement, which has a conservative bent typically leans right, and the private and public prison industries have been enriched by the drug war. Legalizing cannabis in any form is a threat to the prison industrial complex. Oil and gas, as well as the alcohol industry, are traditionally Republican, and are two of the largest lobbies against cannabis legalization. Also, purse strings could potentially be tightened against states with legal cannabis as a means of controlling states with more liberal policies.
Comparing maps of states with legal cannabis with 2016 presidential maps does not help much in determining what the future looks like. What is known is that while support among Republicans for cannabis is growing, the majority of Republicans are still opposed to legalization and that most of these people reside in the states that voted for Trump.
Probably what has most people alarmed is his appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has many people on edge because of his past stances on cannabis and controversial statements, including stating that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was OK “until I found out they smoked pot.” And he has a controversial history of making racist remarks. However, Sessions prosecuted a member of the Klan for randomly murdering a black teenager, eventually seeking and enforcing the death penalty for the perpetrator, and he also desegregated schools and was also one of the few Republicans who supported Eric Holder’s nomination as Attorney General. Trump’s potential cabinet looks no less frightening for the cannabis industry and cannabis consumers with people who have backgrounds in industries typically hostile to cannabis, including the oil and gas and pharmaceutical industries.
The Cannabis Consumers Coalition announced several months ago that we had signed on Fox Rothschild LLP as our law firm to help us represent cannabis consumer interests at the federal level. We will be working closely with elected and appointed officials to ensure that cannabis consumers rights are upheld. It was cannabis consumers who led the fight for legalization and it is the mission of the Cannabis Consumers Coalition to ensure that consumers have a significant role in how cannabis policies are created and that they support an ethical cannabis industry. To ensure that there is an ethical cannabis industry fully relies on ensuring that the industry is not altogether put to a halt.
Education will be key to everything as the nation adjusts to a new and much more conservative power base. The Cannabis Consumers Coalition supports full decriminalization and a free-market approach to cannabis regulation where cannabis consumers have more control over the way the industry is shaped – one that has common sense regulations that are not stifling to innovation and small businesses. It is our hope that the spirit of enterprise, capitalism and free-market economics are what drive Republicans to help ensure the most successful cannabis industry possible. Emotional or not, the future does not have to look bleak for cannabis consumers or for the cannabis industry. We must hold our lawmakers, old and new, accountable to seeing that our newly gained civil liberties and businesses are protected.
The Cannabis Consumers Coalition, a 501 (c)(3) charity, is committed to fighting for consumer rights and we need your help to make your voice heard. We need your help to do so. Donate today!