Why federal cannabis legalization is finally at hand
The nonsense of Sha’Carri Richardson’s disqualification from the US Olympic Track and Field team for legally smoking marijuana sheds light on where we are in civil liberties in 2021 in the United States of America. Our country wants legal cannabis, and we are currently immersed in a nationwide legal status transition of a very old plant. One day, the marijuana demons will rest and we can all return to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
Although Americans have long desired legal cannabis, our citizen legislators are only now gathering the strength of conviction to take on the task of transitioning from a $ 60 billion annual industry employing hundreds of thousands of people and dominates agricultural economies like California’s, where the legal adult- use marketplace is already $ 4 billion, since a cold start in 2018.
We sit at the dawn of the last frontier of cannabis legalization. The United States Senate is preparing to introduce comprehensive reform legislation, and there is a good chance it will eventually pass. It’s just getting too difficult to argue against cannabis reform.
According to the latest Pew Research Center Study91% of Americans are in favor of legalizing recreational or medical cannabis. Since Californians passed Proposition 215 in 1996, citizens of states across the country have gone to the polls to bring about change where their elected officials would not.
As of November 2020, 38 states have approved medical cannabis, and all of them did so by citizen referendum. Evidence suggests that each of these states will transition from medical cannabis to adult-use cannabis over time. According to Pew, only Silent Generation Americans (born before 1946) disapprove of the full federal legalization of cannabis. Republicans are only 47% in favor of legalization, but support increases dramatically among the party’s younger members, and nearly 60% of Republicans under 40 want full legalization.
In 2017, when CVS executed its exit from the sale of tobacco products in its almost 10,000 stores, my friend Hank Casillas was the executive in charge of the company’s secret internal process to analyze this issue. CVS had recently expanded by acquiring Caremark and decided to signal to the market that CVS was much more than a chain of pharmacies – in essence, it had also become a healthcare company. The consensus that emerged from these discussions was that a company with a mission to help people heal should not sell cancer bars.
But if a healthcare company shouldn’t be selling tobacco products, what about the other questionable products, including salty snacks, sugary treats, alcohol, and caffeine? The debate arose in the boardroom, especially considering the annual earnings of $ 800 million that would vanish if CVS banned tobacco from its shelves.
After studying the question, the committee consulted with the CVS health care official, who chimed in with his wisdom. All categories, with the exception of tobacco, had some redemptive value when ingested in moderation. Only cigarettes were designed to be addictive and they were meant to kill you.
Today, Hank is dedicating the next phase of his career to the nascent cannabis industry. He points out that the similarities between cannabis and the other “bad for you” categories are numerous, but the difference is crucial. Of all these categories, only cannabis has medicinal properties. A recent survey shows that 60% of regular cannabis users consider sleep to be their main use case.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day. Alcoholism is typically a lifelong disease that afflicts a significant part of our society. It has devastating effects on families and communities.
Although cannabis abuse causes laziness and has been shown to slow brain growth in adolescent users, death from marijuana overdose is virtually unheard of. The social impacts of these two substances are hardly compared.
Five years ago, I discussed this discrepancy with a renowned Republican business executive turned philanthropist in Orange County, California, where I live. Knowing that I had joined the cannabis industry, he told me that he did not like marijuana and that I should not cite him in favor of adopting it. However, he continued his comment by pondering: “What if one of the effects of legalizing cannabis was to provide a safe substitute for only 10% of Americans who suffer from alcoholism? We would be in a better place as a society. “
His foreknowledge was remarkable. In 2021, we are now poised to be the largest country in the world to undertake comprehensive federal cannabis reform. We are going to put the legislative and regulatory infrastructure around a $ 60 billion industry using modern tools and techniques.
On Wednesday, Senators Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden and Cory Booker will release a draft of the proposed legislation. Then the federal government, as designed by the Founders, will develop a policy based on the learnings of individual states. Given the trio of leaders, it’s easy to imagine this will unfold quickly and effectively. We know much more about cannabis and how people use it than any industry ever knew at the beginning of its development.
State rights activists should be strongly in favor of cannabis reform. So should anyone who prefers a rules-based trading system over one governed by guns and organized crime. Crime fighters must appreciate the potential mitigation of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse. Elected officials will rejoice at the millions of dollars of “pay” they can use on their favorite projects. (Infrastructure, anyone?)
Eric Spitz is a serial entrepreneur who entered the cannabis industry in 2016. He previously owned Freedom Communications, including the Orange Country Register..