Monday September 11, 2017View our Editorial Policy
Our democracy is experiencing an upheaval of sorts, making the pang of defeat all too real for many. When a president who was voted into office by less than half of his people makes blatant comments instructing law enforcement to up penalties against even minor drug infractions, it makes sense that cannabis consumers and advocates would become nervous. But is the Trump administration really a threat to the cannabis industry? Let’s take a closer look at what we know so far.
High-Ranking Government Officials Who Are Anti-Pot
Though President Trump has been somewhat mixed on the issue of cannabis reform (stating in some cases that it should be a state-to-state issue while in other cases condemning the framework and outcome of the budding industry), Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has not. In fact, Sessions is well-known for his anti-pot stance stating that he is “not in favor of legalization of marijuana… [thinking] it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize.”
Given that Sessions is now the head honcho of drug enforcement, his distaste for the marijuana industry has a lot of people spinning in their seats, waiting to see what he’ll do next.
Of course, Sessions isn’t the only anti-pot player in the ring. Maine governor, Paul LePage staunchly opposes cannabis and even suggested the new voter-approved recreational cannabis legislation be wiped from the books, stating that they are merely “recommendations” that the legislature technically doesn’t have to enact. Though it is unlikely LePage will counter the voters' will, this (in combination with an overall anti-pot legislation) is reason enough to scrutinize the future of the cannabis industry.
Disconnect Between State and Federal Legislation
Though there were obvious apprehensions about recreational cannabis sales when voters first passed legislation, we have had five years to learn and tweak our regulatory models. Nevertheless, the disconnect between state and federal cannabis laws has made it difficult to establish viable framework for the legal market. Individual government official disapproval aside, the fact that cannabis remains federally illegal while becoming locally legal has created some tough hurdles that no other industry has ever had to face.
Federal Banking Restrictions
Federal banks cannot openly fund any illegal activity. Since cannabis is still technically illegal on a federal level, banks cannot do business with them, either. This means that dispensaries, grow ops and product manufacturers have to either 1) deal in cash (which is super risky and expensive come tax time) or 2) operate in a grey area of the law by using vague business names and obscure business explanations. Though it’s been working well using “don’t ask, don’t tell” banking policies, the practice comes dangerously close to money laundering which an anti-pot government could use to snuff out the industry.
Interstate Commerce and Trafficking
You know the old saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? Well, the same can be said any time someone purchases cannabis in a legal state. Traveling across state lines – even in transit to another legal state – is enough to have you arrested for trafficking (depending on the quantity of cannabis that’s being transported) and subject to that state’s cannabis laws. Getting busted in Kansas with some legally-purchased Colorado kind bud could get you in a heap of trouble with the Kansas judicial system including hefty fines and asset forfeiture.
While this certainly makes it difficult for tourists or medical cannabis patients, it also creates a world of trouble when it comes to nation-wide cannabis branding. Cannabis products from California, for example, cannot be sold elsewhere (unless they’re hemp-based products, that is), thus limiting the reach of cannabis businesses. This can be a challenge when it comes to events like the Cannabis Cup where participants fully expect to indulge and vendors really want to offer promotional samples but can’t without risking federal drug trafficking charges.
Inconsistent Cultivation Practices
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public from harmful products and misleading product information. They closely regulate what can/cannot be used in the manufacture of consumer goods and restrict marketers from purporting false or inaccurate information which we can all agree is a good thing.
The problem, once again, is the FDA cannot regulate the cannabis industry because of conflicting federal law.
There are no standard marketing, cultivation or manufacturing processes – cultivators may use unsafe products or safe products in unsafe ways and label them as 100 percent organic despite the contrary. This can cause great difficulty for the medical community who may be especially vulnerable to contaminants or other unapproved substances.
America was founded on democracy. The will of the people should be the law of the land, and our constitution was developed to reflect that. But what happens when the will of the people contradicts the desires of our most powerful government officials? At this point it’s hard to tell. Will democracy prevail? Or will a government full of anti-pot crusaders throw us backward a few decades?
What do you think will happen with cannabis legalization across the nation? Do you think Sessions might get his way by stomping out the weed biz? Share your thoughts below.