One week ago today, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican, extracted a commitment from President Trump that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescission of the Cole Memorandum will have no impact on Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. The president also committed to supporting federal legislation that would acknowledge states’ rights on legalization of marijuana.
If Trump delivers, the federal prohibition on sales and use of marijuana will effectively be over. Current restrictions on interstate commerce, exports, banking rules and a host of other issues would remain, but the walls of Jericho would have been breached and it would only be a matter of time before they all came tumbling down.
The most persuasive argument — at least for its appeal to mainly Republican opposition — toward an end to the prohibition against marijuana may be economic. A cannabis industry research firm reported that legal marijuana sales totaled about $9.3 billion in the United States last year and that the latest projections indicate a compound annual growth rate of more than 17% through 2025 when total sales rise to $25 billion. And those projections do not include the addition of states that adopt legalization between now and 2025.
Brightening the outlook even more is a current one-upmanship battle between Democrats and Republicans over which party is more favorably disposed toward legalization. Republicans point to a recent effort to legalize the growth and use of hemp for industrial purposes. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is introducing today a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, removing the plant from the list of substances such as heroin that are treated as dangerous drugs.
Even former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a long-time opponent of legal marijuana use, has come around, taking a seat on the board of Acreage Holdings and agreeing to take on the task of persuading other legislators to support legalization. Acreage Holdings grows, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 U.S. states.
Brookings Institution drug policy expert John Hudak told Cannabis Business Executive, “The cannabis industry should view [Trump’s commitment to Gardner] as a positive step but not as a landmark victory.” After all, the president has been known to change his mind.
With more than 60% of Americans favoring marijuana legalization (double the favorable rating in 2000), the time has never been better for advocates of marijuana legalization and the investors who have poured billions of dollars into an industry that is just barely not illegal.