The times they are a changin’ – in the political landscape that envelopes cannabis and hemp policy, the times are a changin’ on a daily basis. Be it the rescinding of the Cole memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions or a dismal industry report from the OC Register, the news has not been on the sunny side for those in support of the decriminalization of these substances. Surprisingly, as of late multiple bouts of positive news for cannabis are starting to arrive. Long-standing political opponents of cannabis are making public statements, moves on Capitol Hill, and taking board seats in support of this burgeoning industry.
Colorado Stands up to Trump
Even The Donald himself appears to be coming to the table. Mid April, Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner announced he’d received assurances from President Trump that “the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.” Gardner had been blocking DOJ nominations since the January announcement from Sessions and lifted these holds after the announcement in good faith that the discussions would continue saying, “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
Hemp Gets a Hand
The hemp industry, from its shadowed position behind the cannabis hysteria, also got a boost from the far right in late March. U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, both Republicans, announced the impending introduction of The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 in Congress. If passed, the act will legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances.
Efforts to End the War on Drugs
In New York, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who in the past has supported states rights on marijuana but not necessarily federal legislation, reported on plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize the plant on a federal level. He even chose the popular 4/20 date to do so and penned a piece on what changed his mind towards federal support. Schumer acknowledged the benefits of cannabis from the medical perspective but comes to this new stance relying heavily on the problems created nationwide by the war on drugs. “A staggering number of American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are African-American and Latino, continue to be arrested every day for something that most Americans agree should not be a crime,” says Schumer.
If decriminalized on the federal level, the decision will still ultimately be left up to the states to decide how they treat marijuana. However, federal support will restrict sentencing and aid with criminal justice reform efforts already in place to aid those affected by bad drug policy. San Francisco’s District Attorney, George Gascon is retroactively applying California’s Prop 64 to nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions and over 3,000 misdemeanors dating all the way back to 1975. Felonies will be recalled an resentenced and the misdemeanors dismissed and resealed.
Capitalism Comes Calling
For Republican former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, the appeal of capitalism in a brand new market was finally too much to bear. Boehner joined the advisory board of multi-state cannabis business, Acerage Holdings saying, “Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically(…) I find myself in that same position.”
Indeed his attitude has changed – in 2011 Boehner was “unalterably opposed” to any kind of cannabis legislation. As with many politicians these days, his decision to join Acerage, which is led by New York based private equity firm High Street Capital Partners, was one made with financial promise. Acerage owns over 35 licenses across 11 states and have a plan for consolidation and estimates for revenue of $130 million in 2018 and projects that will rise to $3 billion by 2020. While many small cannabis companies are suffering in the early days of California pot legalization, and as Senator Schumer pointed out, minorities continue to be adversely affected, Boehner is set to make some serious cash. This will likely be the draw for many others in his position.
Cannabis is for Closers
Will this trend continue? Let’s hope so. Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Florida all have cannabis policy in the works or on the horizon. Massive monetary projections such as those coming from High Street and analytical companies such as BDS or Arcview are pointing in the right direction.