I just got off the phone with retired NFL player Marvin Washington. Marvin is a very passionate guy who I could listen talk to all day. Marvin Washington has been an outspoken supporter of cannabis reform at all levels of government and in professional sports, and expect to hear me talk about him quite a bit going forward. One of the topics that we discussed was how a successful cannabis industry has helped reform efforts in recent years.
We both agreed that social justice should always be the main motivator for pushing for reform, but it is undeniable that the reform movement has benefited from the minds that have been changed by the economics involved with a regulated cannabis industry. For better or worse, some people are much more receptive to hearing about reform through the industry lens rather than the social justice lens. As I told Marvin, it’s definitely not how I would like it to be, but if the end result is more people being kept out of jail, I’m all for it, especially if it results in industry opportunities for minorities who have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition.
A successful cannabis industry is not a sure thing, despite what some members of the cannabis industry will say. Cannabis is still very much illegal at the federal level, and as such, some serious hurdles can be placed in the way of the industry very quickly. I do not personally feel that the federal government can stop the cannabis industry 100%, or for that matter even 50%, but it can ruin many people’s lives in the blink of an eye if it wanted to.
This last week we saw White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer make statements that suggested that ‘greater enforcement’ of federal cannabis prohibition could be coming in states that have legalized cannabis for adult use. Considering how the feds have operated in the past, that ‘greater enforcement’ will be focused towards cannabis companies operating in legal states (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts). That could hinder things in states that already have recreational sales occurring, and put a chill effect in place in states that are gearing up to roll out recreational sales.
If you are the owner of a company in the cannabis space, you should not wait until you are raided, your assets seized, and charges applied before you fight for your right to operate in the industry. You need to be proactive and talking to your federal officials to help ensure that you are allowed to pursue your dreams, and in many cases, help others pursue theirs via a job in your cannabis company. You should educate your federal Representative and Senators on what you are doing, and how you want to be a responsible entrepreneur, and that federal interference is completely unnecessary in legal states. That is true for both recreational and medical.
If you think that Sean Spicer was only targeting recreational, so medical is ‘safe’ you should really think again. Trump said on the campaign trail that he would respect the will of voters in states that have legalized recreational cannabis, just to flip flop this week and have his Press Secretary hint that they could do the exact opposite. When the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment expires near the end of April, and the feds are no longer bound to not interfere in legal medical states when the people are state compliant, what happens then? Will we see another flip flop? Wouldn’t it be better to just start lobbying now for, among other things, permanent legislation to make something like the Farr-Rohrabacher permanent?
The cannabis industry needs federal tax reform (280E sucks!). The cannabis industry needs comprehensive, fair banking reform at the federal level. That will not happen, and things could even go backwards, if the cannabis industry sits by and takes a ‘wait and see’ approach. You need to get active, and get to the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Lobby Days event. The event is in its seventh year, and is going to be more important this year than ever before. You should already be a member of NCIA, and should already be in contact with your federal politicians. But you should also attend this event because, as they say, there is strength in numbers, and the more people from the industry that attend the better. Do your part!