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15 Post-Prohibition Wants From Cannabis Consumers and Businesses

It should abundantly clear to all but the most cloistered politically that nearly 80 years of cannabis prohibition is ending with states (notably on the West coast, Colorado, and in New England) leading the way to national legalization.

In 2016, there will be more pro-cannabis law reform bills introduced into both federal and state legislatures than any previous years, and more states than at any previously time will have legalization ballot measures before apparently willing voters (California, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Maine; Gallup polling currently pegs nationwide support for cannabis legalization at 58 percent). In addition, the major political party candidates for the office of President of the United States have been, for the first time ever in American politics, regularly debating the topic of cannabis policy (i.e., Sen. Bernie Sanders favors legalization, and Gov. Chris Christie favors “stopping the states” pot party on Day One).

In the waning days of national cannabis prohibition, historically speaking, cannabis law reform organizations that have been at the vanguard of public advocacy to replace pot prohibition with tax-and-regulate policies, along with the millions of cannabis consumers these groups represent, have 15 areas of concern that will be pursued post prohibition.

A comprehensive (but not entirely complete) listing of these post-pot prohibition areas for public policy improvement and increased consumer access are:

  1. Public use (with similar rules and restrictions to alcohol products) — Cannabis consumers do not want to be treated unfairly compared to alcohol consumers. Cannabis consumers also want to imbibe responsibly with friends, family, and strangers in public settings similar to that of alcohol consumers (i.e., bars, restaurants, clubs, golf courses, etc…).
  2. Allow cannabis producers and sellers to advertise their products and services (similar to alcohol products and establishments) — Why allow alcohol producers and sellers to advertise and not cannabis-related businesses? At the dawn of legal cannabis in America, some governments who do not allow advertising of cannabis-related services, products or establishments are currently infringing on cannabis companies’ First Amendment rights. How can consumers make informed choices if they do not have information?
  3. Access for banking and financial services for cannabis-related businesses — For the sake of public safety, regulatory accountability, taxation and common sense, cannabusinesses should not be all cash operations. Like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and pharmaceutical industry companies, cannabis-related companies also need access to Main Street banking and financial services.
  4. Allow for out-of-state investors in cannabusinesses — Another victim in the early stages of cannabis legalization is capitalism. A number of states with tax-and-regulate policies currently only allow in-state citizens to become investors in cannabusinesses. This policy, on its face, is as impractical as it is anti-American. Government should not try to dictate who can and can’t invest in cannabis-related companies based on domestic geography. This does not happen with nearly all other businesses, so why should cannabis commerce be treated differently? Alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical, and caffeine companies have out-of-state investors; so too should cannabis companies.
  5. Amend state cannabis laws that do not allow formerly convicted persons in cannabis-related crimes to participate in legal Cannabis Industry — In a manner similar to what occurred at the end of alcohol Prohibition, the men and women convicted of cannabis-related charges should not be automatically prohibited from being participants in cannabis-related commerce as investors, owners, managers or employees. The nascent cannabis companies in America should not be bereft of the valuable knowledge and business acumen that these individuals possess.
  6. Consumer lobby staples — Cannabis consumers, like all other consumers of products and services, want more labeling, testing, dosage information; consumer protections via product liability laws; increased hours of access; and no regulated capture of consumer identification
  7. Amend U.S. and UN anti-drug treaties concerning cannabis — Around the world, most especially in America, cannabis legalization is largely a product of bottom-up political changes (where pro-reform states, cantons, and provinces lead recalcitrant, prohibition-leaning federal governments). At some point in near future, America and other forward-looking countries (like Canada and Uruguay) need to amend existing so-called anti-drug treaties to exempt cannabis.
  8. Amend drug-testing policies in most workplaces — No one publicly advocates for marijuana impairment in the workplace. However, in post-pot prohibition America workplace drug-testing policies should be amended to mirror the same policies for alcohol consumers, which is to say, a) an employee’s off-hours cannabis use is of no genuine concern to employers; b) when warranted, drug testing should only be “or cause;” and, c) the tests should measure actual impairment (not past use).
  9. Allow for home cultivation and processing with reasonable amounts — Cannabis consumers and reform organizations take strong public positions in favor of allowing home cultivation of cannabis, processing (i.e., hash, concentrates or “edibles”), and in reasonable amounts for personal use.
  10. Amend the Controlled Substances Act to lower cannabis’ schedule (possibly treat like non-scheduled alcohol/tobacco products) — There is no one left in America, not even arch prohibitionists, who publicly advance the idea that cannabis should remain a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). A down scheduling of cannabis makes both common and economic sense. However, if cannabis remains a Schedule II drug, then the economic benefits for society of ready-to-burst-at-the-seams cannabis commerce will be severely limited. Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine products that are commercially available are not scheduled under the CSA. Cannabis, a safer consumer and medical product, should not have a restrictive scheduling any greater than these three more dangerous products.
  11. Release pot prisoners in states where it is now legal — A top priority for cannabis law and criminal justice reform organizations in the post-prohibition epoch is to seek pardons and/or commutations for the tens of thousands of men and women serving, in some case, life sentences (see lifeforpot.org or famm.org for more information), on what were crimes that no longer are.
  12. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs testing that is both accurate and relevant — No organization or individual publicly advocates that auto drivers should operate while impaired under the influence of any psychoactive drugs or that there should not be scientifically accurate testing performed on drivers who’re suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence of cannabis to the point of impairment. Unfortunately, in almost all jurisdictions, law enforcement employ roadside and forensic testing that are neither scientifically accurate nor relevant (i.e., using a urine or hair follicle test does not measure driver impairment, only past use that could have happened days or even weeks ago).
  13. Amend child endangerment laws — The responsible use of alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical and caffeine products by parents is not automatic cause for child protection agencies to investigate and separate parents from their children. Such can’t be said for parents who use cannabis legally, or as a recommended therapeutic from their physician. Parents who responsibly cultivate, process and use cannabis products should not face discrimination, harassment, or loss of their custodial rights any more so than a parent who home brews or uses a powerful pharmaceutical to treat a medical condition under doctor’s supervision.
  14. Civil forfeiture reforms — One of the major tools provided to American law enforcement at the height of President Reagan’s declared war on drugs in the 1980s was to empower police to seize assets, property and cash that they claimed were derived from trade in illegal drugs. Hundreds of billions in assets have been seized by local, state and federal governments since the 1980s — often where no citizen was ever charged with a crime. So-called “civil” forfeiture is an anathema to the U.S. Constitution and the free market that should be reigned-in, post cannabis prohibition.
  15. Amend state legislation for “smoke a joint, lose driver’s license” enforcement — In 22 states, despite few cannabis consumers knowing of the existence of the law, police will often seek to have a driver’s license suspended for a cannabis consumer caught with any amount of the herb, even if the individual was not operating a vehicle, or even anywhere near one. In parts of the country where public transportation options are lacking, separating a driver from their license to operate a car is a severe economic and family hardship. Cannabis consumers, like alcohol consumers, should only be subject to losing their driver’s licenses for abusing cannabis as an operator, not for simply being a consumer.

Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML in Washington, D.C., norml.org

Allen St. PierreAllen St. Pierre

Allen St. Pierre

Allen St. Pierre is the vice president of communications for Freedom Leaf, a partner in the investment firm Sensible Alternative Investments and a NORML board member. In 1997, St. Pierre founded the NORML Foundation and was executive director for both NORML and NORML Foundation from 2006-2016.

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