The 2016 election has come and gone, and were it not for the election of one Donald J. Trump to the presidency, the headline would be the overwhelming victories of medical and recreational cannabis throughout the U.S. Four out of five recreational cannabis initiatives and all four contested medical laws prevailed!
These included some significant victories, like recreational cannabis will be legal in California and medical cannabis will soon be available in Florida. This is assuming President Trump doesn’t get in the way.
President Trump. That’s happening.
I am disgusted and ashamed that our country has chosen to elect someone who treats women and minorities as Trump does. For the last few days, I have been struggling to explain to my 7 year-old son how such a bully and a bigot could hold the highest office in the land. For me, the conversation could begin and end there.
But President Trump has been elected to be more than Role Model in Chief. This man will now set the agenda for domestic policy and lead our foreign policy as well. He will be able to undo what little progress we have made in slowing global warming and minimizing humanity’s impact on the planet. He now has the world’s most powerful bully pulpit, which he can use to serve whatever ends he chooses. I find all of this to be terrifying.
Fortunately, this remains the United States of America, a country with approximately 320 million citizens run by a government comprised of millions. Our nation was designed to assure that no one person, even President Trump, can single-handedly eviscerate the laws and institutions that comprise the United States.
Our nation has checks and balances at the federal level. Yes, the Republicans will control Congress, but that is not the same as Trump controlling Congress. And the judicial branch remains another bulwark against the tyranny of Trump. Our federal system reserves many powers to the states, creating another potential check on the Trump presidency.
We also have the ability to act as citizens—to speak out, organize, protest and vote in future elections. Will all of this be enough to keep Trump from destroying our nation? I honestly have no idea. But I do know that we have survived some terrible presidents in the past, and that gives me hope.
Trump’s election holds lessons that we as a nation ignore at our own peril. While a core group Trump’s supporters share his racist, misogynist, homophobic and generally nasty worldview, I believe that most folks who voted for him do not. This begs the question of why they would vote for such a man.
I don’t know for certain, but it appears that about half of our electorate is so unhappy with the direction our country has taken that they are willing to hold their nose and vote for a man like Trump rather than endure one more moment of the status quo. Half of our country is shocked and devastated by Trump’s election, but the other half is ecstatic and energized. We, as a society, need to come to terms with this schism.
2016 Election Cannabis Results
So what does this election mean for the cannabis community? Obviously Trump’s election creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Our situation is precarious and a hostile President could undo much of what we have accomplished regarding the liberation of cannabis.
While we really have no idea what Trump will do about cannabis, there is reason for cautious optimism. He is not ideologically opposed to cannabis and in fact he seems to care very little about the issue. His few statements on the record are supportive of both medical cannabis and the States’ right to legalize and regulate. He has said very little about adult use.
Of greater concern are some of the advisors surrounding Trump. Vice President Elect Pence is a staunch opponent of legalization, as are Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and Jeff Sessions—three of the names being floated as possible Attorneys General. I believe this to be the cannabis community’s greatest vulnerability.
Fortunately, cannabis won overwhelmingly in this election. Four of five recreational initiatives prevailed (California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts), as did all four medical initiatives (Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Arkansas).
Recreational cannabis is now (or will soon be) legal in eight states plus the District of Columbia. For medical, it’s 28 states plus Washington, DC. Approximately 20% of the U.S. population now lives in a place where cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational purposes. More than 60% of Americans now live in a state that allows medical cannabis.
While both Houses of Congress remained firmly in Republican control, cannabis has increased its Congressional representation substantially. After this election, eight additional Senators and 68 members of the House of Representatives now represent jurisdictions where recreational cannabis is legal; and six Senators and 33 Representatives now represent medical cannabis states.
With this new influx, well over half of Congress represents jurisdictions where medical and/or recreational cannabis is legal. Hopefully this will help facilitate the passage of cannabis friendly legislation like tax and banking relief. Dare to dream…
The list of states that voted in favor of cannabis yields some additional insights. That list is geographically and culturally diverse. We see states like Maine and Massachusetts in the Northeast, Florida and Arkansas in the South, and North Dakota, Montana, Nevada and California out West. Cannabis prevailed in Trump states and Clinton states, and everywhere that it won, it garnered more votes than either presidential candidate.
California, with the world’s sixth largest economy and about 10% of the U.S. population, represents the most significant victory. The current California medical market is approximately as large as the rest of the nation’s medical and recreational markets combined. The recreational market there will be much, much larger.
Florida is another real prize, and not just because we won with more than 70% of the vote. I have seen estimates that Florida will see as much as $1.4 billion in medical cannabis sales by 2020. For perspective, that’s more than Colorado’s combined medical and recreational sales.
The number, diversity and size of the various markets is important. It means more people have access to cannabis and more people are using cannabis to improve their lives and to earn a legal living. The more markets we have online, and the larger those markets are, the more difficult it becomes to slow or stop the legalization and normalization of cannabis.
The Election’s Impact
The election of 2016 was a mixed bag of extreme outcomes, especially for the cannabis industry. We saw the election to the presidency of a narcissistic megalomaniac, a populist demagogue who may or may not be intent on undoing all of the progress our community has made.
Fortunately, we also saw a historic expansion of legal medical and recreational cannabis into some huge and incredibly important markets. Our industry will become larger and more powerful, with greater popular support and Congressional representation.
Hopefully this will be enough to keep the wolves at bay for the next four years. In the meantime, we need to begin working collaboratively, within and beyond our community and our industry, to chart a better path forward. We must encourage our disillusioned brothers and sisters to buy into an alternative vision of change, one based on love and compassion, not fear and hate.