Last week ended with a bang when the Washington Post and other news outlets reported on a deal made between Senator Cory Gardner (R) of Colorado and the great deal-maker himself, our esteemed President Donald Trump. The agreement reached was lacking details but basically indicated that Gardner and Trump had agreed to find a path that would assure that the federal government would not interfere with legally regulated cannabis programs.
On the surface, the agreement indicates that Trump is willing to contradict and supersede the antiquated stance that his Attorney General has publicly taken in dealing with states that have already jumped off the historical deep-end by crafting regulations dealing with CBD, hemp, medical marijuana and adult-use marijuana by coming up with a Federalist approach to leave the states to managing their business regarding cannabis. The chart below gives a relatively up-to-date picture of where states are with regulatory programs that either outright allow commerce to be conducted between licensed businesses and consumers in their states or with test programs to determine their next steps.
|Cannabis Programs||Number of States||Population||% of US|
|States with CBD Programs||45||297,475,810||95%|
|States With Hemp Programs||16||237,476,445||76%|
|States with Medical Programs||30||195,131,085||62%|
|States with Adult-Use Programs||10||68,678,407||22%|
|Source: US Census/NORML|
On top of that, public sentiment for ending the prohibition of cannabis has never been stronger.
About six-in-ten Americans (61%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The survey, conducted in October, finds that the share of U.S. adults who support marijuana legalization is little changed from about a year ago– when 57% favored it – but it is nearly double what it was in 2000 (31%).
As I understand it, there are basically two ways to end cannabis prohibition and, to a larger extent, The War on Drugs in the U.S. which could initiate long overdue criminal justice reform as well as the commercial benefits to the U.S. economy. According to a useful article published by Johnny Green, it can happen in two ways:
- Via an act of Congress
- Via an act of the Executive Branch
Green points out that the easier of the two paths is via an act from Congress. If this is the path that the horse trading between Gardner and Trump leads to, will there be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s 10th amendment or a 28th amendment that de-schedules cannabis and all of the prohibitions that come with such a move? Would it include intrastate commerce, export, an opening of U.S. capital markets, IRS reform and again, the righting of the wrongs affiliated with those that have had their lives wrongly detoured for running afoul of the prohibition of cannabis and the corresponding overloading of the U.S. penal system.
Any deal being discussed runs the risk of derailment with the unpredictable President Trump at the table.
According to the Cannabist, Drug policy expert and author John Hudak said one need no look further than the events of the previous 24 hours when Trump reportedly weighed rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement he nixed early in his presidency and once called “a rape of our country.”
“That is a massive policy shift on a massive policy,” said Hudak, who serves as deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management for the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.
“And so I think people should be weary.”
“What this means is a president, who changes his mind on an hourly basis sometimes, has committed to one senator that he’ll support legislation that does not have a clear path forward to 60 votes in the United States Senate and does not have a clear path forward in the United States House of Representatives,” Hudak said.
The cannabis industry should view this as a positive step but not as a landmark victory.
“There are so many barriers still in the way between this statement and a presidential signature,” he said.
On the surface, Gardner and Trump both get something out of the deal. Gardner’s home state removes the threat of federal interference. Trump get’s Gardner’s agreement to stop holding up federal appointments.
But there is so much more at stake.
All of these issues must be part of the final resolution of cannabis prohibition in order for “The Donald”, Gardner and his federal and state government peers and, more importantly, the U.S. electorate and its citizens to grab what is there for the taking, U.S. leadership in the Cannabis Industry worldwide. Under a comprehensive agreement Trump could actually get a shoring up of his approval rating as Commander-in-Chief with an electorate that currently is less then favorable on his tenure in office. Let’s see if the “Great-Dealmaker-in-Chief ” can make the agreement of a historical lifetime.
CBE hopes, no prays that a carefully constructed comprehensive solution is put in place that reflects the sentiment of an open letter that I wrote to Trump when he took office last year, Dear President-Elect Trump, Please Level the Playing Field For the Cannabis (and Hemp) Industry. Let’s clean up the records of those unfortunate souls, let’s give the hard-working, risk taking entrepreneurs and business people that have built what promises to be a large job and revenue producing sector a clear path to success, and let’s take the leadership role that the U.S. should have in the Cannabis Industry now.