Will the 'Entrepreneur' President Embrace the Cannabis Economy?
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Election night was a resounding success for those supporting medical and recreational cannabis legalization. Recreational use was legalized in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. Voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas all approved medical marijuana initiatives. A second go-around for Florida where, two years earlier, a medical marijuana measure earned an impressive 58 percent of the vote, but was short of the 60 percent threshold needed for passage.
Voters in Montana realigned the current laws to reflect the patient interests outlined in the original 2004 medical marijuana law. Described as a restoration by NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano -- “This decision restores the rights of patients and providers.”
Accompanying each of these victories were a new American phenomena: Cannabis legalization parties. In states like California and cities like San Francisco, cannabis industry activists, entrepreneurs and consumers anticipated a favorable outcome, with little opposition, and planned parties accordingly.
But lots of these “end of prohibition” parties sobered up pretty quickly as the night went on and the election of Donald Trump became apparent. This wasn’t supposed to be the plan. President Obama was hands-off to state’s lawmaking decisions around cannabis, and Hillary had hinted she’d be the same way. But now cannapreneurs have Trump, and that means relative uncertainty for the entrepreneurial future of cannabis.
Earlier this year, Merry Jane writer Zeus Tipado wrote "If you want the candidate with the highest probability of ensuring marijuana will be legal across the country, Donald Trump is your best option.” Tipado cited, among other things, Trump’s long critical stance on the failed drug war.
Could he be right?
Some think he’d better be. “There is always concern when authoritarian regimes grab hold because they tend to resort to harsh criminal justice strategies to control human behavior, including substance use,” Amanda Reiman, the Drug Policy Alliance’s manager of marijuana law and policy, told "Entrepreneur." However, during the campaign, Trump vowed to respect the states that decided to change their cannabis laws. “With the issue more popular in this election than either candidate, Trump would be wise to honor that promise and recognize that this is an issue supported by a majority of Americans,” Reiman advised.
While others suspect “entrepreneur” Trump might seize cannabis as an opportunity to help deliver new federal revenues he’ll need to run the country. “Trump will realize that the business opportunity in cannabis will bring jobs and much needed tax revenue to the country for each state,” predicts Anton Ansalmar, founder and CEO of mobile and web seed-to-sale tracking and compliance system, Medik8mobile. “As a businessman, he will want to make sure that Mexican cartels won't dictate the future of the illegal trade.”
The truth is, just as we couldn’t predict how he’d behave in a national debate, we can’t predict what will happen to cannabis under President Trump. He has stated he believes it should be up to states to decide. "In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state," Trump told The Washington Post. "… Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states."
On the other hand, he has spoken negatively about the cannabis industry in Colorado. “I really don’t know,” Bob Eschino, co-owner of the edibles brand Incredibles, Colorado’s largest edibles company, told the Denver Post. “It’s really going to come from the Senate and the Congress and the people that are making the rules.”
Susan Soares, Executive Director of the 501(C) (3) cannabis organization C.A.R.E., agree it’s not Trump himself that’s concerning for the cannabis industry, it’s those he may appoint. “If Rudy Giuliani becomes the attorney general, he is strongly against cannabis legalization and has been a strong proponent of the war on drugs,” Soares relates.
Sam Chapman, founding member of New Economy Consulting LLC, a firm based in Portland Oregon focused on advising entrepreneurs and investors in the cannabis industry, feels the nation is too far down the path to be forced backwards now. “Assuming Trump doesn’t completely delete the progress cannabis reform has made over the past decade (still too early to know), even in the event of a complete market crash, the market for legal cannabis is not going anywhere...The current trajectory and momentum the industry is seeing will not be easily knocked off course.”
Still, presidential interference in state’s progress might not be the biggest problem for entrepreneurs and investors in the cannabis industry, according to The Motley Fool. Drug rescheduling could be. Whereas, rescheduling of marijuana from schedule I to schedule II could allow for tight product regulation from the Food and Drug Administration. From cannabis industry manufacturing, packaging and marketing, to testing and certification, the FDA could add very cumbersome and costly regulations, hindering what otherwise looks like an inviting industry for entrepreneurs.
The First Test
So how confident do cannapreneurs feel on the whole?
We'll know soon enough with the industry's largest tradeshow set to take place next week in Las Vegas. The Marijuana Business Conference and Expo runs November 16-18, 2016 at the Rio Hotel. MJBizCon has for years served the industry as a gathering point immediately after national elections, a place and time for industry professionals to get a pulse on what the future will hold. “This year, the opportunities are bigger than ever before – yet so are the uncertainties, which makes this gathering all the more prescient and critical.,” remarks Cassandra Farrington Co-Founder & CEO, Marijuana Business Daily and President at Anne Holland Ventures Inc. “As a cannabis industry entrepreneur myself, I’m looking forward to convening with the best and brightest of the industry, to understand what the collective wisdom says about the best paths forward.”