Cannabis Legalization Isn't a Sure Thing and the Industry Can't Afford to Stop Fighting
No doubt, the past few years have been transformational for the cannabis industry. We’ve seen tremendous innovation and growth happening at a pace nearly unimaginable just a few short years ago. And while we’ve come a long way, our industry’s rapid progress underscores the vital need to remain steadfast in our efforts for reform.
We can’t afford to forget that the war on marijuana is not over--even though it can certainly start to feel that way if you live in a state where cannabis is regulated for adult use. It’s easy to forget that for all we’ve achieved, our progress is still fragile and incomplete. If we sit back and get complacent, we could wind up trapped in a perpetual industrial purgatory. Or worse, we could lose everything amid a belief that “the genie can’t be put back in the bottle.”
Complacency on the political front will halt or even potentially kill our progress.
The price of political apathy
My colleague Troy Dayton, a founding NCIA board member and CEO of the first cannabis investment and market research firm, The Arcview Group, recently shared an alarming observation about dwindling levels of industry contributions going toward local and national lobbying efforts. Back in 2013 when Arcview was in its infancy and only drawing a core group of 50 or so people to its private member forums, it was raising more money to support legalization than it does today, even though its conferences now draw upwards of 300 attendees.
Some industry operators may think the fight for reform doesn’t need as much help as it once did, but that’s just not the case.
To continue advancing the interests of the legitimate, responsible cannabis industry, business leaders must become politically active if they’re not already—and stay active. Despite the fact our industry supports billions of dollars in economic activity across the United States, this emerging sector is still treated unfairly under federal law and outright prohibited in many states. It’s up to us to change that. And it’s not going to happen without unified efforts, continued hard work and adequate funding.
It’s important to remember that our industry faces numerous uphill battles, both at the federal and local levels before we can stand on even ground with every other legitimate industry in this country.
Bills to get behind
Thousands of cannabis industry leaders from across America will converge this month in California—the largest, adult-use cannabis market in the U.S. And while business development and growth are at the forefront for many successful entrepreneurs attending the fifth annual Cannabis Business Summit & Expo later this month, there's something critically important happening behind the scenes: We are lobbying Washington to secure the future of our industry.
NCIA is targeting a few key pieces of current federal legislation, which we pushed hard on Capitol Hill during our recent eighth annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days.
The Marijuana Justice Act, drafted by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, is a game-changing measure to remove cannabis from the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—which as you know currently lists cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, along with cocaine, LSD and heroin. This would effectively decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and enable states to legalize and regulate without fear of violating federal law. The bill would also encourage all states to decriminalize cannabis by withholding federal funds from those that don’t, and by creating a Treasury federal fund that could be used for reinvestment projects in low-income communities.
We’re actively backing the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act as well. The bipartisan bill would exempt state-legal cannabis from the CSA and amend the federal definition of marijuana to exclude industrial hemp; President Donald Trump has said he would “probably” support the legislation. And while it wouldn’t go as far as the Marijuana Justice Act, the STATES Act would effectively enable states to legalize and regulate cannabis without running afoul of federal law. It would also address our industry’s financial disadvantages by enabling state-licensed cannabis businesses to access banking services and take normal business tax deductions.
NCIA is also throwing its support behind reform efforts across a number of states, including
New Jersey, Michigan, Utah, Missouri, and Virginia, which are all pushing ballot initiatives or legislation forward in 2018 to legalize cannabis for medical or adult use. Industry leaders who do business in these states, or who would like to, must step up and make their voices heard to get initiatives and bills passed.
Let's do this thing
The cannabis industry stands at a crossroads in 2018. We’re closer than ever before to achieving lasting national and state-level policy reforms, and yet, we have everything to lose if we let the wind go from our sails. The future of this industry rests heavily on our own efforts. So we must keep pushing as hard as possible to reach our full potential, and always maintain this effort. Let’s refocus our ambitions and reignite our collective energy toward the shared goal of bringing about sensible policies for our industry from coast to coast.