By Todd Mitchem (this article originally appeared on TheHill.com and was republished with special permission)
Due to the largely unfounded and negative speculations that have lately sprung up in the media, contemplating and trying to predict the new administration and its position on cannabis legalization, we are seeing much uncertainty around the country as it pertains to our industry. The fear perpetrated in media coverage like this, in a time when we should be waiting to see what will actually happen, is astonishing and not helpful. This is not the conversation that we should be having.
If you look at the facts, legal cannabis could be a great thing for the Trump administration; but it will take us working closely together.
Here are four reasons why the cannabis industry should work with, not against, the AG around the topic of legalized cannabis – and why we should not live in a fearful mindset with regard to this new administration.
If worse came to worse and a universal federal reversal was executed, it would not only be a very time consuming process to re-define marijuana legalization across the nation, but it could also start a state by state nationwide federal lawsuit surge arguing that the federal government is sending mixed messages. The factors that would be taken into consideration for the state vs. federal lawsuits would be the Cole memo, which states clear parameters to which states could allow for marijuana sales and regulations to be legal with the federal law’s current hands off approach.
If the marijuana legalization policy was reversed it would be a huge financial (talking in millions) and time drain for the inbound administration to fight marijuana advocates, the industry and individual states, especially on the medical side. Not to mention the large drain to the DEA’s time and resources away from the fight of serious drugs like heroin, and meth. Don’t forget, Trumpis a business leader first and as any smart CEO will tell you, you don’t spend money fighting something you could make money embracing. It’s simple economics.
The federal budgeting process is complicated and time consuming. It starts with the President-elect’s proposed budget that is an annual budget request sent to Congress. Traditionally, the proposal is done on the first Monday in February, though that date often slips. So this means it can take a much longer period of time just to submit a proposed budget for almost a year in advance. It is also critical to remember that the president’s budget proposal is a request that Congress has to review and approve.
The entire process, if everyone meets the given deadlines, can take the better part of a year. So, what does this mean to marijuana policy? Essentially, it means that if the new Attorney General wants to increase the DEA spending budget to essentially go after the entire industry – now an over $6 billion industry – he will need to submit the plan in the upcoming budget and hope congress approves for this massive expenditure and for marijuana law reversals priority over other national matters.
The third and perhaps most critical element of the entire debate, is the President-elect himself. While being often unpredictable, President-elect Trump seems to like results. After all he did win the election and fought a hard campaign to do so. If the President of the United States takes a positive position on Marijuana policy the incoming AG will be asked to do the same. It would be a real challenge if the AG went against the President.
Secondly, let’s not forget the President-elect is a business leader, who fired people beautifully, on his own reality show. If he is not satisfied with a person’s behavior he could simply relieve them of duty. So why would a President Trump want to leave legal marijuana alone? In a simple term, economic impact. The new administration will have many new policies, which will need funding; marijuana is a huge tax win for the federal government. Regardless of your view of marijuana or its legalization, there is no denying that when a $6 billion industry pays federal taxes we all win. There are companies who generate revenue of $6 billion who don’t pay much tax, so this is a welcomed positive for federal regulators just like it is for states like Colorado and Oregon.
It would be more likely that the inbound President, a business leader, would see legal marijuana as a potential win; both for approval rating as well as economic impact not just financially, but also in job creation.
Over 100,000 jobs will be generated in the next two years in California alone. It’s good for business and stops jobs from leaving America.
No President wants to allow more and more illegal drugs into this country. By enforcing marijuana federal law, the federal government would be creating a $6 billion hole in demand; the cartels will gladly fill this with more illegal marijuana from across the border. By regulating and allowing for legal marijuana we are taking those dollars away from cartels. Heck we could even propose using tax dollars from marijuana to fund the wall construction Trump wants.
So, while nothing is certain, it is not a time for fear. What we need is a calm and rational conversation, not articles aggravating the masses with fear based on rhetoric. Trying to predict the future and the actions of government officials in the face of a new presidency; while completely abandoning the need to focus on new programs and the nation’s top priorities; is wrong and potentially dangerous. I for one am hopeful that leaders like President-elect Trump will see the light; that he will work with us to build a framework that’s mutually beneficial to consumers as well as the government.
Todd Mitchem has aided or founded several companies in the cannabis space, including O.penVAPE, CannaSearch, Mindful, ION and High There!, and has worked with top lawmakers in every state to ensure the cannabis industry operates with the highest of standards. He self-identifies as an entrepreneur, leader, and disruptor, known for his ability to structure, re-structure, and build companies. Check out his upcoming book, You, Disrupted:Seizing the Life You Want by Shaking, Breaking, and Challenging Everything.