Legalize Marijuana: The Push to End Pot Prohibition

November 8, 2016 marks the most pivotal day in history for the movement to end marijuana prohibition.

Following the election, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine are now fully approved for the use, sale, and consumption of recreational marijuana. The legalization of these states means that more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will now live in a state where marijuana is as accessible as alcohol.

With Colorado leading the cause, a total of 28 states and the District of Columbia now have some form of legalized marijuana. Despite the federal government definition of the substance as an illegal, schedule 1 narcotic, the business has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Today, over half the country participates in the buying, selling, and distribution of marijuana on the open market.

However, prior to this year’s election, Colorado was the first and only state to sell legalized marijuana. Therefore, their profit margins recorded since the full installation of Amendment 69, provide a model for future sales projections in other states. Within the first year of business, Colorado accumulated just shy of 1 billion dollars.

The progress seen in recent years is positive motivation for supporters of marijuana legalization, but the future remains uncertain. The Trump Administration, specifically the Justice Department, leaves industry leaders uneasy about the direction of marijuana laws. Many believe President Elect Donald Trump and his cabinet could have a chilling effect on the willingness of states to revise drug enforcement surrounding marijuana use. Consequently, state hesitation could result in a domino effect that raises investor doubt and decreases shareholder value which hurts the business overall.

Mike, manager of The Green Easy Dispensary in Los Angeles, California said, “ To be honest, we’re not that excited about it [recreational marijuana]. The California proposition was pretty shity. Unlike Colorado, we don’t know how the tax revenue will be handled or how the money will be allocated. Half of the industry was divided on the issue and we were on the opposing side. The city hasn’t made it clear whether the current medicinal shops will start incorporating recreational pot for purchase or if recreational shops and medical shops will remain independent from one another. There’s a lot of grey area right now in the industry, so I don’t see much progress one way or the other until dispensary owners know the facts.”

When asked if The Green Easy had reached out to Colorado dispensaries for advice, Mike said that they have not. He explained that the propositions in both states are not identical and contain different regulations for recreational use, so seeking guidance from already established pot shops in Colorado would be a waste of time. Until Proposition 4 takes full effect in California, dispensaries will remain selling medicinal marijuana exclusively to those who have a medical marijuana card.

For now, citiznes in newly legalized states shouldn’t hold their breath. Mike and his industry peers could be waiting a long time. Marijuana legislation around the country usually takes up to a year to finalize an effective sales-licensing system. It’s a notorious Catch 22 design that allows residents to legally possess various amounts of the substance without having any legal means of acquiring it.

Additionally, the polarized marijuana laws between federal and state legislation have added confusion regarding transportation. Despite having the right to freely smoke weed in one state, the drug cannot be taken across state lines. Federal jurisdiction controls the way citizens’ travel across borders. Because the drug is still federally prohibited, marijuana can only be grown and consumed in the state that has legalized it. Technically, if you were to attempt to bring marijuana into a state without legal sanctions you are subject to arrest for a felony.

The federal government has yet to make any gestures on a national level to lift the ban on pot or reassign its drug classification. That said, now that the entire west coast has legalized all forms of marijuana, the government will be forced to eventually address the legal complications. The industry’s development has been exponential and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. New millionares and billionares are in the making as business expands and profits skyrocket.

Simultaneously, as marjuana sales and distribution flourish, so will product quality. The more money generated within the industry will allow for dispensaries that all grow their own marijuana to spend more on the production process. With a larger budget, pot shops can attain quality seeds, build the best gardens, and perfect the proper curing process to create the best bud for consumers.

Scientific research of cannabis is being funded around the nation in order to assess its chemical and biological makeup. However, federal restriction of marijuana has limited the number of institutions that are abe to conduct such studies. Most research is “hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research grade marijuana, and the debate over legalization.”

The University of Colorado is one of the select institutions that has approved funds to research medical marijuana. The university will spend more than $8 million researching the benefits of marijuana’s medical potential. By awarding the grants to fund this study, the Colorado Board of Health embarks on a new frontier for government-funded marijuana research. Traditionally, marijuana related research is focused on the negative health effects on the drug. The money will be be allocated “to studies on whether marijuana helps treat epilepsy, brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the studies still need federal approval.”

Dr. Nolan Kane, an evolutionary biologist at CU, leads the university’s Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative Lab that studies marijuana. Their goal is to revolutionize marijuana for the purpose of medical and industrial breeding. According to their site their cannabis research is broken into four categories—“an ultra-high density genetic map (1), history, phylogeny and phylogeography (2), the hybrid origins of modern cannabis cultivars (3), and morphologic differences between cannabis strains (4).”

Dr. Kane said, “Specifically, we look at a variety of organisms and analyze biological aspects such as genomics and evolution. The cannabis study is an important project and we have spent a lot of time analyzing the plant. Our research focuses heavily on hemp, the plant that marijuana is made from. We look at the genome of the plant in order to understand how it evolves and stems into different strains in response to human selection. We also work closely with the psychology and neurobiology departments to study the effects of the drug on the brain.”

Together their work on cannabis-centered projects will be a hallmark for marijuana breeding, “bringing the genetic tools and resources up to the level of all but a handful of crops.” Additionally, “by increasing our knowledge of the relationships among and within cannabis species, breeders can more effectively understand and utilize these tools.”

Dr. Kane explained that his work is still incredibly valuable because the information is essential regardless of the drugs federal status—the facts are objective. To Kane, partisain ties to either political perspective on this issue will not stop users. People have been and will continue to smoke weed regardless of the laws in play. Therefore, he feels it is necessary to continue research because the findings will be helpful to society at large.

The number of those advocating marijuana research is rising. Phil, manager of Karing Kind Dispensary in Boulder, Colorado said “I think this movement is not just important, but necessary. Weed is a whole lot safer than alcohol and most pharmecuetical drugs. It’s organic and generally healthy if you’re buying it straight from the dispensary. You can die from one night of drinking too much. Regardless of how much you smoke, it’s very unlikely that any amount of weed will cause a fatality”.

Overall, adovates of the movement are surpassing those in opposition. Polls indicate that California’s approval of recreational marijuana, as the 6th largest economy in the world, will make it hard for the federal government to stop the spread of weed.

 

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