It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis too good.
In February, state officials announced that 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the states database.
If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, thats because it is: last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000lb of legal bud.
That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.
Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer without much regard to whether theres demand to fill.
The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.
Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.
For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.
But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product thats a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.
Colorado’s cannabis enthusiasts are celebrating after a milestone was announced on Monday.
In the first 10 months of 2016, the state sold more than $1 billion of recreational and medical cannabis and cannabis-related products, according to data released by the state’s Department of Revenue. That is a monstrous amount of weed.
The record number is up from 2015’s total annual marijuana revenue of $996 million.
Industry attorney Vincente Sederberg told that he believes sales will cross $1.3 billion in 2016.
“We think well see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year and so the economic impact of this industry if were using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Groups recent report, which is totally reasonable it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.
While Colorado was the first state to legalize cannabis, it may soon lose its top spot in terms of revenue. California recently legalized marijuana for recreational use and is expected to make major profits once it sets up its retail shops. Florida also legalized cannabis for medical use and, according to Forbes, it’s projected to rake in $1.6 billion by 2020, thanks to its large population of seniors with chronic pain and illness.
Welcome to the United States of Weed, our new cash crop.
BONUS: Trump is president, but at least you can get high in four more states
“There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me, it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” said Nixon in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday.
Nixon, who in March announced her run against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming Democratic primary, notes in the video that 80 percent of New Yorkers arrested for marijuana are black or Latino.
“The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time,” she says. “Isn’t it time we legalize it for everybody else?”
The gubernatorial candidate and former actress goes on to say in her campaign video that white people and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates. Yet black people in New York are arrested or detained for marijuana 4.5 times more than white people, according to a report by the ACLU.
“The consequences follow people for the rest of their lives, making it harder to get jobs or housing, and for noncitizens, putting them in the crosshairs of deportation,” she says.
The 52-year-old also says that legalizing would “generate millions of dollars in tax revenue” and “create new agricultural opportunities for New York’s farmers.”
Currently, eight other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. New York state does have a medical marijuana program, though it is extremely restrictive.
Current New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D) had previously called marijuana a “gateway drug” in 2017, though his stance has since shifted slightly. In January 2018. Cuomo proposed a study in his 2018 budget plan that explores the potential impacts of recreational marijuana use in New York State.
Of the study, Cuomo said: “If it was legalized in Jersey and it was legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York, because it’s right in the middle? This is an important topic, it’s a hotly debated topic, pardon the pun, and it’d be nice to have the facts in the middle of the debate once in a while.”
The study will now move forward after the state’s $168 million state budget was approved in March.
Nixon is slated to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13.
Dr. Janice Knox was several years into retirement in Oregon when she was asked to fill in at a “card mill” ― a facility where patients can be diagnosed with conditions that qualify them for a medical card to buy cannabis.
This was a few years ago, and public sentiment about medical marijuana wasn’t quite what it is today. “I had the mindset that most people had at the time ― ‘marijuana is a terrible drug, it’s just a drug,’” Knox told HuffPost.
When she arrived at the clinic, the makeup of the waiting room was “not who I was expecting,” she said.
“There were businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers. I just couldn’t believe who I saw,” Knox said. “They were coming because conventional medicine had failed them. They wanted a better quality of life.”
“People were coming in with their last dime to get a card,” she added. “I was stunned.”
Equally surprising to Knox was how she, a practicing anesthesiologist for 35 years, had been taught so little about the mechanisms and effects of cannabis ― a substance that people said eased their suffering, even from symptoms related to chronic diseases.
“I knew nothing about this medicine. I felt so embarrassed as a physician that that’s where I was. So I really made it a point to learn everything that I could about it,” Knox said. Since then, she’s tried to “change the narrative” about who uses cannabis and why.
Knox’s husband, David, is a former emergency room doctor. Their two daughters, Rachel and Jessica, are physicians who received both medical and business degrees from Tufts University.
At his wife’s urging, David Knox also visited the “card clinics” where his wife had been providing care. Like Janice, he was struck by the diversity of patients and conditions for which the plant seemed to offer relief.
“It was an eye-opener. The potential is just incredible,” he said, adding that he’s seen patients successfully reduce or eliminate their use of opiates for chronic pain after beginning cannabis therapeutics. (Federally funded research has also found this result, which could have meaningful implications amid America’s ongoing opioid crisis.)
People were coming in with their last dime to get a card. I was stunned.Dr. Janice Knox
At their clinic, the Knoxes practice what they call “integrative cannabinoid medicine.” They counsel new and experienced cannabis patients alike on the best treatment options for their conditions, the best way to deliver the medicine (e.g. vaping, topical, ingesting), and how to mitigate undesired effects. These are all aspects of cannabis medicine that a general practitioner might not know as much, or indeed anything, about.
“We’re looking at the whole patient, and how to use cannabis optimally, so the patient can get the best benefit from the minimal dosage without side effects or complications,” David said.
Rachel Knox, 35, wasn’t particularly surprised by her parents’ new career path. She and her mother share an interest in natural medicine. For Rachel, this interest only grew stronger in a medical school and residency environment where emergency treatments for the most urgent symptoms of chronic illness were rarely followed up with meaningful conversations with patients about maintenance and prevention.
“We weren’t being taught how to prevent or reverse chronic illness in our medical education,” she said. “We had this longing for more. My curiosity for natural medicine grew out of that frustration in conventional medicine.”
“My sister and I really felt like if we were going to pursue medicine, we should do something different with it,” she went on. “When my mom and my dad said they had started writing cannabis authorization for patients, that fit right into the natural options I wanted to investigate for patient care.”
Cannabis provides therapeutic effects mainly through its impact on the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various processes throughout the body such as organ function and immune response. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine produced a sweeping reporton the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, concluding that restrictions on possession and consumption have made it difficult to develop research-based consensus on its medical utility.
The barriers to conducting meaningful research on the effects of a federally prohibited substance are considerable. Trials involving cannabis have to be approved by three government agencies and an independent review board, the Knoxes said. After that, there’s the matter of procuring the cannabis itself.
“Right now you can’t ship cannabis across state lines, so you have to rely on a secure source within that state to do that,” Rachel said.
The American Medical Association has long referred to cannabis as a “public health concern” ― but it recently issued a policy update calling for a review of the plant’s Schedule I designation, which categorizes marijuana as a drug with no medical benefits and restricts its availability for research. Heroin and bath salts are also Schedule I substances.
Given the limits on research and accessibility, many doctors are reluctant to discuss cannabis-related treatment options with patients. Many of the Knoxes’ patients come to the clinic because they’re not sure whether their general practitioners condone medical cannabis, or even know very much about it.
The Knoxes have seen more than 3,000 patients at the American Cannabinoid Clinics. Very few, they said, have any interest in getting high. In fact, many would prefer to avoid it.
“Patients will tell me eight or nine times, ‘I don’t want to get high,’” David said.
Many patients, especially seniors, come in asking for CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, Rachel added.
“What surprises the patients most who say that is when we come back and tell them, ‘This condition that you have actually will respond better with some THC on board, let us talk to you about how to use THC to avoid those adverse effects,’” she said. “I had a patient today who was surprised to hear that she could use THC without getting high.”
Patients are also “shocked” to learn they don’t have to smoke the cannabis to feel better, Janice said.
“People have this image of a smoker smoking the joint, and when you tell them, ‘No, you don’t have to do it that way, you can use it incrementally and won’t get a THC high’ ― I think that’s really shocking to them,” she said, adding that placing medicine under the tongue, rubbing it into the navel, and delivering THC through a rectal suppository are all effective and in some cases superior alternatives to smoking cannabis.
Patients will tell me eight or nine times, “I don’t want to get high.”Dr. David Knox
Though based in Oregon, the Knoxes see patients from neighboring states such as California and Washington. Rachel Knox is vice chair of the Oregon Cannabis Commission, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana program, and serves as the medical chair for the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Janice Knox sits on the board of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, which promotes safe practices and improved quality of medical cannabis products.
Through their clinics and ancillary work in the industry, the Knoxes hope to help more medical practitioners integrate cannabis therapeutics into their practices and promote more specialization in cannabinoid medicine. They plan to launch their own training program for medical professionals later this year.
“We need to be helping trained clinicians in the practical implementation of cannabis therapeutics in the same way we do it at the clinic,” Rachel said. “Patients should feel comfortable that the doctor they’re talking about cannabis with is knowledgeable about this medicine.”
In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.
Between anti-marijuana moves by Trumps attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and apparent interest by the administration in making passing a drug test a condition for receiving food stamps in states that request it, Trump and key figures in his administration seem eager to jump back to a time in history when drug use that has become more or less accepted in society is again disqualifying and indeed criminal. And where Trump goes, the GOP often follows.
But is the Trump administration truly set on achieving this? Those of us watching drug policy debates in the era of Trump are feeling a little (OK, a lot of) whiplash.
The direction in which Sessions wants to take the country is clear. So too are Republicans views with regard to food stamps and drug testing.
With Trump, things are a bit murkier. He generally cultivated an anti-drug message with his death penalty for heroin dealers chat. Hes pushed that message in other ways too, such as the little noticed controversy in February, when Israel put the brakes on a plan to export marijuana to the U.S., apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didnt want to piss off Trump. Trump also claims never to have smoked pot, something that some pot advocates view as inherently likely to predispose him against cannabis.
Outside of Trump, the GOP itself seems to be in the midst of an evolution on pot. Or, at least, a process of self-discovery. Gardner was so adamant that states rights on the matter be respected that he threatened to hold up any nominees to the Department of Justice until Sessions and Trump backed down. Weve also learned that John Boehner is joining the board of a cannabis companya pretty big turnaround for a former speaker of the House known more for his love of wine than weed.
So what the heck is going on with the GOP and pot? The short answer is: a lot. But though much of it seems contradictory, there is still an obvious, ultimate direction. The GOP will, in the end, follow Gardner and Boehners path, even if that feels like an Olympic gymnast-level flip-flop for a lot of voters.
It used to be that the only pro-decriminalization or pro-legalization Republicans were Libertarians who voted GOP because they wanted tax cuts and a tiny bit more fiscal restraint (with the exception, perhaps, of some prominent figures at National Review who always took a surprisingly pro-decriminalization line on marijuana).
More recently, however, the pro-decriminalization ranks have been joined by the Koch brothers, especially Charles Koch, who champions criminal justice reform and sees issues like pot decriminalization and mandatory minimums reform as obviously related.
There are also Republicans from states where marijuana laws have been liberalized, leading to a booming new sector of the economy.
Gardner is one such figure. But more Gardners are on the way. While Sessions may believe the War on Drugs has failed because it has been prosecuted with insufficient zeal, youve got a whole raft of states represented by Republican officeholders who manifestly believe that the anti-pot aspect of it, at least, is stupid.
Its certainly economically unhelpful. Nine states have fully legalized recreational pot (including Alaska, a deep red state, and Colorado, Nevada, and Mainepurplish ones with GOP elected officials). Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana (including the magenta-ish states of North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia, and swing state New Hampshire).
Rank-and-file Republican voters are becoming much more opposed to the War on Weed too, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll. Maybe thats because veterans (who Republicans love to champion) claim marijuana helps them with physical and psychological battlefield injuries. Maybe its because of claims that legalization could help combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Republican areas. Maybe its because Republicans are hearing from unlikely marijuana advocates like Michelle Malkin.
Or maybe its because Republicans still tend to consider themselves pro-business, and the pot business is growingfast. According to a report last year from Arcview Market Research, across North America, legal pot sales in 2017 were on pace to hit $9.7 billion. Thats 33 percent growth against the previous yearevidence of a booming market. Many Republicans may oppose pot use personally. But basically all Republicans love making and keeping money.
Whatever it is, the reality is this: The ranks of pro-legalization Republicans, like plants on weed farms, will continue to grow over time, while those sharing Sessions views will shrink and shrivel and decline. Thats a good thing, in terms of achieving limited government goals, and expanding personal libertysomething todays GOP could do with getting back to focusing on.
The debate may seem muddied now. But its heading in a very clear direction.
Cannabis Act passes, with the legislation expected to take effect in a few months
Canada is to become the second country in the world to fully legalise marijuana, after the senate approved legislation paving the way for recreational cannabis to be legally bought and sold within the next two or three months.
Weve just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition, senator Tony Dean told reporters on Tuesday after the vote to pass the Cannabis Act.
It ends 90 years of needless criminalisation, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favour of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably.
The federal government has said it would give provinces and territories which are responsible for deciding how recreational cannabis will be distributed and sold eight to 12 weeks after the legislation is passed to get ready for sales, but the exact date that sales begin will be set by the federal government.
On Tuesday, the prime minister welcomed the legislation being passed. Its been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits, he wrote on Twitter. Today, we change that.
Initially, the government planned to begin retail sales by 1 July, but the timeline was delayed as the senate debated the legislation. Canadas upper chamber voted 52 to 29 on Tuesday to make marijuana fully legal in the country.
Some Conservative MPs and senators voiced their disappointment as the bill passed on Tuesday. Sad day for Canadas kids, senator Linda Frum wrote on Twitter.
Conservative senator Leo Housakos said: When you normalise the use of marijuana and youre a young person and you had certain reservations because of the simple fact that it was illegal, theres, I believe, a propensity to have somebody be more inclined to use it.
Once legalisation goes into effect, Canadians will be able grow up to four plants in their own home and carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis for personal use. Those caught with more than this amount, or who supply marijuana to minors will face penalties.
Sales of cannabis which analysts estimate could eventually be worth somewhere between C$5bn and C$7bn annually will vary widely across the country. In Alberta, recreational cannabis will be available at more than 200 private retailers while in New Brunswick, the provincial government will operate a chain of stores called Cannabis NB.
The minimum age of consumption will fluctuate between 18 or 19 years depending on the province.
On Tuesday, supporters of the legislation stressed the cautious, prudent approach to the landmark change. What the governments approach has been is, yes, legalisation but also strict control, said Peter Harder, the governments representative in the Senate. That does not in any way suggest that its now party time.
Nearly 400,000 people a day cross the border between Canada and the US. Since 2016, Canada has been pushing the US to change a policy that bans Canadians who admit to having used marijuana from travelling to the United States.
Tilray, a five-year-old, British Columbia-based medical cannabis company that sells its products to patients, researchers, pharmacies and even governments, saw its shares get high (sorry) on the Nasdaq today, after the company priced 9 million shares at $17 apiece and watched them soar, closing at $22.39, a jump of slightly more than 32 percent.
It was the first cannabis company to conduct a U.S. IPO, and in the process it raised $153 million, capital it will reportedly use in part to fuel its marijuana growing and processing facilities in Ontario.
The momentum behind Tilray is a huge win for the cannabis industry, which has been growing like a weed (sorry again). Related startups attracted $593 million in funding last year, twice what they raised in 2016 and a meaningful jump from the $121 million invested in related startups in 2014, according to CB Insights. Among the different types of companies to garner investor dollars, shows CB Insights’ research, are: startups focused on research or distribution of medical marijuana products (as with Tilray); tools for ensuring compliance with state and federal marijuana laws; startups focused on payments for marijuana companies; startups collecting data and producing marketing insights about the industry; and companies creating novel strains and types of marijuana using new farming techniques.
Tilray’s performance today is also a very positive signal for Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that owned 100 percent of the startup as it headed into its offering. In fact, Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, is also the CEO of Tilray. (Cannabis companies are weird.)
Privateer has itself raised more than $200 million since its founding in 2010, including from Founders Fund and Subversive Capital, and it has used that money to finance, acquire and incubate companies. While it incubated Tilray, for example, it also owns Leafly, a large cannabis information resource that it acquired in 2011. Another of its portfolio companies is Marley Natural, a Bob Marley-branded cannabis line that it launched in partnership with Marley’s estate and that sells a line of cannabis strains, smoking accessories and even body care products.
It isn’t exactly clear how much Privateer had sunk into Tilray (we have a press request into the company). Tilray announced C$60 million in Series A funding back in February, money it said had come from a “group of leading global institutional investors.” But according to its S-1, it was solely owned until today by Privateer.
What we do know: Tilray remains unprofitable, reporting a net loss of $7.8 million last year. The company also cannot sell its products in the U.S. market, given that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, even though 30 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized it in some form. The reason: The U.S. government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it’s considered to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse.
That could change, but as this Vox explainer makes clear, a review process for the current schedule would need to be initiated by either the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Attorney General, and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions despises marijuana, saying once that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
He seems to be among a dwindling minority. According to a Gallup Poll published last October, 64 percent of Americans favor legalization.
At the time the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said cannabis had not yet been licensed in the UK as a medicine.
Last Monday, Ms Caldwell tried to bring a six-month supply of the oil – to treat up to 100 seizures a day – into the UK from Toronto but the substance was confiscated by officials at Heathrow airport.
The boy’s family said he was taken to hospital when his seizures “intensified” in recent days.
The family’s MP, Órfhlaith Begley, said the Home Office’s decision was “life-saving”, adding: “I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”
Dr Amir Englund, who studies cannabis at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “Clearly, there is evidence that Billy’s medication works for him where others have failed.
“The duty of government is to protect its citizens from harm with regulations on medicines, so that the ones doctors prescribe are safe and effective.
“However, there are instances which these measures become counterproductive and harmful. This is such an instance, and the Home Office should allow an exemption so that he does not come to further harm.”
Meanwhile, clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London, Dr Michael Bloomfield, said on the one hand “current laws are too strict”, but added that the issue of medical marijuana is “far from straightforward”.
“Any ‘medical marijuana’ needs a scientific evidence base, in the form of medical trials et cetera, which is currently lacking for many disorders and has become, for many jurisdictions, a potential way of decriminalising cannabis through the back door,” he said.
Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?
CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.
A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.
Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.
MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.
Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.
Colorado’s Gardner says he received assurances from president
White House spokeswoman says Gardner statement ‘accurate’
President Donald Trump endorsed letting states decide how to regulate marijuana, in a major boost for the legal pot industry.
Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner said that as a result of Trump’s assurances, he’ll end a blockade of Justice Department nominees. Gardner held up the nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an earlier Justice Department memo that shielded marijuana operations in states like Colorado from enforcement of the federal ban on the drug.
"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said in a statement Friday. “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Gardner’s statement is “accurate.” She didn’t elaborate.
“The president did speak with Senator Gardner yesterday and again today,” Sanders told reporters Friday at the White House, adding, "the president is a firm believer" in states’ rights.
Marijuana is legal for medicinal use in 29 states and for recreational use in eight.
Marijuana stocks surged on the news, which removed the threat posed by Sessions’s decision in January to rescind an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational pot.
Canada’s Canopy Growth Corp., the largest cannabis producer by market value, jumped as much as 11 percent in its biggest intraday advance since March 5. Medical-marijuana supplier Aphria Inc. climbed as much as 21 percent in Toronto trading.
Gardner said he’s lifting his hold and working with colleagues on legislation that would protect marijuana operations in states that have legalized the drug. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump offered qualified support for legalization while on the presidential campaign trail, saying that medical marijuana “should happen” and that laws regarding recreational usage should be left in the hands of the states.
Sessions, on the other hand, has been an outspoken opponent of state marijuana laws.
The Justice Department under President Barack Obama created guardrails for federal prosecution of the sale and possession of cannabis, which remains illegal under federal law, and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country. Under Sessions’s approach, U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal were given approval to prosecute cases where they see fit.
For the first time, a U.S. state has legalized marijuana with the stroke of a pen, not a vote at the ballot box.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 511, which legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. The legislation says nothing about creating a state market for recreational weed, however. The new law will go into effect in July.
“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511,” said Scott in a statement addressed to the state’s General Assembly. “I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.”
With Scott’s signature, Vermont will join eight other legal-weed states, as well as Washington, D.C., in a growing movement away from federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD. Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004, and is currently among nearly 30 states, plus the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with such programs in place.
Although other states have legalized cannabis through ballot initiatives that have left the decision up to voters, Vermont does not allow for such a process. Over the past few years, lawmakers in the state have instead been working to address marijuana reform through legislation. A similar legalization bill made it to Scott’s desk in 2017, but the governor vetoed it, citing concerns with weak language on punishment for the sale of marijuana to minors and its establishment of a commission to study how a regulated cannabis market would work in Vermont.
The final version of H. 511 clarified civil penalties for the sale of marijuana to individuals under 21 years old and removed the commission entirely. Scott has instead created his own marijuana task force, which is examining the state’s involvement in recreational cannabis sales and focusing on developing comprehensive education, prevention and highway safety strategies.
“There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial ‘tax-and-regulate’ system for an adult marijuana market,” Scott said on Monday. “It is important for the General Assembly to know that – until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns – I will veto any additional effort along these lines, which manages to reach my desk.”
Some state officials say the composition of that commission looks to be biased against marijuana, which means recreational weed faces an uncertain future in Vermont.
“There is frustration that the governor’s panels appear to be predetermined in opposition [to a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana sales] versus the sentiment of the House and Senate, which was to move forward,” said Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat.
The governor’s commission is expected to deliver a final report to lawmakers by the end of the year, which would guide them on future legislation to establish a market for cannabis. Under Vermont’s two-step process of legalization, it could be a while before the state sees its first legal marijuana sale, said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for cannabis reform around the country.
“The tone of the commission all along has been, ‘Let’s figure out how to do this, regardless of whether we think it should happen or not,’” he said. “They’re gonna come up with specific policy recommendations. Now whether the legislature decides to take those recommendations or not is a whole different story.”
It’s not yet clear if there would be enough support in the state legislature to pass a tax-and-regulate bill without Scott’s support. Vermont requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a gubernatorial veto. With statewide elections upcoming in November, these deliberations seem likely to become a key campaign issue in the coming months, though it’s not yet clear if lawmakers will be willing to put themselves on the record as strong supporters of legal marijuana sales in Vermont.
“Some Republicans feel vulnerable if they support this kind of legislation, even though the support for this is majority across all parties,” said Zuckerman. “The cultural sentiment is still in some of those districts, and they don’t feel the support is there yet.”
Recent surveys have shown strong support for relaxing marijuana laws in Vermont and nationwide. A January HuffPost/YouGov poll showed that 55 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana both nationally and in their own states. National support for legalization at the federal level hit a record high 64 percent in a Gallup survey from October 2017, including among a majority of Republicans.
Recreational marijuana has already become a substantial revenue source in the states that have legalized it. Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. hit $6 billion in 2016, with tax revenue in Colorado and Washington, the states that have had legal cannabis markets for the longest, now bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to an analysis by the Marijuana Policy Project. Another recent study projected that over a nine-year period, legal marijuana nationwide could provide 1 million new jobs and generate more than $132 billion in federal tax revenue, with nearly $52 billion in sales tax alone.
Without a system to tax and regulate cannabis sales in Vermont, all commerce involving marijuana would remain underground.
“Marijuana is widely available, widely used throughout Vermont. Vermonters spend an awful lot of money on marijuana and it all goes to the illicit market,” said Simon. “Why wouldn’t we have a regulated system so that money would instead go to taxed and regulated businesses and the state would have some revenue to deal with any costs or issues that do arise?”
Despite the clear economic benefits of legal marijuana, the state-federal divide on cannabis laws has gotten deeper over the past month. Lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives passed H. 511 just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released new Justice Department guidance giving federal prosecutors the go-ahead to crack down on state-legal marijuana operations. Although the announcement led to some anxiety in the fledgling marijuana industry, its practical effect remains to be seen.
That Justice Department action alone shows that the political stigma around marijuana reform still hasn’t faded completely, said Zuckerman. But he hopes the Vermont legislature’s successful move toward legalization could serve as an invitation for lawmakers in other states to pursue reform.
“This is a significant signal to other legislative bodies around the country that legislatures can act in the interest of the general population without some of the fear that there will be electoral retribution,” he said. “In the world of making laws, that is often one of the things that lawmakers look at, that potential consequence.”
For now, lawmakers are discussing how best to incorporate Vermont’s progressive principles into any future system of state marijuana sales, Zuckerman said.
“The very broad sentiment from right to left is that nobody wants Big Cannabis to own Vermont, and whatever we do end up drafting for a tax-and-regulate bill will be oriented toward smaller production facilities and a more broad distribution of the economic benefit throughout the state, as opposed to large out of state corporate version,” he said.
Clarification: A previous version of this story indicated Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman governor is a Democrat. Zuckerman won both the Democratic and Progressive primaries for the position, and has been affiliated with both parties.