Thursday, 10 September 2015

Politics and cannabis

In the four US states that have already legalised the possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis the industry is already worth in excess of $2.7 billion.  By the end of 2016 it is projected to be worth as much as $6 billion dollars.

Imagine, therefore, how much money (and tax revenue) would be involved if all 50 states legalised the weed.  This subject is already on the ballot paper in 2016 in Nevada, Ohio, Maine, Arizona and Florida.

Not surprisingly the issue is being raised by lobby groups in the run-up to the next presidential election.  The hopes of the cannabis lobby rest on Democratic front-runner, Hilary Clinton as no Republican hopeful is prepared to go near the pro-cannabis lobby.

Individuals and the burgeoning cannabis trade associations are already lobbying hard, if discreetly.  Oregon’s Cannabis Political Action Committee has raised over $160,000  and sent two dozen lobbyists to Capitol Hill  to buttonhole lawmakers on their regulatory issues – principally changing federal law to allow the industry access to the banking sector.  Currently cannabis retail is a cash-only business.

President Obama has admitted he smoked cannabis and has experimented with cocaine in his earlier life and though his administration has tacitly aided the cannabis industry, in recent months he has let it be known that he has ‘bigger fish to fry’ – hence the interest now in Hilary Clinton – and there are some indications that she is prepared to soften her earlier anti-drugs stance.  She is said to be ‘sympathetic’

Her pragmatism on the subject is no doubt swayed by the potential size of the new industry with its wealth and job creation potential.  “It is an embedded part of the economy,” says National Cannabis Industry Association director Aaron Smith. “Voters rely on the industry to maintain public schools, and the exposure to the industry has shown voters not only that revenue is being generated, but that that it is good for the community as well. Tourism is up. Crime is down. Everyone in these states knows someone who would lose their job if legalization ended,”

Given that where the Americans go, the British follow 10 or 20 years later, it is time the British authorities began planning their retreat from the dishonest and vicious policies adopted since the Blair regime introduced new 14 year jail sentences for growers.  Most of the politicians in The House of Commons have admitted smoking cannabis (or worse). Not only do they remain free from imprisonment they continue to support laws that damage their constituents.

A change is now required to head off what yet may turn out to be a significant breakdown in social cohesion if, over a relatively short period of time, hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens are turned into ‘criminals’ just because of political hypocrisy and the desire of the Establishment to make a fast buck from the Proceeds of Crime Act.

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Mark Graham

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