Marijuana has been in the decriminalization process since 1973 with many states over the years
passing laws to either authorize the use of marijuana or prohibit it. It is time to stop treating marijuana like a deadly drug, when science and public opinion agree that it is relatively safe for adult recreational and medical use. With recreational and medical marijuana on the verge of nationwide legalization, marijuana growers and dispensaries are popping up everywhere.
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DENVER — America’s fast-growing marijuana industry appears poised for supercharged growth after winning what cannabis entrepreneurs see as approval from the Trump administration to forge ahead.
The legal marijuana market was already growing exponentially despite fears of a federal crackdown under Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but Trump’s signal that he’ll respect state legalization may swing open the floodgates by reassuring traditional investors, entrepreneurs and local lawmakers that it’s OK to jump in.
Across the nation, risk-takers have poured billions of dollars into the industry while knowing they could be arrested by federal agents at any moment.
They’ve built — largely unseen — a powerful network of businesses poised to take advantage of a more favorable federal climate. That industry has already woven itself into the fabric of the states where pot is legal, providing tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars in new tax revenues.
Experts say those numbers are now likely to rise rapidly thanks to Trump’s promised hands-off approach and support of some sort of federal solution.
“Every day we wake up and build this industry. And every day we do that, it’s a little harder to shut it down,” said Daniel Yi, a spokesman for the California-based marijuana powerhouse MedMen.
There’s no denying America’s love affair with marijuana is accelerating across the nation as voters loosen laws and grow increasingly comfortable with a drug that has been forbidden for generations. Today, more than 60% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, double its popularity in 2000, according to a January 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center. That comes against a backdrop of contrasting studies that have offered little insight into how legalization is impacting youth use, stoned driving and border-state black markets.
But Trump’s acceptance of popular state legalization reflects the reality and power of this increasingly important industry. Across the country, cannabis legalization is transforming communities in ways big and small, winning many converts among skeptical cops and local politicians as new tax dollars pour into schools and scholarships, pay for road paving and drug treatment, and, if advocates have their way, lift up minority communities devastated by the War on Drugs.
“It’s really fun to see people’s minds change,” Jen Lujan of California-based marijuana firm Eaze said.
Marijuana’s economic impact in particular has helped keep the focus on the positives of legalization. While most supporters agree that marijuana taxes haven’t been the boon many expected, the industry’s economic power is undeniable.
At least 121,000 people are already working directly in the nation’s home-grown marijuana industry, tending plants, trimming leaves and selling cannabis products to eager consumers, according to BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research. For comparison, there are fewer than 50,000 coal miners, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nine states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Vermont and Washington, along with Washington D.C., — have legalized recreational pot use, although not all of them permit and tax sales. Those states selling pot have collected more than $1.6 billion in taxes since their legalization programs began, and California’s launch of legal sales earlier this year is expected to supercharge that number.