Every time the word “marijuana” is spoken by the President, or any member of his cabinet, it spurs an explosion of conjecture and opinion regarding it’s legal future in America. Headlines blare out:
Trump administration's stance on marijuana use clouded in mystery
What is the future of recreational marijuana in Trump's America?
Confusion mounts over Trump administration’s stance on marijuana
How Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs
and my personal favorite…
Jeff Sessions... said the Ku Klux Klan ‘was OK until I found out they smoked pot’
However, despite these analyses which tend to highlight and sensationalize the possibilities of a Federal crackdown, I remain resolute in my belief that legal marijuana, for both medical and recreational purposes, will continue to prosper and remain unencumbered by the Federal Government.
Here are my top 5 reasons why Donald Trump will leave legal marijuana to grow in peace:
1. Public Opinion
It’s no secret that American’s have been warming up to the idea of legal marijuana for decades now, with recent polls showing a 60% approval rating nationwide. As John Oliver so eloquently put it:
"Marijuana is just something that we’ve all gradually decided is OK. Like Mark Wahlberg as a serious actor."
It’s also no secret that politicians are highly concerned with the approval ratings bestowed upon them by their electorate, so this one is pretty simple to wrap your head around. More than half of America thinks cannabis should be legal so, if Trump would like to keep 60% of the country happy, allowing them to make their own choices about cannabis should be an easy decision.
2. Tax Revenue: States
If you’ve done a bit of research into the world of legal cannabis, you might know that one of the greatest benefits of, and most substantial pillars of, it’s legalization are the taxes placed on it’s sale.
Once state governments and their citizens have begun to rely on these revenues…any attempt to remove them will be very difficult and very controversial.
Consumers of retail (also known as recreational or adult-use) marijuana in Colorado pay a total of 12.9% in tax at the counter and retail marijuana cultivators pay a 15% excise tax on all wholesale transactions. With total marijuana revenues in Colorado totaling over $1 Billion, the state saw nearly $200 million in revenues, much of which was allocated to the department of education. For states like Nevada, which consistently ranks in the bottom 10% of states for education, these revenues could prove to be revolutionary.
Once state governments and their citizens have begun to rely on these revenues, especially for school programs, any attempt to remove them will no doubt be met with significant resistance.
3. Tax Revenue: Federal
You may think once the Federal Government had classified cannabis as an illegal and dangerous drug (ranked with the likes of heroin, LSD, and ecstasy), that they couldn’t attempt to benefit from it’s sale. If you thought this, congratulations, you’re a logical and ethical human. You would also be completely wrong.
Thanks to a small piece of the IRS tax code called 280E, the Federal Government can, and does, collect standard income tax from businesses that it considers to be illegal and illegitimate. And, as if that weren’t enough, 280E also prohibits these “illegal” businesses from taking standard business tax deductions. We’ll save the nitty gritty details for another discussion, but what this means is that many marijuana businesses end up paying effective federal tax rates as high as 70%.
Regardless of political ideologies, policy follows the money.
Last year, legal cannabis sales totaled $6.7 Billion. With many of the businesses contributing to that figure shelling out in excess of 40% or 50% of their total revenues to the federal government, you can quickly begin to understand why the the administration might be hesitant to disrupt the status quo of this very lucrative source of cash.
Regardless of political ideologies, policy follows the money.
Job creation is one of the statistics most closely associated with economic growth, and similarly the Unemployment Rate (coupled with inflation) is one of the best predictors of a president’s likelihood to reach a second term. (It’s called the misery index. If you’re a low-key economics nerd like me, it’s definitely worth a peek. More here)
The American People understand how important job creation is to the welfare of our country so, it has followed that any President or candidate’s plan to create jobs has been one of the primary aspects of their platform. This was particularly true of Donald Trump, who vowed to bring jobs back to America.
There is an entire industry being born on American soil with little to no risk of ever being outsourced.
Conservative estimates show that the legal cannabis industry created 123,000 jobs in 2016 alone. If Trump wants more jobs, then he need look no further than Colorado, Washington, California, and the 26 other states and District of Columbia with legal marijuana. There is an entire industry being born on American soil with little to no risk of ever being outsourced.
The cannabis industry can help the President follow through on his campaign promises. All he has to do is let it.
5. Bigger Fish to fry
Let’s face it. Between ISIS, Russia, Wikileaks and his various unorthodox political tactics, the President is going to have his hands full until 2020. Legal marijuana simply is not going to make it to the top of his priority list.
Many acknowledge this but still worry about his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who’s stance on the issue can be summed up in his notorious quote “good people don’t smoke marijuana”. I too believe Jeff Sessions poses a greater threat to legal cannabis than Trump ever will, and his relationship to the issue deserves a discussion of it’s own, but despite his negative views, the fact still remains that Trump is his boss, and Sessions will do as he is told.
…all the President has to do is be a good conservative and let the states regulate themselves.
Donald Trump would be well within his rights to attack legal marijuana, and if he chose to do so it would be very difficult to stop him. Despite this, I am less than concerned. He simply has too much to lose and very little to gain.
When considering this issue, all the President has to do is be a good conservative and let the states regulate themselves. Do this, and he will reap the rewards of all the aforementioned points, all while never having to risk a public endorsement of the issue.