Cannabis Community Remains Rattled & Assessing the Trump Card
One of the only things we knew for certain about the North American cannabis industry prior to November last year was that regardless of the result of the vote, it was going to be big. Not just big, but spectacularly lucrative. There was no way of telling precisely how big it was likely to be, given the fact that it wasn’t entirely clear which way the nine states taking cannabis to the ballot box would vote.
Of course, we now know that the result of said vote turned out to be nothing short of outstanding for the cannabis community – all nine states having voted to legalise either recreational or medical cannabis. Which in turn meant that as far as economists and analysts were concerned, there was suddenly a lot more information to work with in terms of overall industry values.
2016 may have been an important and prosperous year for legal cannabis in the US, but experts believe we really haven’t seen the even the start of things to come. Last year, total cannabis revenues came in somewhere in the region of $5.7 billion, which in turn meant a total tax bill of approximately $1 billion. Not bad, considering how things were and are only just getting off the ground. Over the next five years however, analysts working with ArcView Research believe that we will see explosive growth across the entire cannabis industry, resulting in the total tally for 2021 coming out in excess of $21 billion.
And they’re not the only ones who see things accelerating wildly over the years to come. Quite to the contrary, what with a recent paper published by 10 Cowen & Co. suggesting that when the year 2026 rolls around, the legal cannabis industry in the US could be worth more than $50 billion. If so, this would make the legal cannabis industry perhaps the single fastest-growing new industry ever to have emerged in the United States, in terms of its overall value and tax contributions.
Needless to say therefore, it’s a pretty positive picture that seems to suggest wide reaching and growing benefits for an economy which, let’s face it, is always in need of a boost. Or at least, that would be the case – were it not for a rather large and tenacious onion in the proverbial ointment residing in the Oval Office right now.
At the past few years, Donald Trump hasn’t given the cannabis community in general a great deal to go on, when it comes to both his personal opinions on cannabis and how he intends to tackle the issue. Every time he seems to have indicated worryingly conservative views, he has gone on to state that it’s an issue that can and should be controlled by each state individually. Which would seem to suggest that for the most part, there’s not a great deal to worry about.
Which would have been true, if it wasn’t for the fact that Jeff Sessions was recently confirmed as the new US Atty. General. Now, no doubt you’ve already come across more than a few examples of Sessions’ completely OTT and dangerous comments regarding cannabis. Whether it’s executing cannabis dealers, insisting that no “good people” in America smoke cannabis and famously stating that the KKK would be just fine if they didn’t smoke pot, he’s not exactly earned a reputation as a friend of the cannabis community. And given the fact that he has his finger on the big-red Federal law button, it’s all a little bit scary.
More recently, he was questioned directly on these exact statements and his views on cannabis legislation in general. Rather than backtracking, clarifying his stance or giving any indication whatsoever as to how he intends to proceed, he simply confirmed that he is not “ruling out” the enforcement of Federal law. Which is, suffice to say, what the cannabis community for the most part sees as a real doomsday scenario.
The only question now being – will he actually have the audacity to go through with it?
That’s something only time will tell, but given the incredibly controversial action taken so far by the Trump Administration in various areas, it’s far from beyond the realms of possibility.
A Select Few Outcomes
The thing is though, while the cannabis community in general remains well and truly rattled, confused and unable to even guess what’s going to happen, realistically speaking there are only a few ways things could go. Or more accurately, a total of five possible outcomes in terms of how Trump, Sessions and Co. could decide to handle cannabis. Of which some are of course fundamentally more terrifying than others, but when looking at things from a logical standpoint, it also seems relatively clear which are the most probable.
That is of course, assuming that logic is something that comes into the equation!
So when the dust has settled following Trump’s turbulent arrival and the cannabis issue is brought to the table, what are the scenarios we could well be looking at?
Scenario 1 – Game Over
It goes without saying that the worst possible case scenario would be that of Sessions deciding that the time has come to declare war on cannabis and choosing to fire the first salvo. The scary thing being that as cannabis still remains entirely illegal at a Federal level – both recreational and medical cannabis alike – every single person across the US using, buying, selling or working with the stuff in any way is technically breaking the law. Which in turn means that if Federal law was to be enforced, millions could face criminal charges. To enforce Federal law would see the entire industry annihilated, leading not only to ruin for tens of thousands of currently-legitimate business owners but untold misery and agony for millions of medical cannabis users. It’s a far-fetched idea to any sane person, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
Scenario 2 – Goodbye Recreational
One considerably more plausible scenario than outright war on cannabis as a whole is that of the newly installed government instead aiming their arsenal square early and exclusively at recreational cannabis. For one thing, the recreational cannabis industry is currently in its infancy. For another, deciding to abolish recreational cannabis would mean that medical cannabis users would still be able to gain access to the essential treatment they need. This is a move the government could see as ‘nipping the problem in the bud’ and would probably gain a lot of support nationwide. After all, the overwhelming majority of US citizens may support medical marijuana – recreational cannabis continues to divide the public fairly equally down the middle.
Scenario 3 – Progress Halted
Something else the government could decide to do, albeit an incredibly complicated and difficult option, would be to ensure that the current spread of the industry is halted in its tracks. Or to put it another way, business as usual can continue in states where cannabis has been legalised, but no new states will be allowed to join the party. Of course, it would probably be impossible to bring into effect any actual law with these kinds of unbalanced stipulations. But at the same time, Sessions and Co. could make it so incredibly difficult for any new states to get involved that it would be largely impossible for them to do so. Given the complexity of the issue, this seems like a highly improbable outcome.
Scenario 4 – Trump’s Total Support
Highly unlikely for the time being but certainly a plausible prospect for the future, it’s worth remembering that Donald Trump is a businessman. Not only this, but a spectacularly capable businessman and the president that has promised to pump billions back in the US every year, create jobs, support good causes and so on. As such, to walk away from an industry that promises more than $10 billion in tax revenues every year would seem to be a ridiculous and unthinkable move. Moreover, should Trump decide to pledge his support to the US cannabis industry, he could make history by de-scheduling pot at a Federal level. And if he does, the growth we’re likely to see over the coming years could be nothing short of mind-blowing.
Scenario 5 – The Passive Approach
Last but not least, the single most probable outcome of all is that of Trump and Co. deciding not to do anything at all. Or more specifically, leaving the cannabis community as they are right now and allowing each individual state to come up with and enforce its own cannabis policy. All of which makes sense for two very good reasons – the first of which being that the current system is both working well and has the support of the public. Secondly, there’s the way in which Trump has way bigger fish to fry than the cannabis issue and leaving things as they are would allow him to effectively escape criticism on either side of the fence. Cannabis critics would salute him for not touching Federal law, while the pro-cannabis community would breathe the biggest collective sigh of relief in its history.
Still, there are some who remain optimistic enough to actually welcome Sessions’ appointment. One of which being National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith, as quoted by Seed Supreme:
“We look forward to Attorney General Sessions maintaining the current federal policy of respect for legal, regulated cannabis programs in the states, and we will work with him to do that,” said Smith.
“State-legal cannabis businesses generate billions of dollars in economic activity and support tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. The projected value of the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. for 2016 is $6.7 billion, and that market value is expected to grow to $21.8 billion by 2020.”
Let’s hope not!