Published: Dec 23, 2016, 6:42 am • Updated: about a month ago
By The Denver Post Editorial Board
Last week came the news that Colorado’s legal cannabis industry topped $1 billion in sales in the first 10 months of the year. While anyone familiar with the trends expected a breakthrough this year, the industry’s early surpassing of that lofty mile-marker presents plenty of cause for reflection.
We bring it up because next year a new top cop will take the helm under President-elect Donald Trump, and there is some cause for worry should he be confirmed by the Senate.
Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, is anti-cannabis. From once joking that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan were OK until he learned some of them smoked pot, to saying in April that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions believes weed is dangerous and shouldn’t be legal. He is critical of the Obama administration’s relatively hands-off approach toward states whose voters approved the drug.
Should an Attorney General Sessions decide to flout the rights of states that have undertaken the cannabis experiment, and return the agency to aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana laws, he could easily start arresting growers, retailers and users. But would he really want to do that?
We offer some reasons for the future Trump administration to not only maintain the current president’s kindness, but to see the advantages for hard-working American people who benefit from legal pot.
Given Election Day victories for medical and recreational pot in eight states, more than half the states in the U.S. have now approved sales and use of medical marijuana, and 65 million people live in states that green-lighted recreational sales.
Colorado’s current haul helps fuel national estimated sales of $7.4 billion in 2016. Now that California voters have followed our lead, it’s possible that another $6.5 billion could be added to national tallies from the Golden State alone by 2020.
The legal cannabis industry is the fastest-growing sector in Colorado, and it employed more than 18,000 direct and related full-time workers in 2015.
For a president-elect looking to create and keep good jobs in the United States, a crackdown on this burgeoning industry would seem a poor move indeed. It’s just math. To keep several hundred manufacturing jobs in Indiana, Trump had to cajole a major U.S. company and the state had to offer millions of dollars in tax breaks.
Guess what? Colorado’s cannabis industry, as in other states, isn’t outsourcing overseas and makes its money without government subsidies or tax breaks. Meanwhile, the industry is dumping significant tax and sin tax revenue into the state’s coffers.
Colorado’s experience has shown that legal sales of cannabis can be accomplished with plenty of regulatory oversight and without the horror-story outcomes of a strung-out populace. In fact, voters in Denver — the world’s largest legal cannabis market — just said “yes” again to the experiment by giving the thumbs-up to a pilot program that allows businesses to offer pot use to their customers. Clearly no reefer-madness backlash here.
Sessions hasn’t signaled what he would do regarding pot enforcement as attorney general. Perhaps he already sees the benefit. But conservatives should get it in writing, stand up for states’ rights and allow the success of this new industry to continue.
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This story was first published on DenverPost.com
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