By Charles Roques
Teaching old dogs new tricks might be an overused phrase, but the fact that it has been around for centuries means that kind of thinking is nothing new. It could also be applied to using old solutions to address new problems, like those of the cannabis sector. Unfortunately, as we creep toward legalization, old thinking keeps clogging the progress.
This plant may have so much potential that it requires a new approach. Much of the prejudice and thinking about cannabis is based on ignorance and misinformation, as well as the plant’s status as a Schedule I drug.
Adhering to the law just because it is there without questioning whether the law is based on misinformation is a big problem. In Massachusetts, according to MassLive, Beacon Hill leaders oppose legalization because of a belief that cannabis has the potential to be a gateway drug for other illegal substances. Not only is it a dated argument but it is based almost solely on propaganda issued years earlier by the government and not scientific fact.
Misunderstood facts or backward thinking can also result in inappropriate analogies. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker expressed concerns about marijuana edibles falling into the hands of children, citing issues in Colorado and invoking Joe Camel, the character that anti-smoking advocates said tobacco companies used to lure children into getting addicted to cigarettes.
Past associations are not always best. A lot of cannabis users saw Joe Camel as stupid and obviously deceptive even in its heyday. It is time to remove him from the debate.
To understand how ridiculous, outrageous and racist the cannabis prohibition arguments were, one has only to look at quotes from Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for more than 30 years.
Anslinger’s thinking was further prolonged by President Richard Nixon. Under the 1971 Controlled Substances Act, Cannabis Sativa is a Schedule I drug, a class higher than cocaine. This classification was in opposition to what his own blue-ribbon panel recommended.
Thankfully that thinking does not permeate the entire sector. Partly from necessity but also from common sense, lawyers are looking for solutions to create legality instead of blindly accepting the Federal Law.
From the banking standpoint, new thinking is definitely helpful but it works both ways. If a state is serious about helping its marijuana industry find banking services, it should look at Washington’s model. But states also have to do their own homework to help clear up the confusion. In Arizona and New Mexico, which are both medical marijuana states, they don’t even publish a list of dispensaries, let alone sales numbers or inspection histories. Banks need both company-specific and broader industry data to perform effective due diligence.
Knowledge is power but so is misinformation. Small investors need to understand the product and its history. It is important to remember the past, especially if it was revised.