The biggest boost to cannabis investor confidence would come in the form of governmental assurance that their investments will not be undone.
Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron said in an op-ed posted on CNN that the states are fed up and proving the federal government wrong when it comes to legalizing marijuana. Marijuana should be legalized federally and unequivocally. Miron pointed out that nearly half of the United States has approved medical marijuana.
In 2017, a new president takes office, and that person could be anybody at this point. All the work towards marijuana legalization could be undone, as Miron noted, if the next president asks his attorney general to start enforcing federal marijuana laws. As it is today, nothing is really holding back federal law enforcement from a crackdown, nothing except a request from the attorney general for law enforcement to leave cannabis-related businesses alone as long as they follow state laws.
No one knows if the next president will try to break the marijuana legalization wave, but that specter looms over the industry. What would help the industry and allay marijuana investor fears is if the president would sign some legislation that removes marijuana from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency’s schedule 1 of controlled substances, as prescribed in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Since Barack Obama took office, the White House has opened a portal on whitehouse.gov called “We The People” that allows virtually anyone to submit a petition to the president. According to the We the People Terms of Participation, once a petition receives 150 signatures (within 30 days), it then becomes searchable in the whitehouse.gov database. It then has another 30 days to receive 100,000 signatures in order for the president to respond to the issue in the petition.
We the People has received numerous marijuana-related petitions. None have garnered the 100,000 necessary signatures, but the president has responded to the issue based on the combined amount of signatures. Currently there is a new petition that was created on November 6, 2014 on We The People asking the government to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Fortunately for President Barack Obama, there is a bill he can urge Congress to pass, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., that addresses removing marijuana from schedule 1 of the CSA. An ideal scenario would be that this new petition gets the necessary signatures in the amount of time, and that the president suggests Congress and the Senate agree on a version of this bill, so he can sign it.
Whether the next leader of the free world will ride in on a donkey or an elephant remains a mystery until a fateful night in a future November. Unfortunately, the future of the marijuana industry is similarly mysterious. As the Huffington Post points out, frontrunners and contenders from both sides of the aisle are a mixed bag when it comes to marijuana. The Republicans harbor Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee—one party, divergent views on marijuana. Paul favors legalization, while Huckabee even opposes medical marijuana.
The Democrats are the party of politicians who want to “wait and see” what happens in places like Colorado and Washington. The Huffington Post also said Joe Biden called legalization a mistake, although he would consider a crackdown on potheads as wasting resources.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., agrees with Miron that something needs to happen before the next president takes office, according to the Huffington Post. Despite fears, Blumenauer, who supports Polis’ bill, is confident that marijuana will be legalized at the federal level before the end of the decade.
In the meantime, investors and anyone else supportive of a legal marijuana industry, whether medical or recreational, ought to make their voice heard. Sign the White House petition, write Congress and the Senate, and urge action towards full federal legalization. Without a lasting, federal resolution to marijuana prohibition, there is a continual risk to the industry and the money of its investors, that it all could fall victim to a political game.
If, like the Daily Beast said, the real winner of the last election was marijuana, then marijuana better get up and start to lead. With the public on its side, and the fight for legalization over at the state level in some places, it only makes sense to bring it to Washington now. There’s much at stake.