By Charles Roques
Cannabis has long been associated with certain notions of peaceful coexistence or harmony. Using the description “high” implied one was above the fray of the quotidian demands of life. The possibilities of medical research imbue cannabis with the potential to improve our lives, emotionally and physically. Some investors may even be inspired by the seemingly endless possibilities of this plant.
It is also like the beginning of the technology sector and the argument of whether operating systems should be open and free to all or sold by computer manufacturers. That certainly didn’t stop many companies from getting rich by selling them. Until federal legalization, it might help to remember that history. You might also be careful about the legalization process along the way.
The recent failure of Issue 3 to legalize marijuana in Ohio may say as much about state politics and corporate greed as it does about the progress of cannabis legalization across the country. It should serve as a cautionary reminder that legalization is not a done deal and that internal dissension about how to achieve legalization can undermine it. The disagreements about who truly represented the state and whose interests were actually being promoted caused even hard-core advocates to vote against the measure. This may be more of a setback for Ohio, but it is a lesson for states considering it in the near future.
A law not based on consensus should not expect to be supported by a consensus vote. Business and law will often intersect, but how they control each other needs to be considered. Cannabis does not belong to nor is it the divine right of only a select few. Many can share in the riches of cannabis, whether as an investor, entrepreneur or consumer.
Just as European royalty are all related, a limited group of businesses controlling the market is no less of a “royal corporation.” Legalization shouldn’t be about the enrichment of selected business owners or growers but legal for all who qualify. Extra caution would be advisable about how legalization is achieved. It shouldn’t contain conditions that benefit only a few.
A small number of select growers or producers smacks of a cartel. Cannabis will inevitably become a commodity and it will be monetized, but the sector is large enough to embrace technology, medical uses, agricultural uses, and myriad businesses, large and small. It can easily be cultivated on a large or small scale. The plant will connect ancillary industries. There is room for everyone to become enriched by cannabis, either financially, physiologically or emotionally. To start trying to place corporate control on a plant with endless possibilities denies the realization of those possibilities.
No matter what your spiritual stance and or notions about the plant are, traditional business practices will inevitably be a part of the sector. However, focusing on profit and control in advance of any system for regulation and legalization seems to be a skewed tactic. More importantly, there has to be unity and consensus on legal issues. It has been a long fight and it is not over; now is the time for advocates to be on guard against traditional business practices undermining progress for the sake of profiteering. The gray areas are an inherent part of this industry, but they are being clarified and the transition to a free market is vital.
Napoleon overthrew the French monarchy only to reestablish it under another name—empire. We certainly don’t need Rockefellers or Napoleons in cannabis. Cartels are still cartels, even if “legal.”
Nipping this in the bud is definitely the appropriate metaphor.