If you have been paying even casual attention to Federal Cannabis Policy, it becomes pretty clear that the Feds like chasing illegal pot growers but can’t bear the thought of letting patients get the clean, safe cannabis that helps them.
Ah, come on, man, that can’t be true? Well, let’s examine a few things.
Federal Policy Gives Illegal Pot a Price/Costs Advantage.
It cost more to grow legal, clean, lab-tested cannabis. Legal growers pay taxes (federal, state, local, employment, medical, etc.), illegal growers don’t. Legal growers must meet quality safety standards, illegal growers don’t. Legal growers have to figure out how to keep track of all that cash and REPORT it accurately (mostly without the help of a bank account), illegal growers can just throw it in a shoebox (a very big shoebox).
So, an illegal grower can grow for less money and can generally sell cheaper than good legal cannabis. The consumer might be ingesting some very bad stuff, but the grower doesn’t have to worry about that. And apparently the feds are just fine too.
Federal Policy Gives Illegal Pot Growers a Big Market and No Accountability.
Ok, so imagine you have a health condition that is relieved by cannabis, PTSD for example (you could insert chemo-therapy, HIV and a host of other conditions). First case, you live in a state where cannabis is ILLEGAL. If you don’t know by now, it’s not hard to find illegal pot. In some places, you can find a source on a mobile app and have it delivered. It’s easy to get, but you don’t necessarily know what you are getting. It could contain harmful levels of pesticides, mold, mildew and a whole bunch of other bad stuff. Is it worth the risk? Maybe, if it’s the only cannabis that you can acquire.
And here’s the dig: illegal growers can do this in all states, legal or not. They are getting a free ride on a huge market.
But what if you get busted? Well, if you only hold small quantities, it might be only a ticket or a hand slap. So, from the consumer side, the risk of breaking the law has been minimized almost to the point of decriminalization. If you are distributing, that may be another story – depends on who catches you.
Second case, you live in a state with legal medical cannabis. See above, same story, only here it is up to the consumer. You can apply for a medical card and pay a little more for good, clean product. Sounds good if you can afford it – but there’s a “gotcha”: you have to give up your guns. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it illegal to smoke pot and have a gun. So, if you get a medical card, goodbye guns. For some people that may be ok. For others, it’s bad, bad, bad. Americans are rather touchy about things like the Second Amendment. So, what does the consumer do? He or she buys illegal pot: they are willing to take the health risk to protect second amendment rights.
I could go on and on, but the Feds have taken a rather confusing position: turn a blind eye to state legalization, but continue policies that, from a consumer perspective, favor illegal pot.
What happens in States that Legalize Cannabis?
Short answer: good things. More tax dollars, accessibility to cannabis for desperate patients, lower opiate use and deaths, lower crime rates and even low Medicare costs to the Feds! In states with adult use, it even drives the bad illegal stuff out of the market – or at least diminishes it significantly.
So Feds, What’s the Hang-Up?
I really don’t know the answer to this question, but the cynical part of my nature says it is one big turf fight over which agency gets to regulate legal cannabis. It’s really a fight about internal power, budget and jobs. We already know cannabis is safe, we know it helps patients of all sorts with chronic health conditions – and on and on and on. So, what’s holding you back, Mr. and Ms. Congressperson or agency chief?
Well, another thought is that it’s folks that stand to lose money (they think) if cannabis is legal: big pharma and alcohol to name two of the usual suspects. These folks spend a whole bunch of money in Washington.
Regulation Brings Transparency and Accountability and Serves the Public Interest.
Think about Prohibition. Repeal of Prohibition put the moonshiners out of business. Check out what’s happening in states with Adult Use: Colorado, Washington and Oregon. And think about the Second Amendment.
Congress needs to get busy and needs to do it now. The People are getting mad.