I have recently had a lot of very smart folks challenge the progress of Cannabis (MMJ) and CBD. With several questions like: 1) isn’t it still a “gateway drug”? 2) Isn’t it just about the government looking for more revenue sources? 3) What do they mean when they say MMJ laws disproportionately impact minorities; 4) Will there continue to be a black market once MMJ is legalized.
For additional detail please read my previous white papers on this site. This piece attempts to provide perspective on these issues.
1) The Gateway issue — MMJ has been considered a “gateway drug” for years, with no rationale for that POV except everyone that does hard drugs started on MMJ.
For years MMJ and Hemp, until last Thursday’s Farm Bill signing by the president, have been lumped together as a “class 1” drug violation at the federal level. Class 1 means NO MEDICINAL VALUE. (It includes Heroin, LSD, Opiates, MMJ etc).
Does that make sense? Lets look at some facts: a) it is now medicinally legal in 33 states; b) it has shown quantitative improvements in health outcomes for Epileptics (Epidiolex has been approved by the FDA); Autism; Anxiety; Inflammation/Arthritis (both Rheumatoid, and Osteo) and I could go on. Israel’s studies on the impact of certain strains on Cancer is totally breakthrough and is being studied throughout SE Asia, and Canada, and many universities all over the world including the US. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed our Universities to do extensive studies on the medicinal value of MMJ and CBD and the positive results are fully documented.
2) The need for money at the state level is often the final reason for a yes vote - Many political folks don’t understand the medicinal value, but they do understand the tax impact. They are watching the $1.3 Billion in incremental tax revenue in the 4 largest recreational MMJ states, and want “their fair share”.
3) Impact on the Penile System — Since it is a class 1 federal violation, MMJ possession is a felony. New York, where I live, is a 3 strike state, you can currently be in prison for the rest of your life from MMJ possession and sale. At a cost of $80,000/ year for a single prisoner in a penitentiary, that’s a lot of lives destroyed and a lot of money spent to lock these folks up for something that is medicinally legal in 33 states and recreationally legal in 11.
4) Racial issue — The governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, refers to it as a biased racial issue. While I don’t want to get into the race issue, people in jail for MMJ possession are disproportionately of color. Think of this. In recreational states, a visitor of a family member in jail for a multiple year sentence for MMJ possession is likely to go past restaurants, bars, dispensaries and pubs all selling CBD/THC yet their son, daughter, friend is in jail for years for what is no longer considered an illegal offense.
So do those families think the system is fair. Why wouldn’t the states rethink the prison sentences for MMJ only violators. It’s no longer illegal in those states. But if the inmate sent MMJ in the mail, or took it across a state line, they are in Federal Violation, which carries a felony sentence. Is that fair??
5) Cost vs black market — Many people use a THC delivery service to get their MMJ direct to home/apartments. These are often bespoke delivery services, who come to your home with curated product in multiple formats like oil, flower, and edibles. Not only is the product of high quality from a knowledgeable “sales person”, but the product is 30% less than at a dispensary. What’s more, In NYC and many other cities, there is an entire underground business of fully curated multi course MMJ dinners done by brilliant chefs with a price point of as much as $200/head and more.
Governor Cuomo decriminalized MMJ in NY, so there are no more prison sentences, going forward, for possession of small quantities. Legal access (currently through a dispensary) is heavily taxed and the supply/demand equation works to the advantage of the dispensary. The result: very high prices and often the knowledge level is quite low from the so called pharmacists or “Bud-tenders” as dispensary sales people are often called. (eg Medmen on 5th ave and 37th, one of 6 dispensaries in NYC proper).
To be fair, in mature states like Colorado, Washington, California, Oregon, etc. dispensary personnel are very knowledgeable but that is not the case everywhere.
Net, MMJ and CBD are: 1) proven to provide quantitative improvements in health outcomes of patients suffering from very troubling disease states; and 2) capable of generating a lot of tax income at the state level. So why is MMJ still federally illegal?
Answer: Politics, ignorance, and lobbying. Change is difficult to effect, especially when the stakes are so high.
Hope this helps