U.S. Marijuana Industry Continues to Grow, but Federal Authorities Present a Huge Obstacle
As New York debates whether it will join the short, but growing, list of states with fully legal cannabis, the prospect of tax revenue and job creation are at the forefront of proponents’ minds. But lohud points out that despite pro-marijuana groups’ determination, the federal government is an ever-present roadblock overshadowing any state-level attempts to legitimize cannabis.
Regardless of state law, federal prohibitionists insist on interfering, ruining the aspirations of immigrants and former criminals who want to give up on crime and take their black market skills into the legal industry.
Overall, the federal government continues to push back in passive-aggressive ways, accomplishing nothing to stop the spread of black market cannabis. The only people who get punished are those trying to live their lives in accordance with the law.
Significant Job Growth
Job creation is a common talking point when discussing marijuana legalization. What many of us may not realize is the sheer scope of marijuana’s impact on the job market. According to lohud:
“Despite the threat of federal authorities cracking down, the marijuana industry already has more than 120,000 workers and is poised to add 500,000 more over the next decade, USA TODAY Network reported.
To grasp the stakes in New York, consider that legalizing recreational pot could create about 30,700 jobs, according to a Rockefeller Institute of Government study.”
Given the fact that regulated marijuana exists in just over half of U.S. states, these statistics are rather impressive.
However, the federal government insists on souring the milk, targeting certain people.
Immigration and Criminal Records as an Obstacle
Ironically, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that banned marijuana was heavily motivated as a way to target immigrants. Today, cannabis prohibition laws also lead to uneven prosecution, with cannabis prosecution being tipped heavily against minorities.
Now, in a seeming third wave of discriminatory policy, immigrants engaged in the legal cannabis industry could either have their eligibility for permanency denied based on lacking “good moral character” or in some cases, have their resident status removed entirely.
As lohud explains:
“Amid the marijuana rush, two immigrants in Denver were recently denied citizenship for failing to meet “good moral character” due to their employment in the cannabis industry…Further, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services compelled the Coloradans, who were lawful permanent residents with no criminal history, to sign affidavits confirming their cannabis employment, subjecting them to potential federal prosecution and possible deportation…”
We covered the immigration issue in a previous article, pointing out that the “good moral character” rule is in direct conflict with written immigration policy, which states that possession of 30g or less in an applicant’s home country will not affect their eligibility.
But immigrants are not the only group being targeted. Individuals with criminal records are also experiencing hardship when entering the industry.
It is no secret – especially for convicts – that a criminal record impacts a person’s ability to find work in certain fields, cannabis being one of them. This poses a real problem, because the vast majority of expertise in cannabis comes from black market experience. Former (or current) dealers and illicit growers, for instance, have an opportunity to leave the black market and make an excellent living offering their services to licensed producers and vendors.
As lohud points out, this is a missed opportunity for both employment and as a way to fight the black market:
“Yet legal cannabis businesses have struggled to compete with the black-market weed workforce in states like Colorado and California, where growing and selling illicit pot brings in millions of dollars per year.
Similarly, some growers and pot dealers who could transition to legal weed have prior drug arrests, an employment barrier that some states aim to remove through laws expunging criminal records of low-level marijuana possession.”
Government Entertaining Reforms
Things may be rather bleak at the moment, but there appears to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. According to lohud:
“Colorado lawmakers have since urged Attorney General William Barr to retract the Department of Justice guidelines…which underscored how federal authorities could indiscriminately crack down on marijuana business and workers despite state laws.”
This would never have been an issue, of course, if the Obama era Cole Memorandum – a pledge by the federal government not to interfere in legal cannabis states – had not been rescinded by the Trump administration.
But now, with Democrats in a slightly better position than they were in prior to the midterms, along with Republicans also softening their stances, there is a good chance that states will eventually be left alone.
WeedAdvisor’s Interest in the U.S. Cannabis Industry
Despite the fact that legalization in the U.S. would dwarf Canada’s marijuana economy, WeedAdvisor values the end of prohibition. Stories like the one above that harm job prospects for legitimate candidates and threaten the very citizenship of non-violent individuals with no criminal records are rather distressing.
We would think by now that the U.S. government would simply leave things alone, but they insist on making life difficult for no reason other than to waste time and resources at the expense of innocent people (or at least those looking for a way to leave a life of crime).
But with the potential for serious change on the horizon, WeedAdvisor will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds – hopefully with some good news in the near future.