Opinion | Common Ground: Political Unity Around Federal Cannabis Prohibition Relief

Opinion | Common Ground: Political Unity Around Federal Cannabis Prohibition Relief

Benzinga Cannabis , Benzinga Contributor (Originally published on Benzinga Here)

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By J Smoke Wallin

In 1925, five years into Prohibition, journalist H. L. Mencken wrote, 

“There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. Not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased but diminished.” 

Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals and enabled and empowered organized crime. It would take another eight years for the repeal of Prohibition, with the enactment of the 21st Amendment, paving the way for a set of local option laws and regulations, state by state, known today as America’s beverage alcohol system. While imperfect, the state by state system has functioned well for over 85 years.

Around the time of Prohibition’s repeal, another Prohibition went into effect: cannabis. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 eventually made a plant used in medicine, and available recreationally for thousands of years, illegal. Again, this turned otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals, enabled and empowered organized crime, and also denied countless patients suffering from a wide range of ailments, including cancer, access to a plant that could help them. 

Today, 33 states have some form of medical cannabis provision, with 10 implementing adult recreational use. More are drafting legislation regularly. The 2018 Farm Bill took the non-psychoactive form of cannabis “hemp” out of the hands of the DEA and into the Agriculture Department, paving the way for legal hemp and hemp-based CBD and other extracts for national production and consumption. This is progress—and it is only the beginning.

There is reason to believe the time is now to decriminalize cannabis federally and end the conflicted issues inherently present. While common ground seems impossible to find politically in 2019, there is a sensible center that has always existed and still exists today. Cannabis Prohibition repeal may be one of the few unifying issues one can hope for in Washington today. Here is why I believe it is possible with our current state of divided government.

States’ Rights: Conservatives can be against cannabis reform but still agree to it based on the strong principle of states’ rights. One of the core principles of modern-day conservatives has been a commitment to states’ rights. This goes back to the founding fathers’ expressed interest in limiting the size and scope of the Federal government. While the scope of the Federal government has increased dramatically over the years, there is still a strong expressed interest in decentralization on a whole host of issues, including education and healthcare. Anyone holding these beliefs ought to be persuadable that 33 states and counting were not wrong. They have expressed the will of their citizens. One only needs to listen to U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) as he fights for his state’s right to regulate legal cannabis — when he originally voted against it. If the GOP intends to keep the Senate in 2020, their members will need the opportunity to support repeal.

Wellness: As Todd Harrison of CB1 Capital says, “Cannabis isn’t about getting high; it’s about getting well.” While US research has been stymied by Prohibition, anecdotally, the evidence is abundant. Whether it be a cancer patient coping with the effects of treatment or a child with epileptic seizures, one cannot argue there are benefits to this plant.

Cannabis clinical trials are underway in Israel and Canada. Large scale university-based research is in the early days (and due to the prohibition, have been disallowed in the U.S. thus far). However, since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law last year, cannabis without THC, legally known as hemp, is not under the purview of the Agriculture Department. Cannabinol or “CBD” is one of the components in the cannabis plant and is showing great promise in treating a variety of conditions. It is now in the FDA approved medicine for Epilepsy Epidiolex. Its number one characteristic is as an anti-inflammatory followed by pain relief.

I personally was able to give up Advil through the use of CBD for my minor aches and pains. Additional possible indications for CBD products include autism, psychiatric conditions, diabetic neuropath pain, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and back pain. Clinical trials in these indications are underway; however, excluding THC from these studies makes zero scientific sense. The scientists committed should immediately be allowed to study the full cannabis plant in all its possible applications. Public demand is at an all-time high, and burying our heads in the sand scientifically is a disservice to the public.

Opioid Epidemic Overall And Loss Of Veterans: Over 50,000 citizens died in 2018 from some form of opioid incident. Cannabis has been shown to enable people to manage their chronic pain without the harmful side effects of opioids. The current approach is not working. We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide in this country as they cope with PTSD and the subsequent meds prescribed by the VA. I personally know veterans who were on the verge of suicide and were saved by the use of cannabis. Many VA doctors agree and would like the option. Veterans’ organizations stand universally in favor of legalized medical cannabis; so too should our nation’s leaders.

Economics: Since Colorado legalized adult use cannabis in 2014, the state generated over $6 billion in sales and $1 billion in tax revenue. CA generated $300 million in taxes in its first year of imperfect legislation and will amount to well over $3 billion once legal rollout is fully up and running. In fiscal year 2017-2018, Colorado Department of Revenue says it collected $250,968,890 in marijuana tax revenue. The constitution requires the first $40 million in excise tax money go to school construction. Anything over that from the excise tax goes toward public-school funds.

Overall, 47 percent of marijuana tax money went to schools for fiscal year 2017-2018, 41 percent went to other state services, and the remaining 12 percent went to the general fund. Denver alone collected $48 million in tax revenue on cannabis. In Denver, all marijuana tax money goes to the general fund. The city also needs to dedicate portions of that tax revenue to education, enforcement, and regulation. During the last five years, nearly $13 million of the revenue went toward youth prevention efforts. For 2018, the city also carved out money from marijuana revenue for certain projects, including $5 million for deferred capital maintenance, $4 million to fix aging parks and recreation centers and an estimated $8 million per year to help double Denver’s Affordable Housing Fund.

The states cannot afford not to go after this revenue source, not to mention the countless entrepreneurs rushing into the space to create value for their investors and stakeholders. It’s an economic windfall for the states that have moved forward and will be for the country at large if done right.

Social Justice Reform: Congress agreed, and the President signed some justice reform passed into law in 2018. Cannabis reform may further correct a legal system that disproportionately affected certain communities. 

Banking: The Federal Prohibition juxtaposed with state permission has created an untenable system whereby legitimate businesses are unable to access the federal banking system. This creates an unsafe environment with massive amounts of cash being handled. While some local state options exist, the Treasury department has publicly come out in favor of a solution for banking and legal taxation.

Elections And Public Opinion: Gallup has tracked the topic of cannabis legalization for years. 2018 marked the first time the majority of Americans in every segment favored some form of legalization. This applied to baby-boomers and millennials, to Democrats and Republicans. Almost every single presidential hopeful who has declared has come out publicly in favor of repealing the national cannabis ban in the form of the STATES Act, while some have gone much further with full legalization. This includes Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg. President Trump has publicly stated his support for the states to decide.

When functioning properly, politicians serve their constituents. To get reelected, these politicians need to find a set of issues that gives them sufficient votes to win. There are no issues today that unite the country quite like cannabis reform.

The toothpaste is out of the tube, and you can’t put it back in. Legal cannabis is coming to the United States, sooner rather than later. Get ready.

J Smoke Wallin is CEO of Vertical Wellness, the leading hemp-based CBD company, and President of multi-state cannabis operator Vertical Companies.

Family Predictions… 2012 Outcomes

Family Predictions… 2012 Outcomes

So, we don’t do a lot of politics here, but occasionally will weigh in on what is going on or an important event.  Today is one of those important events – the US Elections.  I thought it might be fun to ask around a few of my family members what their predictions are going into today and also share a few thoughts of my own.  You will note I have family with widely divergent views to my own, but in the spirit of this great nation, and the true purpose of debate…  “not victory, but progress” – I share a few of them here with permission:

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First, my prediction:

Romney wins in a landslide. All those normal folks who were afraid of the drone slinging pres/gov and would not answer pollsters, actually vote their conscience.  That is, for a smaller, less intrusive government led by a moderate smart successful caring  person, who did what he had to do to get the nomination.  The country moderates back to a post ww2 equilibrium of about 20% fed gov spend of GNP and taxes. Balanced.   This fixes the problem. Yes there are some sacrifices re various worthy spending causes.  But alas, my parents retire with full current benefits, and those of us under 50′, buy into a new social pact whereby we know gov is there for a certain amount, but not for everything we need.  The gen x and later generations have to make the hard choices that the free spending baby boom generation of bill Clinton and our parents did not make.  Instead we focus on personal responsibility, hard work and innovation to get us to the place we need to be as a nation.  No more blaming the past or others for our predicament.

There is a complete rethink in academia…. Ayn Rand was right.  Hayek is the new Jay-z.  As a people, we recall what made us revolt from the British empire and create the greatest nation in history. We will remember Ben Franklin.

This will unleash an unprecedented burst of entrepreneurial activity fueled  by the billions and trillions of money on the sides lines during these dark times.   This will create opportunity for all. Women, Hispanic, Black, American Indian, Asian, all of us will benefit as a result.

Life will be grand.  🙂

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Now my Dad’s – Luke Wallin
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“The president is re-elected by comfortable margins in the popular vote and the electoral college.

The senate and house remain as they were.

In the coming year many republicans copy the strategy of “say anything.” However, it doesn’t work. This causes PhD dissertations to be written on why it worked for Romney but not for others. When the first of these works comes up for oral defense, a faculty member points out that “it didn’t work.” The thesis is rejected and all the others are quietly tossed as new topics are floated.

Chris Christie leads the party back toward moderation. This brings a war with the Tea Party, backed by the Koch brothers. Karl Rove backs Christie. Outcome too close to call.

The NRA HQ disappears in a flash of light.

Somebody said they thought they saw a drone.

What say you?”

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Now my oldest son, Skye Wallin
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“I predict a narrow Obama victory… almost certainly a victory in Ohio.

But he certainly could lose and I don’t pretend that it’s out of the realm of possibility.  Indeed, with the hurricane disruptions of voting in NY, NJ, CN, Obama may lose the popular vote and still win the College.  I hope this isn’t the case.

If Obama loses, it will be a sad thing not because he’s the greatest president, but because it will make cynics out of his supporters and cynics out of the citizens of the world who witness America fire the young man they chose to rescue us from the most catastrophic presidency in history.  People like to say that after 4 years, you can’t blame Bush anymore.  Well, I blame a lot of people and two parties, but Bush changed the world forever and wrecked a lot of things with draconian, expensive policies.

If Obama loses, it says that Americans really don’t have an ounce of patience and give up on promising individuals.  Barack still has lots of potential… after 4 years, I think he has learned what works, what doesn’t, and will approach governance more forcefully in the second term.  What kind of people are we to not even give him the chance to succeed.  As the economy improves, as the occupation of Afghanistan winds down, and as the recovery in Sandy-effected territories gets underway, what kind of sense does it make to fire the Commander?  With all the legislative nonsense that has occurred of recent, I think people blame Obama way too much–Congress is to blame for the vast majority of our problems.

With respect to foreign policy, Obama acts with a restrained neo-conservative strategy full of violence but less stupidity.  He is a scholar of the world with empathy, but unafraid to fire missiles and send in the SEALS…and go to war.  He has adopted responsible Republican tactics, so any argument that he’s soft on terror is entirely cynical and political.

WIth respect to the Supreme Court, it goes without saying that a more liberal court is a good thing.  If you are socially liberal, you understand that the Court is where those decisions get made at the end of the day.  Romney will nominate a smart, but potentially draconian conservative justice with lasting implications for civil rights and other important topics.

In the end, these men are not all that different and to assume there is a fundamental divide just isn’t true.  THe question is, do we fire our guy after his first try?  Just as things seem to be improving?  Or do we throw it all away and let Romney take the credit for someone else’s leadership?

Again, Obama wins Ohio.”

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Whatever your views, if you do not exercise your right to vote you really do not have much of a basis to argue about the outcome.  When all is said and done, I do hope as a country we can try to come together.  That does not mean abandoning ones principles just for unity.  It does however mean, finding ways in which, given the realities of a divided and diverse nation we can come focus on the big problems that need big solutions.  Stop politicizing everything and everyone.  Our nation cannot continue on its current trajectory and expect to maintain or grow our standard of living, our standing in the world or create opportunities for the next generations.  Stop pretending we can leave “as is” the social programs put in place in a different day and age when in fact they cannot continue as is.  That is not political.  Stop spending more than we take in.  That is not political.  Possible?
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There a people out there who are indeed thinking along these lines. I recommend checking out Dave Maney and his recent piece in the Denver Post, and this CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN - NY Times piece “A Capitalist’s Dilemma, Whoever Wins on Tuesday”
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Back to the family, exercising our duty as citizens, this morning at 6am at the polling station in Carmel, IN – Anitra and my oldest daughter Sierra (who got to vote for her first time today).  Pretty cool.
  
Well that about sums it up.. the family disagrees.  Do any of you have family members this divergent?  I may add more family predictions here as they trickle in.  Stay tuned…

The Choice of Ryan

I’m rarely surprised for the better by most politicians these days. Every once in a while, we get to observe a bold move by one that provides hope. Romney’s selection of Ryan falls into this category for me. I will refer to my blog post from February 2010 in which I asked the question – “Is Anybody Series in Washington?” I stand by my post from then.

I will differ with both parties on many issues. In the Democratic platform, there will be a complete lack of seriousness with regard to the size and scope of government and its role in our lives. In the case of the Republican platform, I’m certain there will be far too much government positioning on private social issues that ought to always remain beyond the reach of government (My Libertarian friends will concur). That said, selecting Ryan shows me there can be a serious approach to our #1 problem in the U.S.; that our government has become too big and is unsustainable. Ryan’s plan is no radical plan, it simply slows the growth of spending. I would be in favor of a much more radical approach. Not withstanding the ridiculous political attacks already occurring, I look forward to the clash of ideas as we approach the election.
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Here is a link to the actual House Budget Plan led by Ryan… read it before believing what you hear about it…. http://budget.house.gov/fy2013prosperity/

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