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Pot Matters: The Road Ahead

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Editors Note: Of course, much of this is going to be depended on whether the new administration decides to interfere with states that have legalized. 

The November 8th election is a historic milestone in the legalization of marijuana in the United States, and it will have a profound impact on marijuana laws throughout the United States, an impact subject to great discussion here and in other forums.

The most obvious impact is, of course, the legal authorization for a new legal industry in various states that have approved ballot initiatives, which will be of tremendous benefit to both cannabis consumers and local governments.

After that, a great deal of discussion is now taking place about the momentum of the legalization movement and how this affects laws in other states—both in terms of new initiatives to be placed before voters in the next election cycle and in terms of whether or not there’s sufficient evidence of popular support for legalization to get legislatures at both the state and national level to act on their own.

Two new issues, though, will increase in prominence because of the election results, issues that go beyond the obvious political ramifications dominating early discussion. Both have received a bit of attention in HIGH TIMES over the last few years, and both deserve and demand increased attention now.

Issue Number 1 is the need for greater attention to the rights and requirements of cannabis consumers.

Issue Number 2, which is related to and derived from this, is the need to resolve the inherent conflict between the old medical cannabis industry and the new, more generalized legal cannabis industry.

The bottom line is this—now that the race to legalize marijuana is fully underway, the race to profit from this new market will intensify. Despite appearance (and despite the remaining political battle to expand legalization to more states and eventually to the nation as a whole), the competition now shifts from a battle between those for and against marijuana’s legalization to a battle between those who wish to profit from legal marijuana sales and consumers upon which their profits are derived.

There will be efforts to limit production to a few number of cultivators to inflate prices and guarantee the largest profits for producers. There will be efforts to limit personal cultivation, also to maximize profits for suppliers. One justification for both will be that high prices will discourage consumption, masking the battle for profits in the guise of public health priorities.

There will be efforts to resist further legalization by attempting to restrict legal marijuana to medical and therapeutic sales. This will obviously benefit the medical marijuana industry, and just as obviously, it will attempt to justify reduced supply and higher profits on public health grounds in terms of discouraging widespread access and consumption.

What marijuana consumers need now, in addition to political advocacy organizations to finish the battle for full legalization, are consumer advocacy organizations.

One of the basic principles of our democratic system is that people affected by laws and legislation should participate in their formation. It’s time for the voice of the cannabis consumer to be heard in the debate over the shape and nature of America’s new marijuana laws. Certainly, industry should play a greater role in the political battle to expand legalization, and indeed also bear a greater share of the costs this battle will incur. But they should not be the only voice heard when it comes to creating the laws and regulations for the new market.

Consumers are best served by an open, free market. New laws and regulations must guarantee open access to the marijuana market. They must provide a legal framework of competition and innovation. This will drive down prices and increase consumer benefits. In the long run, this will also advance the public interest.

Low prices will help wipe out the last vestiges of the illegal cannabis market and make sure that all cannabis commerce respects and implements well-crafted regulatory provisions. Innovation and entrepreneurship will foster economic development, increasing job creation and tax revenue.

A well-regulated market, enjoying the support and confidence of both industry and consumers, is also good for public health. It will enhance funding and cooperation, create public consensus and otherwise contribute to a new cultural standard that promotes responsible cannabis use, restricts access to adults and creates widespread support for effective anti-drug abuse programs.

Previously in Pot Matters: The Shocking Truth About Edible Cannabis Candy

Read all of Jon Gettman’s columns right here.

For complete Election 2016 coverage, click here.

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