HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
We all know that the key to unlocking the true potential of the cannabis industry is Federal legalization of adult/recreational use; at least in those States which have embraced cannabis legalization.
Federal legalization will bring an end to the dreaded, tax penalizing IRC §280E. It will allow for interstate commerce and easy and safe banking. Federal legalization will allow for easy capital formation and lending relationships. It will allow for easier real estate acquisitions. It will allow for public listing of cannabis companies and trading of their stock.
However, as long as cannabis legalization remains pretty much a Democratic “Blue State” phenomenon, Federal legalization of recreational use may never advance in Washington DC. That’s because even with a slim Democratic US Senate majority and perhaps even with a sprinkling of Republicans to get a slim majority of pro-adult use Representatives in the House, legalization may never get past a Republican U.S. Senate filibuster. We don’t have the required 60 votes.
The bottom line is that until Republican Red States jump into the game, no cannabis reform bills – the SAFE Banking Act, the STATES Act, the PREPARE Act, etc. - may ever get off the ground.
And that’s where things may soon get interesting.
Red State Missouri, the “Show Me” State, certainly showed us all. Adult-use sales commenced a mere 4 months after ballot approval in November 2022. Over $125mm in cannabis sales were recorded in March, 2023 alone. State officials project over $1bln in sales for 2023. That means jobs and a revved-up economy for Missouri!!
In 2023, Red State Kentucky became the 38th State to legalize medical cannabis with sales anticipated to commence in 2025.
And in Texas, the mother lode of Red States, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bipartisan medical marijuana bill this year by the overwhelming vote of 127-19. Even though the bill is limited in scope, it does reflect a proverbial foot in the door for the Lone Star State.
The real way to influence Federal elected
officials on cannabis reform is to win
the argument at their home State level.
So, the theory is: With “budding” cannabis businesses in their home States, Republican US Senators from Missouri, Kentucky and Texas will slowly transform their varying degrees of cannabis opposition to clear pro-cannabis viewpoints. Can these elected officials afford to deny and fight the jobs, taxes and juiced-up economic output which this new industry brings to their home States? Those Senators would be: Josh Hawley, Eric Schmitt, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. They are Very. Republican. Senators.
In fact, we hereby crown Josh Hawley as the most interesting US Senator to watch on cannabis legalization. Missouri will have a $1bln industry in 2023, and Mr. Hawley is running for re-election in 2024.
Federal reform is not disembodied from movement at the State level. National reform does not occur in a vacuum. In fact, Federal elected officials will take their direction and cues from action in their home States.
Let’s keep an eye on these 6 Republicans.
If the theory holds that the real way to influence Federal elected officials on cannabis reform, is to win the argument at their home State level, then we may have a winning template to ultimately achieve Federal legalization.
douglas f. wasser, esq.