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The Marijuana Industry and the Trump Administration

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This Alex Halperin piece demonstrates both the pathetic response of the marijuana industry to the coming attacks from Attorney General Nathan Bedford Forrest and how that industry represents not all users of marijuana, but rather the wealthy white users who control the legal weed operations.

The legal marijuana industry, which is anticipated to top $6 billion in sales this year, also has reason to fear Sessions, but its response has been much more muted. The National Cannabis Industry Association, the industry’s largest lobby, released a statement saying that it looked forward to working with Attorney General Sessions. They think it’s safer to weather his tenure at the Justice Department than to fight it.

After the nomination, the pro-pot activist Tom Angell told BuzzFeed, “From a political lens, I think reversing course on [marijuana] and trying to shut down broadly popular state laws, that’s going to be a huge distraction from all the other things they care a lot more about,” Angell said. “It’s a fight that they don’t want to pick.” Put another way: Marijuana proponents believe that President Trump and Attorney General Sessions will be too busy tracking Muslims and deporting noncitizens to go after state-legal pot, which also happens to be more popular than not among Republicans. The industry expects the more vulnerable populations to function as its human shields.

This is utterly revolting. It is morally bankrupt. It is literally counting on Trump and Sessions going after Muslims and black people as a cover for white people getting stoned. How can one actually utter that statement in good faith? That is an inherently racist and Islamophobic position to take. Moreover, it ignores that African-Americans and Muslims may in fact also smoke marijuana. But these aren’t the marijuana users the National Cannabis Industry Association cares about. They care about white people in Denver and Portland. If the War on Drugs wants to target black and Latino kids in the city, a whole lot of white marijuana smokers simply won’t care so long as they are left alone. This is also politically stupid because it’s quite simple for Sessions to go after legal weed on his first day in office by reversing the two Obama DOJ memos that set up the possibility for legalization.

This is also a moment to worth noting that while the War on Drugs is a justice issue, legal marijuana is not necessarily a justice issue per se because it’s entirely possible the already existing disparities in drug enforcement by race continues. And there’s little reason to believe the weed industry is more justice-oriented than any other industry. It’s run by capitalists and, let’s face it, has a lot of consumers who are one-issue voters, if they can be motivated to actually show up to vote for it. Halperin is entirely correct–the smart move is for the legal marijuana industry to actively oppose Sessions, identify the industry with opposing the entire War on Drugs, look to make allies in opposing the racism with said war and the rest of the institutionalized racism to come, and build support within progressive communities. But it won’t, possibly to its doom if Sessions targets it.

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  • (((max)))

    Halperin is entirely correct–the smart move is for the legal marijuana industry to actively oppose Sessions, identify the industry with opposing the entire War on Drugs, look to make allies in opposing the racism with said war and the rest of the institutionalized racism to come, and build support within progressive communities. But it won’t, possibly to its doom if Sessions targets it.

    Possibly. I expect their theory is that they operating entirely on Session’s sufferance and if they get sideways with him, they’re dead.

    max
    [‘At the end of the day, it’s investments first, everything else second.’]

  • LeeEsq

    The legalized marijuana industry is a commercial enterprise. Most people are in it to make money, theoretically off a product many of them enjoy, rather than make a political point. If I’m remembering correctly, many pro-marijuana users were wary of legalization for this reason. Legalization would mean commercialization and that has some significant downsides for people opposed to market economics and mainstream politics. It might be completely craven but the legalized marijuana industry is acting like one would expect a business potentially under siege to act. If we ever reach a point where some states have legalized most of the sex industry but face a federal threat, I’d expect the same sort of behavior.

    • petesh

      many pro-marijuana users were wary of legalization

      Yes, and so were some long-established but small-time sellers. For grass, unlike the powders, a significant local industry had grown over the last 50 years or so, and at least in California had achieved a fairly sustainable position, with busting for possession being regarded as one of the lowest law-enforcement priorities. I for one have never had a medical marijuana card, it just seemed too much bother. My position on this may be subject to abrupt change.

      • Yankee

        I would have thought getting a medical mj card* was a safe thing to do. My position on this may be subject to abrupt change.

        * never did; I don’t qualify on paper.

        • postmodulator

          I way qualify and I don’t even want it for the buzz; I have glaucoma. (I have other conditions that supposedly respond well to it, too, but they’re not the ones scaring me.) I agree with you that getting a card may not be a smart move long-term.

  • n00chness

    Among a small handful of Facebook Friends that were “blocked” during this election cycle was as thrice-daily Trump Propaganda Poster who claims to be Both Sides and Open Minded because he really, really supports Weed Legalization.

    Supporting legal weed when the primary motivation is personal recreational use is not a liberal cause, IMO. It is primarily about self-gratification.

    • FMguru

      a thrice-daily Trump Propaganda Poster who really, really supports Weed Legalization.

      You could have just said “Libertarian” and saved yourself a whole bunch of typing.

    • djw

      Supporting legal weed when the primary motivation is personal recreational use is not a liberal cause, IMO.

      If fighting for your rights because you actually want to use them doesn’t count as liberalism, there’s not going to be much left. The motivational force of self-defense isn’t all of liberalism, but it’s a source of energy liberalism badly needs. “The exercise of some rights is more noble than the exercise of others” is going to be intuitively obvious to most people, but which ones go in the noble and ignoble category will be a source of fundamental and permanent disagreement. But taking the next step to “only the self-defense of the exercise of rights categorized as noble counts as liberalism” takes us down a pretty troubling road we’d do well to avoid travelling, I think.

    • Warren Terra

      What’s wrong with self-gratification?

      Not every liberal cause is about ending discriminatory oppression. Not every liberal cause is equally virtuous, or equally important. Letting people amuse themselves in ways that don’t harm others is a liberal virtue, whether that means letting them read Lady Chatterley’s Lover or letting them smoke weed (while not operating heavy machinery, etcetera). This isn’t Brown v Board level stuff on pretty much any axis, but it’s still a good idea.

      • liberalrob

        I’d classify “self-gratification” under “the pursuit of happiness.” Ergo, an inalienable right.

        Some people just can’t stand the notion that other people are having fun. If I’m miserable, everyone else ought to be miserable too!

        • cpinva

          “Some people just can’t stand the notion that other people are having fun. If I’m miserable, everyone else ought to be miserable too!”

          I believe these people are known as Baptists.

          I’m confused, why would someone in favor of legalizing pot be a Trump pumper? that makes no sense at all, because it’s counterproductive to legalizing pot. did I miss something in the translation?

      • ThrottleJockey

        If you plan to speak freely then supporting Freedom of Speech is wrong and illiberal!

        This isn’t Brown v Board level stuff on pretty much any axis, but it’s still a good idea.

        Disagree here.

        Actually one of the reasons why legalization is my biggest public policy priority is because of the deep racial discrepancies in mj arrests and how that impacts both criminalization and employment. I tried pot twice, hated it, and never once thought about trying it again. But I think legalizing it would be great.

        Theres another huge reason to support legalization. Pot accounts for 2/3rds of cartel revenues. Imagine if cartels had 2/3rds less money for guns and soldiers. That would make a huge difference in streets all over the Americas.

        • There are also major environmental policy reasons to support legalization as well. Weed growers are really tearing up the California and southern Oregon forests, with some major wildlife and water implications.

          • liberalrob

            Not sure legalization would reduce the pressure to expand production.

        • cpinva

          “Theres another huge reason to support legalization. Pot accounts for 2/3rds of cartel revenues. Imagine if cartels had 2/3rds less money for guns and soldiers. That would make a huge difference in streets all over the Americas.”

          I thought that as well, before I really gave it some thought. the cartels have a built-in huge gross profit margin. they can under-sell the legal product (with all the taxes placed on it), and still make a tidy profit. not to mention, it, like spirits/wine/beer & ale, is something the consumer can produce him/herself, for personal use. to really impact the cartels (at least on pot), the states are going to have to be a tad less greedy. until the cartels drop out of production/distribution, they’re still going to compete.

    • liberalrob

      Many people believe that sex out of wedlock should be illegal. They don’t believe in allowing sex for “personal recreational use.” Is prohibition of sex out of wedlock a liberal cause?

      I think your understanding of what is “liberal” is questionable.

      • LeeEsq

        Considering that liberal and leftist tend to blend in a lot of current political discourse, the poster might be invoking the deep puritanical strain in leftism and progressivism. The one that led the CCP to declare that “making love is a mental disease” in all earnestness or Theodore Adorno to rail against popular culture.

        • liberalrob

          That kind of puritanism is illiberal, though.

    • UserGoogol

      Gratification is the point of liberalism. Let people live their lives how they want so they can pursue their own happiness. Being able to smoke pot is a rather more frivolous issue than issues like police brutality or health care, but it’s ultimately part of the same project.

      Of course, liberals aren’t absolutists like libertarians hollering about the Non-Aggression Principle, so self-gratification is subject to appropriate regulations, and not an absolutely inviolable right. But banning something requires a burden of evidence which marijuana flagrantly fails to meet.

      It annoys me when people are liberal only to promote their own selfish concerns instead of caring about more important issues that impact other people. But the problem is that they’re being self-centered, not that self-gratification as such is illiberal.

      • Origami Isopod

        Gratification is the point of liberalism.

        This is a major overgeneralization. Public education, public healthcare, labor unions, poverty relief – none of these things are about gratification.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Enlightened self gratification.

        • liberalrob

          Public education

          Some people enjoy learning and knowing stuff.

          public healthcare

          Some people enjoy being able to receive quality healthcare.

          labor unions

          Some people enjoy being compensated appropriately and having a safer workplace.

          poverty relief

          Some people don’t like living in poverty; others don’t like seeing people living in poverty in the richest and most powerful nation in history.

          There’s a lot about liberalism that’s about gratification, of oneself and of others.

        • cpinva

          “This is a major overgeneralization. Public education, public healthcare, labor unions, poverty relief – none of these things are about gratification.”

          actually, all of them are, just not in the general way we think of self-gratification. being educated can be gratifying, and enable you to be employed. public healthcare provides the gratification of knowing that you probably won’t die of some easily treatable disease or infection. labor unions provide a sense of economic well being of having some measure of control over your job situation, which can be gratifying. etc., etc., etc.

          again, not gratifying in the sense we commonly think of it, but true nonetheless.

          “so self-gratification is subject to appropriate regulations, and not an absolutely inviolable right.”

          there really aren’t any inviolable rights. when exercising your rights violates the rights of others, compromises must be made.

  • It didn’t occur to me until just now, but Trump will make three consecutive presidents who’ve either admitted to or been credibly accused of cocaine use. Slavery is always gonna be the biggest hypocrisy in American history, but the Drug War has a hell of a claim on second place.

    • Murc

      Trump has not, as far as I know, been credibly accused of cocaine use.

      (Jesus fuck, I can’t believe I’m defending Trump. I feel filthy dirty inside.)

      • Joe_JP

        “Credibly” or not, the allegation was out there:

        http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/10/10/1580238/-It-s-More-Than-Donald-Trump-s-Sniffles-that-Point-to-Cocaine-Use

        Trump has noted he doesn’t drink, motivated in part by his brother’s drinking problem. I would find it surprising if he never was around those who used at some point, given the habits at certain parties etc. he might have went to. But, I’m inclined to accept that drug use is something Trump is not inclined to do. OTOH, I really have no idea if he never tried it.

        • delazeur

          He took pointers from Roy Cohn on everything else, I don’t see why not drugs as well. If not cocaine then something else.

        • muddy

          If the “doctor” gives you the “medicine” then you don’t get “high”. I could well see him abusing some kind of prescription uppers and thinking that doesn’t count.

          • Joe_JP

            Seems reasonable. Recreational drugs are different to some degree.

            ETA: Some are cynical about that, I’m sure, but this is what I have seen from the average person too. Non-trolls reasonably see different usage here. Medicinal marijuana, for instance, have been used by children from my understanding. etc. The line is not always clear, and can blend, but there is one from my understanding.

        • William Berry

          Trump is very possibly ADHD and might be, and have been, tripping his ass off for decades on a shit-pot-load of Adderall which, from what I hear, is just as good as meth.

          I mean, It is utterly irresponsible not to speculate.

          • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

            Please note Adderall’s chemical name is, uh, amphetamine-dextroamphetamine.

            • William Berry

              Yeah, who needs cocaine or booze, right? Get ripped on that shit and you are just fine with a glass of Perrier on the rocks and a coterie of sycophants to listen to your inane, vulgar babbling.

        • eh

          His brother died in 1981, well after the days of Studio 54, of which Donald attended the grand opening (and then some).

      • Warren Terra

        His use of (prescription) speed is well documented, albeit I don’t think he’s ever admitted it (and his use of speed is rumored to have been far too much for far too long), but he claims to have always refused cocaine and alcohol. He wouldn’t lie, would he?

        • randy khan

          I actually believe him on liquor – it’s been reported for a long time and it actually makes him somewhat odd within his peer group, so if he were lying about it we’d likely have heard by now. Drug use is a different story, though.

      • Ronan

        I would be genuinely shocked if trump wasn’t an absolute fiend for coke at once stage of his life. Less shocked, though still shocked, if he didn’t still dabble.

        • cpinva

          if the way he acts is his normal, without any chemical additives, that’s even more frightening.

  • Murc

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of the hippie weed-smoking folks are only grudgingly involved in politics to begin with, because it doesn’t make them feel all special in their pants. As long as they get what they want they’re perfectly happy to divest and talk at length about how politics is a cancer and there should be no such thing as a politician and why doesn’t everyone just tune out?

    (It’s pretty easy to tune out if you bought a hundred acres of then-undesireable real estate for twenty grand in 1980 and are now filthy, stinking rich because of it.)

    • petesh

      Not a straw man, a cannabis person!

      • Warren Terra

        Grass, not straw.

    • pianomover

      Look at Trinity county CA property sales and you’ll see what looks like a rush to get out of the “stinking rich” business of outdoor marijuana farming.

      I also think it’s a leap on the part of the author to imply that not engaging the Feds on the issue of marijuana means a big fuck you to the disenfranchised groups targeted by the Trump admin.

      Legalization of marijuana has been fought at the state level since the get go.

      • AlanInSF

        Agreed. Did the guy in the story say anything worse than “We don’t expect it will be a high priority for the Trump adminstration?” There are many things that could be said about the marijuana business as a business, but I’m not seeing any connection between their activities and the ability of Trump to carry out his clearly stated priorities (as opposed to something some people think Jeff Sessions might be inclined to do).

        • Just_Dropping_By

          Yes, I was going to say that it’s a really neat trick to froth with outrage at an entire industry over something that nobody actually involved with the industry said.

  • wengler

    My guess is that Republicans will tolerate legal weed unless and until they donate to Democrats. Then it’s open war. I think Sessions is going to push the twin initiatives of putting every elected Democratic official behind bars and investigating every person and group in this country that fund Democratic Party campaigns.

    • delazeur

      My guess is that Republicans will tolerate legal weed unless and until they donate to Democrats.

      Can the marijuana businesses even do that? Given their difficulties accessing the banking system, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sort of federal proscription on PACs accepting money from illegal enterprises.

    • Joe_JP

      A funding regulation that stopped prosecution of federal marijuana laws if state law was not violated (the limits unclear) was passed by a bipartisan vote.

      • Warren Terra

        But does this apply to the federal drug money laundering law? Because that’s the big one right now, with the feds not going after small-scale possession, or after well-behaved state-legal growers and retailers: laws against the handling of drug money mean that the state-legal marijuana industry cannot process credit or debit transactions and can’t pay their bills electronically or by check – everything has to be done with cash, which makes for extensive security requirements and well-justified paranoia. The Obama administration was talking about finding some way to back off on that rule (it’s enforced not just on the marijuana industry side, where people are already constantly violating federal law, but also on the banking side, where they pick and choose when and how to break the law); indeed, the Obama administration may even have done something (I don’t follow this closely). But we can bet Jeff Sessions won’t be so inclined.

  • Aaron Morrow

    It is literally counting on Trump and Sessions going after Muslims and black people as a cover for white people getting stoned.

    The odds of this aren’t quite 100%, but it’s close, especially once you figure the likelihood that the Sessions DOJ/DEA will focus on black and Hispanic areas rather than those beloved by wealthy white men.

    Also, tax cuts.

    That is an inherently racist and Islamophobic position to take.

    Damn straight.

    Here’s to the economic logic and moral fortitude of the Drug Policy Alliance.

  • delazeur

    You might be right that this isn’t a smart political move, but from a purely business perspective they have a slate of bad options and this may well be the least bad one.

    More generally, I’m not sure that we should make it the responsibility of all organizations to fight all evils all the time. The National Cannabis Industry Association exists to protect state-legal marijuana businesses and that’s what they are doing. They don’t exist to fight against the War on Drugs or racism or Islamophobia.*

    That doesn’t mean that there does not exist a moral obligation to fight those things, only that the NCIA is not necessarily the vehicle to do it. Each of us as individuals has to prioritize our personal efforts (Loomis mostly works on labor issues, I mostly work on environmental issues, etc.) and the same is true of organizations. It’s not as though the businesses and people who are part of NCIA are unable to participate in efforts outside of NCIA.

    *Incidentally, I’m a bit confused as to how the observation that the incoming administration is going to be busy with Islamophobia is itself Islamophobic. Opportunistic and cowardly, perhaps.

    • Murc

      The National Cannabis Industry Association exists to protect state-legal marijuana businesses and that’s what they are doing. They don’t exist to fight against the War on Drugs or racism or Islamophobia.*

      They do if they want political allies.

      If the pro-pot folks expect traction from either of the two major political coalitions in this country, the price of that aid is reciprocity and solidarity. That is how it works.

      • delazeur

        Maybe.

        There are enough people across the political spectrum who want to buy legal marijuana that I wouldn’t be so sure, especially since some of the efforts of the liberal coalition would be helpful to NCIA whether they act together or not.

  • Denverite

    Obligatory note that a lot of marijuana users in a lot of states do so for (legitimate, or at least the belief that they’re legitimate) medical reasons. I’m not sure that excuses a “hopefully Sessions and DOJ will be too busy ruining other people’s lives to come after my pot” attitude, but “which I need to treat my glaucoma/be able to function during chemo” comes a lot closer than “because I really like to get stoned” tacked on to the end of it.

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to get stoned, and of course far more strongly support anyone using pot to help tolerate chemo, etcetera.

      For reasons having to do with my ideas about science and medicine, I do get mightily pissed about people who abuse the “medical marijuana” system because they want to get stoned, even though I think they should be free to get stoned, and about ludicrous, unsupported, or even counterfactual medical claims made for marijuana use (and, no, marijuana probably isn’t a good recommendation for glaucoma).

      • petesh

        Agreed. Part of my accepting the old status quo was skepticism about the medical benefits, though there are certainly those, including me, who benefit from grass when faced with side-effects from (in my case) prednisone and the weaning therefrom. Of course, I do have to confront the munchies, but there was a time when appetite stimulation was also a benefit.

  • tsam

    It is literally counting on Trump and Sessions going after Muslims and black people as a cover for white people getting stoned. How can one actually utter that statement in good faith?

    After all the Jill Stein fans, the FUREAL LIBERALZ making voting all about themselves, Trump voters not giving a fuck who gets hurt in their quest to be a part of Trumpland fantasy…does this REALLY surprise you? A whole bunch of these guys are one issue, uninformed meathead voters just like “values voters”.

    • Origami Isopod

      Then there are the libertarians.

  • Gone2Ground

    Wish Halperin had actually linked to the statement issued by the NCIA. It reads, in total:

    “Voters in 28 states have chosen programs that shift cannabis from the criminal market to highly regulated, tax-paying businesses. Senator Sessions has long advocated for state sovereignty, and we look forward to working with him to ensure that states’ rights and voter choices on cannabis are respected.”

    Not much there about using “human shields”, and pretty much what you’d expect from a lobbying group that is a trade association that would, as befits their membership, at least try to work with an incoming administration.

    The NCIA website also says that the organization advocates for ending civil forfeiture laws, providing access to banking for marijuana businesses, and ending the federal scheduling of marijuana as a controlled substance, among other things they’re active on. At least two of those items are civil rights issues, albeit not as sexy as confronting Jeff Sessions directly in a head-on collision.

    Also, Halperin’s contention that
    “The industry (is)…still one stoned school bus driver away from a PR disaster” is laughable. The NRA has proven countless times that PR disasters can be managed quite handily, with enough money and PR of their own….not to mention Big Pharma, which practically lurches from one PR crisis to another. (Not, of course, to suggest that the marijuana industry ought to emulate either of those two, of course.)

    I think the Slate article is more What Alex Halperin Thinks the Marijuana Industry Ought to Do to Fight Trumpolini than anything else. It would appear he didn’t even read their website, nor did he apparently solicit comment from them. In fact the “human shield” comment comes from HIS characterization of “pro-pot activist Tom Angell” said to Buzzfeed.

    If this is what counts as “journalism” we really are doomed.

    • liberalrob

      Halperin’s point is that that statement is a pretty weak starting position in what is almost certainly going to be an all-out effort by the Sessions DOJ to re-establish prohibition on MJ use, medical or otherwise. Sessions has been as clear as can be on the subject. Given that, there is really little possibility that “working with [Sessions]” is going to be possible.

      Halperin’s column isn’t really “journalism”, though. It’s an op-ed.

      • Gone2Ground

        Points taken.

      • liberalrob

        Halperin’s contention that “The industry (is)…still one stoned school bus driver away from a PR disaster” is laughable.

        No, it isn’t. Equating the political clout of the NRA and PhRMA with that of the NCIA is laughable. The NRA has their own personal Amendment in the Bill of Rights to point to, and they and PhRMA make huge contributions to political parties and candidates; meanwhile NCIA is representing an industry that a good chunk of the country and the incoming AG think is abhorrent and should be proscribed.

  • Gone2Ground

    And no, I’m not a paid shill for NCIA or Jeff Sessions, or Trump. Just irritated today.

  • Origami Isopod

    Someone in the Slate comments mentions that Scott Pruitt, whom Trump wants to run the EPA,

    has taken contributions from the distillers and brewers. He repaid that by suing Colorado (with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson) over its legalization. Peterson called it “vindicating the rule of law.”

    • cpinva

      that pot competes with alcohol for your entertainment dollars I’m sure had nothing to do with the suit.

  • ThatOneGuy

    As an owner and operator of a licensed legal cannabis business let me say this
    These organizations don’t represent all of us, most farmers in my state, WA, are operating on such thin margins that we don’t have excess money to donate to most of these organizations. I know my dollars are better spent feeding my family than supporting lobbyists.

    It’d be awesome if my company could join the fight to protect the rights of minorities and religions at risk. That is something I will have to do on my personal time as all of the burdensome state regulations we have to deal with in the course of normal business operations take up all 25 hours of my day. I support the marginalized by giving jobs to former drug offenders that may not otherwise be able to secure steady work.
    My personal politics dictate that i fight the incoming administration tooth and nail over everything, my daily reality doesn’t allow that to happen.

    • Michael Cain

      Let me bounce this thought off you for accuracy. I’ve been claiming that here in CO, the federal Justice Department wouldn’t have to bother with arresting and trying people to shut down both the recreational and medical marijuana industry. Just showing up at random intervals a couple of times each month and confiscating the product would be sufficient to put them out of business.

      • artem1s

        Seems unlikely that Sessions is going to protect any business he finds abhorrent. as soon as the FBI or some other agency thinks they can start up seizing and selling off assets, I’m pretty sure they are going for it. So in a way, the quote is correct in that the ‘when’ will depend on how many other weak groups are in the queue ahead of you, and how many assets they have to seize and profit from. pot growers are not going to be very far down the list, I would think. Especially if they are in a state like CO with the fundies down in CO Springs and all.

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