With cannabis legalization remaining a hot button issue going into 2024, many elected officials are finally using their power and sway of influence to put legislative pressure on the incumbent Biden administration. Whether on the state or federal level such as the Congressional Cannabis Caucus’ continued activism and filed legislation or the Nevada Legislature unanimously passing Assembly Joint Resolution 8, which urges Congress to deschedule cannabis entirely, there’s strong influence coming from all branches of government and sides of the political aisle. In states not too synonymous with cannabis reform and the greater American cannabis culture, a great number of bipartisan elected officials are actually standing up and advocating for reformative measures in the most powerful houses in America.
Most recently, the governors of six different states that span the country and who’s state legislatures span the political spectrum, Colorado, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Louisiana, all wrote a collective letter to the Biden administration to reschedule cannabis to a Schedule III substance, on par with most pharmaceutical medications. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy all contributed on this group letter to detail the many reasons why cannabis prohibition has failed and why rescheduling is the best avenue for future revenue and opportunity.
As Governor Polis was a founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and Governor Murphy was the governor who legalized cannabis for New Jersey, both their insights into the matter are incredibly vital.
For a state such as Louisiana that still doesn’t have fully recreational cannabis and is near the powerhouse of unfortunate cannabis prohibition that is Texas, the endorsement of a governor of a Deep South state, even for a moderate Democrat such as Governor John Bel Edwards, shows how widespread support for common sense cannabis reform has become.
Addressed directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the letter first thanks and applauds the Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration for their recent recommendation to the DEA to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III based upon the results of the study they were ordered to do back in October of 2022 by the Biden administration themselves.
“While we know that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision was based solely on science and medicine,” the six governors explain in their joint letter, “it also increases public health and safety, is sound public policy, and is a big win for states, especially helpful for the 38 states that have some form of state-regulated cannabis policies in place, which represent 72% of the population.”
The statement endorsed by these six governors is multi-faceted and directly discusses the many benefits that a fully legalized cannabis marketplace could bring and how those benefits could strengthen nearly every department of government and social service that the United States of America provides to millions of citizens.
“State programs have also delivered $15 billion in tax revenue to states for use in education, law enforcement, and other gubernatorial priorities that have been historically underfunded. As governors, we champion all these victories, just as we do for banking reform and support rescheduling reform to further these achievements.”
From an economic angle, this letter is incredibly informative. The six governors mention the several financial and taxation-related ways in which the cannabis industry would prosper being mostly free from the restrictive provisions of Tax Code 280E and finally allow for cannabis businesses to deduct the traditional business expenses that every other federally legal industry is allowed to deduct on their taxes.
“Economists estimate that this will save $1.8 billion per year by shifting cannabis companies to a standard federal corporate rate of 21% versus the up to 80% effective tax rate they face now. The cannabis industry generated an estimated $30 billion dollars in sales revenue in 2022 and is projected to generate over $71 billion by 2030. States have generated millions of dollars in tax revenue, allowing for improvements like community centers, education and school and road construction. A 2023 report estimated that the cannabis industry supports more than 417,000 full-time equivalent jobs. Cannabis no longer being required to follow Section 280E will serve to make this industry profitable while safeguarding hundreds of thousands of jobs and protecting the health and safety of American consumers.”
As the increasingly tragic opioid epidemic continues to ravage all corners of the country from the most bustling metroplexes to the most remote towns, the six governors addressed how medical cannabis expansion and freedom from the unfair Schedule I status could make cannabis a much safer alternative to the oftentimes fatally dangerous opioids.
“Cannabis access is also associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and opioid-related overdose deaths. While opioids killed more than 80,000 people last year, cannabis use killed no one.”
From a regulatory standpoint, the six governors stated that with a rescheduling to Schedule III, the American cannabis industry will have one or two designated federal regulatory agencies to work with as opposed to a series of unrelated and sometimes differently regulated state-level agencies. Ideally, more regulation of the legal cannabis industry will result in a shrinking of the illicit market and cannabis/hemp products getting into the hands of minors.
“We’ve seen unregulated, untested, intoxicating hemp products being sold to kids in convenience stores. Too often these unregulated hemp products replicate well-known children’s candy brands. Fentanyl has been detected in unregulated marijuana products and tests on these products have resulted in high levels of heavy metals, unwanted contaminants, and extraordinarily high THC content. Injuries and deaths have also been attributable to the unregulated market.”
The six governors even mentioned the disagreements that they themselves may have regarding cannabis legalization, although firmly agreed that the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry is as established as any other American born and bred industry regardless of the stubborn inaction on the federal level.
“As governors, we might disagree about whether recreational cannabis legalization or even cannabis use is a net positive, but we agree that the cannabis industry is here to stay, the states have created strong regulations, and supporting the state-regulated marketplace is essential for the safety of the American people.”
Along with the completed HHS study, this letter is monumental as it’s yet the latest example to showcase how widespread the bipartisan support behind cannabis reformative measures have undoubtedly become by both all levels of government and the many regulatory agencies that comprise the government.