What a week, am I right?
No matter what your opinion on the outcome of the election, we can all agree on one thing: Cannabis had a great Tuesday. In the divisive contest of red vs blue, it seems that sticky green was a unifying issue across the board. Whether it was the clear economic benefits of a taxed and regulated legal cannabis industry that won voters over, the social benefits of decriminalization, or the fact that it's been a stressful few years and we all just need to smoke a joint and relax, it is very clear that cannabis legalization is now a bipartisan issue.
Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all passed legislation approving some kind of cannabis use. In fact, every state level cannabis legalization bill put before voters this election passed. While the levels of legalization, approved uses, and roll-out periods for these states are all very different, they will all become part of the rapidly growing cannabis economy. The question is, how well will that work out?
As a company that works in cannabis track and trace and compliance, and as locals to California cannabis country, we've seen how imperfect the roll-out of a legalization framework can be. Completely overloaded bureaucratic systems, expensive and unclear licensing pathways, inconsistent enforcement, and vague contracts with companies that seem to exist only to burn stacks of tax payer money are all issues that entrepreneurs in these states will need to contend with. Additionally, the federal government's prohibition policy is still in place, so cannabis businesses still face barriers obtaining bank accounts, payment processors, and lines of credit. Finally, from a consumer perspective, there's still the cost, as legal weed in new markets tends to be way more expensive than what is available on the traditional market.
Another variable to consider is local government. While the state may mandate legal cannabis, local governments may still create legislative roadblocks to it by making permits inaccessible, limiting the areas in which cannabis businesses can operate, and dragging out the permitting process. There exists a clear strategy for cannabis prohibitionist politicians to resist the roll-out of legal business. First, they enact draconian restrictions on their local industry to cripple it's growth. Later, they claim that since the local industry is struggling and provides barely any tax dollars, that legal cannabis is a failed experiment. Finally, they point to the fact that the always-present traditional market is still thriving as further evidence that legal cannabis doesn't work. At OmniCann, we hear about this political situation daily from cultivators and customers across California, and it's entirely possible that the newly legal states may face the same opposition.
Overall, cannabis won big, but as usual in this industry, the fight is far from over. Local elections are the next big step to fully support the legalization we all want to see, so keep an eye on your local politics. Congratulations to the states that voted yes!
-The OmniCann team
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