By Lauri Kibby
President Biden isn’t here yet. Republicans aren’t in Washington either. However, the wave of momentum towards nationally legalized cannabis continues to grow. It is time for lawmakers in the capital to step on board with the majority of American citizens they represent.
There are signs of progress. The US House recently passed federal decriminalization of cannabis law, the first of its kind. When the Democrats took control of the Senate earlier this year, the change paved a potential path for legislation in that chamber as well. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said this month he intends to enact federal law to legalize cannabis soon.
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The rate of acceptance is escalating at the state level. The November elections in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota approved recreational use legalization – although South Dakota law is currently under trial. More states follow suit this year, including New York, where legalization was incorporated into law in March.
35 states and Washington, DC already regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Fifteen of these states also allow the use of recreational activities for adults, according to the National Conference on State Legislation.
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Change has happened quickly. A decade ago, no states allowed recreational use. Today, more than 40% of the US population lives in a state where some form of cannabis is legal.
A Gallup poll earlier this year found that 68% of adults in the US support federal legalization. The strengthening of public support is reflected in increasing cannabis sales.
The U.S. marijuana industry is now worth more than $ 18 billion and supports at least 300,000 full-time positions, according to the 2020 Marijuana Business Factbook. The legal market in California, the largest in the country, had sales of $ 4.4 billion compared to $ 2.8 billion a year earlier.
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Sales in Colorado exceeded $ 2 billion last year, up from $ 1.7 billion in 2019, while Washington state topped $ 1.4 billion (up from $ 1.1 billion ). Oregon and Illinois each passed the $ 1 billion threshold.
States’ need for new sources of tax revenue amid the pandemic provides an additional incentive to increase the size of the legal sector. The same argument applies to the debt-laden federal government.
In addition to tax revenue, medical benefits, and freedom of choice, legalization would allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes. The federal regulation would also focus supervision on consumer-related issues such as product safety.
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From our discussions with the capital markets, we are confident that a growing pool of prominent investors and lenders will enter the cannabis space if it is nationally legal, expanding its scope, creating more opportunities for cannabis companies, expanding public markets and contributing to the U.S. economy . We currently see acceptance in the debt markets as competition for lending, which leads to more competitive terms.
Canada has already legalized pot; Mexico will likely legalize it soon. The US must not fall behind.
And while Republicans in DC are still publicly against it, legalization efforts showed a different sentiment, as three deep red states gave their approval: Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota.
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The previous success of legalization at the ballot box will lead to more success. It is clear that Americans stand for the fact that jobs increasingly depend on it and that there are clear tax breaks.
Of course, Kings Garden would benefit from federal legalization. I don’t apologize for that. We have invested in developing the safe, high quality products that consumers want. The opening of free markets, a mainstay of the US economy, will only ensure fair and balanced competitive markets.
It is time for lawmakers to do their part.
Lauri Kibby is the co-founder and chief financial officer of Kings Garden, California’s leading cannabis growing, processing, distribution and manufacturing company.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and was republished with permission.