As we’ve blogged before, we don’t believe that Attorney General Sessions’ revocation of the Cole Memorandum will have much impact on the regulated, licensed marijuana industry. As of this post, we’ve neither heard nor read of any U.S. Attorney seeking to prosecute a licensed, compliant marijuana operation. Beyond statements by key political players, certain data points can give the industry comfort. Below are some that we believe illustrate that the attorney general’s actions and statements will not meaningfully reverse the progress that the industry has realized over the past few years.
- Per an October 2017 Gallup poll, 64% of Americans support marijuana legalization, including 51% of polled Republicans. Per a July 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 75% of Americans, including 59% of Republicans, oppose the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized cannabis.
- The legal cannabis industry (not including cannabis-adjacent businesses) employs an estimated 165,000 to 230,000 workers. This is two to three times more workers employed by the coal-mining industry.
- Although estimates of actual revenues from legal cannabis enterprises vary, The Arcview Group states that, in 2016, the industry generated at least $6.7 billion—that figure is projected to increase to $21 billion by 2021.
- The cannabis industry regularly generates hundreds of millions of dollars of state tax revenue. In fiscal year 2017, the State of Washington received approximately $280 million in tax revenues; Colorado is estimated to have received approximately $500 million in state tax revenue from the sale of cannabis, about half of which has been used to support the state’s school systems.
- In 2017, California’s medical marijuana industry generated $2 billion in revenue. Now that adult-use sales are fully underway, the industry is expected to generate $5 billion in only that one (albeit very populous) state.
- According to New Frontier Data, an analytics firm focused on the marijuana industry, if cannabis were legalized on a federal level, the industry would create one million new jobs and generate $132 billion in new tax revenue by 2025.
- In the 2016 elections, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada respectively legalized adult-use marijuana with 46,175, 678,435, and 90,405 more votes than President Trump received. And those margins weren’t limited to only blue states. In Florida and Montana, 1,901,033 and 12,094 more residents voted for legalized medical marijuana than voted for President Trump, respectively. In North Dakota, a state in which Trump received over twice as many votes as Hillary Clinton, the president only received 752 more votes than those who voted for medical marijuana (which was passed).
So, in the end, what is all this, other than a bunch of statistics and numbers? Well, although these statistics and numbers are open to interpretation, reputable polling shows that the American public is not in favor of a federal crackdown on licensed, compliant operators. Further, the amount of money – and new tax revenues available to federal, state, and local governments – in play is huge. Taken together, this is strong support for our reaffirmation that, while there may be hiccups along the way, the cannabis industry isn’t going anywhere.