Worry has spread throughout the marijuana industry in the past month after members of the Trump administration started to indicate that there could be a crackdown in recreational weed across the country on its way. Earlier this year, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there is a big difference between medical and recreational weed and that a tougher approach towards it may be on its way. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been very vocal about his opposition to legalizing marijuana, was less kind towards the medical marijuana industry, saying that he believes it is overly “hyped.” He also once said that good people didn’t smoke marijuana. Given his sentiment towards the plant, many in the industry have been dreading him shutting down the industry.
Switching from Recreational to Medical Marijuana
Colorado, in particular, has been thinking of ways to protect their thriving recreational marijuana industry and its 500 or so licensed marijuana growers. Their most recent idea has started to get attention. A bill has been presented that would allow growers to immediately change their recreational marijuana classification to medical marijuana. In this way, if there is an attack on the industry and federal officials try to seize the product, growers would be able to quickly reclassify, protecting both them and their supply. Specifically, the bill says that growers may reclassify their supply “based on a business need due to a change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy.”
“Something After Tomorrow”
If the bill is approved and enacted by growers, it could cost the state around $100 million in tax revenue, $40 million of which was set aside for state education funding. This is a massive risk to undertake in order to create protection from the federal government. The administration has not said either way what, if anything, they plan to do about recreational marijuana. But Colorado officials are nervous about the potential threat of any kind. Drafting and pushing this bill seems to be an option that could save the industry in the end. “This bill allows the industry to know there is something after tomorrow, whatever tomorrow may bring,” said Sen. Tim Neville, a Republican who sponsored the bill.
The Necessity for Defensive Action
There are those who doubt that the reclassification would help the pot industry at all, believing that it may just cost the state money. “It’s a big deal for our taxation system because this money has been coming in and has been set aside for this, that and the other,” said Sen. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat who opposed the bill. Not only would schools suffer, as that $40 million is spent on construction and educational programs, but law enforcement, marijuana based medical studies and police training would also have funding removed. But the mixed signals coming from the Trump administration may force Colorado to move towards defensive actions. While the bill did get approved by a committee in the Republican House, it is unclear whether or not the bill will pass in the full House and Senate.
With 8 states legalizing recreational marijuana, if the threat does get real, it may be the way more states choose to go.