America’s Marijuana is Harmed Again

America’s Marijuana is Harmed Again

March 01, 2017 3 Comments

By K. Ford

President Trump's administration recently addressed the cannabis industry and its potential crackdown by the federal government on states who have legalized cannabis use (1). If true, the plan to enforce federal laws condemning cannabis would do more harm than good. 

First, the power to police or criminalize an action is reserved for states by the constitution. This is one of the few powers given to the state and not the federal government. States who have decided to legalize marijuana use are standing on the very foundation of our forefathers. Going against this reserved right, will definitely lead to an increase in federal court cases defending the constitutionality of the enforcement. And ultimately a waste in tax dollars covering the court expenses. 

Overall, the national temperament on cannabis has cooled considerably. Even in states where marijuana is still illegal in any form (recreational or medicinal), lawmakers are changing their viewpoints on the plant. Recently Harris County’s District Attorney Kim Ogg in Houston, Texas, the fourth biggest city in the US, decided to decriminalize possession of up to four ounces of marijuana to only a citation and fine, without an arrest or jail time. The city has spent over $200 million in marijuana possession cases in the past ten years. (2) Tom Berg, Harris County’s first assistant district attorney is quoted as saying, “[w]hen you have 10,000 cases on a 100,000-plus case docket that are simple marijuana possession cases, you look for smart ways to resolve those so that you can dedicate your resources to the really serious crimes.” (3) Federally getting tough on marijuana will only create the same type of problems for the federal government that states are actively trying to resolve in their own cities.

It seems odd that a conservative president who is also a business man would crackdown on such a profit making industry. Especially, after just announcing regulation breaks for "small businesses." (4) The main conservative political agenda is deregulation and a small federal government with little influence on our economy. The enforcement of federal laws hurting a business industry seems to all go against what President Trump stands for. 

In this day, there is no greater example of start-ups and entrepreneurship than weed dispensaries and weed producers/processors. And there is no greater potential for US revenue than in the cannabis market. In this time of budget cuts and huge amounts of US debt, why would you try to undermine the industry with the most revenue growth potential? An untapped federal revenue tax stream with potential for billions of dollars for years to come. To this date, Washington State alone has gained over $400 million in marijuana tax revenue. (5)

For Trump’s administration enforcing bans on marijuana use across the nation would not be a wise decision. The amount of time, effort, and finances devoted to such policy would only create more federal waste and dissatisfaction with the current administration. Long story short: Being tough on marijuana will not make America great again.

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K. Ford is a lawyer that is passionate about the cannabis industry. He moved from Florida to Washington to work for the state’s Department of Revenue as a Tax Policy Specialist to gain keen insight into the taxation of marijuana in a recreational state. Mr. Ford has prior experience as general counsel for businesses, nonprofits, and a charter school. He is a former D-1 athlete who is also passionate about sports. His hope is to positively impact the cannabis industry for good of the economy and for the benefit of US citizens.

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3 Responses

M.I.
M.I.

March 01, 2017

Interesting perspective from a state revenue attorney working in tax policy. I would assume that Attorney Ford would be a good resource for identifying the benefits and detriments of certain proposed marijuana regulations seeing as how he actually practiced marijuana taxation in a recreational state… I’m glad he included the in-text hyperlinks so I could verify the information cited… I agree, specifically from a tax standpoint, that marijuana sales are an untapped revenue stream. It would seem that states of course immediately benefit through sales tax (implemented special marijuana taxes) and state income tax but also that the federal government receives revenue through federal taxation of businesses (Schedule C) on federal income tax forms. Federal gross income, even in states that have not legalized marijuana use or distribution, includes income from the sale of marijuana and it is “supposed” to be reported on federal taxes; a big issue now is determining where the sales are made. This would not be helped or become easier by trying to implement a federal “ban” as it were.

It may be the case that marijuana has the potential to be a significant import/export good for dealings with other countries. Maybe the current president’s policies and views regarding our relationships with other countries will bear on his decision on whether to move forward in his regulation goals despite the seemingly apparent economic benefit .

I should also say though that it is understood that just because a good has the potential to be lucrative from sale does not mean that it should be sold. The very nature of the good should be taken into account in whether and how it should be regulated. The states are first granted police power but the federal government can hide behind the supremacy clause and apparently, regarding marijuana sale, the commerce clause (who would have thought it reached that point) … I guess we can only wait to see how this turns out.

Maya
Maya

March 01, 2017

Great info! Smart ?

Harris
Harris

March 01, 2017

Great article! Author is clearly well-versed in the subject.

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