The Real Reason Marijuana Hasn’t Been Legalized… Yet

Written by Jason Simpkins
Posted September 12, 2019

Two out of three Americans say marijuana ought to be legalized.

Ten states — Washington, Colorado, California, Nevada, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont — and the District of Columbia have already ended the archaic and unsuccessful prohibition on the drug entirely. And dozens more allow its medical use.

As a result, 66 senators now represent states where federal marijuana laws have been repudiated in the state legislature or at the ballot box.

Given all that, it’s pretty clear that marijuana reform, if not outright legalization, is one of the few issues with broad bipartisan support across the country.

So what’s the holdup at the federal level?

Why has this issue gained seemingly no traction in Congress or the White House?

I think you probably know the answer: corporate interests.

See, I’m assuming you know what everyone else in this country has come to realize, which is that lobbyists, not voters, dictate the laws of this country.

And there are two very powerful lobbies keeping marijuana away from the public — destroying lives and costing this country billions of dollars in the process.

The first is the pharmaceutical industry.

Yes, in addition to engineering the opioid crisis in this country, Big Pharma has also sought to shield its profit margins from medical marijuana.

A recent study released by the scientific journal Health Affairs shed some light on why that is...

Turns out, prescriptions for painkillers and other drugs fell sharply in the 17 states with a medical marijuana law in place by 2013.

In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses, and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.

And most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.

Prescriptions Drop Marijuana

Heaven forbid we get people off oxycodone.

This is why Insys Therapeutics — a company that’s currently being investigated and sued for improperly marketing highly addictive, fentanyl-based painkillers — donated $500,000 to the anti-legalization campaign in Arizona last year.

Prior to that donation, legalization supporters in Arizona had out-fundraised opponents by about 3 to 1.

Similar lobbying efforts by the pharmaceutical industry derailed legalization in New Jersey earlier this year.

These are drug dealers so intent on keeping their corners it’s shocking they didn’t appear on The Wire.

And they have backup.

Because the second industry beating back legalization is the private prison industry.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the United States has the largest prison population in the world.

Some 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, compared to about 1.5 million people in China.

Think about that for a minute: The United States (Total Population: 327 million) has a prison population 53% larger than communist China's (Total Population: 1.4 billion).

A healthy portion (more than a fifth) of that population is made up of drug offenders, too.

Prison Population

That’s because in this country, marijuana possession accounts for more than half of all drug arrests and 6% of all arrests total.

That’s a higher proportion than violent crime offenders.

Indeed, 599,282 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2017, compared to 518,617 arrests for violent crime.

Marijuana Arrests vs Violent Crime

It’s also important to note, here, that marijuana arrests are a boon to law enforcement, as well. That’s because it’s an easy way to create probable cause for searches, arrests, and civil forfeiture.

But really, it’s the private prison industry that doesn’t want to lose half-a-million unwitting patrons.

It wants Americans behind bars, and it's willing to pay to put them there.

GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison operators, donated $250,000 to support President Trump’s inauguration. And that was on top of the $225,000 that one of its subsidiaries donated to a pro-Trump super PAC.

The return on that investment was anti-marijuana cabinet members like Jeff Sessions. He repealed the Obama-era "Cole Memo," which prohibited the Justice Department from enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized it.

He’s gone now, but there are still other cabinet members like Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — two Trump appointees with deep pharmaceutical company ties.

They call marijuana a “dangerous drug,” and vigorously oppose it. And their work has been backed by President Trump, who donated part of his salary to their cause.

So if you’re wondering what the holdup is, there you go.

But now here’s the good news…

In 2020, 33 Senate seats will be up for grabs — 21 held by Republicans and nine of those in states with some form of legal marijuana.

And while Joe Biden — a longtime drug war advocate — has been hesitant to embrace pot, the more aggressive flank of his party is ready to move forward.

Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bennet are all co-sponsors of a Senate proposal that would make marijuana legal, expunge criminal records, and create a reinvestment fund to aid communities hurt by the war on drugs.

So there’s a legitimate chance the political tide could turn next year.

Until then, if you want to cash in on the marijuana craze, you’ll have to focus more on Canadian companies, who have a huge head start on future U.S. competitors.

And if you want to do that, you should check in with Jimmy Mengel — editor of The Marijuana Manifesto and The Crow’s Nest.

He’s the strongest marijuana investing expert out there, with a peerless track record.

He knows the U.S., Canadian, and global cannabis markets better than anyone.

And he hasn’t lost money on any of the 88 investing recommendations he’s made.

Find out more here.

Fight on,

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Jason Simpkins

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Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of The Wealth Warrior, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page. 

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