At this time next year, you will be voting to legalize cannabis in California, effectively ending a failed global policy of cannabis prohibition.
Let that sink in for just a second. Dwell on the excitement. It’s not often that we stop and meditate on our role in the course of history, and not often that we can see the future’s path laid out ahead of us. Voters in California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Florida and possibly Pennsylvania, Ohio and maybe more states will all be asked to do their part in legalizing cannabis next year. Local ballot measures will abound, as cities and counties choose to ban or tax cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions. Candidates from the presidency on down will be pressured to share their views on legalization, on medical cannabis, on taxation issues and on their personal consumption history.
The tired arguments of the War on Drugs are no longer credible to the American public and we will hopefully see an elevated discussion over the next year. Perspectives of candidates on legalization will accompany news stories on cannabis, and friends and families will be having new discussions around the dinner table. Simply put, this should be an amazing year ahead, as we push into the mainstream and right historic wrongs using the power of the ballot box. Here in California, we have strong support from our Lieutenant Governor and other state officials but skeptics remain, those that prefer to disproportionately imprison people of color, deny safe access to lab-tested medicine, ignore scientific evidence and generally throw good money down a policy rat hole. The opposition may lack ethical, logical or economic grounds for their positions but we must strive to educate and engage, not demonize nor antagonize.
For the cannabis industry, the year ahead will be a year of exciting transition. The recently passed state legislation will begin to be implemented at the state and local levels, as we see a mosaic of farmers and vendors emerge from behind the legal facade of collective-hood. The diversity and innovation at all levels of the supply chain within California is already a sight to behold and we will begin to see more and more cities and counties embracing a new, regulated era for the cannabis industry. Expect early elements of a cannatourism industry, as farms receive local licenses in Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma and elsewhere. Hash making classes, tasting sessions, monthly subscription boxes and vaping lounges will become more and more accepted. As we approach next year’s election, celebrities and politicians will come out of the woodwork and declare a sudden affinity for the righteous herb. We should welcome these newfound allies rather than ask where they’ve been—the era of prohibition caused many to lie to their family and friends, let alone their fans or constituents. The cool scent of honesty will be a welcome change.
A word about the actual mechanism of legalization: An anticipated statewide ballot measure, an initiative and/or constitutional amendment. How many? Or which one? What will it/they look like? Where will the money come from? Who will campaign for it? We can’t answer those questions just yet—but pay attention, be engaged and be excited for next year. It will be here before you know it.