The 2020 US presidential election is set to have huge ramifications on the cannabis industry.
As the likes of Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and even outsiders like Andrew Yang battle it out for a four-year term in the White House, the span of opinions on cannabis legalisation ranges massively.
With the topic of cannabis moving away from being considered an exclusively liberal issue, a clear majority of the Democratic candidates running to face Trump next year are firm supporters of federal legalisation of cannabis in the country.
With six in ten American voters now supporting the legalisation of cannabis according to a recent nationwide survey, it is certainly within the candidates’ best interests to appeal to possible voters and demonstrate their individual stance and opinions on the controversial yet popular topic.
Currently, US President Donald Trump is vehemently against the legalisation of cannabis at a federal level. However, he has evidently not taken any discernible actions – whether positive or negative – in relation to cannabis since he took up office in 2017.
After being asked his thoughts on the recent decision to legalise cannabis in Colorado, Trump stated: “I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that.”
However, he later went on to sign a crucial bill, The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which led to the legalisation of hemp nationwide, allowing US farmers to grow, process, and sell the plant commercially and enabling many new businesses to flourish.
On the other side, nearly every Democratic presidential candidate has expressed their opinion in support of legalising cannabis on a federal level, or in some cases descheduling it and enabling individual states to make important decisions on their approach to the plant.
Elizabeth Warren is a staunch supporter of cannabis, undergoing a change of heart since 2016 when she chose not to support her state’s adult-use cannabis bill. She has now warmed to the idea after calling out the unfair justice system in regards to weed, stating: “No one should go to jail for a joint. But more Americans are arrested for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined.”
In 2017, Warren appeared to demonstrate her new perspective on cannabis when she became one of eleven senators to sign a letter to well-known anti-cannabis advocate and then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, taking a stand after public hints that the Department of Justice was about to launch federal enforcement against states with legal cannabis programs.
Although claiming she has never smoked marijuana, Warren has gone on to sponsor and endorse a wide array of cannabis reform bills, including being one of two senators who introduced the STATES Act – the leading bill to put forward an end to federal prohibition of cannabis.
Donald Trump is currently a major favourite for the presidential race with odds of 11/10 at numerous bookmakers, but don’t rule out Warren, Biden, or even Bernie Sanders, who could turn heads on their upcoming campaign trails.
Joe Biden is the third favourite to become the next US president, although the Democrat hopeful is also strongly against cannabis reform on a federal level, being the exception to the rule among the many pro-cannabis Democrat candidates.
During the controversial War on Drugs period, Biden was a US senator and a driving force behind laws establishing more arrests, more prison sentences, and further federal funding for anti-cannabis efforts at that time.
After calling the plant a “gateway drug” to other substances in 2010, Biden finally realised he was the last Democratic candidate standing on the anti-cannabis podium and went on to release a justice reform proposal in 2019 intending to decriminalise cannabis, reduce mass incarceration, reduce racial profiling by police, put an end to private prisons, and other weed related propositions.
How legalising cannabis on a federal level will transform the US industry
The potential profits of the cannabis industry are now well known following California and Colorado’s decision to legalise it for recreational use over the past few years.
The state of Colorado has generated more than $1 billion in total revenue from the newly legalised industry, experiencing its two highest grossing months on record this year in April and May. The state received around $24 million in total revenue solely from cannabis during each respective month.
Colorado’s current population stands at around 5.7 million people – not all of whom use cannabis – and the state already boasts a monumental income from the budding industry. Scaling the statistics up to a national level, the United States’ population is currently at around 327 million people, which suggests hypothetically that the entire revenue the US could potentially net would be approximately $1.3 billion a month.
The revenue generated from the cannabis industry contributes to the state’s general reserve fund alongside mental health services, education, and healthcare, among other public programs.
The constitutional amendment that legalised recreational marijuana in 2014, Amendment 64, states that the first $40 million generated annually in taxes goes to the public school capital construction assistance fund where schools, districts, and education providers can apply for money to build new buildings or fund renovations.
While the revenue streams are a big appeal of legalisation, the money saved in terms of law enforcement and imprisonment would also serve as a huge boost to the US economy.
Just two out of 25 candidates are against legislation
Out of the 25 frontrunners for the US presidency, just two are against legalisation on a federal level: Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Cannabis has been playing a huge role in the debates and statements made by candidates so far, although it’s still too early to distinguish who will make cannabis a focal part of their campaign, as the primaries have yet to take place.
Whoever makes it to the winning mark will undoubtedly hold a more forward-thinking viewpoint on cannabis, as demonstrated by the sheer amount of talk on the subject within the elections.
The US’s changing view on cannabis is evident now and appears to be very different from the 90’s, when Bill Clinton was running for presidency and admitted in an interview to trying cannabis but not inhaling, famously stating: “I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale and I didn’t try it again.”