The Call for Reform of Cannabis Legalization

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There’s no doubt about it, the legalization of cannabis is sweeping the nation on a state by state basis, and at an alarming rate. While the social progress achieved by ending the prohibition on a plant with numerous health benefits, one must ask themselves. Why, after a hundred years of prohibition, has the United States suddenly shown an interest in lifting a federal ban? The answer is quite simple, and an overlying theme in our capitalist nation. Money is the driving force in the growing cannabis industry.

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In Nevada, we have sold cannabis recreationally since July of 2017. When the legislation passed, it was under the condition that cannabis would be taxed 15 percent on the wholesale sale, paid by the cultivator. Followed by 10% excise tax on the retail sale, paid by the retail store, and at last, the actual sales tax rate would be applied for the customer to pay. This results in a whopping 32% tax on cannabis, which was promised to go to Nevada’s abysmal education system. In the end, only 15% is being allocated to education, while the remainder is being pushed into Nevada’s “rainy day fund”, whatever that may be.

While the taxes being hoarded by politicians is an issue that needs to be addressed, even more serious is the fact that medical marijuana has completely been overshadowed by the recreational market. Patients are no longer valued over profits, as supply and demand becomes more of a factor than the actual medicinal value of the cannabis being provided. With swarms of recreational customers looking to enjoy a novelty joint during their Vegas vacation, it puts strain on the production facilities to produce at volumes literally five to ten times what they were accustomed to and built for. As a result, quality has taken a nosedive, while quantity becomes the most important factor. For the huddled masses with undeveloped palates, this suits them just fine. But for the patient with lupus that comes in everyday looking for relief? Or the cancer survivor, still going through chemotherapy and needing something to stimulate her appetite and aid with sleep? These customers, the ones who voted for medical legalization and helped remove the stigma from the plant, are taking a backseat to those who could care less what they’re smoking. In my time as a patient consultant in the cannabis industry, I witnessed a company implement mandatory sales goals, informing us that if we did not sell a minimum of in house product (cannabis grown by the dispensary, with which their profit margin is much higher), we would face disciplinary action. The conflict of interest here was that the in house product was rather low quality, and I could not in good conscience recommend this as medicine to patients when we carried more effective remedies. After vocalizing this concern, I was fired. This anecdote is just one of countless stories of cannabis companies losing their soul upon entering the recreational market.

The transition from focusing on patients to profits is tragic, but even more detrimental to the cannabis industry is the looming prospect of big business getting their hands into it. Companies like Coors and Budweiser have placed investments into the industry, even Coca Cola is talking about starting an edible line. While Coors and Budweiser specialize in beer, they are notoriously low quality. Keep in mind this is in the field that they started in. I have very little faith that Coors will change their tune and come out with a high quality, great tasting, intoxicating beverage. As far as Coca Cola goes, most cannabis users enjoy their edibles without massive amounts of high fructose corn syrup. Monsanto, most famous for being sued by the American people for the cancer causing chemicals they spray on produce, has just purchased the largest supplier of cannabis grow equipment in America, Sunlight Supply Co. This heavily implies that the GMO giant will be producing some very unhealthy buds for us when the federal ban on marijuana is lifted. With corporate giants looking to flood the market with low grade, low cost product, what does that mean for the smaller scale growers who value quality over quantity? Besides the cost of cannabis taking a nosedive due to the massive oversupply of low grade, leaving the smaller businesses to deal with decimated profit margins, they will also be pushed into a niche of “craft cannabis”, as the industry standard becomes a flavorless husk of what it once was.

Big business entering the cannabis market poses another issue, the unfair legislation they have lobbied for. In Nevada, as recreational cannabis became legal, the fine print also stated that it was no longer legal for a medical user to grow their own, as long as they live within 25 miles of a dispensary. This makes the dispensaries the only source for patients to get their medicine, and these dispensaries are charging outrageous prices. Honestly, there’s not much incentive to purchase legally at this point. In California, where 99 plant grows were abundant, very similar legislation was put into place. Limits were placed on how many square feet one’s grow could be, and the new laws made it near impossible for most outdoor growers to continue their operation. As a result, Humboldt county, whose economy relies heavily on the multitude of large scale farmers that call it home, has been economically crippled. The pioneers who fought so hard to see legalization pass, who dedicated decades of research and work to developing cannabis into the medical wonder it is today, are being pushed out of their own industry by corporations who have decided to seize the industry they have no passion for.

Even more detrimental to the industry is the government’s growing interest in cannabis. While the federal ban remains in place and the government refuses to acknowledge cannabis as having any genuine medicinal value, they have placed patents on cannabinoid compounds. Specifically, The US Department of Health & Human Services patent 6630507 (2003)) “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties. This newfound property makes them useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. They are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants limiting neurological damage of stroke or trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, just as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or HIV dementia.” So why would the government refuse to acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis and lift the federal ban? As the government sneakily patents a compound it publicly condemns, a synthetic cannabis medications has been FDA approved. Epidiolex is being marketed as an oral CBD solution that can treat forms of epilepsy. Ironically, CBD remains a schedule 1 drug in the United States. Until the government is sure it can use legalization as a cash grab, I predict the federal ban will remain in place.

While on the topic of patents, the Seed to Sale program, which has been implemented in California, requires licensed commercial growers to keep a detailed electronic log of everything done to their plants. At first glance, this program seems like an effort to ensure growers aren’t using prohibited pesticides and chemicals to grow their product. However, a growing concern amongst growers is the fact that once this information has been submitted, the state will have access to all of the grow techniques that took them decades to perfect. In short, the state can easily steal these grower’s intellectual property under the guise of maintaining compliance. With the government patenting cannabinoid compounds, many growers fear it’s only a matter of time before they begin trying to patent specific phenotypes of the plant, also known as strains. The problem with this is that these phenotypes are typically the result of a collective effort, generations of growers working off each other’s strains, improving and changing them as we discover new techniques. Who can really claim a project that five generations of people worked on? There isn’t much stopping someone from slightly changing someones masterpiece and calling it their own. This is already argued about rather often in the cannabis industry, and the introduction of patents just opens the door for the drama and bickering to ensue.

The legalization of marijuana is something that is inevitable in this country. With the sweeping popularity amongst the states, both recreational and medical cannabis are creeping their way to the eastern states, as they see their neighbors rake in massive amounts of tax revenue. However, as we see the failures and underhanded deals involved in the passing of the legislation, it is imperative that we read the fine print in these proposals. While legalization is a step in the right direction socially, it’s tragic that it must be done at the expense of medical patients and farmers alike. Those who fought for legalization for unselfish reasons are being boxed out of their own industry, being replaced by millionaire’s with much more interest in net profit than THC levels. If the cannabis industry is to retain its integrity, legislation must be revised.

References

  1. US Food and Drug Administration “FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat severe forms of epilepsy” June 25, 2018
  2. Us Department of Health & Human Services “Patent 6630507” October 7, 2003 http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6630507.PN.&OS=PN/6630507&RS=PN/6630507
  3. “Marijuana in Nevada, Taxes for Business”
  4. http://marijuana.nv.gov/Businesses/Taxes/ 
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The Call For Reform of Cannabis Legalization. (2022, Sep 19). Retrieved October 3, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/the-call-for-reform-of-cannabis-legalization/

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