Policy

Pot Business Expected to Boom, Lighting Up Pressure on Lawmakers

More that a dozen states expected to expand legalization by 2025, report says

 Secret Service block pro-marijuana protesters from carrying their 51-foot inflated marijuana joint down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With marijuana legalization measures expected to pass in 13 more states by 2025, the legal pot market would reach more than $30 billion, according to an industry report released Thursday. 

The trend is bound to increase pressure on lawmakers to stake positions on one of the country’s most rapidly evolving social issues — the legalization of pot and cannabis — according to the report from New Frontier Data, a nonpartisan market research firm. 

That’s partly because the industry’s “sustained and rapid growth” will send shockwaves throughout the economy, significantly affecting “mature sectors such as pharmaceuticals, tobacco, alcohol, agriculture, and even animal health,” New Frontier Data CEO Giadha Aguirre de Carcer said.

Marijuana legalization, once a third-rail issue, is already gaining mainstream support in Congress after a wave of states passed legalization measures in 2016. That’s in spite of lukewarm support from President Donald Trump and opposition from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in January rescinded Obama-era rules that protected states with medical cannabis laws from federal prohibition enforcement.

So far this Congress, 68 bills have been proposed that mention marijuana or cannabis, and 84 were proposed in the previous Congress, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis. The average in the previous 10 Congresses before that was 45.5. Pro-pot lawmakers even formed the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus with an initial focus on increasing medical research and revising banking and tax regulations that impede legal marijuana businesses.

Thursday’s report pointed out that a number of potential 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have backed or said they intend to back legislation to decriminalize cannabis, including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders

The issue also has significant support among Republicans. Overall, only 43 percent of Republicans support cannabis, compared to 69 percent of Democrats, the report said. But among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 62 percent of those younger than 40 favor legalization.

That trend has led “a growing cohort of Republicans to reposition on cannabis reform,” the report said, citing Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida. It also cites the introduction of comprehensive hemp protections in the fiscal 2018 farm bill by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

States projected to pass medical legalization measures before 2025 include Missouri, Texas, Virginia and Utah. Connecticut, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island are projected to pass measures legalizing adult use. 

To date, according to the report, 30 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, while nine states and D.C. permit adult use. 

From the Archives: Gardner Rails Against Sessions’ Marijuana Action as States’ Rights Issue

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