While support for legal marijuana use continues to skyrocket up to 60 percent nationwide, according to recent opinion polls, there are several members of the current administration who seem intent on halting this progress. In order to better understand these political figures, we’ve laid out a mafia-style outline below, highlighting the key capos and associates, and the impact each could have on the cannabis industry—if they “flipped” their stances.
The Mole: Steven Mnuchin
Mnuchin continues to keep a low profile on the topic of cannabis regulation, as he did before he was thrust into the Treasury spotlight. He stated he “will work with Congress and the President to determine which provisions of the current tax code should be retained, revised or eliminated to ensure that all individuals and businesses compete on a level playing field.” While retaining is one hopeful avenue for cannabis enthusiasts and business owners, Mnuchin’s ability to strategically revise the tax code from the inside could help ease several issues currently faced by canna-businesses, including their inability to work with financial institutions, process credit cards and make standard tax deductions.
While it seems unlikely these positive changes will happen on Mnuchin’s watch, it also seems doubtful that a total elimination of the tax codes is viable under his reign. With governors from Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska banding together to urge Mnuchin and Sessions to keep marijuana legal and engage in “further discussion on how these important federal policies work” in their states, it doesn’t seem to be in their best interest to disrupt policies that have raked in upwards of $270 million in tax revenue. But, if they do move forward with elimination, Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper and his associates certainly aren’t going to go out without a shakedown.
The Sting Operation: Gov. Greg Abbott
In 2015, Texas Gov. Abbott supported the Texas Compassionate Use Act, which allowed a secure registry of physicians to prescribe low-dose THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. He has also been more vocal than many of his colleagues on cannabis issues, stating that the “goal is not to stockpile prisons with people who are arrested with minor possession issues.” He does, however, stand firm in his belief that he doesn’t “think decriminalizing marijuana is going to happen this session,” or want to open the door on broader marijuana legalization.
Texas does have a larger medical marijuana bill in committee now, however, led by Sen. José Menéndez, which would expand medical usage and allow patients with debilitating and chronic medical conditions to receive cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. Plus, with Abbott’s fellow mobster, Rep. David Simpson, whispering in his ear about cannabis being “God’s plant,” it seems a likely possibility that Abbott could flip on some cannabis issues sooner than previously thought. This sting operation could amount to a huge portion of the U.S. population finally living under legal medical marijuana law—over 27 million individuals, to be exact.
The Informant: John J. Manfreda
As the current administrator for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Manfreda could not only sway a significant amount of top-level “management” if he came out in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana, it would also greatly benefit his own department. While several states and local governments continue to acquire a significant amount of tax revenue from regulating their marijuana sales, it seems unlikely that the benefits of regulation at the federal level haven’t crossed Manfreda’s mind once or twice. Manfreda is no doubt privy to the knowledge that Colorado’s marijuana industry recorded just shy of $846.5 million in sales as of August 2016, resulting in a tax revenue of roughly $124.9 million.
And while there are more than 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the U.S. each year, 480,000 deaths stemming from smoking cigarettes, and a grand total of zero deaths from overdosing on marijuana, it seems only practical to throw support behind the plant. Besides, in a few years, when most Americans come to accept the fact that cannabis is basically harmless, will anyone remember their initial marijuana legalization woes? Nah, they’ll forgeddaboutit!