Foods such as cereal and salad dressing are the biggest U.S. markets for hemp today, but industrial cannabis has the brightest future in the energy sector, where a Kentucky utility is planning to grow hemp for biomass energy.
4. Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol would control the legal cannabis industry.
In 1978, the Carter administration changed alcohol regulations to allow for microbreweries. Today the craft-beer market is worth $10.2 billion annually. The top-shelf cannabis farmers in California’s Emerald Triangle realize this potential. “We’re creating an international brand, like champagne and Parmigiano cheese,” says Tomas Balogh, co-founder of the Emerald Growers Association in Humboldt, Calif. Get ready for the bud and breakfast.
When America’s 100 million cannabis aficionados (17 million regular partakers) are freed from dealers, some are going to pick up a six-pack of joints at the corner store before heading to a barbecue, and others are going to seek out organically grown heirloom strains for their vegetable dip.
As Balogh puts it: “When people ask me if the small farmer or the big corporation will benefit from the end of prohibition, I say, ‘Both.’ The cannabis industry is already decentralized and farmer-owned. It’s up to consumers to keep it that way.” So Big Alcohol might control the corner store, but not the fine-wine shop or the farmers’ market.
5. In the heartland, legalization is a political nonstarter.
President Obama, in an interview last December, for the first time took seriously a question about the legalization of cannabis. He said that he didn’t yet support it but that he had “bigger fish to fry” than harassing Colorado and Washington.
In Colorado in 2012, 40 percent of Republican voters chose to legalize cannabis, and a greater share of Coloradans voted for legalization than voted for Obama.
In Arizona, a pretty conservative and silver state, 56 percent of those in a poll last month supported regulating cannabis for personal use. Maybe fiscal conservatives know about the $35 billion in annual nationwide tax savings that ending prohibition would bring. In Illinois, 63 percent of voters support medicinal marijuana, and they’re likely to get it. Even 60 percent of Kentuckians favor medical cannabis.
I’m not surprised. I live in a conservative valley in New Mexico. Yet as a woman in line at the post office recently told me: “It’s pills that killed my cousin. Fightin’ pot just keeps those dang cartels in business.”
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