In Fight for Legal Marijuana, Haste Makes Corporate Waste

In+Fight+for+Legal+Marijuana%2C+Haste+Makes+Corporate+Waste

Mack DeGuerin, Contributing Writer

Four years have passed since the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington state, and in those four years, Americans have witnessed a microcosm of what may be one of the biggest emerging industries in the country. Recreational marijuana usage is now legal in three states. According to the Washington Post, the legal marijuana industry generated over $700 million in sales in 2014, and is on track to break the $1 billion mark in 2016. This new “green” gold rush has many eager entrepreneurs in the state and around the country looking to capitalize on the new industry. While Colorado’s experiment seems to tell the world that Americans are ready for legalized weed on a national level, rapid legalization may be the industry’s greatest downfall.

Last November, Ohio legislators voted on a proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana use within the state. While on the surface, this proposal seemed to echo the populace’s demand for a Colorado-esque, independent grower system, the reality of the proposal told a much different story — one repeating a cycle of big money and corporate domination. This proposed amendment to the Ohio state constitution by anonymous investor groups, under the name ResponsibleOhio, would limit all marijuana retail sale, production and distribution to the investors’ backed companies, essentially creating a monopoly on the state’s marijuana industry. While Ohioans may have struck down the proposal, this infiltration of large interests groups in the industry is sure to continue as more states attempt to pass legislation regarding legalization. This may leave some asking: what is so bad about a potential marijuana monopoly?

The monopolization of the marijuana industry potentially creates troublesome public safety concerns. If large interest groups like ResponsibleOhio are allowed to draft themselves into state legislation, then these companies, not government are essentially creating the law. Without this clear separation of business and government, the public may face dangerous health concerns as a result of capitalists’ corner-cutting. Additionally, a monopolized marijuana industry may also contribute significantly to criminal activity. Drugpolicy.org reported that since Colorado’s initial small business based legalization went into effect, crime rates and burglaries in Denver dropped 2.2 percent and 9.5 percent respectively in the first 11 months of legalization. More legal vendors mean less need to buy illegally. If a large company is allowed to dominate the industry without competition, consumers will continue buying illegally from independent growers for better prices and more variety, fostering continued criminal activity.

Marijuana in the United States is set to become one of the biggest new commodities seen in recent history, with the industry set to bring in billions of dollars. This leaves Americans with an immensely important choice in how to proceed with legislation. While many marijuana advocates may push for rapid legalization across the country, this impatience may degrade what could be an economic and social re-awakening in the United States into yet another industry dominated by corporate interest and greed. The American people, more specifically the American youth, will have to decide whether they wish to follow Colorado’s independent model, or that of corporate interest groups like ResponsibleOhio.

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Email Mack Deguerin at [email protected]