Chronic Town: Don’t Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Major political and social changes often seem impossible until they happen.

The Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling recognizing gay marriage surprised most observers, including those who had been working toward the goal for decades. Full legalization of cannabis for use by adults seemed like a far-off dream in 2009.

By 2012, Colorado and Washington had both legalized and were followed over the ensuing years by nine other states and counting.

Even toward the end of the Prohibition Era, the idea of repealing the 18th Amendment was “beyond everybody’s imagination, including supporters of repeal,” said Daniel Okrent, journalist and author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. One big reason it happened: the big piles of tax revenues from alcohol sales needed by government in the depths of the Great Depression.

Cannabis advocates are increasingly citing the parallel to our own era as they put pressure on the federal government to include cannabis in the next round of economic relief designed to help ease the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of much of the economy. Cannabis was left out of the first round, and that’s not surprising, given that pot is still federally illegal. For that reason, advocates are stepping up pressure on another front as well: to get pot remove from its Schedule I status, where it shares space with LSD and heroin.

Or, failing that, to at least get Congress to make it easier for cannabis businesses to operate by, for example, passing legislation to enable banks to do business with them without fear of legal sanction.

The industry—already troubled before the pandemic thanks to high taxes and, in many cases, profligate spending by overeager companies—was saved from potential ruin when most governments in legal states deemed pot to be an “essential” business in mid-March.

Since then, the business has been in something of a holding pattern, waiting to see what consumers might do. So far, they’re playing along. There have been demand spikes from people sitting at home and buying in bulk.

Whether the buying continues remains to be seen. In general, some observers have reported, demand at the moment seems to be evening out and settling about where it was before the crisis. But that could change again, either up or down.

There is little doubt, however, that keeping the cannabis business operating has helped, in a small way, to soften the economic blow in legal states.

Cannabis employs more than 243,000 people, averaging in part-timers, according to Leafly’s annual jobs report, issued in January. That’s more than five times the number of people working in the coal industry. That’s perhaps not so surprising, given that the coal business is slowly dying, but in pre-pandemic Nevada, there were more people working in cannabis than there were bartenders. In Massachusetts, there were more cannabis workers than there were hair stylists.

It’s numbers like that—which are still rising—that helped prompt two Democrats to introduce legislation last last month to support the industry along with all the other industries that are getting relief (including, in many cases, giant fossil fuels companies and other industries whose need is dubious).

“As Congress seeks to provide relief to small businesses across America, chief among those being left out are state-legal cannabis businesses that are essential to communities and have met the demands of this crisis,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in a statement introducing the legislation, the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act, which he co-sponsored with Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado. “We should include state-legal cannabis in federal COVID-19 response efforts. Without providing these businesses the relief needed to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures, we are putting these hard-working people—and ourselves—at risk.”

The bill would make cannabis businesses eligible for the Payroll Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program. By most accounts, the chances of passing the bill are small, but lobbying is intense. The legislation would not only keep businesses and their employees on their feet for the duration of the crisis, but it would be “critical for state and city budgets,” said Conrad Gregory, president of the National Cannabis Industry Association and the head of government affairs for Harborside, the San Jose-based chain of four cannabis dispensaries in California.

Given the economic pressures that governments are certain to encounter in the coming months and years, the push to legalize cannabis could end up resembling the end of prohibition in more ways than one.

6 Comments

  1. Really? We need economic stimulus for pot growers? What you really need is for Trump to cut off the cheap foreign imports flooding in across the southern border along with their cartel allies willing to destroy our forests, wildlife and people on public lands.

    All of that was going to stop as soon as $hit was legalized because the smokers of those products would pay anything for a good legal drag.

    Nonsense your just as cheap as the rest of us, and are buying your medicine at Second and San Fernando in stead of the kiosk in front of City Hall.

    Bailing out a bunch $hitheads with taxpayer dollars makes as much sense as did the government taking over the Mustang Ranch and loosing money. Then again maybe you would like it if Joe Biden and AOC nationalize your store’s.
    Could happen!

  2. If we lived in a society where people attended to their responsibilities as much as their pleasures, I would have no problem with legalized marijuana. But that isn’t the case, and now in addition to selling legal weed we’re growing a generation with the motivation of a buzzed teenager while expecting government assistance for nearly everything.

    I’m sure there are a few who can “handle their $hit”. But for every one of those there are multiple individuals addicted to the lifestyle of doing nothing, paranoid of everything, and incapable of supporting themselves.

    And now we have an article that would love to see federal assistance for the industry because “Cannabis employs more than 243,000 people, averaging in part-timers”. Now there’s a lofty goal for a young person these days – you could grow up to be a part time worker at a pot store!

    In the parlance of this generation, SMH…

  3. Well Said Terrence,
    I’d like to nominate you for the SJI Golden Bud Award !

  4. People DIe.

    Get over it.

    If we didn’t do anything then in the worse case scenario we lose 3M people that is a godsend from an economic viewpoint.

    Never let a good crisis go to waste. Well, that is exactly what we did in this case.

  5. “One study found that teens who regularly use marijuana lose an average of 5.8 IQ points by the time they reach adulthood.”

    Meier, M.H., Caspi, A., Ambler, A., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Keefe, R.S., …& Moffitt, T.E. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(40), 2657-2664.

    ————————

    Marijuana makes you smarter:

    — people who use marijuana FEEL smarter because it interferes with cognition and perception of reality
    — peale who DON’t use marijuana actually are on average 5.8 IQ points smarter than users

    WIN WIN!

  6. CONCLUSIONS

    “Beyond the role of cognition in vulnerability to substance use, the concurrent and lasting effects of adolescent cannabis use can be observed on important cognitive functions and appear to be more pronounced than those observed for alcohol.”

    https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18020202

    “A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive Development”

    Jean-François G. Morin, B.A., Mohammad H. Afzali, Ph.D., Josiane Bourque, M.Sc., Sherry H. Stewart, Ph.D., Jean R. Séguin, Ph.D., Maeve O’Leary-Barrett, Ph.D., Patricia J. Conrod, Ph.D.