Tuesday’s Election: A Victory for the Cannabis Lobby

Tuesday saw the Democrats celebrate decisive victories in Virginia and New Jersey’s governor elections, whilst also cutting GOP majorities in statehouses across the country. Democrats have hailed the results as a ‘liberal backlash’ against President Trump, but beyond the Democrat party, the marijuana lobby has also seen this weeks’ results as cause for celebration.

Both newly elected Governors, Ralph Northam of Virginia, and Phil Murphy in New Jersey, have spoken out strongly in favor of Cannabis reform. Murphey has openly stated his intention to sign legislation legalizing recreational cannabis, using his primary night victory speech to clarify his intentions once again, Ralph Northam, whilst not as clear on his position to recreational use, has nevertheless vocally stated his support for decriminalization, citing it as key ‘racial justice issue’. Whilst legalization attempts in Virginia may have failed in 2015, the marijuana lobby will see Northam’s election as a step forward to future reform efforts in the state.  Beyond the governor elections, voters in Detroit approved two ballot questions which will ease regulation on medical marijuana, and in California all seven local marijuana business measures put to voters were also given the green light.

With recreational use now legalized in eight states (and Washington D.C.), and medical use approved in 30 states, the success of cannabis reform groups is undeniable, and the relevance of the industry is set to continue to grow. Marijuana Business Daily has predicted that industry retail sales will hit over $6.1 billion this year, and whilst the industry has been weary of the Trump administration’s stance, investment in cannabis related firms is set to continue to grow rapidly. Greenwave Advisors have projected retail sales to grow by an eye watering $30 billion by 2021, and with growers scaling-up their operations, regulatory challenges will continue to manifest. Whilst individuals close to Trump, such as Attorney Jeff Sessions, have talked tough on cannabis use, those in the industry are hoping that through harnessing growingly liberal public attitudes, such a crackdown will become politically toxic. Not only this, but there is also a hope that the financial realities of a regressive shift on enforcement will also deter such actions. It’s clear nevertheless that the grassroots advocacy strategy pursued by pro-reform groups, and the harnessing of social media platforms to tap into public support, demonstrates the effectiveness such an approach can yield.

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