Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 2016
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2016 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Fredreka Schouten


Marijuana Execs Find Welcome Vibe Among the Pols

Marijuana has gone mainstream at the Democratic National Convention this week.

Democratic officials, including Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer and his 
state's attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, mingled with pot industry 
executives Monday night at a reception at a sleek bar downtown, miles 
away from the convention hall.

A day earlier, the Marijuana Policy Project staged a fundraiser to 
support its work to push new laws around the country legalizing the 
use of marijuana.

And inside the hall Monday, convention delegates endorsed a platform 
that calls for a "reasoned pathway" for the drug 's legalization.

"This is a very legitimate and very big industry," said Michael 
Bronstein, co-founder of the American Trade Association for Cannabis 
and Hemp, which represents about 20 of the marijuana sector's biggest 
players and co-sponsored a crowded weeknight party at bop, a 
Korean-styled bar and restaurant.

"A necessary extension of a legitimate cannabis industry is for the 
industry to become politically involved," he said, explaining the 
group's presence in Philadelphia.

The rapidly expanding market for legal marijuana is expected to hit 
$6.7 billion in sales this year, up from $5.4 billion in 2015, 
according to industry-affiliated ArcView Market Research.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes now is legal in 25 states, 
and it can be sold for recreational purposes in four more: Colorado, 
Washington, Alaska and Oregon. In the nation's capital, it's also 
legal to possess and cultivate cannabis but retail sales are banned.

"Marijuana legalization ranks with marriage equality as the two 
social issues that have evolved the most rapidly in public opinion," 
said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, 
a co-sponsor of the reception and big force behind legalization efforts.

The legal cannabis industry could be poised for a major expansion this year.

Voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada will decide 
ballot initiatives in November that would allow adults to use 
cannabis in those states, and a push is under way for more ballot 
measures in several other states this year. In addition, medical 
marijuana measures have qualified for the ballot in Arkansas and Florida.

"The industry has arrived at a national moment," Bronstein said. "If 
California passes it, it changes the nature of this business overnight."

Nearly 39 million people live in California. "After this election, 
one out of every three Americans could live in a state where adult 
use will be legal," he said.

The Democratic platform calls for the federal government to downgrade 
marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act, given the 
patchwork of state laws that conflict with the federal statute.

It also says states "should be laboratories of democracy" on 
marijuana and free to decriminalize its use.

Blumenauer, a longtime legalization advocate, called the platform 
"encouraging " and said 2016 "could be the year when we finally crest."

"The failed policy of prohibition is wrong on so many levels," he 
said, ticking off the benefits of cannabis over opioids for pain 
management and the potential economic value of industrial hemp.

"The unequal application of marijuana laws come down so heavily on 
young men of color, especially African Americans," the bow-tied 
Blumenauer said as black-clad servers carved a path among the 
party-goers, bearing trays of mini-burgers and cheesesteak egg rolls.

Tall glasses of beer and chilled white wine, however, were the only 
intoxicants on hand. It's illegal to sell weed for non-medical uses 
in the state, and the event was "not about people getting together to 
smoke marijuana," Bronstein said.

"This is not a protest," he said. "These are people getting together 
to talk about the business of their business."

The marijuana theme is sprinkled throughout the four-day gathering in 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom