Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jan 2017
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2017 Hearst Communications Inc.


[photo] Cotton candy flavored marijuana is displayed for purchase at
Butter & Weed's booth at 420 Vancouver, in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday,
April 20, 2016.

The legal marijuana industry proved its staying power in 2016, racking up
$6.7 billion in business across North America.

That number represents 30 percent growth from the year before, according
to a report by Arcview Market Research, and it's expected to climb even
higher over the next few years, topping $20 billion by 2021.

Washington sales have brought in about $534 million in total tax received
by the state, according to 502 Data. According to statistics by the
Washington Department of Revenue, total retail sales in Washington jumped
from $177.6 million in 2015's fiscal year to $461.6 million in 2016.

That money assists with Washington's basic health plan. The state's health
care authority estimates it could "provide services to up to 600,000
patients per year." State law also allocates part of that $534 million for
research on the short- and long-term effects of marijuana use, and
education and public health programs about cannabis.

That's revenue that could go away if the incoming Trump administration
chooses to take a firmer position on states' decriminalization of
recreational marijuana than its predecessors. The Obama administration
issued a memo in August 2013 stating that it would not interfere with
legal cannabis business so long as it operated in states with proper
regulatory regimes for such businesses, and President Obama signed a bill
which limited how much the Justice Department could stop states from
putting their own rules into effect when it came to marijuana.

Though President-elect Trump has been all over the map on his stance on
legal marijuana, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as Trump's nominee for
attorney general, seems to indicate that more complicated times are ahead
for the marijuana industry.

Ken Sabet, leader of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to
Marijuana, called Sessions "by far the single most outspoken opponent of
marijuana legalization in the U.S. Senate." Though Sessions hasn't spoken
specifically about what the attorney general's office would do about
marijuana under his command, his past comments on the issue - stating that
he thought Ku Klux Klan members were all right "until I learned they
smoked pot," and stating that marijuana is dangerous and "good people
don't smoke it" - don't suggest that he'll allow for much wiggle room for
the states.

"I think one of (President Obama's) great failures, it's obvious to me, is
his lax treatment in comments on marijuana," Sessions said at a hearing in
April. "We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not
the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought to be minimized,
that it's in fact a very real danger."

For now, the marijuana industry and state officials are waiting to see
what challenges and potential roadblocks a new administration might bring.
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