It’s something of an understatement to say that there is a lot hinging on this election. Whatever happens on Tuesday will undoubtedly define American history from this point forward, no matter who ends up getting elected. This is a fork in the road. And the direction that’s chosen will affect environmental, social, medical, domestic and international policy for the foreseeable future…
And it will make or break the prospect of legalizing cannabis at a federal level in the next four years. This could very well be the most important election in the history of cannabis in this country.
According to cannabis business analyst Vivian Azer, of Cowen & Co., the STATES Act — legislation that would allow states to legalize and regulate cannabis sales without any intervention from the feds — has an 80% chance of passing if Democrats sweep Tuesdays elections. Likewise, bills like the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow federally regulated banks to legally work with cannabis companies, would also have a very high likelihood of being pushed through into law.
But, Azer adds, none of this would be at the top of Joe Biden’s priority list should he be elected. (Something the candidate himself has made clear.)
"It's not in the first hundred days,” she says. “But we do think it is on the 'year one' agenda."
Trump, by comparison, would more than likely to keep cannabis right where it is: on the schedule 1 list of controlled substances.
Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, and Mississippi all have either recreational, medical or both on their ballots this election, as well. Should all of those states vote in favor of legalization, it would push the number of legal states to 37. It would also represent some $3.3 billion in cannabis sales over the next five years. That would be huge progress and it represents a massive new stream of tax revenue for those states.
However, one of the biggest challenges that cannabis businesses face is banking. Because cannabis is still a schedule 1 controlled substance, banks cannot take money from cannabis businesses or provide other financal servoces — it would technically be considered “money laundering.”
Not only that, but cannabis businesses are also legally forbidden from claiming any tax expenses, which torpedoes their bottom line, weighing down businesses with overhead costs no other industry deals with. The specific law is known as 280E and was created in the 80’s to prevent cocaine dealers from claiming tax expenses for drug running. Now, it’s one of the biggest thorns in any cannabis entreprenuer’s side.
Both the banking and tax issues are severely limiting to cannabis iindustries in legal state markets. They make things unnecessarily complicated, expensive and, for that matter, dangerous since many of those businesses are forced to deal solely in cash. Yet, neither problem can be fixed by states themselves — those policy changes need to come from the top, from the Feds.
And the best chance of that happening lies in a Democratic victory on Tuesday.
Could this be it? Could the federal legalization of cannabis finally be somewhere on the horizon, after so many decades of advocacy and activism?
Political and economic analysts both seem to believe so. But only time will tell. If President Trump maintains his seat, chances are, not much is going to change for cannabis in America (except in states that elect on their own to decriminalize/legalize).
However, if Biden comes out on top, and democrats sweep he House, then it could very well mean victory for this nation’s Green Revolution.